Fair Play

John Milewski is a fan of col­lec­tors fairs – and here’s why

Airgun World - - Contents -

John Milewski sim­ply loves arms fairs, and tells us why he’s so keen

Of the var­i­ous ways old air­guns find their way into col­lec­tions, my favourite means has been through an arms fair, ever since I at­tended my first one in Winch­ester on 26 Fe­bru­ary 1989.

Walk­ing around the Guild­hall, it struck me that I was sur­rounded by the kind of arte­facts usu­ally seen in mu­se­ums, but with the one dif­fer­ence that at­ten­dees could han­dle and buy most of the stock on dis­play. With my £100, I came away with a straight grip We­b­ley Mark I air pis­tol, an ob­long tin of pel­lets and two Tell 2 air pistols. I was bit­ten by the col­lect­ing bug af­ter this life-chang­ing event, and the dealer that sold me the We­b­ley items is still at­tend­ing fairs to­day. I didn’t buy any­thing from Con­nor Sand­voss at the re­cent Kemp­ton Park fair, but over the years, Con­nor has been the source of my cased We­b­ley Se­nior, a 1913 cased BSA Im­proved Model D, and a not in­con­sid­er­able num­ber of other air­guns and pel­let tins.

GAIN­ING KNOWL­EDGE

As well as buy­ing old air­guns, arms fairs are a per­fect way to ob­tain knowl­edge from spe­cial­ist col­lec­tors and deal­ers. This knowl­edge is in­vari­ably freely pro­vided and can save col­lec­tors from mak­ing ex­pen­sive mis­takes. Many es­tab­lished col­lec­tors tend to spe­cialise in a sin­gle area, such as vin­tage We­b­ley air pistols, whilst oth­ers will dab­ble across var­i­ous themes from Gat-style air pistols to post-war match air ri­fles. Chang­ing col­lect­ing di­rec­tion can be daunt­ing, but lots of ad­vice and new ad­di­tions can be ob­tained from the spe­cial­ist traders seen at arms fairs, par­tic­u­larly if they know your in­ter­ests and come across some­thing you are look­ing for on their travels.

Mike Sharp re­cently told me he has been tinker­ing with old air­guns for 61 years. Over the course of that time, Mike has learned an aw­ful lot about a wide range of air­guns, and his en­thu­si­asm re­mains in­fec­tious. Mike has a knack of find­ing the im­pos­si­ble, and sel­dom a fair goes by that he hasn’t got a new rar­ity to show off. He will freely share his knowl­edge and I have learned a great deal from lis­ten­ing to Mike when he holds court at any arms fair he at­tends. For in­stance, Mike had re­cently bought not one, but two Ex­hi­bi­tion Orig­i­nal 6 air pistols and was dis­play­ing them at Kemp­ton. Made for an ex­hi­bi­tion at Stuttgart, Mike showed me that both pistols had che­quered wal­nut stocks and one had been fit­ted with a dou­ble set trig­ger. This meant the pis­tol could be fired with a con­ven­tional trig­ger

“I came across an up­dated air­gun main­te­nance book by Quentin Cob­ham”

pull weight, or the sec­ond trig­ger set for a hair trig­ger re­lease of just a few grams. I had never even heard of such a fea­ture on an Orig­i­nal 6 and came away a lit­tle wiser.

A NEW AIR­GUN BOOK

Brows­ing with my eyes fo­cused at ta­ble level, I came across an up­dated air­gun main­te­nance book by Quentin Cob­ham. The au­thor has re­vised his 2006 edi­tion by 61% and was sell­ing copies at the re­duced price of £20 at Kemp­ton. The book is usu­ally priced at £24 and can be ob­tained through Water­stones or on line. The ISBN is 978-0-9553131-1-0 and hav­ing re­ferred to the orig­i­nal on many an oc­ca­sion, I have no hes­i­ta­tion in rec­om­mend­ing the re­vised edi­tion to both col­lec­tors and those who like to tinker, re­store old and not so old spring air­guns.

Lawrie Ar­ma­truda showed me a butt reser­voir air ri­fle of mu­seum qual­ity as a re­cent fair and gen­er­ously al­lowed me to han­dle and pho­to­graph his prized col­lec­tor’s item. The Vi­en­nese air­gun looked to have been fit­ted with

the Gi­rar­doni breech block and mag­a­zine, which turned this 200-year-old air­gun into a re­peater, way be­fore such fea­tures be­came stan­dard on firearms. I have seen sim­i­lar air ri­fles in mu­seum dis­plays and this brings me back to my ear­lier com­par­i­son of arms fairs with mu­se­ums.

PRICES

You can­not put a price on knowl­edge, but I have heard some col­lec­tors neg­a­tively com­ment on how prices at fairs are higher than those achieved in some auc­tions or pri­vate deals. This may be the case in some in­stances, but is it re­ally un­fair? When you con­sider the time, ef­fort, fuel, and other over­heads a dealer has to take into ac­count to track down and ob­tain stock to tempt us col­lec­tors, pay­ing a ‘finder’s fee’ might not be so un­rea­son­able. In fact, in terms of sav­ing the time and ef­fort in­volved in view­ing a num­ber of items to then find they are not quite what you ex­pected, many dealer prices are a bar­gain if they have some­thing you want for your col­lec­tion. Re­mem­ber that a dealer must make a profit to stay in busi­ness, so won’t be able to buy an item from you at the price it is sub­se­quently sold for, but of­ten a de­sir­able item can be traded for some­thing the dealer has in stock.

Fairs such as those held at Kemp­ton Park or Birm­ing­ham Mo­tor­cy­cle Mu­seum are in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar and if you haven’t yet, I would thor­oughly rec­om­mend a visit. Be warned, you will be tempted by an in­cred­i­ble ar­ray of air­guns and if you get talk­ing to the trade, I can guar­an­tee you will also add to your knowl­edge. I know I al­ways do. The next Kemp­ton Park fair is sched­uled for Sun­day 1st July. See you there!

The Ger­man ‘re­verse’ Gat-style pis­tol shown cocked and with the long pel­let probe re­moved for load­ing.

A very rare Orig­i­nal 6 with wal­nut stock and dou­ble-set trig­ger.

This 200-year-old air­gun was made by Heiberger of Vi­enna. There’s not a lot Mike Sharp does not know about old air­guns and his en­thu­si­asm has al­ways been in­fec­tious.

Vic Turner from Protek Sup­plies with a fine se­lec­tion of air­guns, show­ing off a We­b­ley Su­per­tar­get.

Just some of the air­guns Tim Dyson has for sale.

Quentin Cob­ham was sell­ing signed copies of his new book at Kemp­ton in March. He’ll be back at Kemp­ton on 1st July.

Would you buy a used gun from them? Kemp­ton al­lows pri­vate col­lec­tors like these Bis­ley shoot­ers to sell off sur­plus items at bar­gain prices.

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