Is it Illegal to Remove the Orange Tip From an Airsoft Gun?


Airsoft Domain: Is It Illegal to Remove the Orange Tip from an Airsoft Gun?

After searching high and low, you’ve managed to find the perfect Airsoft replica to take into battle.  Like many others, I am sure you have taken notice of the wonderful bright orange tip at the end of your new replica.  While the orange tip serves a purpose, it seems that it tends to take away from the realism of your replica.  This blaze-orange ending to your gun will draw attention to you, even when you’re hidden in plain sight.

After some consideration, may want to remove the tip.  This may leave you to question, “Is it illegal to remove the orange tip from an Airsoft gun?”

For the end-user, it is not illegal to remove the orange tip from an Airsoft gun.  U.S. Federal regulations are applicable to manufacturers in regards to the manufacture, sale and transportation of such devices.  However, there is more to consider than just removing the tip then forgetting about it.

Disclaimer:

I am not an attorney.  More importantly, I am not your attorney.  What is written on this website is not legal advice.  I have spent my time in good-faith, researching to provide as much information as possible about the sport of Airsoft. 

As such, I make no claims to the accuracy or completeness of the information provided herein nor can I provide legal advice.  If you genuinely need legal advice, then by all means, please consult a competent, licensed attorney in your area.

With that out of the way, let’s dive in!

THE BLAZE-ORANGE TIP

So, what is the deal with the blaze-orange tip at the end of your replica?  Well, the tip at the end of your replica is a required marking.  U.S. Federal laws & regulations require specific entities to meet marking requirements for the manufacture, sale and transport of toy, look-alike, and imitation firearms.  The blaze-orange tip is but one specific method created for manufacturers to satisfy marking requirements of these items.

Other approved marking methods include, manufacturing the guns entirely in a transparent material so that the inner workings are visible, or coloration of the replica’s exterior with an approved color.  The intent behind marking requirements such as the blaze-orange tip is to serve as a way to identify the guns themselves as toys or replicas and not real firearms.

LAWS & REGULATIONS

When it comes to owning, using and modifying an Airsoft replica, you should always double-check the laws and regulations where you reside.  Laws and regulations vary from place to place.  While it may be legal in one municipality to modify your replica by removing the orange-tip, it may not be legal to do so in another.  In some areas, a stiff fine can be issued your first time out and higher fines for repeat offenses.

Under federal Law, Airsoft replicas are not classified as firearms making them perfectly legal to shoot for all ages.  However, there may be restrictions based on where you reside.  In the United States, one must be 18 years of age or older to purchase any Airsoft replica.  However, Federal Law does not mandate that the tip cannot be removed by the end-user.

U.S. Federal Law & Regulations

Federal law in the United States does not require that the end-user have this marking.  While some federal laws and regulations can be tricky to interpret, U.S. Federal Laws & Regulations affect Airsoft guns in terms of manufacture, transport, and or import into the country.  These laws and regulations require manufacturers to outfit these devices with specified markings.

While paintball and Airsoft guns are not toys, they can be considered as look-alike guns, due to their uncanny resemblance to their real-steel counterparts and they can fire projectiles capable of causing harm.

Many agree that regardless of whether the laws and regulations may or may not fit, the orange tip should be left on so that a layperson or law enforcement officers can identify a toy gun versus a real firearm.  However, this type of reasoning is never foolproof and there have been instances where law enforcement used deadly force on someone with an Airsoft replica, even though the orange tip was present.

The following are U.S. Federal laws and regulations obtained from Cornell Law School that have can be used in the interpretation regarding the orange tip for Airsoft and similar look-alike guns.  It can be concluded that Airsoft guns are not firearms, must have the orange tip following manufacturing, transport, and sale.  However, there is nothing stated that prohibits the buyer or end-user from removing it.

United States Code

18 U.S. Code  § 921

“(3) The term “firearm” means (A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.”

15 U.S. Code § 5001

“(a)Acts prohibited  It shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture, enter into commerce, ship, transport, or receive any toy, look-alike, or imitation firearm unless such firearm contains, or has affixed to it, a marking approved by the Secretary of Commerce, as provided in subsection (b).”

“(c) “Look-alike firearm” defined  For purposes of this section, the term “look-alike firearm” means any imitation of any original firearm which was manufactured, designed, and produced since 1898, including and limited to toy guns, water guns, replica nonguns, and air-soft guns firing nonmetallic projectiles. Such term does not include any look-alike, nonfiring, collector replica of an antique firearm developed prior to 1898, or traditional B–B, paint-ball, or pellet-firing air guns that expel a projectile through the force of air pressure.”

 Code of Federal Regulations

Code of Federal Regulations, Title 15, Subtitle B, Chapter II, Subchapter H, Part 272

§ 272.1 Applicability. This part applies to toy, look-alike, and imitation firearms (‘devices’) having the appearance, shape, and/or configuration of a firearm and produced or manufactured and entered into commerce on or after May 5, 1989, including devices modelled on real firearms manufactured, designed, and produced since 1898. This part does not apply to:

(b) Traditional B-B, paint-ball, or pellet-firing air guns that expel a projectile through the force of compressed air, compressed gas or mechanical spring action, or any combination thereof, as described in American Society for Testing and Materials standard F 589-85, Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Non-Powder Guns, June 28, 1985.”

§ 272.2 Prohibitions. No person shall manufacture, enter into commerce, ship, transport, or receive any toy, look-alike, or imitation firearm (‘device’) covered by this part as set forth in § 272.1 unless such device contains, or has affixed to it, one of the markings set forth in § 272.3, or unless this prohibition has been waived by § 272.4.

§ 272.3 Approved markings. The following markings are approved by the Secretary of Commerce:

(a) A blaze orange (Fed-Std-595B 12199) or orange color brighter than that specified by the federal standard color number, solid plug permanently affixed to the muzzle end of the barrel as an integral part of the entire device and recessed no more than 6 millimeters from the muzzle end of the barrel.

(b) A blaze orange (Fed-Std-595B 12199) or orange color brighter than that specified by the Federal Standard color number, marking permanently affixed to the exterior surface of the barrel, covering the circumference of the barrel from the muzzle end for a depth of at least 6 millimeters.

(c) Construction of the device entirely of transparent or translucent materials which permits unmistakable observation of the device’s complete contents.

(d) Coloration of the entire exterior surface of the device in white, bright red, bright orange, bright yellow, bright green, bright blue, bright pink, or bright purple, either singly or as the predominant color in combination with other colors in any pattern.

§ 272.4 Waiver. The prohibitions set forth in § 272.2 may be waived for any toy, look-alike or imitation firearm that will be used only in the theatrical, movie or television industry. The request must include a sworn affidavit.  A sample of the item must be included with the request.

AIRSOFT REPLICAS IN PUBLIC

If there was ever one thing said about Airsoft replicas that holds true and that should be observed by everyone regardless of it being a “replica”, “toy”, or ”other device”, it would be to treat your Airsoft replica as if it was a REAL FIREARM.  While this should go without saying, it has to be said. Be safe! The simplest advice is to handle them safely, in the correct way, and use them in the correct place.

Remember that others may not be able to tell the difference between an Airsoft replica and the real-steel. This especially holds true once you remove the orange tip and replace it with something more realistic.  Also consider, that Law enforcement officers who are responding to a call, have milliseconds to make a critical decision about what you are carrying and their course of action. This is hardly the outcome you want.

Always transport your Airsoft replica in a case or bag that obscures the replica from sight.  Don’t openly carry or take out your replica in public. In many states, cities or municipalities, it is considered a crime to “brandish” an Airsoft gun in public.  Always shoot your replica where permitted by law and follow any rules & regulations.

GOING WITHOUT THE TIP

So, you have decided to go without the tip and this brings new questions to mind like, “How can I remove or cover the tip?” or “Does removing the tip void my warranty?”, even “ If I have to send it in for repairs, will I have to reattach the orange tip?”

No worries, here is more on that…

Removing the tip

Once you are confident with the knowledge of your local laws, removing the tip is probably what comes to mind next.  Depending on what material the blaze-orange tip is manufactured with it may be an easy feat or at worst a little bit more involved.  For those lazy souls like me you can skip down to the one of the next two ways to deal with the orange eyesore.

Metal

If you are lucky enough that the tip is made from metal, then removal may be as easy as unscrewing the tip from the barrel.  This is much like unscrewing a bolt as the barrel and tip are threaded.  Unlike plastic, you won’t have to worry as much about breaking the tip into pieces (unless of course you muscle man it).

Grab an old rag and a pair of vice grip pliers (the rag is so you don’t mar the old tip, more on this shortly). The best way is to wrap the rag around the tip and then grip it with the pliers. Take it slow and apply bursts of even pressure until you can unscrew the tip by hand.  Clean off the threads and attach a replacement tip.

Plastic

This is a bit more involved as the plastic tips are applied with some adhesive before being attached to the replica and there is the possibility that it can break off in pieces. Plastic tips have the tendency to split and break leaving pieces attached to the barrel.  The best way to remove the plastic tip is to warm up tip to soften the adhesive used to hold it on.

This is easily accomplished by using hot water (be sure to remove the inner barrel if you are able, to avoid any internal damage).  You can also use an open flame, but there is more chance of damage caused with fire.  Once the glue has softened up, use a pair of pliers to wiggle the tip side to side.  Steady and even movement with just enough force will help that orange tip pop off without breaking into pieces.

Painted On

If the tip to your Airsoft gun has been painted on, then you are out of luck.  Just kidding, as you can always paint over the painted-on tip or try covering the barrel with a Ghillie wrap.

Painting the tip

Paint the tip is one of the easier ways to deal with an orange tip.  The best paint to use will be determined by what the tip is made of.  For plastic tips, a can of spray paint designed for painting plastic would be your best bet.  For metal tips, any oil-based spray paint should do the trick.

Additionally, you may consider model pains if you are looking for a specific color that would not be available in the run of the mill spray paint sitting on the shelf at the hardware or retail outlet.

Start with preparing the area you will be painting. Again, be sure to remove the inner barrel can or plug the opening to avoid any internal damage. Mask off anything that you don’t want to be painted.  Painters tape and a decent plastic bag can keep paint from reaching areas.  Lightly sand or “rough up” the area so the paint will adhere better.

As with any painting, always be sure to paint in a well-ventilated area away from heat or flames.  Follow the directions that come with your chosen paint product.  Hold your can 6 to 8 inches from the area to be painted.  Start painting off the area and move in steady strokes.  If you start on the area to be painted it is more likely for the paint to and drip causing runs.  Let your paint dry.

Once dry, you can remove the masking tape and anything you used to protect from overspray. Viola, the orange tip is gone!

Covering the tip

This by far is the easiest, lazy man’s way to make the orange tip go away, without potential damage or painting.  Also, this can be temporary in the event that you need to have the orange tip back on (more on this shortly).  This is easily accomplished by using a Ghillie barrel wrap.

Restoring the Orange Tip

Ok, you’ve gone through an awful amount of trouble to remove the tip.  So why would anyone want to put it back on? Well, I said there was more to consider than to remove it and forget it.  A couple of reasons come to mind.  If you live in the United States and wish to sell your Airsoft gun, then you may be held as accountable for Federal Laws as would the retailer who must do no less and sell the replica with the blaze-orange tip!

Or let’s say you have to send it in for repairs.  The establishment performing the work may require that the replica be outfitted with the orange tip so they can be in compliance with Federal Laws & Regulations regarding the transport of Airsoft replicas.  Also, there are many places that advise the removal of the orange tip voids the warranty.

Warranty Concerns

Removing or modifying the orange tip from your replica can potentially void the warranty.  This is definitely something to consider and to find out before you get to a point of no return. You should check out the policies of the place where you made the purchase BEFORE making any modification.

You may get lucky if your replica has a metal orange tip that can be removed by unscrewing it.  You should be able to reattach it.  Its removal may go unnoticed (this is where wrapping the tip in a rage before gripping it with pliers comes in handy).

Also, it is not atypical for the vendor selling Airsoft replicas to ask that the replica be sent back unopened or like-new condition with all original parts, accessories, tags, labels, etc.

CONCLUSION

U.S. Federal law & regulations are applicable to manufacturers and resellers in regards to the production, sale and transportation of Airsoft replica guns. Neither prohibits the end user from removing the federally required marker.

The orange tips are attached to satisfy federal regulations as well as to make it easier to identify the gun as not as a real firearm.  So, it is the end-user who may remove the tip, but doing so is at his/her own risk.

So, while the blaze-orange tip may be removed by the purchaser, one would be better off to temporarily conceal the orange-tip when out on the battlefield in an effort to avoid warranty issues, or issues arising out visual confusion resulting in a visit from local law enforcement.

See you out on the battlefield!

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