In the first of our series of interviews from the world of shooting sports we are pleased to welcome David Bonwick, Owner of The Shooting Shed.
I first met David a couple of years ago by chance. I had responded to a for sale advert and travelled to purchase the item. I ended up spending a couple of hours (and coffees) talking to David and his lovely wife Christel. David showed me a few of the items he had made (including an entire rifle!) and talked me through some of them. I was very impressed with his knowledge and passion for shooting sports, especially the engineering side. I should also mention Christel was equally passionate and knowledgeable when it came to shooting and markmanship.
I kept an eye on Davids online journal – http://shootingshed.co.uk/wp/ and continued to be in awe. This is a guy who is building entire chassis systems from scratch in his house to tolerances that established brands struggle to achieve.. David is one of the few real “gunsmiths” left in England. There are many smiths that will sort a barrel or inlet a stock. Not many that are building entire rifles such as his CG Model 66 Tube gun! If you do not know what a tube gun is (I had to ask David what constitutes a tube gun) then please read on. We asked David 10 questions..
1. When did you get into shooting sports and what attracted you? Which shooting disciplines do you prefer?
That would have been .22LR way back when I was 15 or so. I joined a local small bore rifle club, they thrust a Mk1 Martini International into my hands and told me to get on with it. Later on I shot pistol and shotgun and one day decided to go down the full bore rifle path. I started with a BSA No1 Mk3* chambered in .303 British and later on added an Accuracy International chambered in 7,62×51. I stuck a 4-16 single turn PMII on top and I still shoot it to this day. My preference is anything over 1000 yards, I shot F Open for a while however these days I prefer to shoot a bit lighter so disciplines include S Class (Sporting Class) I also like Historic Service Rifle however it is shooting and I am happy to shoot most disciplines.
Sadly there seem to be divisions between different disciplines which is wrong in my eyes, we are all shooters so please can we just get along with each oother and appreciate each other’s disciplines.
David can shoot with the best of them..
2. Tell us how the Shooting SHED came into being and what kind of work/projects you normally undertake?
My background is electrical engineering however I have always been competent with my hands and accuracy fascinates me, that is not just rifle accuracy, it is fit and form as well. I ended up working for a Norwegian company for many years within a very niche area of technology when back in September 2011 I received a call telling me the UK end of things was to be closed down. Given my age and lack of suitable job opportunities I headed out to the garden shed and made some bits for myself. I was lucky enough to have a lathe and a mill and was never impressed with the cost or accuracy of some of the USA sourced mass produced measuring devices so I built my own. Then I built a couple for friends who shoot, then for friends of friends who insisted on paying me and all of a sudden the Shooting SHED had been born. We ran it as me being a sole trader for around 6 months and become Shooting SHED Limited with myself and Christel as directors, the rest as they say is history.
Actually, it is a bit more than that however I will explain that later. The plan was always to produce quality, accurate and well finished measuring devices for UK shooters however last year we probably shipped to in excess of 30 countries as well as the UK, we do not advertise however we do have the Shooting SHED ecommerce site and I have my Journal and people just seem to find it. My Journal has in excess of 1/3rd of a million hits now and referenced by everywhere from Russian and Australian web sites and communities to local shooting clubs.
Cleaning rod guides.
These days we build in no particular order, cleaning rod guides for every conceivable single centre fire rifle action and cartridge, just tell me what you have and I can build a guide for you. We have a range of rear and front bag riders, there is the well known range of 2P cartridge comparators that allow you to accurately measure things such as OAL, shoulder bump, bearing surface length and base to upper bearing surface. Added to this I build OAL gauges however mine have a unique thread and are machined from 316 Stainless and 6082T6 and are very shiny, they are always in demand. We also do bullet pointing systems which remove the need for meplat trimming.
We have our own range of ultra wide and light F/TR bipods which are used both in the UK league and have seen action in world championships, we have also shipped them right across the world.
We also do bespoke design and engineering work for other companies and RFDs and our own arena includes firearms, chassis work, plus chambering and barrel work, I also design and build suppressors as well as rifle actions and complete tube rifle systems, more on that later. I also do my utmost to keep older rifles running and recent jobs that spring to mind include re-barrelling 100 year old Enfields, new firing pins for 125 year old rifles and I have an English Double here that I will be working on over the next few weeks. I also have a Gew88 in that needs to be re-barrelled and of course there is our passion for Wildcat chambering so basically if it is a rifle or a reloading item I can probably make it or work on it, I prefer to not work on shotguns.
3. Do you think extreme technical innovation is a pro or a con regarding shooting sports. Example being the “arms race” which has developed in many disciplines, most notably F open. Do you think it detracts from the marksmanship.
Innovation is essential, we simply cannot afford to stand still when it comes to competitive disciplines with modern firearms, be it the round fired or the system it is fired from. Having said that there are only so many ways to re-invent the wheel and these days it is very difficult to come up with a new and innovative product that is totally unique. Worse still, if you do come up with an idea and it is successful there is a reasonable chance it will be copied, we have certainly been caught this way with a couple of our products being directly copied. Having said that, some of our products are not so different than others. I personally have no issues with an idea being developed and improved however to just copy it, is very wrong.
You mention the F Open class, my view is that F/TR is probably more of an arms race if there is such a thing. It is certainly a more difficult discipline given the cartridge limitations so people are going to strive to get to the top of the game which is going to take money. Having said this, money is never going to be a substitute for good wind reading skills and marksmanship however positively changing the BC of a projectile by pointing it, sending it down range a bit quicker, adding a stable platform and superior optics are all going to have a positive benefit, as will repeatability of loaded rounds through best practice and all of these factors are going to add cost.
4. Which products have caught your eye recently (anything shooting related?)
Lots of things catch my eye and I am always interested in a new take on an old problem and more importantly something totally new and truly innovative.
Aesthetics, form and function are of great interest to me and something relatively recent is the GRS range of rifle stocks and the GRS Sporter is simply superb albeit sadly copied by a few now.
I am a big fan of the American Rifle Builder Doan Trevor, his work is legendry and he has a Blog type site that I often visit. He builds rifles however it is his rifle stock work that I am particularly interested in, that plus he has a fascinating range of proper manual machines, no CNC for Doan!
Anything from Seb Lang is interesting, he is a master at creating rifle rests that are second to none from a design viewpoint, again often copied, never equalled in my eyes.
5. Tell us about your tube guns and explain to people who are new to the term what constitutes a “tube gun”.
A tube gun to me is basically a rifle chassis based on a tube. A few years ago I had publicly expressed an interest in building an all new tubular rifle chassis and Robert Chombart contacted me and suggested we take a look at the idea together, he had already started on a design and from there the CG Model 75 chassis was born. The M75 chassis is designed to complement the CG Model 44 rifle action and as such will not accept any other action however we have since added the Model 75BAR designed for the Barnard Model P rifle action and I have one of these chassis on my own Barnard Open rifle, chambered in the wildcat 7mm Christel.
We wanted to build a chassis which could be used for multiple disciplines and with this in mind the ergonomics were given great consideration. The chassis are adjustable for length of pull, butt offset and height, the cheek piece can be moved up and down, back and forth and most importantly it can be rotated about a central plane, in effect the chassis can be adjusted to fit virtually any form or shape of shooter. Additionally we have designed it so that items such as front and rear riders can be added for Bench or F Class disciplines plus an accessory rail can be easily fitted for TR.
From here the CG Model 66 came about. We were already building the Model 59 LMT and LMR actions which are rifle actions loosely based on a Remington footprint however with a 22,0mm diameter three lug 60 degree front locking bolt. Added to this were enhancements such as a Belleville stack ignition system, double ended firing pin and inertia ejector to name a few. Additionally the M59 actions are machined from 7075 Aluminium with a bolting insert giving a very strong yet lightweight rifle action in both single shot and repeater formats.
So we had a light metal rifle action and a light metal rifle chassis, why not put them together? The CG Model 66 was the result, built in the LTT (Light Tube Target) and LTR (Light Tube Repeater) which utilises the AICS magazine. The Model 66 has its own integrated receiver based on the Model 59 so it is a true rifle as opposed to a bolt-on for an existing rifle action and is available in .223, PPC and .308 bolt face versions both with and without ejector. You can buy either a chassis or a complete rifle and they come in hard anodised or Cerakoted in your choice of colour. They can also be supplied with laser etched graphics or plain.
6. Do you have any future products coming out that you are excited about?
We have been talking about a signature range of SHED products and have them all on paper ready for me to build. We both wanted to add a new take on existing products however adding a level of tactility and look we have not considered in the past. Items that will be used for reloading and will not only work superbly well, they will also feel ‘just right’ I am incredibly proud of these new designs and really looking forward to getting them out.
Something I am also very excited about is our recent move to the Lincolnshire Wolds, we are now in a small village in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty under 15 miles from the seashore and despite the chaos of moving a home of 16 years plus workshop to such an area, the extra space and improved work flow plus such superb surroundings has really invigorated both of us.
7. What is your opinion on the political/legal situation regarding shooting in the UK? Do you think things will get worse or better?
Sadly I think things can only get worse for the UK shooter. Our press seldom has anything positive to say about our sport, instead it chooses to sensationalise and on occasion misinform which in turn portrays legitimate competition and shooters in a poor light. From this our politicians will often take this as a means of garnering support from constituents by pandering to popular perception. I do wonder how many people understand just how many gold Olympic medals we have won in shooting disciplines or have ever heard of the likes of Malcolm Cooper…
Another area that really worries me is unity within the sport and the national bodies. If we cannot even get on with ourselves or have a focussed and common goal how are we ever going to succeed as a sport. As an example I recently read a member of a discipline suggesting that people who shot as club ‘plinkers’ as opposed to competitors should not be shooting.
It reminds me of a conversation relayed to me a while ago about a club coach and a shooter, the coach asked the shooter why he had absolutely no aspiration to shoot for his country, the reply was along the lines of “I have and they were shooting back at me”
Enough on this subject. ☺
8. Which areas of shooting sport do you see growing in the future and which if any are dwindling? Are there any areas you would love to see develop but are currently very difficult to organise due to laws and regs?
CSR – Civilian Service Rifle is gaining in popularity by the hour and is attracting a lot of new and existing shooters to the discipline, there is a thriving CSR league and dare I say it is going to exceed F Class numbers at some point? Plus it can be shot at 300 yards and less whereas F Class is for the most shot to 1000 yard rifle ranges.
I would like to see S Class being given more exposure, a target discipline that restricts items such as rifle weight, optics magnification and barrel length and effectively gives shooters from all disciplines and walks of life an opportunity to enjoy competitive shooting on an even footing has to be a good thing. I often think a lot of the target shooters have no real idea of just how far hunters, stalkers and vermin shooters are pushing the boundaries of accuracy and I can think of stalkers who will ring me up for advice when their weekly 100 yard test zero group has just exceeded ¾” and that is with a short barrelled silenced 30-06 sat on a rucksack with an 8X ‘scope.
.22 Rimfire Benchrest is on the up as well, now this is something interesting as it can be shot off a stable platform at virtually any 25 yard gallery range and it is great to see the Older Martini Internationals being pressed back into service.
Personally I would like to see all shooting disciplines grow and equally to see a lot of younger faces at the range, without new shooters we will not have a sport, even assuming our media and politicians allow us to…
9. Tell us about your top 3 favourite rifles and calibres of all time.
Only three? I am lucky in that I like all guns from a humble 100 year old .22 rimfire to the latest .338LMs. It is fair to say I am not a fan of the 50 cals, I have shot them and we have had a few here in the past however they do nothing for me.
If I really had to choose there would have to be something Pre-45 Action on my list and at the top would be the No1 Mk3* Lee Enfield chambered in .303 – one of my all time favourite personal rifles was a 1915 BSA No1 Mk3* that was a stunner to look at and a pleasure to shoot even though it would only hold around 5-7MOA at 100 yards and this does open an important consideration, does a favourite have to be accurate? I think it was Townsend Whelen who said “Only accurate rifles are interesting” Believe me when I say there are a lot of incredibly interesting yet inherently inaccurate rifles.
Next would be a rear locker, most modern rifles have bolt lugs at the front end of the bolt, this gives a robust lock-up however it also means the bolt stroke is longer. Rear lockers such as the Enfields, the Schultz & Larsens such as the M38 and RPLT42 were also rear locking and the Austrian Steyr SSG69 P1 which is probably the very first purpose built military marksman rifle also had lugs on the rear of the bolt. More recently Robert Chombart has designed the CG Model 44 Action which is a three lug rear locker. There has been a lot of discussion about the disadvantages of the rear locker because of column distortion however my view is that for the most this is incorrect and you simply cannot compare a 100+ year designed Enfield action to a modern 22,0mm bolt core diameter Delta configuration target action that has utilised the very latest materials and technologies. So my second rifle would be the Steyr SSG69P1 chambered in 7,62×51 complete with the matching quick release rings and Kahles ZF69 ‘scope. These rifles came with a green synthetic stock way back in 1969 and are simply superb as DM type rifles; they are also very competent out to 800m. So good in fact that I own one.
Third rifle? Well I am a huge Accuracy International fan and routinely shoot mine chambered in 6,5×47 Lapua to 1200 yards. A boring rifle is my wife’s description of the AI.
Having said that I really like the unusual, the obscure and the underdog. I could happily include the Remington Nylon 66 semi-automatic, imagine a plastic rifle designed in the 1950s even lasting to the end of the month yet I have a 1963 Nylon 66 that is a superb shooter and quite capable of ripping the bull out of a target at 25m. I am currently researching my latest acquisition, a Gew88 produced in 1891 and I find the rifle and its history fascinating.
So favourite cartridges (Today) would be the .303 British, the 7,62×51 NATO and the 6,5×47 Lapua and favourite rifles would be the SMLE, No1 Mk3* the SSG69P1 and the Accuracy International.
10. Who are your heroes in shooting? Anyone you would like to thank?
Heroes, well how could I talk about rifles and competitive shooting and not mention Malcolm Cooper.
I am intrigued by the relationships between the early 20th century rifle designers and companies and that everyone should own or at least have shot a rifle designed by John Moses Browning or Paul Mauser.
On the subject of design Robert Chombart. Robert is a grumpy 80 something Frenchman who I have been very privileged to have worked with over the last few years on the CG Model 59 Rifle actions and the CG Model 66 Chassis rifles. Roberts’s pedigree extends to such actions as the RPA Quadlock the RPA 2000, the CG Millenium, the CG Model 44 and of course the two I mentioned above. He has also designed the superb CG Triggers including the current CG Model 22, one of which I have on my Accuracy International, it is a true 2 stage trigger and a delight to shoot with.
My Father, although not an incredibly keen shooter used to own a .410 and knock down rabbits for the pot, it was my Father who told me never to kill an animal unless you intend to eat it. I would add to this or if it needed to be destroyed for humane reasons. I am certainly not anti-hunting and I would never turn down a piece of Muntjac or Fallow however I just do not shoot them myself these days. Maybe that will change now we are in the Lincolnshire Wolds.
Can I also say my Wife Christel is one of my shooting heroes? It was her who told me she could not be bothered to shoot at less than 600m as you can throw stones further… It is her who will fire a couple of shots at 800, skip 1000 to read a book and wait until we move back to 1200 as that was what she was really there for. She has had a huge impact on my life and our business and is my all time favourite foreigner, ever.
Thanks so much to David for answering our questions.
If you would like to read Davids nournal – http://shootingshed.co.uk/wp/
Or you could visit the Shooting Shed Shop and buy one of many very shiny objects..