HAVING served the community for almost four decades, the gun shop in Overton last week closed its doors for one final time.

Owner David Blackmore closed Test Valley Sporting Guns at the end of August, deciding it was “time to knock it on its head” and “ride off into the sunset” and retire.

The Advertiser spoke to David last week to find out more about his 37 years of trade in the village, during which time he’s seen it all – including a stand-off with armed robbers right on his front doorstep.

Born in Droxford before moving to Old Basing, the 71-year-old remembers a very different Overton in the 1950s and ‘60s.

“It’s a nice little village,” he said. “It’s got a great community spirit and there’s lots of things going on all the time. And people are very friendly.

“Used to be a bit scrappy. When I was young if the Overton boys came to the dance there was always a scrap.

“It was a bit of a rough house at one point but it’s not like that anymore. Much calmer. I’ve calmed down!”

By the time the 1980s rolled around, the village was a very different place – and in David’s mind, the perfect spot to set up shop.

With Basingstoke, Andover, Winchester and Newbury in the vicinity, the aim was to make the Overton gun shop “the centre of a hub of a wheel.”

“That was the thinking,” he said. “Seemed to work quite well and since I’ve been here all those other shops [in the area] have closed down anyway.”

One of those shops, based in Basingstoke, ended up benefitting the Overton store in more ways than one.

“They made a big boo boo and started selling guns to people when they never had a license. The police went in there and arrested the manager.

“The managing director rang me up and said can I go over there straight away and take everything to do with guns away. I bought the whole lot. That was a good day – he didn’t want a lot, just wanted rid of them. That doesn’t happen very often.”

Not that it was all smooth sailing over the years. In 1986, David was the victim of an attempted armed robbery which led to a face-to-face stand-off with a shotgun-wielding robber. The story was reported in various local newspapers and the cuttings remain in David’s window to this day.

He said: “I tried to play it down because I didn’t want to lose my licence. I got a bit handy with a pistol…”

David recalls awaking one night a 4am after a gang had ram raided his shopfront. Three men in a stolen range rover smashed into his front door and entered the shop.

He said: “I’m out of bed and down the stairs loading bullets into a pistol fast as I can go, and I’m out the door in my jim jams, and one of these guys is in my shop. I ordered him out, but I didn’t realise he had a shotgun in his hand.

“I said, ‘if you point that gun at me sunshine, you won’t survive.’

“I said, ‘if I start to shoot you will all get it, within about three seconds I will shoot all three of you. Don’t try it, go away.’"

David says the man with the shotgun “moved about an inch” and so he lived up to his word and pulled the trigger, the bullet flying just over the top of the robber’s head.

“I probably gave him a bit of a haircut,” he said. “I had to because I thought he was going to try and shoot me.

“Frightened the life out of him,” he added. “He fell down and I said, ‘oops’.”

David says he had been unable to shoot the culprit anywhere else once confronted with the situation.

“I actually wanted to shoot him but it’s not as easy as you think. Everyone says, ‘oh I would have shot him,’ but it’s not that easy. Its actually extremely difficult."

He added: “Within half an hour there were coppers everywhere and detectives in the shop. And this detective, he said, ‘I know what I would have done, I would have hot him in the leg.’

“I turned to him and I said, ‘you bloody idiot, you would be dead now. You shoot him in the leg, all you’re doing is irritating him. He’s got a shotgun in his hand from about eight yards – you would not survive.’

“And they all started laughing. But it’s true, you couldn’t shoot him in the leg and even if you did survive, he would probably sue you – and win!”

Despite the close shave, David says it’s the customers and members of the shooting community that he will miss the most in retirement.

Though the shop is now closed, the gun club he runs will continue. David also plans to spend his retirement indulging in hobbies like his metal detecting.

“It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re doing stuff you want to do,” he said.