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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a deactivated firearm?

Who can own a deactivated firearm?

What constitutes "deactivation" for legal purposes?

What has to be done to a firearm to deactivate it?

What about deactivated firearms in other localities?

What is a "pre-95" deactivated firearm?

What is a deactivated firearm?

For the purposes of British law, a deactivated firearm is any firearm which is no longer capable of expelling a shot, missile, bullet, or other projectile and which cannot be readily restored to do so.

The DGCA represents collectors of these guns as well as replica guns made by the original manufacturer of the gun the replica is based on (essentially a factory made deactivated firearm), such as the replica AK-74s being made by Izhmash.

Who can own a deactivated firearm?

In Great Britain, anyone can own a deactivated firearm, as well as acquire or sell them without restriction.  Using a deactivated firearm in a threatening manner is an offence, however.

What constitutes "deactivation" for legal purposes?

Although it is easy to say what "deactivation" means the definition is somewhat grey around the edges.

Any firearm that has been modified so it is no longer capable of expelling a shot, missile, bullet, or other projectile and which cannot be readily restored to do so is technically "deactivated".

Parliament has however laid down certain standards for deactivation.

The Firearms Act 1982 states that any gun which can be readily made into a firearm using ordinary tools commonly used in works of construction or maintenance around the home is a firearm for the purposes of the Firearms Act 1968, and thus is subject to licensing as laid down in that Act.

In addition, Section 8 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 creates a proving standard for deactivated firearms, but it is not essential for a firearm to be proved to this standard for it to be considered deactivated and Home Office Guidance to the Police makes this clear.

However, all deactivated firearms commercially deactivated in Great Britain are deactivated to the standard specified by the Secretary of State under Section 8 of the 1988 Act.  Firearms deactivated to this standard are stamped with a proof mark by the Proof House, and a deactivation certificate is issued stating that the firearm meets the deactivation standard.  A firearm deactivated to this standard will be presumed to be deactivated unless the contrary is shown.

What has to be done to a firearm to deactivate it?

In Great Britain, the general rule of thumb is that all the pressure-bearing components of the firearm must be permanently altered in such a way so as to render the firearm unusable.  This includes modifications to the barrel, bolt, cylinder, slide, firing pin and sometimes the receiver or frame of the firearm.

The Secretary of State lays down specifications for deactivation under Section 8 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988.  These in general terms require alteration of the pressure-bearing components of the firearms.  Copies of the specifications are available from the Home Office.

Below are pictures of the work typically done to a semi-automatic pistol to deactivate it, in this case a SIG-Sauer P226:

The barrel is drilled out to within an inch of the muzzle.  A slot is cut down the side also, and a pin is welded across the chamber.  A slot is cut into the feed ramp.

Two-thirds of the frame rails are removed, and the feed ramp is milled out.

The breechface is cut off at an angle, and the tip of the firing pin is removed, in addition a slot is cut along the length of the slide from the breechface.  Not all deactivated pistols are deactivated the exact same way although this gives a general idea.  Newly deactivated pistols also have the "action surface" milled off, in the case of the above pistol this would be done by cutting off the forward edge of the chamber and the edge the chamber locks into in the slide.

What about deactivated firearms in other localities?

Standards for deactivated firearms vary from country to country.  Many places such as  New Zealand do not have a deactivation standard and deactivated firearms are treated the same way as working firearms.  However, in countries where deactivation is recognised, usually the method required is similar to that in Great Britain, i.e. the modification of the pressure-bearing components to make them unusable.  The main exception to this rule is the United States, where a firearm is deactivated by destroying the frame or receiver (although there is a more complex method for certain firearms, check with ATF).

The European Firearms Directive requires all EU states to have an inspection process for deactivated firearms, which is similar to that specified under Section 8 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988.  In operation however it is sometimes the police who perform the inspection, rather than a Proof House, and some EU states have restrictions on ownership.  For example in France a person has to be 16 years of age to purchase a deactivated firearm.

What is a "pre-95" deactivated firearm?

The Secretary of State changed the deactivation standards for firearms in October 1995, after two incidents in which criminals used deactivated submachineguns that had been restored to (marginal) working order.

Although the new specifications made changes to the deactivation standards for all firearms, the main changes were applied to submachineguns and assault rifles.  Since October 1995 newly deactivated submachineguns and assault rifles must be deactivated to a much tougher standard, essentially requiring removal of the bolt and most of the trigger mechanism and the welding of a rod into the receiver to prevent replacement of the bolt.  This is in addition to the modifications to the barrel etc., to render them unusable.

"Pre-95" guns pre-date these changes and are thus more desirable to collectors as they are not as badly damaged as newly deactivated firearms.

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