William Powell GunsmithsWords bySchoffel Country
October 27, 2020
Partnered with Batista Rizzini Gunmakers in Gardone, Italy, the William Powell Gunroom produces a fantastic range of bespoke guns at superb prices. Read on for an insight into the world of their prestigious gunroom.
Tell us a little about the William Powell Gunroom?
The rich heritage of William Powell Gunmakers dates back to 1802, when the original workshops were established in the Birmingham Gunmaking Quarter. The business grew rapidly over the next 30 years, producing over 1000 guns, and became a family venture in 1848 when William Powell Junior took over the business.
By 1860 it was time for the business to expand, and land was bought in order to build a five-story building (13 Carrs Lane), creating a destination for sporting enthusiasts for the next 148 years. William Powell was actively involved in establishing a Birmingham Proof House, that is still an important part of the UK Gun Trade today. William Powell Gunmakers continued to develop and build exceptional quality guns, adapting to the ever-changing industry and thriving as a progressive, versatile business.
Today, the William Powell Gunroom is located in Banbury, established in 2009 when the current owners, Mark and Christine Osborne of J.M. Osborne & Co., moved the business from Carrs Lane, Birmingham, to our purpose-built facility, Carrs House. We are now partnered with Batista Rizzini Gunmakers in Gardone, Italy. Together, we are able to produce a fantastic range of bespoke guns at great prices. In 2014 we were awarded Best UK Gunshop by the Shooting Industry Awards, due to our broad range of Over & Unders and Side By Sides.
How many guns do you make a year? Where are the guns made?
We make approximately 120 guns a year, all produced in Italy by Rizzini. Designed by us specifically to suit the English shooting market, these guns combine traditional, classic beauty with modern production technology. They are all checked once they arrive in the UK and tested to ensure the highest standard of quality before selling. We have recently launched our Side By Side models, the Viscount and the Sovereign, which will increase the number of guns made.
What is the most common thing to go wrong with guns?
I am pleased to say we have very few problems, especially consistent problems. The most likely piece to wear and potentially break is a firing pin, after many thousands of shots.
How often should you service your shotgun?
This would very much depend on how much shooting is done each year or season. Many shooters may be in a local syndicate of eight/ten days, firing 30/40 cartridges a day. Others may shoot 20-40 days on high birds where the shot count could be into the thousands per day, and maybe a slab per gun.
I generally advise to get the gun serviced every 2,500 – 3,000 or so shots. If your gun has been exposed to very heavy rain or a particularly wet season, it is also recommended to take it to your gunsmith to be stripped down, dried off and checked for any wear or rust. Clays can be different due to the frequent amount and smaller loads used, so this could be every 5,000 shots.
Do your guns come with a warranty, and are they built to last for generations?
Our guns do come with a standard warranty of three years. If serviced within the three years by us, we extend the warranty for a further two years, giving a total of five years. This gives clients peace of mind.
We can organise collections from their local RFD so they do not need to drop the gun off with us if they live far away, and we get it sorted as quickly as possible, but without cutting corners. I can truly say yes, these guns are built to last a lifetime. Our guns, now made by precision CNC machines and using the best components around, are incredibly impressive to see. If looked after correctly, our guns will continue to outlive us!
Do you find there is any trend or pattern with an over/under or a side by side? Or is it just personal preference?
The easier option to shoot with is arguably the Over & Under model. All shooting schools and grounds will now have Over & Unders as the starter or beginner gun. Once people start using these, it is unlikely they would then change to a Side By Side, which is generally considered harder to shoot with due to the different sight plain.
The Side By Side market has steadily fallen over the years due to Over & Unders becoming more popular. They can usually take bigger loads for the high bird enthusiasts too. Even most Side By Side shooters will now probably have an Over & Under for the higher or bigger days.
However, with our new Side By Side models, we are hoping to keep this market going or even to grow it. Our new Side By Side guns are designed to take heavier loaded cartridges and are high performance steel shot proofed; fit for the future of game shooting. Many people much prefer to shoot a Side By Side for game, and there is a good argument that, because they are usually lighter and quicker moving, they are ideal for grouse and partridge shooting.
Tell us about the procedure of making a gun for a client, what is the lead time?
Once a client has made an initial enquiry, the first step is to have a gunfit. This is where a fully adjustable try gun is used, which we can alter all the key measurements on, to fit the client perfectly. We have our demo guns in the Gunroom, depending on which model the client is interested in. This way they can see and feel how the gun shoots, before committing to the purchase.
Once the measurements are taken from the try gun, we are then able to discuss the specification of the new gun. When going down the bespoke route, we have huge flexibility in terms of stock choice, grips, barrel lengths, chokes etc. You really do get to build your own gun, which is a great selling point, alongside the custom stock which is key.
There is no magic wand to better shooting but having a gun which really does fit is a great start. Once the gun arrives, after the current lead time of nine - ten months, the client should practise during the off season, to become fully comfortable with their new gun.
Do you make equal number of 20 and 12 bores? Is one more popular than the other nowadays?
In the past few years, we have been selling around 66% 12 bores and 33% 20 bores or smaller. 12 Bores have always been the more dominant gauge, but 20 bores have been on the up. With ballistics and cartridges improving in recent years, 20 bores can cleanly kill. With the lightness of a 20 bore, some people much prefer to carry these around on game and walked up days.
I am a big fan of 20 bores and shoot one myself for everything. Personally, I do not think sales of 20 bores will be increasing in the next four - five years, if it becomes mandatory to shoot steel. I think a lot of people may consider going back to 12 bores to get the best performance from these cartridges. At the moment there are very few good 20 bore steel cartridges, which may change, but it will take time as manufacturers will deliver the 12 bores first.
How do you become a gunsmith?
It is not easy! Some current Gunmakers will take on apprentices. The apprenticeships normally last for four - five years on a specific part of the gun build, for example finishing or actioning. Some can be apprentices for 15-20 years to learn all aspects of Gunmaking. From here you can work your way up within the company, gaining skills and experiences as you go. Some may go out on their own if they have the workshop space or can find a workshop to rent, but building a loyal customer base is hard work when starting up a new business from scratch.