Where Can I Shoot My Airsoft Gun? UK Airsoft Rules Players Need To Know

Where to shoot airsoft guns UK

Every airsoft enthusiast needs to be aware of the rules and regulations in the UK that surround the use of airsoft guns; otherwise, you could find yourself in a tricky situation. 

Understanding the basics, like where you can shoot your airsoft gun, who can buy an airsoft gun and if you need an airsoft licence, is essential for keeping on the right side of the law.  

Owning an airsoft gun can be great fun, but if you don’t know the law, it can land you in hot water. There are plenty of resources out there to help airsoft beginners get the lay of the land, but even still, it can feel daunting to understand the ins and outs.

This guide aims to break down all you need to know into manageable chunks so you can start your airsoft journey with confidence.  

Where Can I Shoot My Airsoft Gun in the UK?

One of the biggest questions new airsoft gun enthusiasts have is knowing where they can shoot their airsoft guns. In general, it is best to always shoot your airsoft gun in a designated and licenced airsoft site – this will ensure that you can legally shoot your airsoft gun in the area.

Home Gardens

If you want to shoot your gun at home, you must do so safely and responsibly. Technically, it’s legal to shoot your gun in your home garden, but you must not shoot it at a person, wild animal or pet – which goes without saying for responsible airsoft owners.

Most airsoft gun owners avoid shooting at home because they don’t want to annoy the neighbours with loud shooting – airsoft sites are also much more fun when practising.   

Woods and Forests

It is illegal to shoot an airsoft gun in a public area, and unless woods and forests are privately owned or designated airsoft sites, you should avoid shooting in them.

In private woods, it may be legal to shoot your airsoft gun, but you must remember the legal requirement not to harm any animal or bird with it – this can be tricky in densely wooded areas, so it’s often best avoided.    

Public Areas

You must not shoot your airsoft gun in a public area – this is illegal and extremely dangerous. Public places include parks, anywhere within 50 feet of a public road, car parks or city centres.   

Airsoft Sites

Airsoft sites are often your best bet when shooting an airsoft gun, but you should ensure they are professionally managed and adhere to the restrictions and laws around airsoft sites.

It is best to choose a site endorsed by a recognised body in airsoft, such as the United Kingdom Airsoft Players Union (UKAPU).  

Who Can Purchase an Airsoft Gun in the UK?

You must be over 18 to purchase an airsoft gun in the UK – you also cannot buy an airsoft gun to give to anyone under 18.

There are even regulations around the type of airsoft gun you can buy and what it can look like. You should fully understand the legal requirements and ramifications of the various styles of airsoft guns before you consider making a purchase.  

Replication Imitation Firearms

A replication imitation firearm (RIF) is anything that looks like a firearm. They are very realistic and highly regulated, unlike imitation firearms with clear markers of their non-authentic nature (more on this below).

There are strict rules about who can buy a RIF – you must have what is known as a ‘defence’ for purchasing one. 

Defences that are accepted include: having played at least three airsoft skirmishes at a registered site or being part of an established organisation that involves airsoft, such as a re-enactment group or film production company.  

Imitation Firearms

An imitation firearm (IF) is different from a RIF because it is markedly obvious that it is not a real firearm. This means that the IF is two-toned, with at least 50% of the gun being a bright and unrealistic colour like blue, yellow or red.

Anyone who doesn’t have a good enough defence for buying a RIF can normally buy an IF without having to jump through further hoops.  

shooting an airsoft gun
Where Can I Shoot My Airsoft Gun? UK Airsoft Rules Players Need To Know

Do I Need an Airsoft License to Purchase a Gun?

You don’t need an airsoft license to purchase an airsoft gun – as mentioned above; you will need a defence if you want to buy a RIF, which is indistinguishable from an actual firearm.

A defence is a legal justification you must provide when purchasing a RIF, which shows why you need the RIF. This could be in the form of membership in an airsoft organisation, though no actual license is required. You’ll need to provide documentation to support your defence, such as membership papers and proof of skirmishes.

IFs, on the other hand, do not require you to provide a defence or a license to obtain.  

What is the Violent Crime Reduction Act (VCRA)?

The VCRA was passed in 2006 with the aim of reducing violent crimes committed using firearms. It also introduced strict rules around the purchase and sale of replication imitation firearms. This is where the legal requirement for a defence to use a RIF was enshrined in law.

Initially, the law made all airsoft guns illegal to use, but after lobbying from airsoft organisations, an amendment was made to allow those with a defence to use RIFs and those without to use IFs coloured in 50% unrealistic colours. Defences that the VCRA allows include

  • Being a registered airsoft member 
  • Being part of a film, theatre or TV production company 
  • Being a member of a historical re-enactment organisation 
  • Being a museum representative 
  • Being a Crown Servant in the pursuit of Crown duties 

Under the law, you must provide evidence of the defence you’re using before you can buy a RIF. All reputable retailers will request this before issuing you with a RIF. 

Do I Need to Be a Registered Airsoft Player?

You do not need to be a registered airsoft player to buy an airsoft gun in the UK. Being a registered airsoft player is just one of the several defences that can be used to buy an airsoft gun in the UK, but not the only one and not a necessity.

Many people use being a registered airsoft player as a defence for buying and owning an airsoft gun as a hobby, whereas other defences allow people to purchase airsoft guns for work.

With IF airsoft guns, you won’t need a defence, so you won’t need to prove you are a registered airsoft player.  

Can I Carry My Airsoft Gun Around in Public?

The legality of carrying an airsoft gun in public can be murky. You won’t be allowed to openly carry an airsoft gun in public, particularly if it is a RIF and likely to incite panic from members of the public. You must have a reasonable excuse to carry an airsoft gun in public, and it is a matter for the courts to decide if your excuse is reasonable.

Airsoft gun owners can carry their guns in public when transporting them to and from skirmishes or after purchasing them from dealers, but you must carry them in a suitable case – not out in the open. A suitable case should be inconspicuous and properly secured.  

Summary: Understanding Airsoft UK Laws & Rules

The rules around airsoft guns can feel complicated at first, so it is important that beginners in the sport take their time to learn them thoroughly.

Most crucially, you should understand that only people over 18 can buy or own guns and that you should never purchase a gun as a gift for someone under 18. You must also know the difference between a RIF and IF and the legal hoops needed to jump through each.

Ensure that your legal defence is sound if you decide to purchase a RIF and has the paperwork to back it up.  


About Laurence

Laurence is a keen airsoft player and has been the owner of SoCom Tactical for over 10 years. He’s played airsoft all over the country solo and as part of teams and is an expert on all things airsoft, like tactics, airsoft guns and gameplay equipment. As one of the UK’s leading airsoft suppliers and retailers, Laurence is the go-to source for airsoft knowledge.