Crimes of fash­ion

While some trends are best con­signed to his­tory, there are some that Robin Scott feels are due a come­back

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Fash­ion, taste and trends change con­stantly, some for the bet­ter, oth­ers for the worse. There was a time a pair of nut-crunch­ing pur­ple bell-bot­tomed loons, calf-crip­pling plat­form shoes and shoul­der-length hair were the bee’s knees as far as I was con­cerned. But pic­tures in my fad­ing al­bum from way back when say it all: an 18-carat pil­lock if ever there was one.

Ear­lier pho­tos of a brown vel­vet jacket and psy­che­delic tie — es­sen­tial disco gear back then — also scream “plonker”. Yet with­out a tie you never got past the bounc­ers. To­day? Seems you only need ripped jeans, train­ers and a beer-stained T-shirt to pass muster. Only some­one’s grandad com­ing to give them a lift home would pitch up in a jacket nowa­days. But stick Jump­ing Jack Flash on the turntable, and watch those age­ing legs and arms come back to life…

Reg­u­la­tion tweed

Which­ever way you want to look at it, no mat­ter how young or old we are, there is no es­cap­ing this per­ni­cious thing called fash­ion. And it is alive and well on the shoot­ing scene. Don’t be­lieve me? Stand back a mo­ment and take a look.

The other evening I drove through the lo­cal mar­ket square pass­ing shoot­ing par­ties throng­ing the road out­side a pop­u­lar pub, quaffing pints and puff­ing cigars af­ter a day on the par­tridge. All wore reg­u­la­tion tweed or mole­skin breeks, fleece gilets from the same Swedish maker and leather brogues, the whole ensem­ble be­ing fin­ished off with brightly coloured socks held up with equally gar­ish tas­sels on ties or garters. Had I not known this col­lec­tion of clones were shoot­ers, I would have prob­a­bly thought they were a bunch of Mor­ris dancers in their Sun­day best. And no, I’m not tak­ing the mickey.

This time next week I will be stand­ing in the same mar­ket square, pint in one hand, che­root in the other, wear­ing my Charles Gale tweed three-piece and plum-coloured mo­hair socks with match­ing ties. Be­cause as daft and dandy as I might look to some­one on the out­side, it still feels good to be­long.

This breeks-and-socks thing has been with us for gen­er­a­tions now so it is un­likely to change any time soon. But who knows? I never thought side-by-side guns would give way al­most en­tirely to over-and-un­ders but the mar­ket for all but the best ex­am­ples — and rar­i­ties — ap­pears to have hit an all­time low. A gun­smith near me de­scribes the si­t­u­a­tion as a tragedy.

The change about, of course, started back in the 1970s when clay shoot­ing’s pop­u­lar­ity started its steep up­ward curve. Sporters joined the Trap and Skeet guns al­ready out there, and hard on their heels came field ver­sions from all the big gun­mak­ing names in Europe and the US.

“As daft and dandy as i might look, it feels good to be­long”

Sales of side-by-sides started to lose ground al­most im­me­di­ately. “That was bad enough,” said my gun­smithing friend, “but what’s hap­pened now is a com­plete new gen­er­a­tion of shoot­ers have come into the sport with no ex­pe­ri­ence of, or em­pa­thy for, the tra­di­tional game gun. All they want are the same over-and-un­ders be­ing used by their peers.”

The up­shot of this is a pretty stag­nant mar­ket for en­tirely ser­vice­able side-by-sides in the mid to low price bracket. Now is the time to buy a bar­gain game ejec­tor if the fancy takes you. As for non-ejec­tors…

Back into favour

My fa­ther used to say that man’s two worst in­ven­tions were the chain­saw and ejec­tors be­cause both put greater de­struc­tive pow­ers into the hands of their users. Think­ing about it, he was right: one chain­saw in a mat­ter of hours can clear trees that be­fore would have taken days or weeks to fell by axe and hand saw.

Ejec­tors al­lowed us to fire more rapidly, and kill more birds in a short space of time than you could ever man­age with a non-ejec­tor. Need­less to say, the non-ejec­tor soon fell foul of fash­ion. How­ever, maybe now is the time to see such guns come back into favour.

For a start the slower rate of fire would help avoid that de­flat­ing si­t­u­a­tion whereby a team of Guns rat­tles up its bag be­fore the day’s full com­ple­ment of drives has been done.

Fur­ther­more, syndicate shoots keen to eke out the num­ber of birds and en­sure they have a de­cent shootable stock to last the sea­son could well ben­e­fit from hav­ing a few non-ejec­tors sprin­kled around the Gun line.

Non-ejec­tor ben­e­fits

Non-ejec­tors have other ad­van­tages too: • More haste, less speed. Never was a truer word spo­ken — if you try to rush the reload­ing process you will end up fum­bling with car­tridges, and prob­a­bly drop them. This is es­pe­cially so if you start watch­ing other birds on the wing. Slow down, keep your eyes on the fresh car­tridge(s) and you will find the cham­ber every time. • Slow­ing down also means you have more time to com­pose your­self, and you shoot bet­ter be­cause of it. • Spent shells don’t get scat­tered here, there and ev­ery­where. They end up in ei­ther a lit­tle heap at your feet, or in your pocket — par­tic­u­larly use­ful when pi­geon shoot­ing from a hide. No longer will you have to get on your hands and knees to search out emp­ties ejected into net­tle beds, bram­ble patches or ditch wa­ter. • The same ap­plies to wild­fowl­ing where ejected car­tridges — par­tic­u­larly from semi-au­to­mat­ics — fin­ish up in muddy creeks, or get car­ried away by run­ning wa­ter. It is the rea­son spent cases are of­ten found mixed among all the other plas­tic rub­bish washed up on our pol­luted coast­lines.

Still a fol­lower of fash­ion? If you get the chance, give a non-ejec­tor a go. You could well grow to love it.

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