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A guided tour of Kempton Classic Arms Fair with John Milewski

PUBLISHED: 16:34 20 August 2019

The fair inside was already begiining to get busy

The fair inside was already begiining to get busy

Archant

Dave Barham heads off to the Kempton Classic Arms Fair to relive days gone by, with a guided tour from a shooting legend!

Great to meet up

Way back in January of this year I began receiving emails from none other than John Milewski, asking if I'd like to attend one of the four Kempton Classic Arms Fairs held over the course of the year. Unfortunately, I couldn't make the first event in March, but I had the one at the end of June nailed well and truly into my diary.

For those who don't know him, John has been writing for our sister title, Airgun World, for a number of years and is an absolute legend in the field of antique airguns. What this man does not know about BSA, and Webley in particular, just isn't worth knowing, although he's far too modest to admit that.

Before I delve into my day out at the fair, I'd just like to take this opportunity to say a massive 'thank you' to John, who took me under his wing and gave me a guided tour of the fair for a good two hours, introducing me to all the main traders and characters. I found it absolutely fascinating, the man is like a walking encyclopedia of airguns!

Whilst I'm at it, I have to say another big 'thank you' to show organiser, Peter Binfield and his lovely wife, Liz, who both made me feel very welcome and kept me fed and watered throughout the day.

My first port of call was a bacon buttie and cup of tea with event organiser Peter Binfield (left) and the legend John Milewski (right)My first port of call was a bacon buttie and cup of tea with event organiser Peter Binfield (left) and the legend John Milewski (right)

Fully booked

I really didn't know what to expect from this arms fair, so I went along with an open mind. To be honest, I was expecting a small hall with a few dozen tables in it, but boy - was I in for a shock!

My first stop was to meet John and Peter just inside the entry gate for a bacon buttie and a cup of tea. Fully fuelled up, I was ready to walk around the show and as I stepped foot inside the hall my jaw dropped - it was absolutely rammed! Very impressive.

"We sold out all 200 tables, Dave," Peter informed me, "and we could have sold more, but we ran out of space."

Mike Sharp with one of his Galway Fieldmaster PCP riflesMike Sharp with one of his Galway Fieldmaster PCP rifles

There in front of me was an extremely packed-out arms fair, the likes of which I've never seen before. I was like a kid in a sweet shop, and everywhere I looked was a huge assortment of air rifles, pistols and pellets, as well as lots of war memorabilia, flintlocks, swords, bayonets and suchlike.

Memory lanes

As John guided me round the show, introducing me to the traders, he gave me a crash course history lesson with the more interesting rifles and pistols we came across. I really did find it interesting, and John's knowledge totally blew my mind.

What a find, and lesson learned - it's what most of us started off with, the GAT GunWhat a find, and lesson learned - it's what most of us started off with, the GAT Gun

Our first port of call was Mike Sharp, who has been collecting/trading airguns for 60 years. At 72 years young, he's still going strong and is one of the trade's real characters. He was keen to show me a Galway Fieldmaster, which was one of the first commercially produced PCP rifles, and what a little gem it is, too!

Next door to Mike was Vic Turner from Protek. He had a huge assortment of airguns and pellets on display, and whilst rummaging through the 'bargain bin', John managed to find a tin of Gamo .22 lead balls, which he quickly snapped up because he'd never seen them in .22 before, only .177.

We moved swiftly on to one of the biggest dealers in the country, Tim Dyson, whose stand was rather impressive. Such a huge array of pistols and rifles, I could have stayed there for hours chatting and looking, but the show was filling up fast and it was getting really, really busy.

There were plenty of pistols tooThere were plenty of pistols too

I did find it rather amusing that people kept stopping John and producing items from their bags to get some detailed info on them. It was like being on the Antiques Roadshow!

One of the last stops we made was to Barry Dearman's stall. He was keen to show John and I his latest purchase - a near mint Diana pistol circa 1935, complete with original box, paperwork and original box of pellets. Such a rare find, and in superb condition.

One thing I was really pleased to hear whilst walking round and talking to all the traders is just how good business had been recently. It seems the world of antique airguns is alive and well and growing all the time.

I was having such a blast that I didn't realise we'd been walking around for well over two hours. It was time for another tea break back at Peter's stand.

You've got to be quick!

I never knew there were so many variations of pistols from back in the dayI never knew there were so many variations of pistols from back in the day

While we were walking back round to see Peter I stumbled upon a near mint GAT gun, in its original box complete with ten darts, tub of pellets and corks. It was priced at £55 and I only had about £35 in my pocket. I kept thinking that it would look really nice on my shelf in the office, after all that was the first gun I ever owned, which for many of us was the start of a lifelong love affair with airguns.

Twenty minutes later, whilst having another chat and cuppa with organiser Peter, I happened to mention my find to him and he jumped out of his chair saying; "Come on Dave, we'll see if we can do a deal. If not, I'll shout you for the money."

I was overwhelmed, I'd only just met the man and there he was offering to lend me money so I could buy back some of my childhood memories!

Recognise any of these old pellets?Recognise any of these old pellets?

However, when we arrived at the stand the GAT had already been sold - lesson learned! Hesitate in this game and you'll lose out.

Make a date

Trust me, if you're interested in airguns you'll be interested in these arms fairs. Everyone is so friendly and not only is it a great day out, you can learn a lot from chatting to the traders too. I was lucky to have a personal tour guide to tell me about the various pistols and rifles on sale, but all the traders know exactly what they're talking about and are more than happy to chat about anything airgun related.

An original BSA Meteor spares kit - what a treatAn original BSA Meteor spares kit - what a treat

There are two more fairs this year on September 29 and December 8. I'm definitely going to try and make it to one of these dates, but this time I'm taking my wallet with me! Maybe I'll see you there?

To find out more visit kemptonclassicarmsfair.co.uk.

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John Milewski takes us through a number of target techniques…

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