TWO schoolboys got a shock when their hunt for grass snakes ended up with them finding a gun.

Kane Blackmore and Callum Wallis-Sheldon, both 11, found the Czech rifle in bushes while searching for the snakes on fields behind Vange Community Centre, in Mapleford Sweep.

Fortunately the weapon wasn’t loaded and the boys alerted some nearby teenagers who handed it over to police.

The boys’ parents are proud their sons did the right thing.

Callum’s dad, Carl Sheldon, 34, a former soldier, of Eastbrooks Place, Pitsea, said: “It is the first time Callum’s ever really played in that park. He doesn’t normally go there.

“As a former soldier myself I have handled firearms and I have to say this is very concerning.

“But, as far as I’m concerned, the boys did the right thing by informing the police.”

Kane’s dad, Darren Blackmore, 42, of Pitseaville Grove, Vange, added: “I’m so proud of my son. It’s just so lucky the gun didn’t end up in the wrong hands. I was shocked when he told me what he found. I thought he was mucking about.”

Officers arrived to take away the Ceskazbrojovka VZ.52 self-loading rifle at about 6.30pm on Wednesday.

PC Alan Conran, of Pitsea police, said officers were still baffled about how the gun ended up in the bushes.

He added: “The boys were searching for snakes, as they had seen a TV programme that said the best place to find them was under old carpets.

“They actually came across the rifle under a carpet inside a brown leather case.

“The boys did the right thing by getting someone to call police, and left the rifle alone until police attended.

“I would like to thank them for behaving in such a grown-up way and helping police.

“As of yet, we haven’t found an owner to this, so if you think it is yours, then please get in contact.

“We are not sure how it ended up there, but I would like to point out it is incredibly important weapons and firearms are disposed of correctly, and not just dumped somewhere.”

The weapon, which was developed after the Second World War, has been made safe by police and is currently being stored at a police station.

Anyone who recognises the weapon can contact police at Pitsea on 0300 3334444.