How to buy a Realistic Imitation Firearm (RIF) for Airsoft

4th Apr 2016

How to buy a Realistic Imitation Firearm (RIF) for Airsoft

Rules on gun ownership are expectedly stringent in many countries, especially within Britain and other European Union member states.

Unlike cricket bats and tennis racquets, purchasing airsoft guns can be a potentially tricky endeavour with a number of regulations becoming frustrating obstacles for prospective players.

To make things a bit easier, we’ve created this short blog to take you through the buying process and explain the relevant criteria players will need to meet to obtain their first gun.

Why is it Difficult to buy an RIF?

In 2006 the Violent Crimes Reduction Act was passed and, as part of this change in the law, airsoft guns were categorised as ‘Realistic Imitation Firearms’ or ‘RIFs’ for short.

The definition of an RIF is as follows:

“an imitation firearm which has an appearance that is so realistic as to make it indistinguishable, for all practical purposes, from a real firearm”.

This has made it much harder to obtain these types of weapons and has forced some manufacturers to convert many of their products to fit the classification of a different weapon group; Imitation Firearms (IF).

The differentiating factor between an RIF and an IF is that the latter group must be primarily covered in a bright and unrealistic colour (these are commonly bright red or bright blue).

Buying Criteria

Whilst there is not currently a licensing scheme involved in the trade of airsoft guns, players must obtain a ‘defence’ in order to complete their purchase.

A defence is a condition or set of conditions which, when met, allows as person to avoid prosecution from a specific crime which, in this case, is the purchasing of an RIF.

Whilst there are no government-confirmed rules placed upon airsoft players, the following are some of the criteria which you may commonly encounter when attempting to buy yours first airsoft gun:

  • Players must be aged 18 or over
  • New players are often required to play a minimum of 3 skirmishes at a registered airsoft site in a period of no longer than 2 months to prove they are regular players in the sport
  • Some retailers may require prospective buyers to be members of established clubs such as UKARA, British Airsoft Club or SWAT PASS

Take note that, whilst the information above will cover the majority of purchasing scenarios, the decision is ultimately made at the retailer’s discretion, as it is these companies who are responsible for the distribution of RIFs.

In the unfortunate case a person is not accepted as having a defence, it may be possible to obtain one of the aforementioned two tone IF weapons instead.

Whilst this provides an excellent plan B if you are not able to meet to criteria for an actual RIF, is important to be aware that it is illegal to modify the appearance of these products to  replicate the aesthetics of an RIF and you must, therefore, keep the weapon in its original condition to maintain legality.

For both RIFs and IFs it is also illegal to display them outside of an adequately protective box in a public place, however, it is completely permitted on a private property such as an airsoft skirmish site or your own home.

Whilst it is certainly much harder to obtain an airsoft RIF than it was previously, the rules set in place are ultimately intended to protect the public by reducing the likelihood of weapons falling into criminal hands and being used for illicit purposes.

For players over the age of 18, playing regular airsoft at licensed airsoft sites and obtaining membership to UKARA or another similar organisation will certainly help increase your chances of successfully obtaining an RIF.

In addition, two tone weapons and on-site rentals are in place to ensure players who do not currently fulfil the prerequisites are still able to enjoy the sport with their fellow teammates.

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