John Milewski reports from the latest, and possibly greatest, Kempton Park Arms Fair
John Milewski is at the Kempton Park Arms Fair with everything airgun
It wasn’t that long ago when airgun collectors would travel long distances to attend an arms or militaria fair, where one or two specialist airgun dealers might be in attendance. If you were lucky, some of the firearms dealers might have the odd air rifle or pistol and occasionally, bargains could be found. Well, airgun collecting has finally come of age and at Kempton Park Arms Fair, you will find anything from an elastic-powered, rubber band gun or Gat-style pistol, to a butt and ball reservoir antique pneumatic – and, I hasten to add, everything in between being offered by countless sellers.
COMING FROM OVERSEAS
The most recent Kempton fair attracted buyers from far and wide. I even bumped into a very enthusiastic Dutch collector whilst making my way around. Zuke Van Ingen explained this was not his first time at Kempton because he tries to make the journey across the Channel for at least two of the four fairs held annually. Zuke found out about the fairs from Facebook groups and various on-line forums, and was looking for pre-war Webleys when I first spoke with him. When we met up later in the day, Zuke had sourced a 1st Series Webley Service and was looking at a boxed Haenel 28, which he also bought. He felt the event was even better than he had expected, and the quality of items was fantastic. There was plenty to choose from and he couldn’t ask for more from the organisers, Peter and Liz Binfield.
Other collectors I chatted with had the impression of a well-organised and impressive event, where the people were friendly, as was the banter. More than one collector mentioned to me that the event was a great opportunity for collectors who use on-line forums to meet up in person and talk about old airguns, and I agree with this 100%. I met up with several collectors with whom I had exchanged emails and messages with before and it was a
pleasure to discuss our mutual interests face to face.
As to the airguns on display, a rack of Giffard rifles had been placed to the side of one specialist dealer’s display and you could choose from a selection of what is usually a ‘hard to find’ airgun. The same dealer also had ball reservoir pneumatics for sale, which were precharged by a pump and generated enough power to hunt deer some 200 or more years ago. Today’s PCPs work on similar principles, demonstrating that the technology is not as new as some might think.
As a long-term Webley enthusiast, I was drawn to a fine Webley Jaguar Air Rifle Pack from the 1960s. The kit came in a very distinctive orange box, which safely held the air rifle along with its accessories, and still had its outer Webley marked box, that had protected the inner box very well over the decades. These kits are very rare in such good condition, but some of the original contents appeared to be missing, so I decided against investing the £300-plus asking price into what was probably the most expensive Jaguar I have ever come across.
ARMS FAIR ETIQUETTE
Webley Jaguar and Junior air rifles were originally supplied with a gummed on warning label across the cocking slot, which offered common sense safety advice to the original purchaser. Many may not have owned an airgun before and the label’s location drew the eye to the warning just in case the purchaser decided to use the rifle before reading the instructions. One such rifle with label intact, which suggested it had never been cocked or fired was on display at Kempton. Graham, the seller explained that one person had tried to cock the rifle without asking and he stopped him tearing the label just in time. Needless to say, the person had no intention of buying, but the situation does demonstrate simple arms fair etiquette; please ask before handling an old airgun – it is all too easy to damage a fragile label or component.
VIEWS FROM A SHOW REGULAR
BSA specialist, Andy Lake, is a regular attendee at Kempton and has attended the fairs ever since they started. He was hoping something quirky or unusual would catch his eye and had already finalised two prearranged deals by the time we met up for a chat. Andy keeps coming back to Kempton due to the tremendous array of airguns on offer and admitted finding the huge selection hard to get his head around. Nevertheless, whether he can afford them or not, Andy regards this fair as the ‘go to place for airgun collectors and enthusiasts’. Andy is another on-line forum member and would like to see individuals wearing name tags in future because he felt he probably walked straight past on-line friends without realising who they were. This is perhaps something for on-line forums to consider?
I walked away from the fair with some old leaflets and advertising, so did not spend a fortune, much to my wife’s relief. I get as much pleasure from ephemera as I do from old airguns, so was very content with my new additions, which all helps with research prior to drafting future articles. See you at the next Kempton arms fair!
A typical selection of Webley air rifles.
This old Webley air rifle had never been shot and still retained its original gummed safety label. Show regular, Andy Lake, examines a BSA Standard. It wasn’t just old airguns at Kempton – more modern CO2 pistols were also being offered to sale.
Zuke Van Ingen travelled all the way from Holland and came away with a huge selection of airguns, including this boxed Haenel 28 air pistol. All set up and waiting for the crowds just before opening time!
Where else would you find a rack of early Giffard Carbonic Gas guns?