A pleasant day of shooting had ended and we had drawn up our lawn chairs into a convivial circle. As the shadows lengthened the day’s shooting was dissected and the post mortem performed. Soon the talk meandered along an aimless stream of consciousness,eventually forming a whirlpool around the subject of the expense of the sport.

The inevitable comparisons to golf and tennis arose. Certainly, the initial investment is large, rifle, sights, sling, spotting scope, jacket, mat, and the numerous ephemera that fill the shooters kit bag quickly add up to several tens of thousands of dollars. But that is an initial expense that, if done with some thought, will need not be repeated. There were also the ongoing expenses of travel, club membership fees, entry fees, dues for various shooting organizations-both state and national, and the ammunition.

However, the cost of ammunition seemed to raise the most hackles. The fact that domestic munitions firms had long ago abandoned the field to European competition was a sore point. Many remember when a brick of Winchester Mark III or Remington Match sold for ten bucks and a gallon of gas cost 36 cents. Less clear in our memories was the fact that minimum wage was $1.45 an hour. Gas and the minimum wage have risen but ammunition prices have far outstripped the natural rise in costs.

A few ideas were tossed out and mulled. The cost of production was popular for a bit. Certainly, the cost of labor and raw materials has increased, but that didn’t ring true when measured against other products. The unfavorable exchange rate of the US dollar against the various European currencies, the pound and Euro, had some traction.

Of course, the conspiracy theorists got all tangled up in the tawdry relationship between the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, United Nations, the Knights Templers, Skull and Bones, The Bohemian Club, the International Monetary Fund, and various international and domestic anti gun groups trying to dry up the supply of ammunition.

Suddenly a voice impatiently piped up, “Your all wrong. It is because of cholera and litigation.” The quiet was deafening. After a moment’s pause there was general acclimation of disbelief.

“Look! This drastic price jump all got started in the summer of 1854 in London”. It seemed to us to be a very far reach so we leaned forward, anxious to hear this tale.

“It seems that Charles and William Eley ran a factory on Bond Street making percussion caps for Her Majesty’s Forces. The Crimean War was heating up and the Allied expeditionary forces were headed to Balaclava. Sales of percussion caps were going through the roof and Eley’s work force was working long days to supply the “Thin Red Line.”

It was a hot summer. The Eley brothers, perhaps showing unusual compassion for Victorian employers, but more likely doing what they could to keep the work force on its feet to get every percussion cap made, packaged, and shipped, and most importantly paid for, supplied tubs of water to refresh their employees.

The water was drawn from the convenient Broad Street pump which enjoyed a reputation as a source of clean and tasty water. The Eley Brothers were even in the habit of sending bottles of it home to their mother who favored it. The water was convenient and tasty, but it was also infected with Vibrio choleraebacteria,cholera. The workers, and Mother Eley, quickly dropped like flies. Word of Eley supplying the tainted water to its employees, and the ensuing epidemic, drew epidemiologists, public health officials and lawyers like moths to a flame.

The chambers at the Inns of Court emptied in a flash. Barristers and solicitors raced toward Bond Street, armed with brief cases, their outstretched hands loaded with business cards. The tenement lined streets surrounding Bond Street soon were clogged with an armada of Hansom Cabs discharging a tsunami of London’s bowler wearing brollywielding ambulance chasers on the stricken neighborhood. The traffic jam had a unexpected positive effect on public health as the locals were unable to pass through the blocked streets and could no longer use the contaminated pump.

Individual and class action suits were filed and, at geological speed, they crept through the turgid and clogged British court system. Progress was further slowed by interruptions caused by The Abe Slaney Trial at the Winter Assizes at Norwich, Wilde v. Queensberry, The British Wreck Commissioner’s inquiry into the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the 1926 General Strike, theAbdication Crisis, The Hawley Harvey Crippen Murder Trial, the William Joyce/Lord Haw Haw Treason Trial, Regina v. Turing and Murray, and The Great Train Robbery.

That being said, the wheels of British justice may grind exceedingly slow but they do grind exceedingly fine and it wasn’t until just recently that the multitude of Eley workers’ compensation claims cases were adjudicated. Jurors found in favor of the workers, England being a socialist haven and heaven what else would you expect. So Eley has had to raise its prices to meet these unexpected compensatory and punitive damages.”

Given the other ideas this one is just as plausible.

About Hap Rocketto

Hap Rocketto is a Distinguished Rifleman with service and smallbore rifle, member of The Presidents Hundred, and the National Guard’s Chief’s 50. He is a National Smallbore Record holder, a member of the 1600 Club and the Connecticut Shooters’ Hall Of Fame. He was the 2002 Intermediate Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion, the 2012 Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion a member of the 2007 and 2012 National Four Position Indoor Championship team, coach and captain of the US Drew Cup Team, and adjutant of the United States 2009 Roberts and 2013 Pershing Teams. Rocketto is very active in coaching juniors. He is, along with his brother Steve, a cofounder of the Corporal Digby Hand Schützenverein. A historian of the shooting sports, his work appears in Shooting Sports USA, the late Precision Shooting Magazine, The Outdoor Message, the American Rifleman, the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s website, and most recently, the apogee of his literary career,
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