NABIS Welcomes Home Office Antique Firearm Consultation

19th October 2017

The National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) welcomes the Home Office announcement today of a public consultation to define 'antique' firearms.

The consultation begins today (October 19) and runs until December 14.

Police forces have seen an increase in obsolete calibre firearms being used in crime over recent years. NABIS worked closely with the Law Commission when it carried out its latest review of firearms legislation.

It is believed the crime trend for older firearms is largely due to availability of so called 'antique' guns, which are easier to get hold of than other firearms. Currently, it is not illegal to possess an obsolete calibre firearm as a curio or ornament without ammunition. However criminals have been known to use 'homemade' or adapted ammunition to fit older firearms and make them viable.

Detective Chief Superintendent Jo Chilton, Head of NABIS, said: "Building on the evidence presented to the Law Commission, NABIS - on behalf of UK Policing - welcome the consultation and seek to have certain calibres removed from the list so that criminals cannot continue to exploit their availability."

The public consultation will aim to clearly define what the term 'Antique' means and a cut-off guidance date for manufacture of older firearms. This may be an upper limit of 1900 or 1939.

The Home Office want to make sure criminals cannot exploit any loopholes in the law and bona fide collectors of older firearms know when they stand.

Data collected by NABIS shows that in 2012 there were 41 recoveries of obsolete calibre firearms linked to crime in England, Scotland & Wales. By 2016 this had more than doubled to 91 recovered. NABIS experts have already processed at least 40 obsolete calibre firearms so far this year.

In 2014 the laws around antique firearms were tightened, which mean that someone who has served or received a criminal sentence can no longer possess an antique gun. The sentencing guidelines for possession for sale or transfer of an unauthorised firearm or ammunition have also been raised. This offence now carries a maximum penalty of life.

One of the high profile court cases involving criminals with obsolete calibre guns was Operation Cookie in Birmingham. Gang members including Nosakhere Stephenson and 15 accomplices had their jail sentences increased by the Court of Appeal in 2016 after being convicted of supplying guns and ammunition to criminals across the country. The gang were caught after an undercover operation by West Midlands Police.

The National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) was established in 2008 and work in partnership with Border Force and the National Crime Agency, amongst others. We help police forces solve crimes in which guns have been used, identify individuals who import and supply firearms illegally, and track down people who are illegally converting or adapting them. Our experts work in labs in Birmingham and Manchester and also assist European law enforcement colleagues.

If you want more information about the Home Office public consultation process please visit


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