News & Events

Keeping it in the Family: Three Generations of Gunsmiths

Keeping it in the Family: Three Generations of Gunsmiths
We caught up with Darren Hartshorne, a third-generation gunsmith and Merkel dealer who owns and operates Mid Counties Blacking. 

In our latest dealer spotlight series, we catch up with Darren Hartshorne, a third-generation gunsmith and Merkel dealer who owns and operates Mid Counties Blacking. 

The Mid Counties Blacking business has been passed down from father to son for three generations until last year when Darren’s father passed away. Until 2021 grandfather, father, uncle and son all worked in the business customising guns, blacking, creating bespoke wood gun stocks and engraving weapons.

Despite the passing of Darren’s father, the business continues to go from strength to strength. They have recently bought a second building, become a Viking Arms specialist Merkel rifle dealer and further established their reputation as one of the few ‘true’ gunsmiths remaining in England. 

Darren Hartshorne Mid Counties Blacking 1

They offer a unique service to customers too. They have their own range 100m range with a 30m bank to allow customers to sight guns in and demo how they work which helps them experience the gun before they buy. Because Mid Counties Blacking is such an established name in Lichfield Darren also has access locally to stalking, farms and acreages of land where red deer graze. Many of the landowners rely on Darren and his team for wildlife management. From time to time if Darren has a customer who is genuinely interested in purchasing a high-end Merkel rifle, he has the option to take them out with a sample gun, get it sighted and explore the functionality of the rifle on the ground in pursuit of a red deer. 

“There are a huge amount of deer in Lichfield and the surrounding areas, it’s ideal for taking prospective customers out to stalk. We then gralloch and take the deer to the local butchers for preparation and vacuum packing. It means prospective Merkel rifle owners can truly try before they buy”. 

The last prospective customer they offered this experience to, culled a red deer and loved the trial Merkel Helix Speedster he was using so much that he purchased one that day with a second barrel 300 win mag 308 double and flight gun case.

Darren’s relationship with Merkel extends way before he became a Viking Arms specialist dealer. He’d heard a lot about the Merkel rifle range and was interested in the engineering and design of the modular system of the Merkel Helix rifle models. At IWA one year he met their technical team and grilled them about the functionality of their products.

merkel-helix-noblesse-merkel-partner

‘I was impressed with their extensive product knowledge but also their technical understanding of how the modular system of the Merkel Helix rifles had been engineered. Having used the rifle and been impressed by its lightweight but quality design, the natural next step was to begin stocking the range in our shop.’

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The craftsmanship of the Merkel appealed to Darren; with many gunsmiths now out-sourcing their craft or relying on CNC machines for the detailed finishing or maintenance of clients’ guns, Darren remains passionate about his trade and continues to practice his woodwork expertise and metalwork craftsmanship on clients’ guns who travel from miles to enlist his services. 

‘Gunsmiths are increasingly few and far between, it means that more and more people are coming to us for their finishing, blacking, fit, mechanism repair, spring making and all of the difficult elements of gun and rifle maintenance that people have lost their skills on”.

gun-smithing

Darren also fields a number of unique requests to work on guns that are obsolete or create parts that are no longer being manufactured. 

‘I grew up around guns and from the minute I could, I got involved in the business and was educated on the job. My only fear now is that my three daughters are uninterested in the trade and the family business may not continue in the future in its current form.”

In order to build-up the business for the future, Darren has taken on a number of apprentices. It’s not a career path for the faint hearted, Stef was recruited eleven years ago and is still training.

“Training is for a very long time with a small wage. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not a career that will make you a millionaire, but it’s one that is hugely satisfying and rewarding in many other ways”.

“We’re known and trusted in the area. Estate owners, farmers and landowners rely on our family and the business to provide deer management in the region. It’s a necessary job, but also a great perk of the career”.

If you’re interested in purchasing a Merkel rifle and what to demo it on the range or on a stalk get in touch with Darren by emailing sales@midcountiesblacking.co.uk

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Rifleman Rings

Description
Rifleman 1″ Vertical Split Rings Matte 
Rifleman 1″ Detachable Medium Rings Matte 
Rifleman 1″ Detachable High Rings Matte 
Rifleman 1″ Detachable Medium Rings Gloss
Rifleman 30mm Detachable Rings Med Matte 
Rifleman 30mm Detachable Rings High Matte 
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QRW Bases

Description
QRW Remington 700 2-pc Matte 
QRW Browning A-Bolt 2-pc Matte 
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Std One-Piece Bases

Description
STD Ruger 1022 1-pc Gloss 
STD Ruger 1022 1-pc Silver 
STD Savage 99 1-pc Gloss 
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Std Two-Piece Bases

Description
STD Remington 700 2-pc Gloss 
STD Remington 700 RVF 2-pc Matte 
STD Remington 541 2-pc Gloss 
STD Winchester 94 2-pc Gloss 
STD Browning A-Bolt LR 2-pc Matte 
STD Browning X-Bolt 2-pc Gloss 
STD Browning X-Bolt 2-pc Matte 
STD Browning European 2-pc Gloss 
STD Mauser FN 2-pc Matte 
STD Mauser 98 2-pc Matte 
STD Kimber 84 2-pc Matte 
Gunmakers Windage 1 of 2-pc Gloss 
Gunmakers Dovetail 1 of 2-pc Gloss 
STD Ruger American 2-pc Matte 
STD Browning A-Bolt WSSM 2-pc Matte
STD Browning A-Bolt 2-pc Gloss
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Std Rings

Description
STD 1″ Super Low Matte 
STD 1″ Low Matte 
STD 1″ Medium Gloss 
STD 1″ Medium Matte 
STD 1″ High Gloss 
STD 1″ High Matte 
STD 1″ Super High Gloss 
STD 1″ Super High Matte 
STD 1″ Medium Ext Matte 
STD 30mm Low Matte 
STD 30mm Medium Gloss 
STD 30mm High Matte 
STD 30mm Super High Matte 
STD 30mm Medium Ext Matte 
STD 30mm High Ext Matte 
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Dual Dovetail Bases

Description
DD Remington 700 2-pc Matte 
DD Remington 700 RVF 2-pc Matte 
DD Winchester 70 Exp Post-64 RVF 2-pc Matte 
DD Browning S-A RF 1-pc Gloss 
DD Tikka T3/T3x RVF 2-pc Matte 
DD Ruger American RVR 2-pc Matte 
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Dual Dovetail Rings

Description
DD 1″ Super Low Matte 
DD 1″ Low Matte 
DD 1″ Medium Matte 
DD 1″ High Matte 
DD 1″ Super High Matte 
DD 1″ High Ext Matte 
DD 30mm Low Matte 
DD 30mm Medium Matte 
DD 30mm High Matte 
DD 30mm Super High Matte 
DD 30mm High Ext Matte 
DD 34mm High Matte 
DD 34mm Super High Matte 
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Quick Release One-Piece Bases

Description
QR Remington 700 RH-SA 1-pc Matte 
Contact your local dealer for prices
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Quick Release Two-Piece Bases

Description
QR Remington 700 2-pc Gloss 
QR Browning A-Bolt 2-pc Matte 
QR Mauser FN 2-pc Matte 
QR Sauer 90/200 2-pc Matte 
QR Sauer 202 2-pc Gloss 
QR Savage 110 2-pc Gloss 
QR Sako 2-pc Matte 
QR Tikka T3/T3x 2-pc Matte 
QR Steyr SBS Classic Mannlicher 2-pc Matte 
Contact your local dealer for prices
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Quick Release Rings

Description
QR 1″ Super Low Matte 
QR 1″ Low Gloss 
QR 1″ Low Matte 
QR 1″ Medium Gloss 
QR 1″ Medium Matte 
QR 1″ High Gloss 
QR 1″ High Matte 
QR 1″ Super High Matte 
QR 1″ Low Ext Matte 
QR 1″ Medium Ext Gloss 
QR 1″ Medium Ext Matte 
QR 1″ High Ext Matte 
QR 30mm Low Matte 
QR 30mm Medium Matte 
QR 30mm Medium Ext Matte 
QR 30mm High Matte 
QR 30mm High Ext Matte 
QR 34mm High Matte 
QR 34mm Super High Matte 
Contact your local dealer for prices
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QRW Rings

Description
QRW2 1″ Low Matte 
QRW2 1″ Medium Gloss 
QRW2 1″ Medium Matte 
QRW2 1″ High Matte 
QRW2 30mm Low Matte 
QRW2 30mm Medium Gloss 
QRW2 30mm High Matte 
Contact your local dealer for prices
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Rifleman Bases

Description
Rifleman Ruger 10/22 1-pc Silver Silver 
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PRW Rings

Description
PRW2 1″ Low Matte 
PRW2 1″ Medium Matte 
PRW2 1″ High Matte 
PRW2 30mm Low Matte 
PRW2 30mm High Matte 
PRW2 34mm Medium Matte 
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LRW Rings

Description
LRW 1″ Medium Matte 
LRW 30mm Medium Matte 
LRW 30mm High Matte 
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Back Country Cross-Slot Rings

Description
BackCountry Cross-Slot 1″ Med Rings Matte
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Back Country Cross-Slot Bases

Description
BackCountry Cross-Slot Remington 700 SA 1-pc Matte
BackCountry Cross-Slot Remington 700 SA 1-pc 20-MOA Matte
BackCountry Cross-Slot Remington 700 LA 1-pc Matte
BackCountry Cross-Slot Tikka T3/T3x 1-pc Matte
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Integral Mounting Systems

Description
Mark 4 IMS 30mm Matte 
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Mark 4 Rings

Description
Mark 4 34mm Super High Matte 
Mark 4 34mm High Matte 
Mark 4 1″ Super High Matte 
Mark 4 30mm Super High Matte 
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Ringmounts

Description
RM Sako 1″ Super High Gloss 
RM Sako 1″ Super High Matte 
RM Sako 1″ Medium Gloss
RM Sako 1″ Low Gloss
RM Sako 1″ High Gloss 
RM Sako 30mm Medium Matte 
RM Sako 30mm High Matte 
RM Ruger #1 & 77/22 30mm High Matte 
RM Sako 1″ High Silver
RM Sako 30mm Super High Matte 
RM Sako 1″ Medium Matte 
RM Sako 1″ High Matte 
RM CZ 527 1″ High Matte 
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35mm Rings

Description
Mark 4 35mm High Alu Matte Rings
Mark 4 35mm Super High Alu Matte Rings
Mark IMS 35mm Mounts 
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Breda B12i

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Specifications

  • Oversized Loading Port
  • “Quad-Loadable” from factory
  • Ergonomic / Large Bolt Release
  • Oversized Charging / Bolt Handle
  • Drilled Receiver to accept Optics
  • Recoil Reducing Tri-Polymer Synthetic Stock
  • 5 – Flush Mount Chokes
  • Ghost Ring Rear Site – Available
  • Extension Tube – Available
  • Barrel Options: 18.5”, 21” 24” 28” 30” Step-rib
  • Barrel Options: 24” & 26” with Front Rifle Site
  • SilencerCo Salvo Compatible
  • High Luminosity Fibre Optic Front Site
MODEL
Alpinist Green – M15x1 threaded with removable sights
Calibres: .223 / .243 / .270 / .308 / 30-06 / 9.3×62
Contact your local dealer for prices