But the apprehensive amongst you should persevere, as there are some great guns to be found.
In many ways, game fairs are now the best place for a gun enthusiast to go and buy a gun.
Gunmakers? Row at the CLA game fair has what is surely the biggest display of guns in the UK.
There were guns of all types and prices on sale, from brand new Berettas to aged Purdeys, and as such it offered a tremendous opportunity for the canny buyer.
Game fairs give you the chance to meet a large number of retailers, and get a feel for their products at first hand, rather than studying adverts in magazines.
AN UNBEATABLE COLLECTION
Importers and manufacturers will be showing off the latest guns from the likes of Beretta and Browning alongside gun shops.
This means there is always a deal to be had on new guns, which is very much to the buyer?s advantage in terms of price.
The dealers will play off one another in an attempt to sell as many guns as they can, and while this means low prices you should make sure you?re not sacrificing a good standard of after sales service for the sake of a few pounds.
Cheapest is not always the best.
The biggest market at the Game Fair, however, is secondhand guns. With more modern second-hand guns from the likes of Beretta, Browning or AYA there is not a lot that can go wrong with them internally.
But there are certain basic things you should always check for, including dents in the barrels, sound ribs and cracks in the fore-end or stock.
As well as these, you will want to pay attention to the general condition of the gun, ensuring the gun opens and closes well and so on.
Though any such problems aren?t necessarily the retailer?s fault, you must keep your eyes open.
Though you may be looking at a gun which is only 10 or 15 years old, it might have had a lot of use in that time.
ENGLISH BARGAINS ABOUND
A lot of gun shops these days don?t stock side-by-sides, concentrating on the newer over-under or semi-auto guns, but you will see lots of good old English side-by-sides.
When looking at an older English gun or a classic gun you will need to be a little more careful. Ensure you check the internal bore measurements of the barrels and the thickness of the barrel walls with the retailer.
This is particularly important with Damascus barrelled guns.
A good retailer should make the time to go through all of this with you, and ideally will be offering a one-year guarantee on used guns for your peace of mind.
Away from new over-unders and second hand guns, you will see a lot of unusual guns which you would never normally see on the shop shelves, such as hammer guns or single barrelled 20-bores.
Many people will want to buy these on impulse, but do be extra careful before taking the plunge.
Makers of best quality guns, such as Holland & Holland and Purdey, will also have a presence at the Game Fair, though they rarely have guns ready to buy ?off the shelf?.
Best quality guns, particularly from London, are obviously highly sought after and the gun retailers are well aware of this.
As a result, game & country fairs are probably the best place to buy a second-hand best quality gun from one of the big name makers; you will not see a good number of these guns together in one place anywhere else.
Beretta Silver Pigeon shotgun
Beretta brought this gun out as a basic, reliable over-under, but set at a more advantageous price than their other more popular models.
They are available with 28″ or 30″ barrels with fixed or multi-chokes.
Like many Beretta guns, this one is available in game or sporter varieties, the biggest difference basically being the weight of the gun.
The game gun is slightly lighter and has an automatic safety catch. I find the sporter to be the more universal gun – it?s not significantly heavier, the rib width being 8mm compared to 6mm in the game gun.
Some game shooters will prefer the extra weight of the sporting model to aid in giving a good swing.
The gun handles well in both forms, coming to the shoulder and shooting well, as you would expect.
The gun has been well constructed, with good wood-to-metal fit and nicely oiled stock and fore-end.
A major bonus with buying one of these guns is the famed Beretta reliability; you will be able to use this gun hard on clays and game and should have no problems at all.
I would expect retailers to be selling these guns for about £1,250 at the Game Fair, which would be great value and make this gun an excellent buy.
George Gibbs Boxlock shotgun
English boxlocks offer outstanding value for money, especially when you look at the new price of equivalent foreign guns.
This is brought home doubly so when one considers, pro rata, what it would actually cost to make an English boxlock of this quality today – which isn?t really done because it would not be cost effective.
This gun will have been made approximately around 1920.
It has 2½” chambers and still has very good bores and wall thickness in the barrels. It has very fine engraving, including the carved oak leaf fences particular to guns by George Gibbs.
This gun would have been at the top of the tree in its day, with beautiful French walnut with good figuring throughout used on the stock and fore-end.
This is one of many guns we have put through our workshop, blacking the barrels and polishing and re-checkering to essentially bring it back to life.
It will now give another 100 years of hard service if well looked after.
At this price it is cheaper than a new AYA boxlock, and many buyers will prefer the idea of owning a bit of English history over a new Spanish gun at this price point.
Guns of this type and quality should be abundant at game fairs, and it seems foolish to look past them in favour of one of the more common modern over-unders.
Purdey over-under shotgun
This is a virtually new Purdey over-under, which was made in the early 1990s. It has 28″ barrels with multichokes by Nigel Teague, who really is the best in the business.
The engineering in these guns is second to none in terms of best quality English over-unders, and the quality of Purdey?s manufacturing shines through here.
Wood to metal fit is exquisite, and the gun has been engraved beautifully.
It is a very elegant gun, with a colour hardened finish. As is quite common on English over-unders this gun is ribless, with vestigial sections of rib at each end of the top barrel.
This brings the weight of the gun down significantly, and means it handles very well.
It comes complete in its leather and canvas case with all its accessories, and is in wonderful condition.
A new gun like this would cost in the region of £80,000 today and is simply one of the finest over-unders you can buy.
At the Game Fair you can expect guns of this quality and condition to be selling for around £50,000.
Though this seems a lot of money to be putting down outside of a comfortable shop environment you are unlikely to find such an easily accessible collection of quality guns anywhere else.