To be exempt from certification, an air rifle must not be capable of exceeding a muzzle energy of 12ft/lb.
Above that, it requires a Section One Firearm Certificate (FAC). For an air pistol, the limit is 6ft/lb – and it’s effectively a ‘prohibited weapon’ above that. Having an OTT airgun without relevant paperwork is a statutory offence which could land you with a prison sentence.
The Airgun Manufacturers and Trade Association (AMTA) has gone to great lengths to protect end-users, especially when it comes to PCPs which can vary in power considerably throughout their air charge cycle as well as with a change of pellet.
All modern PCPs on sale in the UK are fitted with an anti-tamper device to stop users from breaking – inadvertently or otherwise – the law.
There’s no anti-tamper on spring-powered airguns as their design doesn’t require it: air rifles made for the sub-12ft/lb UK market and sold through gun shops all have a decent safety margin.
However, an unscrupulous person with the required skills and access to specialist tools and machinery could potentially re-machine any springer to boost its power above the legal limit. If they want to risk a jail sentence, that’s their worry – but what if that OTT gun is then sold on?
I cite a case of someone who recently saw a Weihrauch HW80 break-barrel advertised online. He met up with the vendor and, after being assured it was “perfectly legal”, bought it.
As it “hadn’t been used for a while”, he thought he’d take it straight to his local gun shop for a service – only to find out his “perfectly legal” HW80 was, in fact, doing well above 12ft/lb! Because ignorance is no defence in law, the new owner could have received a criminal sentence for possessing it.
The gun shop put the rifle back to the sub-12ft/lb configuration it was originally designed as – but to take a leaf out of AMTA’s book, and to protect readers who may buy (and sell) through the reader classified adverts on our Guns & Gear page, I’m introducing the Airgun Shooter Certificate of Compliance, or CoC.
It’s free to download from the above link.
If you don’t own a chrono to check your airgun’s power, your local gun shop will – it’s a facility you should be availing yourself of regularly, anyway.
All that’s then required in the advert is to state “with CoC” in the wording. For example: FOR SALE – Weihrauch HW80, with scope, silencer, sling and CoC. Or: WANTED – Weihrauch HW80, any condition, CoC essential.
Obviously, it’s not a mandatory requirement when advertising, but I would hope that both vendors and buyers see the value in having such a document at the point of sale and adopt its use.