Firearms, like anything else, are collectables, and valuable ones at that. George Washington’s two saddle pistols went for around $1 million each when they were last auctioned in 2002. Antique firearms are often inherited or may be purchased as part of a historic artefact collection. You may initially think that such relics would be beyond the scope of modern-day gun laws but in fact, antique firearms law was changed by the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021 and the Policing and Crime Act 2017 (Commencement No.11 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2021, which bring into effect section 126 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017. If you have an antique firearm in your possession, you need to understand the new laws regarding how they are sold, transferred, purchased, acquired, or possessed.

Reeds Solicitors is an award winning and leading top-tier criminal defence firm. For legal advice and representation, please contact us through our contact page here. Alternatively, you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at


antique firearm law: WHY Has it been changed?

Under the Firearms Act 1968, antique firearms were exempt from most controls, including the certification requirement and the need to be registered with the police as a firearms dealer in order to trade them. Furthermore, no clear definition of antique firearms was provided by the 1968 Act.

What is an antique firearm under the new laws?

The definition of an antique firearm closely follows the model used in Home Office guidance, which will be familiar to law enforcement agencies and professional firearms dealers.

Under section 58 of the 1968 Act (following amendments), a firearm must meet certain conditions to be defined as an “antique firearm”. These conditions relate to the type of cartridge the weapon was designed to use, as well as its propulsion system must be of a certain type. Alternatively, it’s chamber (or chambers) are original, and any replacement is identical in all material aspects.

How will the new laws affect antique firearm owners?

From 22 March 2021, certain firearms ceased to be ‘antique’ under the new antique firearms law. For example, Home Office guidance previously included the below cartridges in the obsolete calibre list, which meant they qualified as antique:

  • .320 British (also known as .320 Revolver CF, short or long)
  • .41 Colt (short or long)
  • .44 Smith and Wesson Russian
  • .442 Revolver (also known as .44 Webley)
  • 4mm Dutch Revolver
  • 6mm German Ordnance Revolver
  • 11mm French Ordnance Revolver M1873 (Army)

However, because the police confirmed that the above cartridges are used in criminal activity, they have been removed from the list of obsolete cartridges in the Schedule to the Antique Regulations. As such, from 22 March 2021, anyone who owns such a cartridge will need a firearms certificate and be registered as a firearms dealer to trade them. Failure to do so could result in criminal prosecution.

Certain cartridges have also been added to the obsolete list (see below) and will therefore be exempt from licensing controls.

  • .26 BSA (.26 Rimless Belted Nitro Express)
  • .33 BSA (.33 Rimless Belted Nitro Express)
  • .360 No 2 Nitro Express
  • .40 BSA (.40 Rimless Belted Nitro Express)
  • .400/360 2 ¾ in Nitro Express
  • .425 Westley Richards Magnum
  • .475 x 3 ¼ in Nitro Express
  • .475 No 2 Jeffery Nitro Express
  • .475 No 2 Nitro Express
  • .476 Nitro Express (.476 Westley Richards)
  • .50-90 2 ½ inch
  • .50-110 2.4 inch
  • .577 – 3 in (Black Powder & Nitro Express)
  • .577 – 3 ¼ in (Black Powder & Nitro Express)
  • 5 x 53mm R Mannlicher (Dutch/Romanian)
  • 8 x 56mm Mannlicher Schoenauer
  • 8 x 58 mm R Krag
  • 8 mm Murata
  • 9 x 56mm Mannlicher Schoenauer
  • 9 x 57mm R Mauser
  • 9 x 57mm Rimless Mauser
  • 5 x 57mm Mannlicher Schoenauer
  • 8mm Roth Steyr

Additional offences have also been created. From 22 March 2021, it became an offence to carry an antique firearm in a public place without reasonable excuse and commit trespass with an antique firearm.

What are the rules for existing owners of former antique firearms?

Existing owners, defined as those that possess a firearm that was categorised as antique before the amendments came into force, may keep any firearms formally classed as antique on their firearm certificate (or shotgun certificate, if applicable). However, owners were required to make an application to the local police force on or before 21 September 2021 for a firearm or shotgun certificate or to vary their existing certificate. If you did not manage to make arrangements before this date, you may be breaking the law. The best action to take is to get in touch with us and we can advise you on your options.

The police will need to be satisfied that you are the type of person that can be trusted to own a firearm, is not prohibited from owning one, and will not represent a danger to the public or the peace. You will also need to have appropriate security in place to ensure unauthorised people cannot access the weapon. The police will consider the crime rate in the area and where your property is located. You can find out more about how the police make such decisions by reading the Firearms Security Handbook 2020. It is also important to note that conditions may be placed on your firearms licence. The most pressing concern for police forces will be that the antique firearm should not be fired, therefore a condition may be that you are prohibited from possessing ammunition suitable for the firearm.

Can antique firearms now classed as prohibited weapons be traded?

The government has recognised that certain antique firearms which are prohibited under the amendments are often used for criminal activity. Therefore, although existing owners can retain them, selling or transferring prohibited antique firearms are forbidden in most cases. If you want to sell or transfer a prohibited weapon in the future, you and the other party will need to seek authorisation under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 Act. In most cases, permission will not be granted on the grounds of public safety, however, where a firearm meets the criteria for a historic handgun under section 7 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 and is licensed accordingly you can sell or transfer the firearm to other collectors who hold a relevant section 7 firearm certificate.

Concluding Comments

Firearms offences are serious and can lead to custodial sentences if you are found guilty. And as the cliché goes, ‘ignorance of the law is no defence.’ If you possess an antique firearm and are unsure as to whether the new laws require you to obtain a licence, speak to the police at your local station. If you have been charged with a firearms offence, please contact our criminal defence solicitors immediately. They understand antique firearms law and can provide expert legal advice and representation. Your solicitor will build a persuasive defence to give you the best chance of being acquitted or having a reduced sentence applied.


Reeds Solicitors is an award winning and leading top-tier criminal defence firm. For legal advice and representation, please contact us through our contact page here. Alternatively, you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at