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Why are we shooting and fishing less?

In recent years, the decline in shotgun licence holders is alarming to say the least. It’s a similar story in fishing, but why?

Most people will lament and seek to blame someone else rather than look at how they contribute to the demise themselves. The exact same way as when the local pub shuts down, ‘Oh that’s an incredible shame, so sad’, yet if asked, they used the pub once a year at Christmas, so they are actually part of the reason it shut.

I recently had a discussion with James Rose (Lyalvale MD) who would like to kick off a campaign to get people shooting again, a commendable cause although I think the industry as a whole needs to do a lot of self-reflection and alter if numbers of people shooting are to sustainably  increase year on year.

Shoots whether game or clay are closing or under threat of closing. Again, this is down to a number of factors from organisations like the National Trust making it difficult for shoots to continue, to clay shoot operators having no exit/legacy plan post-retirement and cashing in on increased land values. If you look to the US, clubs/shoots are operated on a committee basis to ensure the longevity of any shoot or club, whereas here in the UK it tends to be one individual who pulls all the strings and when they decide to take their metaphorical ball home, tough luck, find somewhere else.

I’ve had a few conversations with Simon West from the GTA (Gun Trade Association) and Worshipful Gunmakers Company about the lack of formal training and funds available to train gunsmiths. However, by his own admission ‘Gunmakers’ and ‘Gunsmiths’ aren’t representative of the UK trade today, we are a rare blast from the past. It is now the larger box shifting distributors and dealers who  are the trade. The GTA run RFD courses to encourage more cannon fodder for the distributors to sell to. That in itself makes no sense in a declining industry. The dealers then operate part time out of a small unit or garage at home, often selling cheap guns in boxes at cost to friends or to just re-coup the cost they’ve outlaid. That dealer then doesn’t restock as they make no money, the distributors then move onto the next dealer. It is harsh but true and that ruins the retail experience for the end customer and undermines those businesses who try to operate a profitable business that would better create a desire in people to shoot and own a gun. The Worshipful Gun Company hold fancy cocktail receptions handing out snazzy A3 certificates to those Gunsmiths/Makers who have endured the trade for 20 years completely unaided, then in polar opposite,  by absolute pain of death will they give out a training bursary to up and coming Gunsmith. It just doesn’t strike me as a strategy that is intended to increase the sustainability of our industry. If you look to the continent, in particular Germany, each person wishing to open a ‘Gunshop’ has to put forward a full 5 year business plan to a committee, put down a sizable bond of  of €25k, pass an exam on the firearms law and employ a gunsmith with a recognised Gunsmith qualification. Yes that sounds a little draconian/nanny state, however, they have no decline in the people who shoot, so they must have something right.

I personally think the problem runs far deeper in society than getting people to break a few clays. Think of it like this, prior to the firearms act of 1968, no licensing was required at all and until the Hungerford massacre of 1987 licensing was a mere administrative burden. Despite organisations like the GTA, BASC and others like them (each founded more than a century ago)  professing to be in existence for the good of the industry, we have still slept walked into the current conundrum where a shotgun licence can take up to 12 months to obtain and all it takes is any number of ailments reported to your Quack, to have it taken away for good. If you think I am being dramatic, I assure you I am not. David Little who runs Kynamco (the company behind Kynoch) has just had his RFD revoked because his wife (a joint shareholder) went to the doctors with a cold she couldn’t shift and happened to mention she felt as if it was affecting her short term memory. Bosh, RFD revoked. However, the Police haven’t shut the business, they have barred David and his wife from entering the premises. Why? Because Kynamco have a military contract to produce specialist ammunition, so it is effectively a forced nationalisation of sorts. Mr George Kynoch will be turning in his grave. If you have ever met Mr Little or his wife, you cannot wish to meet nicer people and to have this happen to them is a huge misjustice to say the least. You have to ask yourself why on earth we fought two world wars if this is what ‘freedom’ gives you, it would appear to me, we are under fascism rule anyway.

Collectively as a nation we have slowly become a bunch of sheep who comply without question. I partly blame the education system which breeds and oozes wokism. You may laugh but hear me out, at school my father read classics like Iliad, Aeneid etc which provoked reasoned thought/logic. I read books like Orwells 1984 and Animal Farm which opened your eyes to what a big brother society could look like. My fourteen year old is now reading some daft book about some adolescent Afghanistan wench who is struggling with her menstrual cycle in a country controlled by the Taliban, he is then asked to write about how he would feel. What the actual?!?! He got a detention for describing how he would use some of the $80bn equipment left behind by the spineless Joe Biden to wipe out the Taliban and open a Lloyds pharmacy franchise in Kabul supplying tampons. I jest but do you see where I am going with this? Do you think the industrial greats like Isambard Brunel or adventurers like Scott et al EVER read a book and wondered how a women felt on her period?

So, who is at fault here? We all are in one shape or another. We are all too ready to comply and the recent plandemic is testament to that, we allowed this Government to scare us into house arrest despite none of the evidence to back up the reasoning for it. We allowed the Scottish government to restrict airgun ownership. We are allowing the Welsh assembly to put layers of bureaucracy into the release of gamebirds that will make it almost impossible to run a game shoot in Wales. Remember consultation is just another word for forewarning that something is going to happen, so how about we just ignore them and carry on regardless? As a nation we are turning into a bunch of limp wristed dim wits, led by a load of chinless wonders. We’ve gone from a nation who can do and will find a way to a nation of people who procrastinate and find reasons not to do something.

If every single person who shot or fished taught two more people, it would reverse the rot overnight. But the desire in people to do such an activity starts at a young age, turn the bloody internet off and give your kids a socket set, bow and arrow, boxing gloves, fishing rod and/or a gat gun and above all give them books that inspire them and provoke thought.


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  • Edward King says:


    Much of this is half-truth and some of it is simply incorrect. You were not involved in the aftermath of the Hungerford massacre. I was. The trade did not ‘sleepwalk’ into the 1988 Firearms Amendment Act; it mounted a massive defence in the face of overwhelming opposition. The same happened after Dunblane: to imply that the trade rolled over is a gross misrepresentation. Making such broad statements when you are not in possession of the facts paints a false picture. It may help to make your point, but you are guilty of misleding people.

    • Steve Horton says:

      Hi Edward, Nice to hear off you, hope Tony, Dale and team are well. You and I both know the trade, it doesn’t and never has had a unified voice and I doubt it ever will. This is not the first time you’ve accused me of misleading people but prey tell, how I am misleading anyone? Isn’t it a fact that a licence can take you up to 12 months to obtain in some areas and isn’t true that any number ailments can see it being revoked without thought or notice? Is it a fact that prior to 1968, no licence was required and until 1988 it was a mere administrative task at best? The number of incidents are no more or less frequent than in other countries, yet quite often the other countries don’t accept any further concessions to licencing law, so yes we have at least had our belly tickled rather than fully rolled over. Does the GTA offer RFD courses to the general public who have the dream of the riches open to them of becoming an RFD (tongue firmly in cheek) and the board of that said limited company is made up of mainly large distributors like yourself who benefit from all this new canon fodder being created. It is not a statement, it is an opinion and it is your choice whether you agree with it or not. If you don’t, fine, we agree to disagree.

    • Will says:

      It’s hardly a misrepresentation. The stuff on Kynoch is utter bullshit. I know David well and frankly this is rude, wrong and unpleasant

      • Steve Horton says:

        Hi Will, As per my previous reply, it is unpleasant, I grant you. However, as I say unless someone was pretending to be Mr Little, it is not ‘bullshit’. As for being rude or wrong, tell me how I am factually incorrect in anything I have said.

  • Will says:

    You know this is utter bullshit.
    I know David little well and I know exactly what happened and this is utter utter utter lies and nonsense.
    I can’t understand why you would make up some stuff.

    • Steve Horton says:

      Hi Will, Welcome to the conversation. Mr Little called me directly to ask my advice after my recent article regarding mental health and the gun trade in the Tackle and Guns Magazine. Why? He advised of his current predicament and his treatment at the hands of the Police who have barred him from his business. So, it is not malicious gossip and I for one wish it were utter ‘bullshit’ but seeing as I got it from the horses mouth (so to speak), I don’t believe it to be. Unless it was someone pretending to be Mr Little, that is, I very much doubt that. What have I to gain from publishing such a story? Absolutely nothing. However, unlike most in our industry who take 2 steps back from injustices like this, that do happen, I have highlighted the plight of Mr Little to increase awareness of the often knife edge livelihood we choose to live. Mr Little is definitely not the first and unfortunately, he probably won’t be the last.