The Case for a Gun Case.

Westley Richards Oak & Leather case

A few years ago now, one of the largest individual collectors of new best guns, decided, that none of his future new guns, singles or pairs should be cased. It was a simple decision, one based on the fact that his guns went into a rack in his large gunroom and the cases went into a barn on his property. He paid £6000 or more for a best, custom made oak and leather case with tooling and put it in the barn, probably never to be seen again! 100 new guns, £600,000 of cases in a barn, a sensible decision? Probably not.

If you had asked the Indian Maharajah’s if they were ever going to sell their guns and rifles I am sure they would have said ‘no, never, we love our sport and our guns, we will never sell them’. However it came to be that they did, and in vast numbers. When that time came, we, Westley Richards in the shape of my father were there in India, and we purchased a great deal of them. A frequent question we asked was ‘is it cased or are they cased?” It is a question that I am sure you yourself always ask as a gun buyer, I certainly ask it when I buy and people ask it of me when buying from me, we all actually want a case, when there is a case we will pay more for the gun or it will be the case that just tips the balance when looking at 2 similar guns, one cased the other not.

The Indians often (much like the modern auction house I regret to say) felt that the value achieved of their cased guns was more if they separate the items and so would sell the guns in one deal, the case, possibly to another person, in another deal, finally the tools in yet another deal. I recall very well a fabulous pair of Dixon ML guns we found one year in India, we bought one gun of a pair in 1992 and were then sold the case for the pair in 1993. In 1994 we were offered the tools (for those who know Dixon cases will know the tooling was extensive) Finally in 1995 they then showed us the No2 gun which they had previously denied having, which unfortunately, having been separated from its pair and case during the past few years, had fallen over in their store and the stock was broken. They ended up with about a quarter of the amount they could have got selling the cased pair as a whole!

I have over the years opened a huge amount of gun cases and I tend to buy guns on the first emotion, I open a case, always hoping for a magnificent mint condition find, and they will either just say buy me or perhaps don’t buy me! There is nothing like a great gun or rifle in its original casing. You come to recognise types of cases and you know that should be a Boss, or that should be a pair of Purdey’s, Westley Richards had a very distinct looking case so were easily spotted.

When I started at Westley Richards I always found it very hard to get a great quality case made, there were few makers around and I must say that the situation hasn’t changed much in 30 years. Mr Brady was making cases in Birmingham as was Bryant in London but they were both soon to cease. All the tooling came from Mike Marsh and to this day still does, we are grateful that Mike will still make our tooling, we buy as “much as he can make” knowing one day he will have had enough and turn off his lathe.

I established an in-house case maker quite soon, I think in about 1995 taking on Roland Lane’s case making business, Roland worked for some years on his own in our workshops making our cases and was then joined by Martin & Tracy Jones who were with Brady up until the time they closed. Martin and Tracy continue to work here and together with Witold & Joanna  produce all our leather goods in house. It is a part of the business I am very proud of and one I insist that the products always compliments the quality of the guns we make.

Westley Richards leather department offer many sorts of cases, all are made for the individual gun and can be from a lightweight canvas case to oak and leather covered with alligator and anything in-between, we make flat cases and motor cases. We also hold quite a good stock of old cases which can be refitted to suit a vintage gun if needed.

So, should you case a new gun? Yes, I believe you should, It will one day come to market and you or one of your family will certainly get better value. The case will keep all the parts together and protect it over the years, the case will help the gun retain condition. It is I think a very important part of the gun, I appreciate it is expensive but I feel it is almost actually essential.

Picture03372-Edit
Picture03382-EditBUCKLE BOXcasecaseSTANDARD CLOSEDSTANDARD OPENTRAD OAK LEATHER

Above is a selection of cases made in the Westley Richards leather workshops over the years.

Some shots of Westley Richards Guns & Rifles.

The Westley Richards India Rifle

The Leica shop in Mayfair were kind enough to lend me a couple of lenses for my camera this week when mine packed up, they sent me a replacement 120mm and their Tilt Shift lens to try on the camera. It will take me some time getting to grips with the Tilt Shift lens no doubt but it can take some rather extraordinary views of a gun! It may look a little odd but it certainly puts another perspective on the shots as you can see above. I hope with a little more practise I can get the peacock on the butt-plate and the elephant in focus!

The Westley Richards Lion Rifle

Small Bore Guns by Westley Richards

Westley Richards 28g shotgun

Westley Richards .600 India Rifle

Westley Richards Rifles and Shotgun

Westley Richards Lion Rifle.

A Classic Westley Richards .425 Take Down Bolt Action Big Game Rifle.

Westley Richards Take Down Bolt Action .425

If I was asked to name just one of the classic Westley Richards rifles, a .425 magnum take down bolt action would have to be on the short list. Here is a .425 rifle that has just been completed in our workshops and is now destined for Botswana, to the experienced  hands of a young hunter who travels Africa in search of his game.

Presented in a classic, green canvas and leather case, this is a no frills rifle, a practical rifle and one which is destined to hunt hard. For those of you unfamiliar with the calibre the .425 has ‘neck and neck’ ballistics with the .416 Rigby. Rigby would no doubt claim more power but we would object, strongly! The WR cartridge was designed to fit straight into a standard size Mauser action and originally the cartridges were sold in a 5 shot clip, you would load from the clip directly into the 5 shot drop magazine you see here on this rifle.

As you will see from the advertisement at the bottom of the post which is from our 1912 catalogue,  we have reproduced the classic lines of the rifle faithfully, the drop box with horn nose which covers the hinge mechanism and the raised side panels with drop points both give this rifle its signature and masculine look.

Westley Richards Take Down Bolt Action .425

Westley Richards Take Down Bolt Action .425

425 WR

 

As I imagine not everyone looks at the comments, I have added this response to the post. It says what I should have said, better than I could have!

 

Dear Simon, thank you, Exquisite, absolutely.

Sorry, but no 416 can come close! As you say this really is a classic rifle. The late Captain FC Selous would have been impressed. Wonderful to see this superb classic calibre making a comeback. So, we await posts highlighting new bespoke doubles with detachable locks chambering the .425. An earlier post here from your records listed a total of 33 double rifles built in .425 in just over a century.

It is timely to remember that Pondoro Taylor spoke well of this round, in fact he much desired more than just one gun in .425. This he made clear in arguing for a pair of bespoke rifles built to share a single calibre: one a double, the other a magazine, with custom barrel lengths, respectively. Poignantly, Taylor considered Westley Richard’s.425 the ideal calibre for this pair of rifles. It is worth recounting what he wrote in Big Game and Big Game Rifles (pg 207):

“I have often thought that a battery consisting of an open-sighted double .425 (26-inch barrels) and a ‘scope-sighted .425 magazine (25-inch barrel) would take an immense amount of beating for general all-round work amongst dangerous game, and am seriously considering just such a battery when it is possible for me to order a new one.” And one reads the near identical statement on pg 20 in African Rifles and Cartridges. Tragically, Taylor never realized his dream.

I like to term this nucleus of the Ideal Battery – quoting a Taylor chapter title – “Pondoro’s Pair”. Something to save for!

Further, with respect to similar big bores, we should remember the .425’s .435″ diameter bullet – at 410gr – outperforms the .423″ bullet of the highly respected and exhaustively tested .404 Jeffery; arguably, the .425 comes close to the .458s, with 90% of the latter’s cross-sectional area (CSA) and ~15% lighter bullet. But the .425 has the benefits of higher velocity and less recoil, and avoids the foibles of the too-short .458 Winchester “magnum” shell (with propellants etc) – albeit problems solved by the .458 Lott. Obviously, one is then dealing with a full-bore .450. And it is worth reflecting that the widely popular .416 has 8% less CSA.

Okay, I will stop this reply here….and not start on refuting all the silly speak by armchair critics about the rebated rim/barrel length/magazine-springs etc of the .425. This ignorant badmouthing a calibre they are unqualified to judge has been ridiculed by real experts who actually proved the .425 under challenging conditions.

Most grateful thanks to you for enlivening the easter weekend :-)

New England Grouse Shooting by William Harnden Foster.

New England Grouse Shooting by William Harnden Foster

Receiving a book as a gift is always a special treat, receiving an old out of print book which one should have discovered years ago is even more of a treat. So it was with very great thanks that I received this week, a copy of William Harnden Foster’s book ‘New England Grouse Shooting’ from a friend in Texas.

This gift came about as a result of discussions on what engraving we should put on a new .410 hand detachable lock shotgun we are building for the said gentleman. A conversation on engraving a small bore gun for an American will undoubtably lead to discussing native birds as happened in this instance.

I was able to recount to him my few efforts of hunting the American ruffed grouse in Michigan. My first ruffed grouse hunt made me finally understand why so much blaze orange is worn by hunters in America, I had always thought it was solely for protection against being shot, which to a great degree it is. However once in the thick forests of Northern Michigan, in driving snow, I quickly realised that if my neighbouring gun and guide didn’t have blaze orange, I would probably still be wandering around Canada now, some 15 years later.

Our discussion turned to artwork for engraving which depicted both the native birds and hunting scene. Artwork is an essential ingredient for engravers and I have always felt that drawings are a better source than photographs, they use a similar technique to engraving with the added benefit that a good artist will capture the mood and the moment  much better visually, than a photographer ever could.

New England Grouse Shooting by William Harnden Foster

I am not going to review the book here, I have yet to read it properly. My message is more  for those of you considering new guns and engraving, a message to even the engravers themselves. Search out these types of book on the subjects that interest you, try and find material such as this, material which strikes a chord with you and which you can imagine on your gun. There are many wonderful books on our sport and many wonderful drawings. Don’t hesitate to show them to your gunmaker as he will always be delighted to have reference as will the engraver and it will no doubt lead to them offering more similar examples from their own libraries once they know what is liked.

New England Grouse Shooting by William Harnden Foster

I think any of the illustrations above would look very fine on a gun, each can be adapted to the metalwork canvas or certainly in the case of our guns, be used on the lock cover plate underneath. There are many more in this book to choose from also.

I myself never did manage to shoot a Ruffed Grouse in Michigan, I visited 3 times, heard them flying away but never saw them when with gun in hand. Hopefully after reading this book I will be better equipped to get a result should the opportunity arise again!

New England Grouse Shooting by William Harnden Foster

 

Westley Richards .700/.577 Our largest droplock double rifle,….. to date.

Westley Richards 700/577 Droplock Double Rifle.

When Holland & Holland sold what they called “the last .600″, a royal double rifle, sometime in the ’80’s, it left them unable to fulfil the needs of the hunting man who wanted the ‘very biggest rifle calibre’ in a Holland & Holland Royal, a position held by the .600 since the turn of that century.

Bill Feldstein was one such man, and when he found he was unable to get Holland’s to make him a .600 he decided to get them to make an even bigger calibre, the .700. This order was filled by Holland’s I believe in the late 80’s and they have been offering the rifle ever since.

The world of rifle ammunition has always been based around certain brass cases, these being used for a multitude of different calibres, the brass necked down for certain bullets and powder charges. The 500, 470, 476, 500/450 and 500/465 for instance, all use common brass, as do the belted cases. The .458, 375 H&H, 300 H&H, 300 Win Mag 300 Weatherby etc. are all based on the .375 belted case.

When we were asked to build a .700 we said no, be we will do a variation on it. Taking the 700 brass case, necking it down to .577 and using a 950grn. bullet.

Here is the most recent rifle we have built in that calibre, a hand detachable lock rifle, extra locks and carved engraving by Peter Spode. The rifle is cased using the clients Elephant skin and the ivory for tooling.

Westley Richards 700/577 Droplock Double Rifle.

Westley Richards 700/577 Droplock Double Rifle.

Westley Richards 700/577 Droplock Double Rifle.

Westley Richards 700/577 Droplock Double Rifle.

Footnote. Holland & Holland were able to purchase back “The Last .600″ and have subsequently started offering the calibre again.

A Pair of Westley Richards 20g Hand Detachable Lock Guns with single selective triggers. Engraved by Rashid Hadi.

Pair of Westley Richards 20g Droplock Shotguns

Pairs of our 20g hand detachable lock guns come on the market very infrequently, pairs of our guns engraved by Rashid Hadi have never come on the market to date. I actually think this is the only pair that exists which are engraved in his unique and very beautiful super fine scroll.

I think I have mentioned before on this blog how special it was to watch rash execute fine scroll, it was literally a joy to watch the speed and confidence with which he worked when ‘on a good day’. The scroll on this pair of guns is particularly fine as you can see below, these are 20g guns and small frames, the scroll is very delicate and all perfectly shaded. I can assure you there are not many people who can execute this type of scroll with such flair and character. Rash never relied on a compass and other drawing instruments but solely by eye, penciling in a rough design and then attacking it with vigour, the engraving vice would swirl and spin rapidly when he was at his bench, the final result of the work was always so worth the wait.

I think this is a superb opportunity for someone who is considering a pair of 20’s. The guns are as new, cased and priced less than our standard guns now, so the deluxe engraving by Rash, single triggers and exhibition wood all come in with the price!

The guns can be found here on our used gun site. Pair 20g Hand Detachable Lock Guns

English Fine Scroll

Pair 20g Droplock Pair 20g Droplock Guns

Pair 20g Droplock Hardi Top Levers

Two .410’s and a 28g Westley Richards Droplock. Which one would you choose?

Westley Richards .410 &  28g droplock guns

By offering a ‘free 25 year service’ I have been lucky to repatriate, if only for a short time, three of the small bore guns we made in the early 90’s. I am very grateful to their owners for allowing me to include them in the next edition of our book but also for the opportunity to generally show them off a bit whilst I have them at the factory.

The guns are from the top a .410 Hand Detachable engraved by ‘The Brown Brothers’, a 28g Hand Detachable engraved by Phil Coggan and lastly a .410 Hand Detachable  engraved in the classic style of Westley Richards, with cameos and scrolls, by Alan Brown.

Everybody has different taste, so if you were faced with an offer to be able to ‘keep just one’ I wonder which gun you would choose?!

Westley Richards .410 &  28g droplock guns

Westley Richards 28g Droplock

Westley Richards .410 Droplock

Westley Richards .410 Droplock

The Gunstock Blanks arrive from my IWA, Nuremburg buying trip.

Gunstock Blanks at Westley Richards

The most agonising thing about buying gunstock blanks is the 2 week wait for their arrival back to the factory when at last  you can ‘see how you have done’. The process of buying wood is usually quite pressured, you let go of an excellent pair and someone else grabs it. You get distracted, always looking at what other people are picking and thinking their choice is better than yours, you then wait for them to let go and grab it yourself! The wood dealers know this and love it, the more people on the stand the better for them, it becomes a feeding frenzy.

Once you have made your selection the haggling starts, none of the wood is priced and all the wood you pick is always ‘the best they have’, without fail this is the argument from the Turkish side “you have picked all my very best wood’! The Turkish like to deal and are very good at it. I was taught by my Arabian friends that you needed to be firm, insulted, disgusted, almost always resorting to verbal abuse, despair and whatever else needed to bring the price down. The process can take hours but after awhile agreement is made, hands are shaken and the deal is sealed. Smiles appear all around, you go from mortal enemies to lifelong friends in a split second. The wood is then signed so you know it is yours, taped together, and put in a room out of sight. The next time you see it will be in England back at the factory.

So my wood arrived today and here is a small selection of it, about half of it, the best half of course!

Gunstock Blanks at Westley Richards

Westley Richards .375 H&H droplock with QD Lyman scope.

Westley Richards .375 H&H droplock rifle with telescope

This Westley Richards .375 double is fitted with a QD Lyman scope. These were a perfect size optic for a double and it doesn’t look too out of place. The new 1 inch or 30mm scopes we get today are so big for the rifles and stand off so high, not very attractive at all. This size vintage optic is getting harder and harder to find now, you used to be able to pick them up at the Las Vegas Antique arms but this year I couldn’t find one!

A Rare Pair of Westley Richards .470 Droplock Double Rifles.

A Pair of Westley Richards .470 Droplock Double Rifles

The first pair of .470 hand detachable lock double rifles that we made were for George Eastman in 1925, those were for his 1926 & 1928 Safari’s and which were documented in his book Chronicles of an African Trip (1927). Our second pair was made in 1992 for an Italian gentleman whose order I took over a long and liquid fuelled lunch at the then infamous Langan’s Brasserie in London. The deal for 2 pairs of double rifles was detailed out on the paper table cloth during lunch, after a long negotiation the price was agreed and signed by both parties on the cloth and this the waiter kindly folded and gave me on departure.

This latest pair of 470 rifles were commissioned as a gift for the 2 sons of a long standing customer of ours, a customer who had hoped his 2 boys would one day accompany him to Africa. Alas, their interests have taken them in a ‘non hunting’ direction and with father being a total .500 3″ afficiando for his doubles, I have been asked to find a home for these rifles.

Pairs of double rifles are a rare item to find and they are something I have always enjoyed making as a result, there being a very special feeling about a person needing a pair of rifles to hunt with in Africa, it is a sign of true enthusiast .

This pair of detachable lock rifles is made for hunting, a deluxe gift but not too precious for the bush. 2 rifles with extra locks, elaborate scroll, fine cameo’s of large elephant all cased in a fine alligator skin case with outer cover.

Anybody with 2 sons to spoil or a big hunt planned?

A Pair of Westley Richards .470 Droplock Double Rifles

 

A Pair of Westley Richards .470 Droplock Double Rifles

 

A Pair of Westley Richards .470 Droplock Double Rifles

 

A Pair of Westley Richards .470 Droplock Double Rifles