The identification of firearms is a subject that creates much discussion around the shooting society. From experienced firearm collectors to the casual sporting shooter the knowledge base of ‘who made what’ can be the catalyst for an exchange of views that hopefully concludes with all parties coming away knowing more than they did before.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) hosts the National Firearm Identification Database (NFID) and several other firearm related systems which support the management of firearms across the eight Australian state and territories.
The NFID has been created as a reference point for the creation of uniform firearm data within state and territory firearm systems. This registry data is uploaded daily to the Australian Firearm Information Network, another ACIC hosted system which is a viewing platform of all registry data, for use by law enforcement across Australia.
In addition, a new public website for the NFID www.nfid.acic.gov.au was recently launched and will provide accurate and consistent information for the identification of firearms for Australian firearm dealers and owners.
The NFID holds information on firearm makes, manufacturers, models, chamberings and action types, stored within firearm templates which are then identified by a unique template number. With the support of the national and international firearm industry the ACIC continues to create or modify templates as new models or variations come onto the market.
The identification of these products is made easier by the use of factory product codes and related information publicly available on manufacturers websites. The NFID includes a searchable field of factory catalogue codes for individual models and variations. These codes align with importation documents viewed by the Australian Border Force and the process of correct identification begins.
The globalisation of the firearm industry has now seen once famous brand name firearms now manufactured in different countries. Because of this, the NFID naming conventions sometimes differ to what firearm owners would recognise as the well-known make name. An example would be the ‘Browning’ firearms manufactured by the Miroku Firearms Co. The NFID make name is ‘Browning Miroku’, with the manufacturer being identified as the ‘Miroku Firearms Co.’
Of course, some individual firearms are beyond identification by make or manufacturer name or even a country of manufacture. They may be identified by proof markings as to their probable country of manufacture even though a make or model name is not visible on the firearm. An example would be a Belgium proofed field hammerless side by side shotgun. These are identified within the NFID by the make name ‘Belgium Make Unknown’ and the model of ‘Field Hammerless’.
Markings on the firearm are the principal source of information which can identify the manufacturer and model, however, variations of models are not always recorded on the firearm. The Tikka T3 rifle, for example, only has the marking ‘T3’ stamped on the receiver. The variations of this rifle are mainly cosmetic, and if these features, such as barrel or stock, are removed then the firearm receiver is and always will be just a ‘T3’. The reference material for the ammunition chambering of the firearms in NFID are Bussard’s 6th Edition Ammo Encyclopedia and other industry publications. The use of metric cartridge descriptions is avoided, where possible, due to the complexity of the description. If there is an imperial measurement alternative then it is used as a preference within the NFID. The
incorrect use of the term ‘7.62’ to describe a cartridge, when the choices of a 7.62MM calibre and case length are numerous, for example, is common.
The development of the NFID is ongoing with enhancements planned to allow a more inquisitive process to identify a firearm. With historical firearm knowledge decreasing across all sectors involved in the management and sporting use of firearms, the NFID hopes to capture information that will benefit those that follow these processes well into the future.
Commentary surrounding the quality of firearm registry data is well known amongst firearm owners and dealers, notwithstanding the disparate ways that the same firearm can be identified by dealers and submitted to the registry. Data quality within registry systems requires the attention of law enforcement, the industry and individual firearm owners. The NFID should be a catalyst that encourages an improvement in that data quality.
Acting Executive Director Business and Partnerships
Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission