Beginners guide: What is a UKARA or an Airsoft Defence?

Beginners' guide: What is a UKARA or an Airsoft Defence?

In Airsoft terms, a defence for buying Realistic Imitation Firearms (RIF) is essentially a way of proving that you have a valid reason for purchase and that we, the retailer, comply with the VCRA (Violent Crime Reduction Act). The purpose of a defence is to prevent those who do not have a legitimate reason to own an RIF (realistic Immitation firearm) from owning one, and allow legitimate users a defence under the law, should the Police attempt to prosecute. From 2006 regulations within the VCRA are in effect, put in place by the UK Government to restrict the sale of replica weapons to prevent them from falling into the hands of those who would use them for illegitimate purposes. As a responsible Airsoft retailer, we intend to comply with the VCRA and all laws concerning Airsoft without exception. Created in response to the VCRA, UKARA (United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association) is a consortium of UK retailers who host and maintain a database of Airsoft Skirmishers, compiled by retailers in conjunction with Airsoft skirmish sites. Being on the UKARA database will allow purchasing of RIFs from UK retailers. It is not the law to have UKARA in order to purchase an RIF, nor is it a license, but it is considered a 'specific defence' from prosecution under VCRA. UKARA enables retailers to satisfy the VCRA regulations by providing a database of only legitimate defence holders, in line with government guidelines, as it is illegal to supply an RIF to someone who cannot prove they hold a specific defence. There are no regulations on ownership of RIFs. Regulations apply to the "sale, import, and manufacture" of RIFs. A specific defence can also be used to provide evidence that you are an airsoft skirmisher, but despite this being enough to satisfy the legislation, you will most likely need to be on the UKARA database in order to purchase RIFs from UK retailers. Two-tone means the weapon’s primary colour must be primarily a non Military colour, such as Red, Green, Blue. The purchaser must also be over 18 years of age.

The following defences for purchasing an Airsoft Replica Gun are: The purchaser has a UKARA, or relevant defence. The purchaser is part of a Reenactment Society. The purchaser is a Museum Curator. The purchaser is a member of a TV / Film Production Team. Should you be part of any Reenactment Society, a Museum Curator or Member of a TV / Film Production crew and wish to purchase a weapon please enter your details during the Checkout Process so we can get in contact with you to verify any details. For further information please see: Legislation.gov.uk – Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006, c.38, Part 2, Imitation Firearms, Section 37

According to the legislation, an RIF is defined as an imitation firearm which "has an appearance that is so realistic as to make it indistinguishable, for all practical purposes, from a real firearm; and is neither a de-activated firearm nor itself an antique". They expand by stating that the definition also applies to imitation firearms that "cannot be immediately distinguished from a real firearm, other than by an expert, on a close examination or as a result of an attempt to load or to fire it". The legislation allows for 'attachments to existing RIFs' to be purchased without a defence, though most retailers would still require a defence for grenade launchers, under-barrel shotguns, etc. We define an RIF as anything with a barrel and a trigger in a realistic colour (black, silver, camo, tan, gold, etc.) as from a distance the average member of the public would assume it was a firearm.

For the purposes of the VCRA, the Government defines an Imitation firearm as an RIF that is either unrealistic in size, unrealistic in colour, or a replica of a real firearm of which the design dates prior to the year 1870. As far as that concerns us Airsofters, this means in order to qualify as an IF, our VCRA compliant replicas need to have over 51% of their surface area finished in an 'unrealistic' colour, as none of the RIFs we sell are below the required size (action man gun size) or based of a pre-1870 design. This is where the two-tone replicas come from, and why they exist. An 'unrealistic' colour is basically a colour that you would not generally find on a real firearm that would, in theory, enable the general public to identify the replica as unrealistic at a distance. This does not mean you can walk around carrying your two-tone, as this is still an offence and the two-tone gun will still be treated as if it was a real firearm by the authorities.


UKARA - What is UKARA?

UKARA stands for ‘United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association’ and is essentially a big database of all registered Airsoft Skirmishers in the UK, which allows Retailers to check an individual to see if they are eligible to purchase Replica Imitation Firearms (RIF). A UKARA Registration is recognised as a valid defence against purchasing an Airsoft Gun.

To obtain a UKARA registration an individual must visit a UKARA registered Airsoft Skirmish Site 3 times or more outside of 56 Days or 8 Weeks, at which point the site can stamp your paperwork and enter your details into the UKARA Database. Once you have received your UKARA number you can order a Realistic Imitation Firearm from us. 

If you do not wish to Skirmish or simply want to target shoot, then in order to obtain the weapon you must either have an alternate valid defence or have the weapon in Two-Tone colours. Any weapon we have can be Sprayed Two-Tone in order to meet these requirements.


Other Airsoft Defences

Although we recommend to any customer that they get a UKARA defence, we realise that some people may not have access to this. We also accept the following defences:

UKARA
Halo Mill Membership
SWAT P.A.S.S. Membership
Combat South Membership
For Re-enactment
For TV / Production / Theater
For Civil Service Use
  • Fully paid Halo Mill Membership + Played 3 Games (Evidenced)
  • British Airsoft Club (BAC)
  • SWAT PASS
  • Combat South
  • Re-enactment*
  • TV / Production Theatre*
  • Museum*
  • Civil Service*

Both these additional defences allow access to a database which we can check validity, but are not as widely recognised as UKARA.

When purchasing please ensure you enter information for all the required fields at the Defence Checker, and supply images of a high enough quality so we can verify their validity.

* Starred defences are typically considered on a case by case basis, and providing evidence of this does not necessarily mean we will accept your defence. We reserve the right to cancel your order with us should we not feel your defence is valid enough for us to sell to you.


Common Questions

You can buy an Airsoft Gun, however you must be over 18 and the weapon must be sprayed a Two-Tone colour.

You can have a weapon Two-Toned by selecting it from the Two Tone Options Box on any Airsoft Replica we sell on our website. For more information on how to do this please see: Two Tone Service Information.

The reason for the price of the Two-Tone is because we fully strip the weapon, spray the relevant body parts, then reconstruct the weapon. To spray the weapon we use high quality Spray Paint, in our in-house Spray and Extraction room.

We follow strict guidelines when selling Airsoft Guns and Replicas, and we do not want to damage the reputation of the sport.

To decide whether or not to sell an item using UKARA, we follow the ‘Grandma’ test. This means that if we were show the item to our Grans, would they think it was a gun and call the police?

Nine times out of Ten, if it has a trigger, then it looks like a gun. We will not change this stance on a case by case basis.

To buy an Airsoft gun, you only need a defence when purchasing a rifle in or ordering from a place covered by the VCRA, this is currently England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Countries outside of the UK do not require defences to be purchased, however if your country does require you to have a defence or there are specific laws covering Airsoft Guns we cannot be held responsible if your package is denied / destroyed by customs.

For example:

  • Customer X buys a Fully Automatic Airsoft AEG to be delivered to Germany where there is a restriction places on Fully Automatic Airsoft Guns, and the weapon is destroyed by customs.

We are up to date with most laws around the world, and if we find a purchase breaks any laws of the respective country we will not dispatch it, and simply hold the rifle until we contact you.

Unfortunately you cannot, the Firearms Act is different to the VCRA Act, and as such specifies different criteria for purchase. Although this seems unfair companies in the UK are bound by this law when selling RIF.

As an individual for personal use you are still bound by the same laws as any other Individual in the UK, however, if you are acquiring them on behalf of your Unit for training purposes they can be purchased.

In order to do this we must be sent valid proof, such as an email from a Superior, and the package must be sent to a Military / Police building.

To purchase a none-two tone weapon from us we require proof that you are a current member of a Society. To satisfy the requirement we need at a minimum the following bits of information:

  • A scanned copy of your Membership Card next to a Photo ID (Such as driving License)
  • Your Society Must have a Website with your name Listed on it, or a Contactable Representative

You can submit the information required by us via the Defence Submission Section during the Checkout Process, and we will get in contact with you to verify any submitted information.

To purchase a none-two tone weapon from us we require proof that you are in fact from a Film / Production Company. To satisfy the requirement we need at a minimum the following bits of information:

  • A copy of the Company’s Insurance Documents which state it is covered as a Film / Production company.
  • The package must be delivered to a Studio or Address Associated with the company

You can submit the information required by us via the Defence Submission Section during the Checkout Process, and we will get in contact with you to verify any submitted information.

To purchase a none-two tone weapon from us we require proof that you are in fact a Museum Curator. To satisfy the requirement we need at a minimum the following bits of information:

  • A copy of the Museums insurance documents, stating the company is insured as a Museum.
  • The package must be delivered to a Museum / Building associated with the company

You can submit the information required by us via the Defence Submission Section during the Checkout Process, and we will get in contact with you to verify any submitted information.

No, the defence will not stop you being arrested should you be doing anything silly with the gun, it is a defence for point of purchase not for ownership.

Airsoft Guns may not be powerful enough to be lethal, but should still be treated as such. The everyday person will not know what Airsoft is, and if you are seen with a RIF by a member of the public and they call the Police, Armed Response will be notified.

Simply someone thinking you have anything that looks like a real firearm is reason enough for Armed Response to confiscate your Airsoft Guns. Simply someone thinking you have anything that looks like a real firearm is reason enough for Armed Response to confiscate your Airsoft Guns. Please remember, that if a member of the public sees you with your rifle it is a Firearms Offence, and can result in a minimum 5 years jail sentence.

Having UKARA is only useful if you are stopped by the police, and can provide another reason as to why you have Realistic Looking Firearms in your boot. However, do not presume that every Police Officer will understand Airsoft and will most likely not know what UKARA is. Stay calm and explain about the sport and where you are going. Preferably having a site booking by name that the Officer can call.

Please note that most Police Officers are not qualified to determine if an item is a firearm or not, and will have to request backup from a Qualified Individual, usually from the Armed Response.

Remember, you should only ever travel with the rifle in the boot of your car, either to and from a game site or to a shop / repair center.

A photo ID is a piece of Photographic ID, which shows both a picture of you and your address. Such examples of this are a Drivers Licence, or Passport.

You can submit this via the Defence Submission Section during the Checkout Process.