Whilst we were building the India Rifle I never put too much mind as to who would end up engraving it, too many years of gunmaking to worry about that detail. For me the project started when I bought a Webley & Scott 600NE Sidelock double rifle. The rifle was to my mind, the most perfect 600 sidelock rifle I had ever seen, it was large, the right weight and had big locks which gave it presence. The rifle was made for purpose and was masculine, just what a 600 should be, not a 577 with 600 barrels. Like everything I buy I ended up selling it, this time to one of my most avid elephant hunting clients. He in turn dropped it and broke the perfectly shaped stock. It has never looked the same since, a shame.
Prior to selling the rifle, we took all the key measurements from it, had it drawn up and the India and Africa rifles were concieved . Like most things in the gun trade this all took time, especially as it was at the time an ‘in house’ project, I was in effect the customer, and the least important one on the order book at that! Some years later however the first rifle was ready and the decision on the engraving came about. In the factory everyone knew that this was to be a big engraving commission, sort of like what we had done with the Boutet gun in the 80′s, something different, something extravagant, the rifle had to reflect the heady days of the Raj.
I had a meeting with 2 of my regular engravers about the engraving commission and they came to my office with no drawings or anything, no ideas or suggestions just a price for the work and a very large one at that. I decided immediately to decline and called Paul Lantuch in USA who was working on another rifle for us at the time and offered the commission to him. I described the project, that it must reflect the gift giving of the Raj with tiger hunting scenes, opulance, elephants and howdahs, Paul was immediately enthused and excited, firing back ideas, he said he would go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in the morning, do some research and send his sketches, which he did. Some weeks of discussion followed as the design developed before the work began. It took Paul almost a full year to complete this job, but having shown this rifle at 5 exhibitions now in UK & USA I can safely say I have never had so many generous and favourable comments on a gun in my 27 years. Some people may not like it, perhaps the design is not to their taste, but even so they all admire it for the quality and unique work that is involved.
A fellow gunmakers owner in the USA comes up to me every year and tells me with a touch of jealousy how amazed he is I allow Paul to engrave my guns saying ‘he uses a Dremel to shift the metal you realise’. Frankly I don’t care if he uses a road drill as long as the unique and creative work continues to flow!
Below you will see a short timeline with the sketches as the design for the rifle was passed back and forth across the Atlantic. These are accompanied by some new photos of the rifle which I took today and have already called Paul this evening to apologise for, they don’t do his work the justice it deserves.
Mike Marsh has always been passionate about making gun tools, he says you have to be to make them. At 72 he continues to supply only a small number of gunmakers with their gun case tooling requirement, we feel privileged to be amongst the lucky few he will supply.
Mike started by making Powder Flasks in the late 70′s as a sideline to his day job which involved Engineering R&D for the Civil Service, torpedoes were mentioned briefly but he skirted around the subject when we met today. In 1978 Mike went self employed and started making the powder flasks full time, selling these into the trade as well as privately to collectors and enthusiasts. Westley Richards had an active antique business at this time with the repatriated Indian guns and we were amongst his first customers.
In 1982, following the death of Ken Steggles who was the former supplier of gun tooling to the trade, Mike took on the role of supplying the sets of presentation tooling to the gunmakers that you will find in every best gun case of merit. Turnscrews, cleaning rods, disc keys, striker blocks, oil bottles, striker pots etc. are all hand made with the utmost care and attention to detail. With a highly polished finish and a crisp embossed makers name, Mike’s tools have accompanied every important gun made in recent years and come with ebony or horn handles and are also available in Ivory to those that supply their trophy ivory for working with.
I know Mike puts the same pride, care and attention into every tool he makes and I cannot stress the importance we put on these tools, without them the cases would look empty and to use inferior tools just lets the whole presentation down.
A Pair of Westley Richards 28g Droplock Shotguns and below a single action from pair.
Everyone is happy in the factory when the guns pass their final inspections at the end of the month and get packed up to be sent or delivered to the customer. I am sure the customer is delighted also, especially in the case of this pair of Ovundo’s which are 2 of only a handful (12) of these guns that we are making, the order book for these was opened and closed within an hour, a moment of stupidity on my behalf some years ago at SCI convention! That said I am very pleased that we did make these guns again, even in very limited numbers and I think the team in the factory have done a magnificent job on making them unique and special for those that had an order.
This pair of 28g droplock shotguns have also come out very well and I hope these guns will be tested against the English game in the coming season.
The end of the shooting season in England is always followed for a few months after, with the steady influx of “I am hanging up my guns, guns”, the guns belonging to people who have either decided to hang up their guns permanently or those trading in for something new for the coming season. Here, for those on the lookout for a new gun or pair for their next season, is a small selection which is going on the Westley Richards Used Gun Site in the next few days .
When the gunmakers J Rigby & Co. left the UK in 1997 for USA it was indeed a sad day in English gunmaking history. I don’t think any of us could have foreseen quite how badly the famous name would be used. The company entered a period of gunmaking that I am sure everyone would prefer to forget. This period was also notable for confusion about the ownership of the name Rigby and many other things which I am sure annoyed many people not least the true Rigby enthusiasts.
The company has now entered a new lease of life under the direction of Marc Newton and Patty Pugh, now on her 2nd Rigby revival. With new premises in London and the backing of the mighty Mauser name the company has hit the ground running at the early annual shows in the USA and IWA. The famous 416 Rigby bolt action rifle was of course built on the Magnum Mauser action so this is an appropriate marriage and they are leading the charge with a very competitively priced modern 416 Rigby built on a Magnum ‘Mauser’ action.
The return of Rigby to this country is excellent news for the English Gun trade as a whole. Rigby is one of the greatest names in our Gunmaking history and we are certainly glad to see them back.
Walter D. M. (Karamojo) Bell
From 1902 – 1910 Bell hunted in East Africa. This led him through British East Africa, Uganda, Ethiopia and The Lado Enclave. In 1911 he moved to West Africa (Liberia) where there were no regulations on hunting elephants or other species. On this trip he left his Mauser 7mm at home and brought with him a Westley Richards .318, at the end of six months he had shot twenty-seven elephants. Bell served as a pilot in the 1914 – 1918 war and after the war he went back to Africa to the Ivory Coast where he shot quite a few large elephants with his .318. After the Ivory Coast he was joined by his old friend, Wynne Eyton and they moved to Northern Cameroon. Bell took his .318, Eyton took a .450 NE by Rigby and a .318 Westley Richards. On this trip the elephants were scarce but Bell was able to kill enough to cover the expense of the expedition. This was to be Bell’s last elephant hunt in Africa, as he then moved permanently to his estate in Scotland.
Bell was an exceptional shot and was said to be able to shoot cormorants in flight with the .318, he often mentioned the .318 with its 250grn Bullet. In total he shot 983 Elephants.
Major G. H. Anderson
In 1907 Anderson went to British Somaliland in East Africa with the intention of hunting Lion. He put out bait and armed with a .450 NE awaited the arrival of a Lion. As night fell a Lion finally appeared, Anderson fired at it in poor light conditions and only wounded it. At first light he followed the spoor and drops of blood. They suddenly came upon the Lion, Anderson fired at it with the right barrel but again wounded it and the Lion charged him. Holding his nerve he waited until the Lion was at short range and then gave it the left barrel in the chest. Unfortunately this failed to stop the Lion and it was on Anderson in a flash. The Lion gave Anderson a tremendous bite on his right knee and knocked him over, it then took him by the thigh and shook him before proceeding to claw him all over. His gun bearer was able to shoot it again with a second rifle, it let go of Anderson and fell dead a few yards away.
In 1912 he met James Sutherland and they became life long friends. Between 1912 – 1913 they where issued a license for forty elephants which must have been interesting for Anderson who had never shot an elephant in his life! Sutherland must have advised him to have a .577 NE, which was Anderson’s favourite caliber in later years, he also used a .318 Westley Richards and a .470 NE. These three calibres remained the most satisfactory for him until the end of his hunting activities. Anderson’s first elephant had tusks of 109 and 112 pounds. During this hunt Anderson and Sutherland bagged their forty elephants and obtained 5,511 pound of ivory an average of 136 pound per elephant. Curiously the last elephant Anderson bagged thirty-four years later in April 1946 in Northern Kenya also had tusks over 100 pounds each. Sutherland died in 1932 when he was sixty; he bequeathed his property to Anderson including his Westley Richards .577 and .318. Anderson shot between 350 and 400 elephant. He also founded the East African Professional Hunters Association and wrote the book African Safaris.
Grogan came out to British East Africa in 1905 and started hunting in The Lado Enclave in 1907. He was the brother of the famous Col. Ewart S Grogan who walked from the Cape to Cairo between 1898 – 1899. Grogan was very interested in trying out calibers against elephant some suitable and others more controversial like the .256 Mannlicher and the .280 Ross. He also tried the. 450 NE but finally settled on a .318 Westley Richards and a .577 Westley Richards both of which he used until the end of his days as an Ivory Hunter. He shot between 250 and 300 elephant.
In 1909 Longden went to The Lado Enclave, right from the start he got excellent trophies his best was an enormous elephant with tusks of 141 and 139 pounds which he shot in 1911. He once wounded an elephant which charged him and was unable to stop it with the 450 NE he was using. The elephant caught him and began to batter him, and his gun bearer managed to kill it with a brain shot from the .318 Westley Richards. He was in a critical state and so carried across the Nile to the post of Wadelai where he died. He shot between 60 – 70 elephant.
Dennis D. Lyell in his book The African Elephant and its Hunters 1924 writes ‘if I was going back to hunt in Africa I would buy a couple of .318 Mauser Action Magazine Rifles, for I believe this is a perfect size as an all round rifle and notwithstanding the critics who have not always had practical experience as a backing to their opinions, I am no believer in heavy rifles which are usually somewhere in the rear when most wanted’.
James H. Sutherland
In a chapter in his book The Adventures Of An Elephant Hunter Sutherland gives a brief summary of the rifles he used. At the start of his activities in Mozambique in 1898 he used a .303 Military Rifle and later a Mauser 10.75 mm, .450 and .500 NE. Finally he brought a .577 NE and a .318 Magazine Rifle from Westley Richards. The .577 was a best grade double rifle with Westley Richards patent hand detachable lock’s, snap action lever work and single selective trigger. In 1912 he sent both rifles back to Westley Richards to be cleaned, in his letter he wrote ‘Perhaps it may interest you to know that I have shot 322 males out of a total of 447 Elephants with your most excellent rifles some of which I got from you over ten years ago. 223 of these fell to the .577 I think you will find the rifling as good as ever’. Once Sutherland began to use the .577 and the .318 he never felt the need for any other rifles. He also wrote in his book ‘the double barreled .577 which I have used for several years and found admirable in every detail was built for me by Westley Richards & Co. of Bond Street. The construction of the locks are excellent and simple to a degree, so that should anything go wrong there is no difficulty in instantly detaching the lock by hand and replacing it with a duplicate. The single trigger and ejectors on this rifle have on no occasion failed to act. In open country, against Elephants and Rhinoceroses where the quarry is difficult to approach and long shots are often required I find that I can do all that is requisite with the .318 using of course, solid nickel covered bullets. Throughout his life Sutherland shot between 1,300 and 1,600 elephants.
Acknowledgement. Elephant Hunters by Tony Sanchez-Arino. Available from Safari Press
The Holland & Holland Royal double rifle is the most copied double rifle in the world, with very good reason, it is a beautiful looking and handling rifle, a rifle that set the standard many years ago as the very finest English sidelock express rifle available. It seems if anyone embarks on making an express rifle nowadays or even over the past 30 years the Holland Royal is the rifle they try to emulate, none in my opinion have ever succeeded.
The shape, weight and every little detail can be copied and made with superb craftsmanship but without the magic name they are but that, good copies, like a Chinese Rolex, just not the same as the real deal.
So here is a selection of Vintage Holland Royal and Royal Deluxe double rifles from our collection which help keep us focused as we produce our own very unique model of Express rifle, The Hand Detachable Lock or Droplock.
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