The next firearms enthusiast to feature in “Who am I?” is Stephen, a collector who has shared some great photos of his collection with us. Stephen also runs his own blog at www.hoplophile.co.uk. We would like to thank Stephen for taking the time to participate in our Who Am I? initiative. If you would like to feature in this series please send an e-mail.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Stephen. I am 53 and have been interested in the history and development of firearms ever since I can remember. When I was 8, I was given a book about pistols (in the Bancroft Tiddlers series of children’s books) and that got me started. It is difficult to imagine now a child’s book about guns but that was back in the 1960s when no one cared about such things. I have worked in education, university and school, and have been an IT consultant for the past 25 years. I live in the South East of England.
How did you get into shooting?
I had no family background in shooting. I started when I joined the Oxford University Pistol Club in 1980, cycling every Wednesday afternoon up the Cowley Road to a draughty indoor range to shoot Webley single shot target pistols. I think we also had a Browning semi-auto. Then followed years of inactivity, partly because I was moving around building my career until I started working in California and started visiting the local range. I started collecting in 1999 on an impulse buy of a cased percussion revolver from an antique shop. Since then the collection has grown rapidly. I got my certificate in 2004 so that I could collect vintage certificated arms and also do some gallery rifle target shooting.
What type of shooting do you currently participate in?
I am a collector turned shooter. I like gallery shooting with level action rifle and my Ruger 10/22 and I also shoot air pistol and muzzle loading revolver. But my biggest interest is in collecting, studying and preserving vintage arms. It is my passion. There is so much history bound up in these arms and I think it is vitally important that they are preserved for future generations. I am a member of the HBSA (Historical Breechloading Smallarms Association) and we meet every month for a lecture and to discuss some aspect of arms. I have myself have given a number of lectures on Colt, Smith & Wesson and English revolvers. Part of the study of vintage pistols involves shooting them. Therefore part of my collection is kept at a Home Office designated site where it can be shot. I keep a vintage Luger, a 1911A1, a Walther PPK, Walther P38 and a Colt Single Action Army for preservation and research. This is all permissible under Section 7 of the 1997 Firearms Act.
Do you see yourselves taking up any other form of shooting in the future?
Possibly long range rifle shooting but do not have the time to do any more shooting at the moment. What I am keen to do is spread the word about collecting of vintage arms and to get more people involved in collecting them and shooting them.
Recently I have founded a blog; http://hoplophile.co.uk which discusses antique and vintage arms collecting, the law governing the hobby and how to get into it. I am always happy to give advice to new collectors.
How important is shooting to you?
Collecting vintage arms, shooting them, writing and lecturing about them, is more a way of life than a hobby. I cannot imagine life now without doing it.
What has been the best shooting experience for you so far?
Getting an old rook and rabbit rifle onto my certificate and making it shoot accurately. Acquiring my first Colt Single Action Army revolver and first Colt 1911 automatic, two vintage pistols I have wanted to own since I was a child.
What other hobbies/interests do you have?
I am a natural born collector. When I was a child I compiled a near complete collection of TV21 comics only to see them stolen from our house when I was a teenager. I also collect mathematical and drawing instruments and I love antiquarian books. I am very interested in the politics of the English Civil War and one of the best items in my book collection is a 1643 polemical pamphlet from the King’s printing press attacking the religious ideology of the Parliamentarians. I am also a keen hill walker and am starting to take up cycling again.
What changes to firearms law would you like to see in the future?
Although I have access to pistols and may shoot them legally, I would like to see target pistol shooting come back and see centre fire pistols return to section 1. I fully support Firearm UK’s campaign to restore 22 target pistols. I have signed the petition and I think that every shooter – yes, all 800,000 of you – should sign as well. The post-Dunblane ban was a disgraceful attack on people who had done no wrong to appease an ugly public mood over a terrible crime. I wasn’t personally affected by it but I was appalled at the climate of spite and rage against a community of wholly innocent people. I would also like to see parts of the 1988 act repealed, so that self loading rifles can again be possessed on a firearms certificate. I am not opposed to gun control. I think it is entirely proper that modern weapons be subject to regulation so that unsuitable people can be denied access to them, as far as possible. Unfortunately, in the minds of so many of its advocates, gun control has become a synonym for “gun prohibition” and that I completely oppose. As far as regulation is concerned, I would involve shooters in the vetting process. Every shooter who came across Thomas Hamilton thought he was a weirdo who wasn’t fitted to have guns. It was the police who made the mistakes and kept on renewing his licence, even when he failed the “good reason” test for having pistols. But the authorities do not trust us with this administration, whereas I believe that we would be far tougher on unsuitable people than the police have sometimes been. Ultimately, a pistol is no more dangerous than a single-barreled shotgun if used by a competent and trustworthy person. If you control the person, you do not need to control the gun to the same degree. That, in my opinion, should be the guiding principle of firearms licensing, not fretting about whether a 22 pistol is more “dangerous” than a bolt action 50 calibre rifle.