Devon Firearm Services
End of an Era (article written for Shooting Sports Magazine, but never published)
some of you would have read as of January 31st 2002 Jim Goodwin retired, even
though he placed adds in 'Target Sports' to forewarn the shooting fraternity of
his intentions we still
got phone calls from disbelieving shooters incredulous
that he was actually going to stop. Any one who shoots something even a little
out of the ordinary will know Jim. He has been the main (and sometimes the only)
source of loading dies, sizing dies, bullet moulds (many made to Jim's own
design) and not forgetting cases. There are many a fine old shooting piece out there still in use thanks to Jim.
to a lack of spare cash as an apprentice, he had found that a fairly cheap way
to shoot was to pick up firearms in calibres no longer catered for by the big
suppliers of the time. With ammunition no longer readily available and loading
equipment not available he made his own.
moved from London down to North Devon in 1966 and started making dies in his
garage in Fremington. The first dies he made were for a .43 Egyptian that he
had picked up for the princely sum of £8.00, which he tells me he still has in his
collection. In 1969 he placed an add in Guns Review and promptly sold his first
set of dies for a .303, North Devon Firearm Services came into being. He found
that there was a small group of shooters who were looking to load and shoot some
of the beautiful old pieces that were basically just lying around and going to
move to the Braunton workshop came in 1976, the site was burned out the same
year, Jim struggled on taking on another job until he could rebuild the workshop
word of this service spread around the world; the range of cases he made was
over thirty different obsolete calibres and over 200 calibres of dies. A lot of
Jims trade was for overseas (until last year, as some of you would have read on
the Internet). That was until Her Majesties Customs and Excise service stepped
in to inform Jim that the venerable Martini Henry 577/450 is a restricted
Military item and along with every other item he produced, export licences would
be required for each and every order.
sheer weight of paper work required to send 50 cases to America, 100 to
Australia etc. was just not worth it. Shooters are a resourceful lot and you
would be amazed at the number of overseas shooters that have a relative living
here in the U.K. More than one tourist has found his way down to the “Black
Hole” in North Devon to personally pick up bits and pieces to legally take home
in their luggage. One from Australia recently convinced his wife that Exeter to
Bath via Braunton was not at all out of the way, I suppose its not if you have
just come twelve thousand miles.
spectrum of Loading Dies that Jim has made range from .22 (Centre fire) up to
the Mauser 13mm antitank Cartridge, The last ‘special made was for the 18 x 36
Tabatier, a die that you can easily stick a finger in to check the polishing.
the years he has produced a variety of products from swaging tools and dies to
his own design lub-sizer and even the Rolls Royce of Loading Presses. This was a
superb machine that could easily handle 1.25” dies and built like the proverbial
out house that will last forever. Just as well because Jim has one at home for
his own use.
the trust that Jim placed in his customers was not always returned to him, he
retired with customers owing him thousands of pounds. This is a sad reflection
on those shooters who are out there enjoying their rifle with no thought for the
person who dedicated his life to developing skills so that they can enjoy
themselves, who will they turn to for the next set of dies?,
has spent the last thirty years producing products for the shooting fraternity
and along the way has accumulated an encyclopaedia of knowledge that anyone who
has picked his brains will testify. A recent e-mail from the U.S. told him that
if he was living in Japan he would be a ‘National Treasure’. We will all miss
Jim and I am sure his customers will wish him a long and happy retirement, he
intends to shoot and fish, that is of course if they are all not banned in the
U.K. but then Arizona is not that long a flight away.