Imitation Firearms

AuthorLaura Saunsbury/Nick Doherty

Chapter 9

Imitation Firearms


9.01 It is an offence under the FA 1968 to commit a number of criminal offences with an imitation firearm, such as committing indictable offences (e.g. robbery), or resisting arrest, and is punishable in the same way as if the offender had used a real firearm. Details of such offences can be found at para 15.37 et seq, para 15.71 et seq and para 15.93. Further, if an imitation firearm can be ‘readily converted’ to fire with lethal effect, possession of these is controlled in the same way as if they were real firearms of the same classification under the Firearms Acts.

9.02 Those reading this chapter because they are considering an item which has the appearance of a firearm may also wish to look at para 1.30, ‘Deactivated firearms’.

9.03 An imitation firearm is defined as: ‘any thing which has the appearance of being a firearm (other than such a weapon as is mentioned in section 5(1)(b) of this Act) whether or not it is capable of discharging any shot, bullet or other missile’.1It does not therefore include stun guns and CS gas canisters, but it does include items which are capable of working as a firearm, so it cannot be argued that ‘it is not an imitation firearm because it is a firearm’. A banana in a carrier bag can be an imitation firearm.

1FA 1968, s 57(4).

144 The Firearms Law Handbook


9.04 Increasing concern about the use of imitation firearms for criminal purposes, and uncertainty about the extent to which the FA 1968 applied to them,2

led to the passing in 1982 of a Firearms (Amendment) Act, which was brought into force on 1 November 1983. The expressed purpose of the Act is to apply (with some exceptions and qualifications) the provisions of the FA 1968 to imitation firearms if they fulfil certain conditions.3

9.05 An imitation firearm is defined in the FA 1982, by reference to the FA 1968, to mean anything which has the appearance of being a section 1 firearm (whether or not it is capable of discharging any shot, bullet or other missile) other than a weapon designed or adapted for the discharge of any noxious liquid, gas or other thing.4

9.06 There are two conditions, both of which must be fulfilled. First, that the imitation firearm shall have the appearance of being a section 1 firearm.5This is obviously a question of fact. In this context, component parts and accessories have been excluded.6

9.07 The second condition is that the imitation firearm shall be so constructed or adapted as to be ‘readily convertible’ into a section 1 firearm.7The FA 1982 goes on to say that the firearm shall be regarded as readily convertible if:

(a) it can be converted without any special skill on the part of the person converting it in the construction or adaptation of firearms of any description; and

(b) the work in converting it does not require equipment or tools other than such as are in common use by persons carrying out works of construction and maintenance in their own homes.8

2See, e.g., the cases discussed at para 1.73 et seq.

3FA 1982, s 1(2).

4FA 1968, ss 5(1)(b), 57(4); FA 1982, s 1(3). See para 2.05 for details of such weapons.

5FA 1968, s 1; FA 1982, s 1(1)(a), (4)(a); F(A)A 1988, s 25(7). For the definition of ‘section 1 firearm’ see para 3.01 et seq. Note: for these purposes this will include having the appearance of any prohibited weapon such as a handgun or a machinegun, which are section 1 firearms as well as being section 5 prohibited weapons.

6FA 1968, s 57(1); FA 1982, s 1(3), (4)(b).

7FA 1968, s 1(3); FA 1982, s 1(1)(b).

8FA 1982, s 1(6).

The Home Office explain that the equipment and tools referred to are taken to mean tools and equipment...

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