So you have decided that you want to get into airsoft and its time to go and grab some kit for your first game. Should be nice and easy, drop into your local airsoft shop and buy and airsoft gun or maybe even order one online, right? Sadly, when it comes to RIFs and Airsoft guns the rules are a little more complex.

To understand the whole picture we need to take a look at the VCRA (Violent crimes reduction action) – The act that restricts the sale of (and much more) of airsoft Imitation firearms. We will take a look at some key areas of the VCRA and also what you require as a player to be able to purchase and Airsoft Gun (or RIF)

All of the information in this article is freely available and as this act has been in circulation for a number of years now (since 2006) there seems to be a few “interpretations” of it on the internet – We aim to give you crystal clear information, however, we do advise reading the act as well.

The VCRA
In 2006 the government wanted to reduce the amount of crime and disorder and created the VCRA (Violent Crime Reduction Act). This bill was not created specifically for airsoft. It was a general act to reduce “violent crime” and so included real weapons, knives, imitation firearms, football hooliganism and even alcohol. In this article, we are going to pay particular attention to airsoft and the rules governing purchasing a RIF (these can be found in section 36 to 40 under imitation firearms).

Section 36 to 40 outline the restriction on manufacturing, importing and sale of RIFs. This sections also talks about the specific defence against prosecution, what is defined as an Imitation Firearm (there are known within airsoft as a Two Tone) as well as the required age limit on purchasing both.

Section 37 discusses the types of activity that you can purchase a RIF, including:

  

You may notice that Airsoft is not listed – Luckily was given its own specific term by means of a permitted activity. There are some things that need to be done in order to comply with the act.

Quoted from the act:

For airsoft skirmishing, the Association of British Airsoft is putting in place arrangements to allow retailers to check that individual purchaser are members of a genuine skirmishing club or site.

The key elements of these arrangements are:

  • New players must play at least 3 (three) times in a period of not less than two months before being offered membership
  • Membership cards with a photograph and recognised format will be issued for production to retailers
  • A central database will be set up for retailers to cross-check a purchaser’s details
  • A member’s entry on the database will be deleted if unused for 12 months.


The defence for airsoft skirmishing can apply to individual players because their purchase of realistic imitation firearms for this purpose is considered part of the “holding” of a skirmishing event.


Now, hopefully, you have a good idea why we have these restrictions in place in the UK and what us (as airsofts) need to do to stay within the law when purchasing airsoft RIFs. So if you meet the above criteria and how do you prove it?

What Options are there for a Defence:
Now that we understand what the home office set out in the VCRA and what airsofters need to do to stay within the letter of the law, let’s look a little closer at the defence options – Firstly the point about the database is pretty key to proving your defence. When the VCRA came into force there were very limited options of defence, however, there are now a few more for you to choose from:

  • UKARA – United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association
  • BAC – British Airsoft Club
  • SWAT Pass
  • UKASA United Kingdom Airsoft Sites Accossiaction
  • And many more (including JustCoz, MVT etc)

UKARA is normally the most widely accepted and the Gold Standard in the Airsoft world. I would advise looking at the others very closely as there are some that are not home office approved) – Make sure you know the facts before you sign up to anything. Once you have selected your defence and signed up, you will now be able to head to your local airsoft shop or online store and make your purchase.

Foot Note: Not all retailers accept every defence and it is entirely at their discretion. You should find that UKARA is pretty much accepted by every retailer both in-store or online

For more information on the VCRA particularly section 36 referring to airsoft you can check out the Gov.uk website Here