William Evans gun shop

Inside the London shop selling rifles for £165,000

"Why spend that much money? I compare guns to watches. A £15 Swatch is probably going to tell the time just as well as a Rolex."

In a very fancy shop, on a very fancy street in London, there are rows and rows of very fancy guns.

It’s kind of surprising: in the capital city of a country that prides itself on its really strict gun laws, they’re all lined up for everyone to see. For sale.

But, says the store’s general manager Alastair Philips, while other countries think of guns as a tool, a way of getting a job done, in the UK they’re an art form.


William Evans gun shop – Alastair Philips
Alastair Philips, general manager of William Evans gun and clothing shop

How much do the guns actually cost?

"The cheapest gun we sell here is probably about £200, which is an air rifle for pest control. That goes up to £165,000 for a pair of the very finest Purdeys, Purdeys are not necessarily going to make you shoot any better, but if you go out and buy a Ferrari it’s not going to make you a better driver.

"I quite often compare guns to watches. A gun that’s £100-£200 , is going to go bang just as straight as a gun that’s worth £100,000. A £15 Swatch watch is probably going to tell the time just as well as a high end Rolex."


William Evans gun shop shotguns
Detail of the engraving of a hand-built shotgun manufactured by Basque company Aguirre y Aranzabal

"In some other countries they look at guns and firearms as just a tool, rather than something to be considered more like art, you know: the engraving, the wood quality and things like that.

"Generally in this country we have higher value guns than quite a few other countries. A gun in the US is probably $500, while the average gun value in the UK is probably more like £1500.

It’s that pride of ownership, the craftmanship that’s gone into it, the tradition behind that craftmanship

"A lot of our clients work very hard.… You have your working life, and then you’ve got your leisure time, and some people like to be able to accessorize better than others on that leisure time. That’s their own way of spending their hard-earned income. And we and several other gun shops, give people the opportunity to exercise that.

"It’s that pride of ownership, the craftmanship that’s gone into it, the tradition behind that craftmanship.

"People enjoy spending money on this because it’s a legacy, it’s something you can pass down. So a lot of these guns will outlast our clients, and will be passed down to their daughters and sons, nieces and nephews. So they’re starting a legacy, and passing down wealth to their loved one."


William Evans gun room
The gun room at William Evans

Who comes to the shop? Is shooting just for rich people?

"There’s people from all sorts of backgrounds, that are getting in to shooting now. It has that stigma, of being for the British aristocracy and the upper classes, and I think that’s why the sport gets a hard time.

"But genuinely we’ve seen many more people from different backgrounds, over the last ten years’

"For the price of a bottle of whisky, you can get access to a farmer’s land to shoot pigeon. That’s the entry-level, right up to shooting deer, where in some cases you would be doing the landowner a favour, so it may not even cost you anything."


William Evans trigger
The engraving and trigger of a William Evans shotgun

"If you have to actually pay for the sport, a day ‘on the pigeon’ could be £100, more if it’s a good place to go. For pheasant shooting, it could be £30 per bird, up to £45 per bird. It sounds quite expensive, but there’s a lot that goes into running a shoot.

"We’ve got a lot of clients that travel from far and wide. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, America, Canada, France, Germany, Norway. Whether it’s tourism for the clothing upstairs, or whether it’s clients storing their firearms with us, to use them when they’re over here, so they don’t have to fly them they’ll buy their cartridges and ammunitions from us, they’ll buy their clothing from us. The economy definitely benefits from this industry."


William Evans gun pose
Alastair Philips checking a shotgun

Recent articles

Reader Comments