I had just returned to the station having been treating a farmer who had kindly allowed me to come shooting on his farm. Adding another 400 acres to my growing shooting “estate”. My colleague on the other vehicle asked a question that started off a whole new episode in my shooing life. “Does this mean you will be applying for a fire arm certificate” the seed was sown.
I had thought about it previously and always thought it was too difficult and a lot of trouble. Now I thought of the precision of rifle shooting rabbits and the possibility of taking up stalking, why not have a go? The final straw in the decision making process was a trip to Lincolnshire to a meeting of the wildfowling club where I mentioned to a fellow member my thoughts. He was massively helpful and once I had seen his rifles, they were much smaller and neater than I expected and much lighter, they were a joy to hold, I was hooked.
I did some research on the internet and printed off the forms, gradually I started to fill in the simple bits. It’s a good idea to call your local fire Arms Dept and get an application pack, this I found out much later.
The next big step came at another wildfowling meeting which was hijacked to discuss my application and rifle shooting requirements. It was decided a .22rf for rabbiting and other vermin control, a .270 for deer and fox control, as with this I could shoot any species of deer anywhere in the UK, ammunition is plentiful and as .270 are not really fashionable there are some good bargains to be had and there would be a budget to consider. I also needed to apply for moderator for each weapon at the same time, and for a suitable quantity of expanding ammunition. He also offered some advice on the wording of the responses to the more difficult questions on the form. I continued to fill in the form and had my pictures taken.
I was reading magazines and looking at reviews on the internet and used Gun Trader extensively to see what was available at what sort of prices. This was quite enjoyable.
I visited my three largest landowners about 400 acres each. Catching them in was not easy and took quite some time but they all agreed. I rang the Fire Arms Dept for advice and they said, have you got your permission forms signed by the landowners. This is why an application pack is a good idea, I didn’t have these forms, they sent me a pack and off round the farms I went again, verbal agreement and signing forms are not always the same thing but fortunately everyone agreed even the fine chap who was in bed with pneumonia.
I called my referees and checked they would be happy to vouch for me and complete the documentation and post it back for me. On leaving one particularly rural address I met twenty walkers in the lane who broke left and right making passage slow and difficult, about half a mile further on I realised I had to sign too and hadn’t, so back I went with the same result but this time their Border Collie was a little unruly and caused them some grief, I think they thought this was some sort of local yokel game with the visiting townsfolk and did they not look like rabbits with positive euphoria. As I left with the forms completed, you guessed it, I met them again but this time they were in their mini bus and I finished up on the grass verge.
I rang the Fire Arms Enquiry Officer in response to a missed phone call from him and we had a chat we had met before on visits after moving house and shotgun certificate renewal. He recommended getting the cheapest combination safe that was big enough from Argos to keep ammunition etc in, rather than spend lots of money on a purpose built item. A combination safe so that the cabinet keys could be stored in it, rather than “on my person”. Nipped down to Argos in the sale at £19 bargain.
I knew I would need a new cabinet as my current one was pretty full. In my local gun shop I noticed a 3 gun cabinet, nice shot gun model just the job and second hand. Price was ok for the small shop and I bought it. Should know better, I really should, shopping here is often an adventure. There was only one set of keys with it. The dealer said he would get hold of the other set from it’s original owner. Once home I marked up the holes and fitted the safe, that’s when I found out I only had keys for one lock. Phoned shop, he said he’d get me a new lock. My original cabinet is a rifle cabinet so with the new one I have enough capacity for easy storage. After several weeks of phone calls and being told it should be here next week I phoned again for what was to be the final time before calling Bratton Sound myself, but surprise surprise it had arrived. With the safe bolted on top of the two cabinets I was ready for inspection.
I got a letter asking me to call the FEO and make an appointment for a visit. This was arranged for the Friday coming just a few days away, not that I am in a rush.
From my research I had decided I would like a bolt action CZ .22.
On the Thursday my daughter needed to go to Derby and once I had dropped her off it seemed a shame not to do the few extra miles to Melbourne and Melbourne Tackle and Gun. I had only visited them once before and bought a hat but they were very knowledgeable, I use The Cheshire Gun Room in Stockport usually, (this is not the local dealer I mentioned earlier). I explained my position with the FAC, that I wanted a .22 had a preference for a CZ wanted a scope and moderator and no prejudices about second hand.
Some locks were undone and I was handed a lovely rifle, it felt nice straight away, it came up nicely. It was a CZ Silhouette with stainless barrel and synthetic stock, with a SAC moderator and Nikko 4 x 40 sight. It looked brand new. The price tag was reasonable and I was thinking if I had my certificate I would buy this.
We went on to talk about ammunition sub sonic’s and high velocities, and I gave him back the CZ to go back on the rack. Chat moved on to .270’s Tikka, CZ and Howa 1500 I had seen the Howa at Cheshire Gun and really liked it. We talked about rifle cabinets which they will part exchange. I was sad to leave the CZ but better informed.
The next day the FEO came to see me. He asked a lot of questions particularly about the .270 and inspected my safe and cabinets. He collected my photographs and a cheque to extend my SGC to be contemporaneous with the FAC, which I took as a good sign.
I talked over the situation with the CZ at home and then called the shop. They were most helpful and I was delighted to hear it was still there, I paid a deposit over the phone and they put it aside for me. So many times I have missed a bargain but not this time.
The next day a referee phoned to say he had been called by the FEO to check details so things were progressing. I am making do with magazines looking at slings, rifle bags and cleaning kit etc. I bought my first copy of Rifle Shooter and read it cover to cover.
The waiting game was back on again, so back to magazines, web sites and occasional gun shop visits, looking at CZ’s scopes and bullets, I was also thinking about the type of .270.
I was coming round to wanting the Howa but the budget suggested Parker Hale, which are accurate and do the job if not being the most modern sleek weapon available.
Time passed and just as I was beginning to wait for the post person, I got a call from Humberside police asking for the postcodes for the farms I would be mentored on in Lincolnshire. They had contacted my mentor, but as I had never visited the ground I had no idea where it was or the post code. I emailed my mentor and he came up trumps emailing both forces direct and within a few days Humberside had visited my mentor and the ground and were happy.
There was a delay here while the two forces contacted each other and I called Derbyshire a couple of times, I knew Humberside were happy, but my application of course is one of many and we were still under the three months I expected the project to take.
Now the postie must have been getting suspicious he found me gardening waiting for his arrival, of course when it did come I was at work.
Saturday saw me at Melbourne to collect the .22, bullets, spare magazine, rifle bag and sling. So my first rifle was purchased.
I saw a .270 for sale on Gun Trader complete with scope and sling for a reasonable price and called the shop in Cheltenham they said it was in very good condition. I went to my local dealer and he said he was happy for it to be delivered to him. I took his details and asked what was the position regarding a handling fee, he replied the sending dealer usually sent him something for his trouble.
I bought the gun over the phone and a few days later it arrived, I went down to collect it, It was fine clean and tidy and I was very pleased with it. There had been no handling fee sent so it cost me £20. As I said it’s always an adventure. I thought I had better have some ammunition and bought 20 Remington 130gr. When I got home and opened the packet there were only 17 in it. Revisited shop and collected the missing rounds. Wonder where the other three went. A visit to Henry Kranks saw me well stocked with ammunition, reloading and cleaning equipment. So principally the project had come to an end, or rather the beginning of a new era in my shooting had commenced.