Ask LH: Are Airsoft Guns Illegal In Australia?

Hey Lifehacker, I was wondering: are airsoft guns illegal in Australia? Nerf guns just don't shoot far enough and don't look nearly as cool — something about a bendable foamy cylinder to the arm takes the realism out of a firefight. Since I don't think there is a 'proper' Australian retailer for airsoft guns, is it legal to import them? Thanks, Kid At Heart

Photo: Airsoft Atlanta

Dear KAH,

For those readers who aren't in the know, airsoft guns are realistic replica firearms that shoot plastic pellets via compressed air or electric/spring-driven pistons. They are chiefly used in the recreational sport of the same name, which shares many similarities to paintball. Now, onto the question.

Sorry Kid, but you're out of luck. Australia has very strict laws when it comes to realistic toy guns and replica firearms. Hell, even obviously plastic video game peripherals have been known to cause issues. (Older readers may recall Namco's 'GunCon' pistol for the PlayStation 1 console. It was finished in matte black in most territories, whereas we got a garish fluro-orange version.)

Laws vary from state to state when it comes to airsoft guns, but at the very least you'll need to apply for a firearms license and fill out an Australian Customs' B709 Importation of Firearms certification form.

Even then, most states won't allow anyone to own or import airsoft guns for any reason. For example, in Victoria police will not issue authorisation for their importation because there are no officially approved firing ranges, which means there is no genuine reason to own one. Likewise, Tasmania has banned them on the grounds that their use constitutes a simulated military exercise which is heavily restricted under Tasmanian law.

In addition to this, certain airsoft models are banned outright in all states and territories. This includes guns with folding or detachable stocks, guns capable of fully automatic fire and guns that outwardly resemble a sub-machine gun or machine pistol — all the fun stuff, basically. Oddly, many of these models are categorised as real, prohibited firearms despite having no lethal capability.

As far as we can tell, the Northern Territory appears to be the only place in Australia where the rules are somewhat relaxed. It's perfectly legal to own an airsoft gun there, although you'll still need the correct firearms licence.

In other words, your options are twofold: either move to the NT or learn to love Nerf.

That said, there are currently various campaigns afoot which are attempting to change Australian legislation as it relates to airsoft guns. Pay a visit to the Australian Airsoft Council if you'd like to get involved.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Those rules about the replicas and similarities with real firearms are the reason why paintball guns that are too similar to real guns are illegal in Australia. It is a the cost of living in you fairly safe and minimal gun crime country. I am a Paintballer and would love the gear the yanks get. But sadly like the airsoft crowd It would only take a few D!CK$ to ruin the whole game. For example idiot buys Airsoft/Paintball gun goes off to service station and points it cash is handed over. Next cops arrive Kid waves the "toy gun" threateningly then gets DEAD!

    I moved here from New Zealand where I spent a lot of time shooting air rifles and pistols. I was surprised to find how hard it is to carry on my hobby here. I have no desire to obtain a gun licence. I don't want to own a gun, I want to shoot little metal pellets at a target. Took up archery instead, which I find strange because my bow is far more dangerous than my pistol back home.

      That changed a few years ago in NZ - any of the fully auto BB guns were classified as machine guns, and now need a Category D license to buy and own.
      Not sure about the semi autos, but it seemed like an overkill for some mildly amusing fun (such as the entire house ambushing the flatmate when he came home)

      Last edited 18/09/13 6:18 pm

      Yeah the Kiwis take a much more reasoned view. They even consider a suppressor as hearing protection, not as our pollies do: a sinister thing that will help raise the crime level.

    Isn't it just a matter of putting the orange indicators on it? In reality it's not really that different to a realistic looking capgun revolver we all would have owned as kids, orange indicators in tow!

    Not saying that you could just add these and have it be legal, but at least from a likeness perspective..

      yes and no, Japan and the UK have tougher gun laws than Australia by far, but airsoft is legal in both countries with proviso's.

      Japan - Guns are made of plastic
      UK - Only sold as full brightly coloured guns (unless you are in a legit airsoft team, then you can have full milsim look)

        It's funny that you mentioned the UK. Was there about a month ago and they had massive billboards advertising the sport.

        I'd even looked into this sport a few years back since it seemed like a lot of fun (jump on YouTube, plenty of great vids). But Sadly no was restricted to paint balling. Granted back when I was looking into it, Paintball had a heap of regulations on it that have since been relaxed a bit.

          And that actually brings up a very good point, paintballs actually cause more damage to skin than standard .2g BB's.

          Paintballing is fun don't get me wrong, but Airsoft has such a higher level of involvement, the guns don't need to be kept level or constantly checked for missfire, they take a beating and keep on shooting, can be running, diving, sliding and firing upside down and theres no issue, cant do that with painballs.

          And the accuracy of airsoft over paintball is crazy different.

        hey dnr i am from the uk and i have a full black airsoft gun milsim gun.

        you have to be 18 years old for a 2 tone airsoft gun and for a what looks like a real gun you need a ukara license sins 2006.

        this how you get your ukara license have to be a member of an airsoft site have to be 18 years old or older play 3 games over 2 moths to get your ukara license.
        you have to renew it every year so you have to do the same thing over and over agen after one year.

        fort to give you a bit more info on it

        from steven turtle

      They used to do that, but then wannabe gangsters simply painted over the orange muzzle and started waving them at the populace at large, including holding up anything that had ready cash.
      Of course, the try-hard knows it's a toy gun, but the attending police squad doesn't - hence why every toy gun you can buy now is completely fluro.

      I too remember having toy guns that were very similar to the weapons of the day (I had a FN FAL that fired plastic bullets), but then we didn't have the trash gangster hype that seems to be incomprehensibly popular today. Instead, we emulated Hawaii 50 and CHiPS.
      Sigh. Good old days..

        Its wasn't only because the wannabe gangsters it was also the port Arthur massacre.

    And while its "legal" to own them in the NT with the correct licence, its illegal to import them.... so if you have 1 there its ok, as long as you didnt import it :P

    Also in SA they are legal as long as they don't fire faster than 175 feet per second. (so almost not worth it anyway) but are still subject to firearms regulations, i.e. correct licencing for the type of firearm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_issues_in_airsoft#Australia

    While each state is different law wise, SA and QLD are the most likely to ever get it legalized as a sport (like paintball) due to the fact that replicas are legal in QLD without a licence. (i can buy one across the road right now if i wished)

    Also more info and education can be found at the following site.
    http://www.airsoftcouncil.com.au/
    there are people fighting for the rights of people who wish to enter the awesome world of competitive airsof-ing.

    I plan to spend a full day at one of the MANY fields they have in Japan in Jan :D

    Last edited 18/09/13 2:15 pm

      Probably not a good idea to reference Wikipedia when talking about state and federal legislation.

        Its more of a general idea of the laws being different per state, obviously do your own research, but for a brief idea i dont think there's an issue with using wiki

    Double post

    Last edited 18/09/13 3:32 pm

    for the people of QLD. http://www.police.qld.gov.au/programs/weaponsLicensing/licenceApplication/weapons/airsoft.htm

    I play a serious military-simulation brand of laser skirmish called Combat Sims (http://www.combatsimsint.com/). We play in QLD, and we sometimes even have trouble importing handgrips and magazines to fit to our taggers.

    You can usually import stuff if it's polymer, and doesn't contain working parts. Any of the metal parts seem to get stopped at customs, despite the fact that it's completely legal to own an inert piece of aluminium that looks like an AR15 buttstock :P

    I don't see Airsoft being legalised anytime soon, unfortunately.

    Last edited 18/09/13 4:54 pm

      The irony is that actual working gun parts have been shipped through the international post for criminal gangs in Sydney, for the last few years.

    I find this sort of thing frustrating as I like guns but at the same time I don't actually want to own something that could kill. Airsoft fills that gap of wanting something because it looks cool but without the lethal factor. Sadly the law doesn't let me indulge this as I would have no issues with getting permits and such to own one.

    Story from WA:

    Recently took my BB gun (replica hand gun) that I got about 18-20 years ago (when you could buy them freely from army surplus stores without a licence) into the local police station to hand in as part of the amnesty hand in scheme the WA police are doing at the moment.

    After half an hour had the police tell me that they had made several phone calls and the final conclusion was that it wasn't illegal for me to have the gun without a licence, and it is only how it is used that determines it's legality (ie If used to threaten someone)

    When I asked them how I should dispose of it they told me to take it home and throw it in the bin.

    After reading this it seems I got the "can't be bothered dealing with you" brush off from the cops. Either that or the laws are less clear than mentioned in this article.

    you could purchase bb guns from the Brickworks in South Australia up until the store had shut. The laws were modified to allow them to be imported as long as it was restricted below a certain velocity (i bought one, then had it stolen) ... you need a license, but that merely requires a photo copy of your drivers license, a form and money ... $220 for the gun, 200 pellets & the license!

      Bought one of these in Adelaide from Super Elliots, some years ago now and it cost $25.00 I can still find them listed for around $30 on the net. So the $200 price tag was a total ripoff. No wonder the shop closed. He is probably either on the run or laughing all the way to the bank.

    Join this group to gain on a voice on this ridiculous law. An adult should be allowed to own whatever he/she wants, as long as they've not had any violent or anti-social history.

    http://www.airsoftaustralia.com.au/airsoft-fields.html

    As far as firearms laws in most of Australia go there has been more knee-jerk than thought involved, and virtually no logic at all.
    An example is the Webley .45 pistol that was a common side-arm in Commonwealth forces in WWII.
    It is now considered to be an antique because it's ammunition is no longer mass produced. You can still buy the ammo or reload it yourself, but because it is no longer mass produced the gun is an antique and therefore legal to own, despite the fact that it is still a very capable and usable weapon.
    Now for the bizarre part, if you are found with a completely harmless non-firing resin or die-cast replica of the Webley .45 you can, under current legislation in NSW, be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison.
    Firearms have, in the past, been banned in NSW for equally illogical reasons. Even before the mass shootings that led to such a vigorous jerking of political knees the laws were patently stupid.
    Back in the 80s the Calico M100 .22 semi-auto carbine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calico_M100) was banned in NSW, not because it had a pistol grip, not because it had a 100 round helical magazine, but because, in silhouette, it's flash suppressor and ramp style front sight resemble those of an M16 assault rifle. WTF?
    Let's face things with a bit of reality. If I was that way inclined, ie a nut-job, I could run around a crowded supermarket bludgeoning people in the head with a can of peas and probably take out quite a few before somebody returned the favour. Maybe we need to ban tin cans next.
    Gun control is hitting what you aim at.

    How bad are our laws in AUs though. we cant have anything cool. The government said we are the lucky country once, yea, thats why america can have all thses guns and airsoft. nup nup nup, had enough of the laws here. so going to america one day.

    Unfortunately Australia's laws are very inflexible with airsoft and air guns.
    http://airgunhub.com/

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