JAILED: Walsall man had gun modification workshop in garden shed
A Black Country man who converted blank-firing pistols into lethal guns in his garden shed has been jailed.
Robert Bartell bought firearms, including self-loading pistols made in Turkey and Italy, from a Spanish website and test-fired them in his back garden.
He was caught with five prohibited firearms during a raid at his home in Cambridge Street, Walsall, in November last year.
Four of these were meant to fire blanks but had been converted to take live rounds in his shed workshop using a table drill and disc cuter.
The prohibited modified firearms seized in the police raid were a Zoraki handgun, an EKO handgun, A BBM Minigap, a Kimor handgun and a sawn-off shotgun.
Also found were 23 adapted 9mm blank rounds retro-fitted with ball bearings or lead shots and damaged books which the 55-year-old had used as targets to test-fire the weapons.
Bartell wasn’t in when police visited but hours later he surrendered to a police station where he told counter staff: "I’m in a world of trouble over this; I know I’ll be going to prison. I have to own up to what I have done."
In an interview Bartell told detectives he converted the pistols as a personal technical challenge and had no intention to sell firearms to criminals.
He admitted having five prohibited firearms on the basis that the altered handguns had never left his home, he had no association with violent crime and had no intention to sell them.
Bartrell also pleaded guilty to being in possession of the converted projectiles without a firearms certificate and a prohibited explosive cartridge bullet.
He was jailed for a total of two-and-a-half years at Wolverhampton Crown Court today.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Dave Franks said: "Bartell claimed he had no sinister motivation and there is no evidence to suggest he sold a converted weapon. But that’s no excuse.
"The converted guns were examined by police ballistics experts who confirmed they were viable and, had they fallen into criminal hands, had the capability to kill.
"This case should send out a strong message to anyone who believes buying blank-firing pistols is OK or a quick way to make money – it can lead to prison."
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