Dogged by controversy, the 12-gauge pump-action shotgun, infamous as the “pellet gun” used against stone-pelters in Kashmir, is all set to guard the offices of the country’s largest bank, State Bank of India (SBI).
SBI authorities will buy as many as 11,000 of these five-shot compact weapons, made by the Indian Ordnance Factory at Ishapore, around 40 km north of Kolkata, and phase out the single and double-barrel 12-gauge shotguns that its security guards have been carrying for decades.
Since the new gun can fire a variety of ammunition made in the popular 12-gauge calibre, bank guards can continue with the standard lethal ammunition they have used all these years.
For the record, the so-called “non-legal” ammunition responsible for the death and blinding in the Valley is issued only to security forces of the government.
For Rifle Factory Ishapore (RFI), the country’s oldest weapon manufacturing unit set up by the British and makers of several firearms including the INSAS assault rifle used by the army, paramilitary and police, the agreement with SBI has led to the single largest civilian contract.
“We have produced the first batch. According to the agreement, we have to deliver 11,000 guns to SBI over a period of three years. These will be however be sold only through authorised gun dealers in every state,” Ratneshwar Varma, general manager, RFI, told HT.
The new guns will be given to our security guards who are posted according to requirement, which is essentially determined by the size and location of branches and the amount of cash they handle - C Mohan Mitra, chief general manager of SBI
SBI has 17,000 branches and more than 48,000 ATMs of its own across India. The numbers go up if one adds its sister banks.
“Each gun will retail for around Rs 75,000, inclusive of taxes,” said a dealer.
The most popular among all types of shotguns used by civilians, police and military across the globe, the ‘pump-action’ is named so because every back and forth movement of the lever located beneath the barrel extracts an empty shell from the chamber and loads a fresh round from the tubular magazine. Thus, it is possible to load and fire in quick succession till the magazine is empty.
The civilian version has a 20-inch barrel that meets Arms Act regulations on non-prohibited weapons. The army version has an 18-inch barrel and is prohibited. Also, the new gun has been given a ferrous metal receiver and not the lighter aluminium one seen earlier.
Interestingly, the gun has prominent front and back sights seen on rifles that fire single projectiles at much higher velocity and with pin-point accuracy.
“The 12-gauge No. 1 ammunition that banks buy, fire volleys of lead or steel balls that may cover an area of up to two feet after travelling a certain distance. The need to align front and back sights for precision shooting doesn’t really arise,” said a veteran shooter who examined the new shotgun.
C Mohan Mitra, chief general manager of SBI, told HT: “The new guns will be given to our security guards who are posted according to requirement, which is essentially determined by the size and location of branches and the amount of cash they handle.”
Asked whether the guns would be given to security personnel deployed in crime-prone areas or Maoist-infested pockets, he said: “Not essentially. The amount of cash handled by a branch is important.”