A FARMER who had a home-made pistol and exploding cartridges stashed in his loft is facing five years behind bars.

Burnley Crown Court heard how Paul Alton, 51, was found out when he wielded a lump hammer towards his wife of 14 years and she told police about his guns. She also said she was frightened she would be killed.

The hearing was told how Alton kept a shotgun under a bed in the Bacup premises, where his two children lived.

He previously had a shotgun licence, but it was revoked in 2000 and his re-application was refused. The pistol was capable of being discharged and the expanding ammunition, which explode on hitting flesh, would fire in it. Alton claimed he had the gun for the humane dispatch of animals, although he had never used it for that, and kept it because of the 'magpie instinct'.

Judge Beverley Lunt adjourned sentence until today and remanded Alton in custody.

Alton had earlier admitted possessing a prohibited weapon, the .22 pistol, with a barrel less than 30cm. The defendant, of Deanhead House, Trice Barn Farm, also pleaded guilty to assaulting Kim Alton on April 18, possessing a 12 gauge single barrel shotgun and ammunition – two .22 bulleted rifle cartridges – without a firearms certificate, both on April 19.

Alton further admitted possessing expanding ammunition – 74 .22 bulleted rifle cartridges and having an article with a blade or point – a lock knife – on the M65, again both on April 19.

Mark Lamberty, prosecuting, said the defendant brandished a lump hammer during an argument, striking the arm of the chair his wife was sitting in.

Police were called and found the unloaded shotgun in a bag. The pistol, crudely constructed with part of an air rifle, had been adapted to fire ammunition and 74 expanding cartridges were in the loft.

The prosecutor said: “The pistol will fire. It’s extremely dangerous and shouldn't be done by anybody other than an expert."

Joe Boyd, for Alton, described the pistol as an 'extremely Heath Robinson' home-made type of weapon and said it had been given to Alton five or six years before by his butcher uncle, who used it on animals.