It wasn’t so long ago that you could visit the Airguns of Arizona website, click on “Brocock” and view wonderful airguns like “the Cattleman” and the “Buntline Special.” These airguns used the Brocock air cartridge system, which consisted of a metallic cartridge, which was pressurized with air, into which a pellet was inserted. The air cartridge was then inserted into the Brocock airgun and when you pulled the trigger, the air would be released, pushing the pellet down the barrel.
Some years ago, I tried a Brocock western style revolver, and I wasn’t hugely impressed by the performance of the air cartridges, but I loved the fit and finish of the guns. Little did I know at the time, Brocock air cartridge airguns were doomed.
Here’s how it happened. On March 13, 1996, Thomas Watt walked into the Dunblane Primary School in the Scotland, armed with two 9 mm automatic pistols and two .357 magnum revolvers, and slaughtered 16 children and one adult. The following year, the government almost completely banned all private ownership of handguns.
In 2002, the BBC reported: “Figures from NCIS (National Criminal Intelligence Service) show that converted Brococks now account for 35% of all guns recovered by the police. When used legally, the airgun fires small pellets using a compressed air charge in a cartridge that is loaded into the pistol. But criminal gangs have been adapting the guns by fitting special steel sleeves inside the chamber of the gun, enabling live .22 calibre bullets to be fired. In October, Bradford taxi driver Mohammed Basharat was murdered with a converted Brocock pistol. This weapon had been drilled out to take more powerful .38 calibre bullets.”
You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure on what would happen next. This is from a police website in the UK:
“On 20th January 2004, it became an offence to manufacture, sell, purchase, transfer or acquire any air weapon using a self-contained gas cartridge system.
From 1 May 2004, it became an offence, punishable by a minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, to possess a self-contained gas cartridge weapon without the necessary firearm certificate.”
With the stroke of a pen, a mature airgun technology that had at least 75,000 customers in the UK was wiped out. On the face of it, you would think that that is would be game, set and match for Brocock airguns. But it didn’t turn out that way. Starting January, 2009, Brocock has come back in grand style in both the UK and the US.
I spoke with Nigel Silcock, owner of Brocock Airguns to find out why. “When the air cartridge guns were banned, we still had 50% of our business left. The thing that really hurt, however, was that we lost the half of our business that was most profitable,” he says.
But Silcock and his team are no dummies. When they saw trouble brewing on the horizon for the air cartridge guns, they began looking are precharge designs. They brought out the Enigma, but according to Silcock, it never really took off.
“Then Falcon Pneumatics closed, and the guy who did their design work came to work for us,” Silcock says, adding, “He knew how to put these things together.”
“We knew we had to come up with an action, a reservoir, and plan to produce a whole family of successful airguns,” he says.
And indeed they have. Since the introduction of the first of the new line in January, demand has been twice what Brocock had anticipated.
Next time, we’ll start to explore this new line of airguns by taking a look at Brocock’s new Grand Prix pistol.
Til then, aim true and shoot straight.
- Jock Elliott