I have always shot with a pair of 12g lightweight single trigger droplocks, I am not sure for how much longer, as the 6 lbs weight has started to be noticed more on big days! I imagine that these guns break every current rule on ‘how to shoot well’. They are light, short, side by side, 2.5″ chambers, all of which for me, makes the perfect game gun, they are fast and I am slow, we make a good combination!
Westley Richards lightweight 12g are very few and far between, I know of only 2 pairs, mine and another pair I sold to a collector in USA many years ago, following which I tried again, for many years, unsuccessfully, to buy back for my own use. People who have these guns rarely let them go!
For anybody looking for a single lightweight gun I will be putting this one on our used gun site shortly once it has been through the factory. With 28 inch barrels, 14.25″ stock over the leather pad and weighing in at 5 lbs 14ozs I am sure it will make someone a very nice gun to walk around the woods with!
I was pushing Frederique Lepinois earlier this year during the design process of these 16g detachable lock guns, having sorted the design out she responded to me finally on email, prior to starting the pair of guns “I HOPE TO MAKE A CORRECT WORK, I AM NOT A MASTER ENGRAVER!”
I don’t think anyone looking at these guns will deny that this work is not the work of a master engraving. The detail and execution of the pair is quite superb in every way and I hope you will all join me in congratulating Frederique at becoming a MASTER ENGRAVER for sure! (not that she was ever not before this job!!) I am sure she would welcome a pat on the back in the comments box!
Frederique Lepinois during a visit to our stand at Safari Club, Las Vegas in 2014
Rifle, Leather Goods and Safari Shirt by Westley Richards.
I like to use a double rifle on safari for a few reasons, firstly I am lucky and have plenty of them available to use, I can shoot better with them and I do like the reassurance of 2 quick shots, but primarily and most importantly I like to use a double because I think it makes for a much more enjoyable hunt.
The exiting part of a buffalo hunt is the stalk, the ‘can we get close enough to aim and use the double’, a distance I must add which narrows as the years pass and needs, ideally for me, to be about 30 yards or so now. At this sort of range there is always the challenge of the wind and movement making for failed attempts but there is also an excitement that just doesn’t happen for me when peering down a telescope at 100+ yards. Tom Dames my PH this trip suggested using a .416 on some nice bulls on this trip but I politely declined. I think that it is fair to use a double as long as on the other hand you are not demanding trophies of a certain size in a certain time. I am not particular about the size of the trophy and am happy for a good representative old male and would much prefer to hunt an old small horned dugga boy at close range with my double than shoot a large bull at 150 yds with a scoped .416.
We reintroduced the Gold Name Anson & Deeley double rifle about 17 years ago, the previous WR offering of a box lock double was the “White Hunter” model in the 1950′s which was relatively short lived due to poor demand at that time. With the new rifle we included everything that we felt was needed to make the best possible plain “White Hunter” type model, a working rifle which we actually aimed at getting it into the hands of current Professional Hunters and were successful in doing so in many instances.
The rifle is built in the same workshops, by the same people, with the same quality components as all our other offerings, with the Gold Name model we cut out any ‘frills’ and offered the rifle in only .470 or .500 and later on in .577. The rifle has chopper lump barrels, ramp front sight and express rear sights, A&D action with removable hinge pin, our Model C type dolls head bolting, auto ejectors, manual safe and 2 triggers. The rifle is engraved in gold with Westley Richards against a case colour hardened action. It was one of these rifles I used in Africa this year in .500.
The .500 cartridge is not one I have taken to Africa before myself, there has been a lot said about the cartridge in recent years and it has become very popular but I was always a .470 man, especially after I had to shoot a rifle during regulation many years ago. Ken Halbert our foreman had bruised his shoulder so badly regulating a rifle he couldn’t pull the trigger again. I was the only willing substitute and the rifle in question was a 16.5″ stocked .500 for a Texan giant, the only place for the butt of the stock was the ball of the shoulder and every shot was agony! I am sure it was probably the worst regulated rifle we made in recent years!! I was never an admirer of the 500 after that experience.
I got on well with the rifle this year and plain colour hardened finish and nice handling of the rifle was much admired by everyone in the camp. I managed to get a bollocking off Danny McCallum for my no frills, no sling swivel rifle when he asked “how the hell are you going to carry that damned rifle with no sling?” to which I retorted “I am not, I assumed you had gun bearers!” I have rectified this oversight on return!
Mwaipasi kindly looks after my .500 double rifle together with Edward the game scout with his machine gun and the first Buffalo.
So Jozef, tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Well, I am 22 years of age and come from Sint Truiden which is a small town with a population of 40,000 people in the Flemish region of Belgium. My interest in shooting and guns comes from my father taking me to shooting ranges from the age of about 15, shooting his pistols and rifles. In fact most of my family are into shooting and I have been around some very nice guns from a young age so it has been my passion for many years. I don’t do much hunting in Belgium as you are not allowed to shoot until you are 18 and you need permission off the government to shoot over a certain piece of land, you also have to have a licence which costs you around £300 annually, it is not as easy to take up as it seems to be in the UK.
How did you begin your journey into gun making?
I left school at the age of 15 and decided to get a job in construction laying tiles and doing masonry work. I did this until the age of 19 but it was not the job I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. I knew guns and gun making were my true passion and it was this I needed to pursue a career in. I obviously knew about the gun making school in Liege as it is only 30km from my home but I was undecided as to whether it was the route I should go down. I spoke to Victor Petslers who runs a gun makers in Sint Truiden and is well known in the area, he advised me I should study there before looking for an apprenticeship with a gun maker. I gave it a long hard think, weighed up the pros and cons and took his advice. I told my boss construction wasn’t for me and I would no longer be working for him and without telling my parents I joined the gun makers school in Liege!
Why didn’t you tell your parents? What did they say when they found out?
Because I thought they would say it wasn’t a very good idea! But in actual fact when I did tell them they were very supportive and have been throughout. They were a little concerned because gun making is such a small industry and also the school is in the French speaking area of Belgium and at the time I couldn’t speak French!
How did you cope with the language barrier? Did you have to take French lessons?
No I didn’t take any French lessons I picked up a lot from my Flemish friends at the school and also from my teachers. Most of my learning was trying to speak it and making mistakes and learning from those mistakes.
What languages can you speak?
I speak Flemish, Dutch, French and English.
What about Brummie?
Not yet but if I carry on working next to Adam it shouldn’t be too long before I’m fluent!
What was the gun making school like? What was a typical day?
I spent three years there, as I joined the school when I was 19 I only did 3 days a week. Younger students who join the school at say 15 or 16 have to study other subjects as well, subjects you would be studying at school for example. In my first year it was quite slow and basic as we learned very simple things such as how to hold a file and how to use the machines and other quite boring things. I found it a little hard going back to school after being out to work for the last few years. The second year we were given a boxlock barrelled action and we had to make all the working parts from a solid piece of steel, all the springs, locks, lifters etc. As well as having lessons on machining, physics, metal work etc. In the third year we had to buy all the components to make a boxlock ejector and make the gun from scratch. We didn’t stock the gun as we weren’t taught stocking as part of the three year course. If you wanted to do stocking you had to stay on for another couple of years after the first three years of metal work. At the end of the third year you choose a gun that you are interested in and you had to give a presentation to your teachers and gunsmiths. A typical day would start at 08:15 with work on building your own gun until 12:00, then from 13:00 to 17:00 we would have more lessons.
What gun did you do your presentation on?
The Martini Henry falling block rifle. I am very fond of this style of action and in my opinion it’s the mother of all falling block rifles.
How many students attended the school? What different nationalities?
Well the school was not only for gun making it also had an engraving section, jewellery making and tool making. There were around 200 pupils in total from a range of different countries like France, Germany, Italy, USA, Iran and even Ethiopia. Most of them in their 20’s but we had older students as well, the eldest being 46.
Any British Students?
Did you have accommodation at the school?
I caught the train in everyday as it’s only 30km from my house. There is no accommodation at the school, foreign students have to find their own which can be quite difficult!
Have your friends at the school found apprenticeships as well?
No, I am the only one to have left and got an apprenticeship. They have all stayed on at the school. Some are now studying stocking or engraving or whatever they were interested in. I felt I wanted to get an apprenticeship and learn on the job.
Why did you choose Westley Richards?
To be honest it was the first place that came to mind. My passion and ambition was to work on big game double rifles and I knew if I wanted to do that I had to come to Westley Richards. Growing up I read a lot of books on big game hunting and Safaris and had come across the name and the guns many times. I also followed the blog and had read that Westley Richards had a very good apprenticeship program in place. I emailed Lloyd who replied the next day and in no time at all I was making my very first trip to England to come for an interview.
So how is your apprenticeship going so far? Would you recommend the gun making school to young gunsmiths of the future?
I am really enjoying it here so far, it’s only been a few weeks but I feel I’ve learnt a good amount already. You have a good team here and the gunmakers are happy to help and teach me things. I hope to progress my knowledge and skills and work on some big double rifles and one day I hope to be able to hunt with a Westley rifle. I would recommend the school to future gunsmiths as it’s a very good base from which you can build your knowledge, however an apprenticeship has its benefits because you learn on the job and you have much more one on one time with experienced gunsmiths.
Old Gun actions batch produced through a series of jigs.
A few comments and emails I have received in response to the post on single shot rifles, showed interest in the rifle, but raised the question of being able to reduce the cost of making the rifles by utilising CNC machinery and making batches of actions. This is a practise I am not exactly in favour of, I have tried it and backed away from it.
Westley Richards is, and probably has been for many years, better equipped to deal with batch machining and production than any other gunmaker in the country, I am sure we were the fist to own CNC wire, EDM and Milling, and certainly the only one with industry standard quality control at Aerospace level. Together with our sister company, Westley Engineering, we can justify the expense of running CNC machines on an economical basis. We need the machines for that business, they do not use the full 24 hour capacity and as such we can put our gun work on as needed, filling machines capacity and justifying new machines should we need them. We have the machines, the capacity and the batch machining knowledge, we just choose not to use that method.
Westley Engineering Factory.
A CNC machine will essentially ‘do as it’s told’, you put a block of steel in the machine and it doesn’t care if it makes 7 x 12g actions or 7 different a .410, 28g, 20g, 16g, 12g, 10g & 8g for instance. The same applies if you are making double rifle actions. I appreciate that this is a very simple way of looking at it, batch production is most efficient, but I don’t ever want 7 or 10 of the same actions at one time, the orders don’t come in like that, pairs and three’s yes, but the days of The Maharajah’s of Patiala and Alwar ordering 6 or 8 of the same gun are over, for now! The problems with gunmaking are not in the machining’s it is what happens with the machining’s after you have them. We make hand made guns and there are only so many pairs of hands to make them!
At Westley Richards we have programmes for each type of action we build, we aim to constantly improve our guns and rifles on an ongoing basis, minor alterations here and there, many that most people may not even notice. I personally have never been satisfied that we have nailed every nuance of a best gun, I never will be enough to say, “that is it”, no more modifications. We can always improve and more importantly we can, and are happy, to adapt our designs for the person who wants a light 577 or a heavy 470 a new calibre or whatever. We remain flexible to our customers requirements because we only build to order, and modifications start with the action.
The latest Sodick Wire Cut EDM machine at Westley Engineering.
Putting actions from ‘batches’ in stock means that when you make a design alteration you will either have to write off the actions and replace with a new batch, or wait to implement the improvement until you have used all the last batch of actions. That for me is a bad practise and is the reason I am so against this method of production. Our portfolio of guns and rifles is larger than any other gunmaker in the country with more than 20 different action sizes and shapes. 10 of each at £6000 a set of parts is …. I think you get my point.
A group of CNC machines can produce far, far more actions and parts in a year than we can ever complete as guns and rifles to a standard both you, and we expect. There have, over the years been quite a few ‘engineering sorts’, those people who are masters of the CNC who have said they can make best guns ‘without gunmakers’. They have not ever succeeded to my knowledge. Shirley & O’Farrill, or O’Farrill and Shirley I am not sure went first, a recent start up, they who took some of my workers last year and pronounced that we were doomed because they were going to be so efficient making rifles, have just ceased trading, I wonder how many batches of actions they left behind? Quite a few from the reports I received!
So yes, I could build 20 cloned single shot rifles and send them through the factory as a batch, but I doubt many people actually want a cloned rifle from us, and frankly, it is not what we are good at. If it came to an order I am sure 20 people would not choose the same calibre, some would want small, some medium, some large. Westley Richards are good at delivering you exactly what you want, we enjoy the challenge of something different and I believe this shows in our work. We do not want to sell you what we have sitting on a shelf and want to get rid of, it is not what we are about. We want to make something special and It may take some time to get it, but we certainly hope it is worth the wait!
Mark Mitchell working on a single shot rifle, we do make them you see, but our way!
A very nice bonus for me before departing to Africa, was the arrival back at the factory of the latest magnificent work for us from Paul Lantuch. This subject matter of lions was chosen to get Paul in the right frame of mind to start work on the “The Africa Rifle”!, another .600NE which will be the pair to last years “India Rifle”. I know Paul and I were both nervous about this concept at the start of this project but neither of us, nor anybody here at the factory is now!
A few years ago a gentleman, from a long standing family of customers, came into our showroom huffing and puffing, “This sodding gun is broken” or words to that effect. The gun in question was made for his great, great grandfather in 1892 and looked as if that was the last time it had been in the factory.
At first glance, it was surprising that the gun had even been out shooting and allowed to break. The ‘tell tale’ sign of wear was the fact that the ejector box was showing through the wood, the forend was all but worn away. I recall at my first Safari Club show in 1987, a Californian, a regular ‘tyre kicker’ as we call them, putting a calling card between the barrels and breech face of one of my used guns for me to find in the morning, indicating ‘it’s loose’. The shotgun in front of me that day could accommodate a paperback novel.
I proceeded to explain to the Gentleman that a quite considerable amount of work needed doing to the gun in order to make it reliable and safe once again, that perhaps it would be more economical to ‘retire the gun’. I was told in no uncertain words to fix the damned thing and to do so at very little cost. “I am 86 years old and this will be my last season, after that we can both retire” We fixed the gun up, it lasted the season and was duly retired.
My message here is that guns, like cars do need servicing. It almost seems a common misunderstanding that the cost of our guns means they will work forever without ever needing a service. With many of the guns in active service that we, and other makers made now ‘antiques’, servicing and ensuring the safety of the firearm for both you and others in the field with you, has become even more relevant.
James Sutherland’s .577 Hand Detachable Lock Rifle with Single Selective Trigger.
Next weekend I am fortunate enough to be heading to Tanzania for 3 weeks of hunting and photography in the Rungwa bush, from my side, this is long overdue! It has been a good few years now since I last took the time to go to Africa, so I am looking forward to it very much.
I don’t actually ‘own’ a double rifle, I have plenty at my hands but not one with SC on the oval, I find it more interesting to try whatever happens to be lying around at the time. Hence the photographs of Sutherland’s .577. I went to the vault this morning to see what we had and put my hands on this, thinking that I should give it a trip back to the bush. Alas, there is no Elephant where I am going and anyway I think this rifle ( is too heavy for an old fart ) and only deserves that sort of hunt, if it is to return to Africa it should be to do what it is used to doing.
I am taking instead the ‘baby brother’ a .500 WR and the back up a Leica M.
If there is any rifle I have held which has stories to tell, this is the one. It has hardly any checkering left, oil oozes from the stock, is bruised and dented but is tight and fast to the shoulder. A quite wonderful rifle.
One of Malcolm Lyell’s more famous customers whilst managing the Westley Richards Conduit Street shop was Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia. Through his Ambassador in London he had ordered an ‘Ovundo’, over an under, detachable lock shotgun, which was stolen prior to delivery during a raid on the shop in 1932. The Sun Insurance company paid out to Westley Richards the sum of £120 in insurance money.
In 1950 a detective from Scotland Yard visited the Conduit shop asking about 2 Westley Richards serial numbered guns. These were noted in the ledger as “Stolen in Raid on Conduit St. Nov 28 1932″ and shown to the policeman. The next day the police brought the 2 guns in question back to the shop and returned them. Lyell subsequently obtained a cheque from the Bournbrook factory for £120 and sent it to the Sun Insurance Company. They in turn rang up and said a Director would be coming to see him the next day. He duly arrived and thanked Lyell profusely, complimenting his honesty. Fortunately he didn’t ask what the value of the guns was, nearly 20years after they were stolen!
One of these guns has now surfaced twice during my time at Westley Richards. The first time many years ago, dealer Gary Downey called and asked me to look up the serial number. I did, sent him the journal entry above and said I would notify the police in USA to collect it. I let it ride awhile that they were stolen gods and we had still had title. I am sure it caused a moment of concern. Now once again this week, Lewis Drake has called and asked me to look up the number and received the same dismal news that he needed to send it back as it was stolen. He said I could have it for what he paid!
A Similar Gun to that stolen in the Conduit Street Raid. A 20g Westley Richards Ovundo
Lewis Drake currently has this gun which is supposed to be a gem.