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Air gun laws

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Air gun laws

This is a list of laws concerning air guns by country.

While in some countries air guns are not subject to any specific regulation, in most there are laws, which differ widely. Each jurisdiction has its own definition of an air gun; and regulations may vary for weapons of different bore, muzzle energy or velocity, or material of ammunition, with guns designed to fire metal pellets often more tightly controlled than airsoft weapons. There may be minimum ages for possession, and sales of both air guns and ammunition may be restricted. Some areas require permits and background checks similar to those required for firearms proper.


Australian law is quite restrictive and differs on a state-by-state basis however as general rule all air guns - regardless of action - are considered firearms for purposes of law; eg.[1] Air rifles are considered Class A firearms and as such are subject to licensing and registration. Air pistols are considered Class H firearms and as such are subject to licensing and registration. Paintball markers are treated differently to other airguns; refer to the paintball section on legality for a state-by-state breakdown. Airsoft guns are strictly prohibited except in the Northern Territory (where they are considered regular firearms) and the ACT (where they are considered imitation firearms).


The Brazilian legislation that regulates the manufacture, import, export, trade, traffic and use of airguns divide them into two groups:

  • airguns by spring action or pre-compressed air (PCP - Pre Charged Pneumatic) of up to 6mm caliber;
  • airguns by spring action or pre-compressed air (PCP - Pre Charged Pneumatic) of caliber exceeding 6mm; or pre-compressed gases that is not breathable air, such as CO2 and others, in any caliber.

Airguns in the first group may be purchased by anyone over 18. Airguns in the second group can only be purchased by people registered in the army, transportation depends on authorization, and usage is allowed only in places approved by the army. Airguns of any kind may not be carried openly. There is no muzzle energy limit for any type or caliber.[2][3]


Air guns with both a muzzle velocity greater than 152.4 meters per second (500 feet per second) and a muzzle energy greater than 5.7 joules (4.2 foot-pounds) are firearms for purposes of both the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code. Usually the manufacturer’s specifications are used to determine the design muzzle velocity and energy. Air rifles that meet these velocity and energy criteria are classified as non-restricted firearms, while air pistols are classified as restricted if their barrel is longer than 105 mm or prohibited if their barrel length is 105 mm or less. The lawful possession of these airguns requires that the owner have a valid firearms licence and that the airgun be registered as a firearm.

Air guns that meet the Criminal Code definition of a firearm, but that are deemed not to be firearms for certain purposes of the Firearms Act and Criminal Code are those that have a muzzle velocity of less than 152.4 meters per second (500 feet per second) and a maximum muzzle energy of 5.7 joules (4.2 foot pounds). Such air guns are exempt from licensing, registration, and other requirements under the Firearms Act, and from penalties set out in the Criminal Code for possessing a firearm without a valid licence or registration certificate. However, they are considered to be firearms under the Criminal Code if they are used to commit a crime. The simple possession, acquisition and use of these air guns for lawful purposes is regulated by provincial and municipal laws and by-laws. For example, some provinces may have set a minimum age for acquiring such an air gun. These air guns are exempt from the specific safe storage, transportation and handling requirements set out in the regulations supporting the Firearms Act. However, the Criminal Code requires that reasonable precautions be taken to use, carry, handle, store, transport, and ship them in a safe and secure manner.[4]

Carrying one of these firearms is permitted for those aged 14 or older.

Suppressors for all firearms, including airguns, are prohibited in Canada.

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic anyone over age of 18 can acquire air gun with a muzzle energy not exceeding 16 joules (12 ft·lbf). Children over age of 10 have to be supervised by adult when shooting. The only restriction on shooting place is requirement of public safety. Since firearms can be used only at the officially licensed shooting ranges air guns became popular to practice target shooting at or near the home.

Air guns with a muzzle energy over 16 J (12 ft·lbf) require the same licence as firearms and police registration. Such air guns can be used only at the shooting ranges.[5]


German F-in-pentagon-mark

In Germany, air guns producing a muzzle energy up to 7.5 joule (J) (5.53 ft·lbf) can be owned by persons from the age of 18 years and freely acquired provided they bear the "F-in-pentagon" mark" that indicates a muzzle energy not exceeding 7.5 J (5.5 ft·lbf) kinetic energy. Carrying air guns in public necessitates a carry permit (§ 10 Abs. 4 WaffG), extremely rare as such and never granted for air guns. Only the transportation of unloaded and non-accessible air guns (or carrying unloaded during biathlon) is considered a "permissible carry" (§ 12 Abs. 3 Nr. 2, Nr. 3 WaffG).

Shooting is permitted on licensed ranges (§ 27 Abs. 1, § 12 Abs. 4 2 Nr. 1 WaffG), and on enclosed private property if it is assured that the projectiles can not possibly leave the shooting area (§ 12 Abs. 4 Nr. 1a WaffG). The minimum age for air gun shooting in Germany is 12 years under supervision (§ 27 Abs. 3 S. 1 Nr. 1 WaffG), but exceptions may be granted to younger children upon request, supported by suitable references from a doctor and by a licensed shooting federation (§ 27 Abs. 4 WaffG).

Air weapons exceeding 7.5 J muzzle energy, e.g. field target guns, are treated like firearms and therefore require a relevant permit for acquisition and possession. Proof of need, a clean criminal record and the passing of a knowledge and handling test are required (§ 4 Abs. 1 WaffG) to gain the permit.

A purchase authorization is not required for air guns that were manufactured and introduced onto the market before 1 January 1970 in Germany or before 2 April 1991 on the territory of the former East Germany (WaffG, Appendix 2, Section 1, Subsection 2, 1.2); they can, regardless of their muzzle energy or the absence of an "F-in-pentagon" mark, be freely acquired and possessed.

The storage requirements for firearms do not apply to air guns (cf. § 36 Abs. 1 S. 1 WaffG); they must only be stored unaccessible to minors.

Isle of Man

In the Isle of Man, Air guns are treated in the same manner as conventional firearms and require a relevant firearms certificate.[6]


In Italy, any mechanism that produces a muzzle energy higher than 1 joule (0.74 ft·lbf) and lower than 7.5 joules (5.53 ft·lbf) is considered a "low-power air gun"; the sale of such instruments is open to anyone over 18 years of age without license or registration, but it can take place only in authorized gun shops where the owner must require the purchaser to provide his ID Card as a proof of age.

Any device developing a muzzle energy equal to, or higher than, 7.5 joules is considered a "high-power air gun", requiring Police licensing and registration for purchase and detention just like any firearm. Bows, crossbows and similar are exempt from this rule. The muzzle energy of such devices is certified by a governance office called "Banco di Prova".[7] Air guns developing less than 1 joule of muzzle energy are categorized as airsoft, which are considered by law as toys, with no restriction whatsoever to their trade, except that they can never be modified to achieve a higher muzzle energy and must be only able to shoot 6 mm plastic pellets.

It is illegal to hunt with air guns.[8]


In the Netherlands, air guns can be owned by persons from the age of 18 years and can freely be acquired. Until 1997 there were limitations on muzzle velocity and kinetic energy, similar to the German law, but these restrictions were lifted for practical reasons. Carrying air guns in public and the possession of air guns (and toy guns) that resemble firearms is prohibited. The expression "to resemble" is nowadays given a very broad interpretation so that just about any airgun can be considered as resembling a firearm. Whether an airgun is considered to resemble a firearm too closely is decided by the police or, when it comes to that, by the court. It is impossible to predict the outcome of such courtcases. Air guns may be kept in private homes but must be inaccessible for persons under 18. Commercial sales of airguns may only take place in licensed gunshops. It is illegal to own an airgun that was "produced or modified so that it can more easily be carried concealed". Generally this is considered the case when the barrel has been shortened or the weapon has a folding or telescoping stock.[9]

New Zealand

In New Zealand any member of the public over the age of 18 may own and fire most air rifles without a firearms licence,[10] provided they use the air rifle in a safe environment with a responsible attitude.[11]

Minors 16 and over, but under the age of 18, require a Firearms Licence to possess an air rifle – however they may use an air rifle under adult supervision without this licence.

Airguns can not be fully automatic, and there is provision under the NZ Arms Laws to specify "specially dangerous airguns".[12] Only pre-charged pneumatic rifles have now been specified in this category,[12] but for these a firearms licence is now a requirement for possession and use.[13][14] The change was made as a consequence of two fatal shootings by .22 calibre semi automatic air rifles.[15]


In Poland it is possible to freely acquire air guns with a muzzle energy not exceeding 17 joules (13 ft·lbf). Air guns with muzzle energy over 17 J are considered FAC and must be registered at a local police station no later than 5 days after purchase (gun license is not needed). FAC air guns can only be used at the officially licensed shooting ranges. Hunting/shooting animals with air guns is illegal and can lead to prosecution.[16]


In Singapore, airguns are classified as 'arms', in the same category as firearms utilising gunpowder as propellant among other weapons. It is necessary to obtain a license from the Singapore Police Force before one can import, export or own an airgun.[17][18]

South Africa

All air guns are very loosely regulated. The only laws concerning them are that they still count as guns if used in crime and can't be fired in public areas. Airguns may be carried on one's person concealed or openly. It is an offence to shoot Birds or game with an airgun without specific documentation.

United Kingdom

Air pistols generating more than 6 ft·lbf (8.1 J) and air rifles generating more than 12 ft·lbf (16.2 J) of energy are considered firearms.[19] Therefore such air rifles require a Firearm Certificate(FAC) but such air pistols are Prohibited Weapons under Section 5 of the 1968 Firearms Act. Section 5 Authority is usually only granted to members of the Gun Trade. Pistols and rifles below these energy levels do not require licensing, and may be purchased by anyone over the age of 18. In Northern Ireland any air rifle or air pistol generating more than 0.737 ft·lbf (1 J) is considered a firearm [20] and as such requires a FAC. The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 prohibits online or mail-order sale of new air guns; transactions must be finalised face-to-face, either at the shop where purchased, or through a Registered Firearms Dealer (to which an item may be posted and the transfer completed).

From 10 February 2011, The Crime & Security Act 2010 (S.46) made it an offence "...for a person in possession of an air weapon to fail to take reasonable precautions to prevent any person under the age of eighteen from having the weapon with him...".[21] This legislation essentially relates to the storage of air guns and the requirement of owners to prevent unauthorised access by children. Failure to do so renders owners liable for a fine of up to £1,000.[22]

Any person on private property (land or water), not in possession of the written permission of the landowner, is trespassing; possession of an air gun when doing so, with or without ammunition, loaded or unloaded is armed trespass, and is considered a serious criminal offence subject to heavy penalties.[23]


On 14 December 2000 a consultation was launched on how a new licensing regime for air guns may work.[24] Critics claim this is unnecessary as offences involving air guns have decreased by 71% in the last 5 years.[25]

The Scottish Government has received 1136 responses to its consultation on air weapons licensing in Scotland, with 87% of respondents being opposed to the proposals.[26]

Firearms UK is presenting an online petition to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee on the 3rd of September 2013. As of 14 August 2013, over 16,500 have signed the petition.[27] On 8 May the Regulatory Review Group in Scotland met to discuss the concerns of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) about the proposals to licence all low powered airguns.[28][25]

United States

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives states that:

The term "firearm" is defined in the Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Section 921(a)(3), to include "(A) any weapon (including a starter gun), which will, or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon...." Based on Section 921(a)(3), air guns, because they use compressed air and not an explosive to expel a projectile, do not constitute firearms under Federal law — unless they are manufactured with the frames or receivers of an actual firearm. Accordingly, the domestic sale and possession of air guns is normally unregulated under the Federal firearms laws enforced by ATF.[29]

Although the federal government does not normally regulate air guns, some state and local governments do; the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has complied a list of states and selected municipalities that regulate air guns, finding that 23 states and the District of Columbia regulate air guns to some degree.[30] Two states (New Jersey and Rhode Island) define all non-powder guns as firearms; two states (Illinois and Michigan) define certain high-power and/or large caliber non-powder guns as firearms; three states (Connecticut, Delaware and North Dakota) define non-powder guns as dangerous weapons (but not firearms).[30] The remaining states which regulate air guns impose age restrictions on possession, use, or transfer of non-powder guns, and/or explicitly regulate possession of non-powder guns on school grounds.[30]

New York City has a restrictive municipal ordinance regulating air guns.[30] Air guns were previously banned in San Francisco, but a state preemption statute struck down the ban, and the San Francisco District Attorney declared them legal as long as in compliance with state law.[31]

New York state law prohibits anyone under the age of 16 from possessing an air gun.[32]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Decreto no. 3.665, de 20 de novembro de 2000.". Retrieved 2011-03-10. 
  3. ^ "Portaria COLOG no. 2, de 26 de fevereiro de 2010.". Retrieved 2011-03-10. 
  4. ^ Air Guns – Royal Canadian Mounted Police. (2004-11-23). Retrieved on 2012-05-26.
  5. ^ Gun law 119/2002 Sb. of the Czech Republic, (online).
  6. ^ " ". Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  7. ^ (National Testing Board for Firearms and Commercial ammunition) – in ItalianBanco Nazionale di Prova per le Armi da Fuoco portatili e le Munizioni commercialiOfficial website of the Retrieved on September 2, 2010.
  8. ^ (Italian) Art.13 of LEGGE 11 febbraio 1992, n. 157: Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  9. ^ (Dutch) Wet wapens en munitie (Arms and ammunition law – Dutch). Retrieved on 2012-05-26.
  10. ^ "Do I need a license for an airgun? " NZ Police website
  11. ^ "Careless use of firearm, airgun, pistol, or restricted weapon", Arms Act 1983 No 44
  12. ^ a b "Arms (Restricted Weapons and Specially Dangerous Airguns) Order 1984". Retrieved on 2012-05-26.
  13. ^ "High-powered air rifles now require licence, The Beehive
  14. ^ "Important information...", NZ Police
  15. ^ "Crackdown on killer air rifles".  
  16. ^ "Polish Weapons and Ammunition Act" (PDF). 
  17. ^ "FAQ on Police Licensing matters in Singapore". 
  18. ^ "Singapore Arms & Explosives Act". 
  19. ^ UK air gun law.
  20. ^ PSNI Airgun Law. Retrieved on 2012-05-26.
  21. ^ UK legislation concerning the prevention of air guns falling into the hands of those under 18 years of age. (2011-05-27). Retrieved on 2012-05-26.
  22. ^ [1]UK Airgun legislation as reported in Press Release issued by BASC. (2011-01-27). Retrieved on 2012-05-26.
  23. ^ Marple Rifle & Pistol Club, Gun Law in the UK. Retrieved on 2012-05-26.
  24. ^ "BBC News - Air gun owners will need licence in Scotland". BBC News. Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  25. ^ a b
  26. ^ Analysis of the responses can be found at
  27. ^ "Petition · Scottish Government: To drop all proposals to licence airguns in Scotland ·". Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  28. ^
  29. ^ Frequently asked questions, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
  30. ^ a b c d Non-Powder Guns Policy Summary, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, May 21, 2012.
  31. ^ "Police declare air guns illegal; S.F. public defender, D.A., and state law disagree". SF Weekly News. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  32. ^ "Air Gun Laws by State;= 24 March 2014". Pellet Gun Zone. 
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