HBSA Chairman’s Report 2022/2023

posted 19 September 2023, 9:28 pm

I am glad to say that HBSA celebrates 50 successful years in 2023. It has been another complex year in the firearms community, and such success as has been achieved, was not without a lot of work.

Our mission remains clear – preservation of heritage for future generations and promoting research and study in our chosen field.

Both our Council and Lecture meetings continue by Zoom video conference. As we grow ever more accustomed to these, their inclusivity is a clear benefit, allowing widest possible participation, both national and international. Face to face meetings, whilst much missed, do limit who may attend them in an association such as ours with wide membership. Bisley is an ideal location for them.

The Zoom lectures, which have covered a great variety of topics, from specific firearms, through wars, war artists and photography, and many others, have proved a great success. Many have been recorded and may soon be made accessible from our website.

We thank Matthew Olsson, our lectures coordinator, for organizing the Zoom lecture programme in collaboration with Council.

Interviews of new members also take place by Zoom and at shows or Bisley meetings. The administration of the Association continues to proceed well optimising the technology available.

We continue in contact with the Museum of London (soon to be London Museum, at the new Smithfield site). Whether London meetings will become practical or possible again, other than for specific or special occasions, at the MoL, or elsewhere, remains to be seen and there will be a cost.

Indeed, after our success with a return to “Bisley” lectures, future live meetings are likely to be largely at Bisley, perhaps in conjunction with shooting or a symposium.

The shooting and collecting communities in UK continue to be under great pressure, in many respects.

2019 saw the Offensive Weapons Act take effect on 16th May. There were also some amendments introduced subsequently.

Following the Government consultation dealing with firearms security, a review of Sect 11(4) – the Miniature Rifle Range exemption, a review of hand-loading ammunition, and regarding air guns, to which HBSA and BSSC gave substantial input. The Firearms Act is now pending introduction into law. In summary, no further controls, other than those currently in force, were introduced on HME rifles and air guns, ammunition component additional control is limited to intent to assemble unauthorized ammunition, and that the operator of a miniature rifle range, the 11(4) exemption being for .22RF weapons, will need to have a firearm certificate and ensure safety and supervision controls are in place.

A review of firearms and shotgun certificate fees continues in progress and we are working together with the Home Office and Police to ensure all factors are taken into account. This was delayed whilst further data capture took place by the police. There will be much discussion in the light of use of technology that emerged as a result of Covid restrictions and other factors, including the involvement of GPs.

The medical certification by GPs remains a subject of debate. We participated in Home Office meetings and also strongly underlined that the Statutory Guidance should be clear on the topic as well as highlighting improvements that might be made. The use of the medical marker on FAC and SGC holders medical records is likely to be a firm requirement although whether it will be made statutory remains to be seen.

We have also highlighted continuing delays in some police areas in dealing with renewals, grants and variations of FACs and SGCs, as well as lack of consistency across Police Firearms Licensing Departments. This is affecting the whole community, including the trade, and needs much improvement.

One issue of focus is police training, notably post the Plymouth Coroner’s Report, and we are involved in providing input in relation to that.

Members will have seen the Minister’s statement, which is posted on our website. His statement followed input from BSSC and the Associations and was very fair in its assessment of the situation following the Plymouth Coroner’s Report. It was followed by the Government Consultation which was widely completed across the community.

We continue in touch with BADA in dealing with matters relating to ivory.

We also continue to liaise with the Home Office in relation to the non-statutory “Guide on Firearms Licensing Law” providing recommendations and clarifications to the Home Office in conjunction with BSSC. This is facilitated by the document now being on-line.

This year, as I was away, Chris Reid attended the FESAC AGM, which was held Dresden in June. As usual an interesting and valuable contact and interchange with European collectors.

Principle matters covered were: election of the officers, the executive and the board (country reps.), comparison of collecting/antique rules and introduction of the EU Directive in each country, the lead issue, and the future – visibility of collectors.

I regularly attend British Shooting Sports Council (BSSC) meetings, also as a vice chairman, as well as attending other parallel groups. BSSC is a vital coordinating central entity for the shooting and collecting organizations in all fields, as well as carrying weight and with wide connections, especially in Government and Police.

We continue to produce “Legislative Updates” for HBSA members, also for A & A, and MLAGB, which are useful summaries for all.

Needless to say, the issue of lead in ammunition remains a topic of high importance. In Europe the prohibition moved forward and there is much dissention in various countries as to its introduction into their law.

In the UK we are in touch with REACH UK and HSE consultation regarding the lead issue. They completed their Risk Assessment consultation and will shortly be consulting on their Socio-economic Assessment. They will consult with us later in the year prior to advising Government. We hope to achieve the retention of lead in ammunition for all rifle and pistol target shooting, where it is controlled and contained, and ranges have suitable arrangements in place. Air gun and .22RF in use for pest control may be recognised as minimal amounts. Ammunition for centre-fire rifles used for deer management remains under review.

However, lead shot in shotgun ammunition remains an issue both for game shooting and clay target shooting. Once the HSE recommendation goes to Government our discussions will continue with the appropriate areas of Government.

I represent HBSA (also British Deer Society – BDS) at the Metropolitan Police FLD “Independent Advisory Group” (IAG) which meets two or three times a year. It is a useful two-way communication forum. I also sit on the TVP IAG as well as in Hampshire. We have been in touch with a number of Police FLDs on collecting and Section 7 issues and have been able to provide letters and telephone calls successfully supporting members.

We continue to be in close touch with the Home Office, and maintain contact with the Police, NABIS, NCA, FELWG and other bodies. BSSC Practitioners Group is a useful forum for this, as well as collaboration between all the entities.

Our close relationship with Royal Armouries continues and I attended the inauguration of the new “Master” at the Tower.

Nick Harlow has successfully completed three years as Journal Editor and is stepping down. We thank Nick for his good work on this important publication. We are pleased to report that Steve Barrett has agreed to return as Journal Editor.

Our finances show a successful surplus in 2022 as detailed in the Treasurer’s Report. We have good financial security for the coming year. Thanks go to Tony Cattermole for all his work as Treasurer. Tony is seeking to retire as Treasurer and we will be grateful to receive offers from members to take up that role. He will continue as Website Manager.

The website and email alerts continue to be a source of information to members, including news and the calendar. There are however members who still require news on paper. All members continue to receive Report, our quarterly newsletter/magazine, and thanks go to our Report Editor, John Lechner. This colour publication, contains interesting and informative articles submitted by members, and is a valuable link for the whole membership. Please continue to send articles to the Editor!

Our website continues to be an excellent central point of reference for members, non-members, students, researchers, etc. Journal summaries, Legislative updates, news, lectures and our calendar are all much visited by our members, researchers and others. Thanks to Tony Cattermole, our
website manager, for his continuing work on this, and e-communications with members.

Our dedicated picture library on the website, continues to grow substantially and includes a wide range of documents, blueprints, plans, as well as firearms, and ammunition and is a useful reference resource, as well as record of events. We have to thank David Frohnwieser, its organiser, who also provides much of the content, and the other contributors.

HBSA’s film archive, both of our own productions, and of other films on our specialist topic continues to grow.

Thanks to David Carroll our Range Practice Officer, who has completed another period of successfully running our shooting program, with support from Tony Cattermole, Paul Smith, Terry Hoskins, Geoff Ormerod, Richard Oldfield and others.

Shooting, is getting back to normal but often with much reduced attendances. David has now stepped back somewhat to running the bookings and we still seek a new Range Practice Officer to take David’s place in running shoots. Thanks to David for all his work.

Heritage pistol shoots remain a regular feature of our activity. We thank Molly and Richard Milner for organising and running them.

The Bisley Rook Rifle shoot, run by Richard Oldfield was able to go ahead successfully in April.

The HBSA Miniature Rifle Match took place on Cheylesmore range organised and run by Tony Cattermole and Geoff Ormerod, assisted by a team of Range Officers. It was a great success once again our thanks go to those involved in all the aspects of running it.

Paul Smith was also able to run the Stourport Rook Rifle shoot very successfully.

At this point I would also like to thank all of the officers and volunteers who put in so much time for the HBSA and without whom we could not function.

I have mentioned others by name elsewhere and now thank Chris Reid for all his work as Hon. Secretary and Membership Registrar, and for staying on top of the administration of membership, new and existing, renewals, and other topics such as data management, which is an ever present issue, requiring careful attention. The new on-line membership system introduced by Chris has greatly assisted the renewal process for everyone.

We have David Frohnwieser assisted by Colin Page and his team to thank for organising the splendid displays put on, both at our own events, and also shows and arms fairs. Without question this is important as an educational tool, advertising HBSA’s work, and in bringing in new members.

I regularly attend NRA General Council meetings and we continue to have a close relationship with the NRA, who have been very supportive of “Historics” which of course includes the “Heritage Pistol” annual program on Cheylesmore range.

I also continue to support NRA with regular articles for the Journal, especially regarding historic arms and “Historic” meetings.

Neil Macfarlane continues in post of NRA “Historics” discipline representative and attends NRA Shooting Committee meetings. We continue working together with NRA, both on current historic shooting, and on the broader future of shooting historical arms going forward. NRA also work with us in providing support for their members applications for FAC variations when needed.

Our members around the Country have been catered for, as usual, by HBSA local groups, Wales, the Northern Group, the HBSA Wessex Group and the new Midlands Group.

Due to membership numbers, distances and other factors Welsh Branch will not renew its Home Office Club Authority. They have not maintained branch status, with its attendant pressures, and have moved to Haverfordwest Target Shooting Club (HTSC), and will continue as the Welsh Group, being a part of the parent HBSA. David Scheeres of HTSC is on Council together with Emma and George Geear.

Chapel Bay Fort Museum has reopened at weekends for the summer but has opening limitations due to the available number of volunteers.

The Northern Group has started with some lectures again at York Army Museum and will be working with them on public displays.

The Wessex Group meeting program remains suspended, but they have been able to maintain their social clay pigeon shooting sessions, including black powder.

And so to the future and its challenges which are many. What may be considered historic evolves with the passage of time, as does the process of preserving heritage for future generations. The work of both private collectors and museums, especially in collaboration and cooperation with each other, continues to be most important in achieving this. We are grateful for the support that we receive in this respect, including from Government, Police and other entities previously mentioned.

HBSA maintains its respected status in this field, which we work hard to maintain. This is done in many ways as outlined above, including through our publications and lectures, and in our continuing mission of directly supporting the collecting, studying, and researching of historic arms, and preserving our heritage.

Derek Stimpson
September 2023