Over 17.000 legal handguns in England and Wales despite ban


Gustav Hoejmark-Jensen

Over 17.000 legal handguns in England and Wales despite ban

Photo: The Hunting Edge.

Thousands of handguns are legally sold and owned in England and Wales due to legal workarounds. And the number is increasing.

By Gustav Hoejmark-Jensen.


In 1996, 16 children were shot and killed at the Dunblane Primary School in Scotland. They were murdered by a lone gunman who wielded four, legally obtained handguns. The tragedy prompted the UK Government to amend Section 5 in the 1968 Firearms Act, effectively prohibiting all small firearms in 1997.

But today, more than two decades later, there are 17.317 legal handguns across England and Wales according to the latest data from the Home Office.

Since 2016, the number of handguns in England and Wales has increased almost 6%, indicating that handguns are grown in popularity.

A trend that Robert Taylor, owner of the firearms dealer G.E. Fulton & Sons has noticed.

"Long barrelled pistols are becoming more popular as different models are now appearing on the UK market. There are no extra restrictions on these items and they are treated in exactly the same way as any other Section 1 Firearm."

And these handguns are not muzzle-loading antiques. They are modern handguns that can be acquired fast, either online or from many of the over 3000 firearms dealers across England and Wales.

In the interactive map below you can see how many certified handguns there are in your area. You can also see if the number of certified handguns have increased or decreased since 2016 and how many registered firearms dealers there are in your area.

Legal loophole allows handguns


The 1997 amended Firearms Act prohibits firearms with a barrel of less than 30cm and a total length of less than 60cm.


Legislation that should have made it impossible to sell handguns in the UK.


Sources: The Hunting Edge, GSG, Simply Firearms, Aaron Wheeler Gunsmiths,  Kent Gunsmiths, Guntrader, Rifleman Firearms and Black Rifle.

However, the small gallery above shows that handguns are still being sold in England and Wales today.


Manufacturers circumvent the law by using a metal bar attached to the grip of the handgun and a longer barrel to extend the overall length. These changes put the handguns above the legal limits, resulting in the ability to own long-barrel pistols in the UK.


According to a spokesperson from the Gun Control Network, a Scottish NGO set up after the Dunblane tragedy, the presence of legal handguns in the UK are concerning.


"All perpetrators of the thankfully rare gun massacres in the UK have been legal gun owners, or have accessed legally owned guns belonging to family members. A licence does not render a gun safe."

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