27 July 2016 – A defence minister, writing before the post-Brexit change in government, threatened to reduce the nation’s stocks of .22″ No.8 cadet training rifles to “scrap metal”.
Philip Dunne MP, who before Theresa May’s reshuffle was Minister for Defence Procurement, wrote to a concerned shooter, responding to concerns that the No.8 fleet would be destroyed instead of being sold off for future generations.
“The sale of weapons is strictly regulated by the UK Firearms Act 1968 and other legislation such as the International Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Regimes,” wrote Dunne in a letter dated 13th June and seen by UK Shooting News.
“Any small arms not sold to other governments are destroyed in line with tightly controlled procedures and sold as scrap metal,” continued the minister. “As this rifle has been declared unsupportable it will therefore be destroyed. This activity is undertaken by the Disposal Services Authority.”
Dunne is now a junior health minister and has no responsibilities in defence. His replacement as defence procurement minister is Harriett Baldwin MP. A new minister may be more willing to listen to reason.
Although shooters in New Zealand faced the same sort of problems, they wrote to their MPs, organised a campaign and persuaded their government to sell off their stock of No.8s. UKSN’s author now owns one, and it’s just as good as it was when it rolled off the BSA production line 60 years ago.
In spite of UKSN’s calls for the thousands of perfectly serviceable rifles in MoD hands to be saved for future generations to enjoy, the Ministry of Defence is adamant that it wants to destroy them all.
The No.8 is a single shot, hand fed .22″ training rifle. Designed in the late 1940s and built between 1949 and 1953 in its tens of thousands, the No.8 has inspired millions of cadets over many generations to take up the sport of target shooting.
Unlike proper military small arms used in war, the No.8 does not even have a magazine and cannot be modified to accept one. Its release into civilian hands poses no threat to world peace or security.
None of the shooting organisations – the NRA, NSRA, BASC or the Countryside Alliance – nor the various clubs and associations one would expect to have an interest in saving the No.8, such as the Lee Enfield Rifle Association, the Historic Breechloading Small Arms Association, or the Vintage Arms Association – has said anything publicly about rescuing the No.8 from the scrapman’s torch.