The survey of 15 forces also discovered some weapons with damaged and worn firing pins and old firearms that needed replacement and had parts missing. "A number were dangerous and could have caused injury with further operational or training use," according to the report, commissioned by the Inspectorate of Constabulary.
Training and supervision was criticised, with some high ranking officers said to have little idea of how to handle a firearms incident.
The report, Facing Violence: The Response of Provincial Police Forces, is a damning critique of the state of police armouries.
It said that on average, 38 per cent of all weapons examined required either "immediate attention, or maintenance in some form or another before further use". It continued: "Many of the faults found during weapon examinations had not been discovered due to poor checking and servicing regimes."
It also noted that some weapons were so badly fouled with gunpowder that it might be impossible to tell whether the firearm had been fired. "Many forces could not carry out safety checks on all their weapons. Common faults were found among their weapons."
In one force, all the headsets used with the firearms radios - to ensure all officers followed orders and acted together - had become defective and had not been repaired. Some weapons had been damaged because they were incorrectly stored.
Concern was expressed about the limited knowledge of some supervising officers in firearms situations. The inspectors said: "The first officers at many firearms incidents are often not trained in their use. Neither are many key players, such as control room operators or senior officers."
There were a number of cases in which middle-ranking officers had refused to pass on requests for the issue of firearms to the relevant senior officer.
On a different issue, the inspectors concluded the greatest threat to operational officers is the low number of officers available for back- up. Examples were given of single officers being 20 to 30 minutes from the nearest available assistance.Reuse content