It seems it will be a long while until we are allowed to travel again to certain parts of the world, with the US banning all flights from Europe; Italy and Spain in complete chaos and Governments implementing new measures to fight the spread of COVID- 19. Here I am, in the middle of this crazy almost-worldwide lockdown remembering one of the most interesting trips of my life, where I had the chance to test some of the finest guns in the world, and drive luxury cars with my family and friends from SPORTARM and HR OWEN Bentley.
If you feel like reading something different today, I promise you'll disconnect from COVID-19:
On Tuesday 25th February, we arrived at one of Sportarm's award-winning gun shops, located in West London Shooting Grounds, it makes this gunroom, country clothing shop and shooting ground very convenient for the majority of its clients: you can shoot clays before going to the office and vice versa. Sportarm’s gun room here offers an amazing range of shotguns (many say it is the best in the UK), gun storage, all gun services plus some of the world’s favourite countryside clothing brands. If you’re in England but not based near London, don’t be disappointed. Sportarm also have amazing gun shops in Dorset (close to the stunning Jurassic Coast) and in the famous Cotswolds. I hope to visit them one day. It is 08:00 and I am finally meeting Annabel Coaker from Sportarm and Andrew from HR OWEN Bentley. Both have been key for this collaboration, and even though you didn't notice it in my stories, there is a lot that went behind the scenes in order to make this happen: dozens of calls since November, endless emails coordinating with other people within their organisations and in the end, everything went just as planned!
As a good Spaniard, when I met them at Sportarm, I hugged all of them, which now would have been something impossible to do, as authorities advise against handshaking and hugging, so I am glad I was able to film one of those habits we have had to get rid of during the COVID-19 crisis– Don't worry I travelled to The UK from Sweden when all this madness hadn't even started, so none of us had COVID-19.
First things first: Annabel introduced me to Kevin Phillips, Founder and Director at Sportarm, who was super friendly, polite and considered a luxury gun guru in the UK: he founded Sportarm in 1988 and he has experienced many trasformations in the clay and game shooting industry – such as times when side by side guns were preferred, to the growing popularity of over and unders.
But I think the most impressive thing about Kevin is the fact that he designed and built a new gun together with my dear friend Mauro Perazzi: The Perazzi Ribless Game. Yes, it's ribless. And yes, it is much lighter, it is specifically designed for Game shooters, and I had the pleasure of trying it at West London, so keep reading to find my opinion!
It was great to spend time with Annabel and Kevin, talking about British traditions, hunting, fishing and guns. While we were there, clients came in and out the shop and I could really sense how Sportarm had their clients at the core of the company's values. Archie and Andy, members of their staff were giving excellent advice to people who entered the gun room asking for advice, so I strongly recommend you to visit them once this COVID-19 situation is over.
Kevin and Annabel introduced me to the rest of the team and took me to a beautiful part of the main gunroom, showing some of Sportarm’s finest shotguns, the best part was I would be able to test them later on.
The Guns I was introduced to were:
…and of course 4. THE PERAZZI RIBLESS GAME - 20 G
And I would be testing number 2,3, and 4.
After taking some pictures in the shop and making some Insta stories which I am sure you might have seen in my Instagram, we are taken to the club house at West London Shooting School and we get ready to test the guns.
Henry and I are so excited to do this together!
We meet with Henry's father and uncle at the Club House, which by the way is super cosy, big windows and lots of natural light and has a traditional English style decoration. The staff are super friendly and it is a great place to take your family with you. Those who want to shoot can go out to the stands, while the rest can stay in the club house –
I am used to the shooting club houses in Sweden and Spain, and I feel West London is a mixture between the both. It is not as huge as Spanish Royal Shooting Club Somontes, and it is almost as cosy as Skokloster's club house –just slightly bigger. Huge windows, lots of light, it has a restaurant upstairs and I love the fact that the terrace was full of flowers even in February.
Now that I am describing the club, I become a bit nostalgic since I know the club is not open anymore and I feel very lucky to have been able to visit just before they had to close due to UK's new COVID 19 restrictions.
You can see a picture below where you can appreciate the club house from one of the stands in the actual shooting ground:
STAND 1: JAMES PURDEY AND SONS
I had 7 people watching while I got ready to shoot in Stand #1. No pressure at all... right? especially considering I had Henry's uncle (considered the best shot in his whole family 50+ shooting years of experience) watching from behind. And to put the icing on the cake, Henry's father was beside him. They had both heard stories of how I had won the lady's category in 2 competitions in Stockholm last year but had never seen me shoot. So, apart from testing the guns, I had to impress them, or then they would never believe Henry again next time he tells stories about me:
I put my safety glasses on, and one of the Sportarm team hands me over the Purdey Over and Under. I would lie if I told you I was not shaking a bit. I have always wanted to shoot with this gun and it was about to happen.
In these situations I normally get nervous not because I am afraid of my performance, I believe in myself and have lots of self confidence, but because I value things and have a very humble approach towards the experience and the people I am surrounded by. So instead of getting mentally ready, I start thinking of some of my friends and followers who would love to do what I am about to do. This makes me be more grateful for the experience and appreciate the gun even more. I know not everybody has the chance to test this kind of gun, and I really want to make the most out of this, not for me, but for the people who have dreamt of shooting with this gun at least once in their life!
The gun is heavy, but it doesn't feel as heavy as my Perazzi, but don't get me wrong, it is not light either. We are talking about a 12 gauge over and under Purdey sidelock with an extra finish deluxe which has a beautiful yet delicate acanthus scroll engraving throughout. Full pistol cap, and fences adorned with oak leaves and acorns.
The stock and forend are beautifully figured, with a perfect English hand oil finish. 28” barrels choked 1/4 & 3/8 balance perfectly with the 15 1/8” stock length, and at 7lbs 1oz it provides a lively, pointable feel.
One of the Sportarm shooting specialists explains I am about to shoot an incoming target and a crosser. My mindset completely shifts and I hear nothing in the background even though I know some people are talking behind me. I ask the instructor if I can first see the clays and he allows for it. I breathe in, and exhale, the instructor puts the cartridges in and I get ready visualising the targets again in my mind. I close the gun. Breathe in, hold the breath, call for the clays and here they are, BANG. I kill the first. BANG, I kill the second. Everybody gives me a mini applause, including Henry's dad and uncle who seemed very proud of me and I suddenly feel there is a noise building up in my ears...
Yes. I was so focused and wanted to do well so badly, I HAD FORGOTTEN TO PUT ON MY LEPs!!
So I leave the gun in the stand, I slowly turn around with a very serious face, and everybody goes mad thinking I am quitting the test just after 2 shots, they think I am about to leave... I look at the instructor, and I tell him I forgot to put on my hearing protection. Yes, I am one of those people. I am human, end even though this might have only happened to me twice in my life, It had to happen here. It happens to everyone, and of course, it would happen to me considering how nervous I was. So I put my LEPs on, and now I can fully focus on shooting.
Next 2 targets and again I kill both. I have the same feeling in the finger when I shoot with my Perazzi: The trigger is as sensitive as my HT2020 and the slightest touch shoots the second cartridge. I mention this because this beautiful Purdey works great for clay shooting too, despite its game shooting looks.
If someone asked to highlight just one thing about this gun, it would be its balance. I seriously can't understand how they do it. Its the Purdey magic! No matter who holds the gun, an experience shot or a novice, we all notice it!
When it comes to fine guns and luxury, some people have asked me what is the point (even if you had all the money in the world) of owning one. Personally speaking, I now understand why people, who do have the budget, choose to invest in such a gun. It is like drinking gin & tonic or smoking cigars. You can choose the basic, cheaper options – but you will get so much more enjoyment, quality and memories if you go for a superior option... Let me explain... We all like to drink a Beefeater G&T from time to time, but if you’re celebrating that you’ve just won the lottery, you’d probably prefer a Le Tribute or Hernö G&T instead, because you’ve had so many Beefeater G&Ts in your life, now is the time for a moment of luxury to savour. Why not do it if you can afford it? Plus, a gun can be sold later on, so you can also view it as a long term investment. On the other hand, you can't sell that G&T you just drank...
With guns it is the same thing. You can have your beloved gun, but for special game shoots, if you have the budget, why not giving yourself that little extra pleasure of shooting with the gun of your dreams? If I had the money I wouldn't mind owning my second favourite gun (my first choice is always my HT 2020, in case you wondered).
My Score: 8/10
The Gun: 9,7/10
Available from Sportarm here
Price:Contact Sportarm here
SECOND STAND: 12 GAUGE HOLLAND & HOLLAND ROYAL
The first time I held a Holland and Holland in my hands was in famous Mauritz Widforss (a luxury gun room and clothing shop in Stockholm), it was 100 years old and in perfect condition. At that time I knew little about Holland and Holland guns, they are rare to find these days as the majority of people I know barely use them and instead keep them as pieces of art, somewhere at home, where nobody is allowed to touch them
Lucky me, destiny took me to London this day and wanted me to shoot with a Royal. What an honour! So we go to the second stand and after admiring its engraving, again, I start to mentally prepare for the fact that it is a side by side and I have to perform again in front of my husband and his family, as well as the Sportarm team and West London Shooting school. This time, I don't forget my LEPs.
First target comes fast and I kill it, second target comes faster and just when I slightly put pressure on the trigger as I would with my Perazzi, nothing happens!! so I am there, feeling like a complete novice shooter that just held a gun for the first time and doesn't know how to pull the trigger. My face was dramatic! I couldn't understand why the second cartridge didn't fire!! So thank god the Sportarm team were there to help me understand what just happened: If you don't fully release the pressure on the trigger, it won't roll over to fire the second barrel.