The top 10 gunmakers exhibiting at the Game Fair
We preview ten of the best
If you’re keen on shooting, you’ll doubtless have dreamt of visiting some of the world’s top gunmakers. Often these places are fascinating, from Beretta in northern Italy to Holland & Holland on Jermyn Street. Set out in a vintage car, tour Italy and Spain, drift around Mayfair: great coffee, great wine, rich history. Talk to artisans and designers; take months to decide on the perfect gun for you. Barrelmakers, actioners, lockmakers — meet them all and get a real feel for the personalities of the brands and, of course, handle the guns themselves. It would make for a perfect summer but sadly most of us don’t have that much time.
Modern life means we are time-poor, so the idea of setting out on the road to visit multiple gunmakers will never be more than a dream. But when it comes to spending hard-earned money on a gun, online browsing or a video call doesn’t cut it. For a shotgun or a rifle, a face-to-face meeting is needed. You need to touch and handle a gun to get a sense of its soul.
Happily, though, there is a simple solution to this quandary; step forward the Game Fair, which is being held from the 28 to 30 July at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire. Celebrating its 65th anniversary this year, the event’s centrepiece is Gunmakers’ Row which, for three days, will be home to numerous heavyweight gunmakers from around the world including Holland & Holland, Beretta, William Powell, John Rigby & Co, Longthorne, Boss, EJ Churchill, Rizzini and AYA. Gunmakers’ Row represents an extraordinary opportunity to see some of the world’s greatest craftsmen in one place. It really is worth visiting the fair just to spend an afternoon there.
‘Established in 1775, Rigby is the third-oldest gunmaker in the world. With its reputation built on duelling pistols, fowling pieces, blunderbusses, long-distance match rifles and double and magazine rifles and cartridges that became international icons, the Rigby name is synonymous with fine and collectable firearms. Today, the cult British brand has a loyal following around the world, being the choice of many professional hunters. Its iconic Rising Bite shotgun — which Rigby recently recommenced making after a break of 100 years — is characterised by the unique patent action, well regarded for its strength.
The Rising Bite
- Bespoke side-by-side sidelock
- From £99,500 exc VAT
- Stand number J1044
Since 1802, William Powell has been a trusted name within the gunmaking industry. Now owned by Mark and Christine Osborne and based in Oxfordshire, the gunmaker specialises in just shotguns. There are seven models in total — two side-by-sides and five over-and-unders — all of which are steel shot proofed. Made in Italy and hand-finished in the UK, the range is designed by the in-house gunroom team. The Viscount is their flagship side-by-side game gun and is fully customisable. For those wanting to put their new shotgun to use, the Osbornes also run a sporting agency, William Powell Sporting, which works with some of the most prestigious estates in Britain and around the world.
- Bespoke side-by-side sidelock
- From £13,000 inc VAT
- Stand number J1064
After first-class pigeon shot Edwin John Churchill established his eponymous gunmakers in 1891, the brand has steadily grown to where it is today. Churchill’s early reputation rested on live pigeon guns, which he soon abandoned in favour of 25in-barrelled batons. Sold as XXVs, these guns provided him with a unique selling proposition that, in the absence of a proprietary action, convinced many shooters to switch brands. One who did was the Prince of Wales, who ordered a pair of best premier quality sidelock ejectors with signature XXV barrels in 1930. Today, EJ Churchill is based in Buckinghamshire with Sir Edward Dashwood and Rob Fenwick at the helm. They offer everything from affordable English-style machine-made shotguns made in Spain and Italy to bespoke handmade English shotguns costing six figures.
- English-style side-by-side sideplate
- From £7,995 inc VAT
- Stand number J940
The initials AYA stand for Aguirre y Aranzabal, named after the Spanish founders of the gunmakers, Miguel Aguirre and Nicolas Aranzabal, in 1917. Whether you pronounce it ‘ay-why-ay’, ‘ay-er’ or ‘eye-er’, everyone in the shooting world will know what you are talking about — the name is synonymous with the best guns to have come out of Spain in the past 100 years. Today, AYA offers one of the most complete ranges of side-by-side shotguns on the market, from workhorse boxlocks to the finest sidelocks. In addition to the off-the-peg range, AYA also offers a comprehensive bespoke service capable of delivering the most personalised requirements.
- From £43,200 inc VAT
- Stand number J932
Founded in 1966, the Italian gunmaker’s ethos is one of making use of state-of-the-art machinery to refine the gunmaking process. Today, Rizzini continues to use the latest techniques and tools to make their range of over-and-under and side-by-side shotguns. Rizzini has been distributed in the UK by ASI (Anglo-Spanish Imports). Edward King has worked closely with the gunmaker to develop models with the sort of look and feel that the UK market demands, whether that’s game guns or Sporting clay models. They’re clearly doing something right, since according to a recent census, Rizzini is the sixth-most popular brand of shotgun among British game shots.
Grand Regal Extra
- Side-by-side sideplate with round body action
- From £11,140 inc VAT
- Stand number J932
Beretta holds the impressive distinction of being the world’s oldest industrial dynasty. And when you consider the wealth of knowledge and experience that has been handed down through 15 generations of gunmakers over five centuries, it is little wonder that they produce some of the world’s best shotguns. Distributed in the UK by GMK, the Italian gunmaker has recently launched its top-end SO10 EELL model, which is marketed as the pinnacle of shotgun craftmanship and the crown jewel of their London gunroom.
- This over-and-under is touted as the brand’s ultimate masterpiece
- From £102,950
- Stand number J918
Founded in 1812 by Thomas Boss, Boss & Co was acquired in 1891 by one of the firm’s employees, a gunmaker called John Robertson who helped to establish its reputation by patenting mechanisms such as the Boss single trigger, the Boss ejector and the over-and-under barrel configuration. In its entire 211-year history, Boss has produced little more than 10,000 shotguns and rifles, because every part is meticulously hand-crafted at its workshops in London. Today, Boss & Co is owned by American billionaire Arthur DeMoulas. He arrived in 2015 with a commitment to maintaining levels of craftsmanship, but he also had a vision to see Boss expand its scope and make a wider variety of shotguns and rifles.
- Ambidextrous side-lever shotgun
- Stand number J1042
For more than 187 years, London gunmaker Holland & Holland has built fine British guns and rifles. Time-honoured gunmaking skills and state-of-the-art machinery combine perfectly to instil quality and artistry into every shotgun and rifle. Each element of the gun — the barrels, the action, the stock and the engraving — is a masterpiece in its own right, requiring many hours of painstaking work to achieve perfection. For instance, the standard Royal Scroll pattern takes 150 hours’ work to complete for each gun, and the Classic Acanthus 240 hours. The Noble is brand new and debuts at the Game Fair.
- From £75,000 exc VAT
- Stand number J924
This family-run Northamptonshire gunmaker is headed up by precision engineer James Longthorne Stewart, who oversees the design and production of their range of English shotguns. James’ wife Elaine looks after marketing and their daughter Chloe looks after the brand’s distinctive engraving designs. A relative newcomer to the British gun trade, Longthorne was established in 2010 and launched its first shotgun at the Game Fair that same year. Today, they manufacture English-made Sporting shotguns and rifles with unique globally patented barrel technology using a single piece of steel or titanium, ensuring strength, lightness and excellent handling.
- A sidelock with titanium barrels
- From £78,037 inc VAT
- Stand number KJ929
Established in 2017 by engineer Gerry Coulter, this brand is the newest gunmaker to arrive on the scene in Britain. A specialist at manufacturing aftermarket parts for obsolete Rolls-Royce engines and jet engines, Gerry utilises aviation technology and materials when making rifles and shotguns. A keen game shooter, he enjoys making guns with rare and obsolete calibres like the 10-bore shotgun. Based in Pall Mall, Manor & Co uses the finest high-grade wood and top-quality German barrels, and also features finely detailed London-style engraving including intricate gold inlays, highly detailed wildfowl or game engraving, all painstakingly worked on by some of the top hand engravers.
10-bore side-by-side shotgun
- From £18,000 exc VAT
- Stand number J1037