UP police bids adieu to .303 rifles on R-Day

Lucknow: As the sun dawned on the Republic Day on Sunday, the Uttar Pradesh police bid adieu to legendary British-era .303 rifles after over 75 years of service.

The decommissioning of the weapon marks the end of an era.

The .303 Rifle, often carried by policemen, was a magazine-fed bolt action repetitive rifle that served as the main firearm used by the military forces of the erstwhile British Empire. It could fire one shot at a time after which the barrel needs to be reloaded by pulling the bolt for the next shot.

The former director-general of police (DGP) Brij Lal said, “The .303 rifles were the workhorse of UP police, always giving the desired result, ever since they were introduced in UP Police in 1945. If there was an award for guns on the basis of their performance, the .303s or bolt action rifles would have certainly bagged one.”

Brij Lal said, while he was in service, he had led several operations and had neutralized dreaded dacoits and gangsters. “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 face,” he recalled.

Talking about one such incident, he said, “During my posting in Pilibhit district (1986-88) as superintendent of police (SP), we learnt that some militants associated with Harjinder Singh Jinda’s group dropped their bank robbery plan when they learnt that our constables were equipped with .303 rifles.”

Several other retired cops said that though the .303 rifle weighed about five kgs, the weight became a part of every constable’s life.

Ram Kumar Upadhyaya, a constable, said that the weapon, even after 20 rounds of back-to-back firing, would remain smooth as butter. “This is, perhaps, what we often miss in the modern day weapons,” he said.

The accuracy and sturdiness made the .303 a favourite among constables.

The .303 rifles would bow out from service after its display in the R-Day parade.

The Uttar Pradesh Police will replace the age-old .303 Rifles with automatic INSAS and Self Loading Rifles (SLR).

INSAS is an automatic assault rifle manufactured by Indian Ordnance Factory and is used by Army and Paramilitary forces.

“Keeping in view the law and order situation, the police personnel would be equipped with 63,000 INSAS Rifles and 23,000 SLRs,” said Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Awanish Kumar.

He also said the decision to get automatic rifles was part of an effort to keep control over crime and for public security at large. He added that the INSAS and SLR rifles have already been provided to the police personnel.

Eight thousand INSAS Rifles have been kept in ‘reserve’ keeping in view the upcoming recruitment to Uttar Pradesh constabulary.