Gun laws in the UK are some of the most strict in the world.  So much so, that most of the public are unaware that people are even allowed firearms.

The law is split into many sections.  Here is a very basic overview of the main sections:

Section 1 – Firearms

  • Full bore rifles
  • Semi auto firearms – upto .22LR
  • Percussion cap revolvers
  • Shot guns that hold more than 3 shells
  • Air rifles that are more powerful than 12ftlb

Section 2 – Shotguns

  • Smooth bore shotgun
  • Holds no more that 2 shells + 1 in the chamber (semi / pump)

Section 5 – Prohibited weapons

  • Hand guns
  • Centre fire semi autos
  • Fully automatic
  • Tasers etc

Since handguns and carbines are banned in the UK, unless you have a section 5 (very very hard to acquire) the average UK citizen who wants to learn how to shoot these type of wepons have to travel out of the UK and head to places like Eastern Europe where gun laws are more relaxed.  This comes at an expense though, time and money for travel etc. and unless you have a lot of money, you can’t really put in the time on the range that is required to master weapon systems.

Many people however head to NITSA in Northern Ireland, where they can shoot handguns til their hearts are content.  NITSA’s yearly fees are very reasonable, and traveling to Northern Ireland is a lot cheaper than Europe generally.  But still, putting in the hours you would want to learn and improve on pistols for example, the cost will still add up.

So, what are the other options to help practice shooting, particularly handguns and carbines?

Section 1 Handguns:

Section 1 handguns / revolvers come in several calibres including .22LR, .357, .38 special etc.  But they are limited to a minimum length.  So you can have a semi auto .22LR Colt 1911, but you will have a metal rod / bar coming out of the pistol grip that makes the gun legal.  Also with a fake moderator (suppressor) to make up the legal length.

This rod / bar doesn’t stop you having fun, and learning how to shoot, but it does make holstering and gun manipulations harder.  Assuming the range you are shooting on allows you to even holster anyway.

So, section 1 handguns / revolvers are great fun, but are they good for more practical shooting, or people who are wanting to learn other skills using firearms, such as Close Protection Officers?  We would have to say, no.

Section 1 SMG’s / Carbines:

When it comes to SMG’s and carbines, you do have a bit more choice and ease of use.  There are many clones of full bore full autos, but made in .22LR semi auto for the UK market.  The GSG 522 for example.  It functions nearly exactly the same as its 9x19mm big brother, the iconic H&K MP5.  Many people in the UK who need to train for MP5’s for example would use a .22LR GSG.  The saying is, if you can do it on a .22 you can do it on a 9mm.  All the fundamentals are the same, just less recoil (and cheaper ammo).

Same for the carbines, there are many companies who have cloned the AR15 platform for example.  Again, functioning near enough the same as the “full fat” AR15 or M4, these .22LR guns are great for learning, they are very accurate and are cheap to buy, own and use.

PROS

  • Live fire real world ballistics
  • Highly accurate
  • Recoil management
  • Trigger control
  • Marksmanship principles

CONS

  • Real threat of injury and death if something goes wrong
  • Range fees
  • Ammo costs
  • Generally can’t holster or do transition drill
  • Need a firearms licence
  • Restricted minimum length devices
  • Not hearing safe

SIRT Pistols (Next Level Training):

SIRT stands for ‘Shot Identification Resetting Trigger’.  They emulate a trigger pull of a pistol, but instead of firing a bullet or BB and recoiling, it activates a visible or IR laser from the muzzle.

SIRT pistols are totally inert and do not fire anything other than a laser.

There are several versions of SIRT pistols which are very similar to Glock and Smith and Wesson handguns, although they are not affiliated with these companies.

‘SIRT 110 pistols’ for example can be tuned to emulate a live fire Glock’s trigger etc.  So you can set the trigger to be like a brand new Glock 17 with crisp trigger, or you can adjust it to be like a well used Glock with more trigger take up and less crisp etc.  A very useful training tool.

SIRT pistols come with either 1 or 2 lasers.  When using paper / physical targets the two visible laser option allows the first laser to fire as soon as you take up the trigger.  This allows you or an instructor to see how good your grip and trigger control is, and then adjust and correct.  The second laser fires when the sear is broken upon the trigger being fully pulled (simulating a bullet being fired).  This second laser is aligned with the gun’s sights and shows where your shot would of gone if it was a live gun.  There are several types of SIRT.  Student and Professional models being the two main options.  Student is all plastic and has 2 visible red lasers.  The professional is more of a realistic weight due to a full metal slide, it also has visible green and a red lasers.

When using Point Blank Simulator, we would suggest ordering a SIRT that comes with an IR laser.  You can buy the SIRT with visible lasers, but then buy an IR muzzle and fit it yourself if you require both physical and virtual range options for your training.  Using our camera, you can use visible red, green and infra-red lasers.  Using Infra-red is a better option as the laser doesn’t have to be 100% zeroed, as our software does that for you.  Using a visible laser, if it’s not zeroed correctly to your sights it can be annoying.  Also visible lasers may invoke bad habits (not finding your sights every time etc).  But they all work, so it’s up to you.

In the UK you do not need any form of licence or defence to buy, own or use.  But common sense prevails when it comes to any gun.  Don’t point it at anyone, don’t leave it somewhere that a member of the public will report you for having a handgun, and keep it covered and safe when transporting.

For more information on SIRT pistols, and other products they offer, https://nextleveltraining.com.

PROS

  • Trigger control
  • Marksmanship principles
  • Totally safe
  • Fits most live fire holsters
  • Can be used nearly anywhere
  • Fully adjustable
  • Battery powered
  • Near silent (just trigger)
  • Removable magazines

CONS

  • Fairly large up front cost
  • Does not cock/rack
  • Cannot field strip
  • Can be hard to zero laser to sights

Airsoft weapons:

In the UK, Airsoft is a popular sport similar to paintballing.  The main difference is that airsoft guns do not use paintballs, instead, they use 6mm plastic ball bearings (BBs).

Most popular firearms of the world have more than likely been made into an airsoft version of the firearm.  This makes them a very popular option for training.

The main types of airsoft guns you can get are:

Springers –  These are generally single shot pistols or carbine style guns that you cock then fire, and will not fire again until you re-cock.  These are normally what people refer to BB guns.  Normally cheap, plastic and can be found at your local market or car boot sale.  Powered by a spring under tension when cocked.

Bolt Action Sniper Rifles – These rifles operate the same as a live fire sniper rifle.  You rack the bolt and you’re ready to fire.  Then re-rack the bolt and you’re ready to shoot again.

AEG (Electric airsoft gun) – These are the most popular type of airsoft gun.  They have batteries either within the gun, or external within a replica PEQ for example.  They generally are SMGs and carbines, such as MP5’s and M4’s.  They have a high torque motor in the pistol grip which activate when the trigger is pulled.  There is a gearbox and air piston that shoots the BB out of the barrel when the trigger is pulled.  Most come as semi and fully automatic.

EBB (Electric Blowback) – As technology evolves, so does airsoft technology.  Some of the higher end airsoft guns come as electric, but have some form of blow back.  Meaning when you fire the gun, a fake gun bolt reciprocates, giving the emulated feeling of a bit of blowback and recoil.  These guns generally look and operate like a live fire, such as being able to charge the bolt etc, but these actions do not actually affect the operation of the gun.

GBB Pistol (Gas Blow Back Pistol) – These are 1:1 replicas of real life firearms.  They are generally semi automatic, but some are fully automatic, normally to replicate the real firearm’s selection of fire.  The pistols come with magazines that hold gas.  The most common are green gas or CO2.  Green gas magazines hold gas which is injected into it via a can of gas,  similar to how you would fill a cigarette lighter.  When fired it uses the stored gas to fire the BB and recoil the gun, giving a realistic gun function.  CO2 pistols are the same as the green gas, but instead take CO2 metal bulbs, which again sit in the magazine or pistol grip, and generally are more powerful and recoil more heavily.  GBB pistols can be stripped like a real firearm and operate pretty much exactly the same.

GBB Rifles (Gas Blow Back Rifles) – Again these are 1:1 replicas of live firearms.  They are the most realistic in their operation.  They have green gas or CO2 stored in the magazine and when fired, shoot a BB out and recoil a real bolt, giving a much more realistic feel when shooting.  On an AR platform such as the M4, the charging handle and forward assist work exactly the same as a live fire.  These weapons can be stripped incredibly similar to their live fire counterpart.  This form of gun are less popular for airsoft in the UK in winter, as the gas doesn’t last long, and power is lost due to the cold.  But in the summer, they are very popular.  For training purposes though, these are the type that is used the most.

HPA (High Pressure Air) – HPA has grown in popularity in the UK airsoft scene.  They use highly compressed air which is stored in a mini scuba diving style tank, that is kept on the shooters body / webbing / backpack etc.  They are popular because you can adjust the power and rate of fire easily and is not affected by the cold, so can be used all year round without issues.  They come as blowback and non blowback options.  Can come pre-built as HPA, or you can convert AEGs, EBB, GBB pistols and carbines, with many options and upgrades to use HPA.

PROS

  • A gun for most budgets
  • Highly realistic replicas
  • Gas guns are nearly identical in function to a live fire
  • Cheap and easy to maintain
  • A lot of accessories and options available
  • Minimal safety equipment needed when using (eyes)
  • “Force on force safe”

CONS

  • UKARA defence needed
  • Gas / batteries can be expensive
  • Gas magazines can leak
  • Not overly accurate
  • “Hop up” causes bb’s to climb before falling, not simulating live fire.  But generally at the range you would be shooting pistols for example, it’s not a major issue
  • Noisy blowback / motors, making it harder to use at home etc

THE LAW

Airsoft guns are classed as Imitation Firearms (IF).  They have to be painted or the materials from factory come with more that 50% clear plastic, or painted over 50% bright orange, blue or pink.  So it is obvious that it is not a live firearm.

If you wish to buy and own a fully black or camo gun, whether it’s a pistol, SMG, carbine or sniper rifle, you have to have a UKARA Defence.  There is no such thing as an “Airsoft Licence” but you need to prove that you have a reason and purpose to have a full black airsoft gun.

Airsoft guns that are fully black, or camo are classed as Realistic Imitation Firearms (RIF).  They are defined as so realistic, that if seen by a member of the public, or a police officer, there is next to no way of distinguishing it from a live firearm.  You are likely to get arrested or shot by armed response if carried or stored incorrectly, particularly in a public place, so airsoft guns are allowed in the UK, but you need to prove a need for it.

Under the “Violent Crime Reduction Act”, to be able to have a RIF, the main requirements are: you need to be involved in film and theatre, as props, or be a registered Airsofter.

To prove you are an airsofter, you need to shoot at a UKARA registered airsoft site, 3 times within 3 months.  Your UKARA defence number lasts 1 year, and is needed to be renewed every year, with a minimum shoot of 3 shoots in 3 months again.

The same airsoft guns, of all qualities and prices can be bought without a defence, if painted over 51% in a bright colour, by the shop or manufacturer.  You just have to be over 18 years old.

It is a section 5 offence to paint a bright coloured airsoft gun black.  Do not do it!