From Acorns, do mighty oaks grow?

You may already be aware that the Gunsmith apprentice standard has been approved by the Government’s Institute for Apprenticeships. I view this as quite an achievement, as nothing like it has ever been attempted before and the interests of the future of British gun making, for which I care deeply, are at stake.

The Gunsmiths Academy will enable learning, skills and innovation which have always been at the core of British gun making in this country to remain.

The initial interest from within the industry has given way to torpor. This may in some part be due to Brexit insecurities and its impact on our home market, foreign sales and business confidence within the trade. But, I would observe that the problem of a domestic skills shortage will only be exacerbated by the lack of engagement now, regardless of the immediate concerns surrounding Brexit.

Our European competitors saw the writing on the wall and established trade apprenticeships long ago. Do you see even the slightest exodus of skill from the British trade flooding to Europe? No, we have resorted to branding foreign guns as British and abandoned making them in the most part. Only the Best guns are left to be made here for the tiniest proportion of the market and in ever diminishing numbers. Let us focus on the ability to serve the mid-range and above segments of the market and invest in the skills it takes to produce guns in volume here in the UK and offer true competition to Italian, Spanish and generally European guns.

The lack of commitment from the industry poses problems in regard to the way the Academy is structured. Without the employment of Apprentices, there is no funding from the Government to pay for trainers and equipment.

In the words of Winston Churchill;

Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.

The reason for the incarnation of the Gunsmith Apprenticeship was initially out of a requirement in our business (W Horton & Sons); and our desire to re-establish our own gun making ability back in Birmingham where we have traded since 1750. To do that, we needed the right people to create artisans for our future. In my opinion that skill set is not necessarily just a recreation of techniques utilised 100 years ago, but is inclusion of modern engineering methods to compliment the long-established techniques which make British guns unique and un-rivalled. To that end we have taken on three apprentices (Jake, Ewan and Conor) who have already begun a 13 month full-time engineering/machining course as part of the foundation of the Gunsmith Apprenticeship. Next October they will join us in Birmingham to apply those skills in the refurbishment and remanufacturing of old English guns whilst on day release to gain an advanced engineering qualification.

The Gunsmith Academy is already delivering on its promise to supply the trade with valuable skilled domestic labour. It just so happens that the only students currently in training are destined for W Horton & Sons.

As ever, any business wishing to take on an apprentice can contact me at any time and I will happily work with them in the most flexible way possible to suit their requirements. We must continue to make the finest guns in the World and to make them together, in the UK as together we are the British gun making trade and must feel the weight of history on our shoulders.

Apprenticeship standard approved

The Gunsmith apprenticeship standard is finally approved. Now while what you see in the link below is a couple of pages of text, the work behind getting to this point cannot be underestimated. It has taken weeks of hard work and meetings with the department of education to get this over the line. There has NEVER been a government funded Gunsmithing school in the UK, this is changing and will soon be realised. I’d like to personally thank Graham Greener, Gary Clarke (ex Boss), Tony White, Marc Newton (Rigby), Pete Boxall, James Edminston and the guys at Viking Arms for the support up to this point. BASC have also now pledged support.

The next step is to finalise the end point assessment, which in short allows apprentices to be graded against the standard.

To reiterate this means training costs to employed apprentices is at no cost to the employer. A meeting is also planned with GCCT (Gunmakers Company Charitable Trust) that will make it even more compelling for a business in the sector to take an apprentice. NO BUSINESS CAN GROW WITHOUT THE RIGHT PEOPLE.

The Gunsmith Academy is brand agnostic and being set-up for the benefit of the wider trade. It is my belief that this is the best opportunity presented to the UK Gun trade to revive itself for a very long time. It is gathering pace week on week and as such I (Steve Horton) have decided to scale back my own business (W Horton & Sons) to by appointment only from 1st June (for a period of time) to take up an unpaid position of Principal of the Gunsmith Academy to ensure it has the best start.

I’m interested in hearing from businesses within the sector who would like an apprentice (potentially at zero cost), people who would be interested in becoming a trainer (full or part time) and also young people who wish to become an apprentice.

You can reach me on email at . For those who have already made contact I will be coming back to you the first week in June. Start date for Apprentices will be September 2018.

You can read the published Gunsmith Apprenticeship Standard here

Apprenticeship standard receives support of IET

It is with great pleasure that I announce the IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) are supporting and assisting with development of the Gunsmith apprenticeship standard.

So who are IET? They are the worlds largest institution for professional engineers. Being a member of the IET allows a wide range of engineers to continue professional development throughout their career.

So what does this mean? The IET have looked at the draft apprenticeship standard and agreed that it meets level 3 competency which is the same level of competency for example as an aircraft engineering technician amongst others. It means that any apprentice completing the standard will be able to gain professional membership of IET and display the logo as officially accredited member. It also allows any apprentice to access a variety of further educational routes.

Now in isolation this means very little to most, however you must remember that ‘Gunsmiths’ in the UK have never been viewed as a professional outside of our rather insular sector. By aligning the apprenticeship standard in such a way it gives credibility outside of our sector and will only serve to strengthen our trade for years to come.

The standard is not being written to preclude those competent smiths in our trade already, it is our desire to include those in the sector already and assist them with professional development for the long term. Once the standard is published any competent smith can opt to go through the assessment route and top up training where they specifically lack experience. Yes there will be a cost although this will be the lowest it can be and also not time dependant.

If you question the logic behind promoting standardised training, cast your eye to the continent and the various gunsmithing schools. Whilst our trade has declined, the equivalent trades in Italy, Belgium, France and Austria have become real respective national assets. I read a report the other day, showing Italian export revenues for small arms exceed $750m every year, it is no wonder the trade in Italy receives so much assistance from its respective government. The UK trade were once a global player but a catalogue of events have pushed the UK gun trade into a corner. If something is not done now, we will lose what little we have.

It is my belief that with the right support and investment in young people, the UK gun trade can once again flourish and be at the forefront of a global trade. Maybe not in volume, but definitely in quality and innovation. The UK exports knowledge in various other sectors (Architecture, Education, Engineering et al) around the world, could the UK gun trade do the same?

Both Birmingham and London gun trades were the epicentre of all things firearm in the world for the best part of 100 years. You can see this in the number of patents created which number far more than I wish to count, this all but came to an end at the outbreak of the Great War of 1914 and it has never recovered.

The lack of support from banks, government and other facets of the UK have not helped, this for me can be put down to perception of the dreaded three letter word ‘gun’. Anyone who shoots or is in the trade will have experienced this first hand. When you tell someone what you do, it is often met with ‘that’s illegal, you’re cruel, what you sell sawn offs’ and all manner of ill educated responses. Whereas on the continent, it is widely viewed as a normal pastime and profession which is no more elaborate than golf etc.

If you are involved in the gun trade and wish to pledge support in anyway, please get in touch ( The Academy and the gunsmith apprenticeship standard is being set-up to benefit the trade and our sport shooting disciplines, it requires your help and support. Just sharing this post on social media will help promote it.

IET support

Latest News from the Quarter

The new website is coming along nicely. We’ll be adding a list and photos of all the residents (Gunmakers/smiths & the pubs of course). We’ll also include the Proof house etc.

The other items that are moving along;

Gunsmith Academy

In discussion with South Birmingham College to create a recognised Gunsmithing course. We know that the traditional manner of serving an apprentice has been the way for years, we don’t want to deviate too much from this. However a recognised qualification under written by an accredited body such as ‘City & Guilds’, ‘BTEC’ etc will allow an educational provider to obtain grants per student per academic year from the Government.

The grants can then be diverted to semi retiring gunsmiths to teach the next generation. The students get the best of both worlds and we can select the tutors who deliver the best training. The students will also spend time doing general ‘Engineering’ and learning CNC techniques from different industries, this will bring new ideas from outside of the trade.

Once we know more, we’ll be approaching various Gun related organisations for support – yes this means dipping into cash reserves and helping out the next generation!

Exciting stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Gun trade rental incentives

With a handful of units available in the Quarter, the focus is now on bringing gun trade businesses back into the area. With units from as little as £850 per year and 12 months free rent (available to gun trade only). The area and wider Birmingham is crying out for a good Air Gun retailer.

Well that’s it for now, if you have any questions please get in touch through the website, facebook or twitter.