Making It Count

Change is afoot at Eley Ltd. Ollie Harvey meets with Michael Atkinson to discuss the aspirations of the British ammunition brand.

As specialists in .22 Rimfire ammunition, Eley Ltd are one of the most instantly recognisable names in the firearms industry. Famed for their competition shots, the company has over 190 years of experience in providing for rifle and pistol shooters around the world.

Recently appointed brand manager, Michael Atkinson, has enjoyed shooting for over 40 years and was naturally delighted when he was presented with the opportunity to join the team. “I was so excited, I didn’t think twice,” he said.

Michael’s role marked the start of a wave of new recruits, as ELEY aims to hit its targets for the years ahead. He explains: “We’ve also had new additions to the business to help take us down a practical shooting route. For 2019, we have a key focus on both benchrest in the US and action shooting in the UK, which will run alongside our ISSF and Olympic priorities.

To reflect this, we are also launching a brand new web store where shooters can get their hands on ELEY branded clothing. This includes a brand new technical range, suited to the practical shooter.

“As a British company, we want to dominate the UK practical market. We do understand that due to the quality of our ammunition, our rounds are at the higher end of the market. This is because the money we spend on R&D ensures shooters are achieving the accuracy and consistency demanded from their ammunition so they know they have a reliable product.

“We can guarantee that when you pull the trigger it goes bang! That is the difference and we don’t want to compromise that. The Tenex brand is phenomenal and works globally, predominantly with Olympic athletes and ISSF sponsored athletes,” Michael adds.

Operations director, Phil Taylor, has masterminded the development of Tenex for a number of years and continues to refine its characteristics. Michael explains: “We have just been informed that 2018’s batch is the best Tenex ammunition we have ever made. It is the most consistent and most accurate, which coming up to an Olympic year is absolutely fantastic news because people will be coming in, testing and getting that confidence for 2020. Everybody is very excited.”

Michael’s role marked the start of a wave of new recruits, as ELEY aims to hit its targets for the years ahead. He explains: “We’ve also had new additions to the business to help take us down a practical shooting route. For 2019, we have a key focus on both benchrest in the US and action shooting in the UK, which will run alongside our ISSF and Olympic priorities. To reflect this, we are also launching a brand new web store where shooters can get their hands on ELEY branded clothing. This includes a brand new technical range, suited to the practical shooter.

“As a British company, we want to dominate the UK practical market. We do understand that due to the quality of our ammunition, our rounds are at the higher end of the market. This is because the money we spend on R&D ensures shooters are achieving the accuracy and consistency demanded from their ammunition so they know they have a reliable product.

“We can guarantee that when you pull the trigger it goes bang! That is the difference and we don’t want to compromise that. The Tenex brand is phenomenal and works globally, predominantly with Olympic athletes and ISSF sponsored athletes,” Michael adds.

Operations director, Phil Taylor, has masterminded the development of Tenex for a number of years and continues to refine its characteristics. Michael explains: “We have just been informed that 2018’s batch is the best Tenex ammunition we have ever made. It is the most consistent and most accurate, which coming up to an Olympic year is absolutely fantastic news because people will be coming in, testing and getting that confidence for 2020. Everybody is very excited.”

In addition to .22 rimfire ammunition, ELEY are also established manufacturers of competition airgun pellets. “Well, we make them one at a time,” Michael remarks, “so capacity is not massive, but we are winning with the quality straight away. The small lot quantities and statistical process control techniques that we use ensure we can deliver reliability and performance in every round. Recently, Sergey Kamenskiy cemented his position as World Number One in the 10m Men’s Air Rifle using Tenex Air.

The famed Tenex .22LR ammunition still tops the Eley range and is a huge favourite for elite shooters

“We have had changes in staff to take us down different avenues and give us changes in production,” Michael adds. “The pathways we’ve decided to go down require specialist personnel for those disciplines, so those staff members have been brought into the company.

“Focusing on ISSF, Benchrest and Action Shooting, we need those people in place. I’d like to see our product on that stage and that is where we are heading. We have launched the competition platform called ‘MyELEY, which allows clubs to have an online club, create competitions and post to anybody that is registered. It is quite unique.

“In the US they were straight on it. It makes you think that we need to up our game in the UK. There is a camaraderie in the industry that is inspiring to see, but then I have seen another side where people can be elitist. We need to work together,” suggests Michael.

“I was three when I started with a gun, and as a result, I gained a good understanding of gun control and safety. If more people took that route then maybe we wouldn’t have that stigma. I see a lot of kids coming through on the airgun ranges and they love it. Its about a progression from airgun to .22 to shotgun – through the entry level sports it is easy to achieve.

“A British pistol shooter, Gorgs Geikie, has actually managed to get around 1,000 school kids in a pistol shooting competition. The final was in January so we went to check it out. There were 1,000 competitors aged 12 to 16 taking part in the qualifying round with hundreds turning up to the final. Absolute round of applause to Gorgs – that is breaking a stigma!”

It’s rare to attend an indoor shooting event these days without spotting an ELEY sponsored shooter, and Michael suggests this has more than one benefit. “It’s funny with sponsored athletes,” he says, “It’s not just about them winning everything – we actually want them to help. So when they are at a competition they can offer the inexperienced guys a helping hand. It really works for us.

“Competitions are massive so that is why we’ve launched the my ELEY competition platform as well. Our primary focus is always ISSF and the competition styles – it is already going in the right direction in this short amount of time.”

In addition the ELEY team are working on their latest round, the Action Plus. “Obviously this is for the Action Shooting discipline,” Michael comments. “It is still in development and is currently out with selected shooters who are giving us feedback at the moment. We are hoping for an October launch, but we will have to keep you updated on development.

“It is set to be a fantastic round – very price sensitive – for the UK market. The original Action was a US product, because we find that with Eley we have to rebrand to suit different markets. The SHOT Show was a real eye-opener in that area.

“The Americans are fantastic people, but they have a completely different culture to ours. Hobbies and sport, such as shooting, play a much larger role and are hugely important. A lot of benchresters are old retired engineers who are really on top of their game – we have a lot of respect for them.”

But there’s another new venture that has gained ELEY’s focus in the UK market, having recently launched a competition in the UK called Speed Steel. Working with a range in Stourport, Eley Ltd opened the competition up to 64 shooters on its first outing.

“We could have quite easily doubled that,” argues Michael. “So we are looking to increase it for the second event in July. Then we are lucky enough to have Kirk Grimes, a steel challenge champion, coming over from the US in October, who is going to hold some Speed Steel classes. He is like a grand master of speed steel – he can shoot six stages in about 60 seconds, it is just incredibly fast. I think the UK guys will appreciate getting him over and being able to train with a champion.

“For me personally I would like to see more people using our action rounds in the UK, sticking with the British brands rather than overseas products. I have seen so many people come off a stage with a misfire and that can be it – competition over. You need that consistency.

“We can guarantee consistency, especially with speed shots where you need it to go off every time,” concludes Michael.

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