Illegal firearms

Crimes involving firearms remain relatively rare in the UK. 

The majority of shooting incidents in the UK are committed by members of urban street gangs. These criminals are involved in many types of criminality including armed robberies, drug distribution, and kidnap and extortion. They use firearms for respect or retaliation, to expand their revenue collection base, or to emulate 'gangster' culture.

Firearms are also ‘used’ without being discharged, for example to threaten others. A wide variety of such criminal groups operate throughout the UK, exercising varying degrees of discipline and sophistication, with many methods of obtaining, storing, sharing and using firearms.

In general, the victims of firearms crime in the UK are other criminals (who are targeted in revenge, to enhance respect and to collect debts owed). While the rate of death and injury caused by firearms is very low in the UK compared with other countries with a similar socio-economic standing, shooting incidents often generate widespread media attention that affects the public’s perceptions of crime. This is particularly true in cases where victims are innocent bystanders with no criminal connection.

Firearms are obtained through criminal networks, cultural connections and from criminal armourers who supply across groups. This market is supply driven: even when criminals may desire certain types of firearms, their choice is likely to be limited. Single firearms will be hidden or held by associates less likely to attract law enforcement attention.

Smuggled from Europe, the Dark Web and the parcel post – follow the journey of illegal firearms into the UK

 Most of the firearms used by UK based criminals are handguns, many of which are converted or reactivated. Original lethal purpose firearms are more prevalent. Shotguns and to a much lesser extent certain types of submachine gun are also used in criminality. Converted Baikal handguns are the most common converted firearms found in the UK.

The Organised Crime command leads the NCA's fight against firearms. Find out more about the Organised Crime Command

Share this Page: