British era .303 rifles to be decommissioned today, cops say end of an era
Uttar Pradesh (UP) police will bid adieu to legendary British-era .303 rifles after over 75 years of service on Republic Day on Sunday but for those who had a long association with the weapon and had seen it from close quarters, it’s an end of an era.
Brij Lal, former director general of police (DGP) said that .303 rifles were indeed the workhorse of UP police that had accompanied its jawans for more than 70 years and had always given the desired results.
“Though there is no provision to give award to the guns on the basis of their performances. But if it existed, .303s’ or bolt action rifles would have certainly bagged one,” said Lal while highlighting salient feature of the British era rifles, often dubbed as the most deadly weapons.
Lal who had successfully undertaken many operations and had neutralised several dreaded dacoits and gangsters said, “The main reason behind success of this weapon could be its ability to sustain UP’s rough terrain and work well even in mud, water and other extreme conditions, we often come across during our day to day working.”
In his long tenure in UP police, Lal had seen many gangs of 90s’, which included those of Malkhan, Jhagram Mahaveera and others but none of them could challenge .303 rifles.
“It was during my posting from 1986 to 1988 in Pilibhit district of UP as superintendent of police (SP), police had received a report that a few militants associated to Harjinder Singh Jinda’s militant group had to drop their plan to rob a bank near Puranpur police station when they found (during recce) that the constables at the police stations were all equipped with .303 rifles while they had pistols and carbines,” he recalled. The .303 rifle was introduced to UP Police in 1945.
“Though the change is indeed the need of the hour, these sturdy, heavy duty rifles that were manufactured during world wars I and II, would certainly be missed”, he added.
The fan list not only includes officers but also constables.
Saroj Kumar Mishra, who was inducted into UP police force as a constable in 1982 said, “In those times, patrolling used to be done on a bi-cycle. And carrying the heavy approx-5kg-weapon on the bi-cycle used to be the most uncomfortable task during my initial days into police. But over the years, my perception towards .303 rifle changed and this 5kg weight became a part of my life.”
“I must say that my .303, which I kept for around 23 years, is my first love. And it will be missed,” said Saroj, presently posted as sub inspector (SI) with Gagha police station in Gorakhpur district of UP.
Saroj said that it was not only its accuracy but also its sturdiness that made it the most favourite weapon among constables. “The weapon is as smooth as butter even after 20 rounds of back to back firing, this feature is perhaps the most important one which we often miss in the modern day weapons.”
ADG logistics VK Maurya said that on January 26, the British era rifles would be officially decommissioned from UP police after its display during the Republic Day parade.