Albert Patterson, the British SAS, and Gun Control Gone Mad

Albert Patterson was a distinguished veteran of British Special Operations. He is shown here serving with the 22d SAS during the First Gulf War.

Gun control is in the news these days, because gun control is forever in the news. Elected officials who wouldn’t know a gas tube from a sling swivel weaponize the latest headlines and pontificate accordingly, the Constitution be damned. Whether it is Ruby Ridge, Waco, the Oklahoma City bombing, Operation Fast and Furious, or Albert Patterson, it is in the unintended consequences where the true preventable tragedy rests.

Patterson was removed from a Sea King helicopter during combat operations in the Falklands when it became overloaded. The aircraft crashed, and all aboard were subsequently lost.

Albert Patterson was the kind of warrior about whom books are written. A 22-year veteran of the British Paras and the 22d Special Air Service, Patterson was the very tip of the spear fighting for Queen and country in hotspots around the globe. While serving during the Falklands War, Albert Patterson lost 22 friends when a Sea King helicopter he was supposed to be on crashed into the sea. While in combat Patterson captured an Argentine officer and confiscated his pistol.

Albert Patterson spent his entire adult life fighting for his country.

Albert Patterson was a natural born warrior. Once his time with the British Army was complete he took private security jobs where he could put his unique skills to good use. He maintained a home both in Hereford in the UK as well as Thailand. Most of his time was spent overseas.

This is Albert Patterson’s daughter and ex-wife while they were lobbying for his freedom. An errant phone call to the British police precipitated a firestorm.

Military life is hard on a family, and the world of Special Operations all the more so. I resigned my commission once I realized I could either be a soldier or a Dad but couldn’t be both. By 2014 Patterson’s marriage had self-destructed. His ex-wife noticed Patterson’s brother poking around their old home and called the cops to report him as a burglar. 

By American standards Patterson’s terrifying weapons stash was awfully tame.

Police searched the Patterson home and discovered the Browning Hi-Power pistol Patterson had taken from the Argentine officer, five rounds of hollowpoint ammunition, 177 rounds of 9mm ball, four Enfield revolvers, and some component parts from an L1A1 SLR rifle. The Hi-Power had sat unmolested in Patterson’s basement for 33 years. At that point Albert Patterson, now in his sixties, was well and truly screwed.

Gun Control in England

These cumbersome rascals were the subject of Britain’s first gun control initiative back in the 16th century.

In 1584 William of Orange was assassinated by an assailant with a wheellock pistol. This led Queen Elizabeth I to enact Britain’s first gun control law banning possession of wheellock pistols near the royal palace. The British Bill of Rights of 1688 states, “That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence, suitable to their Condition, and as allowed by Law.” Suffice it to say that moldy old writ doesn’t carry much weight today.

Lots of guns like this C96 Mauser Broomhandle came back home from WW1 with English combat veterans. Concerned that the working class could not be trusted with such stuff unsupervised, the British government began to regulate gun ownership heavily in 1920.

The Pistols Act of 1903 strived and failed to regulate the possession of handguns in Britain. The Firearms Act of 1920 was crafted to restrict ownership of WW1-surplus firearms by the working class. This act first mandated that British citizens obtain a firearm certificate to own a gun. In 1937 the British Home Secretary ruled that, “Firearms cannot be regarded as a suitable means of protection and may be a source of danger.” Ironic that this edict was issued three years before the epic Battle of Britain. The Firearms Act of 1968 further consolidated British gun laws.

In the early 1980’s private ownership of firearms was a recognized thing in Britain. Guns like this AR180 were produced in England for use by private citizens.

Prior to 1988 there yet remained a thriving gun culture in the UK. I have an ArmaLite AR180 in my personal collection that was produced by Sterling Armaments in Dagenham in the early 1980’s. However, in August of 1987 an unhinged antiques dealer named Michael Robert Ryan went on an undeniably horrific rampage in Hungerford and killed sixteen people. He ultimately murdered both an unarmed police officer and his own mother before shooting himself. This sordid tragedy precipitated the Firearms Act of 1988. This law prohibited pump-action shotguns and self-loading rifles. Sterling Armaments went bankrupt that same year.

British gun laws are so draconian that English Olympic shooters can no longer train with their .22-caliber target pistols. Nowadays the Brits seem to be legitimately terrified of firearms.

An amendment to the Firearm Act in 1997 criminalized the possession of handguns without meaningful exception. It was so oppressive that Olympic athletes were no longer allowed to train with their target pistols. As a result 57,000 British subjects surrendered 162,000 handguns along with 700 tons of ammunition. During this time apparently Albert Patterson was serving overseas and unable to avail himself of the resulting firearms amnesty.

Airsoft guns are pretty harmless. If attacked by an assailant thusly armed hiding behind a proper cardboard box will render you immune. However, nowadays this is apparently a terrifying arsenal in the UK.

In 2006 the British government further restricted the commerce in primers, air rifles, paintball guns, airsoft weapons, and replica firearms. Today airsoft guns are restricted in the UK to use by members of an organized airsoft site conducting permitted activities and possessing third-party liability insurance. Wow.

I was tempted to engage with a forlorn British airgun shooter I saw in a pub but couldn’t bring myself to interrupt his reverie.

I was in the UK a couple years ago. One evening while having dinner with my wife in an English pub I saw an older gentleman sit down at the bar and produce a stack of paper targets he had clearly perforated with an air rifle. While nursing his pint of bitter the man carefully measured his groups and documented the results in a notebook. The whole episode simply reeked of oppressive melancholia.

Albert Patterson’s Gun

The Browning P35 was originally titled the “Grand Rendement” which translates literally to “High Yield.” We call it the Hi-Power.

The P35 Browning Hi-Power is one of the most popular military weapons in the world. John Moses Browning contrived the gun as a submission for some French military pistol trials. However, the great man died before the design could be perfected. Dieudonne Saive, the Belgian gun designer responsible for the FN FAL rifle, completed the work. The apparently-perfect linkless short recoil action of the Hi-Power went on to drive easily 90% of the world’s combat pistols. If you’re not familiar with the particulars just strip your favorite Glock, SIG, Springfield Armory, or HK handgun. That’s all unfiltered Hi-Power inside. 

The Hi-Power has seen service around the globe. This ludicrously embellished version was Muammar Gaddafi’s personal pistol.

More than 1.5 million Hi-Power pistols have seen service with around ninety nations. In 1982 during the Falklands War both the Argentines and the British issued their own versions of the Hi-Power. The Hi-Power retains its rabid acolytes even today.

After David killed Goliath in the Valley of Elah the young man took the giant’s sword as a war trophy.

Accumulating battlefield trophies is as old as warfare. A teenaged David took the sword of Goliath after relieving him of his head as depicted in the Biblical book of Samuel. To expect young warriors to go off to faraway lands and risk their lives without bringing back mementos of their service is simply magical thinking. 

A friend was forced to resign from the military when he was caught smuggling a Makarov pistol like this one back from Iraq.

The 1983 invasion of Grenada was the last conflict wherein American troops were legally allowed to retain captured firearms. An Army officer comrade of mine had his career ruined when his ex-wife reported the Makarov pistol he had smuggled back from the First Gulf War. That same gun could be had at the local pawn shop for less than $200 at the time. A cursory review of the trajectory of British gun control demonstrates that the United States is currently following a similar albeit somewhat delayed path.

The Rest of the Story

This is the guy the British put in prison for possessing a war trophy firearm.

In January of 2015 Albert Patterson was arrested and charged with possession of an autoloading handgun and associated ammunition. He pled guilty and explained that his infrequent times at home had never coincided with firearms amnesty periods. The sentencing judge Christopher Plunkett reviewed his exemplary record of military service and still remanded him to a custodial prison term of fifteen months. By way of explanation he said, “In the wrong hands these weapons could lead to the death of police officers or cause all sorts of mayhem. It is this risk Parliament is concerned about.”

It took a massive political effort to get Albert Patterson freed from prison.

There resulted a national outcry, much of it organized by The Sun newspaper. The petition for his release garnered some 160,000 signatures. Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said, “This is another example of our troops being persecuted by a government and courts obsessed with political correctness. An SAS hero who risked his life to defend our country shouldn’t be treated like a South London drug dealer. He should be freed immediately. The country should be grateful for what he did.”

Here is a picture of Albert Patterson alongside Prince Charles. This guy is a stud hero of the highest order.

Albert Patterson spent fifteen years with the SAS. Prior to his sentence Patterson had actually been to prison once before. In 1987 he dove through the roof at Peterhead Prison as part of an SAS assault team to rescue 56-year-old Jackie Stuart, a kidnapped prison guard taken captive during a violent uprising. The appeals court explained that the mandatory sentence for possession of such a firearm was five years, implying that this war hero was getting off easy. Patterson’s ex-wife testified that he had never even fired the gun.

The British admittedly suffer a mere fraction of the gun violence that we endure over on our side of the pond. However, such chaos is a terribly unfortunate side effect of life in a society that is, for now at least, truly free.

The British people seem quite proud of their gun control laws. British police officers seldom carry firearms, and there were only three fatal shootings of British police officers in England and Wales during the eleven years following 2000. However, Britain is not America. 

What the Left cannot seem to grasp is the simply breathtaking scale of firearms ownership in America. No amount of restrictive legislation will ever make a dent in gun possession by criminals here.

American gun owners currently possess more than 400 million firearms. You and I own twenty times as many guns as there are soldiers under arms in every military in the world combined. Gun control laws will simply never work here. That ship has sailed.

After a herculean effort to mobilize the British population Albert Patterson was eventually released from prison and reunited with his family.

If we outlawed all commerce in firearms tomorrow American criminals would remain well armed until the sun burns out. What future gun control legislation could very effectively do, however, is incarcerate military heroes for non-violent possession of war trophies or precipitate another unnecessary Waco-grade bloodbath. Our own great nation is following a similar track, albeit offset by a decade or two. We’ve got to vote like our freedom depends upon it.

This story has a happy ending I suppose. However, it seems a travesty that a purportedly free society could become so terrified of firearms that they incarcerate a military hero over possession of a war trophy he had never fired.

This institutional aversion to firearms now pervades the British populace. Lofty Wiseman, a respected former SAS operator, had this to say, “If you have a weapon in a house with ammunition, there’s always that temptation…you can never say you’re going to use it but different circumstances, state of mind, if it’s there, it can be used so that’s where you must have laws.” To have such castrated pablum spewed by a supposedly free nation’s warrior class is just sad.

The British people once set the world’s standard for resolve in the face of adversity. Winston Churchill was one of the manliest men who ever lived. He packed a full-sized Colt 1911 .45ACP pistol on his person whenever he was out in public.
Nowadays the British seem sadly to be made of somewhat softer stuff.

About the author: Will Dabbs was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, having been immersed in hunting and the outdoors since his earliest recollections. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Mississippi and is the product of a traditional American nuclear family. Where most normal American kids get drunk to celebrate their 21st birthday, Will bought his first two machineguns. Will served eight years as an Army Aviator and accumulated more than 1,100 flight hours piloting CH47D, UH1H, OH58A/C, and AH1S helicopters. He is scuba qualified, has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning, and has summited Mt. McKinley, Alaska–the highest point in North America–six times (at the controls of a helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains). For reasons that seemed sagacious at the time he ultimately left the Army as a Major to pursue medical school. Dr. Dabbs has for the last dozen years owned the Urgent Care Clinic of Oxford, Mississippi. He also serves as the plant physician for the sprawling Winchester ammunition plant in that same delightful little Southern town. Will is a founding partner of Advanced Tactical Ordnance LLC, a licensed 07/02 firearms manufacturer and has written for the gun press for a quarter century. He writes solely to support a shooting habit that is as insensate as it is insatiable. Will has been married to his high school sweetheart for more than thirty years and has taught his Young Married Sunday School class for more than a decade. He and his wife currently have three adult children and a most thoroughly worthless farm dog named Dog.

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Martin Beijersbergen March 13, 2021, 9:27 am

    Nullification!” must become a rallying cry.
    To this end, we need a nullification movement. When state officials, from governor to assemblymen and senators, run for office, the first and last question must be: Will you vow to nullify all unjust federal dictates? If they hem and haw at all, they must be immediately disqualified.

  • Dissodumb March 9, 2021, 9:55 am

    If anybody’s paid attention recently the bill HR 1 Will make assurance that nobody is ever legitimately elected anymore
    Funny thing is , the French outlawed mail in ballots in 1975…..

    Our voting system no longer will reflect the majority opinion
    Everyone’s too happy and fat to do anything other than sit by
    Democracy is dead in the us.

  • David Martin March 9, 2021, 8:53 am

    The point of the article was to spot light the persecution of a decorated veteran. Don’t think that we veterans in the U.S. are immune from this. Nancy Pelosi is already on record labelling all veterans as dangerous mentally ill. Sounds to me like the left is has got us in their crosshairs. Thanks American, your welcome for our service.

  • Shanz March 8, 2021, 8:01 pm

    I once had a friend tell me that firearms, he said guns, “were just too dangerous.”

    I replied “ yeah but you and I are lucky and blessed to have the right to own dangerous things.”

    The 2nd is meant to have teeth as Hickok 45 would say.

  • Jonathan Rude March 8, 2021, 4:59 pm

    Understand, the Brits do not have a Constitution.

    … Brave Sir Robin ran away. (“No!”)
    Bravely ran away away. (“I didn’t!”)
    When danger reared it’s ugly head,
    He bravely turned his tail and fled. (“I never!”)
    Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
    And gallantly he chickened out. (“You’re lying!”)
    Swiftly taking to his feet,
    He beat a very brave retreat.
    Bravest of the brave, Sir Robin!

  • Easy Eddie March 8, 2021, 2:59 pm

    The Left never seems to grasp the fact that a gun is only a tool. I am the weapon. If I awaken some morning bent on mayhem and destruction I really don’t need a gun. There are many things that are worse, and they can’t ban them all.

  • Intrpid Doc March 8, 2021, 11:12 am

    I have a Scottish friend that visits Orlando every summer. We play golf and cookout several times during his visit. One year there was a gun show while he was here so I took him – he was like a kid in a candy store. Eyes got big and a smile from ear to ear, he had to touch everthing. He pointed out that some of the tee shirts would be illegal because the slogans were derogetory about muslums.
    I took him to a gun range later to shoot my AK and AR plus some pistols. He enjoyed that as much as golf.

  • Robert Lee March 8, 2021, 10:06 am

    While firearm deaths may have gone down in Britain the slack had been taken up by knife assaults, to the point where they were outlawed. The ridiculousness and futility of legislative fiat seems obvious. I think now screwdriver assaults are the thing… Phillips or flat blade… get a new set now before the ban… there seems to be plenty of loose screws to go around.

  • Phillip DeWitt March 8, 2021, 9:28 am

    I have no interest in visiting England, NY, NJ, Left Coast or other foreign countries.

    • Randy Baldauf March 8, 2021, 7:52 pm

      Well don’t come to the Peoples Republic of Hawaii. They just past a few more gun control laws here. As soon as certain events take place I’m getting the hell outta here.

  • Greg March 8, 2021, 8:35 am


  • Jrp March 8, 2021, 8:28 am

    A firearm is a tool just like a hammer. It is an inanimate object until a person uses it for the wrong purpose. That’s called evil and yes it exists. People kill people. It has happened since the days of Cain and Abel. People have the right from their creator to protect their lives and should have the best possible tool to do it with. By the constitution the government is only supposed to protect the right not infringe upon it. People need to wake up before we literally have to fight to keep our god given rights. God made man and Sam Colt made them even. Never a better quote for the defense of Liberty and the preservation of life.

  • Bones March 8, 2021, 8:19 am

    If you live by the sword.. prepare to die by the sword.

    • Phillip DeWitt March 8, 2021, 9:25 am

      Likewise “Those that live by the proverb….”

    • Huapakechi March 8, 2021, 10:43 am

      My fencing instructor back in HS told us “If ya live by the sword expect to be shot by those who don’t”.

    • David Christianson March 8, 2021, 10:46 am

      Live by ignorance, be prepared to be judged ignorant.

    • Ej harbet March 15, 2021, 8:15 pm

      Live as a idiot,expect to be pointed and laughed at!
      We’re all laughing at you bones

  • Evan Padden March 8, 2021, 6:14 am

    this is sadly where this country AMERICA may be going my hat off and salute to all the Albert Patterson’s out there whether near or afar you will always be needed and appreciated by those who matter!!

  • Roscoe Tarwater Beaumont March 8, 2021, 4:50 am

    Every time I’ve visited Britain or her Commonwealths, somebody has asked me how many guns I own. My answer is always, “One less than I want.” 😁

    The Bill of Rights is a treasure, and our Second Amendment is HOLY.

    • Shanz March 10, 2021, 12:34 pm


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