Air Guns or BB Guns are widely used throughout the globe by hunting and weapon enthusiasts. While in most cases harmless, air guns can do real damage and are thus under some regulations in most developed countries in the world. For example, in some states of the US, airguns are age restricted, while other states impose possession and use regulations. Depending on your location, you might even be required to license your air gun. However, in most cases, air gun licensing is relatively simple. In order for your safety, protection and law abidance, we’ve gathered useful information about the state of air gun licensing in most countries.
The information included in this article is strictly informational. For further law assistance, you should contact a professional and official government authorities.
United Kingdom Air Gun Licensing
According to the law in United Kingdom, some air guns and air rifles are generating enough energy to be considered dangerous firearms. In this case, a person would usually need the possession of a FAC (Firearm Certificate). However, under a different law, such air pistols are strictly prohibited for people who are not members of the Gun Trade. In order to comply with the law in England and Wales, to purchase an air gun you would need to be under the legal age of eighteen and your gun should produce less energy than 8.1 Joules for pistols and less than 16.2 Joules for air rifles.
If your air gun generates under 1 Joule of energy, you would not require a firearm licence, unless you are in Norther Ireland. In Scotland, you are required to have an air weapon certificate. What’s interesting about the UK, is the fact that you are prohibited to purchase an Air Gun online. To sum up the UK airgun licensing laws:
- Air Pistols Generating More than 8.1 Joules are Prohibited
- Air Rifles Generating More than 16.2 Joules are Prohibited
- In England and Wales Airguns Generating Less than 1.0 Joule of Energy are Not Regulated
- In Northern Ireland Airguns Generating Less than 1.0 Joule Require Licensing
- Mail or Online Ordering Airguns is Prohibited throughout the UK
Canada Air Gun Licensing
If you are located in Canada, you should consider the manufacturer’s specifications of the airgun of your choice in order to know whether you require licensing or not. Generally, airguns with muzzle velocity that is greater than 152.4 meters per second and muzzle energy greater than 5.7 Joules are considered firearms under both the Firearms Act and Criminal Code. Usually air rifles that meet the requires are not restricted or prohibited.
However, depending on the exact design of the rifle, it may be under some restriction. For example, air pistols, which have a barrel longer than 105 mm are restricted, while air pistols with barrel length below 105 mm or less are prohibited. In order to own ush airguns, you would be required to have a valid firearms licence and the airgun needs to be officially registered. To sum up:
- Airguns under 152.4 meters muzzle velocity and under 5.7 Joules of muzzle Energy are not considered firearms, unless used for a crime, then they are considered firearms under the Criminal Code
- Depending on the design of the AirGun, You may need to have a valid licence and weapon Registration
- With that in mind, focusing on the information provided by the manufacturer should be a good airgun licencing research starting point
United States Air Gun Licensing
As expected, in the United States air gun laws are less strict and usually depend on the local state government laws. In fact, the Gun Control Act of 1968 constitutes that air guns are not firearms under Federal Law, unless they are manufactured with the frames or receivers of an actual firearm. Nevertheless, as aforementioned, some local governments regulate airguns. In fact, airguns fall under some regulation in as much as 23 states, as well as the District of Columbia.
Furthermore, New Jersey and Rhode Island define all airguns as firearms and in the state of Illinois certain airguns are constituted as firearms. If you are in Connecticut, Delaware and North Dakota, you should also check in with your government, as airguns are not considered firearms, but are considered dangerous weapons. In some states, there is certain age, possession, use or transfer restriction. For example, the New York state prohibits anyone under the age of 16 to possess an air gun. To sum up:
- In the United States air gun licensing depends on the state your are in
- 23 States and the District of Columbia Consider Airguns as firearms
- New Jersey and Rhode Island Constitute all Non-Powder Guns as Firearms
- Illinois Defines some airguns as firearms
- Connecticut, Delaware and North Dakota Define Air Guns not as Firearms, but as Dangerous Weapons
- Other States Impose certain age, transfer, possession, use and other restrictions
Australia Air Gun Licensing
Similar to the United States, the airgun law in Australia generally is based on local and state laws. However, airgun licensing laws in the country are far more restrictive in comparison. In general all airguns, regardless of manufacturing specifications or use are considered firearms. In fact, Air Rifles are considered Class A firearms, requiring airgun licensing and registration. Air pistols fall under Class H firearms category, thus require the attendance of a pistol club for as long as six months before allowing ownership.
Furthermore, owning an air pistol requires you to shoot in as much as four competitions per year in order to retain your firearms licence. What’s interesting is the fact that paintballs are treated under a different sections of the law on a state-by-state basis, while Airsoft guns are considered imitation firearms by ACT and are completely prohibited in the Northern Territory, being considered as regular firearms. To sum up:
- Airguns require different kinds of licensing in Australia on a state-by-state basis
- Air Rifles are considered Class A firearms, requiring licensing and registration
- Air Pistols are considered Class H firearms, requiring licensing, registration, Pistol Club attendance for six months prior to owning the air pistol and shooting in as much as four competitions per year to keep the licence
- Paintball Guns fall under Different Laws on a state-by-state basis
- Airsoft Guns are generally Considered Imitation Firearms by ACT and Firearms in the Northern Territory
Germany Air Gun Licensing
The general consensus in Germany Law regarding airguns is that you must be above the age of 18 in order to posses one. Of course, there is still some regulation. For example, airguns with muzzle energy above 7.5 Joules are prohibited. Usually, there is a distinct mark on the airguns, either on the box or on other documentation, generally being an F in a pentagon, that shows that the airgun has muzzle energy that does not exceed 7.5 Joules and is thus not requiring licensing.
The general restriction with airguns lies with the fact that carrying them in public is prohibited and only the transportation of an unloaded and non-accessible air gun is considered to be “permissible carry.” When it comes to shooting, you are only able to do shoot within shooting ranges and private property with the projectile not leaving the shooting area. In order to shoot an air gun in Germany, you must be above 12 years of age. Exceptions may be granted for younger children, but usually require airgun licencing by a doctor and by a shooting federation.
If you want to own an airgun that exceeds the 7.5 Joules of muzzle energy, then you must go through the regular firearm possession licensing process in the country, which usually requires proof of need, a clean criminal record and the passing of a knowledge and handling tests. However, differentiating from regular firearms, airguns do not have any storage requirements, except that they must be inaccessible to minors. To sum up:
- Possession of AirGuns is Prohibited for Children Under the Age of 18
- Shooting of AirGuns is Prohibited for Children Under the Age of 12, but may be granted on special conditions
- Possession of AirGuns with Muzzle Energy Less than 7.5 Joules Does Not Require a License
- Shooting of AirGuns with Muzzle Energy Less than 7.5 Joules Must Happen within Shooting Ranges or Private
- Property with the Projectile not Leaving the Permitted Area
- Possession of Airguns with Muzzle Energy Above 7.5 Joules falls under Firearms law and requires licensing, permits,
- proof of need, clean criminal record and successful passing of handing and knowledge tests
- Storage Requirements for Firearms do not Apply for Airguns, but they must be stored unaccessible to Minors
General European Union Air Gun Licensing Laws
There aren’t any specific general European Union Air Gun licensing Laws, but most laws for airguns are quite similar in the countries in the European Union. For example, in the Czech Republic, you can own an air gun with muzzle energy that does not exceed 16 Joules, if you are over the age of 18. There aren’t shooting restriction laws, expect that children under the age of 10 must be supervised when shooting and the shooting place must be with picked with public safety in mind. Air guns exceeding the muzzle energy of 16 Joules require licence and police registration as firearms and may only be used at shooting ranges. A similar case for airgun licensing can be noted in France.
The only difference is that the muzzle energy limit is 20 Joules and for airguns above the limit, residents of France must have a hunting or club shooting licence. What’s interesting is that France has an explicit law that forbids the hunting or pest control with air guns. In Italy, the age laws also apply, while the muzzle energy of the air gun should be higher than 1 Joule and lower than 7.5 Joules to be freely used. However, such guns can only be sold in authorized gun shops. Airguns with muzzle energy higher than 7.5 Joules require Police Licensing and registration, just like firearms.
Airsoft guns with muzzle energy less than 1 Joules are considered by law as toys with no restriction to their trade, expect that they should not be modified to achieve a higher muzzle energy, nor should they shoot anything different than 6 mm plastic pellets. Similar to France, in Italy it is Illegal to hunt with airguns. The airgun licensing laws in the Netherlands were quite similar to the German ones, but currently most restrictions have been lifted. In fact the only restriction for air guns in the Netherlands is the fact that you can’t carry it in public and that if air guns are kept in private homes they must be inaccessible for people under the age of 18. Also, airguns may only be sold in licensed gun shops and it is illegal to own an airgun that is produced or modified so that it can be carried more easily concealed. To Sum Up:
- The Muzzle Energy Limit for Airguns in the Czech Republic is 16 Joules
- The Muzzle Energy Limit for Airguns in France is 20 Joules
- The Muzzle Energy Limit for Airguns in Italy is 1 to 7.5 Joules
- Netherlands has no Muzzle Energy Limit for Airguns
- In Italy Airguns under 1 Joules are Considered Toys, but Modification of such airguns is Restricted
- In France and Italy Hunting with Airguns is Prohibited
- Possession of Airguns in the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Netherlands is Restricted for people Under the Age of 18
Other countries have different laws for airgun licensing. Depending on the country you are in, you should consult a law specialist and professional or your local government in order to learn more about the specific airgun laws in your country. Usually, if the airgun falls under specific muzzle energy requirements and you are above the age of eighteen, you would be able to purchase and own an airgun. However, consulting with your local government about the issue is crucial when owning and licensing your airgun.