More UK Legal Pistols

After my post on UK-legal blackpowder pistol conversions  Dave emailed us with more information about UK-legal pistols. Technically speaking, pistols are apparently legal in the UK as long as they have a barrel longer than 12″ and a total length longer than 24″. Semi-autos are banned unless they are chambered .22 LR. UK target shooters have cooked up some interesting modifications to make their pistols legal.

The pistol above is Dave’s GSG 1911 pistol. It is fitted with a longer barrel and a permanently attached faux suppressor. The counter weight attached to the magazine well increases the total length of the gun (while also balancing the extra weight of the longer barrel and fake suppressor).

The pistol below is Dave’s Taurus 66 .357 revolver with an extra long 12″ barrel and a counter weight attached to the frame.


Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Kommac

    Everything about that situation sucks. Bless them for making the most of it.

  • Matt S

    I really like these features on british guns. From what I have seen they have a lot of over/under shotguns, 22s, air soft guns and deactivated military firearms.

    • Callum King-Underwood

      Airsoft isnt too heavily restricted over here (I am british and still live in the UK). You do have to be 18 to buy an airsoft gun and usually it has to be 50% or greater of the surface area brightly coloured (orange, blue, red, pink, green and transparent all seem common and are acceptable). You can have an “imitation” airsoft gun which is 100% real colours, doesn’t even have to have an orange muzzle tip, but you do need to have what is known as a UKARA permit to obtain one which isnt a major problem anyway. I think most people go to an airsoft field, play 3 or 4 matches with hired out weapons and then slap down a small fee and thats it, you have your UKARA.

      22’s are cheap. Simple as that. Ammo tends to be slightly more expensive here than in the US so you might aswell save some money. There arent as many suitable long distance ranges here either (although shooting parties on farms do happen sometimes, thats usually some more space) and a .22 will usually cope with the distances available. You do find a few .223’s and .308’s though.

      Deactivated mil firearms, I havent seen many myself. But they do exist. Some of the SA80 L98A1 rifles (cadet variant of the standard issue L85 and L86 rifles, no gas system so essentially straight pull bolt action) when replaced were sold on the civilian market but are both rare and expensive. I do know someone with a deactivated WW2 era bren though.

      I dont know why all the over/unders. I’ve handled but not fired a side by side too though. Double barreled shotguns are fairly common as they are a cheap way of getting a shotgun capable of firing more than once before reloading. Shotguns are limited to 3 rounds including chambered normally so spending all of that money on a pump or lever gun isn’t always worth it for 1 extra round. If you have a firearms certificate then the magazine size restriction is lifted. You also cant purchase slug ammunition for a shotgun without a firearms certificate. Semi automatic shotguns are a bit of an odd one though, I think they are allowed normally but then with 3 rounds they are rather pointless (besides double barrel). A larger magazine capacity however and your shotgun go’s under a bit of joint licensing on both shotgun and firearms certificates (they are seperate) and normally the firearms certificate doesnt allow semi auto weapons unless they are rimfire and .22 caliber or less. Not really sure whether a semi auto shotgun of greater than 3 round capacity would be allowed.

      • I am in the uk too, firstly they are not weapons but firearms, Weapons are used for self defence, killing and maiming and the military community (I served for 16 plus years in the British Army). Firearms are used for sport period! Calling them Weapons is taken as a very dim view….sorry! Semi auto shotguns are available on a section 1 certificate (firearms) without a block or restrictor so more than 3 rounds are permitted, this can include such shotguns with a magazine like the AK varaints,these are used for 3 gun shoot and practicle shot gun and this is all (these are hard to get too and are not issued to every FAC holder). Section 2 (shotgun) a 3 max round capacity is permitted via the block or restrictor.

      • paul uk

        firearms licenced shotguns never ‘co exist’ on a shotgun licence. they are totally separate.

        • Which is basically what i put in the description below, as you say they are completely separate

          • paul uk

            thanks rob, i was referring to another comment which said they were on both licences at the same time, regards

  • floppyscience

    It’s really sad to see these clever things people come up with to skirt stupid laws.

    See: California-legal AR-15s with those abomination stocks.

    • Criticalthinkingiscritical

      Hopefully all of us in the USA won’t soon be saddled with those ridiculous stocks.

  • Bob Z Moose

    It’s like that guy in Jurassic Park said, “Nature finds a way.”, except nature is human ingenuity.

  • Graham2

    We can also have lever and bolt action full bore rifles with no limit on magazine capacity and ‘straight pull’ AR15s and FALs etc with no gas mechanisms. The ‘straight pulls’ allow us to keep shooting the rifles we like and just cock and eject using a side mounted bolt; it’s not ideal obviously but I’d rather that than nothing.

    • Komrad

      I’ve heard that semi-auto shotguns with detachable mags are fine too. Is there anything stopping someone from getting a Saiga .410, 20, or 12 and loading up with slugs to replicate a rifle somewhat? Also, are you allowed to have rifled slug shotgun barrels on smei-auto shotguns?

      • MattyT

        I think you can have .410 semi-autos with a detachable mag, but for larger ammunition a semi-auto or pump action shotgun has to have an internal mag. There’s also a limit on capacity, depending on whether you have a Shotgun license or a Rifle license.

        And we’re not allowed slugs in the UK. People will make their own by pouring wax into the shell but that’s a little bit illegal. But a rifled barrel in a shotgun isn’t much bother as long as it’s pump/bolt action, because it would be classed as a rifle.

        • paul uk

          we can have any calibre shotgun with/without detachable mag (no limit on rounds) but it is on a firearms certificate not shotgun certificate and yes we can have slug ammo but it has to be specifically included on our firearms certificate

        • Adam James Pugh

          We certainly can own slug in the UK – I have it on my certificate at this moment in time. You may be confused by the fact that you cannot own or purchase slug using a shotgun certificate – only a forearms certificate.

          • MattyT

            Ahh, I didn’t know this. Thanks for the heads up!

      • Callum King-Underwood

        Magazine capacities, semi automatic and slug ammunition are all a bit of a tangled mess with shotguns in the UK.

        Over here we separate firearms licensing into a firearm certificate and a shotgun certificate. FAC and SGC respectively. FAC covers rifles, handguns as listed in the above article and high powered air rifles. Something like 12ft-lb of pressure or greater in an air rifle constitutes as a firearm, anything below and you don’t need a certificate to own, similar situation with air pistols but I don’t know the specifics.

        With just a SGC you cannot own a shotgun capable of holding more than 3 rounds including those chambered. I believe that puts detachable magazines out of the question. However you can have shotguns with detachable mags or mags of greater capacity by registering them under both certificates in a form of dual licensing.

        Thats where it gets weird though. A shotgun can be semi auto. A weapon held on a FAC cannot UNLESS it is a rimfire cartridge or .22 caliber or less (so usually .22LR but in theory .17 would be allowed etc). So I am not sure if a Saiga 12 being on a FAC would then exempt it from semi auto fire.

        A rifled barrel shotgun regardless of magazine capacity must be included on the dual license setup. Slug ammunition you can purchase with an FAC and SGC presented and again can only be fired from a dual licensed weapon. People do make them anyway. Often from cheap metals like pewter or sometimes wax.

        There are calls from various guilds, clubs and associations for the government to clear up our strange tangled up mess of laws. Think you guys have problems with SBR’s and AOW’s….

        Even if it required a 3rd permit I really wish we could have semi auto rifles rather than these bastardized AR15’s etc.

      • paul uk

        we have semi auto shotguns but if they have a capacity of more than three cartridges they go on a firearms licence instead of a shotgun licence. we have to apply to have slug ammo on our licence aswell. if we rifle the barrel they become ‘rifles’ and can not be semi auto but ‘straight pull’ where we manually recock after each shot.

      • paul uk

        so just to confirm, yes we can have a detachable mag semi auto shotgun with slug ammo on a firearms certificate

    • All very nice, but you cannot use those firearms to defend yourself, your family, or your property, now can you?

      • The Forty ‘Twa

        What an ignorant comment. You can actually. I don’t know where this misconception comes from. Just last year a homeowner shot a housebreaker and was not prosecuted for it.

      • Graham2

        What’s that got to do with anything?

  • Son Of Plug

    Normal pistols (any caliber) are still available in Northern Ireland.

    • electrozity8

      That’s Northern Ireland though.

      • babbyc1000

        Which is part of the United Kingdom, or to give it its full title, The United Kingdom Of Great Britain and Northern Ireland…

  • Fyrewerx

    That Taurus reminds me of the “Buntline Special” of Wyatt Earp’s day. LOL

  • Dave Derrick

    We also have found a way around the ban on semi-auto rifles (almost) with a lever release mechanism, the bolt locks back between rounds & the right thumb operates a lever to release the bolt again – hence not semi-auto. Here’s a YouTube clip (not mine)

    • Excellent engineering solution to a stupid political problem. Kudos to the designer.

    • Are those definitely UK legal now, last time I checked they were probably legal, but I wouldn’t want to be the first bugger buying one, just in case 🙂

      • Dave Derrick

        Yes Phil, definately UK legal. I’ve shot 1 at my club, good fun.

  • Zak

    Baer’s law: engineer’s are smarter than lawyers.

  • greasyjohn

    Some people might like those barrel lengths in the U.S. too, y’know…

    • I’d take that 12″bbl Taurus in a heartbeat. I’ve been looking for an 8″ model, but I’d take the 12″!

  • Jacob Kenworthy

    Any hope for better legislation over there?

    • Callum King-Underwood

      There have been calls from certain organisations for our laws to be written in a more clear and concise way. Currently there were laws introduced over a century ago about what constitute a firearm and then extra laws imposed on top of those on semi auto restrictions and what constitutes a handgun etc. They aren’t too bad to read through but can certainly do with clarification, particularly on shotguns, there are some horrible scenarios where shotguns need licensing as both a rifle and a shotgun at once in certain situations 😛

      As for laws being relaxed overall. Not likely. Derrick Bird caused huge uproar to the point where there were calls to ban guns completely (Cumbria shootings. 12 dead and 11 wounded with “legally” owned rifles and shotguns), thankfully the only changes made then were related to the paperwork the police do more than anything that effects us, also more stringent checks on gun cabinets which does effect us a little but is hardly a major issue. This is in response to the fact that technically Derrick Bird was ineligible to be issued a firearms certificate yet for some reason was issued one. Besides that all the weapons he used were legal.

      Then Connecticut isnt anything to do with us other than 1 british citizen dying yet that has still caused some people to argue for no guns but I don’t think anything has come of that.

      I think we’re at the point where all they can do is perhaps ban these somewhat bizzare pistol setups and possibly semi auto .22’s. They won’t as it seems in the UK every ban on something has been in response to a major issue, handguns after a the dunblane massacre (school shooting, similar scenario to the recent conneticut issue sadly) and semi auto’s after the hungerford massacre. Any further and they would effectively be banning firearms completely.

      I think that for the foreseeable future our laws will stay as they are. Its a shame but most of us deal with it and find workarounds, just look above.

      Tell me, lets say I moved to america, would I be able to obtain firearms like anyone else? This is mostly out of interest, as much as I love firearms I would not move to the US just to be able to own them, I would need additional reasoning. Although a shooting holiday of some sort is a somewhat interesting prospect….

      • If you moved to the USA, it would depend on what state you were in and what your status as a LEGAL resident alien was…but that would be a moot point if you became a US citizen. A large number of states have very few restrictions on firearms, especially in the Southern, Mountain, and Midwestern states. The restrictive stuff is mostly in the Northeast and the Pacific coastal states. I have a friend who is a naturalized American, originally from Romania…he owns firearms with no problems, pretty much anything he wants and can afford. Just remember, IF you come to the USA, never vote Democrat, they are the party that wants to take the firearms from the citizens, by and large.

        • “Pacific coastal states?” Those would be Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California.

          Here in Oregon, we have more gun rights than Texas (seriously. We do). Alaska is pretty free. Washington only has NFA restrictions. Ya may want to narrow your advice down a bit there.

          • jamesT

            Also New Hampshire and Vermont are very free states. I’m a Brit who did their undergrad in NH and so was there for only four years as a “student”. In that time I was able to buy (over the counter at gun stores) several handguns, rifles and a shotgun. Oh and the local police also let me have a concealed carry license.

            However, I couldn’t physically touch a handgun in Mass (even in a gun store) without breaking the law and risking serious jail time. Pick your state wisely.

  • Lance

    Awww gun owners ingenuity to counter idiotic ban made by idiots way to GO Brits.

  • That’s just sad to look at.

  • babbyc1000

    pistols are only illegal (as such) in the mainland UK, here in Northern Ireland theyre still available if youre a member of a gun club

  • paul uk

    The UK laws were diluted from pretty much complete freedom to very tight licensing during probably 50years. For any US shooter concerned about licensing you should read this. It is quite long but shows how it happened in the UK…

  • All these modifications will be called “Loopholes” by the statists, who simply cannot abide clever people exercising freedoms that have not yet been outlawed.

  • Lusaka

    Pretty sure we can’t even have pistols or revolvers in .22lr due to the second firearms act that was passed in 1997 after the first one of that year. So unless the gun vaults the legal hurdle by the virtue of overall length that you see in the photos of the post, that Act got rid of .22lr as well. Would be interested to know how anyone in the UK mainland could do so on a Section 1 firearms licence. However the 1997 Act did have the Section 7 exemption for firearms of historic interest and if you and your club have that, there is a route to a range of handguns, particularly around 7(3a) However the Home Office typically requires the gun remains at the club and access is under special range conditions. Likewise a neighbouring force to where I live, is allegedly much against shooters going that route and so you can have a struggle.

    • Pretty sure it’s overall length, as I know a few shooters in my club with .22 semi-autos.

  • split

    we are also aloud black powder muzzle loading revolvers, i.e. hand guns from the 1800s i had a nice Ruger army new model in .44 cap and ball it was fun toi shoot

  • I guess felons will be too busy laughing their arse offa those Looney-tunes guns to shoot back… Meanwhile, US Social Security and the State all over, buys enough ammo to last 7 Golf Wars!

  • Where do you get 12 inch handgun barrels?

    Longest I’ve ever seen was a 10 inch Dan Wesson revolver in 44 mag I used for hunting many years ago.

  • Sigh,,,

    Wonder when this will be the US? I mean, look at Colorado, NY, California, NJ, MA…