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A selection of imitation firearms have been seized by the Thunder Bay Police Service displayed on March 13th 2024 (Adam Riley / Acadia Broadcasting)

Replica firearms becoming an issue for police

By Adam Riley Mar 14, 2024 | 4:06 PM

A rash of incidents involving imitation firearms has the Thunder Bay Police Service appealing to the public over the dangers they can possess.

Detective Inspector Jeremy Pearson says some, which include airsoft and water guns painted black, only heighten that danger when brandished in inappropriate locations.

“These are impossible, in some cases, to distinguish from the real thing until you actually manipulate them. You can’t manipulate them until they have been surrendered to you, so an individual with one of those in their hands has to be treated as an armed individual.”

One recent incident of note involved an individual in the Thunder Centre brandishing an airsoft gun, Pearson was unable to speak to the specifics of that incident as it remains part of a probe by the Special Investigation’s Unit.

Four imitation firearms are compared to a training pistol (blue grip) used by the Thunder Bay Police Service to show some of the types which have been seized by officers. (Adam Riley / Acadia Broadcasting)

Pearson notes there are valid reasons and purposes for people to have airsoft guns and air guns, but when they are used for criminal purposes or in a dangerous manner is when the concerns increase.

On Wednesday police put out display for members of the media, containing samples of seized fake guns, as well as a comparison to a training pistol used by city police.

The display also included a real firearm seized by police, which has the service worried.

On February 25th police began an investigation into a single motor vehicle collision in the city.

The occupants of the vehicle fled the scene but left behind the firearm, which at a casual glance, does not look like a firearm.


“From a distance of course it looks very much like a phone, when you observed it closely you can see there’s more to it, there’s moving parts. As, not luck, but circumstance would have it there were in fact rounds in it when it was proven safe.”

Over the years a number of objects which have been converted to concealed firearms have been seized by police in Thunder Bay, but Pearson says to his knowledge, this disguised pistol, is the most sophisticated seen which was manufactured for the sole purpose of discharging a projectile.

Almost a decade ago a Minnesota based company, Ideal Conceal Inc, developed and manufactured a pistol of the same specifications. While the company may have gone out of business its products have remained.

Pearson notes the “smartphone gun” has yet to undergo testing to confirm if it is capable of firing a bullet.

In addition to the gun, just under a kilogram of cocaine and 32 pills, believed to be oxycodone, were seized.

That investigation remains ongoing.