North Devon Firearm Services

 

The End of an Era  (article written for Shooting Sports Magazine, but never published)

 

As 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.

 

Due 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.

 

Jim 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 waste.

 

The 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 himself.

 

The 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.

 

The 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.

 

The 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.

 

Over 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.

 

Sadly 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?, 

 

Jim 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.

 

         
     
 

Making dies on one of the old Wards

 

All Gone !!  Jim in the Workshop,

 
        

empty and ready for conversion into two cottages.