AIR ARMS HISTORY
In 1968 Organ Engineering was formed in Carshalton, Surrey by Bob Nicholls, Alf Organ and his son Dave Organ.
Some time later the company moved to Hailsham in Sussex in order to be closer to their largest customer at the time - a company named Apaseal.
Another of Organ Engineering's customers was Replica Models (UK) Ltd who were incorporated in 1968.
For much of its history the company sold arms of one variety or another, with its Jackal range of rifles being sold under the trading name of Sussex Armoury. Organ Engineering produced the majority of components for the Jackal rifles.
When Alf & Dave Organ decided they wanted to follow a different path the Directors of Replica Models (UK) Ltd - Richard Marriot-Smith & Dave Pickering - decided their company would purchase Alf & Dave's shares.
The company name was subsequently changed to NSP Developiment & Manufacturing Engineers Ltd. (NSP).
After running into financial difficulties, Replica Models (UK) Ltd entered into voluntary liquidation on the 2nd February 1982, with Poppleton & Appleby being appointed as receivers.
Airgun World - March 1982
The companies shares in NSP were offered for sale by the receiver and Bob Nicholls purchased them along with the manufactured components for the Jackal range of rifles.
Bob decided to keep the company name and that NSP would continue production of the Jackal range and sell them direct to the public.
Production and distribution of the rifles took place alongside NSP’s ongoing engineering contracts to produce such things as hospital, dental and garage equipment.
NSP Advert - Airgun World March 1982
Over the previous years NSP had identified improvements that could be made to the Jackal range but Sussex Armoury had chosen to not take up these suggestions. Now NSP could instigate these improvements.
The rifles were initially marketed using the company’s own name. After a while they were advertised via “Centrepoint”, which was in effect NSP’s mail order department.
Centrepoint Advert - Airgun World March 1983
Early in 1983, Bob Nicholls & his works manager, Colin King, decided they wanted to drive the company forward in the air rifle market. Bill Sanders was recruited as sales & marketing manager and the trading name Air Arms was born.
Air Arms moved away from mail order to trade only distribution and built up a great reputation with stockists through the improved and extended range of rifles along with thorough quality control & a focus on customer service.
Air Arms Advert from 1983
As well as continuing to improve their range of rifles, the company began to distribute shooting accessories, including scopes.
To many, the greatest of the Air Arms side-levers was the Khamsin, which was launched in March 1986 and boasted a beautifully designed walnut thumb-hole stock.
At the same time as the Khamsin’s launch, Air Arms already had a new, ambitious and ground breaking rifle on the drawing board.
Bob, Colin & Bill always worked closely together to act on ideas quickly and with the benefit of state of the art machinery it was not long before prototypes were produced, tested in the field, tweaked and production commenced.
In the first week of December 1987, Air Arm’s first pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) rifle, the Shamal, hit the shops and was an instant success.
Shamal Prototype Review - Airgun World - March 1987
With the Shamal being taken from concept to production it represented the first, true Air Arms rifle. The company had come of age and had gained a reputation as a forward thinking, innovative and trustworthy company.
The early to mid 90’s was a busy period in the history of NSP & Air Arms. The company continued to invest in the latest technology, strengthened its links with world class consultants such as Nick Jenkinson and Ken Turner, and released the 100 series of rifles, as well as the RN10/Pro-Target and TX200.
These successes, and all that had been learnt since 1982, led to Bob Nicholls's decision to no longer carry out sub-contract work and concentrate NSP’s efforts solely on the development and production of air rifles.
Pro-Target MkIII Advert - 1999
Over the following years more rifles were introduced, the number of countries exported to increased and sales continued to rise. By the end of the 20th century Air Arms had cemented their place as a major player in the quality air rifle market.
Air Arms had entered the new millennium with what to many is the greatest spring rifle in the world already in their stable - the TX200. They also had a world class field target rifle in the form of the Pro-Target.
With the launch of the 400 series rifles in 2000 Air Arms now had an outstanding portfolio of rifles that have provided a platform for all rifles they have subsequently produced. The Air Arms offerings may have evolved but the ancestry of the TX, Pro-Target and 400 series is till evident.
400 Series Advert from 2000
In 2001 a lasting relationship with CZ Brno of the Czech Republic was sealed. After almost 4 years of co-development the S200 was launched. With the S200 Air Arms now had a range of rifles to satisfy all shooters and disciplines.
In 2009 Air Arms released a PCP pistol after collaboration with another Czech company. The pistol was given the same name as the company - Alpha Proj.
Alfa Proj Advert from 2009
2011 was a sad year for NSP/Air Arms as owner Bob Nicholls passed away. I never met Bob but everyone I have spoken to that knew him had nothing but good words for him. Terry Doe's words in the November 2011 edition of Airgun World sum up perfectly the sentiments I have heard from those that knew Bob.
Airgun World - November 2011
Bob's daughter Claire became the new Managing Director of NSP/Air Arms. Claire had been part of the company for many years and worked in many roles alongside her father.
Sharing her fathers work ethic and passion for the company, as well as having gained a great deal of business knowledge from her father, Claire settled quickly into her new role and steered the company through a potentially difficult period.
"Help for Heroes" Fundraising Advert from 2011
Less than a year after losing Bob Nicholls Air Arms lost another of its earliest & most influential family members when Bill Sanders passed away.
As well as being the man Bob had bought on board back in 1983 to drive NSP forward Bill was extremely well regarded with both the UK airgun industry & shooters from all disciplines.
Bill had been responsible for rallying the shooting trade in refurbishing Disability Target Shooting Great Britain’s (DTSGB) ranges in the grounds of Stoke Manderville Hospital. After his death DTSGB decided to name one of the ranges after Bill.
Airgun World - January 2013
If there was any doubt as to the future intentions of Air Arms following Bob Nicholl’s death on 2011, Claire West made a clear statement of intent in 2012 when she sanctioned an investment of over £400000 which saw new machinery & software purchased as well as improvements to the layout at Air Arms HQ.
The following year, what turned out to be the last major product development started with Bob Nicholl’s at the helm, with the programme being completed under Claire’s leadership, was finally launched – the FTP900.
FTP900 Advert from 2013
The launch of the FTP900 was the start of a very busy period for Air Arms as over the next 18 months the Ultimate Sporter & HFT500 were added to the company’s portfolio, a brand new website was completed & Air Arms TV hit our screens on Youtube.
Improvements to their range has continued throughout the last decade as has the ever present “rolling development programme” of the Air Arms range.
The company’s ongoing support to all shooting disciplines was again demonstrated in 2018 when following an ongoing relationship with the relatively new discipline of target Sprint the TS400 was launched to meet the specific needs of participants in the sport.
TS400 Advert from 2018
After one of the most extensive development programmes carried out by Air Arms, with extensive field testing & input from world renown target shooters & engineers, the next flagship target rifle - the XTi 50 - promises to be the ultimate target rifle.
It was hope the XT150 would be launched in 2020 but for reasons I feel don't need explaining it is now hoped the XTi-50 will be released in the first half on 2021.
On the 26th November 2020, NSP Development & Manufacturing Engineers Ltd, Air-Arms Ltd, NSP Holdings Ltd & Falcon Airguns Ltd were sold.
The buyer was NSP Group Ltd with one Mrs Claire West being the sole shareholder.
After following in her father's footsteps with hard work, commitment & humility at the helm, all who know Claire will be extremely happy for where she now finds herself.
In Claire's own words:
"I am so excited to find my self in this position and feel that this is my path to follow and my destiny.
I am ready for a new dawn and I will face the challenges that lay ahead with the resilience and determination needed and I will rejoice in the successes with much joy and humility."