Ollie Harvey explores what the future holds for Swedish airgun manufacturer, FX. Fredrik Axelsson tells us more.
20 years ago, as the last millennium was drawing to a close, fledgling airgun makers FX began making their mark on the shooting world. The Swedish brand is now among the most respected PCP manufacturers in the world. From humble roots in the town of Mariestad, the iconic air rifles are now enjoying the boom in airgun popularity.
However, boss Fredrik Axelsson says that this was not always the case. “If we look back in time, even 25 years ago, PCP wasn’t that big. It has grown a lot in the past five or six years.”
The company now employs 62 craftsmen and engineers in native Sweden and a further 12 in the USA, but Fredrik expects the brand to keep growing, especially in the UK.
“England has a long tradition of shooting air rifles and that has played a part in how the industry has grown since we started in 1999. The world has discovered how fun it is, and the more you sell then the more the word is spread.
“Having a shooter buy a gun and then getting them to show their friend can really get them hooked. The internet has played a part too,” Fredrik adds. “YouTube has helped people to see for themselves what our airguns can do.”
Targeting a discerning British market, Fredrik says: “If you want to shoot an inch group at 100 yards, you’ll do well with an FX gun. They have been getting more advanced, with more technology and more features – and just more interesting!”
Fredrik’s claims are well founded too. Currently FX holds more patents and unique innovations than any other airgun manufacturer. The trailblazing approach is ingrained in the company, as Fredrik adds: “We have always had a lot of different airguns in our drawing plans. Before we launched the Impact, back in 2015, I knew that if we got it looking good, it would be a crazy gun.
“In the early days, I really had nothing to base my designs on. All of the ideas came from my head. In general, PCPs were based on a pretty similar design – everything was quite big. Coming from the middle of nowhere, with no internet, I had to use my imagination to come up with something unique.”
From Mariestad, 175 kilometres from the nearest major city of Gothenburg, Fredrik set to work crafting a gun from the ground up. “I feel as though I understand the needs of the gun better now,” he remarks, “I have analysed it much deeper than my competitors did at the time.”
So where does that leave them now? One of the trends in the airgun market is the rise of bullpups, though FX aren’t content to simply follow the rest. “The bullpup trend is one that we have seen before in the early 1990s,” he explains, “Most manufacturers had their own version but they slowly disappeared until about 2007. The bullpup design is back, but our focus is now on launching a gun that focuses more on power and the number of shots.
“We are already in production for the updated Impact. When that is released we expect it to hit 100 shots per charge in .30 calibre. In production we are hitting over 1000fps, so you get a lot of power and a lot of shots.
“We might look to other guns to see how they are doing things but we make our own parts, right down to the screws. A lot of our guns are 100 per cent made in house. Almost everything you can think of, we can do in house.
“There is so much more to come in 2020. The main thing is dealing with the order book because it is so full. We don’t want to launch too much because people will be unhappy if you can’t offer what you promise.
“It is important that we deal with the orders that come in, but also that we enjoy our work at the same time. If you aren’t enjoying what you are doing, stop right now!
“We will be increasing the factory and looking to increase production and development. Developing is what I like to do – that is the best part for me. The UK gets a much higher priority in 2020 too.
We will be gathering a lot of information from UK shooters so we can keep up with their demands and keep them happy. It will be important that we can get that feedback so we can deliver.”
Set to help FX gather that feedback is their new distribution partner. Fredrik confirmed that Sportsman Gun Centre will take on the role of supplying the brand to the UK trade from February.
He comments: “We wanted to work with a company that is aggressive like we are, and once we looked into the company we felt it would be a good fit.
“We will keep selling into the UK trade. There is a lot of work to be done, but dealers will have to wait until IWA for us to reveal what else we have planned. Last year we launched 20 products – this year will be a little less but there is still plenty to look forward to.”
Away from trade shows and airgun innovation, Fredrik and his son Johan, spend their down-time by competing. “We are shooting all the time.
“I would not tell shooters in the British market which gun they should buy – I think they can make up their own minds. But I don’t shoot with my competitors’ guns and I’m winning competitions – and so is my son.
When we compete, we ship a bunch of our production guns to the events. People often think that we shoot with modified guns, but they are just special from the beginning.”
Fredrik continues the lead the charge for innovation, but even with 20 years of experience, it’s still an impossible task to predict the next two decades.
What will the PCP trends look like? What new legislation will be in place? Will Britain have left the European Union? Fredrik is content to stick to the basics and avoid speculation.
“I have no idea what will happen in the next 20 years,” he says, “But Johan is taking over more and more. I suppose I have given him the more boring parts, and kept all of the good jobs for myself! But he is taking over and helping to grow the company.
“It is a really interesting time for shooters. The sport is growing, and I think it is easy for airgunners to get hooked. We want to make products that are so interesting that even people who don’t shoot want to get involved. That is how we can make it grow.”