What's new
British Ordnance Collectors Network

This is a sample guest message. Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox!

The Collector and the Law

Not open for further replies.


Staff member
Premium Member
Fellow member TonyE has kindly taken the time to research and write this summary of Uk law ..Thank you very much for this

The Collector and the Law


The following is an attempt to outline the impact that the current UK firearms legislation has on the collecting of ammunition and other ordnance. It is NOT a legal opinion, nor is it anything other than my own interpretation of the law as it now stands.

Firearms and ammunition in the United Kingdom are subject to the Firearms Acts 1968 to 1992 and the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997.

Live ammunition

Obviously the law bans the possession of any live ammunition without the relevant authority of a Firearms Certificate (FAC) or a Registered Firearm Dealer certificate (RFD). There are other provisions for certificates for rifle and pistol clubs and museums, but these notes will only deal with the aspects affecting personal possession.

If we ignore shotgun cartridges, live ammunition falls into three categories within the Acts. The two most important are Section 1 which includes all normal ball ammunition whatever the calibre and Section 5 which is prohibited ammunition, including incendiary, explosive and expanding ammunition. The third category is blank ammunition up to 1 inch in calibre that does not require a certificate.

Section 1 ammunition poses no particular problem to the holder of a FAC varied to hold ammunition of that particular calibre. In addition to ball rounds, tracer is still considered to be Section 1, as are flare cartridges.

The problems arise with ammunition prohibited by Section 5 of the Act. Section 5 of the Act covers all manner of prohibited devices from machine guns to firearms disguised as other objects and includes several types of ammunition.

These are:

Section 5 (1) (c) which prohibits any cartridge with a bullet designed to explode on or immediately before impact or any rocket, grenade, bomb (or other like missile) or rocket or shell designed to explode as aforesaid.

Section 5 (1A) which prohibits

(a)any firearm which is disguised as another object;
(b)any rocket or ammunition designed to explode on or immediately before impact and is for military use;
(c)any launcher or other projecting apparatus which is designed to be used with any rocket or ammunition falling within paragraph (b) above or with ammunition which would fall within that paragraph but for its being ammunition falling within paragraph (c) of that subsection;
(d)any ammunition for military use which consists in or incorporates a missile designed so that a substance contained in the missile will ignite on or immediately before impact;
(e)any ammunition for military use which consists in or incorporates a missile designed, on account of its having a jacket and hard-core, to penetrate armour plating, armour screening or body armour.
(f)any ammunition which incorporates a missile designed or adapted to expand on impact.
(g)anything which is designed to be projected as a missile from any weapon and is included in any of the above.
There are further prohibitions incorporated in subsequent paragraphs that act as a catch all to the above.
Thus it can be seen that the parts which particularly affect collectors are Section 5 (1A) (b) which prohibits high explosive rounds, (1A) (d) which prohibits incendiaries, (1A) (e) that prohibits armour piercing, (1A) (f) that prohibits expanding ammunition and MOST IMPORTANTLY Section 5 (1A) (g) which prohibits the projectiles for the above, even if they are not loaded into a round of ammunition.
The holder of an FAC may apply to the Chief Officer of Police in his area to have his certificate varied to possess ammunition falling into any or all of the above categories. Provided that the applicant can show a bona fide need this is not generally refused except for the possession of high explosive ammunition.
Inert ammunition.
Ammunition that is completely inert and incapable of being fired is exempt from the legislation, unless it falls into Section 5. The difficulty may come from proving that the ammunition is genuinely inert.
For small arms ammunition this is not too serious a problem, as the round can be easily disassembled if necessary to prove it contains no propellant. Some collectors place a small piece of metal in the case so that it rattles if shaken to show it is inert.
Caps (primers) are normally inerted by oiling but this is not always a foolproof method and again some collectors prefer to have the caps struck to prove they are inert. This can however detract from the value of a round in the eyes of some collectors.
For artillery and other ordnance the problem is more difficult. Whilst in some cases the projectile may be easily removed from the case, if a fixed round is complete it may not be easy to prove it contains no propellant. Even more of a problem is the projectile. It may be difficult to disassemble to prove it contains no explosive or even if empty that there is no live gaine fitted. Very few collectors items come with a Free From Explosives (FFE) certificate but this is now being demanded of museums for all their ordnance items.
The biggest problem though is that posed by Section 5. This prohibits ammunition DESIGNED to explode on impact, and makes no distinction whether that ammunition is filled or empty. Although to the best of my knowledge this has not been tested in court it is a potential pitfall. There can be no doubt that an empty shell fitted with an empty fuse was designed to explode on impact!
The second problem area is Section 5 (1A) (g) which prohibits any missile (read bullet, shell or whatever) that is included in the previous sub-sections. Thus a single .303 armour piercing bullet, whether on it own or loaded into an inert case is a prohibited device. Similarly, an AP projectile of any calibre is subject to Section 5 of the Act.
The above is merely an outline of how the Firearms Act can affect collectors. Again I must stress that this is purely a personal interpretation of the law. The full details of the 1997 Amendment Act can be found at:
Not open for further replies.