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Custom Gunmakers Part 1

Bruce Potts rounds up some of the best custom rifle smiths in the UK

Many custom shops today have evolved from the need to produce something that was either difficult to source, or simply not available in the format was desired by the customer. Some are full time gunsmiths, others are precision engineers who have turned their hobbies into a business, and others are talented individuals who specialise in a specific area.

  • Specialist Rifle Services (Steve Bowers), 01242 863005 www.specialistrifleservices.co.uk

    Specialist Rifle Services (Steve Bowers), 01242 863005 www.specialistrifleservices.co.uk

    Bower’s custom laminate stock and a Walther 1 in 9” twist stainless steel barrel. It is custom fluted and blacked in house Steve’s a fully qualified and experienced tool maker, who has been running his own precision engineering workshop for 25 years. Here, his knowledge and expertise is applied to producing extremely accurate custom rifles. He grew up in rural Gloucestershire, helping with local pest control for pocket money. He joined an aircraft engineering company and later an engineering firm to hone his skills. Together with his in-house stock expert, Rob Libbiter, he can turn any wood blank into a thing of true beauty, as well as bedding, chequering and applying custom finishes.

    After Venom Arms retired, I chose Steve to do most of my custom and wildcat work, as I can design the cartridges on QuickDesign and QuickLoad, make the brass and develop loads, but I am not a gunsmith. So, Steve can turn my creations into reality and it is always good to work with someone singing off the same hymn sheet, in respect of his ethos and humour. He is just as capable re-barrelling customers’ shot out rifles as he is building from scratch a full-blown custom gun, blue printing actions, as well as designing his own actions, barrel bedding blocks, scope mounts and any manner of one-off custom-made parts. That is where the true precision engineering side of Steve’s skill comes to the forefront. No job is too difficult, and his highquality work is highly regarded and sought after.

  • Norman Clark Gunsmiths (Norman Clark), 01788 579651 www.normanclarkgunsmith.com

    Norman is one of the old school, true custom rifle builders in this country and continues to produce custom creations from pure breed classic wood stocked rifles, to competition winning F Class guns. He left school in 1977 and became a trainee gunsmith in the Birmingham gun trade under the watchful eye of ex W.W.Greener and Webley & Scott gunsmiths, where he began to develop his engineering skills. He then set up his own workshops in 1984 in Rugby, initially in a single rented room, but his skill was soon in demand and his business grew to become a custom shop and retail business, selling all gun-related products. As well as his custom rifles, Norman also provides precision reloading equipment and components to feed them with and has a wealth of knowledge on tap. Over the years, he has built and customised a wide range of precision stalking, varmint, tactical and target rifles in a variety of calibres, ranging from .14 up to .505 Gibbs. If it burns powder, Norman can make it! He has re-barrelled, restocked and custom fitted rifles for me from K98 snipers, .35 Whelen AK Improved, to a custom .458 Lott.

  • Brock and Norris (Mike Norris), 0845 5212995 www.brockandnorris.co.uk

    Brock and Norris (Mike Norris), 0845 5212995 www.brockandnorris.co.uk

    Mike Norris is well known on the custom rifle circuit, as a no nonsense, shoot from the hip sort of guy. He is based in Whitchurch, Shropshire, where his custom rifle business started with business partner Steve Brock. He builds accurate rifles that real shooters want to shoot, and his strap line is: “rifles born in the field”, is very apt. They are built as a series, like the Ratel, Predator and Fulcrum and each are made straight from scratch to the customer’s specification and fit. You can order a full-blown job, or just have a rifle re-barrelled, or bedded or just ask for advice, as Mike is knowledgeable and ready to help with an almost encyclopaedic memory for reloading data and down range performance. He does not just make a rifle and leave you to it after the bill is paid, but each gun is presented as a package with a recommendation to scope and mount, and sound moderator types. Best of all, is each of his custom rifles is range tested as proof of performance and accurate load data and down range trajectories are provided with each finished gun. Some models come with hard cases, cleaning kit and a quantity of suitable ammunition to get you started. Mike built me a re-barreled and bedded Tikka M55 in 7.92x33mm Kurz round, the original German StG44 WW2 round, a real rarity but superbly accurate in super or sub-sonic guise and it just makes me smile.

  • Dane and Co (Paddy Dane), 01892 864676 www.customrifle.co.uk

    Dane and Co (Paddy Dane), 01892 864676 www.customrifle.co.uk

    Starting life building custom guitars, Paddy is a new breed of custom rifle maker, who did not see what he wanted on the market, so decided to put his engineering and artisan skills to good use and design his own. He uses the best possible and latest technology of CNC lathes and milling machines in his well-stocked workshop. He is capable of re-barrelling a rifle to bench rest quality in most styles and calibres that you require, as he is building a one-off special. Anything from tactically stocked customs to heavy varmint long rangers to F-Class and the usual assortment of sporter class hunting rifles. Paddy also has a bit of a passion for odd calibres like myself and shooters often request cartridges like the .20 Dasher, 6.5 SAUM or .260 Nosler. Attention to detail is excellent, and build quality and finish are second to none. He has built me a superb 20 Dasher, which is one of the most accurate rifles I have ever shot, a real talent!

  • Swift Precision Rifles, (Richard Pope) 07739 689871 www.swiftprecisionrifles.co.uk

    Swift Precision Rifles, (Richard Pope) 07739 689871 www.swiftprecisionrifles.co.uk

    Richard also worked at Venom Custom shop, and after its closure he started a business as Swift Precision Rifles. Although he comes from an air rifle background, Ricard is best known for his custom full-bore rifles. Richard can re-barrel, re-stock, convert, bed, thread or build a full custom as the client requires. He is a talented precision engineer, who can turn his hand to any custom work from one offs and even to carbon fibre sound moderators.

  • Precision Rifle Services (Callum Ferguson), 01807 580422 www.precisionrifles.com

    Precision Rifle Services (Callum Ferguson), 01807 580422 www.precisionrifles.com

    Mention Callum Ferguson’s name in any shooting circles and you with only hear positive things about this highly respected, and one of Britain’s original custom rifle makers. A true gent and expert, Callum builds rifles to consistently provide extreme accuracy, whether they are for hunting or competition and are built to the customer’s specification. He started his shooting life as a gamekeeper, later progressing to a wildlife manager, where he oversaw 6000 hectares of forestry in the Borders of Scotland. His use of centrefire rifles for his job stimulated a desire to have a better rifle and so he joined Border Barrels Ltd, based in Newcastleton, to learn the process of match grade barrel production. This later transcended into forming his own business with his wife Yvonne called Precision Rifle Services, which started in 1990, whereby he focused on building bench rest quality guns for all sporting needs. His rifles are works of art and capable of extreme accuracy, consistently shot after shot and he offers a very personal service. He’s based at Strathavon Lodge which is an old shooting lodge set deep in the heart of whisky country in the Highlands of Scotland. Callum offers a bespoke and personal service of the highest quality and can produce a tack-driving rifle, be it in traditional walnut stocked guise or full-blown fiberglass style. His workshop is always well stocked, so clients can peruse the available components and then talk through the finer points of fit, finish and desired performance.