The Game Fair 2018
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- Last updated: 22/10/2018
So, we had a scorching Friday, a refreshinglybreezy Saturday and a wet Sunday. The turn in the weather was undoubtedly tough on organisers and exhibitors, who could, this summer of all summers, reasonably have hoped for dry weather throughout. Nevertheless, an impressive number of cheerily booted, coated and umbrella-wielding folk turned out on the final day.
Although the Game Fair is no longer run by the CLA, it prides itself on a tradition stretching all the way back to 1958 and inaugurated this year’s 60th anniversary event with a 60-cartridge salute; sensibly (and we are a sensible lot), the cartridges were blanks! UK shooting culture was energetically and effectively promoted by many of the guests interviewed on Saturday’s Today Programme on Radio 4; to the extent that many antis were apparently writing in to complain that the coverage was biased. Now that makes a refreshing change!
On Friday, I attended the launch of the new Gun Loss Register, a commercial venture that applies techniques successfully pioneered in the recovery of stolen art to the even more serious task of inhibiting the sale of stolen firearms. If you had assumed that this was the business of the police, well, so did I. Nevertheless, it seems the boys in blue have no practical means of monitoring the sale of stolen guns either nationally or internationally. The Gun Loss Register aims to make this as easy for the potential purchaser of a gun as getting an HPI check before you buy a car. Private buyers can pay £10 for one-off checks, while those in the trade can subscribe for a reduced rate, with easy payment via PayPal.
The register itself is based on reports from police, insurers, private individuals, and the trade, and is global in its scope
There was a lot going on in the Airgun Zone, with a major new competition, as well as havea- go ranges and expert tuition. Daystate’s radical Long Range Challenge offered competitors the chance to win a £1000 Huntsman Regal PCP using state-of-the-art Wolverine R or Red Wolf rifles to ignite Firebird pyrotechnic targets, however, with some of those targets as much as 90m away, success required skill and luck in equal measure!
The models taking pride of place were a regulated, FACrated Ultimate Sporter in a black soft-touch stock, and the TS400, which has been specially developed to give a winning advantage to competitors in the vibrant new sport of Target Sprint. Air Arms have been major backers and it’s a combination of athletics and biathlon-style shooting that is a great antidote to the traditional image of shooters as portly middle-aged men (It’s like looking in the mirror!). As the rifles are singleshot only, fine motor skills are required to keep them fed as well as to hit the targets. After analysing competitors’ reloading drills, Air Arms realised that they could shave vital seconds off each shooting stage by redesigning the operation of their S400 bolt. The result is a straight-pull design, operated by a pivoting cocking lever. The latter is beautifully contoured and machined, intuitive to operate and mirrored on each side of the rifle for ambidextrous operation. So close is the gap between winners and runners-up in this highly-competitive sport that the time savings delivered by this slick new system look set to give Air Arms shooters a podium-dominating advantage.
I was also informed that regulators will be soon be available on Air Arms’ legal-limit guns.
The big news at Daystate was that Tony Belas is now director of Media and Development. As Tony puts it: “You can’t stop-start development. Either you’re always moving forward or you’re always standing still”. And Tony obviously has no interest in standing still!
The Brocock Commander has a matte-black central chassis that contrasts with a tan-coloured AR-style pistol grip and telescopic butt-stock, and a matching Cerakoted receiver and fully-shrouded barrel. I like the Commander’s military looks, but they still dodge, rather than solve, the problem of finding the right look for this clever little rifle. Not so the new Sniper, which goes for simple but sophisticated lines, a perfectly shaped and beautifully detailed pistol grip, and a stealthy black soft-touch finish.
Weihrauch introduced a K (carbine) variant of their polymer-bodied HW110 ST. The 110 is an inherently handy rifle but I can see this being a big hit with those whose preference is for something small but perfectly formed. The Editor has managed to secure one, so look out for his review in this issue.
With the T1X, I think Tikka have absolutely nailed the bolt-action rimfire sporter market; it perfectly recreates the lines and function of the fullbore T3X’s receiver, safety-catch, bolt handle and shroud, and its action is even compatible with all T3X stocks.
The magazine holds 10-rounds in both .22LR and .17HMR and the barrel is a medium “crossover” profile, threaded ½-inch x 20 UNF in a choice of 16- and 20-inch lengths. The receiver is drilled and tapped to take a Picatinny rail and the rifle has a very attractive price tag!
The production version of the Steyr Zephyr II is simply gorgeous with satin-black metalwork and a lustrous oil-finished stock. What really makes the rifle, though, are its seductively serpentine looks and unabashed Teutonic styling, fish-scale chequering and straight comb butt. A recent test by Pete Moore has shown the Steyr to be a real shooter.
The appearance of ATA Arms’ Turqua centrefire on the Sportsman Gun Centre stand may well prove to be a landmark moment; there’s an oil-finished walnut stock with a height-adjustable cheek-piece; a glossy blued steel receiver and free-floated medium-profile barrel, a three-position safety and an adjustable two-stage trigger. It also has a 5-round, double-stack, detachable box magazine; and a 3-lug bolt with a metal shroud and a sweptback handle that places the knob just above the trigger. The price? A stunning £499.99!
Tippmann Arms’ initial offering, a .22 rimfire semi-auto called the M4-22 has gone down so well with UK shooters that importers Shooting Supplies have commissioned a new model, the Elite, which features a free-float aluminium M-Lok hand-guard, a 16- or 12-inch barrel and new handguards that are slim enough inside to accommodate the width of most .22 moderators. Shooting Supplies weren’t at the show, but you could see and buy the complete range of M4-22s on the Simpson Brothers stand.
Stephen & Son had a selection of guns from Chapuis Armes. Chapuis’ guns are so well made and so good looking that I always expect them to cost more than they do, especially when you consider that they offer a bespoke service on most models that includes a choice of walnut blanks. Chapuis do a very nice line in double rifles, too, including two models, the S12 (O/U) and X4 (S/S), which enable the barrels to be readily re-regulated when the user wants to change over to a new load.
More Rizzini O/Us were on show on ASI’s stand, alongside a fine range of AyA side-by-sides; but, fine as they are, they were massively upstaged by the stand itself, a spectacular, pre-fabricated two-storey oak-framed building created by the Hereford-based firm of Oakwrights, who had done a fine job of ensuring that the final product would look very much at home in the English countryside.
Fausti are celebrating their 70th Anniversary, and their current range of guns has never looked better or made more sense and the XF4 (the sporting model) is proving genuinely competitive on the clay circuit. Fausti are offering a fully-bespoke service for its finest Boutique guns.
On my visit to Longthorne’s stand this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Alfie, who has just completed his first year as an apprentice and is already well on his way to becoming an accomplished stocker. His sense of achievement was palpable, and does great credit not only to him, but also to this energetic family firm that is doing so much to put the excitement back into the sometimes-staid world of bespoke English gunmaking.
As well as making some of the most elegant S/S and O/U ‘best’ guns available, AGL also build new guns on vintage actions. The action is the heart of any fine gun, and in many cases, it remains in excellent condition, even after the barrels or stock have become damaged, worn or lost. By painstakingly refurbishing vintage actions, especially those built to earlier patents, AGL can create new guns of unique individuality and depth of character, whilst honouring its own traditions and giving new life to irreplaceable elements of our gunmaking heritage that would otherwise be relegated to curio status, or even unjustly consigned to the scrapheap.
There are four Conquest V4 models, in 1-4x24, 3-12x56, 4-16x44 and 6-24x50 formats. The first two are hunting scopes with fixed 100-yard parallax and classic #60 duplex reticles, featuring Zeiss’s ultra-fine centre dot. The others are designed for longer-range work, with ballistic turrets, side parallax adjustment and stadiametric ZBR/ZMOA reticles. All four have reticles in the second focal plane (SFP) and ¼ MOA cicks, except on the 1-4x24, where they are ½ MOA. They have a transferrable, limited lifetime warranty and 5-year no-fault policy have a universal appeal.
Zeiss’ new Victory RF rangefinding binoculars are available in 8x42, 10x42, 8x54 and 10x54 formats, two discreet buttons tucked between the barrels are virtually the only clue to the sophisticated rangefinding equipment housed within these remarkably light and compact binoculars. Image quality is superb, the reticle is bright and sharp, and the maximum ranging distance of 2300m is more than most of us will ever need.
Most interesting, however, is the binoculars’ Bluetooth connectivity with the ballistic calculator integrated into Zeiss’ multi-functional Hunting app.
This allows them to be quickly synched to show the exact drop compensation or click adjustment required for the load selected at the distance ranged.
Scott Country had several new products. The FLIR Breach thermal monocular, whose highresolution sensor and display are contained within a rugged housing that is still small and light enough to be comfortably worn on a head or helmet mount. The similarly-compact FLIR MNVD-40 2SD Gen 2+ tubed image-intensifier monocular. It’s a near match for the Cobra Titan, but 12mm shorter, 28g lighter, with a US, rather than Russian-made, tube (and just £57 more expensive). Adapters are also available to mount the MNVD-40 2SD to an optics rail behind a suitable red dot or to the objective bell of a day scope.
On A1 Decoy’s stand, I bumped into Bill Evans, UK importer for the excellent DPT range of sound moderators, whose latest venture is a range of enhanced Harris-style bipods. Bill’s bipods improve on the original in three ways: the springs are covered with rubber sleeves to keep out debris and muffle any twang; they have a Pod-Lock-controlled pivot to compensate for uneven ground; and the clamp is internally sprung so that the pegs pop clear when you undo the bolt. The legs are also notched for rapid and secure adjustment. Build quality looks good too, yet they’re priced at under £40 and Bill says he’ll replace any that fail.
Jakele’s flagship product is their premium quad sticks, which boast several unique features that include quadrant-shaped struts that enable the sticks to form a stout and silent staff when closed, a pivoting head that permits quick tracking over a wide arc, and an optional bracing strap. Also, available, are a wide range of neoprene rifle, scope and moderator covers, and some neat pull-through kits that utilise the abrasive and absorbent properties of that most Bavarian of materials: felt.
Ariat is a US footwear company with a strong presence in the Western, work-boot and equestrian sectors that has recently set its sights on the hunting market. Graham Allen had told me their hunting boots were well worth a look, so I stopped in at their stand to see for myself. There are three relevant ranges: Skyline, Conquest and Catalyst Defiant. The Skyline is a rugged but lightweight 5-inch boot that comes in brown or tan and looks perfect for summer stalking. The Conquest takes the height up to 8-inches and adds full-grain leather reinforcements, a fully-gusseted tongue, and the option of greater thermal insulation in the 400g Thinsulate Ultra version, which is also available with camouflage accents. Either version would be a fine year-round choice, but for the hardest of use or the toughest of conditions, or if you simply want to tick every possible box, then check out Ariat’s new premium boot, the Catalyst Defiant, which comes in a choice of 8- or 10-inch styles, with waterproof full-grain leather throughout, and in standard and Thinsulate Ultra versions. The proof of a boot is in the wearing, of course, but my first encounter left a very positive impression.
Next year’s Game Fair is at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, on 26th – 28th July.
A1 Decoy: www.a1decoy.co.uk
Air Arms: www.air-arms.co.uk
AyA and B. Rizzini: ASI. www.a-s-i.co.uk
ATA Arms: Sportsman Gun Centre. www.sportsmanguncentre.co.uk
Atkin Grant & Lang: www.agl-uk.com
Chapuis Armes: Stephen & Son. www.stephenandson-gunmakers.co.uk
DPT UK/Euro: www.dpteuro.co.uk
Fausti Stephano: Stag Country Sports. www.stagcountrysports.com
FLIR. Scott Country: www.scottcountry.co.uk
Gun Loss Register: www.artloss.com
Jakele: Simpson Brothers Gun Shop. www.simpsonbrothersgunshop.com
Longthorne Gunmakers: www.longthorneguns.com
Steyr Mannlicher: Sportsman Gun Centre. www.sportsmanguncentre.co.uk
Target Sprint: www.targetsprint.com
Tippmann Arms: Shooting Supplies Bromsgrove: www.shootingsuppliesltd.co.uk
Weihrauch: Hull Cartridge: www.hullcartridge.co.uk