A retired accountant who collected up a bizarre arsenal of firearms and ammunition at his home has been jailed.

A Walther pistol found by police during a raid on Michael Ward's Winkleigh home. Picture: Devon & Cornwall PoliceA Walther pistol found by police during a raid on Michael Ward's Winkleigh home. Picture: Devon & Cornwall Police

Michael Ward, 60, had a fascination with weapons and was found with starting pistols, air rifles and 700 rounds of live ammunition at his house in Queen Street, Winkleigh in August 2016.

He also traded in imitation, flare-firing pistols and was caught because he sold one to a fellow collector and sent it through the post. It was intercepted after being put through an x-ray machine at an airport.

Police raided his house and found weapons in the hallway, kitchen, living room, and two of the three bedrooms. A total of 17 flare or blank firing starting pistols, three high powered air rifles, and 700 rounds of home made .308 rifle ammunition were seized.

None of them were capable of firing live bullets or being converted to do so. He did not any weapon with the same calibre as the bullets.

Some of the ammunition found at Michael Ward's home by police. Picture: Devon & Cornwall PoliceSome of the ammunition found at Michael Ward's home by police. Picture: Devon & Cornwall Police

Ward, now living in Holsworthy, admitted attempting to sell a Sig 9 mm blank firing pistol, possessing a prohibited starting pistol and 700 rounds of ammunition without a certificate, and possession of three air rifles. He asked for 16 other offences to be considered.

He was jailed for two years and six months by Judge Timothy Rose at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him: “It was an extraordinarily reckless act to transfer these items in the way that you did. They could have been used in extremely serious criminal activity.

“You took no measures in terms of security. The items and the ammunition were effectively on open display. If you had ever been burgled and they had fallen into the wrong hands, the consequences of them in criminal hands are unthinkable.

One of the rifles discovered as part of the haul. Picture: Devon & Cornwall PoliceOne of the rifles discovered as part of the haul. Picture: Devon & Cornwall Police

“I accept you were pursuing some form of hobby and did not intend to sell items to those of criminal disposition and did not intend them to be used in a criminal or life threatening way.

“What you did was breathtakingly reckless.”

Rachel Drake, prosecuting, said Ward’s home was raided after an imitation pistol which he sold to gun collector Michael Larkin was seized at an airport while being sent to his address in Cleveland.

Miss Drake said: “Ward stored the weapons at his home in a haphazard way. Also found was an uncompleted application for a firearms licence. He had kit capable of making further ammunition.

“In interview, he described himself as a collector and accepted he had purchased all the items. It is clear he did not appreciate that every item breached the legislation.

“They were not stored securely and at any point the ammunition could have fallen into the hands of those who could have put them to lethal use.”

Richard Crabb, defending, said this was an enthusiast who did not realise that his interest in weapons had led him to commit serious offences.

He said: “He displayed a certain amount of naivety, some may say stupidity. He developed a fascination with weapons and ammunition when he retired. He has been very foolish but no actual harm has occurred.”

Mr Crabb said Ward made no money out of selling guns and none of the weapons were capable of firing live rounds or being adapted. He had two more air rifles and three air pistols which were so low powered they were legal.