Gun crime rose in 2007, according to Home Office figures
Recorded crime in England and Wales fell by 12% in the last three months of last year compared with the same period in 2006, Home Office figures show.
But drug offences rose by 20%, which researchers said was the result of changes to how cannabis offences were dealt with after it was reclassified.
Firearm offences were up 4% in 2007 to 9,967, although gun death numbers fell.
The government said the figures were "excellent" but Liberal Democrats and Tories called for action on gun crime.
The rise in firearm-related crimes meant there was an increase of 373 offences on the 2006 total, where such offences were concerned.
However, gun deaths fell to 49, seven fewer than in the previous 12 months.
The figures also revealed reductions in a number of types of crime.
Recorded robberies fell by 21%, serious violence was down by 15% and there was a 19% reduction in car crime.
The Home Office also released findings from the British Crime Survey (BCS), which is a separate set of figures based on interviews with members of the public.
Data from the BCS suggested overall crime had fallen by 6% last year.
And its findings included a 7% decrease in "personal crime" such as violence.
However, this fall was said to be "not statistically significant".
Bob Jones, chairman of the Association of Police Authorities, said the figures provided "very encouraging news" and showed that "real inroads are being made into keeping crime levels down".
"Police authorities will want to look with forces at ways in which we can seek to maintain this reduction," he said.
Similarly, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the statistics were "excellent".
"I am particularly pleased to see sizeable reductions in recorded violent crime and robbery," she said.
"It is the sustained and focused effort by the police and their crime fighting partners that has helped to deliver these reductions and shrink the risk of being a victim of crime to its lowest level since records began."
And, where firearms were concerned, she added: "Thankfully gun crime remains rare in this country and we will continue to support police and the courts to do whatever we can to keep weapons off our streets."
However, opposition parties were quick to provide an alternative analysis of the findings.
'Flow of drugs'
Shadow home secretary David Davis said violent crime had "doubled under this government".
He said: "The latest figures show that drug and gun crime continue to rise unabated. The rising tide of violence on our streets is the consequence of Labour's lax approach to law enforcement, and failure to address the causes of crime."
Mr Davis added that a Conservative government would "get police back on the streets instead of filling forms" and "stem the flow of drugs and guns" in the UK by establishing a border police force.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne urged the government to "get tough on guns".
"We need more intelligence-led stop and search and greater police effort to win the trust of blighted communities, as that is the most effective way of pinpointing problems," he said.