Buying antique rifles by mail order - Gras 1874 11mm/cal 24

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Yellow_Devil, Feb 17, 2008.

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  1. Looking for advice from anyone with knowledge of firearms legislation.

    I have an interest in antique rifles of the late 19th/early 20th century but don't yet have an FAC, so am limited to buying long arms of "obsolete calibre" as listed by the Home Office.

    Last week I placed an order via internet with a French dealer for an 1874 Gras mousqueton which is 11mm and therefore obsolete - so far so good - but, because my French is OK but not fully up-to-speed on technical terms, failed to spot it was described as "24 cal chasse". In other words, it was rechambered at some point, presumably after the First World War, to take cartridges for hunting. Aesthetically & from a historical point of view this is fine by me, but does it affect how the rifle is treated legally?

    A few immediate questions come to mind:

    1. Is the French "Calibre 24" the same as our 24-bore, which is an obsolete calibre?

    2. Can the dealer send it through the post and, if not, how else could he send it from France? I know that UK dealers use TNT etc because the Royal Mail won't take any firearms, even antiques, via usual postal service.

    3. Is there anyone I should be consulting about this (e.g. police?) I was going to ask the good folks at the HBSA too.

    Any answers gratefully received.

  2. I'm away from home and don't have access to my copies of the HO 2002 Guidance (where it lists antique calibres) but:

    1. be aware that the law is so badly written that there is no actual accepted legal definition of "antique firearm", and so some Police forces go out of their way to prosecute anyone they want. What is your Police area? If they are a "friendly" one, you can call the firearms department and ask (they will usually have no idea what you are talking about, as they are usually staffed by coppers/civil servants apparently selected for lack of any firearms knowledge);

    2. The HOG does mention that "antique calibre" is one that "is not generally commercially available". This pathetic piece of legal drafting is why you can buy a Martini-Henry in 450/577 as an antique, but it instantly becomes a Sect1 firearm the moment you possess an assembled round of ammunition. I suspect the french 24-cal would be safely obsolete;

    3. As you say, TNT is the best service to use. If there is any doubt, ask a local RFD if he has a TNT account. Having said that, Royal Mail and Parcelforce do deliver firearms arriving from overseas destinations. You sender should write in easy-to-read simple words that the rifle is a historic antique and not a controlled firearm. Overseas parcels are examined, and often hapless importers of airsofts have een subjected to dawn raids, etc. (Ironically, all realistic imitation firearms are now banned anyway);

    4. Speak to HBSA and/or the Gun Trade Association. try to ge their opinion in writing.... just in case.... Better idea - given your interest - would be to apply to join HBSA/ LERA. Later, when you want an FAC, this proven interest in historic firearms will put you in the Police comfort zone;

    5. To save all this hassle, ask a local RFD if they have an import certificate (not needed for antiques, but we are not in a reasonable legal environment with anything gun-shaped);

    6. Don't ever be persuaded that obsolete firearms need to be de-activated. This is a (deliberate or pure ignorant) falsehood used by some of the "anti" police forces to bully owners into chopping their antiques.
  3. Should go to Afghanistan, all the blokes are buying long's that are over 100 years old, pick them up for 800-1000USD, sell them for thousands. We had an Armourer with us who knew all about telling fake weapons, he bought 16 rifles and got them back on the trooping flight as you don't need a FFE chit (they may be strict with this matter now).
  4. Thanks for all the advice guys - hopefully this means I can give the green light to Jean-Pierre shortly. He's never delivered outside France before so the inner workings of UK firearms legislation are a mystery to him too.

    I had heard tales of the small but profitable trade coming out of Afghanistan - I'd assumed it was just old Lee-Enfields but I guess there'd be a few jezails (long-barrelled Afghan rifles) too. I'd imagine that 19th-century jezails would be worth a fair amount to collectors. The difficulty presumably is finding any in a decent condition. Still, nice souvenir to hang on the wall :wink:
  5. Mostly recent fakes .
  6. Alsacien

    Alsacien LE Moderator

    I hold a French firearms license and have bought antiques/old guns on and off ticket.

    Froggy law groups firearms into 8 categories, without looking anything up, IIRC everything made originally before 1893 falls into 8 with no restrictions on export (that is your problem in French law, to sort out whether it is legal in your country).
    The categories also throw back to really old laws regarding civvies having military calibres, so fudging has happened in the past. Anything that was made originally as smoothbore would use English gauges (24 bore being 24 lead balls of this diameter would wiegh 1lb), rifled barrels on rifles I only normally see expressed in decimal mm. The fact that someone tinkered with your gun is not relevent under French law.

    Tell your mate to speak to this guy:

    I personnally do not know him, but I know ex-pats who have.

    Take ugly's advice though, the law in UK can be interpreted on the spot, perhaps a word with a local RFD would be worthwhile?
  7. All Antiques need to be FFE'd and have export permission. FFE ing is done by your friendly AT community - check on the current arrangements, but there were procedures for Bastion, Lash, Soutar and Kandahar - PoC is the SATO at Kandahar....

    Export permission is via the J1 staff.

    The majority of the genuine stuff coming out of theatre is Martini Henry Mk I/II although fairly "jinglified" - the locals seem to love swapping locks etc around. Some bits are local manufacture, particularly clearing rods adn sling swivels. Lock plates are often messed around - watch for the Enfield with the N reversed!

    A few other bits & bobs coming out mostly out of Kabul - Mk II & III 3 band Sniders and the odd 2 band. Also some Lebels and Braedlins of varying quality. The majority of the other stuff, muskets and all the Jasails were 95% wrong. The policy last year was that you could export genuine antiques, which included "local manufacture" provided they were old. Anything of recent manufacture regardless of design age or on the HO banned list was prohibited...

    Those prices seem a bit high... MH were going for around $150 and Sniders for $300.

    Edited to Add...

    I have just spotted a Mk II MH on the website.

    They claim that it was one of the ones lost at the Battle of Maiwand in 1880.. Oh yeah! - Considering it was only made in July 1878 I would consider that the chances of it getting into a battle in Afghanistan in Jun 1880 pretty slim.

    There are hundreds of these rifles coming out of the woodwork, almost all sold from British India in the 1920s...