Phil Barford

Interviewed by Wendy Dixon

When did you first learn to shoot?

I don't remember how old I was, but my brother had airguns and although he was much older than me he used to let me shoot with him when I was quite small. After years of pestering my father bought me a second hand air rifle when I was 14. I learnt to shoot targets and vermin at the house we owned in Burghfield Common. The house had a large lake in the garden and this provided many opportunities for rat control.

Do the rest of your family shoot? If not, what brought you to it?

My brother was the only other member of my family that shot, and he gave me tips when I was young. I have been interested in firearms and shooting for as long as I can remember but it was always a hobby and not a career until I joined Thomas Turner Gunmaker in Caversham in 2007.

What other hobbies do you have other than shooting?

I have the usual hobbies I suppose, DIY and gardening - I think most house owners have those hobbies. I used to ride motorcycles with some of my friends but I don't seem to have much spare time on the weekends now so I recently sold my motorbikes. One paid for another shotgun!

When did you decide you wanted a career in the gun trade and how did you go about entering the field?

I wanted to get out of the “rat race” and I wanted to do something I had a passion for. I saw an advert in the local paper for a sales assistant at Thomas Turner Gunmakers in Caversham, Reading. I started as a Sales Assistant and later became the Shop Manager. When the shop closed in 2012 I started as Shop Manager at Henley Country Sports Ltd.

What appealed to you most about coming to work with the team at RBSS and working at the Gun Room?

I have heard only good things about the School, how friendly but professional it was. Henley Country Sports was closing down and although I had offers from other establishments, I met Alastair Phillips and it was his enthusiasm that made the difference. He has a great knowledge of fine shotguns - something I have not been involved with before. It seems that my experience with air guns and rifles fits in well and I am grateful to be given the opportunity to learn more and help increase sales at the Gunroom.

What guns do you shoot yourself?

I suppose you could call me a rifle shooter really: the most used guns in my cabinet are the three rifles I own, not the many shotguns I have. Vermin shooting at night and deer shooting during the season are my favourites. I have some good friends, who started as customers, that I sometimes go clay shooting with and I get asked to shoot pigeons sometimes, so it is actually not all rifle shooting.

If you could own any gun, what would it be and why?

I have some books on English gunmakers and a book about top European makers, some of the shotguns in those books are just beautiful, one of them would be nice but I am not sure I wouldn't be afraid to shoot it just in case it got damaged. A pre-1964 Winchester or a 1898 Mauser-actioned custom rifle would be my rifle of choice just because I am a bit of a traditionalist where guns are involved.

Give 3 top tips for someone thinking about buying their first rifle.

1, Choose the right calibre for the quarry or targets you wish to shoot.

2, Spend as much or even more on the telescopic sight as the rifle. If you can't see it you will never hit it.

3, Enjoy shooting it and practice, practice, practice. The best rifle shots are like the best golfers they get “luckier” the more they play, you will get more accurate the more you shoot.

What worries do you have for the future of shooting in this country?

I suppose the dreaded Brexit might make a difference and who knows how? The media seem to take a bad view of shooting and gun ownership especially when there has been another shooting in America or as recently in New Zealand. I think our only way to move forward is to remain professional and try to educate as many people as we can.

And finally, if someone who has never been to RBSS asks you why they should come and visit the Gunroom, what would you say to persuade them?

We have guns to suit every budget and we offer all the advantages of a helpful, knowledgeable team, good stock levels and the opportunity to try shotguns before you buy.