New Delhi: A bank van was recently robbed of Rs52.5 billion (Dh3.58 billion) and its guard shot dead. The disturbing use of a weapon in the crime indicates the growing use of modern firearms by criminals in Delhi.

Be it robbery or murder, more and more criminals in the capital are opting for guns in particular, for a better strike rate and efficiency. Gone is the infamous ‘katta’ (home-made firearm), according to Delhi Police data.

The gun’s steep price is clearly not a deterrent.

According to a police official, a handgun or pistol with a magazine containing eight bullets is the preferred weapon of criminals these days as it guarantees precise shooting and more firepower.

“There was a time when kattas were used as they were cheap and easy to procure. But they are outdated now. The criminals also don’t mind the high price tag,” a senior police officer told IANS on condition of anonymity.

According to the official, a pistol costs between Rs20,000 and Rs25,000 while a katta — for decades made in the backyards of Mainpuri district in Uttar Pradesh — can normally be bought for Rs1,000-1,500.

Munger district in Bihar, which shares a long border with Nepal where Maoists are said to have sold off their weapons, is where Indian criminals are procuring the pistols, the police officer said.

The kattas usually have only one barrel and low range and only a single shot can be fired at a time. Pistols offer the luxury of shooting long-range targets accurately and repeatedly without reloading.

“In many cases, kattas backfire injuring the shooter,” added the official.

Figures with Delhi Police indicate a sudden drop in the number of seized kattas in 2012 and 2011 and a notable increase in the number of guns — signifying a surge in the popularity of modern weapons.

A total of 80 illegal pistols were seized up to September this year. The figure was 99 for the whole of 2011. In contrast, the number of seized kattas was 365 this year, down from 626 last year.

Other modern but illegal weapons seized included nine revolvers and four rifles.

“We seized six pistols from a weapons supplier who had come to Delhi from Bihar to deliver the consignment,” Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) Bhisham Singh told IANS.

The accused revealed that he bought the six weapons for Rs10,000 each and would have sold them for Rs25,000 each, said Singh.

Last week, a woman was caught at the Anand Vihar railway station in east Delhi while on her way to Meerut to deliver a weapons consignment she had procured from Bihar, said the officer.

According to another senior official, police in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have been repeatedly told about the units manufacturing illegal weapons in their states but no concrete action has been taken.

“It’s a worrying trend. We have to be more alert,” another official said.