Dunblane Massacre Resource Page

Forensic Science Service Evidence to Cullen

This piece of wibble was part of the evidence presented to Lord Cullen. So this is what "forensic science experts" come up with as "expert" advice. I hope the author is suitably embarrassed to have it shown to the world.

Johnny <johnny@dvc.org.uk>

N Brown - OPPU (Firearms)
Home Office
Queen Annes Gate

16th October 1996

The dismantling of firearms and the use of barrel blocks

The majority of self-loading pistols are designed so as to allow them to be stripped down to their major components without the need for special tools. During most routine cleaning operations however it is not necessary to carry out this operation. With some finely tuned target weapons this operation would be carried out in frequently and with the greatest of care in order to avoid causing damage or wear which could reduce the potential for accuracy.

In the case of most self-loading pistols the slide can be removed, often along with the barrel itself, relatively easily. The design of some weapons however makes this operation more difficult unless the individual possesses the necessary degree of skill and dexterity. It is fair to say that some individuals are better gifted than others in carrying out such tasks and so are better able than others to avoid damage or losing small components in the process.

In the case of the most common design of revolver it would be a most unusual operation to remove the cylinder (along with its yoke or crane assembly). The small retaining screw in the sideplate could be easily lost, and it is often disfigured along with the polished sideplate if this operation is not carried out with great care using a screwdriver with an accurately ground tip to its blade.

The use of one particular type of barrel blocking device, intended to confer additional security during the storage of shotguns in the home, was considered by the Firearms Consultative Committee and reported upon in their 4th Annual Report. This device consists of a long plug which is inserted into the chamber of the gun barrel and then secured in place by means of latches which, when activated, press against the inner walls of the chamber or barrel. The vast majority of conventional double-barreled guns used for game shooting or clay pigeon shooting would require two of these devices. The design of these weapons leads itself to the use of these devices in that the barrels hinge downwards to open the breech, fully exposing the mouths of the chambers and giving almost unlimited access during the fitting of the plugs. In addition the large bore sizes (12 bore is nominally .729 inches/18.5 mm) favour the use of this device). The current device would not however be suitable for use with pump- action or self-loading guns due to their limited chamber access. The Proof Master of the London Gun Barrel Proof House also expressed reservations concerning the use of these devices, especially with finely made guns, because of the possibility of damage to the bores of the guns caused by the tensioned locking latches. There would be problems in utilising these devices with rifles or handguns because of the variations in their construction and the likelihood for reduced chamber access. The greatly reduced bore sizes of the vast majority of these arms, when considered with those of most sporting shotguns, would act against their application in their present design. In addition, these devices could cause damage to the lands of the rifling of the barrel bores, which in turn would reduce the potential for accuracy of the weapon involved.

Although the devices are meant to provide an additional measure of safety from misuse during the storage of shotguns in the home, in the event of theft during a burglary they would not offer total proof against a determined individual using a lock-pick or drill given sufficient time.

T A Warlow
Forensic Science Services
Hinchingbrooke Park
PE18 8NU
Phone 01480 450071
Fax 01480 450079
Duty Manager 0426 955485

Subsequent letter to the Home Office--

18th November 1996

Dis-assembly of Firearms

This letter covers the supplementary points associated with the dismantling and storage of centre-fire pistols as discussed in our recent telephone conversation.

This procedure would not provide a guaranteed measure of assurance against the possibly misuse of the pistol by a determined and motivated individual. It would be inevitably however, constitute a much resented and annoying imposition upon the vast majority of law abiding and compliant club members. It would be extremely difficult task to police these procedure fully and effectively at club level, especially in instances where the individual is a member of more than one club. The following examples act as illustrations:

Some individuals will possess more than one set of barrel and slide components for their pistol, or will possess components which will allow the calibre of the weapon to be converted by the simple substitution of components. Unless the club employs a qualified armourer to confirm the bona fide of items at the time of transfer for storage who is also fully aware of the extent of the ownership of such accessories by their membership a person could still possess a complete weapon at home even after apparently complying with the regulations.

A pistol owner intent upon misusing his pistol for a criminal act could obtain major which would pass general inspection standards prior to secure club storage. The purchase of an officially deactivated firearm of the same make and model as that held on his certificate could be done without the need for police authorisation and would provide outwardly convincing components to be substituted at time of storage.

The frames of some pistols are specifically fabricated so that the owner can purchase a comprehensive range of barrels of different lengths and cartridge chambering which can be simply substituted and fitted at the will of the user. This could again lead to the situation where a person would be in possession of a complete firearm after appearing to comply with club regulations.

T A Warlow

Posted: Nov 1996