UK country manager for Browning and managing director of ISB Ltd, who have the sole agency for Browning, Miroku and Winchester in the UK and Ireland.
Do you come from a shooting/hunting background?
My father was a farmer and he used to shoot, but I didn't get into shooting myself until I became an agricultural student at the end of the 80s. This started off as a bit of rough shooting and vermin control around the farm, but I also represented the college shooting team. When I look back now, I do smile to myself as I really had no idea of what I was doing back then, but we did not disgrace ourselves and we had some fun, even with limited talent.
What is your favourite form of shooting?
My favourite form of shooting is game shooting, and although it is mainly driven pheasant at my syndicate shoot in Gloucestershire, I have been lucky enough to shoot on some lovely partridge days and even on the grouse moor which is always a treat. But some of my most enjoyable days have been pigeon shooting with friends. I think the company is the most important factor for a good day out with the gun.
How did your association with Browning, Miroku and Winchester come about?
I think it was a twist of fate! I had been working in central London in a sales and marketing role for about six and a half years and the commuting was killing me as I was sitting in traffic jams for five hours every day. I was desperate to get back working with a big brand in any outdoor sports industry, having previously enjoyed working for so many years in the golf trade. In 2008 I stumbled across a small advert with the title ‘Leader in the outdoor sports industry'. The advert went on to describe how a leading brand was looking to recruit a new business owner to their UK territory. I did not know what the brand was at the time, but I had a feeling that this was going to be perfect for me and, following several rounds of interviews, I was delighted to be offered the role with Browning International, a brand that I was obviously very familiar with.
So now I own International Sports Brands Ltd (ISB), the exclusive sales agency for Browning, Winchester and Miroku for the UK and Ireland. We are very proud to represent some of the biggest brands in the shooting world. We are a dedicated and passionate team who are responsible for promoting the brands to a customer base of over 200 gun dealers throughout the country and direct to the consumer at various events throughout the year including the Shooting Show and CLA Game Fair. We also hold a number of demonstration days in conjunction with dealers so that people can come and try a selection of guns for themselves.
You are also country manager for Browning – what does that entail?
Yes, I wear two hats which can be a bit confusing looking from the outside. As well as owning ISB, I am also the ‘country manager' for Browning International which is not an employed position, but I am entrusted to manage all of the commercial affairs of the brands in this country. The scope of the role is varied, with responsibility for nearly everything apart from warehousing, distribution, finance and after-sales which are still overseen by Browning HQ in Belgium.
What is your best-selling shotgun in the UK?
Our best selling shotgun in terms of volume is still our entry level B525 Sporter. I think that this is just the perfect all-rounder and if you were going to own just one gun, this particular model would do most jobs extremely well. It is amazing to think that this entry level shotgun has hardly changed since the original B25 on which it is based, which was first created by John Moses Browning back in 1925. And even more incredible to think that it is cheaper to buy now than it was when I first started with Browning in 2008! It really is a success story that just keeps going and going.
What percentage of your sales are to the game shooting market?
It is very hard to put an exact figure on it, as many people use what we would describe as a sporting gun for game shooting. But in terms of pure game gun sales, they would represent approximately 42 per cent of all our over-under shotgun volume.
Is there much demand for very top-end Brownings, and has that demand decreased/increased in recent years?
It is surprising in these times of austerity that there continues to be demand for our handmade ‘Custom Shop' Brownings. Sales numbers have remained fairly constant over recent years but this has been due to our limitation in supply capacity rather than anything else, with a current lead time of around 24 months which can put all but the most devoted off! Our handmade range starts at £11,500 for a B2G and goes upwards from there depending on wood grade, engraving and embellishments.
Are you still noticing a trend towards smaller bore sizes for game shooting?
There has certainly been a noticeable movement in recent times towards smaller calibres with longer barrels, but if you look at the numbers, the 12 bore is still by far the biggest seller in the game gun sector. Personally, I have moved away from a 12 bore to a Heritage 20 bore for all but the highest pheasant shoots as I think that a 20 bore is perfect for most game shooting conditions, particularly in early season.
Have you noticed any other trends in recent years?
I am pleased to say that I have been impressed with the number of new shooter initiatives recently, particularly the ones aimed at bringing on younger shooters. I have personally been a supporter of a number of programmes that attract new people into the sport (whether they be of school age, women or middle-aged males) and I am delighted that many head teachers are now realising the benefits of introducing shooting sports as part of the school curriculum. There are a number of high profile school competitions now attracting higher and higher numbers and producing some incredible talent.
If we are to survive and grow as an industry, we all need to nurture the new shooters of the future and help grow our numbers as a participation sport.
What are your views on the possibility of a lead shot ban?
I think it would be a sad day to see the outlawing of lead as nothing works better. There seems to be a political agenda from some organisations to push for a ban, irrespective of the scientific evidence being taken into account. I think it is our responsibility as shooters to use lead legally now before a ban is imposed on us by faceless bureaucrats who know nothing about our industry and care even less about it.
What advice would you offer to a new or aspiring game Shot?
Learn your etiquette, respect the traditions, be safe and go and enjoy yourself.
Is there a particular individual who you admire in the shooting industry?
Yes, I admire John Batley of the GTA (Gun Trade Association). He, and the team at the GTA, is dedicated to representing and protecting the shooting industry at so many levels. John has a vast knowledge of all aspects of the industry and his work continues out of the limelight but achieves so much (often the credit is claimed by others) for so many of us who are involved with shooting. Thank you, John.
If you could change one aspect of how country sports are conducted in the UK, what would it be?
For a shooting community in the UK of less than one million people, I would imagine that we would have a far bigger voice if all of the shooting organisations that report to represent us as shooters worked closer together or even formed one national organisation for shooting.
What shotgun do you personally shoot with?
I am lucky that I have a large number of shotguns in my demo gun fleet that I can call upon at a moment's notice, but I tend to stick with my three trusted guns: sporting clay shooting – B525 Prestige 12 bore; game shooting – Browning Heritage 20 bore; extreme pheasants – Miroku MK60 32" High Pheasant.
Cartridge of choice for pheasants?
Winchester Special Fibre or Winchester Super-Speed – fantastic!
Other interests aside from guns/shooting?
I used to be a reasonable golfer with a single figure handicap, but golf has all but disappeared from my life since a small boy appeared nearly two years ago!