The Southern - A History
The Southern Side by Side Championship & Exhibition began in April of 2000. Co-sponsored from the start by Deep River Sporting Clays and Shooting School in North Carolina and gun maker Atkin Grant & Lang of Great Britain, this three-day Spring Classic celebrates shooting with side by side shotguns. In 2008, Back Woods Quail Club in Georgetown, SC, joined this celebration and expanded its reach by offering their excellent venue for a second event, the Fall Classic, each October.
The celebration includes multiple tents of exhibitions, gun experts available for appraisals, master instructors available for teaching and friendly competitions.“We want to appeal to a wide variety – from the seasoned side by side enthusiast to the shooter who wants to try this configuration for the first time, to the person who simply appreciates fine craftsmanship,” said Bill Kempffer of Deep River.
For the side by side enthusiast, seasoned or new, the Southern is an opportunity to observe rare and interesting shotguns in action or to handle them and discuss their value with the experts. In addition to Atkin, Grant & Lang, other gun makers who have exhibited included Holland & Holland, Charles Bosewell, Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Co., Griffin & Howe, Heritage Guns, Westley Richards & Co., Armi F.lli Poli, Antonio Zoli, and Doug Turnbull. The accessory manufactures and ammunition makers displaying their goods ensure that double gun owners are well taken care of. And those who want to hone their shooting skills can set up time for instruction or gun fittings with the visiting experts.
"In addition to serving those who already shoot, we want to have something to offer to the person who inherited his grandfather’s side by side shotgun but knows nothing about it or the individual who has never shot, but heard a radio commercial and decided to come out for the afternoon,” Bill said. To encourage diversity, there is no gate fee for the Southern Side by Side Championship & Exhibition and the event is widely advertised in the popular media, not just sporting publications.“We want everyone to come and see what our exhibitors have to offer,” Bill said. “Even if you have never shot a gun before, there is something in the tents that will ‘wow’ you.”
Within the tents, individuals have the opportunity to admire and handle fine guns by prominent American, British and Continental gun makers. They can watch engravers at work; browse through shooting clothing and accessories; choose from prints, paintings and sculptures; handle exquisite jewelry, and peruse vintage or current books and magazines related to shooting. And outside the tents, non-shooters, wearing proper safety equipment, are encouraged to watch the shooting competitions on the range. “There’s no better way to get someone interested in the shooting sports than to have them watch others having a good time,” Bill said.
The competitions during the weekend are aimed at a good time, fostering camaraderie and friendly competition. The targets are not highly technical, but are set up to be interesting, reasonable and suited to the different calibers of side by side shotguns. And the competitions are many. Shooting events include small-gauge championships, Compak Sporting, a 12-gauge preliminary, an American Classics event and the Southern Side-by-Side Championship, the latter aptly named The Ripon Cup. Each event has awards in both hammer gun and hammerless categories.The Challenge Cup, a charity shoot-off for a trophy and bragging rights between the Parker Gun Collectors Association and the L.C. Smith Collectors Association, joined the Southern Spring Classic in 2004 and has grown to a much anticipated part of the weekend, attracting shooters and spectators. Parker Bros and L.C. Smith were considered two of the nation’s finest side by side makers and today the national collectors’ organizations of each maker enjoy a fun-but-fierce rivalry for bragging rights as to whose members are the best shots.