The availability of guns in Birmingham has been laid bare by a Home Office report which reveals firearms can be obtained in the city for #50.
Birmingham and London follow Greater Manchester and Liverpool as the cities where criminals find it easiest to get hold of firearms.
But criminals from Nottingham, recently dubbed the country's "gun crime capital", had to travel to buy guns because they did not circulate in the East Midlands city.
The research, by Portsmouth University academics, discloses extraordinary details about the lives of gun-toting crooks, including their fear of getting caught with a gun which a previous owner had used in a crime.
It also exposes several legal loopholes which allow criminals to get hold of ammunition, and says guns had become more available than in the past.
"The criminal availability of lethal firearms has increased, particularly because of the innovations of converted imitation firearms and home-made ammunition and the re-circulation of firearms that have been used in crime," it says
"Illegal firearms have become increasingly accessible to younger offenders who appear more likely to use those firearms recklessly."
It adds: "Guns believed or known to have been used in crime can be extremely cheap.
"Offenders are acutely concerned about the provenance of illegal guns."
The document suggests Ministers could try to cut gun crime by exploiting criminals’ fear of "taking the rap" for crimes previously committed with a "dirty" firearm. The authors said the authorities needed to do more to tackle the conversion of imitation guns into live-firing weapons.
It may be possible to zero in on criminals’ anxieties about the unreliability of such guns and their dangerousness to the user, they added.
Introducing longer sentences for gun crime could be counter-productive, the report says.
For example, offenders said crooks may try to "shoot their way out" if cornered by police rather than face an even longer jail term.
There were significant links between drugs and illegal weapons, and evidence that firearms were becoming "increasingly important" to dealers, the report concludes.
The study highlights the difficulty criminals have in acquiring ammunition for weapons - in fact, it can be harder to obtain than the weapons themselves.
It recommends Ministers should seal loopholes which allow criminals to lawfully obtain ammunition components and tools which can then be used to illegally manufacture rounds.
Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said: "We are committed to tackling gun crime through tough legislation and working with communities."
He cited the example of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 which would introduce new laws to ban the sale, manufacture and importation of realistic imitation firearms and a new offence of "minding a firearm".
However, shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: "This alarming report shows just how badly the Government is failing to protect the safety of the public.
"This is a direct consequence of two Labour failures. They have failed to tackle the scourge of drugs which fuels so much violent crime, and they have in addition failed to secure our porous borders which allow such weapons to pour into our country."