In this financial climate, starting any new business is a brave move – but recession didn’t prevent the folks at IdleBack from setting up their shop and shooting facility in 2012. The company is a family-led venture, spearheaded by Trevor Horner, who was actually new to airgunning when he founded IdleBack as a manufacturing enterprise around six years ago. But far from hindering him, his lack of experience in the shooting industry allowed him to approach things from a fresh perspective.
Quickly, IdleBack spotted a hole in the accessory market, prompting the launch of its flagship product: the IdleBack Shooting Chair. After the success of this first innovation, IdleBack’s product range has grown, making it one of the most celebrated accessory-makers in the UK – and many orders are now coming in from abroad.
Its early achievements as a manufacturer prompted IdleBack to set up its retail outlet in May 2012. Situated in Rotherham, the building that houses the business is externally the same as any other steel-framed industrial unit found on any business park in the country. However, its interior has been nicely fitted out – and the welcoming atmosphere is rounded off by the friendliness of the staff. Indeed, though barely a year old, IdleBack’s shop and test range has built a strong reputation for its first class service and facilities.
The shop features a comfortable refreshment lounge situated between the gunroom and the indoor range – and how many gun shops can use the words ‘lounge’, ‘gunroom’ and ‘range’ in their description? A visit to IdleBack is quite an experience, that’s for sure.
The lounge is a quiet area where people can reflect on a potential purchase, or wait for their turn on the testing range, while enjoying a hot drink and something to eat. There is a variety of reading material, too – Airgun Shooter back-copies, of course! – and each newcomer is supplied with a welcome pack. This details IdleBack’s eitiquette on safe gun handling, and includes a registration form and information on the shop’s opening times, contact details, and prices of what’s in stock.
Another terrific touch for newcomers is IdleBack’s unique guide entitled ‘Insight Into Airgunning’, which explains the laws surrounding airguns, and includes a glossary of terms, an annotated diagram of a telescopic sight, trajectory diagrams, and information on what parallax error is, and how to overcome it. “We make every effort to ensure nobody feels unwelcome,” explains Trevor, “it’s all part of the IdleBack service. We even have a local gunsmith pop in every Friday to assist customers on repairs.“
Trevor explained that his own experience of shooting shops was a major catalyst in IdleBack’s decision to set up a retail branch. “I couldn’t believe the way I was treated when I went to established places to try and spend my money,” he said. “I was trying to buy a rifle and the smaller gun shops simply didn’t have enough stock in for me to look at. Plus, what they did have had been cocked, fired and handled by many customers beforehand.
“And as for the bigger gun dealers… well, most didn’t treat me seriously when I said I wanted an air rifle. So I decided we could do things much better, putting emphasis on the customer.”
Indeed, to ensure customers get value for their money, IdleBack is selective about what products it stocks. “We also make every effort to support the British airgun industry,” says Trevor – which is why I saw plenty of Air Arms, Brocock, BSA and Daystate rifles on the walls. Right now, Weihrauch is the only imported brand currently stocked.
Customers get to try out each product before they purchase on IdleBack’s purpose-built indoor shooting range, which consists of six, screened-off butts provided with a comfortable chair, benchrest stand and padded mat. Air tanks are supplied for free fill-ups on PCPs, and a selection of pellets is available so you can find a brand to suit the gun you’re testing. The variety of targets provided ensures every type of shooter is catered for – it really is the ultimate buying experience.
Shooters wanting to check accuracy can send a target card down the electric wire, which can be positioned at any distance from 10 to 30 metres, while each shooting lane also has a 10 knockdown targets, with green and red illuminated kill zones. At the far end, for a bit of testing fun, is a 10mm bell target and a bottle-shaped target with five 6mm holes to test the skill of the shooter and gun.
IdleBack even keeps records of previous customers’ ‘high scores’ on the range – adding an element of competition for those after a challenge. The longest run of consecutive knockdowns stands at 177, while the bell-ringing record is an impressive 33 consecutive rings!
There’s also a speed-shoot timer that starts when you knock over the first target and stops when you hit the tenth – and current speed king, Gareth Dobson (whose PB is 13.1 seconds) was on hand to tell me how it all started. “I was looking for a safe new hobby having injured myself too often in extreme sports and noticed IdleBack’s sign on the roundabout one evening when I was driving home from work. So I popped in on the off chance to find out more.
“The staff spent time with me and let me have a go with one of their rifles. I ordered a combo there and then – and they even helped me zero it up! When they started the speed-shooting competition, I thought I’d have a go as I can simultaneously cock my S200’s bolt while aiming for the next target – and now I come in at least once a week to have a go at beating my times. It’s got me hooked!”
My own visit fell just before one of the many shooting shows IdleBack attends, so things were understandably hectic. However, that didn’t stop the staff from ensuring everyone through the door got a personal, friendly reception – me included. That morning, two customers had driven up from the Midlands and Trevor had offered to open an hour early because of the drive. One, thinking of buying a Weihrauch HW100, said: “The opportunity to try it on the range before committing is fantastic, especially as IdleBack assured me that my purchase would be brand new, and not and ex-demo gun.”
Another prospective HW100 customer reiterated the sentiments: “I’m able to try the thumbhole and sporting stock on the range before making a final decision. I’m new to airgunning, but this is such a relaxed atmosphere to buy a gun in – plus the prices are very competitive.”
Ironically, it seems that the invention of a shooting chair gave the IdleBack ‘family’ a valuable insight into the airgunning industry, which has enabled them to open one of the most successful shops and ranges in the UK. “The concept has changed people’s perceptions of airguns. Non-shooters have seen what fun people have here – and the discipline and respect involved in shooting it has created a lasting impression on them.”
IdleBack – the shop – is a real treat for airgunners, and it’s no surprise that many curious newcomers are airgunning converts by the time they leave. If only every gun shop could aspire to customer service
– Simon Everett