Roll up - UKARA not Required!

Posted by Unknown On Wednesday, September 04, 2013

@ The NAE - National Airsoft Event
Report by Special Correspondent

Now this blog has never been a fan of UKARA and the almost zealous nature of the organisation and its rules, which are admittedly only industry guidelines (and not enshrined in law). But I had to publish this as even I found the 'goings on' surprising and a little strange and possibly hold wider implications for UK Airsofting in general. Our Special 'Southern' correspondent Maree reports back on the 'issue' from the 2013 National Airsoft Event at the Ground Zero site based in Dorset.

NAE ShopNAE Shop1Festival Wristband to buy
Like most Airsofters, including those of us in the industry, were does one first go in such a palace of fun? Ah, AEGs of course! So, moving along to the AEGs and glancing over the wall of AEGs facing us, looking like kids about to steal the cookie from the cookie jar, we suddenly noticed several handwritten signs on cardboard, tied to the displays, between the guns. We were surprised when we noticed that the signs stated that as long as you had an event wristband, you could purchase any RIF “No UKARA Needed this weekend with festival wristband” (see photo). On reading this, our small group of players, who had some 20 years’ experience between them, looked at each other confused, watching each other’s jaws simultaneously drop, as we immediately read each other’s thoughts as to the implications of the sign we had just read.

After a few seconds of silence, I was first to speak, and decided that, as I was there to report on the event for Airsoft Odyssey, it required some sort of explanation as to why such a sign was displayed. I thought that there must be some logical reason why a founding company of UKARA was displaying a sign that appeared to ignore the “3 games in not less than two months” rule that UKARA members were required to follow to support the principles of UKARA and to help protect the hobby. The following of this rule is a fundamental part of site or retailer UKARA membership. Each retailer or site has the responsibility to uphold the agreement that created the exemption to the VCRA that kept Airsoft alive, and the “3 games in not less than two months” rule was a fundamental benchmark that convinced those in power that Airsofters were responsible enough to keep playing, thus creating the exemption and partly justifying the existence of UKARA. Zero One was a founding member of UKARA and thus helped establish these rules and guidelines of membership, and thus creating the responsible end of the Airsoft industry and one which it EXPECTS its members to follow.

Due to the implications for UKARA and the possible implications for our hobby, I immediately approached a member of staff, who was very polite, well-spoken and very helpful. Following my recollection of the UKARA membership rules for retailers and noting that there could be consequences for the hobby if retailers did not follow these, especially UKARA founding members, the member of staff stated that, regardless of his own personal opinion, it was a decision of his employer. He went on to explain that his employer had decided that booking onto the event would illustrate that someone was a serious Airsofter and this means that they could purchase what they wished. When I queried this further, he stated that this was the response they were told to give this stock response to any enquiry.

With this information, we decided to retire to the pub/bar tables, have a coffee, and discuss the possible implications of what we had just seen and heard. Taking a seat, I was quick to hear, on another table, players new to the hobby discussing that they did not have to wait for UKARA registration and excitedly discussing the AEGs available and which ones they were interested in purchasing. One later went back into the site shop to make a purchase. This was, of course, concerning to our party, who live and die by Airsoft. It is interesting and concerning to note that two days later on the Zero In Forums, one party, who was at Ground Zero/NAE for the first time, and who purchased a black AEG attempted to start a dialogue with Zero In members and Zero One as to why he was able to purchase an AEG, and following criticism of Zero One by experienced players, this was “locked” and the discussion was ended. At the same time, my inbox had messages relating to the implications for the hobby, player concerns, and, on speaking to other members of the industry, UKARA had themselves been contacted with industry member concerns.

Airsoft has always been a mixed blessing to me, as it has been to many. I came to Airsoft from the world of real steel shooting, specifically pistol shooting, and following a first career carrying a pistol for employment from age 18. During those years prior to Airsoft, I had also obtained degrees, one being Law. I also had several years experience enforcing criminal law, and working in armed personal protection. When coming to Airsoft, I was teaching and lecturing law and business, a career to which I am still registered and qualified, but Airsoft is my passion so here I am! I began working in Airsoft, as an importer in 2006, and since then have moved from my previous careers to that of working in the Airsoft industry, and now the wider world of Journalism. So, having the experience I have, and the passion for Airsoft, I was more than slightly concerned to discover what I did discover at the recent National Airsoft Event.

When we arrived at the NAE this year, we visited the Zero One site shop Friday evening to do a bit of window shopping. A lot of work had gone into the shop for the event, and it was well laid out and very well organised, being in a long gazebo/tent with guns laid out on stands down one side, accessories in the centre, clothing at one end and a large counter area to pay at the other. The far side of the tent had various items laid out, such as boots and BB’s. Staff were also friendly and professional and a credit to the company that they were working for.

For those new to Airsoft, Zero One was a founding member of UKARA the organisation which helped establish the exemption under the VCRA Act for Airsofters, through negotiation with the Minister of State responsible back in 2007. These negotiations were taken in good faith, and through the steps the founding members of UKARA were willing to take, such as for a person to illustrate that they were an active Airsofter they would be required to attend “not less than three games in not less than two months,” illustrated that Airsofters and the industry was responsible enough to have an exemption under the Act; Thus, creating and maintaining Airsoft as it is today through the Minister granting the exemption.

The implications of a founding member breaking away, or being seen to have negotiated in bad faith do not bode well for the industry in future negotiations or Parliamentary reviews of the Act. Add in criminal incidents involving imitation firearms, and the Canadian example of how Airsoft can survive and maintain some form of economic activity for the benefit of the economy, and any stakeholder to the Parliamentary review process has standing to state that the exemption should not exist. Considering that the exemption exists on a knife-edge as a minority hobby not understood well by the vast majority of the population, and worse the attitude of those who find our hobby offensive on various grounds, and one can see the sparks on the fuse that could explode the granted exemption wide open.

UKARANAE Shop2NAE Shop3NAE Reporter Maree
At this point, it is alleged that this is the second time Zero One Airsoft has walked away from such an agreement and forging their own path. In this reporters extensive experience I have to think that all bar one founding member of UKARA going one way by sticking to the gentleman’s agreement with the Minister of State, and the individual member going another way, allegedly leading to the Chairman of UKARA feeling so strong about it that he resigned, could be viewed as bad housekeeping or industry immaturity by those who are seen by the government as controlling or representing the industry, or even an industry negotiating in bad faith. This view could be multiplied when one considers that UKARA retailer membership rules dictating that each member must uphold the values and beliefs of the UKARA body to retain membership; and this includes the three shoots in not less than two months rule.

Considering the seriousness of the possible implications, both Zero One and UKARA were contacted for both an explanation and comment. At the time of finalising the article (some 8 days after the event) Zero One has not replied.

The current Chairman of UKARA, Frank Bothamley was contacted for comment and clarification, and to discuss the situation and he went out of his way to explain both the present role of UKARA and discuss the possible ramifications for our hobby of the spread of such actions. The current Chairman of UKARA is a well-known figure and mainstay in the UK airsoft scene, as well as director of Fire-Support. Allegedly, he took on the role of Chair of UKARA after a previous Chair resigned over the same issue with Zero One. In that instance, Zero One were alleged to be putting players immediately onto the UKARA database without players doing the three shoots over two months period required of sites and retailers under the UKARA rules of membership. In defence of Zero One, the Chair of UKARA stated that Zero One are alleged to possess a letter from the Home Office that allows them to ignore the agreement between the founding members of UKARA and the Home Office for their events. Regardless of inquiries by UKARA at both the Home Office and with Zero One, and regardless of requests by Zero One to produce the letter for the protection of the industry, this has never been furnished to UKARA for viewing. This, of course, raises many questions as to members of UKARA, and in this case one that was a founding member and industry leader, ignore both the UKARA retailer membership rules and ignore what the vast majority of Airsofters, sites and retailers feel is in the best interests of the hobby. This decision of Zero One led to the last Chair of UKARA resigning, and the appointment of the current Chairman.

Frank (UKARA Chairman) was very knowledgeable and helpful and he shared concerns this reporter had about the establishment and spread of the principle that if you turned up at an event and shoot, or simply pay for the event and turn up, you are welcome to purchase RIF’s. The publicity that an article can create, itself helping to spread the knowledge of the matter and leading to the less principled end of the industry, as all industries have, deciding to do the same without the alleged authority, citing Zero One as an example in their defence, could in itself add to an ending of the exemption. On the other hand, such non-biased reporting of our industry and hobby, and the debate that ensues, and the change in attitudes and understanding of the knife edge we exist on that this can create, is good reason that, like other hobbies, sports and industries, we must report, debate, discuss and police ourselves. There is no way a Government in this country is going to introduce licensing due to the wider cost considerations and implications that this would involve, and if it did, the user pays principle that entails with such a decision would be so prohibitive to players, that the hobby could collapse. We must thus undertake the role of policing our industry in a mature and fit and proper manner.

When discussing the role of UKARA in such issues, the Chairman pointed out that when UKARA was founded they did take action against a very large Scottish retailer who had breached the founding principles and membership rules of UKARA. They were taken off the UKARA register of retailers for a period. When this was later reviewed, as was the possible role of UKARA in policing the membership base, at the following UKARA general meeting, the majority of members felt that UKARA was solely a membership body allowing access to a database of registered players, and thus there was a lack of support amongst members for future action. At subsequent meetings, the issue was raised again with members proposing a wider role for UKARA, but there were not enough members present to seriously debate such a principle of such significance to the industry. With the growth of the hobby and industry in the last three years, the Chairman stated that he was not opposed to any sensible industry led initiatives, such as moving UKARA to a wider industry role, and or the election of a new Chairman from the core of membership. We agreed that at times players can have a view of the role of UKARA that is in conflict to what UKARA presently is; An industry membership scheme for sites and retailers to provide a lawful excuse to sell restricted items under the VCRA Act. In this role, we both agreed that UKARA was fit for its present purpose.

The issue here is not with an individual retailer ignoring the principles of UKARA retailer membership, or with the present or future role of UKARA. The issue here and thus implication for our hobby is, what happens to our exemption from the VCRA Act, if some of those running shoots and selling RIF’s decide to use Zero One as a dangerous and legally untested legal principle and state that if you pay to come to a weekender event, you too are entitled to purchase a RIF without what is considered to have been the lawful excuse to do so. Does this mean UKARA becomes irreverent to what is the situation on the ground? Does this mean that the exemption has so many loopholes in it that it is useless and therefore should be withdrawn? Does this mean that the founding members negotiated in bad faith with the representatives of Parliament? Or does it simply mean that Zero One, holding what is viewed as a major international Airsoft event, has shown the Home Office that that event should be considered an exemption to the rule? Without Zero One standing up, and actually taking its social responsibility to us all in a different way to what it has done to date, and stating publicly that they have this exemption and providing proof to the membership body they helped create, UKARA, questions as to the possible risk to the hobby of their actions will remain, and the example of Zero One will be copied by the less principled. Where will this slippery slope lead?

Editor note: Zero One have still not responded and have suppressed the topic on their own forums!

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This review is copyright 2013 by Yosser's Airsoft Odyssey©/MadBadger Airsoft and may not be copied or reproduced without permission. Pictures copyright 2013 by MadBadger Airsoft©. You may link to this page


  1. Anonymous Said,

    Not like ZeroOne to supress things they don't want to hear or discuss, instead shutting down the thread and ignoring it from then on.

    Posted on September 4, 2013 at 12:10 PM

  2. Anonymous Said,

    First off, UKARA is a guideline, one of many, not a legal requirement.
    2nd .. Anyone paying £85 (more than the average cost of 3 games) for a weekend long airsoft event is quite likely to, y'know, be a legitimate airsofter.

    Posted on September 4, 2013 at 7:17 PM

  3. Anonymous Said,

    Phone them! Don't email, remember they were closed for a week and might be fekking busy after the NAE, they also don't work weekends and only got back to work last Wednesday, so that's only 6 days!

    Posted on September 4, 2013 at 7:41 PM

  4. Anonymous Said,

    I think this article is just flaring an issue that is actually much smaller than it really is. If you pay £85 to go to a weekender, it stands to reason that you are a serious airsofter and that is all that UKARA reference numbers are meant to prove, so that undesirable people who are not airsofters can't get hold of RIF. In my honest opinion, this article is just OTT, unnecessary and picking at straws. Again, if you pay £85 to attend the most prolific and successful airsoft event in Europe, you're clearly an airsofter who has an inherent interest in the sport. The no UKARA needed with wristband makes sense, especially for those coming from abroad which there are MANY, I myself met several from the Philippines, some from Ecuador and I played with the Battletec lads who hail from Guernsey, where they don't need UKARA to buy RIF's either. This is just stirring something that makes perfect logical sense and you're picking and creating issues that need not be issues.

    Posted on September 4, 2013 at 8:24 PM

  5. Anonymous Said,

    What a superbly written article. NAIL ON HEAD.

    Posted on September 4, 2013 at 8:40 PM

  6. Anonymous Said,

    Hmmm....UKARA being the self-governing way of ensuring that a player is a skirmisher...and eligible for a defence to the VCRA. I recall a retailer who had a solicitor look into and found that the only thing really needed to show that a person was a skirmisher, was to be at a skirmish or airsoft game...and playing.

    Perhaps this was ZeroOne's stance at the weekender

    Posted on September 4, 2013 at 8:58 PM

  7. Anonymous Said,

    RIFs sold for the purpose of skirmishing at any site you're playing on is perfectly legal, but it wont end the exemption, if the exemption goes it's two tones for all future buys.

    Posted on September 4, 2013 at 9:17 PM

  8. Anonymous Said,

    call me cynical, but it just looks like zero one decided to exploit probably the largest turnout game of the year, hoping that many would jump at the chance to spend money on rifs without meeting the criteria usually followed, ultimately they just saw pound signs....gedy gits.
    as for their nazi like hold on info, forum posts etc, no surprise there, business as usual.
    what i don't get is how they thought they could break the clearly laid out ukara principles, without it causing waves & being critisized.
    they should be punished, such as ukara involvement revoked or suspended at the very least.

    Posted on September 4, 2013 at 9:26 PM

  9. Anonymous Said,

    Firstly I thought you have to be a member of an insured club to buy rifs and not just turn up for a weekend skirmish..? If you say paying £85 means your a skirmisher then paying the £40 per year membership and £25 member hire on the same day by a first timer count as serious player and allow to be on the UKARA database..?? Why should it be one rule for some and another for others... Not good at all....

    Posted on September 4, 2013 at 11:42 PM

  10. Anonymous Said,

    There is a defiantly a mole hill being made in to a ant hill here. With the UKARA it says that you must have 3 days skirmish with in two months, at the weekender this year's event there was a game Friday night, Saturday day and night and Sunday. would this not count as your 3 days skirmish at this national event. Granted that there should have been somewhere there that they should have been able to register for UKARA but i still feel that that would cover the 3 day's of skirmishing.

    Posted on September 5, 2013 at 7:46 AM

  11. Anonymous Said,

    Some documentation for you. First a link to download the PDF file of the VCRA (optional reading):
    You should start at section 36 on page 42.
    Secondly, a link to the specific defence, which pertains directly to the issue at hand:

    I will quote the relevant lines as used by the home office to provide our "exemption" which you claim is being abused by Zero One.
    "—(1) It shall be a defence in proceedings for an offence under section 36 of the 2006 Act or
    under paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 to that Act for the person charged with the offence to show that
    his conduct was for the purpose only of making the imitation firearm in question available for one
    or more of the purposes specified in paragraph (2).
    Those purposes are—
    the organisation and holding of permitted activities for which public liability insurance is
    held in relation to liabilities to third parties arising from or in connection with the
    organisation and holding of those activities;
    the purposes of display at a permitted event. "

    I would say, in my mind, there is absolutely no need to worry about what has been done here. The real issue would start when someone gets taken to court for selling a RIF. At which point this defence is used, and investigated. To my knowledge that has never happened, and in this situation it would be much easier to defend, than having to explain the workings of the UKARA system of membership.

    On a slightly more personal note, I feel your journalism, especially in an internet age, is not very good. You should be citing your references, such as the 2 links I just provided, rather than talking about them vaguely. In my opinion you did not adequately explain what the specific defence we have is, to people who do not know it as well as me and you.

    Posted on September 5, 2013 at 12:54 PM

  12. Spider Said,

    the quotes above relate in part to reenactment and not "skirmish events" which are not the same. The advisement note from the HO can be read here

    Fact is 01 were part of the group that established UKARA and the guidelines for membership and are happy to enforce them when it suits their business.

    It simply slaps honest players, sites, and retailers in the face by behaving in such a cavalier fashion. Certainly they can no longer remain members of UKARA, else why should any site or retailer follow the UKARA guidelines?

    If an £85 game entrance qualifies as proof of being an airsofter, why not £75, or £50? plenty of weekend games demand the same level of dedication to play at but don't fleece their players as much.

    Bottom line is no, you do not need to be a member of UKARA. But as Zero Ones website itself states.
    "In order for us to legally sell you this airsoft gun it it's original colours, by law, you must be a member of a registered airsoft site"

    Member of a site. It is explicit and from Zero One themselves. It does not say, "you must have spent enough cash with us on a single occasion then we'll take as much money off you as we can..."

    I would have far more respect for them if they came out and admitted a cock up. better that than anonymously commenting here to try and justify the indefensible.

    I certainly will not support a retailer that behaves this way with my custom, and will encourage every player I know to act likewise.

    Posted on September 5, 2013 at 2:03 PM

  13. Unknown Said,

    Ukara sucks donky dick there flipping toys its a joke Iwant an
    rif for home use not a two tone shit looking thing and I cant get one fcuk ukara

    Posted on October 18, 2013 at 5:20 AM

  14. Unknown Said,

    Ukara sucks!! you can buy high power air rifles that can kill but you can buy a black bb gun its a fcuking joke sort it out not every1 wants or can go skirmishing but still want an rif but cant cost this countrys a fcuking mess

    Posted on October 18, 2013 at 5:24 AM

  15. Anonymous Said,

    UKARA is the biggest joke ever.... Its a nanny state and its on defense if the police want to take the guns off you no UKARA register will stop them.....

    Posted on December 17, 2013 at 5:04 PM

  16. Anonymous Said,

    3 games in 2 months? Is the weekender not a 3 day airsoft event on a skirmish site thus filling all required criteria? just thought i'd add my little thought on the whole affair, albeit a tad late.

    Posted on August 5, 2014 at 1:43 PM

  17. Anonymous Said,

    i don't get what all this fuss is about. ukara has nothing to do with uk law or any gov organisation. it's just a bunch of retailers who support the beautiful ASG hobby by helping earn money to all official asg shooting sites. £280, that's the av cost for someone who has to attend the venue 3x without asg and protection gear. the fact is, that any seller, retailer, dealer... etcetera... doesn't even have to ask you for "a proof of belonging" (to ukara, re-enactment group). it's just their personal matter to keep their mind safe, f.e. when the policeman shoots one of their clients head off for weaving gun-like-looking toy on the street. it's better to be covered even by a meaningless agreement such as ukara. btw, ukara guidelines seem to collide with general EU law...

    Posted on October 14, 2015 at 3:20 PM

  18. Anonymous Said,

    UKARA really is a crock of ****! I can own a high powered air rifle or even a shotgun/firearm with the relevant certificate but cant buy a RIF for personal home use on private land or for collecting/display purposes.
    I do not have a criminal record and I have previously served with the military and police. I do not want to buy a silly looking two tone gun,would at least like it to look like the real thing. This country's gun laws a such a joke!
    Need I say more!!

    Posted on June 17, 2016 at 2:37 PM

  19. Anonymous Said,

    I am 72 years old I don't want to run around playing soldiers in the mud shooting people,but I do enjoy shooting in my well equipped shooting range at home.and at my friends farm in wales, but I can no longer buy guns that don't look like pretty painted children's toys it is ridiculous its the same gun with the same power will do the same damage it just doesn't seem the same if its bright pink.

    Posted on December 18, 2016 at 2:09 AM

  20. Anonymous Said,

    Nazis the lot of all shopkeepers, give a man a big hat blah blah... get a fricking gun license!

    Posted on January 11, 2017 at 3:00 PM

  21. Anonymous Said,

    i have read with great interest and i ultimately have to agree that UKARA sucks! in the days when we had real firearms, policing was an essential part of the establishment. since most firearms have been removed from legitimate people it seems the only ones left on the streets are foreign imports and only the crooks have them. UKARA is another wannabe body which is run by controlling people with their own agendas, ie.. money spinner. get a fucking grip, they're pop guns!

    Posted on March 30, 2017 at 4:14 PM

  22. Anonymous Said,

    as a 64 year old man i don't really want to told i must join a club to own nothing more than a toy. two tone weapons can soon be painted black again. what is the big deal!

    Posted on March 30, 2017 at 4:16 PM


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