Heritage Firearms

Finally, after nearly three years of negotiation with the Home Office and Sussex Police, 1066 Rifle and Pistol Club have achieved Designated Site status for Heritage Pistols held under Section 7(3) of the Firearms Act. A big thank you to all those in the police, Home Office and other designated sites who helped our progress over the years.

Heritage Pistol has become, amongst collectors, shooters and dealers, a mythical idea with much misinformation and many misconceptions propagated about how and why Heritage Pistol exists and how to use this exemption. We will try to dispel some of the myths and show you how you may collect otherwise unobtainable firearms.

Above all else, this is not a “get round” to the pistol ban. Competition is not allowed and you cannot have pistols or ammunition at home, it is an exemption for serious collectors.

As you will know short firearms were elevated to Prohibited Firearms status in 1998. This put them into the same category as machine guns, self-loading rifles etc. In the Act there are some exemptions to this overall ban and Section 7(3) Heritage Pistol is one of them. In our case the term Heritage Pistol refers to a short firearm that complies with one of four criteria, they are:

1) Aesthetic Merit – a firearm that is engraved, plated, inlaid or otherwise modified to enhance its aesthetic appeal. This is the only variation on which there is a dateline. The pistol must have been decorated before 1998. Examples are inlaid and engraved pistols and firearms modified for film work where the effect enhances their aesthetic appeal.

2) Technical Merit – this needs to be a modification to solve a particular problem. Examples are; a pistol used in arctic conditions, the Lahti with its bolt accelerator – a pistol used for big game hunting, the Automag with its rotary bolt – a compromise pistol for heavy gun crews who cannot carry a rifle, the Artillery Luger with its long barrel and long-range sights, etc.

3) Historic Importance – this could be a pistol owned by a famous person or soldier in battle or made or modified by an important figure. For example; the Mk VI Webley carried by Sergeant Smith on the battlefield or a target pistol made by Dr. Jurek.

4) Particular Rarity – this applies to pistols that were rare before the ban and does not apply to pistols that are only rare because so many were destroyed in 1998. Examples would be: the Gabbett Fairfax Mars Pistol, the Kynoch revolver, a Colt Single Action in .455 which is a rare calibre for that firearm.

It is the pistol that is exempt, not the owner and in the majority of cases there is no cut-off date and no calibre restrictions. The prospective owner has to satisfy the police that the pistol is worthy of 7(3) status.

As you can see there is enormous scope for pistols to be eligible for Section 7(3) but there is a further hurdle to cross. The pistols have to be kept “as part of a collection”. However this does not necessarily have to be a collection of Heritage Pistols and we can give a few examples.

You might collect the effects of a soldier; you have his uniform, his Sam Browne, his kit, his sword, all his papers and the medals he won. When his pistol becomes available you have good reason to add it to your collection. If it is of semi-obsolete calibre (probably .455) and made before 1919 you could possess it on Section 7(1) but if you wish to shoot it (even once only) it will have to be on Section 7(3). Thus this “part of a collection” is only one pistol.

You may have a collection of British service rifles and wish to add the contemporary pistols to the collection. In this case the collection could be from one pistol upwards. Your collection may include a straight-pull L1A1 or  Lee Enfield Rifle’s and you might want to have an appropriate pistol such as the Browning GP35.

Perhaps you collect military vehicles and now wish to advance your collection by adding the appropriate pistols that go with the vehicles.

You may be a movie fan and have an extensive collection of memorabilia from a particular series of films, you now wish to add the pistols used in the movies.

It is also possible to start a collection from scratch. Maybe you have an interest in French arms and want to start a collection of French made or used pistols. A justification outlining the pistols you would wish to acquire and how they would fit this collection would be a must.

The police have accepted that these collections follow a theme and pistols may be held that follow this theme, however it is easier to justify the examples as the pistols get older. It is especially difficult to justify a really modern pistol and some of the applications for exemption can run to 10 pages or more. Any pistol that qualifies for Section 7(1) is likely to be accepted into Section 7(3) however it is very difficult to move the pistol back the other way – from S7(3) to S7(1) – without removing it from your own collection (ie selling it to another collector). There may have more than one theme, sometimes they overlap and some pistols would occupy places in both themes.

There are some more rules, made by the Home Office, which apply to Heritage Pistols. Mainly they revolve around security and access to prohibited firearms. The range complex (study centre) is open to any member with the appropriate authority on their FAC during Heritage sessions but they may only handle their own pistols and not touch the pistols belonging to anyone else. Ammunition is reloaded at the range and shooting takes place under supervision.

One of the particular benefits of Heritage Pistol collecting is the knowledge possessed by the other collectors. Many difficult historic or technical questions can be answered by fellow collectors and the social aspect is an added benefit.

Heritage pistols do not grow on trees however there are a few dealers and auction houses that specialise in Section 5 firearms where you may obtain your prized example. Remember that the pistol still counts as a Section 5 Prohibited Weapon and appropriate security precautions are essential at all times. Thus it can often cost more to transport the pistol from the dealer to the Heritage site than the pistol costs. Luckily 1066 has appropriate authority to transport the firearms on your behalf to reduce these costs. Please ask the secretary if you would like more details.

Collecting Heritage Pistols need not cost the earth, many Webley revolvers will be eligible and can be obtained for modest cost. Try to base your collection on firearms that are not in demand, pocket pistols are quite low cost and plentiful whereas Colt SAA revolvers are keenly sought after and command high prices.

We hope we have given an easy to understand introduction to the subject of Heritage Pistols and how you may start a collection. The Heritage Section will soon be holding a couple of “Introduction to Heritage Pistols” meetings at the range, obviously without any Heritage Pistols being present, and invite all the membership to come down to see if Heritage Pistol is for you. We have some spaces available for existing Heritage Pistol collectors who would wish to move their pistols to a site that will welcome them and which may be nearer to home than their existing site.

Above all, this is an exciting new facility for members of 1066. We encourage you to come to the “Introduction to Heritage Pistols” information meetings, which will be advertised on the notice board and website, to find out how to become involved in the latest facility for club members.

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