Edward King of ASI shares his love of shooting, the breadth of his company's range and leaving wildfowling to the tough guys.
So, Edward King, as managing director of ASI, tell me, what’s new at the company?
“We have just been invited to become the exclusive UK distributors for Huglu shotguns; they’re made in Turkey. Their products are entry-level shotguns; over-unders, side-by-sides and semi-autos within the £1,000 bracket.”
Exciting stuff, but you’d agree that AYA is still your flagship brand?
“AYA is our flagship brand in particular because we’ve been distributing them the longest. It is very much part of the family; although in terms of volume, AYA now takes second place to Rizzini, our Italian over-under. The over-under market dwarfs the side-by-side market and while AYAs are probably the main imported side-by-sides in the UK, they are a relatively big fish in a relatively small pond. We have been doing them for so long and they are such a reliable product that we are competing against secondhand guns we sold 10, 20, 30 years ago, all of which are still in very good condition. That and the fact most people now start with an over-under means the side-by-side market is definitely playing second fiddle.”
Was last season busy for you?
“Yes it was, from both a shooting and a business point of view. We’ve had a succession of improving years and the trend for us is definitely up. In terms of sport, I was busy enough. I would always prefer to be out in a field, a wood or in a marsh rather than an office, but if I did that every day I’d quickly end up not having an office.
“I do about a dozen shoots a season. I try to get out when I can, even if it’s on a Saturday afternoon shooting a few pigeons. I find it very beneficial for the system to do that. I am one of those who goes into a little bit of a downwards spiral on the first of February, as do my dogs. We have to find other ways to keep ourselves busy. Some people will stand for hours on a river bank with a rod but we all say the same thing, ‘it’s not just the fact that you’re doing it, it’s where you’re doing it and the fact that you are doing it’, which is lovely.
“Driven shooting makes up the bulk of my sport. I wouldn’t insult wildfowlers by calling myself a wildfowler but I love shooting wild duck. I generally leave my gun in my slip if there is a duck drive at the end of a pheasant day. I don’t crawl miles through muddy culverts to fire one shot at a goose, I leave that for the tough guys.”
A few snipe out your way in East Anglia?
“I have done snipe shooting locally, although I do less now because I’m fascinated by maintaining species. I have no qualms about shooting pheasants and partridge but on other wild bird shoots like snipe and woodcock, I am a bit more circumspect. While they are not actually threatened it is just lovely to see them about.”
What about your guns?
“I have AYAs – standard 12 bores, 28 inch barrels – and I use them for everything. Over the past few seasons I have been taking out my 20 bore. I must say, it does everything that a 12 will do. I also have a little 28 bore and that really is exciting to use, but it is a different style of shooting. I use it for pheasant and partridges with light cartridges. You tend to miss or kill with it and you do both cleanly. All my guns are AYA Model Nº 1s.”
Can you remember your first gun?
“It was a Franchi Falconet, 28 bore, over-under – a little alloy gun. I can remember firing hundreds of cartridges. It was enough to get me enthusiastic about shooting. I was about 13-years-old then. The gun was leant to me by an uncle.”
Was he your mentor?
“My mentor, from a shooting point of view has always been my father, but my father moved to Spain when he started ASI to look after the Spanish end of the business. He was always my mentor, but I had his brother who was much more local. Between the two of them they both managed to enthuse me with a love of shooting.”
What are your earliest shooting memories?
“Standing in an extremely cold wood on a February afternoon and firing about 75 shots for one pigeon. I remember the shot and where I was standing and everything else, not because this was my first shot but because it was such an exciting moment.”