SHOOTERS' RIGHTS ASSOCIATION
SHOOTERS’ RIGHTS ASSOCIATION
Chairman: Jan A Stevenson
Secretary: Richard A Law
certificates. These come in three areas; administrative inconsistencies from one police area to another, refusals to grant or renew a certificate, or the revocation of a certificate during its life; and firearms-related prosecutions.
We deal with matters relating to certificates and as such we are not the governing body of any usage; we do not favour any particular kind of shooting over any other. Firearm and shotgun certificates are common to all, insuring shooters and resolving problems so that our members can continue their chosen amateur activity are our objectives.
We extended our PLI in the 1980s to include battle re-enactment and living history: inclusive of all whether in the firearms period or earlier, as ‘weapons’ of any description are, or may become, subject to government interest: curved swords, for example, and knives. ‘Saxon’ is derived from ‘people of the knife’.
Public liability insurance, in the sum of up to £10 million per claim is a standard benefit of membership and deals with claims against our members for inadvertent damage or injury caused by their negligence while engaged as amateurs in any form of (legal) shooting activity, plus target archery, battle re-enactment, living history and airsoft skirmish. Members who receive fees for living history displays, talking exhibits, lecturing and demonstrating for a fee are still amateurs and their activities are thus covered. The insurance cover is compliant with the requirements of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 in that it provides the vendor with a defence under the Act for selling realistic imitation firearms to our members.
Membership currently costs £39.50 a year, and you can add additional members of your family at just £9.00 per person. All memberships run for a full twelve months from the date of joining.
SRA MEMBERSHIP FEES
Extra family members, each £10.00
CLUBS AND GROUPS
(Minimum of three) per person £21.00
LARGER GROUPS 40+ per person £15.00
Over 100 £12.50
All memberships run for at least a year from date of first joining. Group leaders can add new members to their group at any time for £21 per person to the group’s renewal date.
All memberships run for at least a year from date of first joining. Group leaders can add new members to their group at any time for £21 per person to the group’s renewal date.
Shooters’ Rights Association
P.O. Box 3 Cardigan SA43 1BN
TEL: 01239 698607
FAX: 01239 698614
[[PASTING TABLES IS NOT SUPPORTED]]
Published by TSRA Ltd
PO Box 3, Cardigan SA43 1BN
SRA guide to de-ac law change 5
A case of self defence 10
By Michael Waldren 11
By Tony Long 12
Guns, Bullets and Gunfights
By Jim Cirillo 14
The History Lesson 16
Police Guns (21)
The Glock 17 by Jan A Stevenson 22
Police Shootings 27
From the Internet 31
Obituary – Colin Greenwood 32
Taking someone shooting 39
The firearms users’ community have a difficult relationship with policing generally, while often enjoying good relationships with those men and women on the ground that we deal with routinely.
The origins of this friction date from the First World War (1914-19) and as we pass through the centenaries of those great and terrible events, it’s timely to look back to the roots of the control of firearms in the UK, which we cover in ‘the history lesson’ elsewhere in this journal. Once the 1920 Act had settled down – and been amended in 1936 – matters ticked over until the great step-change that came in 1973 in the wake of the unpublished (and rejected by Parliament) McKay Report.
Since then, certificate holders and registered dealers have been treated as target criminals for policing to trawl in search of prosecutions that are intended to knock the individual out of his hobby or business, with the bonus possibility of creating case law that will catch still more law abiding taxpayers and make criminals of them. That’s how statutes are developed, of course, but it’s noticeable that in the case of firearms, only four cases reached the courts of record in the 20th century prior to 1973 and dozens since. The last quarter of the century contains ten times as many cases in which certificate holders, collectors, dealers and other taxpayers were prosecuted than the first three quarters. All of those of our acquaintance were trying to comply with the legislation, while policing was trying to catch them out by shifting policy boundaries.
This change of tack was purely administrative - it doesn’t relate to any change in the law. The 1968 Firearms Act was an act of consolidation, bringing together the 1937 Act, the Firearms Act 1965 and the shot gun certificate provisions enacted in the Criminal Justice Act 1967 – and – crucially – the criminal use of firearms clauses. After that, nothing happened legislatively until the Firearms (Amendment) Act in 1988. And the 1988 Act, followed by legislation in 1993, 1994, and two more Firearms Acts in 1997 did nothing to change the basic principles of the firearms controls laid down in 1920. The 1981 book ‘the law relating to firearms’ is still definitive. What the legislative changes did was juggle dates, ages, categories and sentences; adding confusion by using words that they didn’t define. One patch upon another, each trying to correct flaws in earlier patches until the whole legislative mess resembled a worn out bicycle inner tube: more patches than tube.
At the back of all this was the discredited and now defunct Forensic Science Service. They were seeking to extend the controls by way of prosecutions, manipulation of the evidence, opinion and on occasions by misleading the courts with their opinions. The Crown Prosecution Service was formed to serve as a buffer between the police and the courts. No longer would charges be levelled at citizens based on a policeman’s opinion: it had to go to a lawyer in the CPS and get past him as a viable case for prosecuting. Except, it seems, in firearms matters.
The legislation that followed the Dunblane murders in 1996 was followed by three Labour administrations, lasting until 2010. That period did a lot to damage relationships between the law-abiding taxpayers one meets at club shoots and competitions and their government. We had a Minister of Sport who refused to recognise the sporting use of guns as a sport at all. We had a Home Secretary whose immediate reaction to every reversal his department suffered in the courts was to say that it must be made easier to get convictions. The solution was too easy for him: just do away with the courts. That’s worked everywhere else where despots don’t like an independent judiciary holding government’s nose to the constitutional rights of the people.
We also had Charles Clarke being quoted when he was Home Secretary as ‘you can shoot a burglar’; which is what it said in his copy of Stones Justices Manual (see issue#59). He didn’t last long in office, as although a member of the broad left, the rest of the left have consistently been both anti-gun and quite inventive in finding ways to screw the law-abiding. One of his contemporaries wanted to conduct a dissolution of the shooting clubs and sequester the money to compensate the police for the time it would take them to outrage the constitution thus.
The Home Office has done virtually nothing to target real gun crime since 1973, besides messing about with sentencing policy. Their think tank came up with a proposal for a national firearms administration in 1992. The police administrators promptly howled that firearms management was core police business. We couldn’t see that ourselves. The utility of giving chief constables firearm certification in 1920 was two-fold. They had police stations in walking distance of 90% of homes, making it easy for applicants, and they had access to databases like the criminal records and electoral rolls that needed to be consulted to check the application. One office in Swansea has been handling driving licences since the 1970s, so in 1992 and prior to the internet it was viable to do away with the 56-odd police offices handling firearms applications in favour of one office staffed by properly trained people. Except for the ‘security inspection’, which is (apart from in Scotland post their air weapon law) extra-statutory and based on a police plan to map the location of every firearm ready for the day they can seize them all: nothing to do with security, per se and leaky enough to have been how some burglars have been able to find and steal some firearms.
That said, crime prevention advice is useful and worthy, but would be more favourably received from a trusted source, such as one’s club secretary. Prior to 1920, when the Firearms Act handed chief constables responsibility for issuing firearm certificates, such ‘controls’ as there were amounted to taxes, which were paid at the Post Office. The Gun Licence was a ten-shilling tax from 1870 until 1966. You didn’t have to buy one if you had a Game Licence and when the Pistols Licence was introduced in 1903, you only had to buy that if you had neither of the other two. That simple tax put legitimate gun ownership beyond the means of a lot of the population.
The new firearm certificate cost five shillings, and the Act creating them repealed the 1903 Pistols Act. From that day to this, the fee for the certificate has been payable on grant, to defray those additional costs that the decision to issue would bring upon the chief constable: the printed document itself, someone’s time to fill it in and make a record file for the headquarters to keep; the envelope and stamp etc.: so Parliament intended chief constables to fund the costs of processing the application from existing funds.
That was easy. To process the application means checking the details on the form, checking that the person lives where he says he does and checking other records, such as the criminal records. Investigating the application and the applicant is a criminal investigation and only when that fails to detect a crime is the certificate going to be issued and the fees fund dipped into. A significant court case in 1966 supposedly changed all that – Joy v chief constable of Dumfries and Galloway – which says that the police should consider the application from the point of view of the applicant and not from that of a possible objector. It also says that wanting a certificate is not a ground for refusing one.
The Home Office continue to pay lip service to that landmark decision by mentioning it (in part) in their guidance to police – first published in 1989. In the real world it didn’t seem to last past 1973 as a lesson learned by police; as when one looks at Kavanagh v chief constable of Devon and Cornwall (1974) we find a man who had need of an RFD and a shot gun certificate because while he was developing an innovative shotgun action, shotguns came into the controls. That passed him by until James Edmiston told him and then he was in the same position as Major Joy – had guns, needed a certificate and like Major Joy was refused because he’d had the (home-made) guns without a certificate prior to his application.
He was one of many people who applied for a shot gun certificate between 1968 and 1988 who found out about the requirement belatedly. I knew it was coming because a small notice appeared in my local Post Office in Landkey, Devon, announcing their availability from the chief constable with effect from 1st May 1968. Aside from that I saw no other publicity. It created so little a ripple in the national press that it passed me by in the days when, as a newspaper delivery boy, I’d read all Fleet Street’s offerings before breakfast.
History tells us that the shot gun certificate was introduced because the Labour Home Secretary in 1966 wobbly Roy Jenkins – was in the hot seat when Harry Roberts shot three Metropolitan Police Officers dead in August that year. This was less than a year after Roy had ‘abolished’ the death penalty for an experimental five years. In 1965 the rope was only an option where the murder was by firearms or explosives; of a policeman or prison officer or there was more than one murder, so Harry was eligible for the drop on three out of five and Roy didn’t want the death penalty back. He opted instead to divert the press onto shot gun certificates. The plan for these certificates had been drawn up as part of the plan to abolish gun licenses – which took effect via the Local Government Act 1966 – as they cost more to issue than they raised in revenue. The shot gun certificate plan was shelved for the same reason – and there wasn’t a crime wave or any other relevant social necessity involving shotguns that the certificates would solve.
As an aside, what the newspapers were full of in 1966 was cases that would have resulted in the death penalty the year before, but for Roy Jenkins. Fleet Street was generally in favour of the rope and in the course of saying so made several murderers who came to trial in that period more famous and memorable than they would otherwise have been: Ian Brady, Myra Hindley, Reginald Kray, Ronnie Kray and Harry Roberts. The moors murderers would have got it on multiple killings. Ronnie Kray and Harry Roberts for using firearms (and Harry shot policemen) and Reggie for two murders.
Much of the ‘increase’ in shot gun certificate numbers after the initial 600,000 applicants is believed to be people taking on the requirement when they found out about it. Aside from creating criminals of several million shotgun users behind their backs, the new legislation also created a new vein of crimes to trawl – people who forgot to renew them. One such was Douglas Hurd MP, who was fined £2 for this dastardly failure in the 1970s.
Prosecutions of people who fall foul of the administration serve police purposes, since they appear in the statistics as ‘gun crime’ and the ‘increase’ in gun crime is largely driven by the police constantly trawling firearm certificate holder records in search of new cases to add to the statistics.
There was a brief shaft of light in 2010 when the new Prime Minister David Cameron signalled that the war on motorists was over and then a few weeks later when a spree killer shot people in Whitehaven, Cumbria, he said you couldn’t legislate for a switch flicking in someone’s head. That shut the Home Office knee-jerk department off from doing anything, so it was left to the Home Affairs Select Committee to ‘do something’. Which they did: its chairman Keith Vaz had another look at the 10% of firearms owners in the UK who do it on certificates. We reminded him at the time of the common law rights we all enjoy and he ignores and we responded to his report with our book ‘does the trigger pull the finger?’ (2011) in which we dredged up the Home Office’s own 1992 proposal for a national licensing body.
Policing is, of course, too keen on generating ‘gun crime’ statistics to let go of the database in which they find them, so the proposal fell on deaf ears and David Cameron was ‘turned’ by the police wanting a new crackdown on certificate holders in the wake of the Atherton Murders in 2012. He didn’t notice that what the police wanted was a second chance to run over people they’d already failed to find fault with. It started with the coroner who heard the case being told by Durham that there was no training for firearms managers.
So let’s get this right: the people sitting in chief constable’s offices doing a job that chief constables have had responsibility for since 1920 don’t get trained to do the job? And instead of training them to do it, we’re going to screw all the certificate holders around on the off-chance of finding someone with a certificate who shouldn’t have one according to the wet paint on their barn door – the revisions of the Home Office guidance to police that aren’t supported by case law.
Res ipsa loquitur. As if to rub it in, police firearms departments all seemed to recruit retired police officers to senior positions, without training them. So in Warwick Crown Court we heard the manager in Kevin Hunter’s case state that he agreed with everything the police had done in the earlier case in which Mr Hunter lost his certificates: including failing to use first identification procedures and changing the date of the alleged incident to get around Mr Hunter’s alibi without checking the new date with him before springing that one on the court.: as poor a review as those reviews in the Stephen Lawrence case. Mr Hunter won his appeal and bought a rifle on his new certificate. The manager promptly tried to make a crime out of that and when caught out said he’d made a mistake.
In Gwent, the Mark Holmes bundle for his section 44 appeal includes a ‘for and against’ evaluation of his 2016 application that bears no resemblance to the criteria set out in law, decided cases or even Home Office guidance to police: the published version anyway. Another untrained clerk? Or someone with access to restricted documents. Then the Assistant Chief Constable relied on a dodgy dossier for his evidence, including a drink-drive conviction that does not exist.
Devon/Cornwall responded to a prohibited person’s application for relief by fitting him up with a raft of fraud convictions and the name they were in as an alias and when caught out by an irate SRA secretary looking for a perjury prosecution, all objections to the application fell away and the police barrister described the episode as a ‘mistake’.
So there’s a lot of bad feeling on both sides, not made any easier when an untrained firearms manager leads 100 plus police officers to raid a section 5 dealer’s home in the presence of his young children in search of some crime or other and the resulting charge – possession of antiques without a section 5! Er, we don’t know how that one will pan out. Then there’s the protracted police investigation into straight-pull SA80 rifles imported from Canada in the 1990s that police are trying to link to un-numbered parts supposedly stolen from Warminster in the 2000s.
The desperate need for firearms crime statistics to make it look as though the police are doing something about real gun crime continues apace. Elsewhere, the Met have been too busy buying motorbikes, guns and ninja outfits to tackle the problem of knife-wielding sociopaths who also use cars as weapons to get much of a grip on the drugs gangs who actually do commit gun crimes from time to time. Back in the 1970s, armed robberies went through the statistical roof because, according to the late Colin Greenwood, the Met was looking the other way – at motorists. The same thing seems to be happening now, so we can look forward to a new gun and knife crime epidemic in London. And more criticism of policing by the SRA secretary.
Shooters’ Rights Guide to De-acs – It’s all change again
The gun trade have deactivated firearms for just about as long as they have existed. A firearm is a lethal barrelled weapon from which any shot, bullet or missile can be discharged. Deactivation (in Home Office newspeak) means rendering such a firearm incapable of discharging any shot, bullet or missile.
Students of the English language will be familiar with phrases around ‘spiking guns’, which was a simple and effective way of preventing muzzle loaded ordnance being fired – hammering an iron spike into the touch-hole. Another method, used by Santa Anna’s forces after the battle at the Alamo in 1836, was to smash the trunions off the guns. Gun barrels were cast with these protuberances on either side, by which the barrel was fixed to the carriage. In an 18th century English court case; the cocks were chiselled off the locks to make the pistols ‘safe’ for production in court.
Obviously, these methods of deactivation are all reversible. An iron spike can be drilled out and the touchhole bushed: double clamp hoops will replace trunions and new cocks can be made and fitted to locks. It remains thus: anything man makes, someone else can unmake and a third man can remake. Enid Blyton understood this and articulated it in the famous story of Big Ear’s bicycle bell. However, getting the Home Office to understand basic gunsmithing is more of a problem, as we shall see below.
The main reason for deactivating firearms: is alchemical – changing one product into another. Following America’s Civil War (1861-5) there were huge quantities of surplus smallarms at a time when they were not only redundant, but obsolete as well. The mainstay of both armies in that war were muzzle loaded muskets: Britain supplied both sides in the interests of fairness and neutrality. During the war breech loading designs proved themselves and took over afterwards, as the military both shrank and fanned out westwards for the Indian wars.
Scottish entrepreneur Francis Bannerman bought up surplus muskets to recycle the metal barrels. He fitted wooden broomsticks onto what was left and sold the resultant wallhangers as ‘quakers’. The British army took to converting worn out rifles so that they wouldn’t fire for drill practice purposes. Typical 19th century military deactivation amounts to a saw-cut through the breech, the firing pin cut off and the letters ‘DP’ stamped on the knox-form and quite often on both cheeks of the shoulder-stock.
Surplus to government requirements French model 1871 single-shot bolt action rifles were re-barrelled to 12 bore: auctioneers catalogue them as ‘Zulus’. Other – and often cruder – deactivations turn up. We encountered a batch of Martini Metford carbines, which had their cleaning rods hammered into the bores and firing pins shortened.
The political shift in Britain came in 1981 when blank shots were fired near HM the Queen during the trooping of the colours ceremony. The (then) police federation’s spokesman MP (Sir) Eldon Griffiths immediately proposed draconian restrictions on blank firers and the Home Office, as is their want, shelved his proposals (for later use) and handed him what they already had awaiting a ‘suitable legislative opportunity’.
Their problem, in 1981, was Major Noel Corry. A registered firearms dealer in Steeple Bumpstead on the Suffolk/Essex border; he was importing Spanish made flint and percussion rifles and pistols, correct in every detail except the touch-holes were not drilled: so you can work out for yourself that these were ‘readily-convertible’ to live firing with a hand drill and making that modification would be a criminal act unless one obtained a firearm certificate first.
Hence the 1982 Firearms Act: this legislation made possession of a readily convertible firearm an offence the same as if it were already adapted to live firing, but only if the crown could prove that the defendant knew how. In effect, if one tried to make the conversion, successfully or otherwise, that exposed guilty knowledge. The Home Office issued guidance to the gun trade as to how to make imitation firearms that were not readily convertible to live firing, most recently updated in 2011.
Enterprising registered firearms dealers used these guidelines to render live firearms inoperable. That had been going on for some years anyway, hence cases such as R v Jobling and R v Pannell in the 1970s. Robin Pannell was a registered firearms dealer in Devon/Cornwall who pioneered both deactivation and smooth-boring rifled barrels to make shotguns out of redundant military kit.
The smooth-boring of Bren guns etc. generated various court cases, as registered firearms dealers sold them to shot gun certificate holders and the police tried to find ways of preventing lawful trade and possession. In one case it was argued that the Bren gun barrel was less than 24 inches long. It isn’t, of course, it’s 25 inches, but that includes the flash hider and the discredited and now defunct Forensic Science Service argued (unsuccessfully) that it was the length of the bore that defined barrel length. That is true at the rear end, as the Act says to measure from where the charge is exploded on firing, which means the cartridge rim or, in the case of a muzzleloader, the nipple or priming pan touch-hole. That would mean all the metal behind that point – base plug and tang or locking lug – doesn’t count, despite being firmly attached.
In one case, a chap was prosecuted for owning two bored out Lee Enfields on his shot gun certificate. One was .303” smooth for blank firing and the other was in .410” musket. The jury acquitted him of the .410” and convicted him of the .303” in the time-honoured style juries have of trying to give each side something. This fetched up at the Court of Appeal before Lord Lane as Attorney General’s Reference no 3 of 1980 – R v Hucklebridge. That case solved the two problems put to the court by the Attorney General. Lord Lane said that firstly if the barrel was smooth bored and more than 24 inches long, it was a shotgun and secondly he said that all the parts of the gun to which said barrel was affixed were parts of what it is. The AG had suggested that conversion of the barrel only took that component out of section 1, leaving Mr Hucklebridge in possession of a section 1 receiver and bolt.
The shotgun point was largely over-written by the 1988 Act, which took smooth bored Bren Guns back into section 5 (prohibited weapons) controls by stating that conversion did not affect classification. These days you can ‘lift’ a section 2 shotgun into section 1 or 5 by modifications, but can’t take it the other way. The Lee Enfields went back into section 1 by virtue of having detachable magazines, although the Act did permit further modifications to keep them in section 2.
The guidance that accompanied the 1982 Act served the trade to process live weapons into de-acs without spending time in the dock the way Robin Pannell had – and would again in 1983 in a now discredited case in which the above-mentioned Forensic Science Service managed, by expert manipulation, to make a semiautomatic gun fire a burst. Following that case being discredited the FSS cast around for a new one and achieved it with exactly the same manipulation of a MAC 10.
Meanwhile, the Birmingham Proof House inspected firearms thus processed and issued certificates of unprovability stating that the weapon was deactivated and could not be fired. The London Proof House didn’t and two dealers in the MPD fell foul of London’s finest in consequence of not bothering to fag up to Birmingham. Peregrine Arms was prosecuted for transferring revolvers he said he’d deactivated to a person or persons unknown. The other wasn’t prosecuted, but his RFD was withdrawn, as had also happened to Peregrine.
The 1988 Act adopted deactivation as a principle. The Home Office minister at the time said it would enable self-loading rifle owners to keep their rifles, but in practice it opened the armouries to releasing thousands of obsolete military weapons onto the collector market. The Forensic Science Service was always uncomfortable with anyone but them having firearms of any type and seemed to spend most of their time after 1988 searching for ways of prosecuting people for trying to act lawfully. A case at Luton crown court in the late 1990s involved a chap with a de-ac collection. The crown claimed that his MG42 was a section 5 weapon because the barrel wasn’t welded in: his MG34 ditto (both had proof house certificates) and his Bren gun was said to be section 5 because the weld holding the barrel to the receiver had failed. This prosecution ignored the obvious – that they were not lethal barrelled weapons from which any shot, bullet or missile could be discharged. The case left the jury to decide into what category such items belonged.
Reactivation attempts also occurred. The case above came about because the Pre-95 guidelines required MG34 and 42 barrels to be welded in. The proof house would have wanted them in for inspection before the barrels were welded in, so the anomaly that caused this case was a dealer not completing the deactivation after inspection and before marking. Neither side called the proofmaster in to explain why the guns had the deactivation proof mark on them without complying with the guidelines and whether that contradiction invalidated the proof mark, as claimed by the crown.
Nevertheless, the process of reactivation necessitated obtaining (or making from scratch) the essential parts. These are restricted in the UK but easier to obtain elsewhere, so an Irish republican sympathiser reactivated an AK rifle by stripping the deactivated parts off it and rebuilding it using parts sourced from America: then he shot a police officer with it.
The Forensic Science Service came up with new guidelines about how to deactivate firearms in 1995 – this was when submachine guns had to be welded solid and revolvers could no longer chamber dummy cartridges etc. The 1995 guidelines also called for deactivation of magazines, which to this day can still be bought on the open market.
There followed twenty years of dealers and collectors trying to act lawfully and law enforcement trying to prove otherwise: with the odd knee-jerk reaction, such as the ban on air cartridge revolvers in 2003 and then we get to 2015 when the incoming Conservative administration started work on the policing and crime bill. That took two years to grind through Parliament and so far as deactivated firearms are concerned, this is what it says in clause 128:
128. Controls on defectively deactivated weapons
After section 8 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 insert—
“8A Controls on defectively deactivated weapons
(1) It is an offence for a person who owns or claims to own a defectively deactivated weapon—
(a) to make the weapon available for sale or as a gift to another person, or
(b) to sell it or give it (as a gift) to another person.
(2) Subsection (1)(a) does not apply if—
(a) the weapon is made available for sale or as a gift only to a person who is outside the EU (or to persons all of whom are outside the EU), and
(b) it is made so available on the basis that, if a sale or gift were to take place, the weapon would be transferred to a place outside the EU.
(3) Subsection (1)(b) does not apply if—
(a) the weapon is sold or given to a person who is outside the EU (or to persons all of whom are outside the EU), and
(b) in consequence of the sale or gift, it is (or is to be) transferred to a place outside the EU.
(4) For the purpose of this section, something is a “defectively deactivated weapon” if—
(a) it was at any time a firearm,
(b) it has been rendered incapable of discharging any shot, bullet or other missile (and, accordingly, has either ceased to be a firearm or is a firearm only by virtue of the Firearms Act 1982), but
(c) it has not been rendered so incapable in a way that meets the technical specifications for the deactivation of the weapon that apply at the time when the weapon is made available for sale or as a gift or (as the case may be) when it is sold or given as a gift.
(5) The Secretary of State must publish a document setting out the technical specifications that apply for the purposes of subsection (4)(c) (“the technical specifications document”).
(6) The technical specifications document may set out different technical specifications for different kinds of weapon.
(7) The Secretary of State—
(a) may from time to time revise the technical specifications document, and
(b) where it is revised—
(i) must publish the document as revised, and
(ii) specify in it the date on which any changes to the technical specifications that apply for the purposes of subsection (4)(c) take effect.
(8) In the case of a weapon rendered incapable as mentioned in subsection (4)(b) before 8 April 2016, subsection (1)(a) or (b) does not apply if the weapon is made available for sale or as a gift, or (as the case may be) sold or given, by or on behalf of a museum in respect of which a museum firearms licence is in force to another museum in respect of which such a licence is in force.
(9) References in this section to “sale” include exchange or barter (and references to sell are to be construed accordingly).
(10) In this section, “museum firearms licence” means a licence granted under the Schedule to the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988.
(11) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—
(a) on summary conviction—
(i) in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months (or, in relation to offences committed before section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 comes into force, 6 months) or to a fine, or to both;
(ii) in Scotland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both;
(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to a fine, or to both.”
It’s a weird piece of writing directed at screwing law-abiding collectors around. In effect, everything deactivated by whatever system used in the last 500 years is a ‘defective’ de-ac. They aren’t firearms (lethal barrelled weapons from which any shot, bullet or missile can be discharged): in effect, they are out of proof, although many of them weren’t ‘proofed’ as de-acs in the first place.
If you have any de-acs from any period you can keep them as they are. Doing nothing will be no more dangerous than it has been in the past. The forces of law and order don’t respect firearm and shot gun certificates, firearms dealers registrations and deactivation certificates as anything more than loopholes you use to try to possess your property, thus seeking to prevent their restricting the possession of firearms in the UK (now that the Forensic Science Service is gone) to police only.
It’s a weird piece of writing directed at screwing law-abiding collectors around. In effect, everything deactivated by whatever system used in the last 500 years is a ‘defective’ de-ac. They aren’t firearms (lethal barrelled weapons from which any shot, bullet or missile can be discharged): in effect, they are out of proof, although many of them weren’t ‘proofed’ as de-acs in the first place.
If you have any de-acs from any period you can keep them as they are. Doing nothing will be no more dangerous than it has been in the past. The forces of law and order don’t respect firearm and shot gun certificates, firearms dealers registrations and deactivation certificates as anything more than loopholes you use to try to possess your property, thus seeking to prevent their restricting the possession of firearms in the UK (now that the Forensic Science Service is gone) to police only.
- You can advertise pre-2017 de-acs for sale for to sell it to someone outside the European Union to whom said lump of metal could then be exported.
- You can likewise sell them to a UK museum that holds a museum licence. The 2017 Act included a massive hike in museum licence fees to discourage museums from keeping firearms collections in any condition.
- You can give them away to a UK museum or someone who has the benefit of living outside the EU to whom it then has to be exported.
- Outside of these exit-from-ownership strategies, you can’t sell or give them away, so you can’t leave them to anyone in your will. You can take them with you if you decide to live elsewhere, subject to your retirement idyll being outside the EU and accepting of your eccentricities. It’s not an offence to buy them or to receive them as gifts, so unlike air cartridge revolvers, they can pass on by inheritance. Air cartridge revolvers that went onto firearm certificates in 2004 can only be disposed of to the police when the certificate expires or is revoked. They can’t pass on to anyone else.
Clauses 4(c) and 5 imply that you can upgrade your de-ac to the new specification, but doesn’t say how you can transfer it (or who to) for the purposes of getting that work done, or might be authorised to take it and what authority they need to possess it before the work is carried out.
Everywhere else that firearms legislation talks of sales, mention is made of letting on hire or lending. This clause prohibits neither, so theatrical armourers can still hire out ‘defectively’ deactivated firearms and theatrical companies can lend them to the relevant actors.
So one might assume that we can lend our defectively deactivated firearms to a gunsmith to do the additional work on them and presumably there will be a new proof house certificate at exorbitant cost to demonstrate compliance BUT clause 7(a) says that the Home Office can change the spec at any time, thus rendering any work you have done to your property retrospectively obsolete. It could turn into an annual fee paying event to help keep the deactivated gun trade and proof houses in business, which makes it clear that the Home Office is in dire need of a clear-out to make room for officials who respect the public and know something of constitutional law.
It’s worth noting that nothing in the 2017 Act has any impact on blank firing guns, so we think converting pre-1995 de-acs to blank firers might be the best way of maintaining their value and that value can then be realized when you want to sell, as they can be sold. This is especially odd, given that police sources claim the whole of this piece of legislation was because of Grant Wilkinson remanufacturing blank firing MAC 10s to live versions.
It’s a weird state of affairs that causes the Home Office, yet again, to target the law abiding. A thoroughly discreditable performance from thoroughly discredited and out of touch department.
A CASE OF SELF DEFENCE
By Telegraph Reporters 18 SEPTEMBER 2017
A pensioner has admitted shooting dead a burglar he caught breaking into his caravan home in the middle of the night with his illegally-kept double-barrelled shotgun. Reuben Gregory, 72, said he was "the one who did it, mate" when police arrived at the scene of the fatal shooting in woodland near Heathrow airport.
Gregory, initially arrested on suspicion of murder, was later released and told he would not be prosecuted for the death of Wayne Digby, 48, who he caught trying to remove the door from his caravan. Digby was armed with a mallet and a makeshift Molotov cocktail fire bomb. Instead the pensioner was charged with possessing a firearm without a certificate - an offence he admitted in court on Monday.
The offence carries a maximum of five years in prison but magistrates granted Gregory bail while sending him to Crown court for sentencing. They heard that the pensioner and his sister lived in a caravan in woods at Colnbrook, Berks. In the 1980s, Gregory had been the victim of a robbery and tied up.
After that he obtained shotgun and asked police for a certificate for it but officers refused. However, the OAP kept the gun in case he was attacked again.
Police probably refused the certificate on the basis that a caravan is insufficiently secure to store a gun in, thus ignoring the OAP’s common law rights.
The police use of firearms since 1945
By Michael J Waldren
- ISBN-10: 0750946377
- ISBN-13: 978-0750946377
Michael Waldren served in the Met 1967-2000, rising to the rank of Chief Superintendent and head of the Met’s firearms unit. His account of armed policing in London since 1945 is as much a personal memoir as it is a researched study. His earlier book - London's Armed Police (written with Robert Gould) covers the earlier period and is quite fascinating.
In this book he details many of the well-known incidents of the last three decades of the 20th century, in many cases through the eyes of the police officers who were there. He does not shy away from accounting for errors of judgement, such as the shooting of Stephen Waldorf in 1982 or that of "Cherry" Groce in 1985. He manages to shoe-horn in mention of the Hungerford and Dunblane multiple homicides and their legislative consequences, although these did not take place in London and whilst he dwells at some length on the catalytic murders of three London policemen in London in 1966, he does not mention the legislative consequences of that incident.
The theme of the book is the development, and then the professionalization, of the firearms branch (currently CO19) as both an operational policing tool and as a training division. The Metropolitan police led the way in the UK by having some police officers specialized in the use of firearms, rather than training and arming everybody on a just-in-case basis. This system has worked well for London in the context of armed preparedness - protecting high profile people and places - and it also works well when an armed operation is planned for.
It works less well when the need is to react to an incident quickly; all too often, Mike Waldren points out the difficulties created by authorization for the use of firearms being held at a senior (and often inaccessible) level and thus the responsibility of people who aren't on the ground and in many cases probably weren't trained in the fine art of figuring out what needed to be done. A side-bar issue is that unarmed officers still find themselves encountering armed suspects, as they can't plan ahead for such things happening and we all know how the Home Office hate the idea of anyone being armed on the off-chance of being attacked.
This book works very well as a lasting tribute to the men and women who have made their speciality armed policing work in London. The author inadvertently exposes the insularity of police firearms training in the UK - despite the enormous amount of literature devoted to the subject, (not to mention the number of world-class experts they could have consulted) the Met's finest only seem to have read one book - Shooting to Live - and then closed the doors to all outside input.
He also exposes the lies told by politicians after the Hungerford and Dunblane murders. It is very clear from his accounts that ending civilians having ‘licensed’ firearms has had no impact whatever on the armed crime problems that his colleagues still face. One interesting aside: Tony Long was in the Met department Michael Waldren headed, but you wouldn’t know that from this book, as Waldren omits mention of every operation Tony Long opened fire in. Mr Long reciprocates in his book (reviewed elsewhere in this journal) by making no mention of either Michael Waldren or his favourite events. So there’s another story to be told – that of the gaps between these two books, which would probably fill another volume.
By Tony Long
ISBN 9781785034749 (hardback)
ISBN 9781473529861 (e-book)
We bought the e-book to review after catching up with Michael Waldren’s account of the more recent years in the Met with a view to comparing the two. The problem with that approach is that neither author mentions the other and reading the two books in sequence, the authors might as well have been serving in different police forces.
Michael Waldren was old school: he takes some delight of the haphazard way in which his bunch of amateurs gradually professionalized into the firearms tactical unit of Britain’s biggest police force without accepting any outside input. The Sterling incident gets repeated: the Met had a non-functioning Sterling submachine gun which ‘armed’ officers took to the Balcombe Street siege for the press to notice and photograph. Waldren seems pleased to point out errors the press make in writing about the firearms the police use, while having made no attempt to either give out information at the time or to correct errors in press guesswork.
Tony Long also criticizes the press for mistakes and is irritated by the ‘job’ not correcting them. Every profession has that problem: the people senior enough to talk to the press are too senior to know what’s going on. There was much written in newspapers about semiautomatic weapons in police hands, which Tony mentions in the context of his carrying a fully automatic weapon. It actually makes no difference, as police officers rely on the common law right to keep and bear arms for defence rather than any statutory authority when doing their jobs. So anything goes.
Tony joined the Met in 1975 in the middle of their manpower crisis; a teenager joining a police force at 18. Those of you old enough to remember when policemen started looking younger may have experienced the Met’s manpower crisis. In 1975, they had lost the bulk of their 20-30 year olds and were 5,000 under strength during a succession of IRA attacks and the armed robbery boom. Many of those disillusioned people had been recruited, like Tony, as teenagers. In the 1960s, the Met took police cadets in aged 15: a practice that only ended with the school leaving age being put up to 16.
The Sweeney was on television in 1975; so was Dixon of Dock Green. Cinemas showed ‘Dirty Harry’ (1970) ‘Klute’, (1971) ‘The French Connection’ (1972) and ‘Serpico’ (1973), – cool guys in plain clothes with long hair and guns. In the absence of life experience, these were the images in young Mr. Long’s mind as he joined Hendon Police College.
His first post was Lewisham, where he learned the job. He’s written his account as an autobiography, so we get his family background and too much information about his relationships and finances but given later events these private matters were undoubtedly gone through, by the lawyers if not in the courts. His point is that the job of policing is a collective responsibility. The use of firearms is specific to defence of life; the policeman’s or anybody else he has a duty to protect – until he pulls the trigger and then he’s all alone.
In January 1983, three London policemen fired fifteen shots at Stephen Waldorf, a passenger in a yellow mini. The driver’s boyfriend was a dangerous criminal on the run, so she was being watched and Stephen was superficially similar enough to the fugitive David Martin, she hoped, to draw the police away. The officers were closing on her car on foot when Stephen bent forwards to retrieve the splif he’d dropped. One officer opened fire and the others joined in. Fifteen shots were fired because they had a five-shot revolver each. Two of the officers were prosecuted for attempted murder.
At the time we assumed that charge had been chosen because the Crown would be unable to prove it. Proving attempted murder involves establishing malice aforethought and that’s usually done by the fact that ‘you took that revolver, you loaded it and you carried it to the crime scene…’. However, since the revolvers were issued for a common law purpose, that wouldn’t stick. We thought at the time that the correct charge should have been Grievous Bodily Harm without intent, as prosecution is a consequence of making a mistake. This was before Lee Clegg was convicted of murder in 1990, which we still don’t understand. Must have been political.
That’s the case with most crime: someone made a mistake – whether it’s not noticing the traffic light has turned red or panic firing shots through a bathroom door reckless as to the consequences, it’s those consequences that are being exposed to the court in a trial.
Trained men can make mistakes: you won’t get far prosecuting a policeman for kidnapping after an unlawful arrest. He made a mistake and the system compensates you for it. Shooting someone by accident is a mistake, but the recklessness of shooting the wrong person on purpose is a bigger matter. Shooting Stephen Waldorf was a case of mistaken identity, a misreading of his innocent movement and then a chain-fire event, which is what got it into court.
When essentially the same sequence of mistakes occurred and caused the death of Jean Charles De Menezes in 2005, the Met felt sufficiently confident of the outcome of a murder trial to leave the matter alone. The Met’s training moved on from the Fred Carno cobble-ups that Michael Waldren writes about. Professionalism costs and the Met were spending. Tony Long became one of the beneficiaries of the rotation of armed officers through training, being training, going out on the job and back. The facilities improved, training widened. If you trained under Peter Eliot at Delta in the 1980s, you were doing what the Met started doing a decade later. The whole thrust of the Met’s training was to be prepared for that incident, if it happens, when it happens.
Tony Long was involved in several shootings, so he spent long periods out on a limb while other people raked over the events. He recounts these shootings – no return fire in any of them - so you can read the book instead of a spoiler here, but his last shooting is worth mentioning. That was of Azelle Rodney, a few months before the 7/7 bombings in 2005, which were a fortnight before the Menezes shooting. So far as Tony was concerned, a good call. Mr. Rodney had a gun, which didn’t work; but neither he nor Tony Long knew that when the gunfight started.
It’s always difficult for the family of someone killed in such circumstances – doing something that justified the police using lethal force effectively to stop them doing it – to accept the justification. Our firearms consultancy heard about this case twice from parties interested in prosecuting Tony Long for murder in the years that followed, so we have seen some of the documentation and had some opinions before reading his book.
The April 2005 incident starts with the police homing in on the car Azelle Rodney was a passenger in, just after he’s collected the gun that didn’t work. A box-stop using several police vehicles turns into an FBI-style felony car stop, which traps Tony Long in the front passenger seat of the car he’s in because it’s jammed up against the suspect vehicle. That put Azelle Rodney and Tony Long less than six feet apart trying to sort their weapons out and get the fight going. Tony’s position was complicated by having an HK36 – a 5.56mm shoulder weapon – to deploy from the comfort of his passenger seat, which he managed.
He was reacting to Azelle Rodney’s movements in the rear seat of the wreck he was sitting in. They could have been the innocent movements of a passenger who wasn’t wearing his seatbelt reciting “WTF?” to himself as he tries to disentangle himself from the back of the front seats, or it could have been the adrenalin fuelled gun grab as he tried to bring his recently acquired piece into the fray. At that point, Tony Long has to trust his briefing, as the officers who shot Jean Menezes would have to a few months later. Stuck in his car, so close to the suspect who, whatever he was doing he wasn’t surrendering, Tony did not have the option of waiting to see what the guy would do.
Our advice to interested persons was that there was no chance of a prosecution for murder succeeding, but there might be room for a corporate manslaughter case against the Met as an organization. We have no idea whether that might have flown or not, but we were right about the murder charge. Tony was eventually charged, tried and acquitted. That part of his book is the most interesting, as by then he’d left the job, lost his anonymity as the shooter and thus had the additional problem of Azelle’s friends making themselves known to him.
Over a hundred people worked on keeping him safe through the trial, and each received a specially minted medal to commemorate the effort – from Tony himself. The Met had stood back to see if a jury would convict Tony for their mistakes. And they didn’t.
He’s not the best writer you’ll read, but he does have a compelling story to tell and as we consider policing in this issue, it fits in nicely with the rest of your homework.
GUNS BULLETS and GUNFIGHTS
Lessons and tales from a modern day gunfighter.
By Jim Cirillo (1931-2007)
We downloaded the free kindle edition for this review
Jim joined the New York City Police Department in the 1950s and by the late 60s was a firearms instructor. Then cutbacks made his post redundant and he was asked to join a new ‘stakeout squad’ being formed to do something about the high incidence of robbery/murder in New York at the time. He said no, but his partner talked him into it by saying it would be easy. And so it was for the first two hours of the first shift: then a robbery went down and when the dust settled Jim was left wondering who’d been firing his revolver, as he did not feel in control of the event. One robber died at the scene and the other two were arrested in a hospital emergency room.
Jim writes as though he has a lot to say and not much time to say it in. Aside from being a policeman Jim was also a keen handgun hunter, so he had experience of making his own ammunition for specific tasks, the reality of ballistics and the practicalities of what can be carried discreetly. The book is a series of explanations of each of his points, delivered in much the style we imagine he taught students; so the first bit is about firearms safety, gunproofing your family and much else that he knows about not wasting ammunition.
Then he moves on to what he did with revolvers – with a lot of name dropping: he liked Dan Wesson barrels, but stick it on a Smith and Wesson frame, add a Bo-Mar rib and watch your target scores climb – and your trousers sag if you try carrying that hunk on duty!
He gets stuck straight in with an explanation of his search for suitable street ammunition. His problem on the Stakeout Squad was that bad guys duck for cover in a gunfight, same as everybody else, and that leaves their head as the only target. Low velocity bullets can bounce off skulls, or penetrate the scalp, then slide around the skull to exit opposite their entry. Hollow point ammunition can fail to expand if the hollow gets stuffed with clothing fibres on the way in and when it does expand it mushrooms into a larger calibre ball round that parts tissue rather than tearing a hole in it.
He wanted something akin to an apple corer and where he gets to in the book is one called a pin grabber – shooting bowling pins is a similar problem to shooting heads – they are round and bullets slide off them. Not so these pin grabbers; designed with what looks like a serrated leading edge. Anything other than ball is a potential problem in semiautomatic pistols and he deals with that issue before moving on to the selection criteria for gunfighters (cribbed elsewhere in this issue) and a lot of detail from his training courses.
If you did Massad Ayoob’s ‘Stressfire’ courses when they were available in the UK, you’ll notice many similarities. Mass told an anecdote about meeting Jim Cirillo for the first time in the 1970s after he succeeded to Jan Stevenson’s chair as guns editor of Police Magazine. Mass was by then developing the theories that would become his ‘stressfire’ programme and when he met Jim, he asked about aural exclusion and tunnel vision. These are experienced under pressure; you tend to see only the threat to the exclusion of all else and won’t hear your partner’s shouted warnings because he’s outside the orbit of your tunnel vision.
Mass wondered if Jim had seen any evidence of the bad guys having those experiences during the adrenalin dump that likely occurs during the robbery: such as, do they hear your shouted warnings and do they react to them? Jim said they might not hear shouted warnings due to the noise of the gunfire, at which point the chief told Mass not to dare publishing that remark.
He didn’t, but Jim does – in this book; in the context of his first gunfight. The robbers appeared, so Jim does likewise and they couldn’t have been suffering aural exclusion at that point because the groin guard fell off Jim’s body armour and all guns turned in the direction of the clunk. That’s when he felt his revolver jerking in his hand and was still wondering who was firing it when the gunfight ended.
It’s one of those books that finds its way onto the shelves of those interested in firearms matters. Looking along the shelf, Americans have held centre-stage for the last hundred years – Ed McGivern, Julian Hatcher, Jeff Cooper, Massad Ayoob – to name but a few, but Jim can step up to that plate and stand tall with the rest.
THE HISTORY LESSON
Governments have from time to time sought to regulate the ownership of weapons, usually when concerns about their future safety, or that of their cronies weigh on their minds. It was an attempt to disarm colonial militia in 1775 America that sparked the ‘shot heard round the world’ and set Americans on the path of distrusting their government anytime it wanted to be better armed than the man in the pub.
In modern Britain, we trace the genesis of firearms controls to the Gun Licensing Act 1870. A ten-shilling licence bought at the Post Office. It doesn’t sound like much, but none of Jack the Ripper’s victims could have raised 120 pennies to buy one, much less the cost of a gun. Any of the police constables searching for the Ripper would likewise have had difficulties funding a personal sidearm and licence.
In 1903, the Pistols Act required a handgun owner to obtain a licence to take his pistol (if the barrel was less than 9 inches long) beyond the limits of his private property – unless he already had a gun or game licence. This Act generated a case in the High Court in which a policeman (Bryson) took Gamages (department store) to court in 1907 for selling air pistols with barrels less than 9 inches long to buyers who didn’t have pistol licenses. The High Court decided that it was a matter for the magistrates to decide between whether the air pistols were toys that didn’t require the buyer to have a pistol licence or weapons whereupon the buyer would need one.
After that, handguns came to prominence in criminal hands twice (in 1909 and 10) when Winston Churchill was at the Home Office and one of his mandarins was Sir Ernley Blackwell. The first incident was the ‘Tottenham Outrage’ in which a bunch of eastern European types tried knocking off a payroll in Tottenham. The plan misfired and they fled empty handed in a hijacked tram. The loot was half-inched by a person or persons unknown in all the excitement: that excitement was the police borrowing handguns from passers by, hijacking a second tram and pursuing the robbers to Chingford, where, surrounded, they committed suicide. Over a thousand shots were fired in this incident, causing one fatality to a bystander.
The following year another bunch of eastern European anarchists tangled with the Met and were traced to and besieged in Sydney Street in East London. The anarchists had automatic pistols. The police battled them with borrowed shotguns: the army turned up with everything they had handy that killed and the Home Secretary Winston Churchill joining in to the extent that a bullet passed through his top hat. The anarchists are thought to have died in the besieged house when it caught fire.
Sir Ernley Blackwell was a passive reader of reports on these matters, which in his ivory tower probably sounded worse than things were. He makes an appearance in history in the case of Roger Casement, an Irish patriot whose character was blackened by leaks alleged to be from his diaries in the run up to his trial and execution. Blackwell is reputedly either the leak or the leak and author of the pages. Casement was executed a few months after the Irish Easter uprising in 1916.
Following that episode, Blackwell was commissioned to form a committee to consider the problem of what would happen to all the Great War’s weapons once the conflict ended. At this time, the British government was giving away captured German rifles, machine guns and artillery as inducements to buy war bonds. Their concern was bankrupt governments selling off surplus weaponry after the war and that firepower getting to hotspots like Afghanistan.
Blackwell couldn’t even begin to consider how to solve that problem and being a Home Office man he looked to domestic matters and came up with the firearm certificate system we still enjoy today. He couldn’t stop the French selling captured German rifles to Afghanistan, but he could put a stop to British patriots getting trophies of war.
His unpublished report is available in the Public Records Office and after a lot of badgering a copy is said to have been placed in the House of Commons library. The 1920 Firearms Act arising from it was presented to Parliament as a crime control measure – after all there’d been four armed robberies a year on average in London during the war – and something had to be done. Lloyd George’s actual position was that he wanted to restrict the possession of firearms to ‘friends of the government’. In 1919, when this was the hot topic, he’d ridden out the Irish rebellion and several military mutinies. He’d seen Russia knocked out of the war against Germany by a revolution and then engulfed in civil war. Russia was one of four empires that collapsed under the weight of the Great War, rendering some 27 royal families stateless. He didn’t want it happening in Britain.
And it didn’t. Britain was tired of war and wanted the land fit for heroes to become the reality. The Irish wanted the Free State they fought Britain (and each other) for until they got all but six counties in the north in 1922. Lloyd George made various attempts to recapture the Britain of 1914 in legislation – pre-war practices acts to turf women out of jobs to make room for returning servicemen and such, but he failed to put his finger on the pulse and eventually fell at the ballot box to a Labour government.
At local level, the 150 or so chief constables in the UK took pride in their ‘independence’ and promptly started using the new legislation to find ways of preventing applicants getting certificates. Appeals went to the magistrates, in what were known as police courts, so their impartiality was suspect. It got rather class biased. One’s standing in the community in the magistrates’ eyes counted for more than police opinions about an applicant’s good reason and so forth. The one case from this period that went to the Court of Appeal had noting to do with the ‘licensing’ system as such. Cafferata v Wilson ( 3 All ER 149.
) came about because Cafferata was selling dummy revolvers with the instructions as to how to convert them to fire live ammunition. His defence on appeal was that he hadn’t sold any live firearms, but the court got him on incitement to commit the crime.
Parliament reviewed the 1920s in the Bodkin Committee and amended the Firearms Act in 1937. Appeals would henceforth go to the Quarter Sessions and be heard by a judge. They also abolished Grand Juries around that time too, and didn’t replace them with anything. The 1937 Act pretty much stood the test of time thereafter. The requirement to have a certificate was only for sporting purposes and target shooting, so it had no impact on the millions of firearms possessed by the public as trophies of war, or for common law defence.
When war was declared in 1939, men in Essex formed a militia known as the Legion of Frontiersmen and the chief constable armed all his men. The concept of every adult male being duty-bound to turn out as militia when called upon dates back to King Alfred the Great’s time and was considered by the Supreme Court of the United States in their 2008 case Heller v District of Columbia. This concerned the second amendment to the US constitution in 1791, and the question was whether the right to keep and bear arms was an individual right or a collective one. The court decided that it was an individual right, as all through British history, the militia had armed themselves and trained on their own time to be ready for the callout.
It was compulsory to practice archery on the village green on Sundays: a law that was only repealed within living memory of most readers. In 1859, the threat of war against France led to a groundswell of preparedness. Men (mostly the new middle class) bought rifles and formed volunteer rifle regiments. Collectively, these regiments formed the National Rifle Association in 1860 and were superseded by the formation of the Territorial Army in 1908. The need for these new volunteer regiments in the 20th century was German expansion and the difference was that the government supplied the uniforms and weapons. The TA recruited from the working classes who couldn’t afford to arm themselves. That made them an extension of the military, as they were also paid a retainer and then regular wages when called out in 1914.
WW2 had numerous impacts on British society and the firearms subculture. Every British officer got a revolver with his commission. There were courses available both in the army and at shooting clubs, but these weren’t compulsory and that, we suspect, meant that a lot of people never bothered with a course. We got used to pristine revolvers turning up in the box of issue with a modest quantity of 1939-dated ammunition in the 80s and 90s: usually as deceased persons’ effects. The 1988 firearms amnesty made people aware and they trickled in thereafter. We remember one lady who turned up with a Smith and Wesson Victory model, a C96 Mauser Broomhandle, a Colt M1911A1 and a Luger; all said to be her late husband’s winnings in a poker game in Berlin in 1945.
One SRA member showed his Mum his shiny new Colt Series 80 and was taken aback when she said she had one just like it. What she had was a GI M1911A1, left with her by a boyfriend in 1944 who didn’t come back for it or her. By the late eighties, these were worth finding and filtering into the trade, although sadly, all that history and provenance would have been destroyed post Dunblane.
The first post-war case in the appeal courts was in 1947 and related to a flare pistol that had been converted to fire shotgun cartridges. The problem with court cases is that the exhibits are imperfectly described. The 1937 Firearms Act exempts signalling apparatus from the controls by all the users, but expects someone – such as the company secretary of the shipping line – to have had a firearm certificate to acquire the kit, for which no fee was payable. The upshot of this case was that company secretaries and such would have to pay the 5/- fee thereafter and everyone using them in the chain within UK jurisdiction needed one as well. I can just picture that; adrift in the lifeboat after the ship has gone down and can’t signal for help because the flare pistol is locked away somewhere.
Read v Donovan by name; we don’t know which is the owner and which the policeman. We have tested a WW1 German flare pistol permanently converted to fire 12 bore shells – not very accurately – and we’ve also had adapters that would enable a flare gun chambered for British flares to fire shotshells. We had one in .410 and one in 12 bore. The manufacturer cracked the frame of his Webley with the fourth shot of 12 bore, so we didn’t test that one, except with 12 bore flares, with which it worked well. The crack is at that weak point where the frame is drilled through for the trigger pivot pin. The .410” worked nicely, with limited tests. It was easier in those days: if one wanted a .410” pistol, just get the Thompson Center .45 long Colt barrel, which came free-bored for .410” musket and had a screw-in widget in the muzzle to stop the wad rotating as it exited. Not available in California, as it would count as a sawn-off shotgun and not available in the UK since 1997 being a prohibited small firearm having a barrel of less than 30 centimetres and/or an overall length of less than 60 centimetres.
Anyway, the point is that we don’t know whether the Read v Donovan gun was permanently adapted for shotshells or just had a temporary insert. The 1937 Act extended section 1 controls to shotguns and shot pistols with barrels less than 20 inches long and flare pistols have barrels less than 20 inches long: so they are all section 1 now and probably regardless of age.
Post 1947, the Court of Appeal heard its first firearm certificate appeal in 1949. Greenly v Lawrence (1949 1 All ER241) decided that personal defence was a good reason for keeping a revolver. Then in the 1952 (2 All ER 70) case of Watson v Freeman a firearm certificate holder was dragged through the courts for attaching a telescopic sight to his rifle without the chief constable giving him a variation to do so. The court decided he didn’t need a variation for an accessory. And that was it until Gooderham v Moore (1960 3 All ER 575). This was essentially a re-tread of the 1907 Gamages case, as the issue again was ‘toy’ versus ‘weapon’. The 1937 Firearms Act exempted air weapons from the controls, except for those declared especially dangerous by the Secretary of State.
We don’t know whether any air weapons had been declared especially dangerous by then, nor what break point was in operation, if any. The 1969 rules, which followed this court case by a decade, set the familiar limits of 6 foot pounds for a pistol and 12 foot pounds for a rifle: without defining the difference twixt the two and are regarded as an import control to keep better German air guns out of the UK to give British manufacturers some traction in their home market. That didn’t work, as BSA went to way of MFI and Woolworths in 1971.
The issue in Gooderham v Moore is the same as Gamages – the lower break point: i.e. is there a minimum striking energy below which a pneumatic projectile launcher is just a toy? The reason for the case was that the shopkeeper had sold an air gun to a youth. The transaction would be legal if it were a toy, but not if it were a weapon. If a weapon, the lower age limit for purchasing kicks in, as does the requirement to hold a gun or game licence. The air gun itself would still be exempted from firearm certificate controls unless of an ‘especially dangerous’ type.
In this instance, the court decided that if it could cause more than a trifling injury, it should be classed as a firearm: i.e. as a ‘lethal barrelled weapon’. The American definition of lethal was around 60 foot-pounds, but the UK courts were thinking much lower. This subject rattled around until this decade when the 3-foot pound limit that had been in use melted away in favour of a 1-joule (0.7 foot pound) limit enshrined in Scottish air gun legislation. Paintball and air soft products may have higher energies, but are exempted from the controls.
Harold Wilson (Labour) won a general election in 1964 and set about (with his majority of three) sweeping away 13 years of Tory misrule. There was a private member’s firearms act in 1965, which extended the prohibited persons controls and extended the minimum length of a shotgun barrel from 20 inches to 24. The Local Government Act 1966 repealed the Gun Licensing Act 1870, thus saving all those who’d previously bothered paying the tax the trouble. Then a few months later, three Met officers were shot in Shepherd’s Bush and the hunt was on for something to head off calls for the restoration of the death penalty for the culprits.
Hanging had been going out of fashion post-war. The exception to the rule was Ruth Ellis, who hanged in 1956. Two men hanged in 1964 for murder in the course of a robbery and in 1966 several people became famous for being eligible for the drop and not getting it: the Kray twins, the moors murderers and the Shepherd’s Bush killers.
The Home Office had toyed with shot gun certificates to replace the gun licence and had decided not to bother: so when they had to ‘do something’ the plan was still at the top of the litter bin and easy to put into the Criminal Justice Bill 1967. Once enacted, the 1968 Firearms Act of consolidation brought together those provisions with the 1937 Act and some other stuff. The ‘other stuff’ shoe-horned into the Firearms Act 1968 was crimes that could be committed with a firearm, such as ‘possession in a public place without lawful authority or a reasonable excuse’ and possession with intent to endanger life’ etc.
Safe in an ivory tower somewhere, the chief inspector of constabularies was shocked when 600,000 people applied for the new shot gun certificates in 1968. He had no idea that so many people had guns and formed a committee to do something about it. The McKay report got to the Home Office in 1972 and some of it appeared as a green paper (Cmnd5297) in 1973. Parliament rejected it, but one provision stuck administratively: the control of issuing section 5 prohibited weapons authorities passed from the Defence Council (who knew about machine guns) to the Home Office (who didn’t.)
The Home Office issued a memorandum of guidance to chief police officers in 1969 in hope of getting some consistency from them. The Police Act 1964 had thinned them out somewhat by amalgamating forces, but the many and varied pitfalls to getting a firearm certificate were a postcode lottery despite postcodes not being invented until 1970. A 1966 case – Joy v chief constable of Dumfries and Galloway – had made a number of relevant observations that are still (in part) mentioned in Home office guidance. Major Joy had a war surplus M1 carbine with which to harvest deer in his garden until the police put a stop to that. To get his rifle back, he applied for the certificate he had not got and the police said no, so he appealed. The sheriff substitute said that his needing a certificate (to get his rifle back) was not a ground for refusing him. He dismissed the police claim that the rifle could be converted to full auto – as that’s true of all semiautomatic designs – and said that the police should consider all applications from the point of view of the applicant and not from that of a possible objector. In 1971, the government of the day (now a Conservative one led by Sir Edward Heath) abolished the Quarter Sessions: the courts to which firearm certificate appeals had been referred since 1937.
The legislation split the functions of the Quarter Sessions into the Crown and County courts – civil and criminal – except that the criminal side got civil firearms appeals. Minor amendments to schedule 5 of the 1968 Firearms reflected the fact that the Quarter Sessions had heard firearms appeals using loose (or tribunal) rules of evidence. You can see the Courts Act 1971 amendments by looking at the 1968 Firearms Act on line. The bits taken out relate to three days notice before abandonment and costs. These are still in the schedule relating to applications under section 21, which are heard under strict rules of evidence. This amendment passed all the practitioners by unnoticed, because they all worked from printed papers.
The Firearms Act was printed in 1968; the memorandum in 1969 and the paper editions were not amended. In 1981, Clarke and Ellis published their excellent ‘the law relating to firearms’ and, probably working from the above-mentioned papers, completely ignored the amendment, so appeals throughout the 1970s and on until after the millennium were subject to costs debates as though the law had not changed. Home Office guidance to police cites two cases from 2003 – Oldring v Chief Constable of Hampshire, which says that costs should not be awarded against the police unless they have been ‘Wednesbury unreasonable’ in their decision. The other, R (on the application of Chief Constable of Sussex) v Chichester Crown Court, says that if the chief constable’s decision to revoke was reasonable, but wrong, there is no injustice to an Appellant who does not recover his costs.
The case Kavanagh v chief constable of Devon and Cornwall (1974) came about because of the loose rules of evidence issue. It seems that the new-ish Crown Court had adopted strict rules of evidence which denied the chief constable the opportunity to tell the court that he knew Kavanagh had some shotguns somewhere and that he wouldn’t issue the RFD and shot gun certificate to allow him to keep them legally. That means he either hadn’t read ‘Joy’ (1966) or had chosen to ignore it. The court took the opportunity to set out that appeals should be heard under loose tribunal rules and didn’t deal with costs, as nobody raised the subject. It might have gone better for Kavanagh is (a) his lawyers had read ‘Joy’ and (b) he’d handed in his working prototypes while waiting for the certificates.
The real change came following the Home Office taking on section 5 authorities in 1973. It was a seismic event, as to that point the Defence Council had issued them as required. The Home Office promptly stopped issuing to collectors, clubs and most owners except the trade. The new definition of section 5 meant that you had to ‘need’ one to get it and the definition of need was (a) trade and (b) firm export orders awaiting.
That was calculated to put a stop to what the trade was doing in the 1970s, which included smoothboring rifles out to shotgun calibres, deactivation and reassembly of machine guns with semiautomatic trigger groups. Smoothbored rifles went out on shot gun certificates, de-acs went out without documentation and semiautomatic Sten guns etc. went out as 9mm carbines. And everyone was happy, so the Home Office, egged on by the (rejected by Parliament) McKay report, had to put a stop to it.
The facts speak for themselves: a sudden deluge of section 5 cases before the courts. One has to wonder why, since the point of section 5 is that it’s none of the police’s business. Yet they went out of their way to make it their business. When the Defence Council ruled, machine gun bits were just that and they were sculling about all over the trade. But in Home Office newspeak they became machine guns themselves, so one prosecution followed another as the police tried to separate the gun trade from military weapons by criminalising the dealers. And not just dealers: Home Office statistics for ‘gun crime’ are significantly padded by ‘gun crimes’ such as not renewing a shot gun certificate on time, failing to notify the chief constable of the acquisition of a firearm, breach of certificate condition etc. The trade’s contributions to gun crime statistics include register errors and other paperwork defects.
Rudi Fortson QC wrote a paper in 2015 for the Law Commission, which touches on many of the landmark firearms cases and is interesting for those he does not mention. After the McKay report in 1972 and the 1973 Home Office takeover of section 5, we get numerous prosecutions of members of the gun trade:
- Staravia Ltd v Gordon
- R v Pannell
- R v Jobling
- R v Clarke (Fred) – Empire Arms
- R v Law
To name but a few and still it goes on: at the time of writing a section 5 dealer is awaiting a crown court date on charges of possessing prohibited small firearms without the authority of the secretary of state – which he has held for ten years, and the two exhibits are both in antique calibres on the Home Office 1992 list. Another dealer is awaiting trial on charges of theft from the army as the police suspect that rifles he imported in 1998 contain parts stolen from Warminster in 2004. You couldn’t make it up.
A subject SRA Chairman and Handgunner Magazine editor kept an eye on: he having served as a police officer in his native Alabama in the 1960s and as a Pinkerton detective before coming to Europe in 1974, giving up his part time job as guns editor of police magazine (a chair to which his successor was Massad F Ayoob). Five years at Brasenose College Oxford working on a PhD in French political history preceded a year at The Imperial War Museum and then the launch of Handgunner Magazine in 1980.
When compiling his fourth anniversary issue in August 1984, a Glock pistol landed on his desk. Since that has become so widely used in policing since, we thought it interesting to reproduce Jan’s article about the new pistol, and here it is:
The Glock 17, by Jan A Stevenson
It takes years to build a pistol – to get the design thought through and the prototype built, to get it all de-bugged, to tool up etc. Normally, we known about them a decade before they get here. Not the Glock. It showed up without preliminary fanfare. If you had asked us last week what a Glock was, “9mm pistol” would not have been the response leaping to mind. Maybe we were looking the wrong way. We have since heard that the gun was designed by a committee of Austrian ordnance officers, but never believe such things.
Our friend René Smeets, editor of the Belgian gun magazine AMI, tells us that he met a chap calling himself Mr. Glock in a parking lot in Germany in 1982, and that the fellow had a pistol similar to this one, which he claimed to have invented. Rather more the ring of authenticity in that account. After all, it would be strange circumstances indeed if you should introduce yourself to people as Mr. Glock, if that is not your name. And stranger still should a committee design an excellent new weapon and then decide to call it a Glock!
Whenever it came, the Glock has evidently made a splash in its country of origin. We are led to believe that it has been adopted as standard by the Austrian army and that they have placed an order for 25,000 of them. There are said to be three guns in the UK at the moment, doing the round of police, security and military units, and these are certainly attracting a lot of notice. Ours is serial no. 027 and we were next in the queue after D11for it.
Recent reviews in the Continental press have hailed the Glock as revolutionary, as a wholly new design. Truly, men have short memories. For the Glock, in design and construction, is very traditional and very Austrian. The construction makes extensive use of plastics – polypropylene injection mouldings – a field in which the Austrians became world leaders with their Steyr AUG service rifle, while the design hearkens back to the Roth-Steyr pistol of 1907 as regards the firing mechanism, and to Browning designs of ultimately similar vintage for its locking system.
The pity is that we had to wait three quarters of a century for someone with the perspicacity to recognize in the Roth-Steyr a system worthy of resurrection. Granted, it did not seem to gather much of a following on original release, and was only fleetingly in first line service. Adopted in 1907, it was superseded in 1911 by another, and significantly different, gun by the same designed, Karel Krnka.
The latter pistol, generally known as the Steyr-Hahn (Steyr with hammer) retained the 1907 pistol’s rotating barrel lockup and non-detachable magazine loaded by stripper clips. Three aspects of the Roth-Steyr had evidently failed to please. In the first place, its 8mm cartridge was underpowered; in the second place, it was excessively expensive to manufacture; finally its half-double-action firing system, although excellent for cavalrymen, lent itself badly to dismounted practice according to the stylised, one handed, bent-armed target shooting techniques of the time. As far as that goes, it would be a pretty poor performer on UIT courses today. But it would be quite at home in Practical, Service Pistol, or any combat oriented discipline. And the trigger mech is precisely the aspect of the Roth-Steyr that Glock has borrowed, redesigned and significantly improved.
The Model 17, as the Glock is styled, is an intriguing blend of old and new, conventional and radical. The receiver, for example, is a structural polymer moulding while the upper structure is all laboriously hogged out of solid steel billets. The gun looks topside like the SIG P220, and we assumed that the slide would be a horseshoe blanking with a separately machined breech-block keyed in. None of it: the slide is machined from bar stock in the best traditions of 19th century gunmaking. Aside the striker firing system itself, the only surprises topside are that the sights and the recoil spring guide rod are plastic, and that the barrel, and slide assembly are retained on the frame by a blanked plate which is tensioned upward in a transverse slot by a flat spring in the floor of the frame.
The barrel looks borrowed from SIG-Sauer. The machining pattern at the breech is similar, as is the lockup. Both the Glock and the P220 series cam lock a ledge ahead of the chamber against the front edge of the ejection port, a thoroughly sensible arrangement borrowed from the French MAS 1935S service pistol. The only notable difference resides in the fact that the P220 locks up with the breech elevated, dropping to horizontal to unlock, while the Glock, like most Colts and Brownings, locks up in horizontal and drops below horizontal to unlock. There are advantages either way.
The receiver, if not necessarily more interesting, is certainly more radical, and represents the most advanced use of polymers in handguns to date. This distinction previously belonged to the Heckler and Koch P9S, the received of which consisted of a sandwich affair of spot-welded and seam welded blankings contained in a plastic envelope, which formed the grip and trigger guard. Four impact-formed lugs on the inner slide walls engaged full-length steel railing at the top of the receiver. The plastic shell then, although it permitted a skeletal and comparatively flimsy steel inner receiver to be used with entire success, did not itself take heavy structural loading. Recoil impart, particularly, was taken by a buffer mounted on the steel inner frame.
The Glock still uses steel where it needs to – mostly at high friction-wear points – but the frame itself takes all the recoil impact and is fully structural. The slide is machined with full-length railing, which engages four hardened steel “wings.” These engagement points are in fact the feet of two U-shaped blankings that are moulded into the receiver front and back. As far as slide-frame engagement goes, the Glock is the P9S turned upside down. We understand that the engagement points in the frame are hardened to Rockwell C58 (about ten points above “file hard”) and that extended firing tests have revealed no perceptible wear.
Another high tech component is the magazine, made of opaque plastic with seventeen view ports down the back edge, each ne numbered. The only metal components are the spring and the feed lips – a thin, hardened steel insert at the top of the mag. The plastic was coming away from the top of the right feed lip on one of our mags., indicating that the stuff is not everything you might wish. But this seemed to have no effect whatever on functioning, which was uniformly flawless as far as feeding went.
The mag release is a square-section Browning-type lateral pushbutton, entirely of plastic, tensioned by a rather long, flat spring mounted in a recess in the front of the magazine well. The trigger is likewise plastic, while the trigger bar, disconnector (re-connector, actually) slide latch and related bits are all light gauge blankings.
As far as the use of plastic goes, the only real question is whether Mr. Glock has ventured too far ahead of the supporting technology. It is a question of durability which only extended Infantry Board testing will answer. The Glock has been through all this in Austria and has, according to self-serving scuttlebutt, come through magnificently. On the other hand, the Austrians have been using Walther P1’s (Aluminium-framed post-war variant of the P38) for the past thirty years or so, and practically anything would have been an improvement.
It’s not really surprising that an octogenarian and largely forgotten trigger mechanism should be hailed as the Glock’s most radical and innovative feature. There had not, after all, been much of a throng of us soldiering along across the decades, persuaded that Krnka had it right in 1907. But I predict that our numbers will swell vertiginously. For “half-double-action” has a lot going for it. The term wants defining.
For those who came in a bit late, “single action” refers to a pistol or revolver fired by a light pressure on the trigger, which releases the hammer to fly forward and strike the base of the cartridge. Pressure on the trigger performs the dingle action function, or “action”, of releasing the hammer, which will have previously been drawn to full cock by the thumb.
A “double action” weapon is fired by a long, sweeping pull on the trigger which both rocks the hammer back against the mainspring and trips it to fly forward.
Most modern revolvers, and many pistols, are described as “selective double action.” They may either be thumb cocked and fired by a light trigger pressure, or be fired by a long, or be fired by a long, sweeping pull on the trigger, as the shooter prefers. A few like the No.2 Mk.1* Enfield are d.a. only and cannot be manually cocked.
The “half d.a.” system of the Glock and the Roth-Steyr is decidedly rarer. Both guns are striker rather than hammer fired. As the slide goes forward to battery, the sear face of the trigger bar engages the striker and holds it against mounting mainspring tension. Thus when the slide is fully forward, the striker is already “precocked” for about half its total travel. Pressure on the trigger carries it back the rest of the way (about 3/16”) and releases it.
This, in fact, works rather better than it sounds, for Glock has managed to design the weight of pull down to a surprisingly low level. Total trigger travel is about 7/16”, and consists of a first stage of 5/16” against a resistance of only about 1½ lb. until a pressure wall is reached. The second stage requires five pounds of pressure over a spongy eighth inch. Total striker throw is 7/16” with ¼” already taken up on precocking. Travel ratio is therefore rather better than two to one: 7/16” of trigger travel for 3/16” of striker travel. Weight of pull ratio is better still – much better, as we shall see.
The final let-off weight of five pounds, as the sear releases the striker to fly forward, corresponds to the weight of the striker spring, but is probably governed mostly by the angles of the opposing disconnection cams and sear faces, and ought to be adjustable over a wide margin. The important figure is that for the first stage – a mere 1½lb. against five pounds of resistance from the striker spring. Part of this is of course achieved by geometry – the trigger functions as a lever – but a lot of it is due to the fact that the trigger bar is strongly rearward loaded by an expansion spring at the back of the frame which exerts a 2½lb. pull, thus cancelling half the pressure of the striker spring.
This might be easier to visualize when you recall that most guns have a trigger return spring which has to be compressed as you pull the trigger. That is in addition to whatever pressure is needed to release the hammer or to rock it back against the mainspring. And in many guns, the easiest way to lighten the trigger pull is to reduce the return spring.
The Glock is the other way round. The trigger spring does not return the trigger, it helps pull it! The trigger only returns forward when the striker abuts it as the slide goes forward, and the stronger striker spring overcomes the trigger spring. The first stage of trigger pull is, in effect, spring assisted. And in practice, one sweeps through the first stage without noticing it, exactly as on a two-stage rifle trigger. The critical second stage, which is not assisted, is a mushy five pounds with a slight backlash. We don’t mind the mush, but do mind the backlash. There is also a springiness to the final let-off that we do not much care for. In practice, the Glock’s trigger is quite easy to use, and altogether tolerable. But it is not as good as it could be, and it takes a lot of digital discipline to avoid muzzle dip from backlash. We could well do with a 3½ lb. second stage, and zero over-travel. There seems no good reason we should not have it.
That gets us to the gun’s handling qualities, which are distinctive. When you pick up the Glock, you have essentially a fistful of fresh air with a great bar of steel above it. The receiver weighs almost nothing (5½oz.) except for the cartridges in the handle. The slide assembly, on the other hand, is robust to a fault. The sidewalls are .21” thick at the ejector port, and the slide weighs 13oz. as opposed to 10½oz. for the Browning Hi-Power. The result is that the gun feels top-heavy until one gets used to it. It also torques excessively on recoil, with a rather exuberant muzzle flip that makes fast, aimed follow-up shots more difficult than with an all-steel gun.
Practice and concentration soon adapt one to the Glock’s balance and recoil characteristics, and if these are vices, they must be set against the gun’s very light overall weight 23oz. empty, 30.4oz. loaded). One eventually forgets one is wearing a gun, even quite a substantial one, if it is properly holstered; one forgets the Glock in about fifteen seconds. Any carry gun is a compromise between power and convenience, and on that reckoning, the 18-shot Glock is a formidable weapon indeed. Except for the ultra-concealment situations, it poses the question, “why compromise?” If you accept the Parabellum as an adequate cartridge, you’ll not find a pistol of greater capacity, nor one more comfortable to carry. The Glock has enough weight out in front to make it easy to point, yet it seems to evaporate on the belt.
9mm pistols are not notably what the world is short of; few would complain of a paucity of choice. Indeed, so many new models have been introduced over the past half-dozen years that we have not been able to keep track of them. What possessed Glock to add to the surfeit; why did he feel his gun would be competitive? Not simply because it is half plastic, that’s for sure.
Glock was clearly intending to produce a gun that would catch the crest of the wave of fashion, that would parachute to the head of the queue, that would impress every bureaucrat with sidearms to purchase, as just what he ought to buy.
Fashion plays probably as great a role in firearms selection as it does in hair style, certainly as far as administrative sidearms are concerned. The received wisdom in this area were the criteria of the Joint Services Small Arms test board in the U.S. service pistol trial, and the Pflichtenheft requirements for German police pistol selection (see Handgunner No. 23 p7 and this issue). Glock had obviously studied both documents with care; his pistol give the bureaucrats not only what they asked for, but what they would have wanted had only they been able to visualize it. He assimilated their train of thought and carried it a step further, to its logical conclusion.
Of course, one can produce some grotesque constructions that way. Our friend Peter Anderson tells us that in order to guard against this, Glock consulted, throughout the design process and the prototype series, several Austrian military officers and Practical Pistol competitors whose task it was to ensure that the final product was a functional and efficient piece of kit. It is thanks to their participation, Anderson tells us, that the gun has a properly positioned pushbutton mag. Release, funnelled mag. Well and plenty of access, via half-moon “pinch” cuts, to the base of a stuck mag.
Actually, we should have thought that the age of plastic could have given us a mag. Button that was slightly easier to reach, and we should have preferred a stout forward base lip for clearing stuck mags., as well as a steel backsight for clearing cork stoppages. But this is quibbling a bit. The Glock’s controls layout is really very good.
Partially, that is to say that it doesn’t have many, which is what endears it to the modern administrative purchaser. For the fashion of late is for bare minimum, and the Glock has about as few as you can get by with, without reverting to stripper clip loading and sticking your thumb into the breech to release the slide after the last shot, which would take us back to 1896. The Glock gives us a rather too well shielded pushbutton mag. Release, and a really splendid slide release that is ultra discreet but right under the thumb and absolutely positive. That’s it, for manual controls.
Specifically, there is no manual safety, except for a pedal set into the face of the trigger, which is automatically cleared when your finger contacts the face of the trigger, and which Glock probably picked up from the old Sauer Behordenmodell. It is pretty much superfluous, given the width of the trigger guard, but scarcely gets in the way and seem unlikely to misfunction. No doubt, bureaucrats find it soothing, and they are supposed to buy most of the things. What the administration cannot abide, it seems, is single action cocked-and-locked carry. Their objection, we gather, stems not so much from a perceived hazard from the constantly-cocked condition, as it does from the fact that a manual safety has to be cleared before the piece will make fire. This has to set some sort of record for arrogance, coming as it does from people who, five years ago, were insisting that d.a. pistols be carried chamber-empty, hammer down and safety applied, in a full flap holster with a threaded strap fastener.
In any event, the fact that a cocked-and-locked pistol with a properly designed safety (one that falls naturally under the thumb and disengages downward) is as fast on the first shot as any gun made, is quite beside the point. The proposition that one should be able to fire the first shot wholly convulsively, without need to disengage a safety device however conveniently placed, has become part of bureaucratic dogma, hence the recent epidemic of d.a. autos.
The Glock’s great advantage is that it permits the convulsive first shot without the d.a. autopistol’s attendant to its having been shot to death by everyone who could get his hands on it before it came to us.
We had a number of misfires which we blame in part on the gun’s curious wedge-nose firing pin, which requires more either of weight or velocity than it has, to indent hard primers reliably. Detonation was almost always achieved on a second strike which, on the Glock, requires retracting the slide far enough to pick up the striker. This was with a batch of 1950-manufacture Czech service ammo, with rusty bullets and verdigris-covered cases, which misfires in Brownings as well. Still, we felt that the Glock could do with a somewhat harder strike. It could also do with a bit of aesthetic revision to the slide, which follows the boxcar style popularised by the P220. Not only is it ugly, but it holsters and carries marginally less well than it could, and loads more weight topside than it probably really needs. One thing to be said for the slide is that it affords plenty of room for an eventual .45” version, and still leaves room for restyling.
The Glock offers a very decent and consistent pull from first shot to last, with a trigger one can reach – a matter of capital importance. It offers this, moreover, in a compact and easy handling package. The grip is surprisingly thin in view of the magazine capacity, canted to as close to a “natural’ angle as one could define, with a backstrap profile that is obviously carefully worked out. We should have preferred to see the counter-radius start a bit higher up in the strap and curve away more sharply at the bottom, like that of the Model 39, but that is a personal preference. The whole gun is neat, clean and very easy to handle and manipulate. The high visibility sights are excellent.
As far as shooting went, we had no trouble keeping five shot groups in two inches at 25 metres, from a braced sitting position. This was with gash ammo, and imagine the gun was capable of better. Breech lockup on 027 had a bit of vertical play.
In summation, we are highly impressed with the Glock. Its light weight and muzzle flip will handicap it as a competition gun, at least in unmodified form (we should be interested to see what Mag-Na-Porting would achieve). As a service or defensive weapon, its advantages considerably overpower this reservation.
The Glock is basically confidence-inspiring. As a very new gun there may well be residual bugs to work out and improvements to be made. But the gun impresses one as being fundamentally right. A lot of clear thinking has gone into the design, and the execution is entirely workmanlike. If anyone is taking book, there is a fair chance that the Glock, on merit, will be the great battle pistol of the next half-century. Of course, things are often not decided on merit.
The newspapers are apt to review all the police shootings they have previously reported when there’s a new one, and as confirmed by Jim Cirillo, Tony Long and Mike Waldren, the media slant is always suspicious of police officers taking lives, particularly when – after the event – it appears (to them) to have been unnecessary.
Col. Jeff Cooper coined the concept, amplified by Massad F Ayoob on his training courses, that you are judged in the white – the cool, calm and quiet atmosphere of a court – for actions you took in the heat of the moment; relying on incomplete and contradictory information or intelligence to make a split-second interpretation of what’s going down and to prevail in the circumstances. Their training courses prepared students for a trial after a shooting; yet few UK police shootings go that far.
Having read the books reviewed in this issue, our next project is to review some of those shootings highlighted by the newspapers, using the combined experience of the front line police officers as our guide. Jim Cirillo’s gunfight experience was primarily in the stakeout squad in New York City; waiting, with a partner, at likely locations for intercepting an armed robbery in progress.
The Metropolitan Police experiences related by Mike Waldren and Tony Long were more often reactive to events – arriving at the scene after the incident has begun – obligated to act on incomplete and contradictory information. Many of their armed incidents amounted to besieging a fixed location and while NYC undoubtedly has such incidents, Jim Cirillo doesn’t report them as they were outside the function of his department.
Harry Stanley, 22nd September 1999 aged 46
The calls to police reported an Irishman with a wrapped sawn-off shotgun. Mr Stanley (born in Glasgow) had a wrapped chair leg – returned to him by his brother after a repair – when challenged from behind in the street: so he turned towards the shouting and where the head goes the body follows, which means he turned the chair leg toward the shouting and the police interpreted his reactive movement to them shouting as a threatening gesture by an armed suspect. The accounts seem to vary somewhat. This is one we’d like to have seen the post mortem report for.
This one always impressed us as a defect in police training. If the suspect is walking away from us and oblivious of our presence, it seems telling him we’re there is not going to end well. A less lethal option (such as a rugby tackle) would have been useful. The problem with giving policemen guns is that the weapon they have becomes regarded, through the training process, as the solution to the problems they are called upon to deal with. The police had the brief that he’s armed and dangerous, which closes their minds to all other possibilities. Then when they get there, he has the described ‘weapon’ and turns towards the challenge, exactly as described by Jim Cirillo in his first gunfight – at which point his instinct took over and started firing. The post-mortem would help with whether had had turned, was turning or got shot from behind, but given the brief, we think both Jim Cirillo and Tony Long would concur that, having gotten themselves into that mess, the police had to shoot to regain control of the scenario. Grabbing his legs from behind to drop him on the suspect package (we learned to do that in rugby at school) would have worked as an alternative to lethal force.
James Ashley, January 1998, Sussex, aged 39
Shot during a police drugs raid on his house in Sussex in 1998, Ashley was unarmed, naked and in bed with his girlfriend when police entered the premises. The briefing included the warning that occupants could be armed and dangerous. James Ashley had served time for manslaughter and had been involved in a knife fight recently. The officer who fired reacted to encountering James Ashley in the dark. They seem to have entered the same room from opposite sides.
Our concern about this one was armed officers entering private property in the dark. It’s one of those scenarios that the officer probably never encountered in training and thus wasn’t prepared for. You see what you expect to see, so this case, like so many others, started to go wrong at the briefing. If the intelligence is flawed, the consequences are likely to be just as flawed. That’s when the ‘sloping shoulders’ technique by which senior officers delegate blame to the ground floor comes into play. This one went to court where the officer was acquitted. It seems to us that Mr. Ashley was a suspect at the time he was shot, and a trained man was cognoscente of his brief. James Ashley, like Jean Charles De Menezes in 2005, didn’t know he was a dangerous suspect at the time. He was a householder investigating an intruder with a common law right to defend his life, liberty and property. Flawed briefings that over-egg matters are a repetitive refrain when looking at these cases and a source of concern to the licensed shooting community, as armed police are often deployed against registered firearms dealers and firearm certificate holders – who have no idea that they are ‘armed and dangerous suspects’ until their tyres are shot out or they get a telephone call telling them to come out with their hands up and walk backwards up the street towards to police guns.
Derek Bennett July 2001, aged 29
Police responded to calls in South London reporting that Mr Bennett had a firearm. When challenged he seized a hostage and pointed the weapon at his neck. Police fired the fatal shots after the hostage broke free.
Using anything as a firearm – including just saying you have one - makes it a firearm for the purposes of what law enforcement does about it; so having used his gun-shaped cigarette lighter as a firearm, he gave the police probable cause to believe it real. While the gun is pointed at the hostage’s neck, it would be a risky shot to try ending the incident at that point, but once the hostage broke free, the incident turned from a hostage situation to a gunfight and the police got in first. Derek Bennett’s only chance of not being shot at that point would have been to drop his weapon and surrender. Both Jim Cirillo and Tony Long report shooting hostage takers. Jim fired when the guns turned away from the hostage (towards him) and Tony fired after the knife had penetrated the hostage.
Keith Larkins 6th June 2003, aged 33
This incident started with police chasing Mr Larkins’ car around the Heathrow airport perimeter road. Once stopped, he threatened police with a 8mm blank firing Glock pistol, and tried to steal a police car. Keith Larkins was reportedly a former security guard who’d had a nervous breakdown, treatment for which had not by then resolved his mental health issues.
Once he used his blank firer as a firearm, it becomes one for the purposes of police response. He failed to surrender when he had the opportunity and as he was still holding the gun was an apparent threat to the officers that their training is to neutralize. Other options weren’t available for as long as he kept hold of the weapon.
Philip Prout 2004 aged 53
Confronted by Devon and Cornwall police whom he stood off with a samurai sword. He also had two knives. Police tried to knock him over with a baton gun, which failed to fire due to the deploying officer’s inexperience and then another officer fired the fatal shot to end the drama.
There’s no legal difference in lethality between a knife/sword and a gun in a confrontation, but there is the obvious practical difference that a knife/sword is a contact weapon, while the firearm is remote control. One can read into accounts of this incident police preparedness to confront Mr Prout with a view to ending the matter quickly, whereas, he being at home and having no hostage; waiting for him to nod off might have solved the problem peacefully.
Azelle Rodney, 30th April 2005, aged 24
Azelle Rodney was the rear seat passenger in a car box-stopped by the Metropolitan police on intelligence that Mr Rodney had acquired a firearm. The box stop turned into a crash trapping Tony Long in the front passenger seat of the police car against the offside of the car Mr Rodney was in and his reaction to events caused Tony Long to fire his 5.56mm shoulder weapon into the rear of the car until Mr Rodney stopped reacting. He had a gun in the back of the car: it wasn’t in working order, but presumably he didn’t know that when he bought it, as he tried to use it.
This incident is related in detail in Tony Long’s book, as is the aftermath – his trial for murder many years later and his eventual acquittal. He sets out the problems of armed policing in detail. This is one where the ‘armed and dangerous’ aspect of the suspect may have been over-egged, given that the cobble-up imitation firearm conversion recovered at the scene wasn’t a viable weapon. Azelle Rodney found himself in the position of being a dangerous suspect (which he could have reasonably anticipated in the circumstances) and then failing to surrender immediately. If you’re going to be an armed and dangerous suspect, learn the rules. Tony Long was in the position of making his decision to fire based on the briefing that he was up against an armed and dangerous suspect and having that split-second in which to interpret Azelle Rodney’s post crash body language and malignant or benign. Whatever he was doing, it wasn’t surrendering or fainting, which left Tony Long with ‘hostile’ as the available interpretation.
The problem thereafter was that both the press and the family want to see Azelle Rodney as the victim in this incident, much as we see Guy Savage as the victim when the Metropolitan police riddled his tyres with Hatton rounds in 2010. If they’d gone on to riddle Guy with bullets as well, it would have been because this unarmed registered firearms dealer (driving to work) forgot to surrender promptly. Guy surrendered immediately; knowing how to react when attacked by police, having been properly trained by Massad F Ayoob among others.
Azelle Rodney had no such training and like so many other armed suspects who turned their guns towards Jim Cirillo, he had insufficient experience to prevail in the gunfight that had just started. It sticks in Tony Long’s throat that the Job (police management) fail to take responsibility for their shortcomings, fail to support armed officers who shoot in the course of their duties and in most cases fail to give the press sufficient information to explain and justify their conduct.
Jean Charles De Menezes: 22nd July 2005, aged 27.
Two weeks after suicide bombers attacked London Transport targets, the hunt was on for surviving members of the gang. That led to Jean Charles being miss-identified as the wanted suspect. Police officers pursued him into Stockwell tube station and shot him to prevent him detonating the suicide bomb vest he did not have.
A case of mistaken identity: Jean Charles could not have been given the chance to surrender, as that would have given him time to detonate a device. If he reacted to the police entering the carriage he was in, any movement he made (not knowing he was a suspect in anything) would have appeared suspicious to the officers, based on their briefing. And based on that, it would be a justified shooting, as Jean Charles was a suspect at the time. Prosecutors in Barry Crane’s murder trial (1992) argued that it was murder because he fired two shots; one hit the knife-wielding victim’s arm and the other his chest, so the prosecution case was that the arm wound was sufficient to end the fight. The judge threw it out, as the prosecution couldn’t prove which impact came first. They’d have had the same problem in this case, with eight headshots to contemplate.
The Jean Charles shooting may be remembered for the police commissioner misleading the press with incorrect information about the incident shortly after it happened and resigning in consequence. The way the top brass deal with the press after shootings – whether it’s incomplete information, false information or just a lack of it – leads the press to look on it as a cover up, which means there must be a scalp to be had somewhere and the sloping shoulders syndrome so common in senior police officers drops it on the front line.
Simon Murden March 2005 aged 26
Simon crashed his van head-on into another vehicle by driving the wrong way up a dual carriageway, decamped with a bundle containing edged weapons and advanced on armed officers ignoring their commands, continuing to close with them after being hit twice by baton rounds until stopped by seven lethal rounds.
Advancing on armed police carrying a lethal weapon, which he failed to drop when ordered to surrender suggests another citizen unfamiliar with the protocols associated with armed officers pointing guns. Then they shoot him twice with baton rounds and he gets back up and keeps coming, turning this into a suicide by cop scenario. It’s possible to think of him as getting closer to try making sense of what they are all shouting about, but it’s not rational behaviour, nor was he acting rationally in the earlier incidents. We have two concerns about using firearms against people armed with edged weapons. One is proximity: the Tueller drill teaches us that the lethal potential of an edged weapon kicks in at 21 feet, so beyond that range the justification for firing defensively diminishes and the other is range: police weapons can deliver lethality at greater distances than shouted warnings will carry, and a gaggle of several officers all shouting at once and not in unison cancel each other out.
John Mark Scott, July 2005, aged 42
Shot by a police marksman while barricaded in his house in Stocksfield, Northumberland, Mr Scott reportedly came to police attention when an officer saw him assaulting a woman in the street and intervened with his CS spray. Reports suggest that Mr Scott broke away from the incident and went home, barricaded himself in and armed himself ready to confront police: so he was in the house when fired on from outside.
This appears to be a type of shooting that Tony Long complains about in his book. Where there is no hostage and someone has gone into their bolthole, his policy was to wait it out. Sooner or later the suspect will commit suicide, surrender or fall asleep and the incident thus concludes peacefully. Shooting it out is, according to Tony Long, a decision imposed on firearms officers by senior management to save the costs of a protracted siege. Before Tony’s police service, there was a six-day siege of armed robbers in the Spaghetti House restaurant in London and closed busy Knightsbridge (part of the main A4 great west road into central London) for a week at enormous cost. Storming the building wasn’t an option, as there were hostages. Same at the Balcombe Street siege in 1975, except that the commissioner regarded the hostages as expendable.
Craig King 16th September 2005, aged 32
The police received a call from Mr King in which he threatened to shoot policemen and by the time they confronted him in Manchester he had a rifle and a hundred rounds of ammunition and this after an earlier episode in which he’d used a machete to cause criminal damage. Police reportedly called on him to surrender before opening fire.
Jim Cirillo reports suspects reacting to challenge by turning toward him and where the head goes, the gun barrel follows, so if Craig King reacted to the police arriving by turning toward them Jim would have fired straight away. The only two options open to any suspect once armed police arrive are to immediately surrender or to get on with the fight. Dropping the weapon and running off might work too, as would fainting on the spot, but the slightest confrontational gesture won’t.
FROM THE INTERNET
The Czech (Republic) Have Challenged the Faulty Firearms Directive in Court!
The misguided firearms directive will be challenged in the ECJ (European Court of Justice) 
The Czech ministry of Interior has filed a suit (on) 9th of August to prevent the implementation of the EU Firearms Directive, which would help the national authorities of the Member States to not implement the already faulty directive on national level.
The Czech are requesting both suspension of national implementation for the duration of the legal action (which might take months, best case years) and complete dismissal of the firearms directive.
According to Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec “Such a massive punishment of decent arms holders is unacceptable, because banning legally-held weapons has no connection with the fight against terrorism. This is not only a nonsensical decision once again undermining people’s trust in the EU, but implementing the directive could also have a negative impact on the internal security of the Czech Republic, because a large number of weapons could move to the black market.”
Firearms United completely and totally agrees with the statement above. The Czech Republic quotes a total of four grounds for repeal of the Directive: 
The Union legislature has exceeded its powers by adopting the directive. Although the Directive has been adopted to remove obstacles to the internal market, its real aim is to combat terrorism and oth- er serious crime exclusively. However, the EU legislator does not have the power to adopt harmoniza- tion measures in this area.
By adopting the Directive, the Union legislature breached the principle of proportionality , since it did not address the question of the proportionality of the measures implemented and did not carry out an impact assessment. This subsequently led to the adoption of measures manifestly inadequate and disproportionate to the objective pursued – for example, the directive prohibits broadly the types of weapons that are not used in Europe for the purpose of committing terrorism or other crimes.
(The points in the con)tested directive are not sufficiently clear and precise to enable the persons concerned to unequivocally recognize their rights and obligations. The directive has a discriminatory nature – it allows for an exception to the ban on possession of weapons, but it can only fall on the Swiss system of keeping military weapons on termination of military service without the same exceptions being used by other states.
In addition to this, in June Czech parliament approved a bill which puts the right to keep and bear arms in the Czech constitution as a first European nation.
(If someone from Czech Republic is reading this – is your country full already, or do you still have need for IT-engineers who seek asylum and are willing to pay taxes and work for a living?)
This entry was posted in Articles, News & Press and tagged Czech, Dita CHARANZOVÁ, EUgunban, European Commission, European Parliament, Firearms Directive, rejecting proposal on Friday August 11th, 2017 [https://firearms-united.com/czech-challenged-faulty-firearms-directive-court/] by Mikko Pesonen.
31st December 1931 – 10th November 2017
November 2017 saw Colin Greenwood pass from history into legend. History because he had been living with Alzheimer’s in residential care for some time before his demise: a shock to all who knew him as the backbone of logic in any firearms debate in the last third of the 20th century.
An Englishman by birth and a Yorkshireman by the grace of God, Colin was born in 1931, which made him too late for WW2 but eligible for national service: in his case as a six-footer in the Coldstream Guards for six years. His favourite anecdote from his time in khaki was of escorting gold bullion around the City of London in 1954 as it moved from one banking institution to another – on a boy scout type trek cart. Nobody tried stealing it while he was the escort.
Following his military service, Colin joined the police in his native West Yorkshire. He recalled turning out for a riot in a mining village, but by the time he got there the fight was over and just the forensic evidence remained: blood, snot, the odd tooth etc. There was nobody to arrest, which was just as well as the police station only had two cells; one was a geranium nursery and the other was a deer larder.
Colin was no stranger to country pursuits: his father had been a competitor in live pigeon trap shooting until that was banned and Colin was both a participant and reporting observer of countryside shooting activity – and the changes wrought to it by legislation and the encroach of ‘urban thinking’ over the decades of his time in our company. And he did that while also rising through the ranks of policing to the eventual position of chief superintendent in charge of the armed officers.
What is really striking about his considerable output on firearms matters is that he compartmentalized the police use of firearms separately – in his mind and in his writing – from their sporting usages by the public.
He made his first published appearance in the pages of ‘Guns Review’ magazine in May 1964, demonstrating the counterbalance position for UIT target pistol shooting that was all the rage post-war.
Most writers of our experience learned the craft in one setting and transferred their newfound skills to the shooting sports thereafter. Colin was one such; the genesis of
his writing was undoubtedly in police reports and statements, but soon blossomed past his entrée to ‘Guns Review’ with a book or several: Police Firearms Training (1967), Police tactics in armed operations (1969) Firearms Control (1972), the Use and Misuse of Airguns (1981), the Use and Misuse of Crossbows (1986), the classic British Rook and Rabbit Rifle (2006).
In 1966, he joined the stalwart regular writers on Guns Review – J A Carter on bayonets, the rough shooter column by ‘Petrel’; P Labbett (who never once betrayed his first name in print) on ammunition - with nine straight months of tips for beginners before dropping out of sight for a bit: probably writing books and running a police force.
Thereafter he appears sporadically;
sometimes reviewing a firearm and other times current affairs.
As head of firearms in West Yorkshire, he was responsible for the issue of Firearm certificates and as head of the police firearms teams, he would have been the recipient of Home Office circulars and such. There was a police backlash following the invention of shot gun certificates when 600,000 people applied for the certificates. Chief Inspector of Constabularies Sir John McKay formed a committee and came up with the idea that reducing the number of firearms in the hands of the public was a desirable end in itself. Colin was on sabbatical at Cambridge University when the (never published) report was circulated, so he would have seen it when he got back to his desk. He has been critical of the shooting organisations in his articles for their poor performance when summonsed to appear at the McKay committee. In 1977 he wrote about more draconian legislation being put off; not by the shooting organisations, but by ‘a few good men’: they would have been Parliamentarians. The McKay report being so opposite to Colin’s own findings (published as ‘firearms control’ in 1972) that he became the Jeremiah, bewailing the anarchic behaviour of the police and Home Office and the failure of the shooting organisations to combat them effectively, for the rest of his publishing career.
We pause to mention the ‘Cadmus’ column in Guns Review. Cadmus was a hero of Greek mythology, who sowed dragons’ teeth that grew into fighting men. The column first appeared with that by-line in January 1977, but in September 1976 an article (with no by-line) was published titled ‘ALL WRAPPED UP AND HEAVILY DISGUISED – another Home Office ploy’ – a definite Jeremiah type article. Colin appears writing in his own name in December 1976 titled ‘The Numbers Game’ and then Cadmus appears in January 1977 and then every month thereafter until December 1996.
Cadmus is widely attributed to Colin Greenwood. Consider this prophetic quote from 1977 “…the Mandarins at the Home Office who dictate policy, and they are determined that this legislation will eventually go through. Slowly if need’s be; a small step at a time is necessary; but they will have their way if they can.” Except by him: he never admitted it. The last time we tested the subject with him was in consideration of a firearm certificate application form, which asked, inter alia, if the applicant was known by any other names. Colin said that one used pen names in order not to be known by them, so it would be inappropriate for any writer to put any pen name in that box on the application form.
The style of ‘Cadmus’ varies a bit, so we considered it might be more than one person’s output: until we tried reading them aloud whereupon it becomes apparent that some of them were snarled into a cringing Dictaphone rather than being typed by the author. Writing, dictating and speech writing are different styles.
There was a firearms amnesty in 1969 and Colin mentioned an old lady coming to see him about handing a gun in. He said “alright” and put his hand out for it and she said, “no, you’ll have to come to the car to get it”, which he did. In the car was a Bren gun in its wooden travel case, two tin boxes of magazines and an outer of .303” ammunition. “And do you know,” said Colin, “she’d never killed anybody despite owning it all those years.” Her late husband had been in the Home Guard, which didn’t collect it in when they disbanded in 1944 and she was tired of vacuuming around it.
His two books on the police use of firearms failed to reach the Metropolitan police in London, who were way behind the curve at the time and seemingly wanting to look amateurish. His 1972 book ‘Firearms Control” arose from a sabbatical he took from West Yorkshire to be a research fellow at the University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology and it remains the most authoritative study of the irrelevance of ‘licensing’ systems for firearms ever.
Colin left West Yorkshire’s police service in 1979 from the rank of chief superintendent to take the position of ‘Guns Review’ editor. The magazine had started publishing in 1960 as a bi-monthly with a policy from the start that it would be written by its readers. That’s how Colin was published for the first time in 1964. It was an eclectic read; articles about hunting, collecting and restoration of antiques rub shoulders with serious scholarship and debate about firearms development, such as P Labbett’s retrospective of the EN2 rifle in January 1961.
The first issue in 1960 studied the Soviet Simonov rifle – written by the founding editor, who never named himself in print: (Geoffrey Brown). He let go in 1979 because Colin was there as an up and coming young Yorkshireman (aged 47 in 1979) to take it over.
The magazine’s ethos shifted somewhat with Colin in charge. His predecessor had gotten the editorial duties down to two days a month. Colin changed that, by introducing a monthly gun review of a new product and he expanded the ‘gunshop’ pages to summarize the press releases that came in while production was in progress. He never said how much time he put into the magazine. We thought he might have doubled his predecessor’s effort at least until Mrs Greenwood (she married him in 1955) telephoned us for clarification of a point, as Colin was on the road and she had a magazine to put to bed. Delegation is a transferable skill.
Colin appeared on national television in 1981 in the wake of blank shots being fired near HM the Queen during the Trooping the Colour ceremony. Police Federation spokesman (later Sir) Eldon Griffiths MP (Conservative, 1925-2014) leapt on the bandwagon seeking a ban on this, that or the other and Colin provided the calm riposte. The Home Office rescued Eldon Griffiths by giving him the legislation they had awaiting a suitable opportunity: nothing to do with blank firers – their concern was then about readily convertible replicas (of flintlock and caplock muzzle loaders) that Major Noel Corry had been importing from Spain.
After that, Colin was in every researcher’s little black book as the man to call if a gun lobby presence was required on TV. It was during this period that the Crossbows Bill 1986 surfaced. The ‘problem’ was that crossbows appear occasionally in crimes; 41 times in the fifteen years prior to his report: one homicide (March 1976 in London) three suicides, one fatal accident, four robberies, twelve incidents of attacks on pets and livestock and four assaults on police. The four attacks on strangers recorded may be a duplication of the attacks on police.
Colin prepared his paper on the subject, which enjoyed wide circulation in Parliament and pirate copies are available from the SRA. There’s an original on Biblioz (on line bookstore) at the time of writing, at a price we can’t afford. The bill itself was a private member’s bill introduced by Peter Bruinvels MP (Conservative, Leicester East) who also backed the restoration of the death penalty and wanted to be the next hangman. He lost his Parliamentary seat in the general election the following year to Keith Vaz.
The Bill was talked out by MPs, including Keith Best (Conservative, Ynys Mon, who left Parliament with a lot of BT shares and some bad feelings from his colleagues, the law etc.), who strung the debate out to reduce the time available for the next item of business.
Not much happened after that until the Hungerford murders in 1987, at which point it became obvious that the Home Office had dusted off the 1973 Green Paper and the Thatcher years are remembered by everyone who was there as the time in which politicians didn’t listen to anyone but her. We still have much of that dead hand of failed government on our statute books and a police ‘service’ and Home Office dedicated to the McKay philosophy that the shooting subculture should be illegal and that firearms owners should be vilified at every opportunity.
Colin was active throughout the campaign period, but was careful to keep his independence. In 1988 he was active at BASC’s AGM campaigning for a robust firearms department within that organisation. We were at that fraught AGM in the morning and spent the afternoon in the entirely different atmosphere of the British Crossbow Society’s AGM and field shoot.
Aside from his editorship of GR, Colin had an independent presence as a law society firearms expert witness. When SRA Secretary Richard Law was so registered in 1992, he was one of just 14 such experts, so it was a limited field, generated by, for the most part, the Home Office usurping the Defence Council role in issuing section 5s and using their new found powers and ignorance – not to mention the police tail wagging the Home Office dog – to prosecute dealers and collectors for supposedly violating their new administrative definitions of section 5. Nearly every case to get to the courts of record post 1973 involved the prosecution of someone who was trying to act lawfully.
Most case work for firearms experts related to prosecutions of law-abiding taxpayers who were trying to stay within the law while the people responsible for administering the law were trying to criminalise people who had certificates for exploiting that loophole: such as the pistol shooter who, to take his revolver to an away match, padlocked it to the frame of his car under the spare wheel. He was prosecuted for ‘not keeping it in a secure place’ after the car was stolen.
Then there was the dealer and certificate holder in Sussex fiasco. The dealer sold an old Russian .25” pistol to the collector on variation. It didn’t work, so he gave it back to the dealer to repair. The dealer couldn’t get it to work either, so the collector had it back as an antique, having dropped it off his FAC at renewal. Then he took it north, locked in the glove box of his Rolls Royce, from which it was stolen overnight. They both got prosecuted – and acquitted. The reason the pistol wouldn’t work is that soviet .25” brass is longer than American .25ACP, so the latter, head-spacing on its rim, was too deep in the chamber for the firing pin to reach.
Much of the period between 1988 and 1996 was taken up by the Forensic Science Service trying to root shoulder stocked pistols out of the target shooting market by giving ‘expert’ evidence that the shoulder stocks made them section 5. They won some, lost some and in Kevin Faulkner’s case were roundly criticised for doctoring bench notes and giving false evidence. The Dunblane murders put the skids under magazine sales, as newsagents didn’t put them on display. Colin resigned as editor of GR at the end of 1996, aged 65, to devote more time to his big game hunting, family, writing, expert witness work and international firearms consultancy. His influence can be seen in New Zealand’s laws, and in Ireland overturning their 1973 pistol ban. He received an award as world ambassador for the shooting sports in 2009.
After his last book, on the rook and rabbit rifle, one might see an occasional article by him in Shooting Times, but octogenarians are meant to grow old disgracefully in the privacy of their families, and that’s what he did: leaving numerous colleagues, rivals, clients and readers to mourn the loss of his skills and to commiserate with his family on their irreplaceable loss.
On 11th April 1986, FBI officers in Florida executed a felony car stop (which means crashing their car into the suspect vehicle) of a car containing Matthew Platt and William Matix – both military veterans with combat experience who were wanted in connection with a failed armed robbery. Platt blinded Matix with his opening shots – firing across him with a Ruger mini-14 rifle and in turn was mortally wounded by the second shot fired from the FBI side, (the first FBI shot hit his forearm) which severed one of the blood vessels where it entered his heart. Nevertheless, he stayed on his feet long enough to fire some 140 shots from his rifle, killing two FBI agents and wounding five others.
In all the gunfights we’ve looked at in this issue, in training, in the books reviewed and in practice, the more experienced person prevails. The FBI compromised themselves in the gunfight above, because none of the agents had been in a felony car stop before and thus had no experience of what would happen in the crash. Two agents lost their weapons in the impact: one had put his on the passenger seat ‘ready’ and the other had put his under his thigh (a technique also used by undercover soldiers in Northern Ireland at the time), so they both vanished in the impact. Ben Grogan lost his eyeglasses, which shouldn’t have made much difference to his gunfighting ability, but may have distracted him into looking for them instead of continuing to shoot at the suspects – he fired the first shot that hit Platte and then stopped.
Matthew Platte had plenty of experience with rifles, so firing and reloading was instinctive. The FBI men were well trained and well armed, but shaken up by the crash – the bit of the scenario that they had no experience of. Tony Long found himself in the same post-crash scenario when up against Azelle Rodney, and prevailed because he had the greater shooting experience. No source mentions Azelle Rodney as having any firearms experience with which to compete against the professional.
Both Tony Long and Jim Cirillo privately owned firearms, had tested and evaluated a wide range of weapons and practiced on their own time. In 1997, the Royalty Protection Squad told the SRA that half of them owned firearms privately and practiced on their own time at their own cost in order to maintain the standards required of them to serve in that department – which was known for its accidents. Princess Diana rejected armed police close protection officers after a second wounding caused by a negligent discharge in her presence. And there have been plenty of others: policemen who have shot themselves or each other when handling firearms at shift changes etc.
If you equate shots fired to mileage for a moment, try working out how many miles you drove in training before passing your driving test. Our best guess is 250 miles, but once you have the licence and regular use of a vehicle, your ‘practice’ or experience multiplies rapidly – by that amount a week for the average urban driver. Joining a pistol club in the 1970s was the same – six visits under the pistol instructor’s supervision, fifty shots per visit and then having been adopted as a full member, an average one or two visits a week and 100 shots fired each time.
Policemen don’t that much training and less practice and they have not been able to practice on their own time or to attend independent training courses since 1997, so their training and practice is limited to that which the Job provides. And that won’t be a 6,000 round introductory course and 1,000 rounds a month in practice thereafter. Every professional in any walk of life knows that staff training days come at a cost. The employee gets paid their salary and expenses and then overtime to get the work they should have been doing done: that or someone else is paid to do that work. Shooting courses come with the additional cost of the munitions consumed. In 1993, Manchester PD in New Hampshire estimated that re-training 180 officers from revolvers to semiautomatic pistols would cost the city $¼ million - just for the travel and training costs in time and ammunition: not including the capital costs of replacing the weapons and accessories.
The absence of the opportunity to practice and the limitations on training time lead to weaknesses in performance, and that’s before we think about defects in training leading to practice just being the repetition of error. Massad F Ayoob, when developing what became his ‘Stressfire’ programme, articulated the point that under stress you do what you’ve been trained to do. A New York officer fired off his six rounds and ejected the empty cases into his free hand and then reloaded them into the revolver because that’s what they did in training. Jim Cirillo mentions it in his book: they weren’t allowed speed loaders, so practice, practice, practice getting the shells into the revolver – by dumping them into your hand and reloading them. Cirillo also mentions someone in a gunfight looking around for the bucket to dump his brass into – like on the range, to keep it tidy. California Highway Patrol kept live rounds in one pocket and had to put used brass in another – until the limitations of doing that in a gunfight became apparent at New Hall in 1970.
Back in the 1990s a Metropolitan police robbery squad officer told us that he carried a snub-nose revolver in a batwing holster on duty, but had never fired it nor drawn from it. On training days they used 4-inch barrel revolvers from belt holsters. Just as well: the batwing holster points the revolver at the wearer’s armpit. It’s quick to draw from, but you need help holstering into it while wearing it. Shoulder rigs aren’t used on ranges for safety reasons: you muzzle-sweep everyone on your weak side and your own arm as you draw. These limitations can be trained around: the important thing is to only incorporate into advanced training, the street-useful techniques.
It’s OK to learn basic shooting in a range environment, but the advanced stages need to be in something more akin to the working environment – so a supermarket in Jim Cirillo’s case – as the mind will compartmentalise the different techniques and then on the street you use street techniques. It’s the same for driving: a lorry driver adapts his technique to the lorry – getting into the cab environment brings on those memories for hauling a 13 metre trailer round a roundabout – which he discards when getting back into his car to go home.
In the round, we see the police shootings mentioned in this issue as caused by the suspects failing to surrender promptly and correctly – the way police officers saw instructors do it in training. Then there’s exaggerated briefs, inadequate training and a very obvious inflexibility to changing how to deal with a scenario that is not recognisable from the briefs, but in all the shootings we’ve revisited, the deceased could have survived (apart from De Menezes) by surrendering promptly. To do that the way policemen have seen their instructors demonstrate it on courses, takes training. Suspects also need to know that they are suspects at the time. Azelle Rodney should have known that, having just acquired a gun without producing a firearm certificate to do so while James Ashley thought he was disturbing an intruder and Simon Murden might have been getting closer to police to see what they were shouting about. Nevertheless, police officers were, will and should be exonerated in such cases on the principle of being trained personnel, reasonable and prudent, but limited to what they knew at the time. They have to call it how they see it. Limitations and defects in their training are the responsibility of our government, preferring to visit Dunblane revenge on us all instead of having proper respect for the common law.
We used to run training courses for police at the SRA and one of our innovations, first used on a course for Dutch officers was a scenario in which no shots should be fired. It’s a training problem: once you’ve got the students, the guns and ammunition, make the best of the day, but on the street most firearms deployments don’t include firing the weapons – so if all the training courses include firing, that’s what happens on the streets.
The police use of firearms is a common law right to protect themselves and those whose safety is their responsibility – which means everyone except the suspect. Policing does not recognise anyone but them having firearms legitimately, hence the armed officers turning up at certificate holders’ homes to unlawfully seize firearms and ammunition. And since we’re all suspects these days we’re as like to get shot as anyone else the police go after.
And that remains the outlook until we get a Home Secretary who isn’t a sleepwalker and who can competently review the administration of firearms laws. As it is, what we have is a Home Office dedicated to the final solution of only the police having legal guns, vilifying us at every opportunity and chipping something off the law-abiding armoury every chance they get – like now: banning .50cal rifles because firearm certificate holders can outrange the police snipers with them: huh?
P.O. Box 3, Cardigan SA43 1BN
TEL: 01239 698607 FAX: 01239 698614
WHAT TO DO IF TAKING SOMEONE ELSE OUT SHOOTING.
The Firearms Acts 1968-97 envisaged circumstances in which a certificate holder can lend someone who does not hold a certificate his rifle or shotgun in a private arrangement, that is; outside of the wider exemptions applicable to clubs, theatrical purposes etc. The exemptions in the 1968 Act enabled ‘use’ at an approved clay shoot and anywhere private for game, pest or target shooting. The 1988 Act added the ‘estate rifle’ clause, enabling the loan of a rifle under supervision. These straight-forward provisions were amended by section 130 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017, which says:
11A Authorised lending and possession of firearms for hunting etc
(1) A person (“the borrower”) may, without holding a certificate under this Act, borrow a rifle or shot gun from another person on private premises (“the lender”) and have the rifle or shot gun in his or her possession on those premises if—
(a) the four conditions set out in subsections (2) to (5) are met, and
(b) in the case of a rifle, the borrower is aged 17 or over.
(2) The first condition is that the borrowing and possession of the rifle or shot gun are for either or both of the following purposes—
(a) hunting animals or shooting game or vermin;
(b) shooting at artificial targets.
(3) The second condition is that the lender—
(a) is aged 18 or over,
(b) holds a certificate under this Act in respect of the rifle or shot gun, and
(c) is either—
(i) a person who has a right to allow others to enter the premises for the purposes of hunting animals or shooting game or vermin, or
(ii) a person who is authorised in writing by a person mentioned in sub-paragraph (i) to lend the rifle or shot gun on the premises (whether generally or to persons specified in the authorisation who include the borrower).
(4) The third condition is that the borrower’s possession and use of the rifle or shot gun complies with any conditions as to those matters specified in the lender’s certificate under this Act.
(5) The fourth condition is that, during the period for which the rifle or shot gun is borrowed, the borrower is in the presence of the lender or—
(a) where a rifle is borrowed, a person who, although not the lender, is aged 18 or over, holds a certificate under this Act in respect of that rifle and is a person described in subsection (3)(c)(i) or (ii);
(b) where a shot gun is borrowed, a person who, although not the lender, is aged 18 or over, holds a certificate under this Act in respect of that shot gun or another shot gun and is a person described in subsection (3)(c)(i) or (ii).
Which is a longwinded way of ‘explaining’ the exemptions and introducing some age limits. What was ‘use’ in the 1968 and 1988 Acts has been elevated to ‘possession’. The key points are that to let someone else use your rifle or shotgun on private property, you have to be over 18 and have a certificate for the loan rifle or shotgun. Your guest has to be over 17 if it’s a rifle. Another certificate holder can also act as supervisor as well as being able to use the gun via the exemption.
The other difference is the requirement to have that authority for using firearms on the premises to be in writing. To that end, the pro forma on this leaflet can be used.
So when the police helicopter lands to verify your authority to be there, it’s all on one page.
Bear in mind that where land is crossed by a public road, you can’t shoot from or in proximity to the carriageway while a road user is in sight and your shot, bullet or missile should not cross or fall on any public right of way at any time.
AUTHORITY TO SHOOT OVER LAND
An agreement between (name)…………………………………………………..
Being the owner/occupier with shooting rights/shooting rights holder*
of (name of land)……………………………………………………………………..
OS Map reference of access point………………………………………………..
Hereby agree to (name)……………………………………..
FAC/SGC No…………………issued by………………..police/constabulary
occupying the land for the purpose of game/vermin/artificial target shooting*
with any guest named here……………………………………………………..
on (dates)………………………………..OR valid to……………………………
between dawn and dusk or (insert times)…………………………………….
SIGNED BY (print)…………………………………date………………………..
I am the owner/lease/shooting rights holder of the above named land.
MAP/crude drawing overleaf.