Gunning for custom on the market

JB Airguns with owner Jon Barber.

Picture Mark Westley ANL-161130-123638009

JB Airguns with owner Jon Barber. Picture Mark Westley ANL-161130-123638009

You are unlikely to find another stall like Jon Barber’s on other markets because he says there are only two or three mobile gun dealers in the UK.

Having turned a hobby into a business, he has traded on Wednesdays and Saturdays as JB Airguns for 11 years.

But he has worked on the market on and off for about 30 years, having started on a fruit stall at 13. His wife Dawn owns the underwear and nightwear stall next to his.

Though he does not have a shop or sell shotguns or non-air rifles, he must still be a registered firearms dealer subject to all the usual checks.

“We do a mixture of new and secondhand guns,” he says. “This one in 1930s – so we do from really old guns up to modern ones.

“We do a bit of airsoft, we buy and sell guns and we do all the pellets, gas canisters, targets, plus a little bit of camouflage clothing.”

Airsoft guns are low powered (under one Joule when a real airgun is about 15J) which fire soft 6mm balls and are used for wargaming. They are made of coloured or transparent plastic so they are obviously not weapons.

Jon and his father both train gundogs – his dad has 11 – so he also does whistles and retrieving dummies for that.

Shooting must run in the family because his nine-year-old daughter Morgan recently came 11th in a target competition against 48 adults and was offered sponsorship by a top airgun manufacturer.

Jon lives near Diss but considers Bury his home town because it was where he was brought up, which is why this is the only market he goes to, though he also goes to shows.

Why do people buy airguns? Jon said:“Pest control – rabbits, rats – that’s predominantly what they want one for. There’s a junior airgun [target] club in Bury for 10 -to 18-year-olds but no adult club yet.”

He says you can get a ‘good all round gun’ for about £150 and he does British and German guns as well cheaper models from as far as Turkey and China. He points at a Chinese rifle: “That’s our best seller – they don’t come back with problems, which I like.”

He includes a free service with all new guns to fine tune them and can repair any make.

But he stresses you must be over 18 to buy a gun and you must have identification so he can check who you are, your age and address for records he must keep for five years.

Jon added: “One reason I don’t take credit cards is it takes that impulse buy away from it – they’ve got to think about whether they really want a gun on the way to the bank and walking back.”