Home-grown gun threat as UK gangs convert £100 toy replicas into £3K firearms

Tag:Blank Firing Guns Uk Law 2020

Tag: Blank Firing Guns Uk Law 2020

EXCLUSIVE: The Mirror exposes a disturbing home-grown gun threat as conversion 'factories' turn legally-sold toy replicas into deadly handguns like Berettas and Glocks

Blank Firing Guns Uk Law 2020
Video Loading
GUNS REPORTED STOLEN TO THE POLICE OVER THE LAST DECADE

Criminal gangs are converting replica handguns sold legally in the UK into lethal weapons in a disturbing home-grown gun threat.

The number seized has surged in the last six months and a string of conversion “factories” have been raided, the National Crime Agency said.

The replicas of real handguns from manufacturers such as Beretta and Glock are legally sold to hobbyists here as they were considered safe, with solid barrels and capable of firing only blanks.

But now criminals have worked out how to replace the replicas’ solid barrels with hollow ones to turn a £100 toy into a lethal weapon up to £3,000 on the streets.

It comes 25 years after the massacre of 16 school children and their teacher at Dunblane Primary School prompted a crackdown on handgun ownership in the UK.

View this heatmap showing where guns were reported as stolen over the past 10 years:

This heatmap shows where guns were reported as stolen to police over the last 10 years, using data from a Mirror FOI request to the Home Office which revealed nearly 5,000 firearms have been stolen since 2011 and another 1,500 reported lost - see below

Gun crime in the UK remains low compared with many other countries, but increased 38% between 2014 and 2019, with gangs turning to cheaper converted weapons, the NCA warned.

Previously these were made from front-venting blank-firing replicas, which can be more easily converted, and while legal in some parts of Europe are outlawed here.

But in recent months police have seized more weapons converted from the top or side-venting blank firers legal here.

Matt Perfect, NCA’s firearms threat lead, told the Mirror: “Since 2020, 175 firearms examined were confirmed as being converted blank firers.

Examples of replicas of real handguns sold legally in the UK because they were considered safe, with solid barrels and capable of firing only blanks

“Recent indications suggest an increasing number of these are top/side-venting models which, prior to conversion, may have been sold lawfully within the UK.”

Of the 175 seized, 72 appeared to be from one particular brand and of these, 54 were top/side-venting weapons of the type legal here. Conversion factories have been uncovered in Manchester and London, Mr Perfect said.

Genuine handguns fetch up to £10,000 in the criminal underworld and are the weapon of choice for top-ranking gangsters. But the NCA said young urban street gangs prefer converted weapons due to their ready availability.

The agency has stopped over 500 entering the UK from Europe since 2018, smuggled in parcels or other shipments.

Matt Perfect of the National Crime Agency (
Image:
SWNS)

This crackdown combined with tougher Brexit border controls is believed to have pushed the criminals into working out how to modify the models freely available in the UK, which are harder to convert.

Under the Violent Crime Reduction Act, anyone buying such a replica must prove they need it for legitimate reasons, including for a hobby.

More than half the gun must be a unique colour, usually blue or orange.

We found a string of websites selling these guns. One stated: “None of our Blank Firing Guns can shoot real ammunition and they cannot be made to do so” and that “striving to alter this blank gun to take real ammunition is prohibited in the law”.

It's a home-grown threat as criminals convert £100 toys into £3k firearms (
Image:
National Crime Agency)

But Matt Perfect of the NCA said: “Groups clearly have found a way to adapt the barrel in the top-venting weapon, then they just paint or spray that to a colour where it wouldn’t stand out if it was presented.

“With relative simplicity you change the barrel and might have to make some changes to some ammunition.

“Your power isn’t going to be anywhere near the same level as the original purpose 9mm handgun. But your distance of attack, generally, would be up close and personal with that weapon. You don’t need to be an armourer. If you’ve been given some instructions, it’s relatively simple. Criminals will find a way.”

Handguns were banned after Thomas Hamilton’s Dunblane killing spree on March 13, 1996, using his four legally held weapons.

The gun Justice McCann used - see below

The National Ballistics Intelligence Service, set up in 2008, allowed police to link apparently unconnected crimes if the same weapon was used.

This makes it less attractive to criminals to borrow guns in case they are linked to a murder.

Paul James, former head of Nabis and director of firearms and law enforcement consultancy Arquebus Solutions, said: “Dunblane was a massive wake-up call to everybody.

"We’ve got some of the tightest legislation in the world on firearms, so we don’t have many available to criminals on the streets – which is why they resort to using converted blank-firing firearms.”

Colleague Glenn Lawrence added: “It’s nigh on impossible to prevent these weapons being converted, but manufacturers should make it as difficult as possible.

"The blank-firing weapons have become the weapon of choice, a one-shot weapon.”

27 years for shooting with a blank-firer

Justice McCann had a converted replica gun - he shot a stranger in the chest

A drug dealer shot a stranger in the chest at close range with a gun converted from a blank-firing pistol legally sold here for £100.

Justice McCann is serving 27-and-a-half years for the unprovoked attack in Luton, Beds, in 2019 after admitting attempted murder, possessing firearms and intent to supply cannabis.

His weapon was a converted replica of a Beretta handgun, sold on UK websites for as little as £100.

The shooting features in Monday’s 24 Hours in Police Custody on Channel 4, which shows a raid by Bedfordshire Police on an illegal conversion factory where the same model weapon was seized.

Weapons of choice

Nearly 5,000 firearms have been stolen since 2011 and another 1,500 reported lost, a Mirror FOI request to the Home Office revealed.

Here the National Crime Agency’s firearms threat lead Matt Perfect explains how criminals use the various types of firearm.

Original purpose

Operation Venetic, led by the NCA following the hack of the EncroChat phone network, led to the seizure of 115 “original lethal purpose” weapons including AK-47s from Warrington and Manchester and an Uzi and a Skorpion sub-machine in London.

Matt says: “If you are the top end of serious organised crime, and you’ve got something to protect at all costs, you are going to do that by using OLP weapons.

"Probably one or two, maybe maximum three people have got access to that firearm.”

Sign up to our newsletter to get the day's biggest news straight to your inbox

The Mirror's newsletter brings you the latest news, exciting showbiz and TV stories, sport updates and essential political information.

The newsletter is emailed out first thing every morning, at 12noon and every evening.

Never miss a moment by signing up to our newsletter here.

He said a new handgun like a Glock could cost “probably £7,000 to £9,000”, while the Skorpion sub-machine gun would cost more than £10,000 on the black market.

Paul James, former head of the National Ballistics Intelligence Service and director of firearms and law enforcement consultancy Arquebus Solutions, added: "The top level crime groups use firearms as an enabler for other crimes, such as drug trafficking, people trafficking."

Converted guns

A Turkish-made Retay 84FS top venting blank firing pistol, which is legally sold here, can be converted to fire bullets

Blank-firing replicas of OLPs can be converted to fire live rounds.

Matt said: “Essentially they replace the smaller barrel – 4mm comes out, insert 9mm barrel, and with a bit of welding here and there you’ve essentially got a 9mm handgun... in less than two minutes.

“Our assessment is that these are firearms that generally permeate lower level crime groups.

"So gangland culture, inner city deprived areas presenting firearms."

The NCA has been targetting the importation of the weapons but he warned they were "very cheap" to produce.

Glenn Lawrence, chief technical officer at Arquebus Solutions added: “The blank firing weapons have become the weapon of choice in recent times."

He said that some blank-firers from Turkey were made of softer metal that made conversion easier.

Shotguns

There are nearly 1.4m shotguns and more than 600,000 other firearms, mostly rifles, held legally in the UK.

Of the 590,000 people with firearm or shotgun certificates, 94% are male and 2,770 are under 17.

Matt says: “A shotgun is more likely to be used against a vehicle, a premises, a building because your accuracy dealing with a sawn-off shotgun – unless you’re really up close and personal or very confident with a firearm – is very difficult.

“You’ve got the kick on it and... the displacement of the projectile.

“Generally, they are seen as a bit of a show of threat of violence.”

Printed weapons

Seized plastic handguns which were created using 3D printing technology

The NCA has seized fewer than 10 3D printed weapons in the past year but remains wary of the threat.

Matt says: “We are aware that 3D guns have developed, we’re aware that the printing and machinery to allow the design is developed.

“And we know that there are manuals in circulation.”

He said the NCA was assessing the threat and will be working with the Home Office "to understand how and what we need to do to suppress that threat".

Glenn Lawrence says: “They sometimes survive two or three shots and then they blow up in your hands... very dangerous things.”

MORE ON
Glock GmbHCrimeGunsGun crimeHome Office

View more results about Blank Firing Guns Uk Law 2020

GnurtAI

GnurtAI

Hello, We’re GnurtAI content writer. We always try to help clients bring the right content to the right people. There will be errors during testing, please ignore and inform us to make the experience better.

Leave Comment

wave

Press ESC to close