Changes to UAE gun laws that permit Emiratis to buy three weapons instead of one for hunting and skeet shooting have significantly boosted sales at Adihex.
One dealer at the annual hunting, equestrian and heritage conference told The National that sales on the first day — Tuesday — had surged by 60 per cent when compared with last year, while another confirmed they had doubled.
The age limit has also changed and Emiratis over the age of 21 can now own guns in the UAE, down from 25 last year.
“Sales are up 60 per cent on last year and the changes will make a big difference,” said Saeed Al Ghfeli, general manager of Byuna, a company selling a vast array of shotguns, rifles and pistols for trap shooting and hunting. “The domestic market is growing.”
Another change introduced this year allows for people of all nationalities to purchase weapons. Buyers must have a gun licence in their home country and supply a no objection certificate from police authorities there. But dealers said it was the changes for Emiratis that are more decisive.
“The local market is a big deal,” said Mr Al Ghfeli. “More than 95 per cent of our buyers are Emirati.”
The majority of people use the weapons — mainly shotguns, pistols and rifles — at local gun clubs for target contests and in competitions such as trap shooting — where people fire a shotgun to break a clay disk flung into the air. The sport has a long history here. Sheikh Ahmad Al Maktoum won the UAE’s sole Olympic gold medal when he triumphed at the 2004 Athens games in the double trap.
Emiratis must apply for a gun licence from the Ministry of Interior and Adihex is the only place were guns can be purchased in the UAE. Emiratis from outside Abu Dhabi must supply a no objection certificate from their emirate's police force.
Mr Al Ghfeli said the changes will encourage more people to try the sport and enrich the UAE’s shooting traditions. “It is a very important change and we are seeing much more interest.”
The festival generated about Dh34m in weapon sales last year with 1,764 weapons sold. Organisers will reveal total weapon sales for this year next week but the gun section has been the most popular area of the exhibition so far. “It has been a very great opening,” said Ahmed Kamel, operations manager at weapons dealer MP3 International. “We can feel the difference.”
Mr Kamel could barely keep up with demand from interested buyers who peered down scopes and tested bolt actions with precision.
“I don’t have exact figures but we had about 15 sales on the first day last year — this year we reached up to 35 pieces. It was a very good day. It is an amazing move and very positive,” he said of the new rules.
Entry level rifles start from Dh2,500 but vary wildly depending on calibre and materials. Shotguns selling for around Dh14,000 by German brand Beretta and Italy’s Benelli were the most popular at the MP3 stand. Emiratis and royal families represent their customer base. “More than 90 per cent are interested in sporting weapons, not guns for hunting animals,” said Mr Kamel.
Most of the dealers, meanwhile, said the affect on sales from allowing people from all nationalities to buy weapons was hard to quantify. As well as having a licence, international buyers must also outline how they will export the gun to their home country as residents cannot own weapons here. Sales must be made on-site at Adihex and it is not clear if this is a permanent move from organisers.
“It gives people another option,” said Barbara Fausti, of luxury Italian gunmaker Fausti. “It could be positive for sales and for Adihex more broadly.”
The exhibition is now in its 17th year and was brought forward to August so more families could attend before the school term starts. It also begins before the falcon-hunting season.
“I’ve been coming from day one,” said Mr Kamel. “Every year it got better but two years ago there was a drop because Emiratis could only buy one weapon. But this year will be the best.”
Adihex runs at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre until Saturday.