Q: I have just taken my air rifle into my local registered firearms dealer (RFD) for some work. While he had it, he tested it over a chronoscope and said that with a heavy pellet it produced 12.4ft/lb of energyy and because of that he is not allowed to give it back to me. Is he allowed to do that and what should I do about it?

A: Contrary to popular misconception, RFDs are not the enforcement arm of the police. They have no right nor duty to seize and detain another person’s property simply because that person may be in illegal possession of it. If the dealer insists on retaining it he is guilty of the civil tort (wrong) of “conversion” and you could sue him for the return of your air rifle. Some dealers think that they have a duty to hang on to anything that is illegally owned just because the police have told them to do so. That is not the case.

I do not think that simply because your air rifle appeared to exceed the legal limit with just one heavy pellet it can be reasonably concluded that it really is over the legal limit on a consistent basis. You do not know what test regime the RFD used and whether his chronoscope was calibrated and accurate. Some air rifles occasionally exceed the legal limit because there is oil in the gas air cylinder or barrel. This causes what is known as “dieseling”. The oil is vapourised into an explosive mixture and is then ignited by the friction of the air being compressed, like a diesel engine. This increases the velocity and sometimes the rifle runs over the limit. Consequently, the test results sound most unreliable. I doubt that they would stand up in court.

Take your custom elsewhere

My advice is that you should threaten to sue the RFD for the return of your property and be prepared to enforce that threat if he won’t comply. The rifle should then be tested in a reliable manner to determine its true capability. While the choice of where you shop is a matter for you, I would no longer take my custom to a dealer who had treated me like this. BH