THE BACKGROUND

If I am being honest, I never expected–indeed, had never intended—to return to the ‘Airgun Scene’. But it happened by chance.

John Griffiths, author of the standard book on spring-air pistols, contacted me to ask if I could validate what I’d once written concerning the existence (or otherwise) of ‘LP52’-marked Walther pistols. I could be of no real help, partly because I no longer had the paperwork but also because I’d been writing in the 1980s, at a time when research into the historical background of airguns was still largely unfashionable. No real strides had been made in Germany, and most of us were simply taking at face value information gleaned from the 1959-vintage Gas, Air & Spring Guns of the World...!

Eventually, John suggested that reprinting some of the Guns Review ‘Airgun Scene’ articles would be beneficial. I was sceptical: the work would be out-of-date, I argued, and so would be of little value. But John was very persistent, and even suggested some of the articles to reprint.

So work on the project began in earnest. I originally decided to reproduce articles in full, making changes only where absolutely necessary: removing the ‘News and Views’ paragraphs (and an occasional apology) which had crept into the originals, and excising material which had been ‘held over from last month’. However, discussion with several experienced collectors suggested that sufficient new research had been undertaken to invalidate at least a few of my views. Consequently, work has been interrupted to allow corrections to be made where appropriate, and comments in the form of footnotes to be added. This has delayed publication until (hopefully!) next summer.

At this point, I should probably explain my involvement with airguns. At the end of the 1970s, Lionel Leventhal, who had been importing Gas, Air & Spring Guns of the World from Stackpole Books in the U.S.A., to sell under his Arms & Armour Press imprint, asked me to compile ‘an airgun book’ which wouldn’t recycle the same old material.

I was unenthusiastic, but agreed to investigate. A few telephone calls soon showed that my publisher’s enthusiasm was shared by the principal airgun makers. BSA and Frank Dyke, then the British importers of the Mayer & Grammelspacher ‘Original’/‘Diana’ range, were particularly helpful. I bought an Original Diana LG66, and shooting trials began.

The Airgun Book was duly published in 1981, and, perhaps to everone's surprise (certainly to mine!), the entire print-run sold in just a few months. At much the same time—as a direct result of my involvement with the book—I inherited Guns Review’s ‘Airgun Scene’ from Dennis Commins, its pioneering custodian.

Above: the four English editions of the book (1981–7) and the German-language version of the first edition (1982). The third edition, with the red cover, was undoubtedly the best; the publisher dropped the historical introduction it contained from the fourth edition, an action which was not generally well received by the readership!

My ‘primary enthusiasm’ for firearms made it easy to work with Colin Greenwood, then Editor of Guns Review. Many of our ‘airgun’ readers had an interest in firearms in a way in which the readers of Airgun World and Airgunner did not. This meant that I could even write an ‘Airgun Scene’ containing practically no mention of airguns! This obviously had to be considered when deciding which articles to reprint.

The most useful were deemed to be the narrative histories. Where BSA was concerned, there had been seven parts, and even these had been sub-divided in print; the eighth and last part never appeared at all. 'Part VI', the four individual articles devoted in 1989 to the Second W0rld War, dealt almost exclusively with Besa machine-guns, the Boys anti-tank rifle, Browning aircraft guns and Lee-Enfield rifles. So, very reluctantly, I decided to pare-down the new version, omitting some of the details and greatly reducing the 1939–45 coverage. By way of compensation, the unseen but exclusively airgun-orientated eighth part will appear for the first time…a quarter of a century late.

I also have to apologise, belatedly, to the readers who were gamely following the ‘Airguns A-Z’ feature in the hope that I’d get to ‘S’, ‘T’ or even ‘Z’. It had reached ‘H’ when I handed over ‘Airgun Scene’ to Geoffrey Allen. But steps are now being taken to complete this project…so where there’s life, there’s still hope.

My tenure of ‘Airgun Scene’ began in April 1981 and lasted until circumstances changed for the worse at the end of the Eighties. The end was marked in July 1992 by ‘The Egyptian Anschütz Training Air Rifle’. One of the problems of working with ‘Airgun Scene’, of course, had been that the compiler needed to be an ‘all-rounder’; contributors to the airgun magazines were often specialists in their own particular field, but we had to create reviews, technical details and history on demand. I felt that a certain staleness had crept into my work; after more than ten years, it was time to step aside.

I succeeded Colin Greenwood as Editor of Guns Review in the autumn of 1996, but only a single issue, January/February 1987, was to appear under my charge. Teesdale Publishing, Guns Review and Motor Sport were sold to Haymarket; and Haymarket (Michael Heseltine’s ‘family firm’ at the time) soon made it clear that GR was the unwanted makeweight in the deal. Publication ceased.

Guns Review had existed for 35 years, with only three Editors and three compilers of ‘Airgun Scene’. It had been the repository of knowledge, and its reputation lives on even though the magazines are difficult to find. I hope that by re-publishing in 2016 some of the ‘Airgun Scenes’ of 1981–92, amalgamated with parts of The Airgun Book, the best of the material can be offered once again. And the reproduction of the pictures will be far better!

JOHN WALTER, 2015

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