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It all started in 1973 when Chris Jones attended the IFAA's European championships in Germany. Chris was shooting a recurve at the time, but while he was there, he saw an American serviceman shooting a compound bow. Having never seen a compound before he asked if he could have a closer look. The American was only too pleased to oblige and handed the Jennings-made bow over to Chris. Immediately Chris fell in love with it and vowed he would have one.
Arriving back in England he approached all the archery equipment specialists but to no avail. No dealers in the UK stocked the new type of bow, but one of his friends was visiting the United States, and so Chris asked him to bring back a compound bow. His friend brought him back a P.S.E.
During that year he attended many archery tournaments. It did not matter which class of bow he was pitted against he still won. Tournament organisers didn’t know what to do about this new type of bow.
Primarily a field archer in those days, he tried to introduce his new compound bow to target archery. The governing body of England, the G.N.A.S., had no classification for a compound bow, and with their motto 'union, True Heart and Courtesy', Chris was allowed to shoot, all be it on a separate target, at a different distance and sometimes in a different field!
What would normally be a deterrent for some people just made Chris more determined to introduce the compound bow to a wider range of people. In 1975 he decided to manufacture an English made compound bow, as unlike today, purchasing from abroad was very complicated and costly. So after closely studying his P.S.E, he produced his first compound bow. Merlin of England was founded.
In the early years from 1975 to mid 1984, the compound bow was not accepted in international competition throughout Europe, except within the International Field Archery Association (IFAA). But recognition was growing, and Chris was asked to take part in the first FITA field test tournament in Yugoslavia. Taking every opportunity to compete at international level throughout Europe and America, the brand of Merlin was starting to get noticed.
In 1985 Merlin won the prestigious MIDAS business award for excellence in innovation and manufacture.
For Ben, like Chris, archery was in the blood. He began shooting at the age of 8, travelling with his Dad to competitions all over the world. At 16, he had a choice to either stay on at school to further his education, or to join the company. Against his tutor's advice, he joined Merlin Bows in 1990, but continued part time college education studying Computer Aided Engineering.
It was apparent to Chris in 1989 that the compound bow was destined to change, and he saw the advantage of C.N.C. machined risers. It was in 1990 that Merlin's first C.N.C. machined bow was produced, called the Omega. It is also interesting to note that Merlin was one of the first companies to realize the advantages of machined riser bows, before many of the major companies introduced them.
After being continually let down on deliveries by sub-contractors, he bought his own C.N.C. machine, and had it installed at his premises. This opened up new opportunities and was the beginning of what is now a thriving machine shop producing compound bows, recurve bows and all sorts of accessories.
Merlin has continued to adapt and diversify since the early days. Still a family business, though now employing more than 40 people, Merlin are one of the largest retailers of archery equipment in Europe. They work closely with manufacturers and distributors from around the world to meet the needs of the archery community.
Merlin Archery has become the ‘go-to’ place for beginners and experienced archers alike. Not just for equipment supplies, but for training and improvement through their beginner's courses and seminars.
They have introduced 1000’s of people to archery and support individuals and tournaments through their sponsorship.
At the core of Merlin's company is a love of the sport.
The bow is part of an Englishman's heritage. Henry I, King of England 1100-1135, is credited with the first official encouragement of archery. The legend of Robin Hood was handed down from around 1200, and Henry VIII in 1511 passed a law that compelled bowyers to reside in such localities as may most require their services. Being an English company and only 30 minutes from Sherwood Forest we are based in an area steeped in tradition.
Merlin's services continue to be required throughout the world, supplying bows to National, European and World champions.
They are proud of their tradition and passionate about the sport.
Who knows what the next 40 years will bring?