Wembley is an area within the London borough of Brent, on the far western side of the city. Beginning in the 1950s, large numbers of immigrants from the Asian subcontinent began migrating to England and thus it is rich with the Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi cultures. Nearby is the famous Wembley football stadium and a little bit further is Heathrow Airport. But it also has one of London’s last remaining gunshops and such is the topic of this review.
Woody’s of Wembley is a fishing and gun shop nestled in between a clothing store and a funeral home. “My dad’s had this shop for 43 years [Est. 1963]. Back in his time, every rack was filled with shotguns and rifles. Now it’s confined to that one back corner” says the owner, Chris Drewett, gesturing towards the shelf of shotguns and .22 LR rifles occupying 4 feet of space whereas the shelf has almost 20 other feet devoted to airguns.
The majority of what the shop sells is air rifles (.177-.22) and an almost equal amount of airsoft guns. Ironically enough, in the United Kingdom, you need a license to purchase 6mm airsoft guns but not one for the pellet guns (unless they are more than 50 % brightly colored, or the customer is a registered member of a community; re-enactors, film makers etc…) . ” Police were getting fed up with kids running around with airsoft guns in the parks, so they started licenses so only the people serious about using them would have them” Chris talks with a kind of sorrow about the state of firearms in the UK. He himself is a passionate shooter with a life long interest, owning as much as is possible under the current regulations.
“We moved to airguns when the regulations started changing in this country, the gun market became too limited, pretty soon most of it was people selling old granddads shotgun because they couldn’t be bothered to maintain the active firearms licenses. And to go shooting here became harder because most of the land is private and not public”. Indeed, a quick glance at the website shows that the shop makes no mention of the shotguns and rifles in stock.
But make no mistake, the airguns that are sold, are truly impressive, some costing more than entry level center fire bolt action rifles in the United States. The finish and the stocks on most are very well done. Majority are CO2 powered and take a cylindrical magazine of between 6-12 pellets. Some of the break open spring powered air guns are in the shelves but it’s the emphasis on the modern day semi automatics that has British shooters captivated. There is some target shooting with them, but many people like them in the country side, where alot of farmers will even pay shooters to disband of pests on their land that they need taken care of. Some of this small game includes rats, rabbits, pigeons, squirrels, and Magpies, among other animals.
After firearms and airguns, the shop has a vast amount of accessories and scopes. Almost 2 full cabinets are packed with scopes from Vortex, Nikon, and Schmidt & Bender. They range from fixed 4x power up unto variable 4-12x designed to withstand the recoil of high caliber rifles. The last major component of the shop is the fishing section in the front, of which is not nearly as regulated as firearms are. There is also a good amount of surplus military and civilian camping gear on sale as well.
A back room, containing a small testing area for the airsoft guns and a workshop, mostly for airguns but they can work on some firearms as well. As stated on the website-
We keep a lot of spares “on site” and are able to repair most makes of air weapons within an average turn around of ten to fourteen days. This repair time can occassionally lengthen due to very busy periods in the shop or illness. Upon completion all guns are chronographed to ensure that they do not exceed the 12 ft lbs kinetic energy limit and the results entered in our workshop logbook.
Eager to come home with something uniquely British in manufacture, the author looked at some of the rifle cases and scopes. Much to his dismay, there was almost nothing in the shop that is made in Great Britain, most of the products are imported from China or America. So the Chris brought out a 12 gauge leather cartridge belt made by Brady, a high end British leather maker that makes the kind of leather belts one sees on safari hunters in the early 1900s. Satisfied with the superior quality of the belt and not phased by the complete irony of using it with a Benelli Super Nova Tactical, the brand new belt was bought at a fair price of £70.
If any of the readers are in London, the author recommends a visit to Wembley Gunshop, not as an attraction that Trafalger Square or Buckingham Palace has to offer, but to get a glimpse of what the British shooting community is on about and how they do business. British shooters are just as if not more passionate about the shooting sports as we are, it’s just an unfortunate conundrum that their laws are to the point of zealousness in regulating the sport. Recently a survey was taken wherein eight in ten Londoners agreed to heavier restrictions on carrying a knife on ones person. This along with attempted bans on kitchen knives clearly illustrates the point.
Woody’s of Wembley is reachable by the Piccadilly line from central London and getting off at Alperton station or on the Bakerloo Line and walking from Wembley Central. If readers want to take it up a notch, they can head over to Northwood, which is close by and where the Holland & Holland Shooting Grounds are located. For a measly £170 ($285) one can receive an hours worth of shotgun instruction with clay pigeons, the posh method of course.
Photo credits to Jasmine Pal, University of East Anglia, Norwich.
Woody’s of Wembley
565 High Road
Tuesday to Friday: 9am until 6pm
Saturday: 9am until 5:30pm
Sunday & Monday: Closed