Bill Harriman cannot be without his Swiss army knife, both in the shooting field or for life in general
Bill Harriman, Director of Firearms for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, chooses his favourite bit of kit. Whether saving a sporting day, eating “corned dog” from the tin or playing tricks in the pub, Bill Harrmian will never be without his Swiss army knife on his belt.
Find out what the NGO’s former chair wouldn’t be without in the field. Read my favourite bit of kit: Lindsay Waddell.
MY FAVOURITE BIT OF KIT
My Swiss army knife goes everywhere with me. It is the one bit of kit that I simply cannot be without, whether in the shooting field or for life in general. I carry it on my belt in a little leather pouch, secured with a chain. I do not feel right without it and on the rare occasions I wear a suit, I have a smaller model that slips into my pocket without spoiling my sartorial elegance.
In 1981, I was working in Birmingham for a firm of gun auctioneers. My pal Robert Tilney, who is the fourth generation in the family gun shop in Beccles, Suffolk, asked me if I could source a gun for a special client. He had never bought a gun at auction and his dad, Lindsey, was dead against it for a variety of reasons. Robert persevered and a gun was bought and delivered.
Lindsey looked it over with a microscopic scrutiny that would make a detailed forensic examination look like a causal glance. My heart was in my mouth. Eventually he fixed his beady eye on me, pronounced the verdict, “that looks all right to me; well done, Madman”, and stumped off into the shop. (For reasons best known to himself, Lindsey always considered me to be sadly wanting in the sanity department, although I could never understand why. It seemed a case of the pot calling the kettle black.)
Feeling faint with relief, I thought no more about the business. A few days later a small box and card arrived in the post. The card expressed Lindsey’s thanks and described the stonking profit the old boy had made. In the box lay a Victorinox “Champ” Swiss army knife. The rest, as they say is history.
My knife has a variety of blades and implements, including screwdrivers, can-opener, pliers, ruler, fish-scaler, wood saw, hacksaw, scissors, reamer, nail-file, tweezers, pen, toothpick, scissors and that all-important corkscrew.
For all of the knife’s Boy Scout gadgetry, the attachment I use the most is the 10X magnifying glass. I once used it during a forensic examination. Some wag from the police shouted out, “Bloody hell, it’s Sherlock Holmes!” I have recently been filmed on Antiques Roadshow examining a duck’s foot pistol with it.
In a fit of extreme naughtiness, I once used the wood-saw to cut partly though the leg of a barstool in a pub in Norwich. I was rewarded when a girl from a raucous hen party sat down heavily upon it. The stool collapsed and she exposed her exotic undies to the delight of the assembled company.
Moving on to more sensible purposes, the pliers once saved a young fellow’s sporting day when his .410’s dodgy extractor would not shift the empties. More prosaically, I am always in demand at work to mend colleagues’ glasses with the tiny screwdriver. The small blade once gralloched a red stag the size of a horse. As a young cavalry officer, I used to sit in my turret, eating “corned dog” out the tin with the large blade, whilst I watched out for the Soviet Army crossing the Weser. My knife has become indispensable and it is hard to say what I have not used it for.
Over the 35 years that I have owned it, the Swiss Champ has sustained a few knocks and was starting to show its age. For my 60th birthday, Robert renovated
it, replacing its chipped red scales with smart new black ones. It will see me out.
Bill Harriman is Director of Firearms for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and a regular expert on BBC’s Antiques Roadshow