Key Facts about Posting Airguns:
Royal Mail can't refuse to carry airguns
- It IS legal to send airguns by Royal Mail;
- Use Special Delivery if possible;
- Do NOT use Parcelforce unless you have an account;
- Private sellers don't have to sell face to face;
- Buyers must be at least 18 years old.
To clear up any confusion on this subject, caused by Post Office staff thinking Royal Mail has discretion on whether it can carry airguns, please note that the RM regulator Postcomm (since taken over by Ofcom) ruled clearly in our favour in June 2005 and so far at least RM hasn't been able to persuade Ofcom to overturn the decision.
As long as this decision applies Royal Mail is stuck with it, like it or not. They must carry legal airguns, properly packaged, as long as they meet the size requirements of Standard Parcels and Special Delivery.
A one-page summary of the ruling for you to print out is <HERE
> and the full ruling (PDF format) is <HERE
It makes sense that we do our bit to make sure all Postmasters, counter staff and so on are aware of the decision if challenged when trying to post an airgun. Print out the summary if it helps and take it with you.
The law on selling airguns - basics
The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 requires anyone who deals in airguns (new or second hand) "by way of trade or business
" to be registered as a firearms dealer. This does not apply to guns made before 1939. Dealers have to keep a register of buyers of airguns and certain component parts and they must either sell them face to face or send them to another RFD who has to take the details, sell face to face etc.
None of the above applies to private individuals
. We are free to buy and sell lawful airguns privately without restrictions, so long as we are satisfied the buyer is over 18 years old.
To protect yourself when selling to an unknown buyer via the post, you should at minimum demand a declaration from the buyer that they are aged over 18. If you have any doubts then ask for documentary proof.
If you sell to someone under 18 you commit a criminal offence. But you have a defence "if you can prove that you believed the young person was over 18 or that you had reasonable grounds for believing so". For more info see the BASC/ACPO guide to the VCR Act <HERE
NOTE: If you send an air rifle or air pistol by Parcelforce and you don't have an account with them, you are in breach of their terms and conditions and may find it difficult (or impossible) to get compensation if the item is damaged.
If Parcelforce discovers you have sent a prohibited item, they reserve the right to make a £20 penalty charge (plus you will forfeit the carriage cost) before returning your goods.
Post Office counter staff may try to persuade you to use Parcelforce 24 or 48 because it works out cheaper than Royal Mail Special Delivery. But you have to insist on using a Royal Mail service. You can just say you don't trust Parcelforce if they badger you.
For more details see the last item on this page.
How to send an airgun by Royal Mail
We should take care to wrap air rifles very securely, in bubble wrap, stout boxes and with lots of parcel tape, to minimise the chances of the contents spilling out when being rough-handled and causing an "incident". The Royal Mail bosses would probably like more of these incidents since they will provide evidence next time they apply to the regulator to ban the carriage of guns.
Should you describe the contents?
The simple answer to this is no, because there is nothing in the Royal Mail rules that says you have to, as long as you abide by its various prohibitions on sending hazardous materials etc. There is no need to write anything on your parcel about the contents when sending within the UK.
If challenged about the contents by Post Office counter staff, it might be easiest to say "sports equipment" in the first instance and if they question you further, ask why exactly they want to know?
The RM next day Special Delivery
service has barcode tracking and up to max. £2,500 compensation. But it specifies a maximum parcel length of 610mm, which is suitable for pistols and some smaller rifles. When POs enforce this rule - and some don't - longer parcels can be sent only using standard parcels or in tube-shaped parcels:
Tubes, such as plastic pipes or the cardboard tubes inside carpet rolls can be used for sending items longer than 610mm by Special Delivery. The rule is that the parcel's total length plus twice the diameter can be no more than 1040mm (ie. 800mm long + 2 x 120mm diameter = 1040mm). This might be useful if you want to send an action without a stock.
takes about three days and has a 1.5m length/ 20kg weight limit.
Standard Parcels has no tracking and from 30th April 2012 compensation has been limited to £46. So there is no way of independently tracking a parcel's progress or arrival and if it is lost the insurance cover will in most cases be inadequate.
Many BBS members have used this service for years without incident but that was when enhanced compensation was available, which no doubt concentrated the minds of those doing the deliveries. There remains a danger that an unscrupulous buyer might claim the item has not been received - although they risk a criminal prosecution if the local RM office could show the item was indeed delivered.
100 year limit
One more thing - you can't claim any compensation for items over 100 years old sent via RM Standard Parcels, so remember that when you want to sell vintage items made before 1912!
Parcelforce ban on carrying airguns - details
Although a subsidiary of Royal Mail, Parcelforce is exempt from the Postcomm ruling. Under Parcelforce's terms, non-account holders are barred from sending airguns and the company states it will not pay out compensation for damaged items sent in breach of its conditions
GENERAL PROHIBITIONS AND RESTRICTIONS
ARMS AND AMMUNITION
"Arms and ammunition
A service for Section 1 and 2 firearms and low-powered airguns (as defined by the Firearms Act 1968, as amended),
imitation firearms, de-activated guns, antique firearms and paintball guns is available to contract customers only
, at the
absolute discretion of Parcelforce Worldwide, and is subject to Parcelforce Worldwide providing prior written agreement in
advance. Where Parcelforce Worldwide provide concurrence to sending firearms, it is subject to a number of conditions
• Collections and deliveries of section 1 and 2 firearms will only be accepted where it can be shown to
Parcelforce Worldwide’s satisfaction that both the sender and the recipient are Registered Firearms Dealers.
• Section 1 and Section 2 firearms, low-powered airguns, imitation firearms, antique firearms and paintball guns may be
permitted for zone 1 to 1 on express 9, 10, AM, 24, 48 services; deliveries to zones 2 and 3 must be on an express48
service and include ‘do not air uplift’ sticker on the parcel.
• Parcelforce Worldwide reserve the right that if any item is item is sent on the incorrect service, or does not include the
correct labelling, or is a prohibited / restricted items then a charge of £20 will be levied in addition to the carriage charge
and returned to the sending customer.
• All firearms must be clearly labelled ‘Strictly addressee only’ and ‘Do not leave with a neighbour’."