johnwatsonswar: (John military fan fic)
[personal profile] johnwatsonswar
In which I get all technical about John’s weapon of choice, and then take a look at several questions raised by John’s possession of a hand gun - including how he might have ended up with it in the first place.



John’s gun, which we first see in his drawer at the start of A Study in Pink, has provoked enough discussion in the fandom to warrant its own meta even if I wasn’t one of those people who rather likes talking about weaponry.

First off, identification and specifications:

It’s a SIG Sauer P226 – more specifically a P226R L105A2, probably one of the ones the Army purchased as an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) to issue to all personnel being deployed to Afghanistan.

And yes, I’m disagreeing with the Sherlockology website here on the gun spec. So sue me!

The thing is, the exact P226 you were issued with is entirely dependent on when you were deployed to Afghanistan and what happened to be available at the time you arrived.

The original UOR order was for L105A1s and L105A2s (the difference being that than A1 doesn’t have a rail and the A2 does – a rail allows accessories such as laser SIGhts and lights to be attached) and then the L106A1 was purchased the next time they made an UOR order, that version having a protective coating on it. The version in John’s draw (which in reality is an airsoft replica of a P226) has rails but doesn’t appear to have the sheen I’d expect to see for the coating so I’m going with it being an L105A2 as they had a more matte finish.

To be honest, since the differences in the gun are negligible (no real difference apart from the coating) it actually doesn’t matter. I just think, given when John would have been out in Afghanistan, it’s more likely he would have an L105A2 than a L106A1 since the A2s are the most prevalent – most of the guys on the ARRSE website that talk about what they were issued who were out there in 2008/2009 say they were issued an L105A2.

A real P226R L105A2 (both pictures on Sherlockology’s page are of the airsoft replica used in filming) looks like this:



It’s a semi-automatic. That means it uses the recoil from the first shot to reload the chamber with the new bullet so it’s ready to fire again the next time you pull the trigger; NOT that you can pull the trigger once and spray bullets everywhere until the magazine is empty (that’s an automatic, like a machine gun).

The P226’s full specs are:

Caliber – i.e. the size of the bullet you’re able to fire with it.

It takes magazines holding standard 9mm bullets (or, if you want to shoot with branded bullets, you’re looking at a .357 SIG or a .40 Smith & Wesson)

Action type – i.e. how the trigger works.

It is DA/SA. Or, in English, double action/single action combined.

What this actually means is that when you first pull the trigger the initial part of the pull cocks the gun. The second part of the pull then fires it (double action). The recoil mechanism for reloading also cocks the gun again so after the first shot, all the rest of the trigger pulls for a magazine only fire the gun (single action), unless you manually reset it to be double action again.

Trigger pull – i.e. the amount of force that is needed to cause the trigger to release in a firearm.

If the trigger is on double action (so the pull is cocking the gun as well as firing the gun) it’s a 10 lbs pull

If the trigger is on single action (so the pull is just firing the gun) it’s a 4.4 lbs pull

Barrel length - 4.4 in

Total length - 7.7 in

Width: 1.5 in

Height: 5.5 in

Weight w/magazine: 34 oz

And these, if you happen to care, are what the various parts of the SIG are called:



And this is what it looks like when being fired by a British Soldier:


Reproduced under OGL (Open Government Licence) – original is here

It is a thing of vicious beauty and should never, ever, under any circumstances, be used to scratch your head – Sherlock please take note of this, should you happen to be reading – because it doesn’t have a safety catch.

Instead it has the amusingly named de-cocker – number 5 on the part table above – which, when on, means it takes a lot more effort to pull the trigger. So you can holster it safely and drop it without it going off but it doesn’t stop you firing it if you squeeze hard enough (hence the gun being double and single action).

Brilliant for combat situations, less brilliant if you’ve decent amount of strength in your trigger finger and you’re prone to squeezing things when you’re nervous. I believe quite a few Americans (and probably some British troops, too) have inadvertently shot themselves whilst drawing a P226, despite the de-cocker being on. Although I’m willing to be corrected on that, given that all mentions of inadvertent shootings I’ve heard have been hearsay i.e my dad’s mate’s brother’s friend etc.

Other interesting things about the specifications of the gun – well, I think they’re interesting anyway – are the effective range and the magazine size.

The maximum range, as far as I can tell from various internet searches, is claimed to be anywhere between 30 metres and 50 metres. I presume the 50 metre maximum was a) achieved on a testing range in perfect conditions and b) based on firing at a practically elephant sized target and not caring which bit of the target was hit!

What I can say with certainty, since an actual British Army Captain who served in Afghanistan confirmed it for me, is that the army train with it over a range of 20-25 metres but its optimum range, in use on insurgents, is 15-20 metres.

The magazine size (how many bullets you get in one magazine) is also important and there are several to choose from: 10 or 15 round mags if you’re using basic 9mm bullets, 10 or 12 round mags if you’re favouring .357 SIG bullets or .40 Smith & Wesson bullets.

The British Army use standard 9mm and I had always assumed that it would have been the 15 round mags they used, to reduce the amount of reloading needed. However – again confirmed by a serving British Army Captain – the army actually supply 10 round mags as a matter of course. So I would assume, on the basis that John’s gun came from his time in Afghanistan, that he also uses 9mm 10 round mags.

Here endeth the technical part of the meta – any questions, you know where the comment button is!

So, now we know what John’s packing, how close he needs to be to take you out cleanly and how many chances he’s got before he has to reload, let’s step into “The Game” and get down to the important questions:

What the hell are you even doing with a gun, John? This is the UK, not the US!

Because, as most of you probably know, there are some pretty strict firearm laws in Britain.

If a UK citizen wants to own a shotgun or a rifle then - unlike in America where you can pick one up in Walmart along with your weekly groceries (and for my UK readers, no I’m not making that up, I’ve walked down a shot gun aisle in a Walmart in Florida) - you have to apply for a firearm licence.  A licence which isn’t just something that gets rubber stamped the minute you ask for it.

There is a form (full details on how you apply, if you really want to know, are on the UK Government website here) which you submit to your local police force. They then investigate you, run background checks and only grant the licence if they are satisfied. At which point you can purchase the gun.

The licence is also conditional on you having a properly secure, lockable (and here I’m talking about two locks, with two different keys) gun cabinet to keep the gun/s in. The keys to the gun cabinet must be kept in a different location to the cabinet itself and the ammunition must be kept separate in a third location. I can also confirm - because I used to own an absolute doll of a walnut stocked semi-auto Beretta – that the police do actually come round to check that you are complying with the conditions of storage.

It should also be noted that if someone suggests to the police that you might be in anyway mentally unstable, they will investigate the claim and have the power to revoke the licence at any time.

But even if John had gone through all that and had been issued with the licence (something I seriously doubt the police would have done given that he was an ex-soldier in therapy), that in no way entitles him to possess his SIG.

Handguns are BANNED in the UK, completely and utterly. The government added them to the prohibited weapon list of the 1968 Firearms act in 1997:

Section 5(1)(aba) any firearm which either has a barrel less than 30cm in length or is less than 60cm in length overall, other than an air weapon, a muzzle-loading gun or a firearm designed as signalling apparatus, e.g. handguns, revolvers; 

(copied verbatim from the Crown Prosecution Website - http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/d_to_g/firearms/#a14)

This goes for gun clubs and rifle ranges as well as private individuals. As Wikipedia so helpfully points out, the Olympic pistol shooting team have to go to either Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands to practice.

The only people entitled to carry handguns anywhere in the British Isles are Armed Police (those specially trained 5% of officers in firearms units, not the main bulk of the police service and certainly not dishy DIs even if they do have friends in high places) and members of the UK Armed Forces. And even they have to confirm to the strict guidelines as to when and where it is acceptable for them to carry, let alone use them. So you’re not going to see a beat officer with a gun strolling down Oxford Street any more than you’re going to find an off duty squaddie sat in the pub with a SIG strapped to his hip.

In fact you’re not going see the average squaddie with a handgun at all. The Army issue soldiers with their own rifles as a matter of course but, unless you’re SAS (Special Air Service) or SBS (Special Boat Service), the only time you’ll have your own handgun issued to you is when you’re deployed in a theatre of war. And you won’t get given it until you’re out there.

Anyway, after that small tangent, the point I’m trying to make is that John is breaking the law.

The punishment for owning a prohibited firearm is severe - a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in prison if convicted.

So regardless of how he came by the gun, if he’s caught with it, he’ll be going to jail.

Which brings me nicely onto my second question:

Where the hell did the gun come from?

The Army do not hand pistols out as souvenirs. You only have to look at the recent case of the SAS officer Danny Nightingale, who narrowly avoided jail this summer after being found guilty of possession of a illegal weapon – a hand gun brought back from deployment - to know that! If you’re interested, a good article on the case is here.

So, as I see it, there are three main possibilities as to how he came to have that SIG in his draw, the first being partly influenced by some of the info from the SAS officer’s case:

1. Accidental Ownership

John never intended to steal the SIG.

However, John’s initial injury was so bad that he was unconscious from the time of injury until he was repatriated and so someone else packed his kit for him. They, in their haste, left his SIG and spare mags in his kit, packed the rest of his stuff on top, and thus it was inadvertently shipped back to the UK and given back to John.

John only realised what had happened once he was in a fit state to completely unpack his stuff; which could have been several months after his initial injury.

Maybe he decided to keep it out of fear of being prosecuted for not having declared it sooner or because he’d been asked about it initially and had said he didn’t have it, not realising he was lying. Maybe he kept it because he wanted it, as a reminder of better days and for protection, however scant, against the future.

Whatever the reason, he may not have meant to break the law in the first place but by holding on to the gun he made the decision to keep doing so.

2. Deliberate Ownership - Method 1

I.E. The one where John had always intended to leave his deployment in Afghanistan with a hand gun and planned accordingly – though not legally.

Which isn’t as difficult as it sounds since the handguns have quite a high loss rate in operations and out in the FOBs  (Forward Operating Bases) where skirmishes with insurgents can involve drainage ditches, scrambling through fields of poppies and getting knocked over in the back blasts of IED’s on a daily basis. As such all John would have had to do, after an event where it was possible to have lost it, was to hide his SIG and a decent stock of mags in his gear and then report it missing. He’d have been issued with a new one, handed the new one back at the end of the deployment and no-one would have been any the wiser.

As it happened he was invalided out and whoever gathered his kit together had no idea he had two guns and so returned the second gun for him and unknowingly sent the first one back inside whatever John had hidden it in. Thus, as far as the Army was concerned, all John’s kit was accounted for and John’s plan had worked, even if not in the way he’d intended.

3. Deliberate Ownership - Method 2

I.E. The one where John didn’t bring his own gun out of Afghanistan but bought it on the black market after he was discharged.

Maybe his injuries made him feel like he needed the comfort of having a gun for protection. Maybe there was a far darker, much less happy reason that he felt he needed the insurance of having a gun. Either way, he got in touch with an old Army mate who was a little on the dodgy side – and yes, I am thinking of someone who received a dishonourable discharge from the Army and has the initials SM – and bought an ex-army SIG off them.

It’s not as far fetched as it sounds, given the recent convictions of several UK soldiers for gun running (full article here). It would also offer a good explanation as to how he has enough spare ammo that he doesn’t need to worry about how often he fires the gun. He just gets more from his contact whenever he starts to get low.

Personally, because of the way I read John as a person, I tend to go with 1 most of the time but, occasionally, I like 3 as it makes for some good stories. I’d love to know everyone else’s theories as to how he ended up with it, though.

Why the *bleep* did Moriarty say it was a Browning in Sherlock’s pocket?

Well, for once, Moriarty’s being boringly obvious and WRONG (sorry, just having a Sherlock moment, don’t mind me).

Brownings – specifically L9A1 Browning’s – have been the British Army’s pistol of choice for a long time and are still being used today (along with P35’s). Moriarty will have known John was ex-army and just made an assumption about the type and provenance of the gun. Unfortunately a wrong assumption - feel free to insert a generic joke about asses here – because Moriarty is a consulting criminal who doesn’t get his hands dirty. Thus he would have been peripherally aware the army had favoured Brownings but probably wasn’t up to speed on the UOR order the army had placed for SIGs specifically for use in Afghanistan.

It’s a simple mistake and completely understandable. I’m sure when Moriarty realised he’d got it wrong (possibly thanks to a certain sniper pointing it out to him), he was suitably enraged with himself.

As to why Sherlock didn’t call him on the mistake … well, if he hadn’t already deleted the make and model of John’s gun as extraneous information - you don’t need to know what make it is to shoot the wall, after all - and therefore didn’t pick up on the fact Moriarty was wrong then there are other possibilities. For a start, and the most likely as far as I’m concerned, being confronted by John wrapped in enough Semtex to blow them all to kingdom come might have made correcting Moriarty not seem quite so important to Sherlock at that moment. Possibly Sherlock had decided that it wasn’t worth antagonising Moriarty until he’d got the measure of him.

Or, maybe, if we step outside “The Game” for a moment and accept it isn’t real, we might just have to concede that Mark Gatiss, who wrote that line for Moriarty, did so as a nod to canon. After all, the original Doctor Watson did indeed own an army issue Browning.

Anything else?

Well, I could certainly keep going on this post with a discussion about the standard of John’s shooting skills when he killed the cabbie. And I certainly have plenty of thoughts on the fact that Lestrade and Henry Knight also had hand guns in Hounds and that Lestrade said nothing about seeing John with a gun that was obviously his but … I’ll save those for other posts. Because they may be long, and possibly ranty, and this is already over three thousand words as it is.

But I will just add one more gun related thing before I close this meta, mostly for anyone who likes random facts as much as I do …

That “cigarette lighter” Jeff Hope was waving about that convinced all his other victims to play the game … Well, it too was probably bought somewhere other than the UK as selling it here would probably have fallen foul of this:

From 1 October 2007, section 36 Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 created an offence to manufacture, bring into or cause to be brought into Great Britain, or sell realistic imitation firearms. It also made it an offence to modify an imitation firearm to make it realistic.
Section 37 relates to specific defences: this allows persons in the course of trade or business to import realistic imitation firearms for the purpose of modifying them to make them non-realistic. It also provides various defences if the realistic imitation firearm was available for:

  • a museum or gallery;

  • theatrical performances and rehearsals of such performances;

  • the production of films and television programmes;

  • the organisation and holding of historical re-enactments; or

  • crown servants.

Section 38 defines a "realistic imitation firearm" as "an imitation firearm which has an appearance that is so realistic as to make it indistinguishable, for all practical purposes, from a real firearm". As a result of "real firearm" (defined in section 38 (7)) imitations of pre-1870 firearms are not caught by the offence.
Whether an imitation firearm falls within the definition of a realistic imitation firearm should be judged from the perspective of how it looks at the point of manufacture, import or sale and not how it might be appear if it were being misused. Section 38(3) provides that in determining whether an imitation firearm is distinguishable from a real firearm, its size, shape and principal colour must be taken into account.
It is worth keeping in mind that the intention behind this measure is to stop the supply of imitations which look so realistic that they are being used by criminals to threaten and intimidate others. If it is not a realistic imitation firearm it may still be an imitation firearm.
(copied verbatim from the Crown Prosecution Website- http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/d_to_g/firearms/#a04)

And yes, I did look this up because a small part of me wanted to buy an airsoft version of John’s gun for possible future cosplay. Needless to say that won’t be happening as I doubt I could persuade anyone I was a film producer!


Links for the sources mentioned above:



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A Small Disclaimer

Please note that I am not part of, or affiliated with, any arm of the UK Armed Forces. These are my opinions and thoughts based on what I've read/seen in the various books, DVDs and websites listed in the bibliography on this blog.

It is entirely possible I've misconstrued, misunderstood or just got some things completely and utterly wrong. If you see any errors or omissions, glaring or otherwise, please let me know! In fact all comments, thoughts and discussions are actively encouraged.

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John Watson (shh, let's pretend)

November 2013

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