Possession of a rifle without a firearm certificate does not carry the minimum mandatory five year custodial sentence now applied to handguns, so any mitigating factors are of importance, particularly where possession is the only charge. Examination may reveal faults which prevent the weapon firing properly, and may show that even if capable of firing, has not been fired for a long period of time.
As with all types of firearm, the exemption from certification procedures given to antiques by section 58(2) of the Firearms Act 1968 should be considered. In addition to the age of the rifle itself, the calibre should be checked as exemption may be available to rifles designed to fire cartridges now classed as obsolete. No age is specified in law above which a firearm becomes an antique, but it is certainly less than the often quoted figure of 100 years.
Cartridge cases and bullets can often indicate the type of weapon used to fire them, and if a suspect weapon is recovered, comparisons with test fired bullets and cases can be made with those recovered from a incident scene, often confirming or excluding the involvement of a particular gun.
Where the distance from which a shot was fired is an issue, comparative tests can disclose short distance ranges with reasonable accuracy. This is done by identifying the patterns made on test cards by the discharged residues from the fired cartridge. At longer ranges the particles disperse so range analysis becomes progressively more difficult using this method.