Colin Fallon visits Anglo Italian Arms – importer of Caesar Guerini, Fabarm and Clever – to witness the virtues of a company that gets the basics right
Understatement is perhaps the keyword to Mike Mansfield’s approach. “There’s a few Guerinis in here,” he remarks as he throws open the door to a veritable Aladdin’s cave of shotguns – a shipping container with floor-to-ceiling shelves on one of its sides, packed with boxed guns.
There’s another one of similar size next to it. And a few more guns in the Lokaway safes around the corner…
Not that you’d know it from the exterior of the building. Anglo Italian Arms – importer of Caesar Guerini as well as Fabarm shotguns and now Clever cartridges – occupies a unit of a high-ceilinged out-of-town estate hidden amid scenic countryside south of Birmingham.
It’s next door to a country clothing supplier, so this pocket of west Warwickshire is something of a fieldsports hot spot. But the first time you go there, you could be forgiven for getting lost.
There are obvious security reasons for an anonymous external appearance, of course, but more than that, it’s indicative of the approach of Anglo Italian as a whole. You wouldn’t say they are the flashiest company. But why should they be?
Rather than promote themselves, they focus on getting the job done and executing the really crucial elements that make a difference. They maintain good relationships with their dealers, favouring meaningful phone contact over digital means wherever possible. They keep their products in the public eye, always aiming to stimulate end-user demand.
Plus, they offer exceptional service turnaround times. And, what’s most obvious when I visit them, they’re always exceptionally hard at work. During the visit, Alistair Dawkes disappears outside for 10 minutes to test-fire a gun he’s just finished servicing.
The team (Kevin Gill completes the trio) juggle the interview with answering the constantly-ringing phones and keeping customers happy.
“I thought this was going to be a quiet day, but they barely seem to exist,” says Mike, almost appearing apologetic as if he’s been rude. I don’t find it rude. I like it.
Being productive and not just busy, conquering the small tasks, being brilliant at the basics – all these are key to achieving how much Anglo Italian Arms achieves with a small staff team.
So What’s New?
“Anything Ascent – with the adjustable parts – is hugely popular,” says Mike. “They say it’s the gun you can’t ‘shoot out’, as it has the interchangeable cams and locking block. So for £48.75, should the day ever arrive when you need to change these components out, you can do so – it comes complete with the key.”
The gun itself is pretty nifty, too. “The Invictus I Ascent has won, in the last 18 months, the World Sporting FITASC and the Krieghoff DTL among other events.”
The Syren, Guerini’s female-oriented gun, has also gone down a storm. Many manufacturers have come up with versions of their existing guns configured for female shooters – but Caesar Guerini is one of few to have created a product line for women from the ground up. A Fabarm version is on the way, too, set to retail around £1,400.
Another new gun to hit the market is the Revenant, at just under £10,000 representing a new market sector for the Guerini range. Hailed as ‘the synthesis of art and technology’, it’s catching eyes for its prominent engraving.
But, Mike says, there’s more to it than that for dealers. “When we talk about this gun, we say it’s investing in profit. The talk in the trade is people are making so little profit on various brands. But this is a gun you can actually make a profit on.”
And then there’s Clever, the cartridge brand Anglo Italian took on just under a year ago. Mike says they are “getting their heads round it” and admits it’s been something of a “well kept secret” so far.
“It really is the elite brand out of Italy. It would surprise you who shoots them. Clever, as a cartridge manufacturer, have won more European, World and Olympic medals than any other.
“But if you talk to them about the cartridges, even some dealers go, ‘Who?’ Some of them go, ‘Oh, yeah, you used to be able to get those in the UK!’ Well, you can now…”
The Clever range is extensive, but Mike is particularly proud to announce that they have been developing a hydro-soluble wad, in line with the industry’s current move to lessen its environmental impact and demonstrate that shooters truly are conservationists. “Current testing has shown that the wad will dissolve in water within two to three days. Those tests cover both lead and steel.
“First off, there will be a game load, in 34-gram 5-shot, retailing around £450-£500 per thousand. It will also come as a clay load in 7.5-shot. When it comes to production numbers, it’s all about critical mass.”
Back To Basics
I talked about the Anglo Italian team being busy, and that’s not confined to their HQ. The team were busy across the summer attending dealer days across the country, as well as world championships in the UK and Ireland. “We attend 16 to 18 events a year,” says Mike.
“The way we see it, shooting guns to find out which you want is like test-driving cars. Getting guns in the hands of potential buyers is so important. After the first one at Wiltshire Rod & Gun, they sold £58,000 worth of Guerinis!”
This strategy of attending smaller events in volume trumps the larger game fairs for Anglo Italian, but Mike says they will be at the British Shooting Show as normal in 2020. “We see the value in a national event,” he says.
And before we go we get to see Alistair in action. He’s a fully qualified Guerini technician, having received extensive training in Italy. So guns can be serviced in the UK and returned in lightning-quick time, as opposed to having to go back to Italy.
Mike explains what benefits this has: “If you return a gun to us, within seven days it is put right and returned to you. Otherwise, Caesar Guerini have to supply you a new gun. They’ve never had to do that!
“From a dealer’s perspective, this is incredible support. We once got a gun back to a customer in two days. They were initially contacting us thinking they’d got our address wrong and the gun had been returned to them.
Eventually they realised what happened – they sent it out, it arrived with us at 9.30am the next day, we processed it on the same day and it went out of our door at 4.30pm and back to them.”