My first gun

My father managed a large hotel, and I can remember when I was about 6 my father telling us with great excitement that he had found a pistol in the suitcase of a guest who had left the hotel without paying their bills. The pistol was a Webley Junior .177 air pistol, and I and my brother and sisters (well mostly my brother and I) were allowed to shoot it under close supervision. Years later we moved to a remote location in North Devon, and my brother and I used that air pistol in imaginary dog-fights against Airfix model Messerschmidts, Heinkels and Dorniers in our garden. I still have that pistol, although it looks very worn after years of abuse by two small boys! … TonyC

I was eight years old, and my prized possession was a silver “automatic” toy pistol that, when you pressed the trigger, emitted sparks from the muzzle. One of my school chums desperately wanted it, and asked me if I’ld swap it for a “real gun”

You bet I did! And what was it?

I didn’t know then, but I did later. It was a (very!) rattly old pinfire (look it up) continental revolver, rusty, and with its cracked wooden grips barely clinging to the frame. But it was mine, and it was my first “real gun”!

Some years later another school friend asked me if I’d like to buy his old gun. Sure I did, and asked him how much he wanted for it. Two pounds, he said. Well, that represented sixteen weeks pocket money of half-a-crown (twelve and a half pence in today’s money). I did have some savings, though, and a few weeks later we did the deal.

He arrived at school with this long object, wrapped in brown paper, which I then carried home on the trolley-bus. However, by the time I arrived the paper had almost all detached itself from the gun and its bolt was sticking out clearly for all to see. But in those days nobody seemed to mind, and I proudly unwrapped it as soon as I got in. So, what was it?

An early Long Lee-Enfield (again, look it up) whose barrel was so thick with encrusted rust that you could barely see down it! However, it was mine and from somewhere else (I forget where) I acquired what I thought were some .303” blank cartridges, to await Guy Fawkes night in order to let them off. Well, I did and they made a hell of a bang, but it was only later that I discovered that they were actually ballistite (another propellant) grenade dischargers, blanks with a more powerful load!

However, it was to be another twenty-five years before I was granted my first actual firearms certificate, and that was for a 1934 9mm Beretta automatic pistol. But that’s another story … Maurice Kanareck

My first rifle on my first Firearm certificate was a bolt action Remington M540X Match Grade Target rifle in .22lr fitted with Redfield Iron target sights.

I managed to acquire this from an American serviceman (USAF) who was returning to the USA. With considerable persuasion on my part and a promise of a date with a fictional sister I managed to part him from this USAF armour adapted rifle, together with an unused high quality Tasco scope.

It wasn’t long before I managed to swap the iron sights for some blocks and fit the Tasco telescopic sight to the rifle; this made a formidable combination. With this rifle and with me behind it I had the ability of hitting anything that I aimed at and I aimed at everything.

It was my habit during the long summer vacs to visit a favourite sniping spot in a wood about 100 yds from the stable dung heap. From here it was possible to lay in comfort, with my transistor radio playing a favourite pirate station, and shoot rats and other pests all day with the cost of a box of cartridges funded by the keeper.

My other pleasure was to go to the lake adjacent the wood yard and, with a likeminded friend, we would find dozens of discarded quart beer bottles, the brown ones with the screw caps. With a certain amount of gravel in the bottom to balance them and a couple of large goose feathers wedged in the neck it was possible to heave them out into the lake. On a windy day these would progress across the lake at some speed, we would then have a flotilla in extended line bobbing and spinning in the wind, like Spanish galleons sailing across an ocean. We would take up a firing position and await the oncoming armada armed with a Winchester 03 self-loader, a challenging long range target providing hours of fun.

Times have changed, that was then and this is now. Gone sadly are the men I knew of Boer War, WW1 & 2 Vintage, who would come over laugh and tell stories and have a go with our rifles on warm summer evenings and impart knowledge such as aiming off, windage and judging distance, moving in cover and a myriad of shooting tips all learned from time served before the colours. … DFJ

My (Son’s) First Gun

Back in the Seventies, Bisley was a much more relaxed place than it is now. Jonathan, my son, was ten, and he used to accompany me to the range at weekends and, in particular, the 200 yard range known as “Shorts”, which is now the site of the Shotgun complex.

In those days, fellow shooters would come up to you and say “Has your lad ever fired a Winchester, or an Artillery Luger?” or, perhaps, “a broom-handle Mauser with a shoulder stock?” And if the answer was “No.”, then he would be offered the appropriate arm and, with Dad coaching him, be introduced to the experience.

I thought, though, it would be nice if he had his own rifle and, obviously, it would be entered on my Firearms Certificate. So I began to look out for an appropriate .22” rifle, and one day, at a gun-shop in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, I found just the right one. It was a .22” BSA Sportsman Five (Five was the capacity of the magazine) and it was two pounds, ten shillings (two pounds fifty in today’s money) and hardly a fortune, even then.

I had no compunction (at that price!) about cutting down the butt to fit young Jonathan, and we would shoot it regularly on shorts, even though the barrel was almost smooth-bore from the amount of previous shooting it had done. Nevertheless, it was still capable of bulls (and even occasionally
v-bulls!) which to a novice shooter was very encouraging, and I’m sure there are many other Dad’s with much the same story. ... Maurice Kanareck