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Importing RIFs from Europe

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Hello everyone,

 

I am currently trying to figure out how not to get arrested by Border Force once I step foot in the UK, any help would be greatly appreciated!

 

This is the scenario:

I have been living in the UK(Scotland) for two years as I am going to university here. However I am originally from Italy. I have been playing airsoft for many years now and it really wasn't hard to get into because there are no restrictions on the purchase of RIFs in Italy. I still spend summer and christmas holidays back in Italy and that is when I play because my gear is still there. For the past two years I have been trying to get to play airsoft in the UK but the whole UKARA thing and having to spend extra money to hire RIFs has kind of discouraged me....until now. I am flying back to the UK in september and I would like to bring back my airsoft gear with me.

 

I am aware that importing without defence/valid reason is an offence and if there's one thing I would not like to do it's to spend five years in one of Her Majesty's Prisons. However I have been playing airsoft for a long time and I want to import the guns to play more airsoft, so that should be a valid defence right? As far as proof goes, I can only provide a couple of pictures, a helmet cam video and maybe written testimonies from friends saying that I attended airsoft sessions. Would this be enough?

 

The weapons I would like to import are a VFC Colt M4A1 and a Stark Arms S17, both completly black. I could put a red flash hider on the rifle. What would I need to do to take the weapons onto a passenger flight? do I need to contact Border Force? If so, how? I wasn't able to find phone number or email for them. Do I need to put some extra markings on the rifle? And do I need to inform the airline I am flying with?

 

Sorry for the long post guys.

Thank you in advance to anyone who will help!

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Border Force tend only to accept UKARA registration/numbers as a 'valid defence'. Not 100% sure if there have never been any exceptions to that though.

 

If you have friends who're UKARA registered in the UK then you may be best posting it to them with their number. Border Force do regularly check even intra-EU RIFs that're being imported.

 

As far as importing in person: I wouldn't - just have it posted back to yourself. Airlines can be weird about this sort of thing and not having the extra worry is worth the £30 postage.

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Border Force tend only to accept UKARA registration/numbers as a 'valid defence'. Not 100% sure if there have never been any exceptions to that though.

 

If you have friends who're UKARA registered in the UK then you may be best posting it to them with their number. Border Force do regularly check even intra-EU RIFs that're being imported.

 

As far as importing in person: I wouldn't - just have it posted back to yourself. Airlines can be weird about this sort of thing and not having the extra worry is worth the £30 postage.

Airlines are actually not weird about this sort of thing, it's just not common enough for the average check in agent or person on the phone to be familiar with. In theory you can take Rif's on a plane as hold luggage. Lipo's (or any lithium batteries) however must be in hand luggage or on your person.

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/262685/Travelling_to_the_UK.pdf

P13 briefly covers RIF's and lists an advice line.

 

If you contact the airport you are planning to travel to, they may be able to put you in contact with someone from customs, I would try the advice line 1st though.

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You don't need to have fulfilled the criteria for a defence beforehand, but do have to show that you'll be taking part in activities that would provide a defence.

 

You'd do well, as said, to declare them at both ends and have them in your hold luggage of course.

There's a chance that you may be asked some questions on arrival, at the airport. Proof of both ownership, playing previously, as well as where you intend to play in the UK, will help things go quicker/smoother.

 

From the pdf Russe11 posted:

"Realistic imitation firearms can only be imported for an authorised purpose or function such as participating at an historical re-enactment."

 

In this case, the 'authorised purpose' will be airsoft. If you can book in for a game in the UK, and have a printed copy of the event that can be confirmed by officials, you're covered.

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Airlines are actually not weird about this sort of thing, it's just not common enough for the average check in agent or person on the phone to be familiar with. In theory you can take Rif's on a plane as hold luggage. Lipo's (or any lithium batteries) however must be in hand luggage or on your person.

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/262685/Travelling_to_the_UK.pdf

P13 briefly covers RIF's and lists an advice line.

 

If you contact the airport you are planning to travel to, they may be able to put you in contact with someone from customs, I would try the advice line 1st though.

That's good to know, thanks.

 

The thing is, I thought that was the case with a temporary visit (not that that's something they can check) - I know of a lot of people bringing their RIFs over from Europe for bigger events, but I also remember a thread a while back where a guy said he solely posts them to a friend because of the delays it has caused him at the airport on our end and the weird looks he's had from airlines when having to explain it's a toy. I will try to dig it up.

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Thank you for the reply everyone!

 

So I'm assuming if I post it or show up at the airport without a UKARA number the weapons will simply end up being destroyed? I wouldn't be able to attempt to take them into the UK and if it fails just ship them back to Europe?

 

Unfortunately none of my friends have a UKARA number.

 

I was also thinking. Foreign players probably bring in their weapons regularly and as Dechande said if I managed to get a ticket for an airsoft even in october or december for example I could then use the ticket as defence if I am questioned about the guns?

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Na, what these chaps are saying is UKARA is a single form of defence - there are many. So long as you have a reason for bringing the RIF in (like an event or something) then you'll be fine, but you need to declare it properly.

 

My point was that this can be a tricky process and - in a lot of cases - it's simply easier to have a friend who's UKARA registered import them for you then you've got them in the UK. It's not exactly legally sound, but a lot of people from mainland Europe looking to play in the UK do it because it's apparently more straight forward and saves having to sort things with the airline as well.

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Other options:

 

You can replace external parts (51%) with bright painted ones so it would be a two-tone thus no defence needed.

 

Or take it apart and post the parts separately - preferably with a few days of delay.

 

With these the problem would be manufacturing a RIF without defence but alt least the parts would be here legally.

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Other options:

 

You can replace external parts (51%) with bright painted ones so it would be a two-tone thus no defence needed.

 

Or take it apart and post the parts separately - preferably with a few days of delay.

 

With these the problem would be manufacturing a RIF without defence but alt least the parts would be here legally.

 

Can two-tones actually get through without a defence on import? Irrespective of what the law says.

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Can two-tones actually get through without a defence on import? Irrespective of what the law says.

On paper, yes, as the restriction is on a RIF. Once it becomes an IF, the definition changes, in theory. Of course that requires some intelligence/common sense on the part of those inspecting the items, which is not always guaranteed, unfortunately.

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You can import two tones without defence AFAIK. Gunfire (and maybe Taiwangun too) provides two toning service for UK buyers.

I got my rifle shipped here after I two toned it when I had no defence yet.

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I was able to find a Border Force pdf on the BASC website regarding the Import of RIF. Of course the whole thing is very vague...but here is what it says.

 

3. Import Defences
The VCRA sets out a number of defences to prosecution which although do
not technically apply at the point of import it is UK Border Agency policy to
apply them to private individuals as if they did.

 

4. Defences applicable:
Realistic Imitation Firearms
• the organisation and holding of permitted activities for which public
liability insurance is held in relation to liabilities to third parties arising
from or in connection with the organisation and holding of those
activities;

[...]

the purposes of organising or taking part in certain “permitted activities”
relates generally to “airsoft” events but can also include paintballing. Airsoft is
a growing modern combat sport that involves the use of realistic imitation
firearms in military type scenarios for recreational purposes.

 

Nothing specific is mentioned, so unless you have a UKARA number it really is up to the them to decide if your defence is good enough or not.

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This is what the VCRA gov.uk page says about airsoft:

 

The regulations provide for two new defences. The first is for the organisation and holding of airsoft skirmishing. This is defined by reference to “permitted activities” and the defence applies only where third party liability insurance is held in respect of the activities.

 

So if I understand this correctly, if I was to book ticket to an airsoft event and bought airsoft third party insurance then I would meet the criteria outlined above. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

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This is what the VCRA gov.uk page says about airsoft:

 

The regulations provide for two new defences. The first is for the organisation and holding of airsoft skirmishing. This is defined by reference to “permitted activities” and the defence applies only where third party liability insurance is held in respect of the activities.

 

So if I understand this correctly, if I was to book ticket to an airsoft event and sign the insurance waiver then I would meet the criteria outlined above. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Yes, but UKARA is easier.

 

Just buy a G&G two tone.

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Just wanted to give an update to everyone. I emailed the Home Office firearms department and they were kind enough to email me back. Here is what I sent:

 

Dear Sir/Madam,
I am an Italian student currently studying at the xxxxxxxxxx. I have been a UK resident for two years as part of my studies.

I practice a recreational activity called "Airsoft" during my spare time, in Italy, while on holidays and as such I own two Realistic Imitation Firearms (RIFs).

I would know like to practice Airsoft in the UK, in particular I would like to take part in an event taking place on the xxxxxxxxxx of September at the xxxxxxxxxx. The even is organised by a company called xxxxxxxxxx.

In order to take part in such event I would like to have my two RIFs shipped from Italy to my UK address.
I am aware of the restrictions imposed by the Violent Crimes Reduction Act but I would like some clarification on them. I am currently not an UKARA registered airsoft skirmisher since I have never played airsoft in the United Kingdom. However, would the purchase of tickets to the above mentioned event and the purchase of a Third Party Liability Insurance, for the purposes of Airsoft, represent a valid defence regarding the VCRA and thus allow me to import my two RIFs to the United Kingdom? And if so, what steps would I need to take regarding the shipment?

Regards,
xxxxxxxxxx

 

 

And this is the reply I got:

 

 

Dear Mr xxxxxxxxxx,

Thank you for your e-mail of 15 August in which you request information regarding the requirements for importing a realistic imitation firearm into the United Kingdom.

I should explain that the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 makes it an offence to manufacture, import or sell realistic imitation firearms (RIF) in Great Britain. However, although some defences do exist in the legislation for anyone charged with such an offence, from the details you provided in your e mail, it appears that, at present, you do not meet any of those defences. Consequently, should you be charged with an offence, on indictment the penalties could result in a £5,000 fine, a custodial sentence, or both.

Further details on the VCR Act 2006 can be found by clicking on the following link: www.gov.uk.

It is essential that you remain within the law at all times. I therefore suggest that you consider approaching the United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association (UKARA), and enquire about the requirements for joining an airsoft club in the area where you live. The UKARA website address is: www.UKARA.org.uk

Please note that should you become a member of an airsoft club, you will still need to bear in mind that the guns you have in Italy may exceed the permitted power-levels (one joule) in the UK for airsoft skirmishing.

Finally, to transport any type of firearm by air requires the express consent of the airline, in advance of travel.

I hope that this information is helpful.

Yours sincerely,

xxxxxxxxxx

 

I am a bit puzzled at this point. I find myself in the position where I am in fact an airsoft skirmisher but I can't properly prove it, I am guilty until proven innocent...

I have abandoned the idea of taking the RIFs on the plane with me since Ryanair wants nothing to do with any type of firearms.

Would it be easier to have the RIFs shipped to the UK with say, inside the box a copy of my booking and my airsoft insurance? Or if they seize the parcel I would simply provide a copy of the booking?

 

Thanks again to anyone who helps and helped.

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Many people fly here to play on certain events with their own RIFs and obviously they can do so.

Back to square one. We don't know anything for sure. :)

 

Two-tone it with plasti-dip, get membership here, peel off plasti-dip.

UKARA won't work with foreign clubs. Hence the name UKara. :) They need an insured site and the site must pay for their services. Won't happen with a foreign one.

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1 joule???

Thought it was max 1.3j for an AEG and a max of 2.5j for single shot.

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Many people fly here to play on certain events with their own RIFs and obviously they can do so.

Back to square one. We don't know anything for sure. :)

 

Two-tone it with plasti-dip, get membership here, peel off plasti-dip.

UKARA won't work with foreign clubs. Hence the name UKara. :) They need an insured site and the site must pay for their services. Won't happen with a foreign one.

 

Yeah I'm not sure what that person was going for suggesting UKARA...I have anyway attempted to email UKARA to get membership but as you pointed out, it's only for UK clubs.

 

I'm sure many people do fly to the UK for events so I'm not sure why that person would think that by having a booking I don meet defence requirements...

 

It also turns out the Home Office firearms department haven't been provided with phones yet so I'm stuck emailing them. I emailed Police Scotland too but apparently they simply don't reply to emails.

I'll keep trying to get a clear answer from Home Office and I'll go have a chat with the police once I'm back in the UK so hopefully it'll help future airsoft players.

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1j definitely for Ireland.

Looks like Scotland is/is about to go 1j.

 

Right lads, those Scottish snipers on Hadrians wall have only 1j to play with, our superior English fire power will soon see em off.... someone go draw a line 1j shot away from the wall, everyone stand behind that...

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Well I'm assuming the field on which I will be playing already has some kind of insurance but to be on the safe side of things I was actually looking at purchasing an insurance cover for myself, basically same as your standard car insurance but for airsoft (covering damages to others and such). That way, I'm assuming, I should be completely covered?

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Well I'm assuming the field on which I will be playing already has some kind of insurance but to be on the safe side of things I was actually looking at purchasing an insurance cover for myself, basically same as your standard car insurance but for airsoft (covering damages to others and such). That way, I'm assuming, I should be completely covered?

 

Nobody else does that. :)

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