SHOOTERS' RIGHTS ASSOCIATION
ISSUE 61 SUMMER 2018 Published by TSRA Ltd
PO Box 3, Cardigan SA43 1BN ISSN 2398-3310
New Serious Violence bill 4
IWA 2018 7
John Pedersen’s Device 10
Flash Hiding 11
MP40 gun review 12
Air Weapon Safety leaflet 15
Component parts 16
The VCR Act explained 28
Wild Boar Hunting in the UK 31
The Licence to Kill 34
Sterling Northolt Appeal 35
Book Review – Prester John 39
EDITORIAL: Richard Law
I endured a week of passive vaping to accompany a film armourer to IWA 2018 in Nuremburg: he to renew numerous acquaintances and check what’s available for upcoming projects and I to revisit, in particular, the handgun scene. I wrote a book (The Fighting Handgun), which was published in 1996, coincidentally the day after the police closed my firearms business. Since then, our government has excluded the UK from the handgun market, as they had from most of the knife market a few years earlier at the same time as they shut off access to less than lethal defensive weaponry for everyone except the police.
My interest was in what’s changed in those markets in our absence and the answer, generally speaking, is not a lot. The international knife market, represented at IWA by firms from all over Europe, the United States and the Far East, have collectively not missed the UK as an export market to the extent that nobody at the show has yet gone to the trouble of designing and manufacturing a UK street legal folding pocket knife for our domestic consumption.
Based on a cutthroat razor, it is a folding pocketknife.
The handgun manufacturers are more pragmatic: they’ll do runs of specific models to a distributor’s order and most of their general production has a buyer before its made. Ruger had a .22” Bearcat on their stand. These little revolvers, based on the Colt Single Action Army model, retailed for $48 in the old days and were a ‘must have’ first gun for a lot of eight-year-olds.
I used to use mine with CB caps to shoot pigeons off barn rafters without damaging the barn and while it had its limitations – straight race between whether the owner would grow up or wear the gun out first – it’s a piece that brings back fond memories for many erstwhile owners. Now it’s a $600 dollar stainless steel revolver, made to distributor orders; so they would make a legal version for the UK market if someone ordered enough of them. To be UK legal on a section 1 firearm certificate it would have to have a much longer barrel (300mm or more) and a bar or shoulder stock sticking out the back to give it an overall length in excess of 600mm. In that configuration, it would still work with CB caps for trespassing pigeons, but the dead hand of bureaucracy in the UK would probably frown on a revolver being used for pest control. Probably; they frown on everything else, so while that’s only a guess, it’s an educated one born of experience.
The European feeling at the show was anticipation of the next generation of NATO smallarms being built on the AR platform, of which everyone hopes to get a slice. The UK’s out of that as well, since the police shut Guy Savage (Sabre Defence Industries) down in 2010 – and haven’t let him reopen despite his having committed no offence in the UK: nor would they let James Edmiston (RFD Boxall and Edmiston, Shrewsbury) take over the premises and equipment to manufacture AR platform rifles for a contract-signed overseas deal. Since then the Home Office have held a ‘consultation’ about banning MARS rifles and Sussex Police claimed in a section 44 appeal (elsewhere in this issue) that there is no demand for AR platform rifles anywhere in Europe. It’s hard to imagine anyone being more out of touch with reality than the firearms department in Sussex: every other stall in the eleven-acre tradeshow seemed to have an AR platform rifle on it.
The American feeling at the show was that the most recent Florida school shooting has started momentum in the direction of the government having to throw the anti-gun lobby something to settle their angst. Most spree shootings become the subject of false flag conspiracy theories so quickly that legislators are stalled into inaction. Bump stocks, as used in the Las Vegas shooting may disappear (by definition they are already prohibited in the UK) and while Donald Trump has suggested arming school teachers, that’s not the solution schoolchildren want. We suspect that gun free zones will have to go, as on past performance all the spree killings have taken place where return fire is proscribed because the good guys are disarmed in those areas to make it safe for the spree killer to go about his evil.
Like the American SHOT Show, IWA is an outdoor pursuits show, so aside from guns and knives, there’s axes and machetes, camping gear, clothing and boots, archery and airsoft, alongside all manner of accessories for all pursuits, so I kept getting distracted from handguns to the things we still use a lot, from axes to quad-bikes: no chainsaw manufacturers though, but quite a few people used log piles to decorate their stands. The difference between this show in Germany and the SHOT Show in the USA is that the Germans are far more eclectic about whom they let in; so the Russians were there, along with the Chinese, the Israelis, Europeans and Americans. British representation included Kynoch ammunition and a sad chap trying to sell little cameras to mount on your trigger guard; which he insisted were law enforcement only.
Some exhibitors come from countries that wouldn’t be allowed into America to exhibit at the SHOT Show, so American gun writers are missing out by not making the trip to Nuremberg. But we can make up for that for them: we probably collected enough material for a new ‘fighting handgun’ book, but ‘new’ is not the right word. In the ten years before the UK handgun ban, we saw a plethora of new models and cartridges hitting the market. Innovation was mainly driven by government specifications for ‘new’ weapons and by the law enforcement market trying to get manufacturers to fill gaps in police training with product instead of the departments solving their issues with better training and more practice: not to mention the Berlin wall falling and the Soviet Union collapsing, thus giving the west access to Makarovs and such.
On the manufacturers’ side, new products were intended to develop new markets. The late Bill Ruger realized many years ago that a well made handgun will easily outlast its owner if properly maintained, carefully stored and used with the right ammunition. There would still be nothing wrong with my 1972 Ruger Security Six if I still had it. Guns aren’t cars; the gun bits that wear out from bad storage are easily replaceable springs. Grips get cracked in various (mostly abusive) ways and can be replaced. Some barrels do wear with excessive use (of cleaning abrasives) and the finish rubs off with carrying or decays in damp storage.
SRA’s founding chairman Jan A Stevenson wore out the Colt Lord Deringer of his youth by plinking at playing cards in his bedroom.
His father had Colt replace the barrel, which young Stevenson then wore out again. The reason – Colt made their Lord barrels out of zinc: probably to save weight and reduce production time.
I toured various gun factories in New Hampshire in 1993 and everyone said (of the wide range of calibres they made new products in) that the US had a calibre conscious collector market. What that meant was shooters would buy any new gun to hit the market in ‘their’ calibre, so Ruger launched the Vaquero (a full size plus centrefire single action army revolver) in some half a dozen chamberings. The US market also had brand followers, who’d buy all the new Ruger Vaquero revolvers because Ruger made them. Or Glock, or whichever company they respected. Jan Stevenson grew up south of the Smith and Wesson line (used to be called the Mason Dixon line) where Colts rarely ventured.
Such distinctions seem to have dropped away, although we couldn’t ask Colt, as they didn’t come to IWA. What the handgun market has done since my 1996 book is retrenched. The Vaquero is now only made in .357” and .44” magnum. Some calibres have disappeared, such as .41”AE and 9mm Police and the self defence market has adopted smaller pistols – the Makarov in particular became a favourite – while the venerable M1911 has made a comeback in numerous homages. And then some: everyone is making them from the USA to China to Turkey: in original .45”, plus lookalikes in 9mm and .380”.
Of course, the real test of whether all these new .45”ACP M1911s are the real deal or just cosmetic lookalikes is commonality of parts. Back in the 1990s, we received a stainless steel PO8 Luger pistol, made in Arizona, for review. Nice piece; well made and with my eyes shut felt more like a replica Luger to handle. Nothing on it was interchangeable with my 1911-made DWM Luger. The grip was a slightly different rake, so the magazines were different. The grip screw holes were in a different place and the grip screw threads were different. No parts were interchangeable, so I telephoned the manufacturer. He said they’d had to change all the measurements from metric to ‘English’ in order to make it on American machines and while the parts were fully interchangeable within their production, they had made no effort to be common with ancient DWM products, as they had no wish to become a spares and repairs shop for WW2 souvenirs. They didn’t last in the business.
It would be dumb to make a new M1911 that doesn’t take old M1911 magazines, so we assume without knowing (yet) that the multitude of Colt .45” Automatic homages at this show at least take the same magazines as the originals: and the A1 variant, which only Norinco seems to make nowadays but there are millions out there already. The last new one we had for review (in 1996) consisted of a slide assembly made in China by Norinco and a polymer frame made in Israel and designed to take a double-stack Italian magazines: one of many innovations twenty years ago that we didn’t see this year. I also had a 1911 in .40”S&W – a cartridge that has survived the retrenchment – and that would allow .45” magazines to seat in it. The magazines for it had a groove stamped in them to hold the smaller diameter 10mm short cartridges in line, which at least made it easy enough to spot them in a heap of magazines. Come to think of it, my .22” Colt Ace would allow .45” magazines to lock in.
Commonality of parts can only go so far. M1911s were famously capable of firing while cocked and locked if dropped muzzle down. Ruger invented the transfer bar for his revolvers so that couldn’t happen and various other manufacturers came up with firing pin locks, interrupted firing pins etc. to prevent it happening in their models. Colt caught up with their Series 80.
And then we alighted on Turkish manufacturer Tisas: drawn to their display by a perfect Browning GP1935A.
It looked the part, felt the part and when we looked inside it still looked the part: eyes shut it felt the part. The Rep said that the Browning Hi-Power has such standing in his country that it would be unthinkable to homage it with anything less than perfection.
We’ll see; does it take real magazines? Can’t wait to find out.
NEW ‘SERIOUS VIOLENCE’ BILL
The scandalous way that Home Office officials have been abusing the somewhat perverse immigration legislation came to a head earlier this year and caused Amber Rudd to resign as Home Secretary after being caught out for giving misleading evidence to a select committee in the House of Commons. Immigration and/or the treatment of foreign nationals embroiled several previous Home Secretaries, so whether she was misled by officials or just not on top of her job is not clear. Several former Home Office ministers said in the aftermath interviews that the Home Office is a warzone when compared to the more collegiate approach taken in other departments of government.
To survive long as Home Secretary generally means being the officials’ puppet. The route to staying in that job for as long as Theresa May managed it is to go along with what officials want and to let the junior HO ministers take the rap for the more ludicrous legislation that officials put forward. Every sub department of every ministry will have plans awaiting a suitable legislative opportunity – which may be a dramatic event like the 2001 air attack on the World Trade Centre in New York – or just a new minister in search of something to do.
Bashing those law-abiding taxpayers who hold firearm and shot gun certificates and more particularly those who register as firearms dealers has been a Home Office policy since they took over control of issuing section 5 (prohibited weapons) authorities from the defence council in 1973. That came in the wake of the HO receiving the McKay Report in 1972. The report was not published or made public: some of its proposals were put up as a green paper (Cmnd 5297 in 1973) and rejected by Parliament, but many of the proposals in the report became police policies for messing certificate holders and dealers about. And that’s where the SRA came in when reincarnated in 1984.
The ‘problem’ that re-launched the association was the numerous inconsistencies in the management of firearms departments from one police area to another, many of which wheezes were either contradictory to the ‘restricted’ Home Office guidance to police or simply not referred to in that document at all: they were cribbed from the McKay Report. Dealers had also been scrutinised, as evidenced by all the firearms related cases that reached the Court of Appeal involved registered dealers as the defendants. And in every case, it was to do with paperwork.
Having failed to get the green paper through in 1973, HO officials simply waited for a suitable legislative opportunity to put it up again, which came in 1987 with the Hungerford murders. Nothing in the 1988 Firearms (Amendment) Act addressed whatever flaw spurred those murders, but then no legislation has ever sought to prevent common law crime.
The central plank of Home Office policy toward people whose legitimate activities involved certification under firearms legislation is to vilify them at every opportunity and that reducing their numbers to an absolute minimum is a desirable end in itself. As a policy, it’s derived from a 19th century manifesto titled ‘the protocols of the elders of Zion’. This exists in several forms but is thought to be Russian in origin and written to beef up anti- Semitic attitudes in Europe.
And so it continues: every few months the firearms bit of the Home Office comes up with something to contribute to the misery of people who try to act lawfully, usually cobbled to some other knee-jerk restrictive legislation intended to patch a defect in earlier legislation that didn’t work in the first place anyway. Nothing in the Firearms Act or any of the subsequent amendments has ever prevented any crime – its actually caused most of it by retrospectively outlawing various products that were in legitimate possession until the wet paint on the barn door changed all that. The hunt-sab approach to the law abiding adopted in Home Office guidance to police also causes crimes; as police officers and officials stretch the controls to try encompassing yet more lawful activities.
The latest attempt to repaint the barn door (announced on 8th April by former Home Secretary Amber Rudd) is an offensive weapons bill. The targets for this bill include corrosive substances (already prohibited by section 5(1)(b) of the Firearms Act 1968 when used as a weapon), Bump-stocks (already prohibited by section 5(1)(A) when fitted to a firearm) MARS rifles (created to comply with earlier wet paint restrictions) and any rifles chambered for the centenarian .50 BMG (12.7x99mm) cartridge. MARS (Manually Activated Release System) rifles were developed to comply with current legislation (semiautomatic rifles were prohibited in 1988 – this system requires the shooter to manually close the bolt into battery after a fired case is automatically ejected) and the .50”BMG is a long range target round. Both are the exclusive preserve of firearm certificate holders.
That the Home Office still refer to ‘gun and knife crime’ is because their agenda is to vilify law abiding firearms owners at every opportunity: which means they still haven’t grasped the point that the solution will never be found while they continue wittering on about the symptoms. Nor will anything mentioned in the bill have any impact on the problems of feral youths robbing the public in streets the police have given up policing, drug gang turf wars or the social pressures that make having some deterrent (such as a knife) handy to preserve one’s safety in public.
‘Gun crime’ statistics are misleading since so much that is recorded as gun crime is dealers writing out serial numbers wrongly and certificate holders failing to sign their certificates on receipt. Actual criminals do feature in the statistics though: since the handgun ban in 1997 various shady underworld types have found ways of making handguns available to those who want them. The supply crime waves we noticed were:
- Grant Wilkinson (among others) converting blank firing MAC 10s to live ammunition; the Home Office reaction was new laws about deactivated firearms.
- Other blank firing models are available and have been messed about with, such as the Kimar model 85 starting pistol that featured in William Bewley’s appeal in 2012 – although that one was messed about with by the police ‘expert’ and not by the appellant; who was acquitted by the appeal court.
- Re-activating de-acs happens. The rumour is that the AK type rifles used in the Paris attacks in 2015 were Latvian de-acs restored by mail- order parts from America.
- Somebody discovered that American cartridge carriers, which permit .22” rimfire cartridges to be fired through a .38” revolver, would work in early model Brocock type air cartridge revolvers and supplied the underworld with them. Gunmakers redesigned their products so that they wouldn’t and when a suitable legislative opportunity came along, the Home Office banned them altogether without compensation for legitimate owners.
- Makarov pistols are freely available
- in Europe chambered for CS gas cartridges. The monobloc design is such that the barrel can be replaced with one of .357” calibre and the pistol then used with 9mm short ammunition and these have been turning up in scrotes’ possession for many years now.
- Other, less commercial cobble-ups also turn up. One was found in Azelle Rodney’s car after police shot him and another was found near where Mark Duggan died after police shot him. These examples among others gave rise to the Home Office newspeak category of ‘viable’.
- In 2017, Messrs Parish and Redford’s appeals against sentence were rejected. They had been caught with a quantity of revolvers and ammunition in their car. The revolvers were what we’d call ‘saloon pistols: chambered for CB caps and sold as toys in Europe, but such deadly prohibited weapons in the UK that their custodial sentences were regarded by the court as too lenient.
CB cap saloon pistol at IWA 2018
We used to use 20 foot pound CB caps out of a .22” revolver to shoot feral pigeons off barn rafters back in the days when we had .22” revolvers and didn’t need to prove that the pigeon’s failure to go to a proper water closet was a serious nuisance in milking parlours – and we didn’t need a DEFRA licence back then either.
What is interesting about all the trouble bad people go to in order to possess prohibited small firearms is how rarely they feature as murder weapons. The late Colin Greenwood told us when we first met him in 1981 that 50 gun deaths a year would be typical and percentage changes were quite useless when dealing with such small numbers. The most recent figure we’ve seen for the UK was 26. The trend has been actually downwards, despite the significant population increase since 1981.
So if the scrote community aren’t going to all that trouble to kill each other, or us, they have them for some other purpose: status symbols, bling, inferiority complexes, defence of life, liberty and property, paper weights or fishing weights. The driver that made cobble-ups desirable was the handgun ban. While handguns were legal, bad people only occasionally got hold of them and nobody wanted an improvised weapon while the possibility of the other scrote having a real one existed. The handgun ban levelled the playing field such that all the scrotes only had access to cobble-ups.
Real guns; whether stolen from certificate holders, illegally imported, pre-regulation or war souvenirs, were generally starved of ammunition – the UK is one of the few places with restrictions on ammunition sales and that kept backstreet gunfire down.
The real question for us is whether the latest Home Secretary (Sajid Javid at the time of writing) is going to be another sleepwalker or someone who will try to apply solutions to problems rather than applying Home Office policies toward the wrong targets. The early signs are that he just might be the man to address actual problems; in which case the actual problem to address is offensive people and not a random selection of inanimate objects. Our problem is Home Office policy toward the shooting and associated sports. The best solution to that would be to get the management of the law abiding devolved to a dedicated agency, equipped with guidelines that reflect the law rather than the late Sir John McKay’s paranoia. Ω
Europe’s premier outdoor pursuits trade fair kicked off on 9th March with the press launch of Blackwater ammunition: their .50”BMG in particular. Innovatively manufactured to weigh a third less overall than conventional munitions, it’s a modern interpretation of an old idea – making ammunition smaller and lighter means that the soldier can carry more cartridges for the same weight – but probably at the expense of longer range accuracy. A good WW2 example would be .30”M1 carbine. Soldiers equipped with that weapon parachuted into Normandy carrying 600 rounds apiece, while those with the .30”-06 M1 Garand rifle carried 150 rounds.
A more modern consideration has been the weight saving in the air. Every pound (or kilo) less a helicopter carries enables it to go (up to a point) higher and faster. Now Blackwater claim to have done it by moving to two-part aluminium casings, so that they can make the case walls both actually and proportionately thinner and by making bullets from solid copper. How that will fly remains to be seen. The company manufacture in Malta GC. They say that’s because it counts as a civilian calibre there, whereas in Italy it’s a military round that they can’t make.
Blackwater’s other launch was of a quick- fit-and-release sound moderator for the AR platform. It clips over the standard AR series ‘flash hider’ (which we’ll discuss in greater detail elsewhere) and clips off just as slickly. Their video demonstration suggests a significant recoil reduction in using the device and its titanium casing dispels the heat quickly enough for it to be removed a few seconds after five rounds rapid had been through it. Apart from being slick, it has the benefit of not requiring removal of any other part from the rifle. The need to remove something from a weapon to add an accessory creates two problems, viz: (a) what to do with the removed part and (b) what to do when you lose the removed part.
To flesh that a little: fitting a sound moderator to an Uzi meant unscrewing the barrel nut. The moderator itself becomes the barrel nut when screwed on, but now you’ve got a spare barrel nut that’s too small to be threaded onto the sling and having no place to ride on the person or the weapon, could be lost. The solution in this instance would be just to leave the moderator in place until a replacement barrel nut can be ordered, but wind back a little further to WW1 and the Pedersen device for additional problems, which we’ll discuss elsewhere.
Post-launch, officials on the company stand blanked enquiries about the factory, the proposed ranges and everything else about the products that had been mentioned in the press launch: which left us wondering if the products were actually ready for the very expensive promotion they got at the start of this show.
Swarovski launched a new line of binoculars and two telescopic sights. Their slick videos were counterbalanced by a hammy stage performance by staff. The bins include a range-finder, one-handed operation and a bright orange casing so that you can find them after putting them down. That’s not as silly as it might sound. Deer are colour-blind, so everyone tells us and in any event if you’re pointing the bins at the deer he can only see any light reflecting off the lenses and not the colour of the case.
Available in 8x42 and 10x42 these are going to make someone’s day if you add them to his Christmas stocking.
The new scopes - Z8i 0.75 - 6x20 have superbly clear optics and performed very well in the natural low-light of the windowless suite where the press launch took place: intended for close action in forested terrain, the wide angle and quick adjustment is going to suit some shooting styles. The presentation concentrated on their use against wild boar, which in the UK is a difficult and a contentious subject for another article.
We went to SOG’s press conference, thinking they were a knife company. They turned out to be the Swedish Outdoor Group – 10 press conferences in one: of which the most riveting was for the Walkstool.
The presenter capably demonstrated it in multiple positions and its utility to anyone who needs to sit for long periods while still needing a rapid 360-degree movement of the upper body. We caught up with him on his stand and he turned out to be a professional actor. He knew the product, knew his lines and how to show the product to best advantage. It makes a great difference when the presentation is that professional. When it started, we wondered what the point would be and by the end of we wanted one.
Trusted UK suppliers include Robert White, but bear in mind if looking on line that this product comes in four sizes, so read carefully. And if
you’re wondering why it’s expensive, check this out.
The only way this wont last your lifetime is if you lose it.
We at the SRA are hobby lumberjacks – of necessity. The woodland we use for some shooting courses and competitions slopes steeply and three dozen or so trees a year fall over: so we have to clear the tracks and the Afon Pedran of obstructions. The Nordic pocket saw looked useful, so we had a go with it on their stand.
A chainsaw type chain with the opposing teeth facing each other instead of all acing the same way, so it cuts in both directions.
We should also mention Hultafores – Swedish axes of traditional design with American hickory stocks. We once got four chainsaws and the winch cable stuck in a leaning tree and had to walk back for an axe to solve the problem – which it did with one blow – so axes still have their place in the pantheon of heavy-duty gardening tools, and unlike some garden implements, aren’t yet restricted by government interference. Smaller versions (sometimes called tomahawks) are still used in the Scout movement for throwing competitions, as are knives.
IWA is an outdoor pursuits show, so all the products one would expect to see at the American SHOT Show were here: saws, machettes and axes: knives in their thousands, boots of all kinds, clothing, gunsafes and guns galore.
Most suppliers won’t miss Britain after we leave the EU – because so many of the products available at this show are already prohibited in the UK. Most of the knife makers had no UK street legal folding pocketknife in their portfolio. Most of the less than lethal self defence options (which people would carry instead of kitchen knives if only they were available) are illegal in the UK, as are the handguns, most of the rifles, half the shotguns, some of the air guns, all of the blank firers and so on.
Some stuff is UK-OK, of course, like these Indian-made replica Tommy helmets, available new or aged.
Moving on to guns, the sporting rifle and shotgun markets were well catered for at this show and when it comes to handguns, Britain is the sick man of Europe: the only place with a handgun ban, despite repealing it repeatedly winning Daily Telegraph polls and politicians agreeing that it was a mistake to punish all Britain’s target pistol shooters for the incompetence of the now defunct Central Scotland Police, not to mention the crying need for citizens to be prepared for the unexpected when going about their lawful occasions – the antithesis of the Home Office jibe about ‘the off-chance of being attacked’: it has been far too real for so many people lately that the off-chance possibility is now more of a real chance probability. The intelligence and policing services say they are doing an excellent job, but can’t be everywhere at once; nor do they have any obligation to protect you – that’s still your common law responsibility.
The handgun market has consolidated in the two decades we’ve been kept out of it and the big winner is the M1911 (see the front cover). Designed by John Moses Browning for a US army adoption contest it came at the end of a rapid run of small arms development triggered by the general adoption of ‘smokeless’ powders. The break point in Britain was 1904: until then, the Proofmasters tested submissions with black powder cartridges, unless a nitro proof was requested. Then in 1904 they switched to testing everything with nitro proof ammunition unless a black powder test was sought. Many Victorian era cartridges made the transition, while some didn’t: .320” comes to mind. More importantly, nitro powders, with their cleaner burn, facilitated the more delicate mechanisms that repeaters depend upon.
Everyone and his dog at this show offers M1911s, or more accurately homages to the M1911. The test of a real one is to cock and lock it, then drop it nose down. Don’t try this at home. If it goes off it’s a 1911 because the safety catch doesn’t lock the firing pin. Designers have come up with various ways of preventing Colt/Browning toe; firing pins in three parts with the safety catch moving the centre part out of the way is one. Ruger’s transfer bar is another. What we do hope is that 1911 magazines are common to all.
Back in the day, we had some six variations of the Browning GP35 pistol: a pre-war commercial, a Belgian one made under Nazi occupation, a Canadian Inglis made for British issue, an Ex Metropolitan police Mk2 and a Browning Scamp. They all worked off the same magazines – the ones that came in them would work any of them, as would aftermarket 20-round types we bought. We also had an extended spare barrel, threaded for a sound moderator and that could be assembled into any of them. We don’t remember if we tested smaller parts for their interchange ability. The collection we did test that on were all Tokarevs.
Anyway, in the plethora of 1980s/90s handgun innovations driven by the trade trying to solve limitations in police training, Browning launched the BDM, which had some nice traits, some silly ones and is best remembered for not taking proper Browning magazines. While having these flashbacks we came up to the Tisas stand. A Turkish manufacturer making – you guessed – M1911s, but then we saw a Browning GP35A.
It looked good, felt good, disassembled and still looked good. We can’t test it yet, but indications from colleagues in free countries is that the magazine interchanges with real ones, but the slide to frame fit doesn’t, so Tisas are not going to be a useful source of Browning spares. Company reps were pleased that their product attracted attention – if only by triggering happy memories and they hope Brits will want to go shooting in their facilities in Turkey, to which we look forward. Ω
John Pedersen’s Device
This piece is concerned with firearms parts and what happens when they are detached from the firearm and is written by one who has bought several .22” rifles with perfectly good iron sights, only to later find that Scottish SRA rep Frank Berry has drifted them out of their dovetail sockets to make room for a telescopic sight on the rifle; only to fail to put them back when he wants to move the ‘scope on to another rifle. Somewhere, there’s a motherload of iron sights, (They’re all in the herbalist chest – Ed) waiting to be reunited with their rifles.
Anyway, to start at the beginning; rifles have fittings for accessories (or functions) that are not in continuous use. These include the sling swivels and bayonet lug; piling swivels are to be found on earlier rifles. We can’t think of anything that needed to be removed from a British military Short, Magazine Lee Enfield rifle to fit something else: the bayonet served as the locking lug for the grenade launcher: one would have to remove the bayonet to fit the wirecutter, but, and this is the point, the bayonet had a sheath on the soldier’s webbing belt to return to.
Back in the Great War (1914-19) military forces had the problem of crossing no-mans- land into enemy fire without cover during an advance. The French came up with a solution before the war in the Chauchat machine rifle: an automatic weapon that troops could fire from the hip as they ‘marched’ across the muddy and pockmarked no-mans-land between the trench systems. The Americans adopted the Chauchat re-chambered for their rifle ammunition to followed this infantry tactic concept while waiting for delivery of the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) in 1917. To widen automatic fire on the battlefield by giving the facility to more soldiers, John Pedersen of Remington Arms came up with the device that bears his name.
What the Pedersen device did was convert a standard American military bolt-action service rifle into a semiautomatic weapon, firing lighter munitions. Think of Pedersen ammunition as the father of the M1 carbine cartridge. To use this gizmo, you take the bolt out of your rifle and fit the device to give troops in forward movement a means of laying fire on the position they were attacking as they advanced. That was innovative in its day, as troops were usually manoeuvred with empty weapons and it solves two problems: one is people stopping to fire while they should be on the move (making them an easier target) and the other is that anybody stopping to fire is doing so through his own ranks.
Submachine guns came later: they were ‘trench brooms’ for fighting in confined spaces. The Pedersen didn’t see action on the battlefields, having been developed too late in the war and the remaining echo of its existence is the otherwise redundant ejector port in the left side of some M1903 and P17 rifle receivers.
The problem of what to do with the rifle bolt was sufficiently contentious in field trials for the device not to see action. The theory was that American troops could convert their rifles to rapid fire light ammunition weapons, for which they could carry plenty of light ammunition to expend while crossing no-mans land and then, having taken the enemy trenches, switch to the heavier ammunition for their bolt action rifles to defend their gains against any counter-attack. It’s an idea that makes sense until you try it. Barrel nuts and rifle bolts aren’t all troops are capable of losing on the battlefield; without the bolt the rifle doesn’t work and British designers were sufficiently conscious of the risk of losing a loose bolt that the Lee Enfield barrel is cleaned with a flexible pull-through; you don’t need to detach the bolt to use it, unlike the Mausers that have a ramrod and you need to share a tent with two or three others to screw the ramrods together for barrel cleaning.
Now think of spare magazines. The earliest automatic pistol magazines drop out when a button is pressed – P’08 Luger and Colt M1911 – but a lot of (cheaper) designs have a heel latch that forces the user to pull the magazine clear. This is done for several reasons: space – 1910 Browning: cheap – Walther P38 and on most submachine guns it’s done like that so that once you’ve got it in your hand, you’ll save it to a pouch for reloading. That’s true of the Thompson, Sten, MP40 and PPSh 41 etc.
So the logic to Blackwater’s silencer not requiring troops to strip a part off the rifle to fit it is obvious. If you don’t have to take something off the rifle, you don’t have to put anything back and thus can’t lose it in the meantime: which makes it a smart product. The utility of a sound moderator on a rifle that fires supersonic ammunition is that it protects the firer’s ears and those of people near him. It has the added benefit of reducing recoil, partly by slowing the gases and partly by being a barrel weight and it also distorts the location of the firer.
Passing ammunition has a Doppler effect, same as an ambulance siren. When under artillery fire, you can tell from the sound whether it’s going to fall short, pass over or initiate everyone ducking. Likewise smallarms: bullets coming at you don’t sound the same as those going away, and when you add a moderator, it changes things again.
The first tests we did with full-bore sound moderators in the 1990s suggested that the sound appears to come from opposite the muzzle. We tried this on a fox: the bullet missed him underneath and hit the ground a dozen feet from where he was standing. He immediately turned away from the rifle, looking initially at the splash of wet earth thrown up by the impact and then he paced to and fro a bit with his back to the rifle, still studying the hedge at the far end of the field.
So locating the shooter just got harder and if
you’re under sniper fire, your survival is going
to be more certain if you can avoid the threat by
fire and movement. Fire towards the enemy and
move laterally: it that only works if you locate the
We’ll look forward to seeing what becomes of
Blackwater and we’ll bring you the answers
when we have them. Ω
For as long as anyone can remember, the Firearms Act has, in addition to controlling who possesses firearms, also controlled the possession of any device designed to diminish the noise or flash.
Straightaway, one thinks of the ammunition, as that causes the noise and any flash as it goes off. But that is separately controlled, so the legislation is targeting something else. The barrel plays a significant role in how much noise a cartridge makes: longer barrels appear quieter because the noise is at the muzzle and that’s further away from the firer. We always wore hearing protection to shoot a 24-inch Mossberg Slugster, which felt unnecessary when shooting a 36-inch barrelled Marlin Goose Gun. The extra foot of pipe served as a sound moderator, but that’s not what the legislation meant; barrels already being controlled and so the search continues.
Next, we should ask what the flash actually is, and the answer is unburned powder. When a gun is fired, the firing pin strikes the case primer, which explodes forcing a flaming jet through the anvil to ignite the powder. Nitro powder burns rapidly generating gas and it’s that expanding gas that seeks the weak point in the cartridge case. That is the bullet crimped into the case mouth, so the gas forces the bullet out of the way. The bullet can only go one way, as directed by the bore. The rifling in the barrel forces the bullet to turn on its axis as it progresses up the bore.
Once it leaves the confines of the barrel, the bullet travels at the speed it has been accelerated to by the powder charge and turns on its axis as instructed by the rifling. In a well-designed firearms and cartridge combination, the powder should finish its burn just before the bullet exits the barrel. However, nothing is perfect and Adolf Hitler complains in Mein Kamph that he hated sharing his Great War trench with carbine troops because the Tommies opposite saw the flashes, which told them their opposite numbers were second-rate troops and that encouraged them to deposit more grief upon Corporal Hitler’s trench.
Hitler was an infantryman, so he had a Mauser G98 rifle with a 30-inch barrel. The carbine troops he despised would have had 18-inch barrels and if they used the same ammunition as the infantry, there would be a flash as that ammunition was designed to burn the powder up in the longer barrel. Older members will remember the same effect in .22” clubs where no muzzle flash could be seen from the rifles, but the same ammunition would show a flash when used in pistols.
Those who don’t have that experience could look at Massad F Ayoob’s 1980s book ‘Stressfire’; the cover illustration illumination is all muzzle flash. Factory magnum ammunition is also intended for carbines.
The .303” Bren gun has a bell-mouthed barrel. The bell is part of the barrel, so despite the best efforts of the police who claimed otherwise in a 20th century court case (another law abiding taxpayer dragged to court to answer spurious charges about his lawfully owner firearm), didn’t require a separate variation. What it’s designed to do is to protect the firer’s night vision. It may be that a flash is visible to our nation’s enemies from in front, but its spread protects the firer who is behind the weapon.
Post WW2, ‘flash hiders’ became a screw- on-screw-off feature of automatic rifle barrels. We say ‘flash hiders’ because that was the generic term for gadgets that act as thread protectors and muzzle brakes, as well as keeping mud and debris out of the bore or serving as a mount for the bayonet. The gizmo on the end of an AR platform rifle is still called a flash hider, but all the ones we checked at IWA were cut as muzzle brakes: so what is a flash hider? It seems to be what the police ‘experts’ think it is.
In R v Yong (2015) his appeal was dismissed because, although the flash hider (in his case) was intended to perform other functions – one of which was as the support for the less-than-lethal bolt-on Mr Yong was working on, it was still regarded as a flash hider by the police. Ω
The last but one in the Wehrmacht’s Machine Pistol series, the MP40 is probably the best known and most widely homaged. We say that because the copies with which we are familiar don’t do justice to the original design: they just seek to look like it.
The idea of a portable fully automatic weapon using short range pistol ammunition occurred to several combatant nations during the First World War for use as a trench broom – to sweep trenches with close range flanking fire once in them to put down opposition. It’s interesting to look at the smallarms of the Great War and then to consider the innovations that the war wrought in further development, but confining this to the innovation of submachine guns it goes like this: the Italians were first into the trenches with one – of sorts – adapted from an aircraft weapon. Germans Willy Schmeisser and Theodor Bergmann worked on what became the MP18 – a rifle stock sporting a 9mm barrel in a ventilated jacket and utilising 32-round Luger snail drum magazines. These got to the troops in the summer of 1918, but are more often seen in post-war photographs of Weimar Republic policemen.
American John Moses Browning’s contribution to Great War portable firepower was the Browning Automatic Rifle in 1917. This was one specification before clearing trenches – it was to help get there in the first place. Another American idea for doing that was the Pedersen device (mentioned elsewhere in this issue) and the general idea of firing on the move was French in origin and for which they’d developed the Chauchat: an automatic rifle that, like the B.A.R., took the infantry rifle cartridge. Pedersen’s device was closer to the submachine gun concept, or at least the cartridge was; but it operated as a sub calibre device fitted into the rifle. Thompson’s trench broom concept was too late to join the party; as its nomenclature suggests (M1921) it didn’t see daylight until the war was over.
While the German and American contributors to weapons development in the Great War were their best remembered firearms designers, Britain’s contributors to developing weapons for close action in the trenches seem to have been practitioners: the men who were there. They came up with jam tin grenades, knuckleduster trench knives, knuckledusters, trench clubs, sawn- off rifles and rifles made into pistols. They sharpened the front edge of their helmets, fitted hob nails to gloves and elbow patches, devised several proto flamethrowers and
generally worked on the principle of getting close action weapons to bayonet distance with the enemy in spaces where using a bayonet might be impractical.
In between the wars, America’s Thompson design went through several modifications, as did the German MP18. The first German refinement was the MP28, and that’s the design the Sterling Arms Company ripped off to make the Lanchester submachine gun for the Royal Navy’s order in 1941. Next came the MP38, usually seen with a wooden shoulder stock and then the MP40 – an MP38 with production simplifications and a folding metal stock, varnished paper pistol grips and the now famous silhouette.
Grandma just after emptying the magazine in David Rupert’s 2009 YouTube video
As sub machineguns go, it had advantages and drawbacks. The three-part telescoping spring cover serves as a buffer to control muzzle-climb, making this a comfortable weapon to put full magazines through – even with the shoulder stock folded. There’s no fire selector, but by controlling the trigger you can keep it to two and three shot bursts, and the bullets will impact close to each other to maximise the wound channel.
The magazine being underneath means the spring has to be proportionately more powerful than that of a weapon with the magazine above feeding downwards – the Owen and the Bren for examples, hence the need for a loading tool to refill the mags. If you assume the prone rifle position, the magazine doesn’t touch the ground unless you go for the really prone US Marine sniper position, in which case you can’t see through the grass anyway.
If you reduce the design to a basic formula: 9mm, bottom loaded magazine, pistol grip, folding metal shoulder stock, ring front sight, sling swivels and the cocking lever on the left, it’s still in production – as H&K’s MP5. The telescoping bolt didn’t make it into the H&K design – that uses a sodium filled bolt and is a closed-bolt system, but the three part bolt did get into the Portuguese FBP design, which like other post-WW2 sub machine guns such as the Sterling and Uzi, also has a bayonet lug.
The MP40 didn’t, so troops equipped with it are seen with grenades.
The Lego version has an MP40 and a pistol.
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(top) Denix metal replica
(Bottom) .22” rifle version by German Sporting Guns (GSG).
The barrel has to be 300mm long for the UK.
These are the homages, the lookalikes; the .22” rifle arrived dry, has a soft trigger, difficult magazine release and is prone to stoppages – at least until its run-in. The main disappointments when opening the box were that it didn’t come with a sling or a second 24-round magazine: both can be sourced, if one takes the time to do so and spends the money.
The Denix replica likewise: one magazine and no sling. A second magazine would be a bit redundant for a gun that doesn’t work: original users had leather or canvas satchels that held three per side and you can see Kelly’s Heroes using them for their M1 Thompson magazines in the 1970 movie. You can see Clint Eastwood using a blank firing adapted one in ‘Where Eagles Dare’ two years earlier and you’ll spot the Denix replica (and airsoft versions) in more recent movies by the patched-on foot-long muzzle flash and the bolt not moving.
The air soft versions at IWA came nicely boxed with spare magazines and the sling; so they look good and present nicely.
We haven’t tested one, but if our experience of the .22” rimfire version is anything to go by – one .22” military lookalike is quite like another in performance terms – You won’t be disappointed if the air soft performs much the same as other air softs of a similar barrel length. Most sub machine guns have an eight-inch barrel, but the .22” variant has to have more than 30 centimetres of barrel (nearer to 12 inches) to comply with UK law: hence the design fudge at the muzzle.
More mature readers will recall the Americans doing much the same with full- bore designs to meet the US Federal criteria for being sold as rifles – the Sterling Mk8 and Auto Ordnance Thompson’s with 18-inch barrels. Gun designers have always worked to comply with the law and to fill a market. In wars and rumours of wars, the military set a spec and gun designers work to meet or exceed it. In peacetime we can trace firearms development being a reaction to policing requirements, competition standards and legislative controls dumped on civilian markets – such as the seven different power output limits for air guns around the European Union.
The MP40 is one of those obsolete designs that would be nobody’s first choice in the modern age: especially anyone trained on the Sterling. Come to that, sub machineguns generally are old hat, superseded by the MP44 assault rifle concept that morphed into the AK47, the Valmet and the Galil. It’s locked to its time by history, making the new wave of homages convenient for living history, film props and such. A taste of what the real deal was like, but a bit like dried eggs for breakfast.
Our kind of air soft.
Sitting behind this baby and some sandbags waiting for you.
Air Weapons 'Safety'
Updated in October 2017, the Home Office air weapons safety leaflet provides the basic safe shooting advice that is common ground for all shooters, but can’t resist mentioning the pitfalls as well. The word ‘offence’ features fourteen times on the face of the leaflet, as the minefield of mushrooming controls is explained in general terms – without references to the actual legislation. So the Home Office version of ‘safety’ is as much about keeping you safe from the police as it is about real safety.
You might not recognise the mention of section 19 of the Firearms Act, as the words ‘lawful authority’ are missing from the text on the leaflet. Until 2003, section 19 related to the possession of a firearm and ammunition or a loaded shotgun in a public place without lawful authority or a reasonable excuse. The presumption is that the suspect was in lawful possession of the firearm or shotgun; the menace addressed by a charge under this clause is what said suspect is doing in possession of his property in a public place at the material time.
Hence lawful authority or a reasonable excuse: These refer to what the suspect is doing at the time. Bisley camp, for example, is a public place, so anybody who books in for a shoot has lawful authority for being there with a firearm and ammunition. The usual loaded shotgun example is crossing a public road that bisects private land over which one has authority to shoot. It’s still legal to shoot from the road back over the land, provided no road user is inconvenienced – for that read ‘sees you do it’.
Clouds gathered over section 19 in 1988 with the amendment act. That pushed numerous shotguns into section 1 and some into section 5, leaving open the question of what happens in the case of a repeating section 1 shotgun: whether it counts as a firearm (ammunition present) or as a shotgun - whereupon it has to be loaded for an offence to be considered. A Scottish case decided that such a shotgun wasn’t loaded because, although the tube below the barrel had cartridges in it, the chamber was empty and by definition any ‘ordinary’ shotgun would have loaded chambers – if it were loaded.
Then in 2003, the Anti-Social Behaviour Act expanded section 19 by mentioning air weapons (whether loaded or not) as a category separate to firearms and ammunition (which they nevertheless are by definition) and imitation firearms – for which ammunition is neither mentioned nor relevant. The leaflet highlights the risk to any air weapon owner of having his air gun out with him in public without a reasonable excuse, but omits to mention lawful authority and does not include the long- standing advice that in transit through a public place any air gun should be securely covered so that it cannot be fired.
Segregating air weapons from other firearms in section 19 and making the offence possible without ammunition is worth exploring a bit further. In the old days, the Metropolitan police prosecuted certificate holders routinely if they discovered one in possession of his property in a public place: under section 19 if ammunition was present, but if not, they’d try for a breach of condition 2 – the storage condition. Now obviously, that wouldn’t work for air weapons, as there wasn’t a storage condition for them in 2003 (there is now), so the change stopped air gun owners avoiding a section 19 summons by keeping their ammunition where the gun was to be used: hence the change.
All in all, air gun owners in England and Wales now face much the same minefield when trying to get a gun from storage to use as real gun owners have been facing for decades, all helpfully set out in the leaflet.
Firearms pressure-bearing and other component parts
Back on the agenda courtesy of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 naming some parts, it’s also an issue in India where their legislation names a firing pin as a component: without describing one. In the UK and prior to the 2017 legislation, the simple test of whether something was a component (essential) part or not was whether a chief constable would give you a variation for it in isolation from a complete firearm and on that test a firing pin wasn’t a component part.
Some firearms came with additional parts anyway: Ruger Single Six revolvers, for example, came with two cylinders: 22LR and 22WMR and one would need a variation for both the firearm and the ‘spare’ cylinder – with the attendant risk of prosecution if the ‘wrong’ cylinder was fitted when police inspected it: because then you would be in possession of a spare cylinder not listed on your certificate and a firearm in a calibre (Home Office version of what calibre means) not listed on your certificate, thus putting you in possession of a firearm without a certificate. So there!
Problems like this, including the extra barrels that came with Dan Wesson revolvers, disappeared with the handgun ban, but were not confined to small firearms. The late Joss Thompson had a collection of Lee Enfield rifles and also acquired, on certificate variations, two spare barrels for them: made by BSA in 1940 and unused, he expected them to come in handy eventually: of course, the audit trail would be complicated had he fitted one to a rifle. He would have to have applied for a one-off- one-on variation to change the number of the ‘spare’ barrel to that which had been taken off the rifle, which might match the rifle number and then explain acquisition of a barrel with a different number that he already owned.
Additional sets of shotgun barrels don’t count, as shotgun certification relates solely to complete guns, but with some shotguns in section 1 and indeed section 5, there’s always someone in policing looking for a way to make trouble for any law-abiding taxpayer who has such extras. Dyfed Powys police require extra barrels, such as came as part of the Rizzini Dual Purpose gun to be listed separately on the shot gun certificate, which is weird. Readers who remember the cased Vostok MU pistols will recall that they came with a complete set of spares – springs and such, and two spare firing pins.
The policing of firearms laws in the UK is mainly directed at catching out those who are trying to comply with them. The recent changes to firearms legislation have no impact on the scrote community; drugs gangs, firearms smugglers or anyone else who is not engaged in trying to act lawfully; but to explain that statement, let us consider the backstory.
In UK legislation, the requirement to hold a certificate to possess firearms and component parts, or to trade in them, dates from 1920. That legislation refers to component parts of firearms and indicates that firearms parts are to be treated the same as firearms. The legal utility of treating components as firearms in their own right was to prevent criminals keeping firearms in parts at separate locations and avoiding prosecution for possession thus. So no alteration to the legislation, no change of category, ‘uplifting’ from one category to another, the naming of the parts or any other tweak to firearms legislation has made any difference to bad people since the 1920 enactment. Only one case under the Firearms Act 1920 reached the High Court – Cafferata v Wilson (1936), which considered that a dummy revolver contained ‘real’ parts. Nowadays, the case is regarded as unreliable and the mischief it sought to prevent was taken into statute in the Firearms Act 1982: which deals with the menace of ‘readily convertible’ imitation firearms.
The 1920 Act was superseded by a new Act of consolidation in 1937. The key difference was the separate classification of machine guns as prohibited weapons and subject to Defence Council authorisation. Machine guns are also firearms, so to have machine guns or component parts for them meant having both registration as a firearms dealer (or a firearm certificate) and the authority of the Defence Council to possess them and their parts. ‘Parts’ is quite relevant here, as section support weapons (Bren, MG42 etc.) come with quick-change spare barrels. Firearms were and still are subject to section 1 controls unless exempted and prohibited weapons are additionally subject to section 5.
Prior to administrative changes (and a seismic shift in attitude) in 1973, the firearms cases that came to the higher courts were few and all concerned people who were trying to act lawfully. Bryson v Gamage Ltd in 1907 concerned the ‘break point’ between a toy and a firearm in the context of an air pistol sold by Gamages (London department store). It had a barrel less than 9 inches long and the policeman contended that the buyer should first have acquired a pistol licence under the Pistols Act 1903. Such licenses were a tax: one had to acquire the pistols licence unless one already held a gun licence or a game licence. The High Court decided that it was a matter of fact and degree for the magistrates to decide.
They must have decided ‘toy’ because if they had decided ‘firearm’ Webley would have put longer barrels in their air pistols, as they did with their .22” target pistols. These were still common in target shooting clubs in the 1970s – single shot break action pistols with 10 inch barrels. The American definition of ‘lethal’ (full penetration of a half inch pine board - 60 foot-pounds) was not imported.
In 1947 Read v Donovan held that a flare pistol converted to take shotgun cartridges was a lethal barrelled weapon and in 1960 the court decided in Moore v Gooderham that an air gun that could cause ‘more than a trifling injury’ was a lethal barrelled weapon. That set a sort of threshold – a very low one.
We note in passing that the two cases relating to airguns were both brought against traders (as was Cafferata v Wilson): the first (Gamages) for selling a toy to someone without a pistol licence and the second (Gooderham) for selling to a person who was old enough to buy a toy, but not old enough to buy a firearm.
The 1968 Act exempted air pistols of less than 6 foot pounds striking energy and air rifles of less than 12 foot pounds of striking energy from the firearm certificate requirements, while still regarding them as lethal barrelled weapons. There was a debate between forensic science laboratories as to the minimum power output for classification as ‘lethal’ and eventually 1 joule (0.7ish of a foot pound) was adopted as the lower limit via Scottish air weapon legislation. Air soft guns are permitted a slightly higher limit and paintball is exempted, except in Dyfed Powys where police got a section 5 conviction on a paint-baller in the 1990s.
The only pre-1973 case on record concerning component parts to have reached the textbooks was Watson v Harman (1952) 2 All ER 70 in which the defendant was prosecuted for adding a telescopic sight to his rifle without a variation on his firearm certificate to do so. He was acquitted on appeal. This case indirectly settled a number of arguments, as the telescope is an accessory (not a component) that could also be used on an air rifle, or just mounted on a walking stick for bird watching. Other ‘firearms parts’ that consequently became regarded as accessories include the bayonet, sling, cleaning kit etc. Small parts, such as screws, sling swivels and the piling swivel are accessories, as is the butt-plate, wooden furniture and those parts that hold the rifle together – barrel bands and such.
Another try-on for defining component parts was the presence of a serial number. On a Webley revolver it repeats on the lower frame (which includes the breech face), the upper frame (which includes the barrel) and on the cylinder, so that works; whereas on a short Lee Enfield rifle it’s on the receiver, the barrel and the nose cap. It does not repeat on the bolt and the barrel might have been changed: new barrels have their own numbers and are not re-numbered to the rifle. The bolt was and is a component part, but the nose cap wasn’t then and isn’t listed in the 2017 legislation as one. The issue seems to have settled down after the 1952 case, as the ‘spare’ parts most shooters had (magazines in particular) were accessories by definition.
The seismic shift in UK thinking came after the 1968 Firearms Act. That was an act of consolidation, bringing together the Firearms Acts 1937 and 1965 with the creation of shot gun certificates in the Criminal Justice Act 1967 and the criminal law relating to firearms. 600,000 people applied for shot gun certificates and that number shocked the chief inspector of constabularies into forming a committee to ‘do something’ about the number of people who owned firearms legally. This led to the McKay Report in 1972. It has never been published, but some of its recommendations appeared as a government green paper Cmnd 5297 in 1973. The entire proposal for ‘reforming’ firearms legislation (mainly by banning various firearms by type) was rejected by Parliament.
One aspect of the McKay report that stuck was control of issuing prohibited weapons authorities; which shifted from the Ministry of Defence to the Home Office and with that regime change came significant policy and attitude changes. The point of the section 5 ‘prohibited weapons’ classification in 1937 was to take military automatic weapons out of police controls. The police had some discretion about issuing firearm certificates and the 150 chief constables took pride in their ‘independence’ and varied in their approach to the subject quite widely. The effect was that police discretion was aimed at preventing the public maintaining possession of militia weapons; that led to military weapons being reclassified as prohibited unless authority from the Defence Council was obtained. Once that was granted, the police had no discretion to refuse the section 5 holder the section 1 certificate or registration as a firearms dealer, which prevented the chief constables obstructing militia preparedness.
The seismic change of approach came in 1973 when the Home Office took over section 5 and set about getting rid of all section 5 authorities except those that they thought too difficult to eradicate. So machine gun collectors, machine gun clubs and Home Guard units that had mothballed their kit in 1944 were shut down. The effect on the gun trade was a series of prosecutions, as the police tried to prevent ‘the public’ having machine guns in any form. Prior to 1973 incomplete machine guns were regarded as section 1 parts; so all sorts of bits were sculling around the gun trade and quite possibly all in the same shop. And that didn’t matter.
The trade had been remanufacturing obsolete military weapons into working firearms for public enjoyment for over a century by then. French single shot bolt action military rifles were re-barrelled to 12 bore in the 19th century and still turn up in auctions catalogued as ‘Zulus’. Martini Henry rifles were re-bored to 20 bore. Any .303” could be re-bored to .410” musket and the earliest ones we have seen were made at Ishapore; they bored number 1 Lee Enfields to .410” and replaced the magazine with a grooved hardwood plug. Automatic weapons were adapted to semiautomatic fire and longer barrelled ones (Bren guns, Lewis etc.) were also offered as either smoothbores or re-chambered to .410” musket.
The conversion of military weapons to shotguns for sale to certificate holders was largely to satisfy the collectors’ market, which broadened its activity into living history clubs and from there into re- enactment of events.
The conflict of interests (the wannabe police state versus the public who thought they lived in a free country) in the 1970s was:
a) The police wanting to reduce the number of firearms in the hands of the public to an absolute minimum (McKay Report):
b) The Home Office trying to split the gun trade into section 5 military and defence contractors versus section 1 civilian without changing the definition of a firearms dealer to show what they were doing:
c) The trade being largely stocked with obsolete military weapons for which there was a significant and growing UK civilian market:
d) The public wanting to enjoy their increased personal wealth and leisure time engaging in the target sports, game and rough shooting, theatrical participation playing war games and simply collecting.
Sir John McKay (chief inspector of constabularies) didn’t know so many people had shotguns until the certificate was introduced in 1968 and 600,000 people applied. His ignorance was because the widespread ownership of guns wasn’t causing a problem that had come to police attention. What Sir John McKay didn’t know was that co-operation with the new certificate was at best only 25% of the people who could have applied. Much of the ‘increase’ in certificate numbers recorded 1968-88 was people taking up the requirement late – when they found out about it and without the dead hand of the police state preventing lawful ownership, there should be over two million shot gun certificates on issue by now.
The farming community regarded one certificate per family as sufficient for many years thereafter, treating it the same as a TV licence. Likewise poisons licenses and such.
The same went for clay shooting families, as when they went to a shoot, they tended to go together. Separate certificates were irrelevant until photographs and serial numbers came onto them in 1989.
If one follows the trajectory of shot gun certificate numbers, they rose steadily through the 1970s and up to 1988, then stalled and have since declined. No other sport has such a trajectory of support. What the figures show is the bureaucracy discouraging take-up of shooting as a hobby: they vilify us at every opportunity and shooting thus withers on the vine. When ‘Guns Review’ was launched in 1960, all the shooting sports were on the up. Given the 50% increase in population since then, the increased wealth and spending power of the public, the proportionate decrease in the cost of guns as a percentage of income: then take away the costs of two recessions and there should still be five times as many shot gun certificates now as there were when they were launched in 1968. But instead there’s less.
The Home Office taking over section 5 was a kind of palace coup. All the international military weapons dealing takes place through embassies and military attaches to set up the contracts and the Department of Trade and Industry for the export/import licenses. Getting the section 5 from the Home Office is an afterthought, as the Home Office won’t issue the authority until there is a deal, so one has to negotiate that without any credentials. The deal serves as the evidence of trading need that is the HO definition of the section 5 being required: so they didn’t recognise the existing possession of what was in the gun trade in 1973, or any reasons for having them other than for selling. Everything had to be reworked through the Ministry of Defence and the DTi for the trade to be able to explain their trading need in words of one syllable to the Home Office, which had no knowledge, experience or understanding of the subject beyond being pressed by policing to eradicate as much of that trade as possible. The additional complication in this bureaucracy is that back in 1973, only machine guns were section 5 prohibited. Now, most things are and military attaches don’t set up deals for walking stick shotguns, handguns or Brocock revolvers.
Looking at ‘Guns Review’ magazine in 1973 (the year the attitude changed), of the twelve cover pictures six are antique flint or caplocks. Three are sporting guns and three are military weapons. The advertisers are promoting new .22” target pistols, bolt action sporting rifles, shotguns and Japanese-made pot-metal replica guns. Small ads promote antiques, upcoming auctions, second-hand military rifles and pistols. An editorial bemoans the green paper (Cmnd 5297) and the newly formed Shooters’ Rights Association advertises for members.
The public had never had it so good. The traditional rifle clubs had formed up as militia in 1859 and moved to Bisley in the 1890s. In 1973, military bolt-action rifles remained the mainstay of the National Rifle Association with the P14 being a favourite. The NRA had consciously not adopted the Self Loading Rifle (L1A1) when the army did. There were still competitions in the Imperial meeting for which one needed an L1A1, but the government did not sell any into the civilian market during its production and it would be 1982 before a civilian (Jan A Stevenson) entered that competition, using an L1A1 from a batch sold off by the Singapore National Guard after they went to M16s.
The use of .22” rifles was widespread and really developed after the Boer War when the cartridge went to nitro. Clubs that used .22” rifles exclusively were exempted from all regulation in 1920 and remain so today by section 11(4) of the Firearms Act 1968. A new tranche of clubs emerged in 1945, being the rump of Home Guard units. Many of these were based around .22” rifle clubs anyway and having a .22” range made the adoption of pistol shooting a natural progression. In 1973, .22” pistols were in widespread use at local clubs, while full bore pistols were (a) mostly military surplus or war souvenirs and (b) mainly used at large facilities, such as Bisley. It would be 1978 before pistol shooters got their own governing body in the National Pistol Association. The biggest increase in gun ownership was the skilled working classes using their new wealth in the 1950s and onwards to buy shotguns. The first year ‘Guns Review’ published was 1960 and the letters pages reveal the new owners complaining that countryside shooting is inherited and inaccessible, while the owners of those sporting rights worry about where the new owners might be using their guns. That tension was resolved in the community without attracting police attention. Demand for places to shoot caused a rapid expansion of the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association, as landowners made space available for people to pay to use. The rural labour shortage caused initially by the war and then by the Women’s Land Army disbanding in 1950 made pest control available to gun owners who could travel: pigeon shooting in particular, as farmers needed the help. The rabbit problem was solved by the introduction of myxomatosis.
Collecting remained a significant part of the public interest. Flint and percussion guns featured prominently in many adverts. Italian reproduction cap and ball revolvers were on the market by 1973, but the public had to get a firearm certificate to acquire one and then use it for target shooting. The rest of Europe didn’t licence these and still don’t, so many are acquired as curiosities or ornaments. Japanese replica guns made of non-ferrous metals had started to serve the collector market, but it would be later in the 1970s before war surplus military weapons reached collectors by way of smooth-boring or deactivation.
The period after the green paper Cmnd 5297 was rejected in 1973 through to it reappearing as the Firearms Bill 1988 is littered with prosecutions of firearms dealers. The police objective of reducing the number of firearms in the hands of the public to an absolute minimum was measured – by them – with reference to the number of certificates on issue. Prosecutions were directed at trying to encompass obsolete firearms in the controls, rather than as exempted antiques, with a view to then refusing certificate applications from collectors. Other prosecutions were directed at pushing the boundary of section 5 to encompass more firearms and accessories so that neither the public nor the trade could keep them.
Rudi FORTSON of Queen’s Counsel wrote a paper for the Law Commission’s review of firearms legislation in 2015. What is interesting about it is that all the decided cases he mentions after 1973 relate to registered firearms dealers or other certificate holders. It’s also interesting for the number of significant acquittals of law- abiding taxpayers at the Court of Appeal that he fails to mention. The thrust of his argument is that more controls are required for their own sake and largely to reverse the decisions of the courts that went against police policy.
As an example, prosecutions relating to possession of a Lanchester submachine gun (made in 1942) and a Browning GP35 pistol (made in 1946) resulted in acquittals. In the old days, prosecutions for pure possession attracted fines in the £150 range, but in 2003, Jack Straw introduced a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for possession of prohibited small firearms. In all his announcements, he said the sentence would be for ‘carrying’ and thus directed at the scrote community, but when this new paint on the barn door dried ‘carrying’ had been changed to ‘possession’, thus shifting the policing focus from bad people to collectors. The scrotes received the additional benefit from Jack Straw of under 21s being exempted from the mandatory term.
Lanchesters, in common with most submachine guns, have an 8 inch barrel and so fell into this mandatory gaol term category along with the Browning pistol: with imprisonment looming, small wonder that collectors fought their cases on antique status and likewise small wonder that juries found in their favour. The Court of Appeal set out a ‘fact and degree’ test for antique status in Richard v Curwen (1977) and its that case – and R v Brown in 1994 - which defendants followed to get acquitted and its those cases that the 2017 legislation seeks to overturn by way of allowing the discredited and thoroughly dysfunctional Home Office to make regulations about antique status. Given that the Home Office has ignored the Richards v Curwen judgment ever sine it was handed down, their regulations will have even less respect for the law, the courts and the public than they have shown hitherto.
This brings us to a more detailed consideration of component parts: another example of the Home Office changing things because previous things haven’t killed off enough dealers and certificate holders. In 1980 R v HUCKLEBRIDGE (Attorney General’s reference number 3) considered two Lee Enfield rifles. One had been smoothbored and left chambered for .303” and the other had been bored out to and re- chambered for .410” musket. Mr Hucklebridge had acquired both as collector’s items on his shot gun certificate. His local police prosecuted him for possession of section 1 firearms without a firearm certificate i.e. ignoring the new proof marks; his jury convicted on the .303 and acquitted on the .410. The Attorney General wanted the Court of Appeal to decide if conversion of the barrel to section 2 shotgun status (as suggested by the acquittal) affected the status of the other ‘component parts’ of the now smoothbored rifle.
The Court of Appeal decided that both guns were smoothbored with barrels more than 24 inches long and thus both met the definition of a shotgun in the Act. The court further decided that all the component parts are a part of the whole. That works fine while the gun is in one piece. The Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) made short Lee Enfield rifles for the government before and during WW2. After the war BSA made .410 shotguns, using up their remaining Lee Enfield bolts. So while that bolt is part of the shotgun, it is a section 2 shotgun and bolt, but separately that bolt would be regarded by the police as a component part of a section 1 rifle: which, to be fair, is what BSA made them as in the first place.
The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 complicated things somewhat. Based on the rejected McKay Report, it reclassified self- loading rifles (other than .22”s) as prohibited weapons, along with various other military kit: anything with a bore of more than 2 inches, any mortars and rocket launchers. The rest of the prohibitions related to police paranoia – repeating shotguns with barrels less than 24 inches long and/or folding shoulder stocks, rotary drum shotguns and pump action rifles. These items tended to be marketed at police forces in America, so their lobbying for these bans was to make the products exclusive to policing: status envy rather than logic.
Mortars were an interesting target for prohibition, being smoothbored muzzle- loaded devices made before 1939 and having no moving parts. Most of then were old enough to be regarded as antiques in their own right and many had been sold to collectors on shot gun certificates. The 2- inch maximum bore for a shotgun introduced in the 1988 Act supported the end to that practice. The ammunition was section 5, but mortars did decorate clubrooms and mess halls etc. ‘Rocket launchers’ included the Projectile Infantry Anti-Tank (PIAT), which has no barrel and wasn’t classified as a firearm at all prior to the 1988 Act. The ammunition was and is section 5, so the odd ones that passed through antique shops were solely curiosities or film props. And finally, the redefinition of a shotgun was drafted to exclude those bored out Lee Enfields Mr Hucklebridge had. Another example of the Home Office hitting out at the law abiding taxpayers they purport to serve as a way of reducing firearms in the hands of the public to an absolute minimum despite the decisions of the courts.
Section 22 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 created a Firearms Consultative Committee to advise the Home Office on firearms matters. The co-opted membership of this committee came from policing, the Forensic Science Service and the gun lobby. Britain didn’t really have a gun lobby prior to 1973. The National Rifle Association, Clay Pigeon Shooting Association and such were governing bodies of their disciplines’ competitions. Public reaction to the 1973 green paper Cmnd 5297 was so broad that the shooting organisations, led by the Wildfowlers Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (WAGBI) formed an ad hoc committee that met in the longroom at Purdey’s in London. Gunsmith Larry WATKINS launched the Shooters’ Rights Association for the public to join and attended committee meetings. After the green paper was rejected, the longroom committee constituted itself as the British Shooting Sports Council (BSSC), and that became the gun lobby. The late Colin Greenwood repeatedly sneered at their efforts in his Guns Review articles.
The Firearms Consultative Committee published its programme of works each year and invited submissions. When the issue of component parts came up, the SRA suggested it should be defined as ‘pressure bearing parts’, which the committee adopted in their third annual report. In arriving at that recommendation, we took account of the deactivation process. Adopted in the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, the process of deactivating firearms was over a hundred years old at the time. In the 19th century a Scottish immigrant to the United States (Francis Bannerman) bought civil war surplus muskets to recycle the steel barrels. He re-barrelled the muskets with black- painted broom handles and sold these as ‘Quakers’. The British army deactivated rifles and carbines for drill purposes. These are usually marked ‘DP’ boldly stamped on the Knox form and on each side of the shoulder stock. The conversion work to Drill Practice arms usually included shortening the firing pin and a saw cut across the breech where the metal is not covered by the woodwork. The army were only concerned with preventing the weapon being fired: ‘DP’ rifles will often chamber and cycle drill rounds.
Deactivation in the modern British sense arose from the Firearms Act 1982 that addressed the menace of ‘readily convertible replicas’. It was prompted by an incident at the Trooping the Colour ceremony when a starting gun was fired near Her Majesty the Queen, causing her horse to twitch nervously. The actual ‘problem’ on the Home Office desk at the time was one Major Noel CORRY, resident of Steeple Bumpstead on the border of Essex and Suffolk. Major CORRY had been importing Spanish-made flintlock and caplock replica guns, which happened to be perfect in every detail except that the touchhole was not drilled through. Unlike the dummy guns in Cafferata v Wilson back in 1936, these replicas did not come with conversion instructions. Nevertheless, a few were converted to fire and can usually be identified by the touchhole having been drilled too large and too low in the pan. They are usually sans proof marks and have MADE IN SPAIN on them in English.
The 1982 Act made possession of a ‘readily convertible’ replica an offence, but provided a statutory defence for owners; which essentially meant that guilty knowledge had to be proven by the defendant’s attempt to convert the replica. So these exist on walls over the mantelpiece in, if not thousands, at least hundreds of British homes. People only get convicted if they adapt the piece to fire.
Following the 1982 Act, the Forensic Science Service produced guidance as to how to make replicas so that they would not be readily convertible. The gun trade applied that guidance to real firearms, which they then submitted to the Birmingham Proof House. The latter issued a certificate of un- provability, which described the submission as deactivated. The certificate of un- provability had been in use for decades and was usually issued in respect of arms for which proof ammunition was not available. The 1982 Act and its guidelines (revised in 2011) are still in force.
Deactivation was adopted by the government in section 8 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 and guidelines issued the following year. The 1989 guidelines are very similar to the 1983 replica guidance. Barrels had to be slotted and blocked or over-bored, breeches slotted beneath and blocked by cross pins. The standing breech or bolt face cut away, firing pin shortened. There were additional requirements for some weapons – weakening slots in rifle frames, barrels (Sten, Bren, Uzi etc.) barrels had to be fixed to the frame. The guidance was updated in 1995 and many times since.
Taking the 1983 replica firearm guidelines and R v CLARKE (1986) as a starting point and following those clues to the 1989 deactivation guidelines via court cases of our experience, we concluded that pressure bearing parts were the key components. Another clue is in firearms administration: what will a chief constable give a certificate variation for a certificate holder to acquire?
The Firearms Act identifies sound moderators and flash eliminators as firearms in their own right. Chief constables will give a certificate holder authority for a sound moderator to be used with a rifle. We have never seen a variation for a flash eliminator and wonder if the ‘R v Yong’ case kicked off because he asked for one. What purports to be a flash eliminator is common on AR15/M16 type rifles and is mounted on a standard thread – screw it off to fit the sound moderator; which can be bought without a certificate for use on an air rifle. The ‘flash eliminator’ on M16s is actually a muzzle brake. Flash is eliminated by the barrel being long enough to burn all the powder before the bullet clears the muzzle.
The current British L85 rifle has a muzzle flash because the ammunition is loaded for 100% reliability in the longer barrelled Light Support Weapon.
We have no idea what mischief the government sought to prevent by classifying (presumably detachable) flash eliminators as firearms in their own right. We had a case (Blair GRINDLE) where he was convicted of possessing a sound moderator without a certificate – after his chief constable recommended taking it off the certificate to make space for a firearm. It was a token conviction, he being acquitted of numerous other spurious charges. Both sound moderators and flash hiders have reached the High Court in Buckfield (1998) and YONG (2102) respectively.
In R v YONG (2015). Mr Doherty of counsel (Brudenell Chambers) explores the component/accessory conundrum and offers three options: parts that can only be used with a firearm, such as the barrel), mixed use parts that could be used on controlled or uncontrolled items (such as a sound moderator) and bits that were outside the controls altogether (furniture and screws). We mention in passing that the latest deactivation guidelines require any flash eliminator to be fixed to the weapon. The guidance is silent about what to do if the flash eliminator is actually a muzzle brake.
In YONG’s case, the Court of Appeal dismissed a defence proffered by counsel because it had not been raised at the original trial. We thought new evidence was admissible. If one buys an AR15 rifle, it will have a flash eliminator fitted. That is a part of the firearm, but for the purposes of the firearm certificate is not listed separately. All the parts are classified as parts of the rifle (R v HUCKLEBRIDGE 1980). If one takes it off to fit the sound moderator, it is still part of the rifle – the sound moderator will be listed separately on the certificate. Dr Yong’s problem was that he had no firearm certificate at all, so the parts had to be viewed in isolation.
The Firearms Consultative Committee’s 1992 recommendation in their third annual report) was revisited in the ninth annual report. Their second review initially dismisses the idea of including the firing pin as a component part, as a panel pin easily replaces it. However, their sub-committee included it in their proposed list at annex C. It would be 2017 before the law was amended to include clarification of component parts and the interpretations section 57 of the Firearms Act 1968 now states:
(1) In this Act, the expression “firearm” means—
(a) A lethal barrelled weapon (see subsection (1B));
(b) A prohibited weapon;
(c) A relevant component part in relation to a lethal barrelled weapon or a prohibited weapon (see subsection (1D));
(d) An accessory to a lethal barrelled weapon or a prohibited weapon where the accessory is designed or adapted to diminish the noise or flash caused by firing the weapon;
And so much of section 1 of this Act as excludes any description of firearm from the category of firearms to which that section applies shall be construed as also excluding component parts of, and accessories to, firearms of that description.
In subsection (1)(a), “lethal barrelled weapon” means a barrelled weapon of any description from which a shot, bullet or other missile, with kinetic energy of more than one joule at the muzzle of the weapon, can be discharged.
(1C) Subsection (1) is subject to section 57A (exception for airsoft guns).
For the purposes of subsection (1)(c), each of the following items is a relevant component part in relation to a lethal barrelled weapon or a prohibited weapon—
(a) A barrel, chamber or cylinder,
(b) A frame, body or receiver,
(c) A breech block, bolt or other mechanism for containing the pressure of discharge at the rear of a chamber,
But only where the item is capable of being used as a part of a lethal barrelled weapon or a prohibited weapon.]
(This text is lifted from the Firearms Act 1968 at
Politics and international considerations enter the subject for our consideration. The UK government’s ‘problems’ with firearms legislation stem mainly from its permanent civil service and police implementing the policies of the unpublished McKay report, which conflicts with the law as we know it in many respects. Other European countries control differing aspects of firearms ownership, having reached their respective positions through their experiences in the twentieth century. A few examples:
In America, as mentioned in the Firearms Consultative Committee third report from 1992, the frame (or lower receiver) is the controlled part – and that has the serial number on it. All the other parts, pressure bearing or otherwise, can be bought freely in the US, except where local laws prevent that. So the Chinese company Norinco made good quality refurbishment kits for American military rifles. The one we saw was for the M14 and contained everything except the receiver. The British company Sterling made similar kits for their products.
A few years ago, the Americans started panicking about 3D printers, as one could (in theory) print a lower receiver for an M16 and buy all the other bits. We thought it was an overblown issue, as the receiver on an M16 is not pressure bearing and can be hand-made out of wood, cast in resin, assembled out of Meccano or 3D printed. The M16 itself doesn’t use the receiver as a receiver, as the bolt locks to the barrel. One can load a round into an M16 barrel, lock the bolt in and fire it without any of the other parts. The M16 ‘receiver’ performs the same function as barrel bands on a Lee Enfield – it’s to hold the thing together.
However, these differences between regulatory systems are being used by criminals and terrorists: the Kalashnikov rifles used in the Paris attacks in 2016 were bought as deactivated wall-hangers in Latvia and then repaired with pressure-bearing replacement parts sourced mail order from the USA. Or so we are told. Britain’s criminals have Makarov pistols that are freely sold in Europe designed to discharge CS gas cartridges or paint. Bad people somewhere re-barrel them to 9mm short (the ammunition can be bought over the counter in Europe, as it’s not military) and they sell in the UK, gun and 16 cartridges, for £2,000 if the last court case we dealt with involving one is correct.
Before that, two people in the UK (David MITCHELL and Grant WILKINSON) reactivated MAC10 submachine guns. MITCHELL re-worked 1989 spec deactivated guns and WILKINSON re-worked blank firers made to the 1983 guidance for replicas. Both used industrial equipment for the efforts. An earlier crime wave involved air cartridge revolvers. These Brocock-made guns would chamber .38 Special ammunition, but had a .22” barrel, so someone imported 38/22 chamber adapters from Alaska and sold them on the streets.
And the solution to these bad peoples’ activities by government is to take everything else off everyone else: just in case, or on the off-chance of preventing a crime
The government ‘solution’ has been to widen the definition of component parts in the Policing and Crime Act 2017, clause 125 amended section 57 of the Firearms Act, as quoted above.
1(D) clarifies Dr YONG’s flash hiders as accessories, but makes it clear that he should have had documentation to possess them.
4(b) creates some questions, as yet unresolved. The ‘frame’ on a revolver is pressure bearing, as it includes the breech face. The receiver on a Lee Enfield rifle is pressure bearing, as the bolt locks against it, but the AR15/M16 type is not. We considered this at the War and Peace show in Kent last year. The ‘lower’ on our .22” AR15 (made in Germany by Umarex) was identical to the lower on a Taiwan-made air soft rifle and to an air rifle prototype. While assembled, the receiver is part of the whole and is classified by what the whole is (R v HUCKLEBRIDGE 1980) so a .22” rifle is a section 1 firearm and air soft weapons are specifically exempted from firearms controls.
One of our colleagues makes AR15 lower receivers for crossbows and, with the appropriate RFD and section 5 as necessary could also build air rifles on that chassis: MARS rifles, semi-automatic rifles in any calibre from .22” rimfire to .22” centrefire: selective fire rifles, wall hangers, ‘de-acs’ or a table lamp. The unknown from the new legislation’s wording is how a lower receiver can be classified before it becomes part of anything. At the moment, our best guess is that it can’t be until it’s finished, so it’s nothing; but the act of stripping deactivated parts off a receiver, such as in prelude to repairing the weapon with working parts, may uplift the deactivated part, as a stand- alone part, into the controls and thus the owner into violation of the statute.
The 2017 legislation cited above is clear – all the pressure bearing parts and the chassis that holds them together whether that is pressure bearing or not are component parts. Small parts, including the firing pin, hammers, springs, sears, screws and such remain unregulated. A firing pin by itself looks like a jeweller’s centrepunch and many small parts are not obviously from firearms. Sten gun trigger springs are the same as are used on some clothes pegs and the Sten gun body is a standard industrial mild steel tube for which the main civilian use was car exhaust pipes. It’s going to be a struggle for some people to keep clear of trouble. One film armourer has recently been released from a five-year sentence handed down because the police expert said that his act of restoring a blank firer involved it being, albeit briefly, a section 5 prohibited small firearm during the process. Another example of law enforcement being directed at people trying to comply with the legislation: no public safety implications and nothing in the case that would in any way have an impact on criminals: just another statistic to support a future knee-jerk.
British gunsmith John SLOUGH developed the JSL Spitfire pistol. It was a compact homage to the CZ75, made of stainless steel. Frames and slides were cast by a foundry, machined on a CNC machine centre and then heat-treated by a specialist company. A spring maker made the springs, and various subcontractors made the small parts. John rifled the barrel blank in his own shop, and then sent the blanks out for machining into barrels. He chambered them when they came back. Assembly took place in his shop and firearms completed were listed in the register at the end of each day’s work and packed ready to go to the proof house the next day. None of the chief constables in whose areas the work took place wanted any of the subcontractors registered as firearms dealers, as none actually possessed a completed part. The slides had the breech face completed by the CNC Company before heat treatment, but the locking lugs were made by spark erosion in John’s shop before final assembly, for example. John was uncomfortable about his subcontractors handling major parts without being registered, so the compromise position was that each company registered in order to have a complete sealed pattern reference pistol on hand. None of them kept a register of what they made, as serial numbers weren’t impressed on the major parts until final assembly in John’s shop.
The Indian Question – in India
Clause 31 of sub-rule 1 of rule 2 of the Arms Rules 2015 states that ‘manufacturing means making, producing or assembling a firearm’.
Sub clause (ii) is the particular concern: “a pressure bearing part or a component of a firearm (e.g. barrel, slide, cylinder, bolt, breech lock, firing pin etc.) These parts (excluding the firing pin and etc.) are identified in clause 125 of the British Policing and Crime Act 2017 as components: the slide is not named, but is encompassed by ‘other mechanism for containing the discharge at the rear of the chamber’.
Clause 37 says that “parts and components” means any element or replacement element specifically designed for a firearm and essential to its operation and includes...” the list is all the pressure bearing parts and sound moderators: so the same as in the UK. The only anomalies between the British and Indian positions are ‘firing pin’ and ‘etc.’
So when is a firing pin not a firing pin? On some firearms, it’s part of the hammer; either part of the casting (Colt single action revolver) or pinned to the hammer (Webley revolvers). In Ruger revolvers it’s in the frame and the hammer hits a transfer bar and in all the Colt/Browning pistols, it looks like a jeweller’s punch. Ballpoint pen manufacturers subsequently copied the Browning firing pin and coil spring assembly for their products, which are, therefore, firing pins except that they are also pens.
Turning to ‘etc.’ in the Indian list of parts – “sear, extractor, ejector, trigger and hammer”: these items are named in annex C of the FCC’s 9th report, but weren’t imported into UK legislation. Chief constables would not want to bother with small replacement parts like the firing pin, as that is only replacing a broken one anyway. The trade would want to see authority for the firearm for which its wanted – they’d rather do the work for a fee as well – but that is a convention that has grown up over time. It started with the 1988 Act, following which one had to show a shot gun certificate to acquire cartridges, although no record needed to be kept of the transaction. One also has to show authority to possess appropriate firearms to acquire primers and reloading powders.
Firearms dealers would list none of these small parts as ‘stock’ in the UK. The Firearms Act 1968 only requires registered dealers to record transactions involving firearms and ammunition, as defined. Those pressure bearing parts that are ‘firearms’ in their own right might get into dealer’s registers where they are also going to be written out separately, such as the second cylinder with a Ruger revolver. Sound moderators changed hands in the trade without restriction and only went on a firearm certificate if someone wanted one entered on it. The only flash eliminators we have ever possessed as stand-alone items are those that convert an automatic weapon to blank firing for theatrical purposes and while they look like ‘flash eliminators’ and fit on the weapon where a ‘flash eliminator’ fits, we don’t think they come under the legislation because they don’t fulfil that purpose.
In the UK, only those parts specifically named as components in the 2017 legislation are restricted to authorised persons and by being named, one assumes that chief constables will issue firearm certificate variations to acquire any of those parts in isolation if the applicant has a good reason for making the acquisition. Firearms manufacturers will not enter such parts in their registers, as they would regard them as incomplete until made into something, such as an air rifle or a machine gun and then the complete whole would be registered as manufactured. The trade will record transactions of complete components, such as barrels and now (courtesy of the 2017 Act) complete receivers. The small parts will not feature in transactions in the register: only in invoices for bulk transfers. If a
firearm certificate holder walks into a shop and puts his Colt M1911 on the counter because it needs a new firing pin, the gunsmith will fit it and charge a fee. There is no register entry because, in effect, one pin has been swopped for another. It doesn’t enhance what the owner has (as an extra cylinder would), so is unrecorded.
The essential difference in India is the naming of the firing pin in the list of parts. It’s not pressure bearing, has no serial number and once in the trade its origin is untraceable. Our jeweller uses one as a pin punch. The UK police would say it does not require prior authority on the certificate to get it, whether as a replacement or as an extra spare. HM Customs would want to see an import licence to let a packet of them into the UK.
Maybe that’s the next test of the Indian rules: will the appropriate authorities issue authority documents to possess them in isolation, to import or export them? Ω
The VCR Act Explained
The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 was one of a series of ‘patches’ the Home Office added to imitation firearms legislation in an attempt to solve problems created by earlier ‘patches’ to the legislation brought upon the statute books as knee-jerk reactions to misunderstood events or simply as imports from other administrations similarly trying to solve a ‘criminal’ problem by dicking around with their tax-payers’ lawful occasions.
The ‘problem’ in 2006 was that the Firearms Acts control the possession and use of firearms. Stuff that looks like firearms isn’t thus controlled: at least, not at the point of acquisition. A Home Office research paper in 1994 studied armed robberies. It was a small sample and somewhat incomplete, but nevertheless anecdotally interesting and food for constructive thought. The sample was of prisoners sentenced to imprisonment for armed robbery in 1992, who were still serving their sentences in 1994 and willing to take part in the study.
One person in the study was a WW2 veteran who used his WW2 revolver to make his point, so leaving him aside as atypical; two prisoners had real firearms and were prepared to use them. The rest had a variety of imitations or just told victims they had something and none of them had anything capable of firing a shot, bullet or missile. The point of interest was that most of the sample came up with their armed robbery plan after coming into possession of the antique/toy/replica/blank-firer/whatever that they used: apart from the ones who just made up the claim that they had a gun or had a sawn-off cucumber in a paper bag.
On reading it in 1994, we immediately imagined bureaucrats somewhere seeing a legislative opportunity in banning something, as that’s what they do, but between 1994 and 2006 the air soft market was left alone and evolved dramatically so by 2006 the urge to ‘do something’ was overpowering.
The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 is a weird piece of legislation in that it prohibits transactions involving ‘realistic imitation firearms’: a new category of hitherto unidentified products. It makes a criminal of the seller unless he can be satisfied that the buyer has a defence under the Act. So the buyer has the obligation to show a valid defence to the seller for the transaction to take place. Once it has taken place, the buyer’s obligations are at an end. There are no criteria for possession of ‘realistic imitation firearms’, except for sellers, who have to show that their stock is only for sale to people with a defence under the Act. Without that intention in place, sellers commit various offences as they acquire their stock, such as by importing it.
(b) He modifies an imitation firearm so that it becomes a realistic imitation firearm;
(c) He sells a realistic imitation firearm; or
(d) He brings a realistic imitation firearm into Great Britain or causes one to be brought into Great Britain.
(2) Subsection (1) has effect subject to the defences in section 37.
Section 37 says: Specific defences applying to the offence under s. 36
(1) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under section 36 in respect of any conduct to show that the conduct was for the purpose only of making the imitation firearm in question available for one or more of the purposes specified in subsection (2).
(2) Those purposes are—
(a) The purposes of a museum or gallery;
(b) The purposes of theatrical performances and of rehearsals for such performances;
(c) The production of films (within the meaning of Part 1 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (c. 48)_see section 5B of that Act);
(d) The production of television programmes (within the meaning of the Communications Act 2003 (c. 21)_see section 405(1) of that Act);
(e) The organisation and holding of historical re-enactments organised and held by persons specified or described for the purposes of this section by regulations made by the Secretary of State;
(f) The purposes of functions that a person has in his capacity as a person in the service of Her Majesty.
(3) It shall also be a defence for a person charged with an offence under section 36 in respect of conduct falling within subsection (1)(d) of that section to show that the conduct—
(a) Was in the course of carrying on any trade or business; and
(b) Was for the purpose of making the imitation firearm in question available to be modified in a way which would result in its ceasing to be a realistic imitation firearm.
(4) For the purposes of this section a person shall be taken to have shown a matter specified in subsection (1) or (3) if—
(a) Sufficient evidence of that matter is adduced to raise an issue with respect to it; and
(b) The contrary is not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
In 2007, regulations made under the Act appeared, and they clarify how one can tell a defence under the Act from a sack of potatoes, viz:
“Permitted event,” means a commercial event at which firearms or realistic imitation firearms (or both) are offered for sale or displayed;
“insurance” means a contract of insurance or other arrangement made for the purpose of indemnifying a person or persons named in the contract or under the arrangement;
“Permitted activities” means the acting out of military or law enforcement scenarios for the purposes of recreation; and
“Third parties” includes participants in, and spectators of, permitted activities and historical re- enactments (as the case may be) and members of the public.
So the burden of proof is on the buyer and the burden of being satisfied is on the seller. Back in 2006, the SRA was, so far as we know, the only national shooting organisation with a public liability insurance benefit for members that mentioned air soft skirmish specifically on its face: so we think the Home Office cribbed our policy as their template for this legislation, recognising that people who have taken the step of joining an organisation are not going to be impulse buyers.
The air soft importers created a defence scheme of their own in the wake of the legislation: known as the United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association (UKARA) their scheme amounts to centrally registering airsoft skirmish players after they have attended the same site three times in three months. This registration doesn’t include the insurance mentioned in the regulations, but does provide the retailer with a defence in that the registered buyer is a player. The only problem with that is the regulations example historic re-enactment rather than using the generic ‘airsoft skirmish’.
The chief limitation of the UKARA registration system is that airsoft skirmishers are a small minority of the people who may seek to acquire ‘realistic imitation firearms’. Expanding on that is in two parts: firstly, the use of airsoft products is wider than just skirmish – a variant of paintball – as the products might also be used in battle re-enactment, living history displays, movie and theatre productions, not to mention by collectors, target shooters and as a variation of air gun usage.
Beyond that, the 2006 category of ‘realistic imitation firearms’ also includes inert replicas and blank firers, which are outside the terms of reference of UKARA airsoft skirmish sites, pushing wannabe buyers back to demonstrating a good reason for their purchase under the Act and regulations.
SRA officials had discussions about all this at 2017’s War and Peace with retailers, skirmish site organisers and owners. One of the skirmish sites decided to set up a membership organisation of their own to provide air softers with a defence under the legislation and as an alternative to registering them with UKARA. Styled as UKASA – United Kingdom Airsoft Site Association – they affiliated their members to the SRA, as do many other clubs and groups; only to attract the attention of their neighbourhood troll, who claimed in an Internet essay that the SRA’s public policies did not exist. It was probably he who reported UKASA to the Financial Conduct Authority for selling insurance – a bit contradictory since he claimed that the insurance didn’t exist - and eventually the FCA contacted UKASA about it.
Their rather sour-grapes-like conclusion – since membership organisations that have insurance as a benefit of membership don’t come within their terms of reference – was that there was no action for them to take. UKASA sails on and remains an SRA affiliate.
Airsoft popped up again in legislation while this was going on: the Crime and Policing Act 2017 includes a clause which adds clause 57A to the 1968 Act and reads:
“57AException for airsoft guns
(1) An “airsoft gun” is not to be regarded as a
firearm for the purposes of this Act.
(2) An “airsoft gun” is a barrelled weapon of any description which—
(a) Is designed to discharge only a small plastic missile (whether or not it is also capable of discharging any other kind of missile), and
(b) Is not capable of discharging a missile (of any kind) with kinetic energy at the muzzle of the weapon that exceeds the permitted level.
(3) “Small plastic missile” means a missile that—
(a) Is made wholly or partly from plastics, (b) Is spherical, and
(c) Does not exceed 8 millimetres in diameter.
(4) The permitted kinetic energy level is—
(a) In the case of a weapon which is capable of discharging two or more missiles successively without repeated pressure on the trigger, 1.3 joules;
(b) In any other case, 2.5 joules.”
So there you have it. The onus is on you as a buyer to satisfy any seller that he won’t be committing an offence by selling to you and that’s exactly the same as for buying real firearms under any of the common law exemptions. Ω
WILD BOAR HUNTING IN THE UK
Out of control in the Forest of Dean, wild boar are ripping up the grass verges and vying with the deer population to see which species can cause the most road accidents. A local member told us it’s not safe to ride a motorcycle at night there because of the high risk of colliding with a critter that never learned the Green Cross Code.
It’s also not safe to go out with a rifle, as the anti-hunt people will telephone the police terrorism hotline if they see anyone with a gun; not that many people have them there. One of our members applied for 12 bore slugs to use in his shotgun if he happened on boar while out after other species. The refusal letter states that to go after boar he should use a rifle and that they wouldn’t authorise 12 bore slug for him to carry on ‘the off-chance’ of encountering a wild boar. That mentality has its origins in the (rejected by Parliament) 1972 McKay report and subsequent deliberations by a Home Office committee of officials prior to publication of the Home Office guidance to police in 1989.
The Home Office issued Firearms Act guidance to chief constables in 1969 in a restricted memorandum. Firearms legislation made the police responsible for issuing certificates in 1920. There were three times as many chief constables then as there are now and these men held their ‘independence’ in high regard. The 1920 Act introduced the concept of an applicant presenting a ‘good reason’ for acquiring a firearm and chief constables immediately looked for ways of not issuing the certificates applied for.
Target shooting was not accepted as a good reason in some counties, nor was pest control. Appeals to the judiciary, questions in Parliament and memoranda from the Home Office gradually herded chief constables into some semblance of order, but the SRA was founded in 1984 precisely because of the wide variations of police practice around the country.
It was a postcode lottery before postcodes were invented in 1970. The late Colin Greenwood gave founding SRA secretary the late Arch Wylie a pirate copy of the 1969 guidance and in no time flat chief constables found themselves in court to explain why their adverse decisions in respect of firearm or shot gun certificate applicants were at odds with Home Office guidance on the matter at hand.
That’s the background to the Home Office committee which deliberated on the subject of revising and publishing the guidance in 1985, but that wasn’t their core business. One of the contentious issues within ‘good reason’ was and is where people use their firearms, as that’s often far from home and the parochial nature of UK policing means that a certificate issued in one area might be used to shoot in another police area and the holder may pass through umpteen other police areas getting to and from his shoots.
The chief constable of Norfolk was shocked to discover people in Thetford forest shooting deer with rifles authorised by the Metropolitan Police commissioner. That it came as a surprise to him in 1984, thirty-three years after the St Hubert club was formed to shoot deer in Thetford Forest suggests that they’d kept out of sight and caused no trouble in all that time, but the committee had to ‘do something’ about the chief constable of Norfolk’s concerns.
What they came up with was a system for approving land. More accurately, the system (still in use today) required the applicant for a deerstalking rifle to say where he intended to use it. The police ‘check’ was thus a means by which the Metropolitan police in London could notify the chief constable of Norfolk that yet another bod had joined the St Hubert club.
This system gave chief constables another tool with which to be difficult about issuing certificates. As soon as it came into use we started getting reports of land that ‘wasn’t suitable’ for all manner of reasons, ranging from a road or footpath running through it to the proximity of a caravan park/golf course/Northern Ireland etc. to objections based on who owned the land/the neighbouring land and so on. That eventually gave rise to the ‘open certificate' concept by which experienced stalkers still had to name one piece of land but could then also shoot anywhere else they had permission.
‘Open’ certificates complicated the committee’s objective, which was to put on the face of the certificate enough information about the ‘good reason’ for which the holder had the firearm for a roadside police check to pick up on whether he was in the act of exercising his good reason or not when stopped by a police check. Having the firearm outside its secure storage was – in the Met at least – a violation of the old storage condition 2 on certificates and if ammunition were present it would be a charge under section 19 of the Act – firearm and ammunition in a public place without lawful authority or a reasonable excuse.
This all originated with Arch Wylie in the 1970s. Before being SRA Secretary, he’d founded and been secretary of the International Long Range Pistol Shooters Association (ILRPSA), which officials at New Scotland Yard claimed was Arch setting things up so that he could have his .32”ACP Unique Rr51 pistol with him all the time; because he was perpetually on his way to or from an event.
Carrying a weapon to use in defence ‘on the off-chance of being attacked’ had been banned by the prevention of Crime Act 1953, although that piece of counter-intuitive legislation doesn’t mention firearms. It created a class of ‘offensive weapons’ that couldn’t be possessed in public under any circumstances (flick knives, knuckledusters etc.) and put the onus on the defendant to justify having certain other ‘weapons’ about his person in a public place.
Although the Act makes no mention of firearms in this context, people who had firearm certificates for a side arm for self- defence found after that difficulties in renewal. Wiltshire simply converted the one we know about (for a .22” first model Smith and Wesson revolver) to ‘pest control’ as that’s the same thing as self-defence, sir.
No legislation has ever limited the common law right to possess and carry arms for defence and the need to obtain a firearm certificate in 1920 wasn’t retrospective – you only needed the certificate to acquire something after the Act came into force, and not for firearms you already owned.
We think the issue was ammunition. Post 1920, would-be purchasers of section 1 ammunition needed to produce a certificate to acquire it or a police letter stating that they did not need such a certificate. Police forces issued quite a few letters like that, notably for Webley ‘conversion’ revolvers. These were WW2 Enfields with the cylinder shortened and the barrel blockage extending rearwards to prevent a full size cylinder being fitted. Intended as blank firers for starting races, people who wanted them asked their police first. They either got a firearm certificate or a letter saying one was not necessary and Webley sold the product on whichever ‘authority’ was produced. Forces that wanted them on certificate made that decision based on the fact that the frame and breech face were unmodified and thus still section 1. That position was overturned by Attorney General’s reference number 3 in 1980 – Regina v Hucklebridge – which decided that components parts are parts of what they are part of. The decision was about smoothbored Lee Enfield rifles, but provides a transferable definition.
Your Webley Conversion is an off-ticket blank firer until you take it to bits and then the lower frame is a component part of a prohibited small firearm – since 2017 only.
So some people obtained certificates to sort out their ammunition supply in the 1930s. They would mostly have been people who practiced with them anyway – target shooters – and most would have obtained the certificate for target shooting, as that’s what they wanted the ammunition for.
By 1985 when the committee considered all this they were aware of firearms being carried, but what the police cracked down on were people carrying when their ‘good reason’ made it, so far as the police could tell, unnecessary at the time. A rowdy drinker in a West London pub one Boxing Day in the 1980s shed a revolver from its holster during a tussle with door staff and police attended on request. The gun’s owner claimed he’d been shooting at Bisley and was on his way home, but the then head of the firearms department in the Met knew that Bisley closed, like a school, from well before Christmas until well after the New Year, so he revoked the certificate.
Variations on this theme happened quite a few times until the Home Office changed the statutory condition on firearm certificates in 1988 (and also added them to shot gun certificates) to a two-part condition that recognized the requirement owners had to take their guns out of the security from time to time, such as to transport them to a place of use.
All Europe enjoys wild boar hunting, using such ammunition as is adequate for the purpose while working around local restrictions. In Corsica, for example, our host on a wild boar hunt had an over/under in 7x57mm rifle over 12 bore. He put slug in the 12-bore barrel; SG was not available to him as that’s ‘police only’ in Corsica.
The bureaucratic tussle in the UK is that wild boar aren’t deer: the Deer Act restrictions on the 1960s were actually directed at preventing the import of cheaper American rifles (.243”, .30-30 and 45/70 didn’t make the Deer Act limits in 1963) in order to support the UK gun trade, but since then the restrictions have morphed into a complicated set of misunderstandings aimed at preventing the law abiding public enjoying country sports and Home Office policy is to do down the gun trade anyway.
Chief constables had reduced the use of rifles in the countryside to just .22” rimfires by 1988 for all purposes except deer stalking. The .22” is adequate for most species, but not necessarily efficient. The Firearms Consultative Committee wrestled with the competing doctrines of the police wanting to reduce the firearms in the hands of the public to an absolute minimum and to vilify firearms owners at every opportunity and shooting organisations trying to keep the control of firearms logical and lawful.
The SRA was involved in an appeal in which a deerstalker wanted to use his stalking rifles for foxes if one presented. That’s another case of carrying one firearm for one purpose and the police not wanting that rifle to have a second purpose ‘on the off chance’ of being able to use it for a second (and at this point unauthorised) purpose. Negotiations prior to the hearing had allowed all but one rifle to be used for both purposes and the one the police baulked at authorising for foxes was a .308. The firearms manager’s reason for not allowing that one was ‘the bullet might over- penetrate and exit the fox’. Er, it does that on deer too, which is why all stalkers train to see target/backstop as one sight picture.
Another case involved an FAC holder who’d shot a dog in his sheep field. At the time, the FSC application form suggested good reasons, such as ‘target shooting’ and ‘pest control’. However, the Home Office changed the standard condition about pest control as it appeared in the 1969 memorandum to read ‘vermin control’; this was, according to Douglas Hogg, because ‘vermin’ has a species definition in the Wildlife and Countryside Act while ‘pest’ does not. We think paranoid self- preservation may have played a part in his decision.
In another case, the court ruled that shooting rats did not fall within ‘sporting purposes’; such is the minutiae of job creation that administering the firearms acts has become. And they give it to untrained people to administer without telling them about the court decisions that have refined
all this, but with which the Home Office disagrees. You couldn’t make it up. Ω
THE LICENCE TO KILL
By our man in Scotland
Thanks to auspices of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, it is now an offence to kill any wild birds for sport, even those species that anyone who is not in an insane asylum calls pests and the Act calls vermin.
That is not to say you can’t kill pests, but if those pests have feathers, you can’t call it sport. At this point you would expect to hear the cost of such a scheme, but the licence is free (for now); all you have to do is download it from the Web. So, what’s the catch? Simple, to justify the removal of the likes of Feral Pigeons or Magpies you have to be able to show they’re causing some kind of problem. Brassing off the songbirds who visit your bird table or waking you up at unpleasant hours doesn’t count.
The obvious problem with legislation such as this is the use of qualifiers such as ‘serious’. Like the new Hate Speech legislation that is well on the way to making reasoned debate impossible, any legislation without objective parameters is wide open to corruption. In short, what is deadly serious to one person may scarcely bother another.
Even with a licence, there are still limitations on your activity; such as no shooting birds other than Feral Pigeons at night by way of a lamp or night sights. You’re not allowed to dazzle any other bird except the Feral Pigeon either.
The long-term effect of depriving individual householders of the authority to prosecute avian vermin will be a rise in the numbers of the larger more aggressive varieties such as Crows, to the detriment of smaller birds, particularly in built- up areas. Councils, especially urban ones, tend not to approve of taking active measures against wildlife. They operate in the belief that nature will always balance itself. Sadly, this balance is still a long way off and we already see the casualties mounting on the way to ‘equilibrium’.
In a great many towns and cities, the result of this ‘hands-off’ approach has been a massive drop in the numbers of songbirds due to excessive predation; not only by other birds but also Grey Squirrels. So far, there’s no licence requirement to take action against them, but given the amount of council controlled parkland in this country in which they are free to breed, their numbers are only going to rise.
Keeping your homestead free of pests was always your right. Now, your right to control or deter what visits your own land is no longer yours. If there was ever a case of mission creep waiting to happen it’s this one. This is not a question of if the Wildlife and Countryside Act licence scheme will start to extend, merely a question of when. Ω
SECTION 44 APPEAL –
STERLING NORTHOLT LTD
A company you’ve never heard of and which has not traded: some will know its director Chris Perkins, but more likely you’ll recall his entry level product to the UK gun market in the 1980s – the MAC 10 pistol. Designed to take readily available Uzi magazines, the gun had problems from the start. Sussex Police thought it might be a machine gun, so Chris gave them one to send for examination by the discredited and now defunct Home Office Forensic Science Laboratory. Tom Warlow checked it out and made a number of suggestions on the telephone as to how the police might get the manufacturer convicted of something before he realized that he was talking to the manufacturer and not the police.
Their relationship went downhill from there. Sussex Police returned the sample to Mr Perkins, but as there was no realistic prospect of a conviction – there being no offence – they didn’t show him the Warlow report. They supported his application for section 5 authority and once he had that, Chris Perkins concentrated on making fully automatic variants for export.
As a manufacturer, Chris Perkins developed the shadow production line principle to such a fine art that everything he needed for his business would fit in a single garage. Most of the work took place elsewhere. Premises are a necessary overhead for many businesses, but not his. The case of R v Bull in 1994 was something of a turning point. Not for the case itself, but the Home Office reaction to it. Adrian Bull had acquired some 147 pallets of ammunition for his Wiltshire Smallarms business and stored them in a secure warehouse a few miles from his premises. The police seized the ammunition and charged Adrian with possession without a firearm certificate, contending that his RFD only covered stock held on the premises.
And that went to the Court of Appeal, which upheld the jury decision that the police were correct. The Home Office, on realising the implications – that to conduct business, dealers would have to register themselves at every other dealer’s premises, every auction house, every customer’s home address, every vehicle, shooting range car park, police station and layby where business might take place – advised police not to rely on the judgment, which they would overturn at a suitable legislative opportunity.
That became section 42 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, which made it clear that a dealer’s premises were where firearms were sold or exposed for sale and the register of stock on hand was to be kept for inspection. Once that was clear, it green- lit trade custom and practice that had been going on for decades anyway – storing stock, carrying out repairs etc. at places other than the registered place of business.
At which point Chris really wanted to get rid of his expensive (massive and almost empty) premises in Hastings: but he still had to be registered somewhere, so he applied to be registered at the SRA’s place in Wales. Dyfed Powys Police were obstructive from the get-go at the very idea of having a machine gun manufacturer in their area. They had a letter from Tom Warlow telling them what a bad boy he was – and one from Sussex Police saying that he caused them no concerns. They came up with all sorts of objections of their own, ranging from the premises weren’t big enough, to not secure enough to too isolated and too close to Ireland. After four months they issued the RFD, but wouldn’t agree to the section 5 coming to their area until the premises had a red care alarm system – a BT system that wasn’t available in Wales until well into the 21st century.
In the end they revoked his RFD for not trading at all and at the 1997 appeal said it was because they objected to Richard Law (the other dealer at those premises) having any access to firearms at all. Chris spent the next 12 years in the wilderness; subbing to other dealers, making film props, de-acs, blank firers, 1982 replicas and non-firearms products. He hooked up with James Edmiston in 2009 and in 2010 James acquired the lease to the Sabre Defence factory in Northolt. Chris negotiated a deal to supply AR platform military grade rifles to a foreign government with whom firearms trading was permitted and applied to the Home Office for the section 5 authority to do so.
At which point the Metropolitan Police clamped down. They simply blocked James Edmiston’s RFD application and refused to discuss why for ten months until he judicially reviewed their inaction. They reacted to that by issuing summonses for his historic failure to notify them when he transferred shotguns from his West Mercia RFD to his Met shot gun certificate. They also raided the premises, seizing a lot of stuff that they’d previously seized when Guy Savage had the place, and subsequently returned. Nobody got charged with anything over that, but the police did manage to get a court order to destroy everything they’d seized.
After that, James Edmiston went back to West Mercia where he still trades and Chris Perkins went back to Sussex where he applied for a shot gun certificate. They granted it once he abandoned his outstanding application for a section 5. Then he applied for an RFD and they refused it. At Chichester Crown Court the police barrister claimed it was preventative justice. D D Thomas from Dyfed Powys said, in a very roundabout way, that Perkins was no
trouble and caused no problems in Wales in the 1990s. The Met’s Theresa Brean gave evidence, as did Sussex firearms manager Rob Lock. The effect was that they talked the case out; as the court had only allowed the three days the police asked for and didn’t add on the two days the Appellant asked for. The case was adjourned from May to August 2014, but on that day no hearing took place. The judge was off sick. She refused to continue hearing the appeal in October when she was back on the bench, as one of the magistrates had retired in the interim. She made that Chris’s fault and awarded the police their costs.
Chris came back with a new application the following year, to which the police reacted by raiding his domestic address, his proposed premises, his accountant’s office and his girlfriend’s house. Charges followed, but didn’t relate to any of the seized materials. A forensic scientist reported on some items Chris had sent for scanning, only to be replaced when they realized his training wasn’t up to date. His replacement found no fault with the stuff and the CPS offered no evidence at the trial. Acquitted of any wrongdoing, Chris resumed his application for an RFD, which was refused.
At yet another appeal in March this year, the judge summed the past twenty two years of restraint of trade as caused by Tom Warlow: “the difficulty has been that since Mr Warlow took a dislike to that item (the MAC 10, back in 1988), although, as is conceded, nothing unlawful being done by Mr Perkins, since that dislike was taken by Mr Warlow again and again layer upon layer Mr Perkins has been thought of as being somebody who can’t be trusted and that effectively is the difficulty.”
Theresa Brean (now a Commander in the Met) gave evidence: “Mr Perkins was suspected of committing multiple offences involving illegal manufacture and distribution of firearms over many years. The danger that Perkins poses to the public comes from his conduct and his attempts to circumnavigate the complex firearms legislation. The danger he poses is linked to his careless attitude in who he may supply these weapons to. There is no demonstrable change in his behaviour where the risk would diminish.”
- She detailed a number of historic investigations where Mr Perkins name appeared or he had some connection.
- Dyfed-Powys - his association with Richard Law in the 1990s. These concerns related to the shooting of a student on a bodyguard course on the premises. Which never happened.
- Operation Shaleila. This caught Anthony Mitchell too – a Sussex Police special constable and RFD to whom Chris Perkins sold MAC 10 parts in the 1990s. Mitchell was subsequently convicted of reactivation attempts.
- Operation Barker in 2004. This dealt with the prosecution of the Greenwood family (R.I.F.L.E.) in which Derbyshire Police consulted Chris Perkins.
- Sabre Defence: the Guy Savage and Oleg Savuchkin era were offering to sell deactivated MAC-10s. Guy was a registered firearms dealer with a section 5 and selling de-acs was part of his business.
- Guy Savage also sold blank firing MAC 10s to Grant Wilkinson, who went on to reactivate them and is currently in prison serving life. For so doing.
- Operation Arnoy under Commander Brean scuppered James Edmiston’s business development plans in London and got him convicted of failing to notify the acquisition of shotguns onto his certificate.
- Operation Teal, which involved parts Chris Perkins sent to a West Mercia company for scanning. That led to criminal charges against him which concluded when the prosecution offered no evidence.
The conclusions reached by Commander Brean was that the overwhelming majority of shootings and gun recoveries that have taken place since the 1990s involve MAC- 10s, produced originally by Mr Perkins. She said 25 have been used in shootings and that Perkins is clever. “He always manages to avoid conviction. He pushes the boundaries of the law. He conducted himself without morality or ethics and if not criminal he remains unsuitable.”
“Mr Lock,” said Judge Barnes in his summing up, “took up the same position as Commander Brean. We were concerned about the emotional and, on occasions, passionate views held by the commander (the full theatrical histrionics then - Ed) and Mr Lock and we know that both had been reported for misconduct and corruptions by Mr Perkins. These two professional and dedicated officers have clearly been under attack in recent times, due to their continual attempts to prevent Mr Perkins regaining his RFD status, which he held without difficulty until he tried to move his business to Wales in 1995....as dedicated professionals, it is very difficult when people make allegations against your integrity when you have dedicated your professional life to the service and protection of the community. Facts were presented in a straightforward and clear manner. However, when detail or the evidential basis for these were tested things became less clear, less accurate, or we are told there is no evidence.”
He detailed an example: “We were told that a student was accidentally killed on the (Welsh) premises by a weapon from the premises. We were, quite rightly, taken aback. This was a serious concern. It transpired that there were two very distinct events, both in time and location, and they had been conflated. The incident of the sad but accidental shooting of a student on the bodyguard course took place in Essex on a shooting range in 1988 to 89, some years before Mr Perkins ever considered moving his business to Wales and the sad event was in Essex, not in Wales at all, let alone on the premises of Mr Law....Such serious inaccuracies provide a dubious foundation on which to built objection.”
Commander Brean, un-phased, claimed this had never been suggested to her knowledge and when Appellant’s counsel Nick Doherty of Brudenell Chambers referred her to the police statement from Assistant Chief Constable Keith Turner (which Dyfed Powys have since ‘lost’) her attitude and her words were, “It makes no difference. It is not just once his name has come up, it’s time and time again.”
Judge Barnes again: “This rather self- fulfilling repetition of inaccurate facts and pieces of false information is a serious concern to this court. Layer upon layer of inaccurate or flawed allegations have been made to this court. Instead of a file full of half remembered inaccurate misinformation going back 20 plus years we would have been more impressed with two or three proper accurate facts on which we could rely in 2018.”
“It is little wonder both Mr Lock and Commander Brean distrust and suspect Mr Perkins of constant wrongdoing. Subjectively, they have built a case against him coloured by their own unpleasant and hostile experience of him and this has led, in our view, to a loss of objectivity and reading the flimsy bits of comment, feeding into their own subjective distrust of him, this has not led to a reasonable or rational decision in this case.”
Rob Lock went to Sussex Police as firearms manager after 30 years in the Metropolitan Police service. He gave no details of his training for the role in his evidence that we heard, so his style seems to have been the unconditional acceptance of all the misinformation poured onto his desk by Dyfed Powys and the Met. Unless, of course, there’s a dodgy ‘intelligence’ dossier about current and former certificate holders for the likes of him to refer to; in which case all those inaccuracies, the misinformation and some complete twaddle remain there uncorrected (in violation of European law) to cause the next firearms manager to
panic...unless he’s dong something to correct it now that he knows its all wrong.
Having made the refusal decision, Sussex referred the case to Hampshire for review. They concluded that the refusal was correct and that the shot gun certificate should also be revoked. Of this, Judge Barnes said, “The review by Mr Gruthious of Mr Lock’s decision to refuse an RFD to Mr Perkins was, in our view, without any objective scrutiny of the underlying evidence and takes the matter no further.”
Faint praise indeed: there have been other sightings of Mr Gruthious in recent times, such as on the raid of a section 5 dealer’s premises in Essex, where the dealer was arrested for not putting two antique revolvers in his register.
What was missing from the evidence of the three witnesses over these two Sussex appeals was any knowledge of the law. The ground for refusing to register someone as an RFD is ‘danger to public safety or the peace’ – the same as for refusing or revoking a shot gun certificate. The phrase is undefined in the Firearms Act, but has been judicially scrutinised from time to time. Spencer-Stewart v Kent (1988) says a conviction for a non-violent crime is not evidence of danger to public safety etc. and Shepherd v chief constable of Devon and Cornwall says likewise in a case involving firearms offences.
There are other cases in which police decisions have been upheld without actually stating there was danger to public safety or the peace: in Dabek v chief constable of Devon and Cornwall, sharing your home with someone the police regard as unsuitable is, as is leaving your gun cabinet keys with your Mum so that the police can check the guns in your absence. (R v Chelmsford Crown Court Ex Parte Farrer - 2000). Dabek was superseded by security conditions coming onto shot gun certificates in the 1990s and ‘Shepherd’ superseded both in 2002. Not that you can tell that from current Home Office guidance to police, which fails to mention Shepherd altogether.
The judge allowed the appeal, and made it most clear to the belligerents that his decision should draw a line under their antagonism toward one another.
Sussex Police promptly crossed that line by appealing the judge’s costs award, of which the judge said (refusing leave for them to appeal), “...the Magistrates and I felt in this long, protracted and unusual case the Police had been totally unreasonable, having lost all objectivity.”
Having won the principle, it now remains to be seen whether Sussex will live up to it, or find further ways of restraining Chris Perkins’ lawful trade. The coming months may prove interesting. Ω
OLD BOOKS REVIEWED
Prester John, by John Buchan
Our 99p review copy is from the third reprint of the ‘teaching of English’ series by Thomas Nelson & Sons in 1928, thus giving us the delight of school homework questions in the back of the book.
Once upon a time, a set book in English literature: first published in 1910 and set in 1890s South Africa, the story is a first person account by ‘David Crawford’ of an experience he had while growing up in Scotland in which he saw African-American pastor John Lakota conducting a non- Christian ceremony by moonlight on a beach. Years later, he takes ship to Africa for a position in a trading company. On ship, he sees the same pastor and a dodgy Portuguese chap – (a ‘Portugoose’) conspiring, and having arrived at the delightfully named
succession to Prester John.
he gets wind of the illegal diamond trade and a coming together of the local tribes called to arms by Lakota, claiming as his authority
Prester John is a mythical or legendary Christian king thought by European Christians to have reigned in the orient. As that opened up to travellers in the middle ages, they found no sign of his kingdom, so thoughts turned to Africa and his possibly
being descended from the Queen of Sheeba.
Author John Buchan was writing after the Boer War, setting his book in the period prior to that, at a time when his character David Crawford really could have discovered fantastic places in Africa’s interior, such as
the source of a river.
We liked his stocktaking in the store when he’s expecting the place to be attacked: “...five sporting Mausers of a cheap make, one Mauser pistol, a Lee-Speed carbine and a little nickel plated revolver. There were also Japp’s shot-gun, an old hammered breech-loader, as well as the gun I had brought out with me. There was a good supply of cartridges, including a stock for a .400 express, which
could not be found.”
Japp was the store manager. Crawford also meets a British spy in disguise: ‘Arcoll’; a character that seems modelled on Robert Baden-Powell. The adventure goes on, losing nothing by us knowing that the narrator survived the events he describes. David Crawford might be thought of as a young prototype for the older Richard Hannay of ‘39 steps’ fame and this rattling good yarn has echoes within it of the 1885 blockbuster ‘King Solomon’s Mines’. Here’s a clip from later in the book: Crawford is a prisoner of the native army and knows that his chance to escape will come when the column is attacked fording a river. “...Using shotguns and firing with black powder into the mob in the water. It was humane and it was good tactics, for the flame in the grey dusk had the
appearance of a heavy battery of ordnance.”
Author John Buchan penned 13 novels and 20 short stories besides poetry and documentary works. ‘Prester John’ is written in the style of his time, so we wondered if the somewhat pejorative language in descriptions of the native population of sub- Saharan Africa had survived in later versions. Buchan doesn’t come across to us as racist: he is merely descriptively using the vernacular language of his generation. Example, when friendly native trackers are spread out to search for Laputa: “...living in bare mountain country the are apt to find themselves puzzled in a forest....” which could be said as fairly of most modern city folk in
Books do tend to suffer revisionist editing: our learned brother noticed this in the case of Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’, penned in the days when they could be gay and strange occurrences were queer. Words whose meaning has gone through some osmosis – or been hijacked – are subtly replaced with acceptable ones in more recent reprints, so to check this we turned to Kindle editions of Buchan’s work in which he still refers to the minister Laputa as ‘black’ several times, which is acceptable at the time of writing, but the ‘n’ word is spelled ‘nagger’ the one time it is used: which means it can still be traced by a future researcher as the site of a pejorative, without being caught by current electronic scanning techniques that
might have prevented publication.
Such revisionist editing is a subject that could be debated, and is from time to time. St Jerome, translating the Hebrew Bible into קיקיון Latin in the late 4th century translated (qiyqayown) in the Book of Jonah as ‘hedera’ (ivy) rather than the more familiar ‘gourd’, thus starting a riot. Nobody has rioted about the famous five and their ‘lashings of ginger beer’ – yet, but there may come a time when the language used by these deceased 20th century writers becomes the subject of study: but that’s just because we had to study the words used by Shakespeare one at a time. Hence Malcolm’s opening line in Macbeth Act V scene IV remains with us; “...I hope the days are near at hand that chambers will be safe.” So does he mean
‘safe in his bed’ or ‘reliable cannon’: discuss.
More than a century on, Buchan remains a good read. His parting shot to Laputa “I am in God’s keeping and cannot die before my time” paused the ex-priest’s hand long enough for the narrator to complete the story. Buchan’s complete works, according to the Kindle edition (a bargain at 49p), can be read in 96.5 hours, which doesn’t sound much for a lifetime of literary output. It’s about 1.15 million words, so longer than the Bible, which can be read in a mere 64.5 hours and as a download is both cheaper Ω
IN THE NEXT ISSUE
“....their lances bearing the crimson pennant, bows strung, and quivers full of barbed arrows. In addition to these weapons, which with the hunting-knife and tomahawk are considered as forming the armament of the warrior, each one was supplied with either a breech-loading rifle or revolver, sometimes with both----the latter obtained through the wise foresight and strong love of fair play which prevails in the Indian Department, which, seeing that its wards are determined to fight, is equally determined that there shall be no advantage taken, but that the two sides shall be armed alike; proving, too, in this manner the wonderful liberality of our Government, which not only is able to furnish its soldiers with the latest improved style of breechloaders to defend it and themselves, but is equally able and willing to give the same pattern of arms to their common foe. The only difference is, that the soldier, if he loses his weapon, is charged double price for it; while to avoid making any such charge against the Indian, his weapons are given him without conditions attached.”
George Armstrong Custer’s review of the Indian nation’s cavalry in ‘My Life of the Plains’: full review of his and Mrs Custer’s literary output in the next journal. Ω