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Heritage Firearms


BCRPA operates what we term our Heritage Pistol Scheme. The scheme is operated under section 7(3) of the 1997 Firearms Amendment Act. This permits use of a limited number of cartridge pistols (considered worthy of preservation) at the Bedford Range by members with a genuine interest in these firearms.

A brief overview of the scheme follows, together with selected information on the background of the scheme and relevant parts of firearms law.

The current standard conditions and Heritage arms procedure are contained in chapter 12 of the Members Handbook.


The Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1997 (FAA97) placed most cartridge pistols into Section 5 of the 1968 Firearm Act, i.e. they became prohibited weapons requiring approval of the Home Secretary for possession. However, a number of exceptions were created, one of these covered Firearms of Historic Interest. Section 7 of the FAA97 addresses Firearms of Historic Interest; it splits them into two separate groups of pistols as follows:

Section 7(1): Pistols kept in this category may be possessed on a firearm certificate and can be kept at home. They are to be kept only as part of a collection and may not be fired.

To be eligible for 7(1) the pistol must have been made before January 1st 1919 and chambered in a cartridge that is not readily available.

Readily available cartridges are defined in law as:

.22 rimfire
.25 ACP
.32 ACP
.32 S&W Long
7.62 Tokarev
.380 Auto
9mm Parabellum
.38 S&W
.38 Special
.380 British Service
.44 Special
.45 ACP
.45 Colt

Pistols chambered in any of the above cartridges are not eligible for 7(1) status. They may however be entitled to 7(3) status provided that they meet one of the 7(3) criteria described below.

Section 7(3): Pistols in this category must be kept at a designated secure site. They may be fired. It is section 7(3) pistols that may be used at the Bedford Range.

For a pistol to be eligible for section 7(3) it must meet at least one of the following criteria (these are discussed in greater depth under the heading “Pistols Eligible for Section 7(3) Status”.):

  • Particular rarity
  • Aesthetic quality
  • Technical interest
  • Historical importance

The pistol can however be of any age and chambered in any calibre (provided of course that it meets at least one of the criteria).

The culmination of several years effort has resulted in the Bedford Range being designated by the Secretary of State as a place suitable for the purposes of section 7(3) of the Firearm (Amendment) Act 1997. Our scheme has been running since 2002.

Purpose of the Section 7(3) exemption.

The purpose of this exemption is to allow important firearms to be preserved, studied and researched. Whilst section 7(3) firearms may be fired it is not intended that they be kept for the purposes of competitive target shooting. A useful analogy is to compare a section 7(3) site with an organisation such as the Shuttleworth Collection of aircraft, where important aircraft are kept in working order and occasionally flown. A significant purpose of Shuttleworth is to preserve rare aircraft and to provide a historic resource centre for the study and appreciation of the development of aviation. Similarly a section 7(3) site provides the opportunity to preserve significant firearms and allow the study and appreciation of firearms and their development.

The BCR&PA Heritage Pistol Scheme.

This is what we are calling the administration of our section 7(3) site. It is open to all full members of the Association. It falls totally outside our status as a Home Office approved club. Consequently members may only possess firearms that are authorised on their firearms certificates. For this reason there can be no such thing as a club gun.

Pistols Eligible for Section 7(3) Status.

The following is an attempt to provide a concise guide to section 7(3) eligibility. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy, the Association cannot be held liable for any errors or omissions etc! It is strongly recommended that anyone wishing to proceed with an application for section 7(3) pistols on their firearms certificate should first carefully read the appropriate sections of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 and ‘The Home Office Firearms Law Guidance to The Police’. Both are available on-line as follows:-

Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 (Section 7)
1997 Firearms Amendment Act
The Home Office Firearms Law Guidance to The Police (Chapter 9)
Home Office Guidance to Police on Firearms Law
For a pistol to be eligible for section 7(3) it must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Particular rarity
  • Aesthetic quality
  • Technical interest
  • Historical importance

a) Particular Rarity

Note the requirement for particular rarity. The Home Office use the Gabbett Fairfax Mars as an example of a pistol that would qualify. In order to gauge the significance of this it is worth remembering fewer than 100 were originally produced. It would be reasonable to expect that extremely rare variants of more common guns would qualify, as would pre-production development pieces.

b) Aesthetic Quality

This covers pistols that have been extensively modified to enhance their appearance. Firearms made or modified after 16th October 1996 are not eligible. Expect to have to demonstrate some genuine artistic merit or a significant increase in financial value due to the aesthetic enhancement. There is limited case law on this, Kendrick v Chief Constable West Midlands Constabulary held a modern presentation gun not to be of Aesthetic Quality. Factory produced commemoratives are unlikely to qualify.

c) Technical Interest

This encompasses firearms with some noteworthy technical feature. Examples include but are not limited to guns that demonstrate a technical solution to a particular issue, guns with unique design features not widely copied in other guns, or firearms which were the first in a significant field.

d) Historic Importance

The Home Office offer a number of different criteria that would be grounds for regarding a particular pistol as being of historic interest.

Firearms owned by a famous historic figure or by someone involved in events of historic importance, would be regarded as being qualified for section 7(3) status under this heading. Evidence supporting the provenance would be required.

Guns made before 1919 may be considered of historic importance due to their age and rarity. Guns made after 1945 are unlikely to qualify on age alone.

Anything that would be considered antique for the purposes of section 58(2) of the 1968 Firearms Act can be regarded as of historic importance. Antique firearms that are sold, transferred, purchased, acquired or possessed as a curiosity or ornament fall outside of the scope of the firearms acts i.e. they do not require any authority such as a firearms certificate, shotgun certificate or section 5 authority to possess. If an antique firearm is possessed for any other purpose than as a ‘curiosity or ornament’ then the appropriate authority to possess is required. Consequently if, for example, it was desired to conduct research that involved firing an early cartridge pistol (such as a 12mm pinfire or 5.5mm Velo-Dog revolver), it would be possible to do so under section 7(3) at a designated site.

Guns, which on their own would not be regarded as historically important, may be properly considered historically important if they are acquired to augment an established collection. In such a case it is the whole collection that is considered historically important. The gun would only be considered to be of historical importance whilst it is an integral part of the appropriate collection. In such cases the pistol in question may loose its eligibility for section 7(3) status if the owner sells it (or sells the original collection it was purchased to enhance).


It is hoped that the forgoing provides a useful overview of the salient points of the Associations Heritage Pistol Scheme and associated firearms law. Questions concerning the Heritage Pistol Scheme can be asked via the CONTACT US section.


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