UK arms act

Introduction

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) works alongside other government departments and agencies to prevent the import of illegal firearms and offensive weapons.

All firearms - except low-powered air weapons - and many offensive weapons are controlled at the time of import into the UK. All imports of firearms need to be licensed. The import of flick and gravity knives is totally prohibited.

 What counts as an offensive weapon
Offensive weapons are goods designed to kill or inflict serious injury which have no real legitimate use. Such weapons are restricted and in the case of flick and gravity knives are banned from being imported into the UK and can be seized by UKBA officers. These include: 
  • knuckledusters, handclaws and push daggers
  • footclaws - ie spikes designed to be strapped to the foot
  • flick or gravity knives - ie with blades that are spring-loaded or can be opened using gravity or a flick of the wrist
  • weapons with a concealed or disguised blade or sharp point - eg swordsticks, stealth knives, butterfly knives and belt buckle blades
  • martial arts weapons such as death stars, hollow kubotans and kusaris
  • batons and telescopic truncheons
  • blowpipes or blowguns, except for use by vets or registered animal handlers
  • curved blade swords with a blade over 50 centimetres

Offensive weapons that can be imported
Not all offensive weapons are controlled when imported. The following are classed as non-prohibited offensive weapons:
  • antique weapons - generally over 100 years old
  • lock knives - ie with blades which fold into the handle that can be opened manually and locked into place
  • crossbows - except for use by unsupervised persons under 17 years old
  • swords, bayonets, machetes - except for concealed swords or swordsticks
  • axes, hatchets, tomahawks
  • throwing knives
  • replica medieval weaponry such as spears, lances, pikes, maces, caltrops and halberds
  • blowpipes and blowguns for use by vets and registered animal handlers - souvenirs that are incapable of inflicting injury are also exempt
Circumstances where restricted offensive weapons excluding flick and gravity knives can be imported

Groups permitted to import or possess offensive weapons include:

  • museums, galleries and universities - to present, display, research or interpret material of historic, artistic or scientific interest - such imports may also qualify for relief from duty and VAT
  • HM forces
  • visiting forces
  • police forces and the prison service - eg direct imports of batons and truncheons
  • those making commercial imports solely for onward supply to the police or prison service or trade samples to be evaluated in anticipation for such - evidence must be produced including a contract stating quantities, where applicable
 There are exceptions to the import restrictions on swords with a curved blade of 50 centimetres or over provided that the weapon:

was made before 1954 or made by traditional sword-making methods
is only available for the purposes of use in religious ceremonies or for martial arts
is for use in a ‘permitted activity’ for which public liability insurance is held
Permitted activities include historical re-enactments or a sporting activity - eg martial arts demonstration.