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OCOP: Wanstalls owner turns hobby into business

Jones said there is room to relax firearms restrictions
(Neil Corbett/THE NEWS) Wanstalls owner Craig Jones has turned his hobbies, firearms and hunting, into a business.

Shooting is fun for Craig Jones, and for a lot of people, asserts the owner of Wanstalls.

He is unapologetic about his passion for shooting sports, and for his opinions that Canada should consider relaxing some of its gun laws, instead of contemplating bans on handguns and assault-style rifles.

Jones was that little boy who turned every banana and stick into a gun. He became a cadet in North Delta, where he grew up, and looked forward to his time on the shooting range, firing military rifles.

He wasn’t a crack shot.

“I was okay. But every time I was on the range, I had a good time.”

Later, he went into the army reserves, an infantryman with the Seaforth Highlanders in the late 1980s, and the lifestyle fed into this love of camping and the outdoors. Hunting was a natural progression.

“I also like to eat,” he smiles. “It’s camping, and you’re bringing something home. Hopefully.”

He has always enjoyed buying, selling and trading guns as a hobbyist.

Jones began a career working at Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, but the mental health facility had its services scaled back and then ultimately closed.

Losing his career in health care, Jones started to look for opportunities, and that led him to Wanstalls. Tony Wanstall had taken over a sporting good store known as E&D Sports in 1973. There was lots of fishing and camping gear, and it was a Boy Scouts depot, with sashes, badges and other paraphernalia of the Scouting movement.

Sadly lacking, from Jones’ perspective, were the guns, and he purchased the store in 2007.

“I think we had 17 firearms in inventory,” he recalled.

And now?


He had a licence to pursue his hobbies as a business. The trick was to make enough to support a wife and two young children. He was 39 when he bought it.

“It was scary, it was exciting and it was awesome,” he remembered. “You’re leaving a government job, and security, and a pension, and taking a leap of faith into the unknown.”

Buying and selling guns – new, used or on consignment – became a huge part of the business. People would approach him to buy a rusty rifle they found in a grandpa’s basement, or to use his networks to sell collectables, such as a pair of mirror image Cabot Colt 1911.

They went for $36,000, and were the most expensive guns in the store.

His own firearms interests have been cyclical. He will go from using ultra-precise rifles that make shots at extreme ranges, to shooting indoors with a tactical rifle, to antique muzzleloaders and then to handguns.

Since he took over the business, he has seen an evolution in the interest of shooters.

“There has definitely been a change,” he said. “People are spending more on their hobby than they used to, and there’s a trend to handguns and the black guns [tactical rifles].

He does not call them assault rifles, even though that’s what many of them appear to be, because those sold in Canada cannot fire on full automatic, and can only have a magazine limit of five cartridges.

He hears people say “we don’t want to become ‘The States,’” but Jones said Canada has far more restrictions.

“Our laws are universal, coast to coast, where they have 50 different sets of laws [for each state].”

In the U.S., there are laws that allow concealed carry, fully automatic weapons and high capacity magazines, depending on the state. There are also varying laws about background checks, and most states do not require them for purchase at gun shows from private individuals.

In Canada, purchasers must pass the Canadian Firearms Safety Course and mail away for a Possession and Acquisition Licence. To buy a handgun or restricted firearm, there is an additional safety course. Licencing involves background checks, and the RCMP requires a minimum of 45 days to process the application.

So everyone must pass a safety exam, and everyone is vetted, he said.

“In a free society, the onus is on you to say why it should be restricted.”

In fact, he said, there are good reasons for Canadians to look at relaxing some gun laws. For example, a wilderness carry law would allow approved gun owners working in the backcountry to protect themselves from predators.

Silencers should be considered for recreational shooters, so he wouldn’t have to yell around some customers.

“A lot of people come in here with hearing loss.”

He knows there are a lot of people in Maple Ridge who share his viewpoints. This is a good community to own a gun store in.

“There’s still a rural, close-knit feel to the town, and a lot of people are still enjoying the things they did when they were young – hunting and shooting.”

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

Neil Corbett has been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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