Who is East Surrey Firearms LTD. ESF headstamp on .577 N.E


#1

Can anyone tell me about East Surrey Firearms LTD. or their British made cartridges with ESF headstamp? I have a box of their .577 Nitro Express 3" cartridges and can’t find any information on them.


#2

I can not help with E F S but I have seen a reloaded 577 with the headstamp N D F S [which I was informed was North Devon Firearm Service]
It was a turned brass case!

I assumed it was made to fill a gap, as these cases or rounds would be hard to find for sale in the average gun shop if owning a suitable firearm and shooting them was your intent.

Your cartridges may be ones made as a special order for the East Surrey Firearms Ltd such as Bertram Bullets here in Australia has done for many dealers in ammunition and firearms in other parts of the world.

P.S.
The last ACCA auction catalogue had a cartridge headstamped NDFS 577/450 listed.

Not much help, I know ! but it may lead you in the right direction to find the answer as this establishment in Surrey may still be operating and therefore contactable. Terry…


#3

You are right about NDFS He was a shooter who was a skilled engineer and found a nich market making cases and reloading dies for obsolete calibres.

He almost single handedly resurected the historic rifle and pistol shooting scene in Britain before cases were available from Bertram.

His address was 3 North Street, Braunton, North Devon, EX33 1AJ but he retired about six or seven years ago. He was a great guy.

I have a copy of his 1999 price list if anyone wants a photo copy I will be happy to oblige.

Contact me on Greenvbg@aol.com

East Surrey Firearms Ltd is not a name thats known to me. East Surrey is effectively the SW quarter of the London Suburbs. As I live in the NW quarter is very unlikely that they would have escaped me completely if they were current. Its possible the name could be very old. The term Ltd has been used for many years. How old would you estimate the ammo to be?

There is another member of this forum who lives right there. When I have finished this I will send him an email.


#4

I have just had another thought. It may be something to do with John Powells in Reigate. They are a very old established Gunsmith and dealership and Reigate is bang in the middle of East Surrey.

If we don’t turn up anything in the next couple of days ( Monday is a Public Holiday in UK ) I will give them a call. Even if its not them they will probably have an answer for us.

Same for GT Shooting in Coulsdon, they are less likely to fit the profile but will probably know something.


#5

The box of cartridges that I have were with a bunch of Kynoch boxes that were all from the early 1900 to 1950 production. The East Surrey box states ( Loaded with 100 grains of Cordite and “Everlasting” case. Made in England by East Surrey Firearms Ltd). If I had to guess I would say that they were made in the 1940-50 range but that is just a guess. I have found that in Hoyem volume three he mentions .500 Jeffery, .577 and .600 Nitro Express with the ESF headstamp but nothing in explaination of that.


#6

I have a .600 rd thats been made from a .50 cal spotter case, I’ve noted it as coming from East Coast Services, I wonder if I should amend that to East Surrey Firearms.


#7

Well we know what segment of the market they were in from the type of cartridges they supplied. There are clues to be extracted from this.

None of these calibres but in particular the .577 3" are the type of thing you would take down to the range for an afternoons fun. It is strictly a big game cartridge and that means it was used in a double rifle from a good maker. It would be extemely unpleasant to shoot but if you ever had to you wouldn’t be bothered about the recoil.

Double rifles, by nature of what they were used for, and .577 3" at the top end of the power range, would have an extremely low rate of ammunition consumption. Many such rifles would average less than one round a year if they were lucky and never used in anger. Many were probably never ever fired at all.Thats why you get partial or full boxes turning up today.

For the ammunition maker this is not good. You couldn’t run a viable business making and selling this ammunition at those volumes.

Thats why the various calibres are usually associated with particular gunmakers, most obviously H&H.
The supply of ammunition was virtually a loss leader for the gunsmith even though the prices were astronomic. A single round could be equiv. to about $100 US or more today.

They would sell a double rifle and 20 rnds to a man and sixty years later his granson would bring the rifle back when the old man died and he still had 17 rounds left.

Therefore, its ‘almost certain’ that ESF was associated with one of the makers and there weren’t that many makers of those sort of rifles.

There is another possibility, the far flung nature of the British Empire meant that a lot of supplies were sold mail order and there were a number of outfitters. Most prominent was the Army and Navy which has now evolved into a department store in Victoria. They supplied both guns and ammunition. There was a reprint of one of their old catalogues in our local library some years ago.
That might be interesting for other things as well. If I can get hold of a copy I will photocopy the relevent pages and anyone who wants a copy for their files can let me know.


#8

Well we know what segment of the market they were in from the type of cartridges they supplied. There are clues to be extracted from this.

None of these calibres but in particular the .577 3" are the type of thing you would take down to the range for an afternoons fun. It is strictly a big game cartridge and that means it was used in a double rifle from a good maker. It would be extemely unpleasant to shoot but if you ever had to you wouldn’t be bothered about the recoil.

Double rifles, by nature of what they were used for, and .577 3" at the top end of the power range, would have an extremely low rate of ammunition consumption. Many such rifles would average less than one round a year if they were lucky and never used in anger. Many were probably never ever fired at all.Thats why you get partial or full boxes turning up today.

For the ammunition maker this is not good. You couldn’t run a viable business making and selling this ammunition at those volumes.

Thats why the various calibres are usually associated with particular gunmakers, most obviously H&H.
The supply of ammunition was virtually a loss leader for the gunsmith even though the prices were astronomic. A single round could be equiv. to about $100 US or more today.

They would sell a double rifle and 20 rnds to a man and sixty years later his granson would bring the rifle back when the old man died and he still had 17 rounds left.

Therefore, its ‘almost certain’ that ESF was associated with one of the makers and there weren’t that many makers of those sort of rifles.

There is another possibility, the far flung nature of the British Empire meant that a lot of supplies were sold mail order and there were a number of outfitters. Most prominent was the Army and Navy which has now evolved into a department store in Victoria. They supplied both guns and ammunition. There was a reprint of one of their old catalogues in our local library some years ago.
That might be interesting for other things as well. If I can get hold of a copy I will photocopy the relevent pages and anyone who wants a copy for their files can let me know.


#9

I called John Powell today. He has a well established gunshop in Reigate (East Surrey) He has been there for 50 years.

I spoke to John himself, not one of his staff, but he wasn’t able to help. In fact he has never heard of them and has never been asked about them before.

Now East Surrey is not that big, and the gun trade is a pretty much a closed community. Everybody knows everybody else.

So that means they must have been long gone by 1959 and they couldn’t have had a shop because customers at John’s shop would have spoken to him about them. You know the sort of thing “I bought this shotgun from old Fred at ESF twenty years ago…etc”

So now we are starting to struggle a bit. Is it possible to get a scan of the box?

I have done a search on Companies House but they weren’t listed. However, if they were that old they wouldn’t be.


#10

Can’t help much but my files show East Surrey Firearms Limited, Gillett House, 55 Basinghill Street, London EC2V 5EA. Undated note indicating they bought up “all stocks of Kynoch cordite and berdan caps”.


#11

Thanks, thats useful. Basinghall St is in the City of London and not anywhere near East Surrey. Maybe I have been looking in the wrong place.