Michael Brunton BEM Obituary


We regret to state that Michael Brunton BEM, passed away on 3 March at 73 years old. Mike was well known in the clay-shooting community, particularly as the owner of Clay Shooting Magazine and founder of the Clay Shooting Classic. Mike was also awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the community in Allington and Boscombe, Wiltshire.

The following was provided by Keith Fisher:

After completing a Short Service Commission in the Army, Mike joined his wife’s family publishing business and moved it to Thruxton Down House in Hampshire. His interest in clay shooting was sparked by taking his boys to straw bale shoots on a Sunday morning, having himself started taking lessons from David Olive at Apsley.

He decided the sport needed a shot in the arm and so purchased Clay Shooting Magazine in 1994 and set about raising the game. He had a vision and through his enthusiasm, drive and energy, persuaded the leaders in the industry, including Promatic, Browning, and Express to join his crusade and he launched the first Classic on the Apsley estate in 1998. The competition toured the country, many times on a new greenfield site – he didn’t believe in a ‘home advantage’ and wanted the shooters to compete on targets and terrain never seen before. He centred his focus on hosting the Classics at undulating game-shoots, making for some very challenging targets – the likes of Gurston Down, Stoke Farm, Linkenholt, Mold, Highclere, and Stoke Edith to name but a few.

Mike demanded the best and when inspecting the courses would only accept targets “worthy of The Classic.” He produced prizes to match; cash and brand name products, more than anyone had ever seen before.

The Classic was a family affair and he ran it along with his wife Fiona and his boys Dan and Ben with their wives Gemma and Beth. The pinnacle came in 2005 with The Triple Classic. Mike organised and co-ordinated championships in the USA, Russia and at Highclere Castle, complete with an après shoot party and marching band.

Mike sponsored schools, universities and colleges, the armed forces and emergency services, and disabled competitions and championships. He also sponsored charity events and brought in celebrities, such as Bernard Cribbins and Elaine Paige and got our sporting greats like George Digweed MBE and Richard Faulds MBE to act as squad hosts.

Every competition, and more, was reported in the magazine under the editorship of Richard Rawlinson, deputy editor and business manager Keith Fisher and advertising manager Stuart Crane. Not for Mike were black and white photos on thin paper and stapled pages good enough – glossy print, high quality paper and perfect-bound magazines became the benchmark. Not surprisingly Clay Shooting Magazine became a ‘coffee table’ essential.

Mike didn’t do things by half and what he did do was done with military precision, panache and always of the highest standard. He had tremendous energy, a prodigious memory, exceptional power of concentration and he paid meticulous attention to detail. Above all he enjoyed it and revelled in the challenge. His greatest reward was when someone would say – ‘thanks Mike I enjoyed that’.

But for Mike, the biggest accolade he could ever wish for was when his youngest son, Ben, won the World FITASC in 1999. All the years of carrying the cartridge bag and driving up and down the country as Ben’s chauffeur paid off.

Mike suffered a massive stroke and died on Wednesday 3 March. He will be remembered for setting the standard still being aspired to today. And over a cup of tea and bacon butty some 15 years on, shooters still reminisce on The Classics – not a bad legacy. Thanks Mike.

George Digweed MBE has added:

"Mike was a top man, with top values and the shooting world will be a far worse place without him.

He will always be remembered for the Classics, but he did a lot more behind the scenes for shooting than people will ever realise."