Foreign Players, Playing Airsoft in the United Kingdom: A Daunting Proposition?
It’s difficult not to be indignant about matters such as these. But I’m American, what do you expect? In most of the country, I can purchase a real firearm, from a licensed dealer using only my drivers license. If I live in ‘most of the country’, I can then carry that firearm with me to church, grandmas, and Wal-mart, where I can buy more ammunition. So forgive me if I suggest that the purpose of the Violent Crimes Reduction Act seems to be to superfluously regulate toys that do no more harm than a weak Indian Rug Burn.
Albeit we are not devoid of common sense, one must legally be at least 18 years of age to purchase either an airsoft weapon or a real rifle, and 21 years of age to purchase a handgun. Not brandishing your airsoft gun in public by carrying it in a bag or a case is also a given, whether playing in the back yard or skirmishing on a legal field.
With that in mind, the privileged American player, who has drooled all over his keyboard watching Scout The Doggie videos, wonders what it’d be like to play in the United Kingdom. The educated guesser would first find out how to acquire an airsoft gun, under the assumption that it’s likely easier to purchase or rent one within the borders than to post it. And he would appear to be right.
However airsoft is much like owning a car. You can rent one, and it’s going to go forward when you hit the gas, but does it have lightweight alloy rims, dual piston calipers, and Recaro bucket seats? Your rifle, ideally, has to be your rifle. Now, you’re over 18 right? So no problem. For the most part. The Violent Crime Reduction Act (VCRA) of 2006, determines the definitions of a Real Imitation Firearms (RiF) and Imitation Firearms (iF). One being indistinguishable from the real thing based on size, weight, and coloring, and the other be distinguishable, in the least, by a slight margin of coloring. The latter in short; Two-Tone guns.
Two-Tone weapons are colored in a manner making them clearly fake as defined by the logic of the act, and can be purchased by anyone over the age of 18 at any time. But here’s your obligatory loop-hole. If you have enough time to spare during your stay, scrape your pounds together, select any weapon you please, and simply elect to have it sprayed in your favorite highlighter color, and you’re golden, or blue, or green, or yellow.
This is where the UKARA comes in. UKARA stands for the United Kindgom Airsoft Retailers Association. A self governing, but not legally binding organization, that uses degrees of bureaucracy to ensure that its retail members stay clear of the harsh legal penalties defined by the VCRA. If you don’t have enough time and you either buy or rent a pre-highlighted weapon, you may do so. To purchase an RiF from a UKARA regulated retailer though, you’ll have to comply with some basic guidelines. One of which is to play at a UKARA registered field at least three times in 12 months, doing so in no less than two months. Once you are UKARA certified, having fulfilled the basic requirements for membership, you may purchase a Realistic Imitation Firearm. Congratulations, you just spent your entire student exchange program stay playing airsoft, instead of getting your homework done. But it was worth it.