Handmade guns, the epitome of bespoke high-end field sports, are becoming obsolete. Cost, speed and profit is to blame but is Boss & Co the saviour of one of the UK’s oldest traditions?
In a luxury world, handmade is considered to be the best, be it cars, watches, or tailoring an item made by hand has value, soul, and care within it. Handmade is of the highest quality and is made specifically for the buyer to their exact requirements. The costs for such items are higher, as the skilled labour to create them is hard to find, and the manhours needed to complete are vast, but many are happy to pay the price for perfection.
Nowadays, handmade is a dying art across many industries thanks to streamlining, increased performance and falling cost of modern machinery, the desire to sell more product and a drive to become more profitable. More and more, machining is used in the production of goods once thought of as handmade. We may not be told that this is the case at the time of purchase, but it is happening. Fast.
A sector that once reliant upon skilled labour to create a top-quality handmade product is gunmaking. It is a little-known fact that the UK, and London in particular, produces the world’s finest sporting guns and that Great Britain is famous around the world as the place to buy the finest shotguns and double rifles. In the early 1900s, the UK had hundreds of gunmakers, sadly now only a handful remain, and those numbers are falling faster than an airborne grouse on a shoot.
Taking a walk around the streets of London in the late 1920s would have seen many gunmakers, with fully-stocked shops to busy factories and test centres to component makers aplenty along the way.
Of course, in these times it was essential for a gentleman, and many a lady, to own a sporting gun, and before that perhaps a set of duelling pistols. Today guns are less commonplace, but the market for high-quality sporting guns remains strong, and country sports has a global following.
The best gun will cost upwards of £100,000, representing the very finest money can buy — the range of bespoke options almost infinite and the precision of shot unsurpassed. Order a gun of this type today, and you’ll need to be prepared for a wait of some years, bear in mind that most guns are ordered in pairs, and you’ll also need to double your budget.
In Europe, there are many specialist training schemes for gunmakers, as there are for watchmakers and tailors, but here in the UK, we don’t have the same luxury. An incredible omission when you consider our illustrious history within the industry.
As skilled workers retire, or pass away, their skills are lost with them. Once that knowledge is gone, there may be little choice but to move to machine to replace the human to do the same job. Some might call that evolution, but it’s a sad loss of a great part of our heritage.
It’s fair to say that in this modern, technical age, not many young adults look to gunmaking as a profession; in fact, many don’t know it exists at all. Less than 100 years ago gunmaking was a thriving industry, and while Britain continues to make the finest guns in the world, we are in danger of losing our craft and with that dies a world-wide reputation for being the best.
But is it too late to revive? Who is to blame for the loss of handmade gunmaking, and why doesn’t anyone seem to care?