Gunsmith targets traditional skills

Launching your own business at the age of twenty four is not for the faint hearted. But Philip Webster is unlikely to run short of customers for he has chosen to become a gunsmith - which he describes as a “dying breed” - joining an elite group of craftsmen across the UK whose traditional skills are increasingly sought after.

Launching your own business at the age of twenty four is not for the faint hearted.

But Philip Webster is unlikely to run short of customers for he has chosen to become a gunsmith - which he describes as a “dying breed” - joining an elite group of craftsmen across the UK whose traditional skills are increasingly sought after.

“There is a massive demand. More and more people tend to be getting into clay pigeon shooting today, and a lot of gunsmiths are now in their late 50s and mid-60s and are retiring, and that puts more work on the few remaining,” he explained.

“I was lucky enough to get an apprenticeship with a gunsmith at Wymondham, and for almost the whole of the first year I was just making tools because they are so hard to come by. It's all good practice in filing, polishing and cutting for when you start work on the guns and in terms of building up my skill, and I am still doing that now.”


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A talented marksman, who has represented Norfolk and the region, his interest in shooting started as a boy when his father encouraged him to take up the sport. His house and business at Great Ellingham adjoin the family home where he grew up and honed his expertise.

“I got my shotgun certificate when I was 11 and I used to do a lot of clay pigeon shooting and compete. I was 14 when I started shooting for Norfolk, which I did for four years, and I won the Eastern Counties Championships, and everything progressed from there. I am very interested in county pursuits and it all slotted together,” he said.

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“Gunsmiths are a dying breed and, aged 24, I believe I am the only young gunsmith in the area and one of a small handful throughout the UK.”

His training included studying mechanical engineering, although the job mainly involves specialised and intricate handwork repairing and renovating shotguns, rifles and air rifles - some dating back to the 1880s - as well as customising modern weapons whose owners need various alterations such as the stock shortened and telescopic sights fitted.

“Basically my job entails buying and selling of guns, and about 90 per cent of my work is serving and overhaul, and that sort of thing. I have quite a range of tools in the workshop, but there's always something that I haven't seen before and no tool to undo a certain part of the gun so I have to make one. It's almost never ending on a weekly basis,” Mr Webster said.

Valuing client's guns for insurance purposes is another string to the bow of the young entrepreneur who branched out on his own about three months ago, and is already looking forward to expanding.

“I really enjoy what I do because of the interest when I was younger, and as the business grows I hope to take a business unit,” he added.

For more information, call Mr Webster on 01953 455687, mob; 07828 170271, email: info@philipwebstergunsmith.co.uk, or visit the website www.philipwebstergunsmith.co.uk

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