Shooting Sports UK

The media talk of “Deal or No Deal”, “frictionless” this and that; “backstops” and “double-backstops” has been draining. I suppose it is to be expected. It’s a sign of the times and perhaps we could be more philosophical about the ever changing political debates we have seen throughout 2018. They’re only trying their best aren’t they?

Gun Trade News’ very own Stuart Farr has since been searching for a more positive outlook and as luck would have it his feel-good story originates close to his home.

Stuart writes:

It started with a sign staked firmly in the ground at regular intervals up and down a fair stretch of the A5 Roman Way (Watling Street) in Staffordshire. All these signs pointed the way to a nearby barn in a country lane which I had thought was long since deserted and re-occupied by sheep and cattle.

Shortly after these signs appeared, I decided to follow them, only to find a brand new gun shop!

“It must be one of those pop-up ventures” I thought. “It’ll be gone in a week or two and then everything will be back to normal” I convinced myself. “Besides, who in their right mind would set out to open a brand new gun shop in times like these? Eventually, I could wait no longer. I duly reigned in my curiosity and speculation and decided to call in. I am very pleased that I did…

Let me introduce you now to the protagonist in this story. His name is Dan Bibb. He is clearly a very modest man because he describes himself as the General Manager of Shooting Sports UK which is, by the way, the name of his establishment based at The Avenue in Stretton, Staffordshire.

Despite his modesty, however, I gleaned a perceptible sense of pride swelling in his chest when I stepped across his threshold for the first time and, upon quickly scanning the interior of his barn, proclaimed “Bloody hell!” before flushing with embarrassment at my expletive in front of a complete stranger. Shepherd Dan had clearly seen this reaction before because he stood there with a beaming smile. “Hello” he said, “Do you like it?” he asked, knowing full well my first gut reaction had said it all.

What I had told my mind to expect was nothing like what I saw. Shooting Sports UK is a well-designed and thoughtfully stocked gun shop with a Tardis like quality to the interior. It’s certainly looks bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside. It caters for all types of shooting and field activities ranging from air rifling to clay and game shooting.

His range of products for all these activities are equally impressive and, importantly, they are growing on a weekly basis. There’s no tat in there either. Quality is clearly as important to Dan as friendly and knowledgeable customer service. He makes time for people and his welcome is warm – all as it should be.

Dan is an optimist and let’s face it one needs a good-sized helping of this characteristic if you want to set up a shooting business in these troubled times. However, his location does him a great service. To give you an example, just inside the door he has set up a large spotter scope on a tripod. This one is not, however, sarcastically trained on the first five letters of the sign above the butchers in the nearby high street (“Purveyors of the Finest Quality Meats”).

Dan’s spotter looks across fields to a distant copse which I know only too well is teeming with wildlife…pheasants, pigeons, squirrels…in fact the very things you are there for…potential quarry! It is these seemingly small things that can make any shooter feel quite at home instantly.

Of course, stories aren’t always blissful and this story’s villain takes the form of the local planning committee which played their part in suggesting there was no room on its patch for the likes of Dan (or indeed any of the shooting fraternity). This is not an uncommon theme for any prospective retailer. It requires steely determination, patience and resilience to get through the reams of bureaucracy and, at times, head scratching moments which emerge from some of our local planning committees.

For anyone out there who is thinking of setting up shop elsewhere, investing in good local knowledge and decent professional advice is a must have. A willingness to compromise on points of details is essential and knowing when to stand your ground in the face of open resistance or tactical delay is just as important.

The police authorities obviously have their part to play also and many offer sensible and appropriate advice and guidance on the premises and security generally. Forming a good and professional relationship with the local team of firearms officers is, I would say, essential because it is a relationship which endures in the years to come. Experiences naturally vary around the country and even from person to person. Some are more openly supportive while others can be passive in their approach. Heed what they say and if you feel they have over-stepped the mark, diplomacy is the first skill to call upon. Judicial review is the last.

I am pleased to say that Dan’s adventure has well and truly begun. He now has an enthusiastic and grateful customer-base to tend and his arrival has been long overdue. For my part, I wish him and all of you in the trade a very prosperous 2019.


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