My first shotgun – with George Digweed

george_digweed_mainTwenty-six-time World Champion clay Shot, George Digweed MBE, talks about his first ever shotgun...

My first ever shotgun was an old .410 hammer gun that had been converted from a rook rifle. I remember shooting a hell of a duck with it. My grandfather was a member of a small pheasant syndicate that had an annual duck shoot at the end of the season and I was invited along when I was about 12 years old. They very kindly put me at the front as we approached  the pond, and a mallard drake got up and came straight over my head. I killed it stone dead with that little .410. 

But soon after that I moved onto a Winchester Savage 20 bore pump gun which my grandfather had originally bought for my mother. We had a family butcher’s shop in those days, so everything we shot – rabbits, hares, pigeons, pheasants, partridges and wildfowl – all went into the shop. 

I actually won my first ever cup with that Winchester pump gun. It was in 1977 and I won the Junior High Gun at the East Sussex Gun Club and Wildfowlers Association annual clay shoot. The club is now defunct, but it used to be a very prestigious event, involving all the south-east gun clubs and wildfowling associations. When I got back home, I noticed that on one side of the trophy it said ‘Junior High Gun 1977’, and on the other side it said ‘Best Budgerigar in show 1938’! 

My cousin had that Winchester 20 bore until his death seven or eight years ago, but after that I don’t know what happened to it. I should really look into it.

I shot that gun for about two or three years before moving on to a 16 bore side-by-side from Midland Gun Co. for a short time. From that I moved up to my first 12 bore, a Miroku MS150, also a side-by-side. Then, after that, I moved on to a Remington 1100 semi-auto, with two sets of barrels – 26" and 30". 

I started off rough shooting with my grandfather, but he also used to go clay shooting a couple of Sundays every month, so he was responsible for introducing me to both game and clays. I also used to shoot with my cousin Bill Mozley whenever we got the chance. We used to do a lot of rough shooting, mainly pigeons and rabbits, but we were also partial to a spot of sparrow, bullfinch and starling in those days. That was a different time, though – there were thousands of songbirds back then. 

Although I am now more well-known for my clay shooting, not many people realise that I am very much a countryman who shoots clays, rather than the other way around. I only shoot clays for seven months of the year. The rest of the time I am out shooting pigeons, wildfowl, pheasants, partridges and grouse at every opportunity; I love it all and couldn’t possibly say which is my favourite. I can’t see how you can compare pigeons flighting through a wood with high pheasants on Exmoor, wild teal on the Isle of Sheppey, grouse in Scotland or partridges in Northumberland – they’re all so different but equally wonderful.

I am not particularly sentimental about guns, but I have kept all of the shotguns that I have ever won a World Championship with, regardless of make. There are seven of them in total in my cabinet. I won the first World Championship in 1988 with a Parker Hale/Browning combination, then in 1989 I won with two Berettas – one flat-shooting and one high-shooting – then there were two Kemens and two Perazzis. The Perazzi MX2000 that I shoot now has 32" barrels choked full and full and I use it for all of my shooting, both game and clays.

In the competitive environment, the early part of anybody’s career is always the steepest learning curve, when any kid with a bit of talent goes from average to good in a pretty short period of time. There are thousands of people who think their son or daughter is going to be the next World Champion. In actual fact, the hard work comes later when you are good but not yet great. Taking that next step is the hard part – it requires hard work and determination, not just in terms of practice but also really working on refining your technique and never being satisfied. Always striving to be better is what defines success. 

Mentally, you have to be strong, too. Everybody is affected by pressure – it’s how you deal with it that counts. It’s about teaching yourself to do in a competition environment what you do in practise. I have lost shoots when pressure has got to me but I have learnt from those situations. Anyone who says that they aren’t affected by pressure isn’t competing. 

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