Written By Phil Bucknall of Clearwater Airsoft.
So you probably have heard of UKARA and I am sure you have heard all sorts of things about it from various sources – the Internetz being one!
Hopefully I can dispel some of the myths and clear up what exactly UKARA is.
Firstly, and this is a biggie, it ISN’T A LICENSE!! You do not need to “have a UKARA” to buy an airsoft RIF okay? UKARA actually stands for the United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association. It’s a trade body formed out of discussions with the government back in 2006/7 when they tried to ban airsoft. In essence it is a database that any retailer who is a member can check to make sure that they are selling RIF’s only to people who have a legitimate reason to be buying one.
How do they do that you ask? Well, this is where people get confused because they “get” a UKARA number. This is the first fallacy. You don’t get a UKARA number per se. What you do get is a unique site specific membership number that the site enters onto the UKARA database and which any registered retailer can then check to confirm you are who you say you are. When a site says they can give you a UKARA number or that they do UKARA – this is what they mean.
This is not to be confused with becoming a member of a site as that can be a very different kettle of fish indeed. Just because you are registered with a site for UKARA purposes does not mean you are a site member and entitled to any benefits that may confer. You need to check with individual sites as to what you need to do for that. Confusingly though; some sites will include signing/registering you on the UKARA database as a part of your membership but not always so it’s important to check.
Why is UKARA important?
It’s important because it was the self regulating solution that appeased the government back in 2006 when an outright ban was a very real possibility and it meant the industry would be responsible for making sure sales of RIF’s would only be to people who actually played airsoft and didn’t want it to run round their road terrorising the neighbours. As the onus for checking falls onto the seller under the VCRA; a UKARA number is the single easiest way for a retailer to check that you can legally buy that lovely new RIF you’ve been drooling over for weeks. So if they were ever asked why they sold it to you, they have a reliable way of saying “why yes officer! Mr Bloggs is a fine upstanding player and this is his site registration number for A.N. Other Airsoft site hence why we sold him the RIF.”
It IS NOT the only way to prove you’re entitled to buy a RIF but for a retailer; who’s income depends on being open and able to sell guns etc, it is by far the easiest and most expedient way to do it if they should ever be asked to justify a sale.
Now to get a UKARA number you need to play at a site three times in no less than two months. The reason behind this is to stop spur of the moment purchases from someone who goes once to a game or even three times in three weeks; gets a number and then buys whatever they want with no intention of ever playing again. It’s so that when you are entered into the database it’s with a reasonable assumption that you are a committed player as you have invested time over a reasonable period to go to enough games. It demonstrates intent to play continuously in other words.
Airsoft Site Registration
Once you have a number it usually lasts for 12 months and as long as you play continuously at that site (or a minimum of three times over the 12 months seems to be a generally accepted number of games) then your UKARA is usually rolled over for another twelve months.
So to summarise: if you have a UKARA number what you actually have is a site registration that has been entered into the database which means retailers can see you regularly play airsoft at said site and they have confirmed as much so they are safe to make a sale of a RIF to you without hitting it up in the latest shade of two tone blue.
What it doesn’t mean though is that you have an airsoft license…cause you don’t!! There isn’t one!
There are, however, other valid forms of defence which Defcon Airsoft can accept if you are not on the UKARA database such as BASC, Sportsman Association, Justcos, SWAT PASS, MVT, AFRA, Shooters Rights Association and being a member of other reenactment societies. We will also directly contact sites where necessary to get confirmation from them that you are a valid player. Please contact us if you are unsure – failing that you can always simply get the gun two toned (but no one wants that, do they?!) :