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Is it a dangerous weapon or not?

18 Jan 2013

Firearms offence


With violent crime making the news on a daily basis, enforcement of firearms rules is becoming ever more stringent. But our recent experience shows that police are charging individuals with firearms offences (a charge that potentially carries a custodial sentence) when on secondary forensic inspection our scientist found that it could not be categorised as a ‘lethal’ weapon. 


Most air weapons are of such limited power that they do not require to be licensed, however there are exceptions to this rule. The Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969 require that certain air weapons, whose muzzle velocities exceed a prescribed limit, can only be held legally on a firearms certificate.


It is possible to measure the velocity of pellets, discharged from an air weapon, by the use of an electronic chronograph. From these measurements the kinetic energy of the pellet at the muzzle can be calculated. However this testing needs to be carried out by a suitably qualified and experienced ballistics expert. It is not sufficient to fire a couple of rounds and say that a weapon does or does not come under the dangerous air weapons rules. Muzzle velocities are based on rigorous repeated testing of a weapon and the odd firing that generates a higher than permitted muzzle velocity may not count if all the other firings produce lower ones.


Forensic Equity’s firearms expert Philip Boyce is the best in the UK and has years of experience in examining and assessing weapons of all types in both civilian and military situations.


For further information on this topic, to request a free no obligation review of the prosecutions forensic evidence in your clients case or any other aspect of the forensic services that Forensic Equity offer please contact our principal scientist Anne Franc at


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