By the 1970s the RUC was finding itself under gunned in the war against terrorism in Northern Ireland. The Republican terrorist groups had received shipments of Armalite AR18s, Thompson SMGs and RPGs and the RUC needed to even the odds in the frequent firefights that took place across the province. In 1979 they turned to the Ruger Mini-14, a .223 automatic rifle. The rifles were issued to Special Patrol Groups, Special Operations (E Services) and exposed border police stations and units. To accompany the new rifle, a special ammunition pouch was produced to carry the magazines for the rifle. This was produced in both black and green and they were produced locally in Downpatrick by a commercial saddlers so lack any markings. At first glance they look very similar to the early 1958 pattern water bottle pouches:
The pouch however is dimensionally different, being far too small for a water bottle. The design is a simple box-pouch with a top lid secured by a metal twist fastener:
As the pouch was likely to only be worn on a belt, and then only singly, the rear just has a simple belt loop:
The front of the pouch has had ‘L3’ and ‘5’ inked on with permanent marker:
L3 is the code for the RUC Mobile Support Unit in Newtonstewart, County Tyrone whilst the number ‘5’ is a rack number and would correspond with one of the Ruger Mini-14s. Pouches, magazines and rounds were stacked next to the appropriate rifle on the rack in the armoury ready to be quickly grabbed in an emergency.
One former RUC member recalls the wide range of weapons used by the force over his career:
My first station after leaving the depot was Glenravel Street RUC Station in north Belfast (a former RIC Station). There the .38 Webley remained for a couple of months, generally only carried on night duty, before withdrawal under the terms of the Hunt Report. As Station Orderly we had access to a double barrel shot gun which was kept under the guardroom counter and as I recall it was so covered in dust that it appeared that someone was either coming or going! In the armoury to which I would not have ordinarily had access were Sterlings and 303s for station party use. There was a unit of the Reserve Force attached to the station and they had Sterlings and SLRs as well as the personal issued Webley side arms.
About December ’69 when firearms were withdrawn – we would have been only armed for specific duties – ie escort of explosives to quarries. Three officers armed with 2 revolvers and one SMG or the like.
Later with the resurgence of IRA violence we were gradually rearmed – initially with the Webley .38 and then more slowly with the 9 mm K Walther PP.
There was a problem with one of these weapons when the security officer attached to Princess Anne jammed his pistol when trying to protect her. The .303 LE continued in service gradually being replaced by the SLR which was re-introduced. The Ruger .357 Speed Six revolver with 2 3/4 inch barrel was also purchased and as supplies arrived it was gradually issued to officers on outdoor duty. The Sterling and SLR remained in service until the 1980s when they were gradually replaced by H&K submachine guns (MP5) and rifles (G 3 & G33) I believe standardising the calibres to 9 mm and 5.56 mm. There was also an issue of .30 cal M1 Carbines and Ruger Mini 14s in 5.56 but the wooden stocks proved not to be “Robert Proof” hence the move to the move substantial H&Ks. (They were also part of BAe Systems and so were not subject to the vagaries of the USA trade laws).
Gradually the purchase of Glock 9 mm pistols replaced the ageing Rugers and Walthers but these were issued to PSNI rather than RUC and were after my era.
There were also specialist weapons on issue for example the Close Protection officers would have been issued with S&W semi auto pistols in 9 mm calibre.
Of course we also had the infamous baton guns – which fired rubber bullets and plastic baton rounds. There were several brands of these, some were converted from Webley revolvers others were US made as they were in us in parts of the USA for various activities.