The Sussex Armoury was founded in 1968, primarily
as a dealer of antique arms, over time the company began selling reproduction Japanese
replica guns. The first move into airguns continued the replica theme with
western six-guns being amongst the first sold.
The company initially bought a large shipment of
Baikal air rifles and then did a deal with Crosman to be their UK agency as
well as deals to import Italian pistols.
The drive behind the team was to produce a low
price, accurate, high power .22 rifle to fill a gap that they perceived in the
market. As they couldn’t buy in what they wanted, they decided to design and
build it themselves.
Throughout the history of the company the majority of
parts were produced in the UK by NSP Engineering.
Sussex Armoury went from strength to strength,
opening retail shops in London and Manchester but with the wonder of hindsight, it looks like the additional financial strain of running what would have been two expensive locations was too much of a stretch for the finances.
On the 2nd February 1982 Sussex Armoury went into receivership and
the operation was closed down. There was a liquidation sale of stock and plant held in April 1982.
NSP Engineering went on to re-engineer some
elements of the original rifles and sell them in their own right. In due course, NSP Engineering went on to become Air Arms, the giant of the
airgun industry today.
The Managing Director of the Sussex Armoury was Richard Marriot-Smith, who after the demise of the Sussex Armoury bought a large quantity of the stock during the liquidation sale and went on to create The Pheonix Arms Company.
Richard Marriot-Smith was also the father of modern Field Target competitions, having organised the first ever National Field Shooting Championship event with the help of Airgun World in 1981, the final of the first event was held at Bisley on 30th August 1981 after heats in Edinburgh, Leeds, Birmingham and Bisley.
The year before, in 1980, Sussex Armoury held what is likely to be the first ever Field Target competition which was held at the Red Lion pub at Magham Down in
Sussex (not far from the Sussex Armoury factory). The winner of this 1980 event was Mr Rex Hunt, who was awarded a specially engraved Sussex Armoury Woodsman fitted in a custom stock.