Secret Life of an Airgun & Shotgun Delivery Driver

One of our distinctive Pellpax vans on the way to a delivery.

One of our distinctive Pellpax vans on the way to a delivery.

One of the most important parts of Pellpax is our door to door airgun & shotgun delivery service. Unlike many of our competitors, who often send your order to your local Registered Firearms Dealer for collection, we have the facility to deliver air rifles, air pistols and shotgun cartridges nationwide, directly to your door. 

These deliveries take place each weekend thanks to our team of drivers, many of whom are previously members of the armed forces and police. To shed more light on this very special air rifle delivery service, we sent out blogger and writer Hazel Randall to spend some time with one of our drivers…..

Friday lunchtime:

Parcels are being loaded into the van in reverse order of delivery. Every item has been double-checked, all guns have been fired, and each package has the customer’s name written clearly on it. The driver, Chris Avern, is handed a folder labelled NORTH, which contains 54 invoices and three hotel booking forms, all in correct order. Taped to the front of the folder is Pellpax’s Certificate of Registration as a Firearms Dealer.

Sophisticated software used in the Pellpax office has calculated the route and approximate time between drops. Taking into account time that will be spent with customers, an estimated time of arrival has been written on each invoice, and customers have been advised of this time. (No pressure then, Chris.)

Chris programmes the satnav with the postcode for the first drop, copied from the invoice. The satnav shows an estimated time of arrival – a few minutes earlier than the time shown on the invoice.

Pellpax delivery driver Chris tours the country each weekend.

Pellpax delivery driver Chris tours the country each weekend.

Chris locks the back door of the van and sets off. In the back of the van there’s a CCTV camera, and above the passenger seat is a tiny monitor. Security is paramount.

The sky is overcast and there’s a chill in the air, but the weather forecast for the north of England is good. With Radio 2 playing in the background and mobile phone (with Bluetooth connection) fixed to the dashboard, Chris begins his solitary three-day sojourn.

This is the first weekend in June. White hawthorn is frothing madly in the hedgerows, its sweet scent drifting into the van. Now and then, a splash of pink or red may blossom grabs the eye, and then it’s gone, leaving its glorious image hovering in the memory. Meadows are studded with daisies, and in the gardens, laburnum trees are weighed down by copious yellow blossom.

Chris arrives at the first address five minutes ahead of time. He takes the customer’s package from the van and knocks on the front door. The door is opened by a smiling, middle-aged man, who congratulates Chris on his excellent time-keeping. The two men have a friendly chat, and the customer tells Chris about his pigeon problem. The client’s ID documents are on the hall table, ready for this delivery.  

When Chris delivers a gun or any item related to guns – pellets, scope, silencer, etc. – he must see photographic ID and a household bill that connects the client’s name and billing address. Chris records passport or driving licence serial numbers, and signs to say that he has seen the documents. If the photographic ID is something other than passport or driving licence, and there is no serial number to record, Chris takes a photograph of the document for reference. Then the client signs the form. When the paperwork is complete, Chris hands over the goods and the invoice and invites the client to check his purchase.

Chris makes a successful delivery to another happy customer.

Chris makes a successful delivery to another happy customer.

Back in the van, Chris takes the second invoice from the folder and enters the postcode in the satnav. The ETA displayed on the satnav is 10 minutes ahead of the ETA on the invoice. Chris is making good time.

Already, the sky is clearer and the sun is warming the air. Chris takes off his sweater and throws it onto the passenger seat. He winds the window down halfway and sings along to Dire Straits and Walk of Life.

In the beautiful city of Lincoln, the Pellpax van scoots up and down the steep roads, carving a route between flower-filled gardens and elegant architecture.

When the Romans invaded the Iron Age settlement of Lindo (Celtic for pool) in 48 AD, they renamed the town Lindum Colonia, but by 1066 the name had evolved into old English Lincylene. During WW1, the first ever tanks were designed and built in Lincoln, and the city’s manufacturers continued to produce a wide range of military vehicles during WW2.

After one drop in the middle of Lincoln, Chris heads for The Humber Bridge – a 2,220-metre suspension bridge over the Humber Estuary, connecting Lincolnshire to the East Riding of Yorkshire. The Humber Bridge is the seventh longest of its kind in the world; however, when it was opened to traffic in 1981, it was the longest. It’s foggy and drizzling with rain when Chris makes the crossing. With the window wound up, he croons an accompaniment to Dolly Parton as she sings I Will Always Love You.

Humber Bridge 1

Crossing the Humber Bridge

In the evening, after a delicious spicy pizza and a bottle of Coke, Chris arrives at a pre-booked hotel in Bradford. He has delivered to ten addresses today. Backing the van against the car park wall, he takes his overnight bag into the hotel, signs in, and snuggles into bed.    

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Saturday morning

Chris is jerked awake, by his phone alarm. The first drop, half an hour’s drive from the hotel, is due soon. Chris showers, dresses, and finishes up last night’s pizza. Shortly after, he’s driving away from the hotel, squinting into the low sun.

Chris arrives in good time at the first address. The customer is wearing a dressing gown but answers the door promptly, ID in hand. He and Chris greet one another like old friends. This is a repeat customer – a man appreciative of the Pellpax air rifle delivery service.

The next customer is not in. Chris knocks several times and phones the contact number given on the invoice. Five minutes after the due delivery time, Chris writes a note to say that he has called and slips it through the letterbox. He’ll have to take this item home again.

Nobody's home, so Chris leaves a note for a customer.

Nobody’s home, so Chris leaves a note for a customer.

Twenty minutes later, Chris is driving into the pleasant grounds of a residential home. The sniper rifle to be delivered is for a member of staff. The door is opened by the client’s colleague, who has her own ID ready. Chris asks to see the client’s ID as well, but it seems that he hasn’t left it for her. Chris has no other phone number for the client, other than the number for this address. The lady tries to contact the client, but with no success. Chris apologises and says that he will not leave the rifle without seeing the required ID. There is no other option – he must take the gun back to Pellpax.

Today’s route takes Chris over the Yorkshire Dales. But first he must fill up with diesel – and coffee. The large red Costa sign that stands at the garage entrance is reminiscent of one of those seductive ladies who stand by an oasis in the Road films, beckoning to Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Fortunately, the Costa sign is not a mirage.

Chris has long distances to drive between drops today. There are only 16 addresses to visit, but they span a distance of several hundred miles.

The view from Sharp Haw – a hill with an elevation of 357 metres on the southern edge of the Dales – is stunning. The word ‘haw’ comes from Old English ‘hawian’ (view). Chris stops the car and gets out for a few moments. His feet brush past bright yellow buttercups on impossibly slender stems, vying for attention with gorgeous campion and achingly pretty bindweed.

There are traffic jams in Hull. Temporary lights at roadworks seem to be permanently red. Chris makes a phone call to his next customer, explaining that he’s stuck in traffic queues. Apologising for the delay, he gives an estimated time of arrival, adding that he might be even later. The customer says not to worry – she’s well aware of the roadworks and the delays they’re causing.

After dropping off the parcel, Chris phones the next customer. He’s twenty minutes behind time, but the roads are fairly clear now. He tells the customer that he’ll be there within half an hour.

It’s evening, and Chris makes his final drop of the day 15 minutes after the due delivery time. Perked up a little by a nourishing KFC, Chris makes his way to the pre-booked Travel Lodge in Hull. Before signing in, he enters the postcode of tomorrow’s first drop in the satnav. He signs in, has a shower, and falls into bed.

***************

Sunday morning:

Chris wakes, showers and leaves the hotel. His mood is not going to match the lovely weather until he’s had a coffee. After ten minutes of driving, an oasis appears. With a large Costa coffee inside him, the monster that got out of bed minutes earlier turns into a Beach Boys backing singer.

This morning, Chris delivers the only shotgun of the weekend – a Webley and Scott 900 Extreme Sporter 30” Barrel, 12 gauge. In addition to ID checks, Chris must see the client’s firearms licence and sign to say that he has seen it. With this invoice are two copies of a Firearm Transfer Notification letter. On this occasion, there are no shotgun cartridges delivered, but we do have the very rare facility to do this, also.

The client must enter information about the firearm purchased from Pellpax, including the serial number, along with his own name, address, and licence number. It’s the client’s responsibility to send his copy by recorded post to his local firearms department. Chris takes the second copy back to Pellpax for their records.

A drop on the western outskirts of Kendal takes Chris through the picturesque town, famous for Kendal mint cake, the high-energy confectionary that sustained numerous explorers on expeditions to Mount Everest, K2, and the north and south poles.

During the first half of the second millennium, the main industry in Kendal was the manufacture of woollen goods – notably the hard-wearing fabric known as Kendal Green, worn by archers in battles of the Hundred Years War. The cloth was steeped in a yellow dye produced from Genista tinctoria (dyer’s broom), and then overdyed with blue Isatis tinctoria (dyer’s woad). The motto on the Kendal coat of arms is Pannus mihi panis (cloth is my bread).

Wind turbinesDriving over Lambrigg Fell in Cumbria, Chris passes the Lambrigg Wind Farm (pictured), owned by RWE npower renewables (previously National Wind Power). The wind farm, opened in September 2000, comprises five turbines that produce enough pollution-free electricity to meet the average needs of around 2,500 UK homes.

Today takes Chris both under and over the River Mersey, and across the rivers Kent and Aire. He crosses the Manchester Ship Canal and the Aire & Calder Navigation, which leads into the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

Grazing the outskirts of Liverpool, Chris’ route wends eastward. The day ends at a Premier Inn in Derby – an unusual arrangement of chalet-style rooms around a courtyard, with external stairs to the upper storey. Chris drops his bag onto the floor and falls face-down onto the bed.

***************

Monday morning:

Just eight more drops to do. For some reason, Chris craves something fishy to eat. He settles for a prawn-mayonnaise sandwich from a garage shop, accompanied, of course, by a Costa coffee. This leads to a hearty rendition of the James Bond theme song, Nobody Does it Better.

After the final drop, Chris fills up with diesel; there’s a two-hour drive back to the Pellpax base in Aylsham, Norfolk. When he arrives, Chris hands the undelivered items to sales manager, Jason Whittle, explaining the circumstances of each one, and takes the paperwork to the office.

This weekend, Chris has driven over a thousand miles, through 14 counties, and has visited 54 addresses. Next weekend will be similar, but the route will be different. But now it’s time to go home. Chris exchanges the Pellpax van for his own ‘Fred’, and drives away, just in time to collect his son from school.

To learn more about our shotguns, and air rifle delivery service, click here. You can also have shotgun cartridges delivered

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