Crimes of fashion
While some trends are best consigned to history, there are some that Robin Scott feels are due a comeback
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…
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-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.