This weekend, as part of my ongoing quest to acquire all the most expensive 7mm-08 factory ammunition in London, I trekked all the way across this great city through a blizzard to visit a small gunshop that I’d never been to before. I’d called the owner beforehand to ask whether he had any, which he did, and to ask for prices. He’d indicated on the phone that although they were expensive, he was open to doing a deal if I bought all his small stock. So just before lunch I walked into the gunshop covered in snow. “Hello”, I said, “I called earlier on about some 7mm-08 ammunition”. “Do you like being cold?” asked the chap who looked like Father Christmas, but lacked his friendly demeanour. “Oh yes”, I joked, thinking he was referring to my snowman-like appearance, “I love it”. “Well I don’t, so close the door”. Ah, he’s that sort of independent retailer. Admittedly, I hadn’t quite closed the door properly. Anyway, I reiterated my purpose, and he proceeded to just go off and do something else, leaving me to pace around the shop on my own for ten minutes. It was a proper old-school gunshop, with piles of notebooks, miscellaneous odds and ends and books with faded covers haphazardly stacked on mismatched shelves. After a time, the proper old-school shopkeeper returned and went to his ammunition cabinet to see what he had.
_ How many do you need?
_ Well at least one of each, as I’m testing different loads in my new rifle. Depending on the price, I might buy more.
So he looked up the prices on his computer, and lo and behold, they were higher than he’d said on the phone. In fact, they were pretty much the same as the outrageous prices in the Beretta Gallery. The difference being that in St James’, the shop assistant had been embarrassed to charge that much and had given me a goodwill discount. Not here though.
_ Who fobbed you off with a 7mm-08 anyway?
_ No-one. I did my research and chose it myself.
_ You should have chosen a .308.
_ Well I intend to shoot boar with my brother-in-law in France, and you can’t use .308 there. Besides, it’s short rifle, and I wanted a round that performs efficiently with a short barrel.
_ .270 then.
_ No point, it would just create a load of useless muzzle-blast and waste energy.
_ If you don’t mind me asking, where did you buy your rifle?
_ The Sportsman’s Gun Centre.
_ Because they’re the importers of Steyr rifles.
_ You actually bought a Steyr?!
_ Yes, I like them.
_ I saw some 15 years ago and the stocks were crap.
_ Look, I’ve paid the deposit, I’m committed now, that’s what I’m buying. Now you mentioned that we could make a deal if I bought more ammunition.
_ Nah, you only get a deal if you buy the whole lot. Besides, you’ve offended me by choosing that stupid 7mm-08, so you pay the full price.
Now by this stage, I was determined to not spend a single penny more than I had to in this shop. So I just bought one of each of the two different loads that he had. I would have spent twice as much if the man hadn’t been so unpleasant.
While we were sorting out payment and paperwork, a couple entered the shop, the lady wearing purple Hunter wellies. “There’s something about snow that brings out all the interesting boots” said the friendly shopkeeper by way of a greeting. “Well I want to buy some new ones” answered the lady. “You know that those aren’t proper working boots, right? What do you use them for?”. “Just walking the dog”. “You want a pair of these” said the man, offering a pair of half-calf length Muckboot-type wellies. No, she doesn’t, she’s obviously not a dairy farmer or a slurry-pit cleaner, she’s a lady who walks her Labrador on the common, you idiot! And you’ve just told he that her boots are crap, and that her taste in wellies is wrong!
Anyway, I left him to alienate some more customers and went home. The final twist in the tale though is that when I arrived home, I happened to look at the date stamps on the boxes, and it turned out that the ammunition made in 1998. Now it’s not as if this stuff wears out, but the point is that it’s been sitting in his dismal little gunshop for fifteen years, and given a chance to finally sell it all, he turned it down in favour of slagging off a new customer!
It’s generally a shame when independent specialist shops close, especially gunshops, but really, it’s not that surprising when they’re run by people like that.