Doing business with… United Kingdom

This month it’s the turn of the United Kingdom (UK), a nation with a very well established and historical hunting trade. Gun Trade World is on hand to help you get the best from this market.


Behind the famous names of Holland & Holland, Purdey and William Powell, there are many smaller manufacturers producing ‘best’ shotguns and rifles. London and Birmingham continue to boast of their historical gun trades but the manufacturers are now spread across the country.

The well-known names from the 19th and 20th centuries are still there but don’t be deceived, the world is a small place and it is possible to import quality firearms under a brand name that is no longer independent. However, they will not be described as best English guns.

The UK trade has always been famous for its shotguns, but in the early 20th century – when Great Britain had an Empire – it was English sporting rifles that made a name for themselves in Africa and India.

A number of the British big-game calibres are still in use. It is still possible to buy a best English rifle but there are a number of companies in the UK that manufacture very high-quality sporting and target rifles, including weapons designed specifically for military use featuring the latest materials and technology.

Air weapons are a large part of the UK gun trade’s business, with retail prices ranging from £50 to £500 or more.

The lack of restrictive legislation (apart from age) on air rifles with a power of less than 12ft-lb makes them an ideal weapon for both informal and formal target shooting, and in the right hands they are an effective weapon for grey squirrel and rabbit control.

Indeed, the UK is seen by many as leading the way in terms of airgun manufacturing.

Firms like Daystate, with its innovative and unique electronic airgun and Air Arms are top choices for many target shooters – and pest controllers too.

The famous names of Webley and BSA continue to be well respected although only the latter is now made in the UK but, of course, there is so much more competition in the market today.

So, the UK gun trade is alive and well despite the best efforts of an active anti-gun and anti-hunting lobby.

Restrictive legislation brought in over the last few decades has no doubt reduced the numbers of shotgun and firearm-licence holders and the number of retail outlets has reduced slightly over the years.

However, it is the strong companies that survive and today you will find that the vast majority of retail firearm dealers are extremely professional and know their business very well indeed.

The retail trade relies on importers, wholesalers and distributors to supply their requirements, and companies that have been in existence for many years serve this side of the industry. However, in recent years a few new companies have been successfully established and the range of products from manufacturers around the world has increased quite dramatically.

It is certainly worth a manufacturer’s time to research the market thoroughly to find a distributor that has a range of products somewhat compatible but not conflicting with its own.

The major wholesalers have complete UK coverage and a significant number operate an e-commerce site for online ordering.


Popular products

Shotguns including 12, 16 and 20 bore are among the bestsellers, the majority of which will be over-and-under models, but there remains a decent market for side-by-side shotguns. There is a steadily growing .410-calibre market, with dedicated competitions to match.

Some wildfowlers after geese who need extra range will go for a larger calibre.

The semi-automatic market – often preferred by wildfowlers and some pigeon shooters, is comparatively small but there are signs that it is increasing.

Remember, too, when looking at these figures that the UK is split into specific areas.

England and Wales are put together when it comes to counting up shotgun and firearms certificates and ownership, while Scotland is treated separately.

So, too, is Northern Ireland, which also allows the ownership of handguns, unlike the rest of the UK.



The UK gun-trade survey

Trade magazine Tackle & Guns conducted the last survey of the UK gun trade in 2006. Bearing in mind the recent recession, it is unlikely that there has been much growth since 2006, and possibly a slight retraction of the industry size but it continues to serve as a reliable guide. Here are the major findings of the survey:


The retail trade

Number of shooting outlets (including some shooting grounds): 1,800


Average annual turnover: £201,000


Number of full-time employees in the industry: 10,500


Number of part-time employees in the industry: 3,350


Breakdown of sales

Airguns: £46.6 million

Airgun ammunition: £3.9 million

Shotguns: £53.8 million

Shotgun ammunition: £35.8 million

Rifles: £21.5 million

Rifle ammunition: £10.8 million

Airsoft: £17.1 million

Clothing: £60.93 million

Footwear: £18.2 million


What Influences retail buying?

•    Margin

•    Service

•    Brand

•    Salesman/agent

•    Advertising campaigns

•    Discounts


Trade shows

The UK has one national gun-trade show each year. It is a strictly trade-only event and features fishing exhibitors also.

The Tackle & Guns Trade Show takes place at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire in October of each year. It is a two-day event attended by the important wholesalers and distributors in the UK shooting trade. This year the show is on October 12th and 13th.


For more information visit

[08/07/2014 10:53:15] charliegrafton: United Kingdom Stats


Small-Arms Imports (US$)

The annual value of small arms and ammunition imports to the United Kingdom is reported by Customs to be US$121,643,569


Firearm Imports (Number, 2012) - 3,206


Number Of Privately Owned Firearms - 4,060,000


Number Of Privately Owned Rifles - 540,237


Number Of Privately Owned Shotguns - 1,576,548


Number Of Privately Owned Handguns - 14,501


Number Of Licensed Firearm Owners - 842,665


Number Of Registered Firearms - 2,149,330

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