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Firearms and Ballistics

Firearms and Ballistics

Firearms and ammunition are controlled under the Firearms Act 1968. The Firearms Act 1968 is complex and has been amended many times.  The possession of a firearm which fulfils the definition of a section 5 prohibited weapon may attract a Minimum Mandatory Sentence.

It is clearly essential that when a gun is found in the possession of an individual, the gun is correctly identified and classified – especially when the prosecution rely on a ‘streamlined’ interim report and a guilty plea is being discussed.  Many police forces now use their own personnel to write firearm classification statements, perhaps the force armourer or firearms trainer working in isolation.  Such in-house work will generally not be accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), especially where scientific methods are involved and where measurements should be undertaken to National Standards.  Reports from accredited private-sector Forensic Science Providers often only address specific questions posed by the police with no further exploration or context volunteered.

The identification and classification of certain firearms is not always clear cut. There are many “complex” classifications where a more thorough discussion of the relevant issues should be brought to the attention of the Court, even if in mitigation.  For example, whether a low-powered gun has the potential to cause a lethal injury, whether an old gun may be regarded as an ‘antique’ exempt from control, or whether a non-lethal stun gun is a ‘disguised firearm’ attracting a Minimum Mandatory Sentence.


Bericon is able to provide the expertise to have all contentious exhibits fully assessed, identified and classified under current legislation with a full discussion of all issues surrounding the classification, drawing on Home Office guidance and specifications, case law, published sources and experience.

More serious offences may arise through the discharge or other use of a firearm.  A Firearms Examiner will be able to reconstruct an incident through:

  • The identification of fired cartridge cases, bullets, airgun pellets and other projectiles and the microscopic comparison of firing marks on such items;
  • The estimation of distance-of-firing from the deposition of discharge residues on clothing and from other observable close-range effects;
  • A mechanical assessment of a weapon looking at trigger pulls, safety catch operation and the likelihood of accidental or inadvertent discharge;
  • A review of post-mortem findings and other witness statements.

Bericon is able to offer a review of all such evidence, to verify any findings, to check methods and protocols used, and to undertake any additional work necessary to test an alternative proposition.

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