How do you pick the 100 top shots through the haze of smoking barrels stretching back to the era of tall hats and ’fowling pieces. It is an unavoidably hit-and-miss affair. There must be thousands who deserve their name on this list who are now tramping the coverts of Arcadia unrecorded.
However, the 100 top shots were either identified by their contemporaries as outstanding or today’s knowledgeable observers have heaped that plaudit upon them. We will have missed others, of course, and to them we give our apologies and appeal to their friends to set the record straight and write to The Field.
1. Major Arthur Acland-Hood
In the front rank of Edwardian shots. With Payne-Gallwey and Rimington-Wilson he was on Broomhead Moor in August 1913 when 2,843 grouse were bagged. A low partridge or pheasant on the left was his Achilles heel.
2. Jim Albone
Expert pigeon guide with a brace of “how to” videos under his belt. Lethal at long range.
3. Lord Ashburton
Astonished the shooting world in October 1887 by killing 4,109 wild partridges (with six other guns) over four days at The Grange, near Alresford, Hampshire. Remarkably, on one day a particularly luckless gun shot only five.
4. Tony Ball
Though lofty pheasants are his chosen quarry, he is equally ruthless on most game.
5. Phil Beasley
A precise pigeon-potter – very few are out of his range. Provides top-notch sport in his role as a guide.
6. Duchess of Bedford
A delightfully glamorous inter-war shot, she once bagged 84 pheasants for 94 cartridges (89.4%)
on her home ground at Woburn.
7. John Bidwell
Amazes audiences with his trick shooting, shooting five airborne clays from the hip. With so many medals, we think he could found his own mint.
8. Carl Bloxham
Has captained the England team and is a top-class coach, too. Will have you shooting like a dream with indecent haste.
9. Phil Burtt
Burtt’s laid-back charm conceals his lethal skill with driven grouse and demanding pheasants. Based in Lincolnshire, he is also a dedicated pigeon man.
10. Lord Carnarvon
He hosted a record three-day bag at Highclere in November 1895, taking a staggering 10,807 head of game with five other Victorian heavy hitters, including the Dhuleep Singh brothers.
11. Andy Castle
Seriously tidy on all quarry, he has just started shooting with a Kemen and will stand behind the line lethally mopping up. Charming and smart, seemingly he knows somebody on every shoot he goes to.
12. Vickie Chadwick
Only a foolhardy bird would make a beeline for her. Known to shoot two drives without a miss and wipe many an overconfident male eye.
13. Nicholas Cobbold
Ian Coley loaded for him and he always shot with a pair of Westley Richards side-by-side Gold Name detachable-lock 12-bores. From the Sixties to 1990 indisputably one of the best on high pheasants.
14. Ian Coley
Awesome all-rounder: neither clays nor game stands a chance in his vicinity so just stand back and admire. His knowledge of shooting and top shots is encyclopaedic.
15. Mr H Cornish
Over a century ago this snipe sharp-shooter chalked up 96 for 100 cartridges while Superintendent of Police in Orissa, Bengal. The first 50 snipe were shot without a miss.
16. Stuart Crane
Gun-trade stalwart who relishes a challenge and is rarely worsted.
17. Noel Cunningham-Reid
Owned and ran the fabulous Six Mile Bottom partridge-shoot. Presented stunning birds with a
flair matched only by his gun-handling.
18. Neil Curtis
A mole tells us he is the finest shot he has ever stood next to; unassuming and not greedy. This “deadly farrier” from Newmarket shoots sublimely and manages to make the process appear effortless.
19. Sir Edward Dashwood
We suspect that the idea of missing warrants merely a fleeting thought – largely because he doesn’t.
He brings off some stunning shots.
20. Maharaja Dhuleep Singh of Lahore
Was awarded vast sums for the occupation of his territory by the British and found spending it on shooting admirable consolation. In 1863 he bought Elveden in Suffolk, where he shot with two loaders.
21. Prince Victor Dhuleep Singh
This prince shot 846 partridges before lunch alongside brother Freddy on 23 September 1895 at his father’s Elveden estate. A fabulous fin de siècle finale.
22. George Digweed MBE
No self-respecting championship would be complete without this leviathan of the modern shooting world. He’s just won his 16th World Championship in Texas. Truly inspirational.
23. Donald Douglas Dodd
A brilliant skeet – and sporting – shot he made regular appearances on both English teams throughout the Seventies.
24. Alec Douglas-Home
Thirties shooting partner of Joe Morrison (later Lord Margadale). His style was elegant, refined and bang on target.
25. John Dyson
Unerring sporting-shooter, this clay colossus is now an international course designer.
26. Lord Elphinstone
A snipe specialist, with JD Cobbold, cleared up 1,292 snipe over 11 days on Tiree during winter of 1908. Top bag for a single day was 217.
27. Nick Fane
His numbers do more than just the talking – they leap up and give a prod in the chest: 92 pheasants for 107 shots is one humbling statistic and a recent ratio of 87.93% shows us how it’s supposed to be done.
28. Richard Faulds MBE
Olympic gold medallist at the double trap in 2000 and current Beretta World Sporting Champion, he’s the favourite already for the day when game-shooting becomes an Olympic sport.
29. Mr FER Fryer
A member of the Victorian first XV. Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey perspicaciously added him to his superb shots list and without quibble we include him in ours.
30. Phillip Fussell
Clay and game are one and the same for this experienced and beautifully consistent shot, though pigeon is his speciality.
31. Will Garfit
Cambridgeshire’s pigeon should have fled when he turned down the chance of rock stardom. They now stand about as much chance as a gun at a Girls Aloud gig.
32. William Gascoigne
Has a predilection for shooting with a muzzle-loader and making it look enviably effortless.
33. Hon AE Gathorne-Hardy
Though he sauntered elegantly into the Edwardian top shots lists, he did disclose that a low bird shot behind was his nemesis.
34. King George V
A King among men on the stand and a gifted shot. He was in the party at Hall Barn, Buckinghamshire in December 1913 when 3,937 pheasants were shot, the largest pheasant bag made in the UK at the time.
35. Ned Goschen
Loved nothing more than standing with his .410 knocking down the escapees behind the line when he ran Haddeo, the fabulously high-pheasant shoot.
36. The Marquess of Granby
Graced the 1905 Badminton Magazine as one of the outstanding shots of his day. Occasionally wrong-footed by a curling, genuinely tall pheasant.
37. Sir Robert Gresley
After rabbits at Blenheim in October 1898, he shot 1,430 head for 1,700 cartridges, an exceptional average of 84% for this bunny-blasting behemoth.
38. Lord Charles Hambro
Veritable shooting gentleman, like all the best shots he had boundless eons in which to mount his gun and crumple the bird. With his classic style, he particularly enjoyed soaring pheasants, at which he excelled.
39. Colonel Peter Hawker
Often venturing out in loathsome weather, he shot with startling accuracy, bagging 77 pheasants for 78 shots. Unequalled on snipe, killing 14 or 15 without a miss; and all with a flintlock gun.
40. Brian Hebditch
National, international, Olympics – he’s done it all with aplomb and now imparts his skill to eager pupils.
41. George Hervey-Bathurst
His game larder is guaranteed to be overflowing with bounty during the shooting season.
A lethal shot, head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries.
42. Captain Bill Higgin
His meticulously kept gamebooks, started when he was 11 years old, record a formidable 357,000 head of game and vermin killed throughout his lifetime. Died at the age of 80 in 2002.
43. Anthea Hillyer
This seven-times Ladies World Champion didn’t just set new standards for both sexes, she hammered them to the wall so hard they’re going to be pretty hard to shift.
44. Ray Hillyer
Outstanding clay-shot with a string of championships to his name. Makes most gamebirds look as difficult as hitting the proverbial barn door at 10 paces
45. Lord Huntingfield
Put Heveningham on the map as the birthplace of driven partridges, introducing them to his estate in 1845. Subsequent generations are eternally grateful.
46. Bill Joyce
This Westcountry wonder is a prolific shot and rarely blunders. Equally at home on clay or game, he has a propensity for despatching sky-scraping pheasants.
47. Jonathan Kennedy
No offshore antics for this grouse supremo; August and September see him domiciled firmly on the country’s top moors. How we envy him.
48. Basil Kinch
Only the sneakiest of birds can make their way past his 20-bore, and even then they need luck on their side. He loads his own gun as quickly as he takes the most difficult of shots – like lightning.
49. Anthony Lambton
One of the best shots the 11th Duke of Marlborough had seen and a first-class host to boot. Disclaimed the earldom of Durham in 1970 to keep his seat in the Commons.
50. Duncan Lawton
A man of firsts. Crack shot who claimed the first British win at the World Championships in 1981 and was the first person in the country to shoot 100 out of 100 at English Sporting.
51. Jamie Lee
Reputed to shoot more than 100 days a year: ferocious big game, driven grouse, plethora of pigeon and lofty pheasants are all fair game.
52. Fifth Earl of Leicester
The Earls of Leicester live at the grandfather of all shooting estates, Holkham. Hard to pick between them but this one was known for standing behind the lines clearing up the high pheasants guests balked at.
53. Caspar MacDonald-Hall
Elegant Hampshire high hitter. Exceptional on pheasants, not even the curling or stratospheric are given quarter.
54. Bobby McAlpine
Shoots beautifully with a smooth action while accounting for a large part of the bag.
55. First Baron Margadale
Renowned for his December woodcock shoots on Islay, in October 1936 he claimed 191 snipe to his own gun in one day.
56. Lord Margadale
As his family owns the Fonthill estate and a large slab of Islay, Lord Margadale might be expected to be a neat performer. But his stylish accuracy comes with appealing self-deprecating insouciance.
57. Bob Merrick
A true gentleman on the line with a keen eye for high pheasants. We need field glasses to keep track of them.
58. Sir Frederick A Milbank
Calmly bagged 190 grouse to his own gun during one drive in 23 minutes at Wemmergill on 20 August 1872, using three guns loaded with pin-fire cartridges.
59. Joe Neville
Ian Coley rates him highly enough to suggest a presence in the shooting stratosphere. This Derbyshire local, a left-handed shot, is a privilege to watch.
60. Viscount Newport
Another from Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey’s list, in 1887 he was ranked at the forefront of Best Shots.
61. Sir Joseph Nickerson
He twice broke the Holkham partridge record of 1,671, bagging 2,119 in 1952 and 1,877 in 1959 with a team of six guns. This legend made an invitation to Wemmergill one of the most coveted in shooting.
62. Duke of Northumberland
Known to shoot six days a week. Precision comes as standard. Has created his own conservation masterpiece from scratch – a true wild-partridge shoot.
63. David Olive
A neat and effective shot, he runs the Apsley Shooting Grounds. Very jolly company, with a laugh that’s famed throughout Hampshire.
64. Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey
This intellectual Big Shot could hold his own with the best. One of the guns who bagged 2,843 grouse on Broomhead Moor in August 1913. He established that a 40yd pheasant is killable.
65. Lord James Percy
Indomitable on the grouse moor with an eye for only the very best birds. Forms, with his brother, the dreaded Percy “sandwich”.
66. Captain Nicholas Peto
Dances as well as he shoots, or should that be shoots as well as he dances? Thoroughly adept at both.
67. Julia Plumptre
A shot to be reckoned with, she easily holds her own in distinguished company. Always kind and encouraging to other lady shots, especially novices.
68. Martin Reynolds
High pheasants are a speciality and he has shot for Great Britain. Now imparts his
decades of experience to pupils at his Mid-Norfolk Shooting School outside Norwich.
69. Mr RH Rimington-Wilson
Took part in a record-breaking day on Broomhead Moor on
24 August 1904, with eight other guns, taking 2,743 grouse, and struck again on
the same moor in 1913 with
Payne-Gallwey, bagging 2,843.
70. Second Marquess of Ripon
A shot with an unparalleled record, he killed 28 pheasants in one minute at Sandringham, had seven pheasants dead in the air at the same time and with Lord Walsingham shot
98 out of 100 pheasants.
71. Horatio Ross
Crack shot from a bygone age. Born in 1801 this Victorian sportsman bagged 82 grouse in 82 shots on his 82nd birthday.
72. Mickey Rouse
One of the best clay-shots ever and unbeatable on his day. A lightning-quick style of shooting has led to numerous wins including the World, British and English championships.
73. Duke of Roxburghe
The latest in a long line of superb shots, he was taught to shoot by Jimmy Nairn, the headkeeper at Floors Castle. As comfortable with driven grouse as with high-falutin’ pheasants.
74. Peter Schwerdt
Regularly shoots over 4,000 a year to his own gun. Hugely enthusiastic about fieldsports. Deadly on high pheasants and partridges, he can pull off some spectacular long shots.
75. AJ Smith
Prominent in the late Eighties, taking a haul of medals, this accurate and professional shot still forces the pace on the veterans’ circuit.
76. Steve Smith
His reputation as a high-bird man is confirmed and some swear that his gun has extendable barrels. Shows a particular talent for regularly tackling birds most of us would regard as shots of a lifetime.
77. 10th Earl of Southesk
Mechanically brilliant Victorian virtuoso. The record states that he killed 48 grouse for 48 cartridges, 63 partridges for 63 and 79 pheasant for 79.
78. Lord Stafford
Even among such glittering company, he shines like a favourite family bauble. Stands out on high pheasants and is a top all-round sportsman.
79. Percy Stanbury
One of the most elegant shots of all time and chief instructor at the West London Shooting Ground to boot. Co-wrote some of the most influential books on shooting technique.
80. Sir Jackie Stewart
Former World Champion Formula 1 racing driver who takes his birds as fast and accurately as he used to take his corners.
81. Colonel Bill Stirling
Brought up on the family grouse moor, the brother of the founder of the SAS, he was one of finest shots on the moor in the post-war years. Few birds passed him without crumpling in the air.
82. Hon Henry Stonor
A rarefied talent, he was a gun for one of the biggest combined bags ever shot at Hall Barn, Beaconsfield on 18 December 1913: 3,937 pheasants, three partridges, four rabbits and one other.
83. Reuben Straker
The loaders have nothing to grouse about when commenting on his performance. It’s thumbs up
all round from the butts.
84. Archibald John Stuart-Wortley
Another Payne-Gallwey It-lister, this crack shot took on the American professional pigeon-shot Dr Carver at Hendon in 1882; they tied with 83 out of 100 birds.
85. Phillip Thorrold
Reports attest this East Anglian international sporting-clay careerist is a superb game-shot and entirely justifies a place in the upper echelons.
86. Timothy Tortonese
This Gloucestershire native is an expert shot and coach: 154 pigeon not out.
87. Hugh van Cutsem
Passionate about shooting and outstanding on the grouse moor in his day. Has bequeathed his enviable skill to all four sons.
88. Hugh van Cutsem Jnr
Perpetuating the family tradition. We’re reliably informed that he was spectacular on partridges last season and his place in the top ton is assured.
89. Sir Peter Walker-Okever
Loved to shoot, be it crows or pheasants, though he was particularly good at mopping up grouse.
90. Sixth Lord Walsingham
He scoops the prize for the most grouse shot in one day by one gun, bagging 1,070 head at Blubberhouse Moor, averaging a ratio of 70% kills to cartridges.
91. John Ward
On the peg he is a crack shot at high pheasant. So much so that he has even developed a special cartridge for the purpose.
92. Simon Ward
Only raises his gun to birds he knows he’s going to kill, which makes for weary arms. Some Westcountry loaders claim he is the best shot they have seen – and they know their stuff. He
is a superb instructor to boot.
93. Jeremy Welham
A rising star in the Seventies, he was a noted and prolific game-shot. Moved on to Olympic skeet.
94. Brian Wells
Vermin are vanquished when this great all-rounder puts up his gun. The birds run scared, too, as he is a frighteningly good shot.
95. Lord Wemyss
A shot of the first rank whose burning competitive streak exploded when bearding Lord Ripon during a day at High Force, Yorkshire: black powder from his gun set his butt alight.
96. Lord Westbury
Named one of the “Twelve best game shots” in Britain by Baily’s magazine in September 1903, but like many Edwardian guns he found a dropping cock pheasant curling away the most difficult of shots.
97. Joe Wheater
Tough no-nonsense Northerner who was the forerunner of George Digweed and Richard Faulds. Consummate clay-shot and as good on game.
98. Rosie Whitaker
Daughter of the redoubtable Sir Joe, she’s held a gun since she was barely out of nappies. It shows. One of the top lady grouse-shots of our times and a talented shooting author.
99. Mike Yardley
Field contributor with exhaustive know-how when it comes to guns. British Side-by-Side Champion
100. Claire Zambuni
A killer queen with sporting contacts to die for. Just as elegant on the peg as off.