FT Blog: We look at early FT rifles
By: James Osborne
James Osborne gets all nostalgic over some classic FT hardware
I am a member of the National Trust, I may not agree with everything they do but on the whole I get good value for money from my subscription and always enjoy the days out I have at their properties. My own observations tell me that they seem to strike a good balance between allowing their facilities to be used for the pleasure of visitors, both young and old, while preserving some of our country’s heritage.
A curious intro, but you’ll see where I’m going with this. Mostly my airguns are all of a modern target style, basically new designs. Or at least I thought they were. I own a Ripley Rifles AR4, a fully regulated, pre-charged pneumatic rifle that will knock down field targets all day long. On the trigger block is engraved its date of birth, the day I collected it from Ripley, Derbyshire. That date is 15th March 1992, oh my, it’s 24 years old!
Now, to be honest, it kind of looks its age too, the bluing is scratched where a tie-wrap was fitted to make a wind indicator and whatever treatments were used on the stock have stripped away areas too. Then there is the scratch I put in the cylinder and muzzle brake assembly, which I used to realign the barrel after the muzzle brakes removal, the reasons why I thought this was a good idea are now lost in time. The original quick fill adaptor is somewhere I’m sure, but it isn’t where it should be on the actual gun. That doesn’t really matter though because the gun has a leak somewhere, so it seems pointless filling it up.
The stock too has seen a few modifications over the years. I raised the cheekpiece and lowered the forend with the help of a band saw at work, but don’t worry I actually managed this with some aplomb, so it looks OK. The posts I used to fasten everything together however need securing properly. The original butt pad is long departed and in its place is a homemade one which I sprayed black, I know, I know!
It has been on my mind for a while now that I should perhaps restore this rifle to its factory fresh best. A little restoration project for the evenings, hopefully resulting in a great deal of satisfaction for myself and to all intents and purposes a new rifle to admire and use or perhaps display. But here is my dilemma, something that organisations such as the National Trust must have to wrestle with all the time. A full restoration project will result in something beautiful that can be looked at while thinking ‘so this is how they used to look’! I quite like that idea, but if I did that, I would instantly destroy the history of the rifle and with it possibly its character. Each scratch, mark and modification tells part of its story; they tell me things, when I see these marks I think back and smile (or grimace).
Now, I like to see rifles in their original condition, as their makers intended, I have no real reason for this, it is just one of those things. I try to maintain the originality of my own guns too, but never really manage it and here’s why. Normally I buy a rifle to use in competition. Now manufacturers have to make a living and therefore mainstream kit is always a compromise in one way or another. These don’t necessarily make a rifle terrible, but let’s be honest an ‘off the peg’ gun that suits me isn’t likely to suit the person in the queue behind me. I’ve been shooting a long time now too and I kind of know what works for me in terms of how a gun is set up!
So almost as soon as I have a rifle, little tweaks occur here and there and initially I try to make sure anything I do is reversible. The addition of an after-market butt pad for instance, can be fitted in such a way that should it be removed you would never know it had been on there. There generally comes a point in the life of that rifle that this is not possible and irreversible changes have to be made. I think this in particular applies to target guns, as those of us who shoot them are of a mindset that ultimately the rifle is a tool to do the job, and if it will perform that job better if a hacksaw is used to cut parts off, then so be it!
So the decision needs to be made as to whether or not I continue the rifle’s story by leaving well alone or turn it into a museum piece. The thing is, a full-on restoration project would become part of its history anyway and it wouldn’t mean it couldn’t be used, although either way it isn’t likely to be used as it once was.
Whatever I decide to do, I will have to fix that leak if the AR4 is ever to be shot again and I do fancy having a go with it for the sake of nostalgia. I’m afraid there is no outcome for me to tell you of here, I still can’t make up my mind you see. I wondered if writing this might help me come to a decision but alas it hasn’t. I will however tell you how far I have got with trying to fix that leak. The rifle is in a sorry state of semi disassembly, I can’t get some parts to unscrew as they were designed to do, and therefore I’m plucking up the courage to employ some less than subtle techniques.
As this is likely to turn into a long term project (most of mine do) if you bump into me in a couple of year’s time ask me how it is going and down which road did I go. One thing is for certain, by the time I have employed those less than subtle techniques I’ll have added some more ‘story’ to my Ripley Rifles AR4 serial no.34.
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