A first gun is almost always bought at the budget end of the market, which is now dominated by Turkish guns.
It is a shift of power that has taken place, gradually at first, but with the full force of the growing economy of 80 million people.
Competitive Turkish manufacturers
There is ferocious competition for your money at this end of the market and much of it is now between different Turkish manufacturers.
When I started in the gun trade more than 20 years ago, the market leaders at the bottom end were Baikals — no-nonsense Russian-made guns lacking finesse but rarely breaking — Lanbers, Spanish-made over-and-unders; and Italian-made alloy action over-and-unders sold by others such as the Browning Medallist and Lincolns made by the Italian Firearms Group (FAIR).
Enter the Hatsan Escort semi-auto
Then Hatsan began exporting its Escort semi-automatic to the UK. At well under £500 the retail price seemed ludicrously low, even with a reasonable mark-up for the dealer, but they came with a guarantee that was long enough for most people to get full value.
We sold hundreds. A good percentage of the early ones we sold were returned with mechanical issues but, if we couldn’t fix them we replaced them and customers were generally happy.
Instead of continuing with this policy of repair or replace, what stood out was the willingness of the Turkish makers to listen to their importers and improve their products. This was a pleasant surprise. Looking back, Hatsan must have been aware of the others snapping at its heels and felt that continual development was the only way to stay ahead.
Turkey’s involvement with the gun trade is nothing new: they have been the major suppliers of quality walnut for stock blanks to the European gun trade for many years.
But their confidence in their ability to undercut the rest of the Europe’s gun manufacturing costs was becoming evident with the first trickle of guns.
Turkish shotguns flowing in
That trickle has now become a strong tide.
Hatsan was followed by Huglu, then Yildiz; more recently ATA Arms, Revo, Armsan. With each new European trade show comes a new player on to the pitch, it seems.
One manufacturer, Kral Arms, even introduced a battery charged shotgun with an electric firing mechanism, such is the confidence of Turkish manufacturing.
They are experimenting; putting in front of consumers products the customer may never have even considered.
Do you want a starter gun for a youngster; an all-rounder that won’t disgrace itself on the odd pheasant day, practical for the marsh and useful for the summer clay shoot; or are you looking for the best-value clay gun that you can find?