by John Zent - Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Britain’s incomparable CLA Game Fair serves a vibrant community determined to safeguard and promote all facets of rural life, notably including shooting and hunting. Huge crowds make the Game Fair one of the biggest and best events of its kind around the world.
A mega-show like the Game Fair requires a really big site, and this year’s gathering took place at Blenheim Palace near Oxford, England, one of the country’s premier ancestral estates. NRA’s John Zent figured he get a good look at British gun culture, but had no idea of the show’s incredible size and diversity.
Edgar Brothers, the U.K.’s largest importer/distributor of shooting equipment, welcomed all comers to one of the show’s largest stands, filled with top brands familiar to American shooters, like Hornady, Savage, Chiappa, CZ, Zoli and Bushnell. CEO Derrick Edgar reports that sales of guns and gear are up in Britain and that the number of shooters is growing.
American ammunition entrepreneur Steve Hornady, who attended the Game Fair for a second straight year, was pleased to learn that many Brits are avid handloaders, and that they especially favor varmint loads, including a big following for Hornady’s .17 HMR.
There were thousands of guns on offer at the Game Fair, an assortment reflecting the tastes and interests British shooters, along with the state of their gun rights. Most prominent were sporting shotguns—notably a motherlode of vintage doubles—as well as a wide variety hunting rifles, including a scattering of AR-style .22 rimfires. However, there no larger semi-auto rifles and no handguns at all, which are effectively banned in Britain.
Along with plenty of iconic English guns, the Game Fair drew its share of colorful British characters (Mr. Pith Helmet, I presume …) who paused to inspect a case full of “best-quality” side-by-sides from the historic shop of Stephen Grant & Sons.
Folks don’t just come to the Game Fair to look. Hands-on shooting opportunities are offered via multiple airgun ranges scattered across the grounds, and the event’s hosts an ongoing, all-comers sporting clays tourney in which hundreds of shooters vied for great prizes.
Edgar Brothers Sales Manager Jon Workman, explained that most British rifle hunters use suppressors, or moderators as they are dubbed in the U.K. He says muzzle of 100 percent of rimfires and 98 percent of centerfires are “screw-cut” (threaded) for the popular devices that decrease report and felt recoil. Ironically, suppressors are quite easy to own in Britain compared to here in the U.S.
Mike Robinson is a Michelin-starred celebri-chef who loves to hunt even more than he loves to cook. At his restaurants and on prime-time TV he is a leading advocate for eating game. Robinson’s entertaining game-prep demo drew overflow crowds to the show’s Cookery Theatre, where the audience learned the best ways to skin, bone and butcher a freshly killed roedeer.
Including a young man who found a keepsake that will forever make a statement about his enthusiasm for the outdoors, the huge crowd of 150,000+ over the three-day span, enjoyed an incomparable event that celebrated all the diverse and enduring elements of British country life.
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