With the decline of the British trade over the past century, gunsmiths have become increasingly few and far between. All too often, we hear of another gunsmith retiring and leaving yet another gap and forcing those needing gunsmithing services to venture further afield.
In 2015, Drew Boxall was asked to give a speech at the House of Lords as part of the launch of the new Game Fair and the speech was a wake-up call to many who had been unaware of the issues faced across the shooting industry. The speech was one of the catalysts for the combined efforts of BASC, the GTA and the Worshipful Company of gunmakers to work together to provide training and attempt to support the entire trade.
The idea for the Academy came about in 2014 when arranging training for one of the Boxall & Edmiston apprentices. The apprentice was enrolled on an engineering apprenticeship, which had been customised to fulfil many of the skills needed to work as an actioner (the gunmaker who assembles, crafts and shapes the metal components of a firearm).
The Engineering apprenticeship had many advantages, first and foremost, the course was Government accredited. The accreditation ensures the student receives an internationally recognised qualification for his or her efforts, in this case, various levels of NVQ. Furthermore, funding was available to pay for the course education received and a small financial reward was given to the employer for taking on the apprentice.
The engineering apprenticeship was useful but did not offer training on many of the core skills and knowledge needed to work as a gunmaker; training that was not available anywhere in Britain. In the past, the British gun trade relied on those trained at larger gunmakers to eventually work as gunsmiths across the country. These, coupled with those receiving training locally, have supported the British gun trade with small repairs and work on firearms for many years.W
After much discussion, an industry-wide survey was created to identify training needs across the entire trade, the results of which will forge the courses to be offered by the training centre. The history of the Burrard Academy is currently being written and whether it is a success or banished to the cupboard of good ideas is down to the backing of the trade as a whole and we urge you to get involved, support the project and complete the survey. Working together, we can ensure the next generation of those working in the shooting industry better than ever, to preserve the art of British gunmaking.
The consultation was completed in August 2016 and the survey had over 500 contributors. The results were compiled and a summary of the findings will be made available towards the end of 2016. An open day is being held on the 8th December to discuss the future of the centre and courses are now available to book for 2017.