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Firearms: Real or Replica?

February 2nd, 2008 by Cpl Edward Koczan

Firearms: Real or Replica?

Take a look at the photo below to your right. Can you distinguish he real gun? Could you tell the difference if one of these was being pointed at you if you were an officer responding to an armed disturbance, with a split second to save your life or someone else's based upon what you see?

Can you tell which one is real and a BB gun replica?

The real handgun in the photo? It's on the left.

One of the firearms is a Glock handgun and the other a "Airsoft" BB gun replica. As you can see, it is very difficult to tell them apart in print, and it's not much easier in person.

Advances have been made in the design and manufacture of replica firearms in recent years that make it increasingly difficult to differentiate between real and replica. Police officers are trained to react to escalating threat levels, and facing a firearm is the highest level. Police must always assume that any firearm that is produced is real. If an officer feels that their life or the life of another is being threatened, then a shot could be fired, with probably tragic or fatal results.

Can you tell which one is real and a BB gun replica?
(T one on the left is the real fiream, the other a Glock replica BB Airsoft Pistol)

When a person points any weapon, real or replica, at a police officer, the results can be tragic. Many replica weapons, especially those which are capable of firing pellets or ball bearings (`BB guns' or "Airsoft" pistols) are being specifically marketed to children and young people as if they were toys.

The concern is that these weapons may then be put to something less than “playful” use. SBPD officers have no way of telling immediately, as does a citizen who may see this gun being pointed from a distance and calls 9-1-1.

For officer safety reasons, an armed subject who may be carrying "just a bb gun" will get the samed armed response from multiple officers with real handguns, shotguns, or rifles being pointed at the BB gun carrying subject, because as you can see from these photos, the appearance between both is frighteningly real.

In fact, many of these handguns are collected and later found to be modified to even further make the appearance and blur the line between obvious toy and trying to simulate a real appearance. Officers often find these replica guns have orange tips cut off or painted black, small bb sized gun barrels drilled to give a larger bore appearance (to closer match the real gun in the above right photo).

Over the past several years as these have become more popular, we have received calls from people who were unaware of just how realistic BB guns can be. For example, parents who had given these items as toys now realize they could put their child in real danger.

Owning a BB or replica gun is not illegal, however carrying them in public could put you in the firing line of armed police officers. If you are a parent and your child has one of these weapons, please take a moment to examine the appearance of it, and also think about how and where the child is using it.

If the weapon appears to be modified in appearance, then the uses or manner in which the weapon is being used, handled, carried or displayed is probably being used for irresponsible purposes. Please give some thought to this and to taking control of these weapons. You could save a life.

If you are not sure about these type of weapons, please do not handle- you may contact South Bend Police at 235-9201 and request an officer to examine/handle/confiscate if necessary. Officers can collect unwanted replica guns and turn them in to ensure these will be properly and safely destroyed.

UPDATE: On 2-13-08 I was interviewed by WNDU regarding this matter. For video footage and more info please visit THIS LINK.

  
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