Everybody seemed to enjoy the Game Fair this year.
The weather helped; very hot on Friday but not to the degree that it was uncomfortable (unless you were working gun dogs). Then, cooler on Saturday but the rain held off until the evening. Traffic in and out was well managed and the queues not too long.
Once inside it was apparent that the show is re-building after some tough years. The Fishing Village was all but gone, just three or four stands. Gunmakers' Row was more encouraging, with the likes of Holland & Holland, Rigby, Atkin, Grant & Lang, Charles Lancaster, John Dickson, David McKay Brown, Boss and Longthorne all showing their wares and meeting old friends and new.
The Gun Trade Association was busy with talks and displays running throughout each day, all well attended and apparently well received. Among the speakers were Bill Blacker, Diggory Hadoke, Gavin Gardiner and Simon Reinhold. Topics included the continuing relevance of the side-by-side, the impact of the latest lead ammunition restrictions recommended by the HSE and the viability of old barrels with steel shot for long term use.
Traders were mixed in their reviews of customer spend. One dealer said he had seen no interest in new guns or used Brownings and Mirokus, which he would normally expect to sell well, but he was surprised at the number of English guns he sold "anything interesting was selling" he told me.
One major London firm reported their best ever day at a Game Fair on the Friday, taking orders for several new rifles.
Chatting to Grant Buchan, who now owns David McKay Brown and continues to manufacture the round-action guns for which David became world renowned, it was encouraging to hear of his investment and expansion plans. He has a very talented team of gunmakers and a good product. The engraving styles are very bold and different and the company is really making a statement. Double rifles and over & under guns are also on the menu through his sister company, Buchan Guns.
The hub for the trade was the Fieldsports Party, generously hosted by Simon and Selena Barr and a magnet for everybody connected with the business of making and selling guns. Writers, advertisers, contributors and readers joined for a long evening of networking and fun.
On Saturday the Atlantic Salmon Trust was hosted there and a lovely open fire cooking display supplied attendees with venison and trout, while chatting.
Among the must-see items on dispaly weas a new Rigby falling block rifle, one of three recently made, with seven more under construction; each with its own distinctive and different engraving style. Also, a fascinating re-barreling project untertaken by Dickson on a MacNaughton 4-bore falling block shotgun, which they are re-barrelling as a 4-bore rifle. Fifty rounds have been commissioned and they are monstrous.
The vibe was really positive all through the weekend and it was clear that the trade is up-beat and determined to prosper in spite of the setbacks of recent months and years. We may be facing hard challenges but we are innovative, passionate and more united than I have seen us for along time.
Gunmakers seem keen to help one another. The ethos is 'if you do well, we do well', which is so refreshing and perhaps due to the relative youth of the managing directors of many of the major firms.
Long may this continue.
Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on (modified )