How we chose our gunmaking partner and designed new guns for the 21st century

When resurrecting the name of one of the most famous Victorian gunmakers choosing your manufacturing partner and designing a new shotgun is not easy.

How did the directors Tom and Gary Ward and the CEO Guy Rathbone about such a seemingly difficult task?

Tom’s extensive experience, following several years of elite competition as well as vast game experience, provided a good starting point. Tom has also worked closely with a number of clients to understand what is expected when creating bespoke guns to meet their exacting requirements.

Countries like the UK, Spain, Italy and the USA all have impressive gunmaking legacies and their fair share of famous gunmakers. The choice was extensive. The search was exhaustive.

Tom, with an Italian coach and with the 2017 Italian Open in the bag, naturally leant towards the legendary Gunmakers of Brescia. But nothing was discarded at this stage. Tom, Gary and Guy set about speaking to a range of customers as possible, with years of field experience and gun ownership behind them.

With a still extensive list, the directors approached several different companies in the UK and Italy. In depth interviews took place with several visits to different facilities.  The entire process to appoint a partner took two years spanning 2015-17.

By combining their own experience, feedback from manufacturers and input from their clients, Tom, Gary and Guy sat down to make their final decision.

Perugini & Visini  were the clear winners. It was their excellent reputation, fine workmanship and great people that clinched it.

Commented Guy: “Italy emerged as the likely place where our guns would be made from very early on. The gunmaking region Brescia has a tradition stretching back centuries, but it is now the modern gun manufacturing centre of the world. The guns here are made by the best gunmakers in Italy who have the perfect combination of tradition, modern innovation and aesthetics.

“When we visited the facility we were incredibly impressed by their modern set-up and cutting-edge technology which harmonised perfectly with the skills and traditions of the past. The craftspeople blended the two so that one was always complementing the other, there was no jostling between the old world and the new, just a brilliant combination of both.

“For us, though, the people we would be working alongside were an extremely important element of finding the right partner. Of course we wanted the skills, technology and customer service, but we were also looking for people we genuinely liked and admired.

“We were made to feel extremely welcome at Perugini & Visini and we developed a strong relationship very quickly. Everyone we met was as passionate about our project as the three of us. They demonstrated a great appreciation of the F. Beesley legacy and what we were trying to achieve in resurrecting the name. We instinctively knew these were the people we wanted to make our guns.”

After forging the partnership officially in 2017, work began on designing and developing what became the Fenice and Eleganza.

The process was even more involved than identifying the gunmaking partner; requiring monthly visits consulting on every last detail. Together with the skilled workers at Perugini & Visini, they chose all the specifications of the stock guns from wood and engraving to barrel length. The stock Fenice and Eleganza are available for demonstrations from 1 August 2018.

The detailing was intricate and at every stage, Tom’s extensive competition and field experience provided expert guidance. For example, Tom wanted the shotguns to have a very fine finger groove in the forend, as that delivers both additional comfort and point-ability.  Such specific requirements can only be understood and communicated accurately by someone with the level of Tom’s knowledge. The team travelled to Italy and worked this detail out with the stock-maker who carved out the groove there and then.

Added Guy: “It has been an absolute privilege to have been part of this journey. To see Tom’s detailed and unique specifications crafted before our very eyes was incredible. Such care and attention reflects our dedication and commitment to be true to Frederick Beesley who was one of the great Victorian innovators and inventors. The willingness of the Perugini & Visini team to understand and implement such exact requirements is testament to their craftsmanship and professionalism.

“We are confident that together we have created a new shotgun for the 21st century whilst being embedded in all the tradition and elegance of the past.

“When they first acquired the F. Beesley name, Tom and Gary had a dream to once again develop some of the very best guns in the market. They devoted themselves to remaining true to Frederick Beesley’s innovative legacy and re-establishing it as a leading gunmaking force. To see that dream become reality has been hard work but extremely rewarding and moving.”