The converted alarm pistols have clear advantages for criminals. They are a lot cheaper than real weapons and are also easier to get. “In Germany you don’t need a permit for it,” says weapons expert David Zoetmulder, for example. And they also come in bulk from the east of Europe.
Conversion is done in no time
This is apparent from the documentary John van den Heuvel in the arms trade, which can be seen from Wednesday at Videoland. Crime journalist Van den Heuvel goes to Bulgaria for the documentary and speaks there with the Dutchman Hans (not his real name). He converts weapons. Purchase: 200 euros. Sales: sometimes 1000.
In the video below you can see how an alarm pistol is converted:
Hans shows how he converts the gas alarm pistols and then demonstrates the weapon on a can of Red Bull. After two missed shots, the third is hit. The weapon works.
These weapons easily find their way to the Dutch criminal world. And that is worrying for several reasons.
1. They are very unsafe
“It regularly happens that such a gun explodes,” says expert Zoetmulder. “They are not made of steel, but of zamac, a zinc-aluminium alloy. That is easy to process, but also very brittle. It is likely that they will fall apart on the fifth or sixth shot anyway because they cannot handle the gas pressure. .”
That is also what connoisseur Jas van Driel says in Van den Heuvel’s documentary. “Weapons like this are inherently unsafe, this is the lowest type of weapon. They are just as dangerous to the shooter as they are to the victim. So much can go wrong.”
Van Driel mentions an example: “It is possible that the weapon does not fire, that the bullet remains in the barrel and that the next bullet hits it and inflates the weapon.”
2. The bullets stray
Up close you may still hit a target with such a converted gun, but if you are at about 10 meters, your bullet can just deviate half a meter. Zoetmulder calls this the ‘tumbling’ of the bullet. Caused by the barrel of the gun, which is not made to shoot precisely.
Extremely dangerous, because you hit targets that were not intended at all. Unless you shoot at close range. And that is exactly what happened in the murder of Peter R. de Vries. Even then a converted gas alarm pistol was used.
3. Police can’t (or barely) investigate it
The same barrel ensures that it is very difficult for the police to determine from which weapon the fired bullet came. There are small grooves in the barrels of real weapons that ensure that the bullet keeps its trajectory, Zoetmulder explains. The grooves provide a unique imprint in the projectile with each weapon.
But those grooves are not in the barrel of an alarm pistol. If the police find such a bullet, then there are no grooves on it. Good news perhaps for the criminal, not for the police.
More and more people have such a converted weapon, Het Parool once concluded. But is it also dead easy to get one? Not immediately, but if you know the right people, it can be arranged. “Two hours, then you have them”, Van den Heuvel is told in the series.
Telegram and Snapchat
If you don’t have the connections, you will be looked at with suspicion when you approach people, Zoetmulder expects. “Is that guy to be trusted, or does he work for the police, they will think. But I know someone who managed it within three days.”
Earlier research by RTL Nieuws already showed that the weapons can be obtained via chat apps Telegram and Snapchat. Sellers advertise with photos and videos of their weapons that should include the date and chat service username (see photo below) so buyers know they’re not dealing with a scammer. If a buyer is interested, he also takes a photo of cash with the date and username.
Van den Heuvel: ‘The advance of gas alarm guns is worrying’
In the documentary, Van den Heuvel states that weapons are being used more and more quickly and more often in the underworld. We ask him five questions about his latest documentary.
1. Were there any things that surprised even you – as a connoisseur of that world – when making the series?
“No, don’t be surprised. What is worrying is that these often involve converted weapons. The police are mainly concerned about this. Also because they are more accessible to use and can easily shoot apart. That does not only pose risks for the victim but also for the shooter himself.”
2. What shocked you most in the series?
“I am not so easily shocked anymore. But I thought it was special to see what a huge flight the arms trade has taken on Telegram. If you see what is happening and how such a negotiation process goes. That first happened in the wrong bars, but not anymore. The advance of 3D weapons is also striking. You can quite easily buy such a 3D printer and download such an instruction manual from the Internet. You have to be somewhat technical, but it should work. You no longer have to sit on Telegram, go to a dark bar or travel to Slovakia and Hungary, but can just manufacture such a thing in your shed.”
3. How did the death of Peter R. de Vries play a role in this documentary?
One of the aspects about his death is that it happened from one of those converted gas alarm pistols. That indicates how deadly those weapons are, but also what an impact such a weapon can cause. And you can buy such a converted gas pistol for 600 euros, a real pistol easily costs 2500 to 3000 euros.
4. How do you view the future of the arms trade? Are we moving towards a world of only converted gas alarm pistols?
I do not think so. We will also be confronted with the advance of 3D weapons and the huge arsenal of weapons circulating in Ukraine.
5. Did you also feel unsafe while making it?
No not really. We always ensure adequate safety measures when traveling around.