The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) is making its .32 pistols readily available for those armed with a valid licence and Rs 60,000 in cash.
No more waiting months for a gun, or facing the hassles of getting spare parts for guns bought from dealers. The catch is that the buyer has to pick up the weapon from either the Gun & Shell Factory at Cossipore near Kolkata or the small arms factory in Kanpur.
While the Cossipore factory will sell pistols, the Kanpur factory will supply revolvers. The pistol as well as the revolver sold by the OFB are more of a deterrent than a lethal weapon.
They have an effective range of 20 metres and the interval between two consecutive shots is one minute. The OFB, on an average, sells 2500 pistols and 3000 revolvers a year.
The OFB is running a print advertisement campaign in national and regional dailies for the pistols and revolvers. The advertisements harp on ready availability of the products and their prompt delivery. Every year, OFB makes about Rs 25 crore by selling these weapons.
The aim is to let people know that the OFB is ready to supply these arms promptly. The OFB has been selling the firearms for over two decades now, but there used to be a long waiting period.
The OFB will also provide after-sales servicing, which is important considering that dealers are not allowed to stock spare parts. However, ammunition will continue to be available from the dealers. Gun dealers say rich farmers in India are the biggest buyers of pistols and revolvers. “More than anything it is a big relief for them to possess a weapon. They feel comfortable with it when there is a rich harvest to guard,” a dealer said.
However, dealers here are accusing the defence ministry of monopolising the business. One dealer said his business will be affected badly by the OFB’s decision to sell the firearms directly.
“There are about 20 arms dealers in West Bengal and our business would have got a much needed fillip had we been allowed to play the role of a retailer. We had several meetings with the ministry but this decision to monopolise the trade is a big shock for us,” the dealer says.
The dealers also feel ditched, as they have been trying since 1996 to get the right to sell the arms to the public. “Two years back we were told we will be given the right. It would have meant more revenues for us as we would have got a 10 per cent commission on the sale of the weapons,” the arms dealer says.
The ad blitz is expected to bring about a surge in demand for the small weapons being sold by the OFB. The OFB gets about 400 applications a month from people who wish to buy the weapons.
According to the Kolkata police officer in charge of issuing arms licences, it is too early to say if the OFB’s advertisements will spark a rush.
“So far, we have been issuing about 10 new licences a month in West Bengal. Its too early to say but this is bound to shoot up in the months ahead,” said deputy commissioner (reserve force) Debashish Roy.