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Expanding Ammunition

Expanding Ammunition

For most of the UK population Tuesday May 2nd 2017 was unremarkable. In history it was the sixth anniversary of the dispatch of the most wanted terrorist in the World, Osama Bin Laden. However, for those of us who have the need to use ‘expanding’ ammunition it marked the implementation date for an uncharacteristic and long overdue display of common sense by the Home Office Firearms Policy Unit.

Read carefully

At a first glance, Part 6, Section 129 of the new Policing and Crime Act 2017 appears to remove the general prohibition on the use of ammunition containing a projectile that ‘expands on impact’ and by definition, the reloading of such ammunition. However, there is some devil in the detail. The first and most important point to consider is the fact that the prohibition is only lifted in respect of rifle ammunition used for the dispatch of animals – see guidance note 47 below.

Not for pistols or target shooting

The prohibition on the use of soft or hollow point ‘expanding’ ammunition for the purpose of target shooting remains in place. Furthermore, it continues to proscribe any ‘pistol’ ammo that contains a projectile, which is designed or adapted to expand on impact, unless it is to be used in suitably chambered and proofed rifles for the purpose of hunting, humane slaughter or pest control. It follows that those gamekeepers, vets and others who hold a short barrelled firearm (Section 5) for the purpose of humane despatch will continue to have their certificates conditioned for the use of expanding ‘pistol’ ammunition.

I wondered about .45 long colt etc?

In order to clarify the reference in 129 (2) “designed to be used with a pistol and incorporates a missile designed or adapted to expand on impact” I asked my local Firearms Department for specific details, citing the calibres that could be considered ambiguous. Their reply was not specific;- “You will see that the paragraph 49 of the Home Office Circular restricts the prohibition on expanding ammunition to ammunition designed to be used only with a pistol. I understand that there are only about half a dozen such rounds in production and they are not widely available.” The safe option would seem to be to ask your local Firearms Department about any specific ‘pistol’ calibre that concerns you.

Removes the restriction of trade

The change is good news for the many of us in the queue for an overdue FAC renewal, since it allows us to collect our expanding ammunition from RFD storage against a temporary permit, something that was previously prohibited. The delays in processing renewals had acted as a restriction of trade for those commercially involved in activities such as pest control. However, in the absence of the new FAC, the acquisition of fresh factory ammo is still not allowed, a bugger for those using rimfire but game, set and match for those of us who reload… we can now buy the bullets in order to build new ammo.

A bullet is just an inert lump of ‘stuff’

The significance of the legislative change for handloaders is huge since it finally recognises the fact that a BULLET (for our purposes) is just an inert lump of metal or metals, something I’ve been banging on about for years. For those too dim to work it out, the legislation finally recognises the difference between a bullet and a cartridge. (Retailers, please drop the stupid term bullet head). The cost implications for handloaders are considerable, since the need to present a conditioned certificate to the vendor has been removed, thereby facilitating straightforward mail order purchase. The cost to the industry of shipping both ammo and projectiles has also been reduced, since carriers no longer need S5 authority. It is to be hoped that some of these savings will filter down to us.

The relevant bits of legislation

Extract from Part 6, Policing and Crime Act 2017:

129 Controls on ammunition which expands on impact

(1) The Firearms Act 1968 is amended in accordance with subsections (2) and (3).

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(2) In section 5 (weapons subject to general prohibition), in subsection (1A), for paragraph (f) substitute— “(f) any ammunition which is designed to be used with a pistol and incorporates a missile designed or adapted to expand on impact;”.

(3) In section 5A (exemptions from requirement of authority under section 5), in subsection (8)(a), after “which”, in the first place it occurs, insert “is designed to be used with a pistol and”.

(4) In consequence of the amendment made by subsection (2), omit section 9 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997.

Extract from guidance circular

Section 129. Controls on ammunition which expands on impact

45. Section 129 of the 2017 Act amends subsection 5(1A)(f) of the 1968 Act to remove the prohibition on ammunition which incorporates a missile designed or adapted to expand on impact (‘expanding ammunition’) in respect of rifle ammunition only.

46. Section 5 of the 1968 Act specifically prohibits the possession, purchase or acquisition, and sale or transfer of expanding ammunition without the authority of the Secretary of State in England and Wales, or Scottish Ministers in Scotland.

47. Under section 5A(4) of the 1968 Act, an exemption from the general prohibition of expanding ammunition is made for the following purposes:
· the lawful shooting of deer;
· the shooting of vermin or other wildlife in land management;
· the humane killing of animals; and,
· the shooting of animals for the protection of other animals or humans.

48. To date, the police include a condition on certificates as required to give effect to this.

49. Subsection 129(2) of the 2017 Act amends subsection 5(1A)(f) of the 1968 Act to restrict the prohibition on expanding ammunition to ammunition designed to be used only with a pistol. Retaining these controls will continue to give effect to the European Council Directive on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons (91/477 EEC) which sets out that pistol and revolver ammunition with expanding projectiles are to be prohibited.

50. Consequently, section 9 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 is omitted, while subsection 5A(8)(a) of the 1968 Act is amended by subsection 129(3) of the 2017 Act for the exemption to continue to apply to expanding ammunition designed for use with a pistol.

51. Revisions to the general condition relating to expanding ammunition are being considered by the Firearms and Explosives Licensing Working Group. Forces will be notified in due course of the new condition which should be applied as and when a certificate is due for renewal or variation or for any other reason. Forces are not expected to recall certificates specifically for amendment.

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