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VCRA - What's the defence for selling a RIF for skirmishing?


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The pinned topic (VCRA) in this forum suggests looking at sections 36 to 41 of the VCRA for clarification:




So I looked at section 36 and it says:


36 Manufacture, import and sale of realistic imitation firearms

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if—

(a)he manufactures a realistic imitation firearm;

(B)he modifies an imitation firearm so that it becomes a realistic imitation firearm;

©he sells a realistic imitation firearm; or

(d)he brings a realistic imitation firearm into Great Britain or causes one to be brought into Great Britain.



So basically any shop that sells you a RIF is guilty of an offence? That's seems clearly wrong - but having looked at some other threads on here it does seem correct that an offence has been committed, but it's "ok" to do this if they have a defence. But as far as I can see the specific defences don't list airsoft (or any use that sounds even vaguely similar)


Section 37 defences:


(1)It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under section 36 in respect of any conduct to show that the conduct was for the purpose only of making the imitation firearm in question available for one or more of the purposes specified in subsection (2).

(2)Those purposes are—

(a)the purposes of a museum or gallery;

(B)the purposes of theatrical performances and of rehearsals for such performances;

©the production of films (within the meaning of Part 1 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (c. 48)_see section 5B of that Act);

(d)the production of television programmes (within the meaning of the Communications Act 2003 (c. 21)_see section 405(1) of that Act);

(e)the organisation and holding of historical re-enactments organised and held by persons specified or described for the purposes of this section by regulations made by the Secretary of State;

(f)the purposes of functions that a person has in his capacity as a person in the service of Her Majesty.


So if a retailer sells it for any of those uses that's "ok", but it doesn't mention anything about air soft or skirmishing...?


Did I miss something? Where is the defence for retailers?



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I'd assume for skirmishing that (e) of the defences is the closest to airsofting. Technically its organised and a held event. The word 'historic' is very vague as to time periods.

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The specific defence for airsofting wasn't in the VCRA, it was added to it later in Commencement No 3. Here is everything you need to know (including a link to the Commencement):


Laws Regarding Buying and Selling Imitation Firearms Relevant to Airsoft


In relation to UNDER 18s:


- it is illegal to buy an IF or a RIF if you are under 18

- it is illegal to sell an IF or a RIF to an under 18


From VCRA 2006 Section 40 - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/38/section/40


In relation to OVER 18s:


- it is legal to buy an IF or a RIF if you are over 18

- it is legal to sell an IF to an over 18

- it is illegal to sell a RIF to an over 18

- it is illegal to manufacture a RIF

- it is illegal to import a RIF


From VCRA 2006 Section 36 - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/38/section/36


NOTE 1: if you wish to import a RIF, manufacture a RIF or sell a RIF to an over 18 you can avail yourself of a 'defence against prosecution' if you can show that you believed that you were intending to provide the RIF for the purposes of airsoft skirmishing at a site with third party liability insurance. One way for a seller to do this is to establish that the buyer is registered with the UKARA database, though this is by no means a legal requirement or the only way for the seller to establish a defence for themselves.


From VCRA 2006 (Commencement No 3) Order 2007 - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-violent-crime-reduction-act-2006-commencement-no-3-order-2007-firearms-measures


NOTE 2: any attempt to commit one of the offences listed as illegal above is also illegal in itself.


From Criminal Attempts Act 1981 Section 1 - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1981/47/section/1


Acronym Glossary:


IF: Imitation Firearm (in relation to airsoft this is generally recognised as an airsoft gun which is painted over 50% in an 'unrealistic' colour - this is generally referred to as 'two tone')


RIF: Realistic Imitation Firearm (in relation to airsoft this is generally recognised as an airsoft gun which is 'realistically' coloured so as not be easily distinguishable from a real firearm)


VCRA: Violent Crime Reduction Act (the most recent law which directly affects the buying and selling of imitation firearms)


UKARA: United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association (a group created by leading UK airsoft retailers to easily establish a defence against prosecution for themselves when selling imitation firearms - they maintain a database of airsoft players for this purpose; to be entered on the database a player must play three games in over a two month period at a registered airsoft site)

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Thanks, that's great.


Just out of interest, if the customer happens to have a firearms licence but isn't a UKARA type is it still legal to sell to them based on the theory that they should be trustworthy enough to buy a RIF?

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No, that's not regarded as a defence against prosecution for the seller at all (strange as it sounds). Accordingly someone with any kind of firearms license also can't manufacture or import a RIF either.


To sell, manufacture or import you need to show that you are doing so to provide the RIF "for the purposes of being used in an airsoft skirmish at a site with third party liability insurance" (sic). You don't need UKARA/BAC/Project Luther membership, or theoretically even membership of a site or to have ever even played airsoft before, though clearly having things like this would be easier if you ever were arrested and were trying to establish a defence against impending prosecution.

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