History of Parker-Hale Ltd

Parker-Hale Limited began manufacturing high quality precision shooting accessories in the heart of the gun-making quarter in the year 1880. The founder, A.G.Parker, was a well-known rifleman of the 1st Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment and recognised the need for the supply of shooting aids to his fellow shooters.

The business had developed slowly up to the turn of the century, when Mr Parker decided to invite his nephew A.T.C. Hale to become a partner. He joined the Volunteers and showed considerable skills in the art of target shooting, an interest that was to remain with him throughout his life.

In 1904 the partnership was converted into a limited liability company, the shares being taken up by members of both the Parker and Hale families. A first catalogue was issued of arms and shooting accessories and, though limited in its range, clearly showed the company's growing trend for the development of accessories.

The Boer War had not long since given the British military leaders a sharp lesson in effectiveness of accurate rifle fire in holding off numerically superior forces. With influential backing, notably from Field Marshal Lord Roberts, efforts were made to improve the standard of marksmanship in the UK.

Apart from promoting keen competition amongst the Volunteers (later to become the Territorial Army) to wear the Marksman's insignia, it was realised that valuable training for civilians could be promoted through target shooting competition at short ranges and, through the same influential support, the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs was founded. Official interest in this movement resulted the the design and manufacture of the War Office Minature Rifle for use by the Cadet Corps.

The success of Parker-Hale in this period owes much to the foundation of the small-bore movement. The tremendous increase in shooting generally created a demand for a wider range of shooting equipment, many of the ideas for which came from the enthusiastic shooters themselves.

One of the principle accessories then in common use was the famous Morris Tube, a useful but troublesome device that paved the way for the development of Parkerifling.

By 1914 the company's small manufacturing plant was well established and it was not long before the vigorous Ministry of Munitions of those days began calling for training equipment, which was needed almost as desperately as the munitions. The Parkerifling process, coupled with the Hiscock-Parker magazine, enabled service rifles to be converted to .22 calibre for teaching recruits to shoot, and demand was such that the Parker-Hale factory was soon working to full capacity.

sporting guns


Being in the Territorial Army, Mr Hale was called up for Active Service immediately on the outbreak of war, but following the death of Mr Parker a year later, he was granted release by the War Office to take control of Parker-Hale's war contribution.

The aftermath of the Great War had a damaging effect on the use of firearms and this was exploited by the pacifists of the time. Trade suffered as a result and it took some years, plus the introduction of many new products, to put the company back on its feet. Valuable lessons were learnt which were to prove invaluable in overcoming the UK trade slump that followed in 1930.

In 1924, Mr Hale's second son, Arthur, joined the business and in 1926 a family record was set up when Mr Hale and his two eldest sons took part in the "King's Hundred" at Bisley. This event was eclipsed two years later when Arthur Hale succeeded in winning the coveted prize itself. He was appointed Director of the Company in the year of his achievement.

The years preceding World War II proved to be a testing time for Parker-Hale, prompting increased interest in the development of export business under the management of Mr A.G. Parker. His death, in 1938, and the outbreak of war brought further setbacks, though the latter was only temporary.

The available resources of the gun trade had been mobilised to recondition a reserve of P14 rifles, now most urgently needed, and in 1940 the Parker-Hale Arms Company was founded. Additional premises were acquired "for the duration" and, under the management of Arthur Hale, a large reconditioning programme was rapidly carried through. A wide range of additional war contract work followed, principally with the manufacture of .300in and .303in drill cartridges in large quantities.

After the close of hostilities, with a fall in production contracts and no permanent premises, the company had little choice but to invest in a small factory unit, erected under the Government's emergency programme to re-house bombed-out manufacturers.

Coronation Edition catalogue
A well used and loved copy of Parker-Hale's 1953 "Coronation Edition" catalogue.

Meanwhile, the Parker-Hale Arms Company was transferred to the Birmingham Proof House, where it continued with the reconditioning of .22 calibre weapons for junior training organisations. The company ceased to exist upon completion of the contracts.

The immediate post-war years can best be described as a period of frustrated opportunity, since overseas markets were opened but materials of all sorts were in short supply. Nevertheless, by 1948 business abroad far exceeded the home trade.

The original premises, an attractive Queen Anne period house in a coaching yard, was typical of the sprawling workshops that made up the gunmaking and jewellery centre in Birmingham's city centre. Considerable expansion, embracing all aspects of gunmaking, grew at such a rate that the cramped workshops soon proved inadequate. Major architectural developments in the City finally forced a move to new premises at Golden Hillock Road in 1963.

Positioned alongside the BSA factory sportsground and Spark Brook, from which the local area gets its name, the Parker-Hale factory headquarter building echoes the traditions of the Birmingham gunmaking industry, since it occupies the very site that the Proof House located their testing range.

Once the largest producer of high power sporting rifles in the country, Parker-Hale invested heavily in the most modern machinery & techniques, and was acclaimed for having one of the finest barrel producing plants in Europe. Large scale horizontal forging machines, the first all-British barrel cold forging systems in the world, were actually designed by Parker-Hale. Together with several GFM cold forging machines and double spindle deep hole drillers, the company's machining capability for producing a perfectly finished bore to extremely fine tolerances is legendary.

Business at Parker-Hale remained relatively stable throughout the 1960's and into the 1980's, with sales of target and sporting rifles, handguns, shotguns and ammunition sitting comfortably alongside the company's comprehensive range of rifle scopes, knives, award-winning gun care accessories and cleaning kits.

The company received a temporary set-back in 1985 when the Chairman and Managing Director, John le Breton, who had been instrumental in consolidating the company's success in world markets, retired from the board. The founder's grandson, Roger Hale, then took over as Managing Director and proved an influential figure in successfully re-positioning the company in what was to prove a constantly changing industry.

Events following the tragic Dunblane incident in 1996 are well documented, but public awareness to the consequences affecting people working in the gun trade was less forthcoming. The national ban on handguns brought further pressure on an already troubled industry and the closure of allied trades received little sympathy.

Lacking the investment necessary to enable the company to compete effectively in newly emerging markets, Parker-Hale was eventually sold out to the Midlands engineering group, Modular Industries.

In November 2000, John Rothery (Wholesale) Co. Ltd purchased the brand name Parker-Hale and continue to manufacture many of the gun care items and accessories. Production of the rifles themselves unfortunately ceased. All enquiries relating to any Parker-Hale firearm should be directed to Norman Clark Gunsmiths at www.normanclark.com.