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Sense prevails as sound moderators are reviewed

This article, written by Scottish Countryside Alliance Director, Jake Swindells, was first published in Farming Scotland magazine.

The Home Office recently sought views from the public on whether sound moderators for rifles should be removed from the firearm certificate (FAC). Our industry was instrumental in the process that saw sound moderators introduced into firearms law following a number of meetings and organised events with decision-making bodies. Practical demonstrations with Police, MSP’s and government officials allowed them to see and hear the benefits of the use of moderators and the introduction was then quite straight-forward. Since then, moderators have been available in the UK for recreational firearms, but only on application and when granted by police. As it stands, they must be recorded on a firearms certificate and carefully regulated but it is clear that after years of use, decision makers seem convinced now that they are an aid to recreational and sporting shooting, rather than an addition to support criminal behaviour.

The common misconception is that a moderator is something like a silencer that you might see in a Bond film. They are often thought to be used by those who wish to wreak havoc in silence and have been portrayed as a method of shooting without being detected. Whilst no shot is ever silent, a moderator serves to reduce the noise of the shot to a less harmful level, so it is more in line with health and safety concerns than the need to remain undetected. Moderators protect the shooters hearing but also reduce the recoil of a rifle, allowing the shooter to stay in visual contact with the specified target to ensure a clean and accurate impact whilst reducing muzzle flip. Some rifles kick like a mule without a moderator fitted and so are a very welcome addition where the reduction of recoil is concerned as the energy of the shot is dissipated through the baffles in the body of the moderator. It is also suggested that a shot with a moderator fitted will make it more difficult for the rest of the herded target species, such as deer, to work out where the shot has come from. This is particularly useful if more than one deer is to be harvested as it may allow for another few seconds for a second shot to be taken.

In Scotland there are over 25,000 FAC’s currently issued by Police Scotland and UK-wide there are almost 199,000 legally held moderators. A reason for owning a firearm and moderator has to be given on application whether it is to be used for target shooting or for live quarry (or both). Over the past few years, the possibility of removing moderators from FAC’s has been explored. The Firearms and Explosives Licensing Practitioners Group, of which the Scottish Countryside Alliance is a member, has worked to provide sufficient information and evidence to show that moderators are inert metal tubes and should not be treated as a registered and licenced component part of a firearm. Up until recently, not many moderators even had a serial number on them so the simple term “full bore moderator” was used to record the ownership of one. Possessing a moderator alone will only be as dangerous as the accuracy in which you can throw it. In all honesty, a collector buying a bayonet to attach to a WWII rifle to restore it to its original state could do far more damage, and the bayonet wouldn’t need to be licenced or declared.

In a time when rural activities and livelihoods are being regulated to the brink of eradication, the consideration of the removal of moderators from FAC regulation is very much welcomed as it will further streamline the application process. If you are seeking the grant of a FAC at the moment, you can wait anywhere from three to six months for your paperwork to be processed. This includes Police background checks for the applicant, family and associates as well as medical checks with their GP, for which there is usually a charge (anywhere from £20 to £400). Any sensible decrease in time spent on paperwork by Police processing licences will be vital and, I’m sure, well spent elsewhere. The cost of FAC’s is also a consideration and there is some hope that this may help to alleviate pressures faced by police licensing offices across Scotland.

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