Issue 10 April 2020

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Storms literal and figurative

Unsettled weather and troubled markets ahead.

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Auctions & Markets|March 2020

Storm Dennis came hard on the heels of Storm Ciara and left my home town of Ludlow largely under water. Fortunately, my properties were not affected but hundreds of poor souls were left with flooding up to waist level and months of will-sapping restoration to endure before life returns to normal, with the ever-present fear that a repeat could happen at any time.

Not only were the roads of the Marches impassable in numerous places, the wider area surrounding Birmingham and all routes inward were compromised, to the extent that many destined for the British Shooting Show thought better of it and stayed at home.

I visited the show on Friday and did the rounds. Our major best gunmakers were largely absent. Of those who did attend, Atkin, Grant & Lang shared a stand with Frances Lovel, while John Dickson & Son showed-up with an interesting display of their famous round-actions and some finished new guns. Tony White exhibited his patent intercepting safety model boxlock and some new over & under guns.

Used British guns were represented by Giles Marriott, J-P Daeschler, Heritage Guns, Ladd’s and the Cheshire Gun Room. The public was naturally drawn to the real gunmakers showing off their skills and talking craftsmanship. Bill Blacker, James Blacker, Ian Sweetman and others were showcasing their businesses and taking orders. Auctioneers I saw included Bonham’s and Southam’s.

Verbal reports back from the various stands suggest a degree of optimism, with real sales of quality guns taking place at the show and orders for repair work and re-stocking jobs being taken.

As a dealer in English guns, I was keen to listen to the chat about lead shot and its likely demise. I have been especially paying attention to the efforts of the ammunition makers to solve the riddle of how to pack an effective game load of steel shot into an eco-wadded case and push it fast enough at normal pressures to be useful as ammunition to those shooting older British side-locks and boxlocks. Eley seem to be close. The water soluble Eco Wad is a likely winner. It feels tough and durable in its dry form and I watched one dissolve in minutes, while I talked to Jonathan McGee on the Eley stand. Nobody is quite there yet but work is being done, which is good to hear.Lead shot, now banned in big bore water fowling loads, like these, is targetted for removal from all hunting. Eley and Gamebore are promoting alternative steel ammunition with non-polluting wads.

The footfall on Friday was slower, as is to be expected wit it being a work day for most people. Saturday, I’m told was busier but Sunday rather affected by the weather.

The next event is IWA in Germany, where Holt’s hosted the Gun Trade Association on a sponsored stand, providing a useful presence for our Trade Representative as well as continuing Holt’s long association with the event.

The major gun auctions begin soon, with Southams on March 12th, and Holts on 23rd and 24th March providing a venue for sales. Bonhams should have a sale in May and Gavin Gardiner has listed one on 22nd April, in London.

The staffing of some of the auctioneers has changed a little, with William Threlfall at Bonhams now comfortably in situ and Simon Reinhold at Holt’s now making his presence felt. Users of social media will have noticed more frequent and cleverly targeted posts and features from Holt’s upcoming inventory, which all helps to create the ‘chatter’ necessary to invigorate a sale and enthuse potential punters to make the trip to see and handle some of the lot’s. I spoke to Nick Holt this week and he was very pleased with the quality and depth of the March sale. Dare we hope that the market may be starting to move a little more freely than it has of late?

English side-locks are good value at the moment. I noted an unusual Wilkinson at Holt’s, that had bold, elaborate engraving and was clearly built on a Webley action with typical ribanded fences. with a starting price of just £1,000 that has to be worth a look and the presence in the sale of a pair of Purdey 12-bore hammer ejectors certainly got the interest of several collectors; one chap calling me from Switzerland with money apparently burning its way out of his wallet in his haste to get them.

The announcement in Parliament by new PM Boris Johnson that he was pressing ahead with his fact-free consultation process intended to culminate in the banning of imports or exports of legally hunted trophies has sent ripples through our industry. What now will be the status of taxidermy already in the country? Can we expect similarly illiberal measure enforced to restrict the sales of these as well? It seems to me rather beyond the remit of government to regulate the manner in which people decorate their living rooms but we live in times where the majority seem intent on squashing any minority interest that displeases them in the least way.Could taxidermy be outlawed eventually by this increasingly intollerant pressure to make shooters conform to notions of 'morality' that pander to the squeamish?

Auctions have traditionally had a smattering of taxidermy specimens and they generate a percentage of the proceeds from most gun sales. Is this to be yet another part of our lifestyle that this government will seek to diminish?

Those who voted Conservative in the last election, in the expectation that the party would provide a measure of protection to the rural community and the lawful gun-owning public should be disappointed. In fact, it is rather a misnomer that the Conservative Party is the protector of shooting interests.

The 1920 firearms act, first restricting gun ownership, was enacted by a Conservative Government. The 1996 hand-gun ban was enacted by a Conservative Government, as was the 1987 restriction on multi-shot rifles and shotguns and the con-current significant restricting of rifle and shotgun ownership. The 2012 firearms fiasco at the Olympic Games was handled by Conservatives and the draconian ban on the sale or gifting of deactivated weapons was installed under a Conservative PM.

The history of the party is not gun-owner friendly and our current inhabitant of No.10 appears to be under the spells of his girlfriend, who is a close associate of Chris Packham, and his old chum Zac Goldsmith, who is aggressively fighting against much of what we as a community exercise as our rights. Don’t expect a period of stability and calm from this regime.

Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on (modified )

Auctions & Markets|March 2020

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