Paul Austin meets two women taking on the challenge of the gun trade in the heart of the Welsh valleys in their fantastic shooting shop, Rural Sports

credit: Archant

After living in suburbia and commuting for my shooting, I finally escaped to the country towards the tail end of 2021. Moving house is traumatic enough, but throw some guns into the mix and the stress levels can skyrocket. All the relevant authorities need to be informed, cabinets removed and remounted, licences updated… It’s a real minefield of rules, regulations and red tape, which is only made worse when you’re an RFD (registered 
firearms dealer).

As part of my job, being able to receive guns and ammo for testing is a prerequisite, but transferring your licence and RFD location isn’t a simple thing and the delays and complications can be horrendous. To aid with all the above I needed a gun shop – and it had to be a good one!

After a bit of Googling, Rural Sports was the obvious choice – and better still it was only 20 minutes from our new home. I must admit I wasn’t relishing the thought of my initial phone call; it’s never ideal to start a relationship with a problem, but that’s exactly what I had. Just prior to the house move I’d been over to Italy for the Beretta BRX1 launch, and as soon as I got back the test rifle was on its way. The move and the review overlapped and I needed to get the rifle back to GMK asap, as the list of people queuing up to take a look at the all-new Beretta was growing by the day.

The call was made and my rather convoluted predicament explained. My relief grew as every request was met with a “not a problem” from the lovely Helen. I instantly realised I had fallen on my feet!

credit: Archant

First impressions
When I arrived, I was impressed by the imposing facade of the gun shop, set up in a refurbished bank, complete with branded frosted glass and shiny fixtures and fittings. Inside, the style is only overshadowed by the smiles of the two women behind Rural Sports. Demi looks after the logistics and Helen is the one on the guns, although like any other small business, roles can be exchanged whenever the need arises.

Establishing the business was actually something of an accident. One day in search of fish and chips, Demi’s father, a successful Birmingham businessman and lifelong shooter, stumbled across the property entirely by chance but could see the potential for a modern gun shop in the heart of Welsh shooting country. It really is an ideal location, and as they say, the rest is history. Rural Sports was born.

To be honest, it wasn’t exactly a painless birth, as the launch coincided with the arrival of Covid. A month after launch, lockdown hit, and this business, like countless others, was forced to shut up shop in the chaos of those early days of the pandemic. Much to their credit there was no furloughing of staff, as there was plenty to do to establish the business – building the website, sourcing suppliers, and all the other logistics and legalities necessary when setting up a gun shop.

This would be a daunting task for anyone, but for Demi, who was pretty much fresh out of university, it must have been a real challenge flying solo with the responsibility for the venture firmly on her shoulders. Luckily, fortune favours the brave and Demi was soon joined by Helen, a lifelong shot and former underkeeper who has the added bonus of experience behind the counter in the gun trade. 

credit: Archant

The dynamic duo
As with all gun shops at the time, business was a challenge, with phone and online orders and collections at the door being the only viable way to trade. Fortunately, in this part of the world shooting is a necessity for many and not simply a hobby, with both farm and estate management providing a steady, if somewhat reduced, trade to the door.

It’s really refreshing to see a couple of ladies taking on the challenge of the gun trade, but it’s the attitude that impressed me most. Nothing is too much trouble and there’s always a smile and a coffee waiting. The two make a great team with the combination of Demi’s logistics and Helen’s first-hand experience behind the gun – it’s a winning combination.

It’s always a challenge and indeed a worry moving to a completely new area. The prospect of leaving all my hard-earned permissions behind 100 miles away did fill me with some dread, I’ll admit, and the genuine welcome in the valleys came as a huge relief.

During my first visit to the shop, I explained my concerns and enquired about any locals that might appreciate a bit of company and the chance to play with some of the gadgets I regularly review. Helen mentioned a few names and assured me there would be plenty of opportunity to get involved with the local shooting community.

Twenty minutes later, I was back home and just about to walk through the door when a ping and vibration in my pocket revealed a text message from a local shooter keen to take me out and show me the ropes. Helen had obviously reached out to the guy on my behalf and I had my first outing lined up in less than half an hour.

Obviously, it’s good business to keep the local shooting journalist sweet, but I’ve been in the shop on several occasions now and I’ve seen the same attitude applied to everyone who walks through the door. It’s a real breath of fresh air. 

credit: Archant

Shooting support
As a shooting community we need to support local gun shops like this. It’s all too easy just to buy off a website and perhaps save a couple of pounds by cutting out the middle man. But if we don’t support these bricks-and-mortar businesses, where will the support come from when we need it?

Nothing beats getting hands-on with the kit before you buy, whether it be guns, scopes or gadgets, and if these small independent retailers aren’t supported by locals, what happens when they shut up shop? The odd few pounds saved by buying online might end up being very costly when you’re forced to travel miles on end to buy guns and ammo further afield if your local shop doesn’t survive.

In addition to basic supplies, shops like Rural Sports provide a real hub for the local shooting community. Guns and gossip if you will, but they play a pivotal role in the shooting ecosystem and they are something we all need to recognise and cherish. If you find yourself in the Llangollen area or on a day trip to Bala or Lake Vyrnwy, take a detour to Llanfyllin and Rural Sports for great gear and great people. The coffee isn’t bad either!