A FORMER army marksman from Rowley Regis has avoided a spell behind bars after he produced a pistol during a traffic dispute.

Ryan Uppal was arrested moments later by armed police officers after a witness to the incident in Manor Lane, Halesowen reported she had seen a man with a gun.

Uppal had feared for the safety of his girlfriend after she got out of his car to remonstrate with a driver she felt was causing an obstruction.

"You put yourself and the general public at risk," Judge Amjad Nawaz told 27-year-old Uppal at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

He said that having been in the armed forces Uppal should have realised the seriousness of his actions in opting to hold the gun down by his side.

But he said it was accepted the pistol had not been loaded, there was no ammunition for the weapon in his car and he had not pointed it at the other man.

It was a crime, said the Judge, that would normally attract a substantial prison sentence but he ruled he could be lenient because Uppal was a man with an unblemished character.

Uppal of Harvest Road had denied possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence but he was found guilty by a jury on a majority verdict at the end of his trial.

The Judge ordered him to carry out 200 hours unpaid work in the community and ruled he should pay £2,000 towards the costs of the prosecution.

Miss Balvinder Bhatti defending said Uppal, a van driver, was full of remorse for his actions and he recognised the risk he had posed by getting out of his car with the gun.

She said Uppal who stressed it had never been his intention to cause any harm used the air pistol for target practice and what he did was on the "spur of the moment."

The Judge said that in the current climate the production of a weapon in a public place was a matter of great concern and what he did was an "act of great foolishness."