U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- In August of 2018, the British Authorities raided a small shop operation in Sussex, England. The small shop was producing clandestine pistols for the UK black market. About a year later, two men associated with the operation were sent to prison. A third man had died while in custody.
From the news coverage, considerable more details about the shop and arms produced were released. There is a video on Youtube that reveals much.
The pistols produced were simplified copies of the Browning 1922 design. Semi-automatic pistols are not difficult to make but are harder to make work well than sub-machine guns or revolvers.
The Browning copy repeatedly fails to cycle correctly. However, it takes little to feed another cartridge into the chamber. It fires when the trigger is pulled.
The small shop operators chose not to rifle the barrels of their copy, to simplify production. At short range, up to 10 meters, the pistol would still be effective. They did not put any sights on the production for the same reason. In the video, you can see the projectiles are unstable and key-holing at very close range, perhaps three meters.
The authorities claim this a unique situation in UK, the very first clandestine shop producing black market firearms. I suspect this sort of information does not have much institutional history with the National Crime Agency. Perhaps they were not involved in Northern Ireland. Relatively sophisticated shop production arms were repeatedly made in Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK. From smallarmssurvey.org, page 77:
In 1988, police uncovered a unionist workshop in County Down that was reportedly the largest illegal arms factory operating in Northern Ireland at the time. Thirty assembled sub-machine guns were recovered, along with materials sufficient to produce hundreds more. Also seized were craft-produced sub-machine guns copied from the Israeli Uzi design, whose manufacture involved copying the internal components of a Japanese ‘plug-fire cap’ (aka ‘modelgun’) replica.75 The workshop’s owner allegedly supplied loyalist paramilitaries for more than 20 years (Horgan, 2005, p. 100). In several cases, skilled craftsmen, who were otherwise employed by legitimate companies, carried out work on craft-produced firearms in the evenings (Forgotten Weapons, 2017).
In 1997, engineer Denis Lindop was convicted of manufacturing sub-machine guns for loyalist paramilitaries from his home workshop in Holywood, County Down (McCaffrey, 2005). Marked ‘UFF Avenger 1995’, the weapons were designed to accept custom-made suppressors and had serial numbers—a relatively uncommon trait for homemade weapons (Cadwallader, 2000).
Small shop production of relatively sophisticated small arms happens all around the world, on a regular basis.
It seems unlikely the UK would be exempt if there is sufficient demand. There was plenty of demand in Northern Ireland during the Troubles before 1998.
With rising crime and gangs in the UK, it is unlikely this shop will be the last one found there.
These small milling machines and lathes are said to be common and cheap in the UK.
As reported in the video, small parts, such as nuts, bolts, and springs were sourced commercially. Shotgun cartridges were found at the shop. Pistol cartridges can easily be manufactured using powder and primers salvaged from shotgun shells. Bullets are cast of lead in homes and shops all around the world, as an inexpensive hobby.
Firearms are not difficult to produce. In a society with access to inexpensive machine tools and electricity, they are much easier to produce than on forges and with hand tools, as is commonly done in less developed countries.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.