Mike Barnes meets Juan Cruz Sarriugarte, a gunmaker who crafts glamorous titanium shotguns while his two daughters run the business.
(Photographs: Richard Faulks)
It may have escaped the attention of most of us, but in 2003 gunmaking took on a new twist when Kemen launched their titanium shotgun. Its conception was not a result of either fad or fancy.
Gunmaker Juan Cruz Sarriugarte established Kemen in 2000 in the Basque town of Elgoibar, in northern Spain. Just up the road is the larger and more well-known gunmaking town of Eibar. The area is home to most of the Spanish gunmakers – the likes of AYA, Arrieta, Arrizabalaga, Armis Garbi and Grulla. All side-by-side makers. Juan, however, who comes from a long line of gunmakers, bucked the trend by unveiling his Kemen KM4 over-under.
Then, three years down the line, he took the wraps off his new Titanium Suprema shotgun.
Titanium is the metal of choice in aircraft manufacturing where its lightness and strength are superior to aluminium. Add these qualities to proven design (based on the Boss/Woodward and latterly Perazzi actions), and outstanding handling qualities and minimal maintenance make for a very desirable gun.
Juan initially targeted the clay competition market with his black action KM4 which, in the hands of George Digweed and Richard Faulds, won world titles. But he came to realise that the qualities of the titanium gun were better suited to the game Shot i.e. lightness of action and fore-end, thus creating a lively and responsive gun, weighing in between 7½–7¾lb.
The titanium gun has many admirers, and the Spanish royal family are big fans – King Juan Carlos has a trio which he uses for most of his shooting.
Kemen sales manager Inigo Diez said: “We make 40 guns per year and 20 bores are the most popular, especially in Europe and the USA. There is also an increasing number of 28 bores and .410s being made.
“Titanium guns are the most popular, accounting for 70 per cent of sales, with an increasing demand for guns suitable for high bird shooting.”
The 70-year-old owner likes to meet prospective customers so that he can be sure of a perfect fit. And he tests every single gun himself. Nine people are employed in the small workshop. “We’re a family, not a business, and the owner’s two daughters now take care of the day-to-day running of Kemen,” continues Inigo. “One is the production manager and the other the financial manager. This is very rare in a male-dominated industry. They are also taking over the reins at a difficult time in Spain where politics are making things increasingly challenging.”
But it’s a heart-warming story and a product which has many loyal users. The future for Kemen is looking good.
How much? The price ranges from €12,000–40,000.
Titanium was discovered in Cornwall by William Gregor in 1791. It is a chemical element with symbol Ti and atomic number 22. It is a lustrous transition metal with a silver colour, low density and high strength, and is highly resistant to corrosion in sea water, aqua regia and chlorine.
Titanium metal is used in racing cars and motorcycles, where weight reduction is critical while maintaining high strength and rigidity. It is generally too expensive to make it marketable to the general consumer market, other than high-end products, such as in the racing/performance market. It is also used in many sporting goods such as tennis rackets, golf clubs and bicycle frames and components, as well as cricket, hockey, lacrosse, and American football helmet grills.
Thanks to Oxfordshire-based game Shot, Andy Castle for the loan of his Kemen Titanium 12 bore.