In spite of on-going economic problems over the last few years, British guns continue to hold their value.
This is positive news for the industry, but also for the buyer. Obviously, the fact there is still a market for high quality hand-made British products is good news for our prestigious gunmaking industry.
And this continued strength is good news for buyers because it means top quality firearms represent a great investment, especially while interest rates continue to be so unfavourable for bank accounts and other financial products.
Guns remain a safe investment because they are a tangible asset.
A client recently remarked to me that investing £20,000 in a savings account at current interest rates would make him about £100, so investing in a £20,000 gun would really only cost him £100.
In fact he might well see a decent return on his investment in the shotgun.
The CLA Game Fair always presents a brilliant opportunity to invest in a new gun because all the retailers put out their very best showpiece items for the biggest event in the country calendar.
Apart from some of the major American shows, the CLA Game Fair really is the best place in the world to view and purchase the finest English guns ? nowhere else will you find as many firearms in their original specifications in good condition.
Make no mistake, the Game Fair is a place for serious gun buyers: a vast number are sold at the show each year.
With Gunmakers? Row getting bigger with each and every event, all the gun dealers attending know how important it is to take their highest quality items.
SPEED, PLANNING AND PRECISION
However, buying a gun at the Game Fair can present its own set of problems. Firstly, although there are more desirable guns in one place than at any other time of the year, there is also the highest concentration of potential buyers, so the rarest and best pieces tend to get snapped up quickly.
To counteract this, some buyers go as far as to contact gun dealers before the event and buy the best guns before they are even put on show.
Given the competition the buyer will face, it is important to go into the show with a clear idea of exactly what it is you want to buy.
Think about the specific bore size you require. How many triggers? Do you want an over-under or side-by-side?
Make a list and ensure that whichever gun you think about buying meets each one of your criteria.
Having said that, no matter how much careful planning you do, buying a shotgun is always an emotional decision.
As well as meeting your demands technically, it must also pull at your heart strings ? because this investment is one that will hopefully last several generations if successfully made.
This may mean, of course, that the gun you end up buying is not the very best one you see!
Just as with buying a gun from a shop, it is important that you take plenty of time over your purchase at the Game Fair. Don?t rush in and then repent at leisure.
And just like that normal shopping experience, the dealer should always give you their time and full attention. When you arrive at a stand, make yourself known to the staff, and make it clear exactly what you are looking for.
You should expect to receive personal attention.
For instance every dealer should have an area at the back of their stand where you can check over the gun in decent light, and get a feel for how it handles without feeling cramped.
A good dealer will be able to look at your gun fit there and then, and should be able to give you a firm price for the whole service.
The quality of the service you receive should be an important part of the overall price ? if you?re lucky there might even be a glass of cold beer on offer too!
Most importantly of all for any prospective Game Fair gun buyer, don?t panic.
Certainly, if you are looking for a .410 Boss over-under or an unusual big bore gun, then you will almost certainly have to be quick on the draw and be able to make a fast buying decision.
But if you are looking for the gun of your dreams, then you must take the time that such a monumental decision deserves.
Purdey side-by-side shotgun £32,500
This beautiful 12 bore side-by-side is the sort of gun about which many of us will idly daydream. It is the classic English nine-pin sidelock with 28″ barrels and 2¾” chambers.
It was built in 1978 and is finished to the high standards you would expect.
This Purdey is perfect for driven birds, having a good feel in the hands at 6¾lbs, with the weight forward of the hinge pin giving good balance and allowing for a superb, smooth swing.
The Purdey self-opening action means it does need some strength to close, but the fact this gun is good and tight is a mark of the quality of the original build and the standard of care it has received.
It has acanthus and scroll engraving ? not the classic Purdey style ? including carved fences and a coin finish. This finish would have come with a 10% premium when new, and its relative rarity means this gun does have something of an edge over other Purdeys of a similar age.
Unusually, it is also a single trigger, which may attract some buyers ? although I prefer a double trigger! The original stock was 13½” long, but this has been removed and the gun restocked delightfully to 15½”, which will suit more buyers.
New, a gun like this would cost around £85,000 ? it is a good illustration of the sort of slightly unusual but extremely high quality gun you are likely to find at the CLA Game Fair.
Pair 20-bore H&H Royal De Luxe shotguns £79,950
This is a remarkable pair of guns, desirable for a number of reasons ? not least their manufacturer and their bore size.
High quality smaller bore guns are always in demand, so these Holland & Hollands are exactly the sort of thing that will be sold very quickly at the Game Fair. Built in 1973, they have 15½” stocks, with 27″ barrels ? unusual today but common on game guns built in that period.
The chambers are 2½” with boring at quarter and half on both guns.
Being 20-bores they handle absolutely beautifully, snapping to the shoulder with ease, and they would be a joy to use to shoot all types of game.
They come in their original case, complete with accessories, which does add some value to second-hand guns depending on condition.
The real value in these guns, however, comes from the remarkable engraving and finishing.
The wood used on the gun is not particularly highly figured, but is nonetheless attractive thanks to the straighter grain pattern running the length of the stocks.
The engraving by K. Preater is superb: an optional extra when the guns were ordered, it features delightfully bold foliate designs framing game scenes featuring grouse, woodcock and pheasant.
A new pair of these guns to the same quality and specification would cost approximately twice as much today.
Pair Westley Richards droplock shotguns £10,500
These superb Birmingham guns are easily the equal of the finest London-made guns. Remarkable 12-bore side-by-sides, they were made in 1902 but still shoot beautifully today.
They have had a new pair of 28″ barrels fitted in the late 1970s, with 2¾” chambers.
It is important to investigate who has made replacement barrels on older guns, as this can have a major impact on value.
Generally, you should ensure replacement barrels have been produced by the original maker.
These guns feature beautiful, highly figured wood in the stock and fore-end. They have the classic scalloped action found on Westley Richards guns, with immaculate fit between the wood of the stock and the action body.
Engraving is in the classic rose and scroll fashion.
These guns have the Westley Richards droplock action, where the bottom plate hinges open and each of the locks can be removed simply.
Given the age of the gun and the excellent condition of the locks, it seems likely that the locks are not the originals. Mechanically, these guns are totally sound and would be very reliable.
It is merely the overall age that gives them a relatively low price compared to the other guns in this selection, but this should not be off-putting for a potential buyer.
They would make a superb, accessible investment, but more importantly would be a joy to shoot with.