For Christmas 2014 Trigger very kindly found and gave me an original poster for the Film “King Solomon’s Mines” which starred Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr and which we used to illustrate in our bicentennial book. There was much delay in getting the very fragile poster to London on my behalf but finally on my return to UK yesterday, Graham Harrison framers had returned the poster and it now hangs proudly, filling the last vacant piece of wall space in my apartment on top of the factory. It makes a wonderful addition to all the ephemera covering the walls.
Whilst filming “King Solomon’s Mines” Stewart ‘Jimmy’ Granger visited the Westley Richards Conduit Street shop and purchased a .577 which he then took on various Safari’s which he made both during and after the filming. Granger’s rifles are notable in that they have the game killed on Safari inlaid in gold into the stock
Stewart Granger on Safari.
Stewart Granger’s .577 Single Trigger Droplock Westley Richards
In 1996 we started this pair of guns for a regular client of ours, they were to be a gift. However a few years later when the guns were ready, the recipient of the gift was ‘no longer deserving’. So for 17 years, this pair of game guns have been waiting to get out of their case and into the field to do what they were made for!
Whilst these guns are standard scroll back hand detachable lock guns with our traditional pattern engraving, they have in addition, single selective triggers and two particularly nice game cameos executed by Rashid Hadi whilst he was in residence at Westley Richards. The guns are cased in a traditional Westley Richards pattern oak and leather guncase with outer canvas cover and will be available shortly on our used gun site.
A pair of Westley Richards 12g Single Selective Trigger Droplock guns.
Besides the ammunition posted earlier I have also picked up whilst here in USA, these 2 very nice ‘unused’ David McKay Brown 28g over and under guns which are consecutive numbers and matching in dimensions but with different engravers and wood. The 2 guns which have 28 inch barrels, 15 inch LOP and weigh 6lbs 1oz., will be up on the used gun site shortly
On one of the recent posts showing the take down rifles in .425 & .318 I mentioned the fact that both calibre’s were originally designed to be clip fed and that ammunition was sold in that manner. Here is a few shots showing the clips in use and some vintage .318 ammunition boxed and in original clips.
Next week we are having one of our vaults refitted so we can hold our collection of guns and rifles with more visibility. Visitors to the factory have always enjoyed seeing the variety of different firearms we have here, a collection not restricted to our own manufacture, but including guns and rifles from most of the English makers.
Whilst moving guns out of the way today we unearthed this ‘one of a kind’ gold name hand detachable lock double rifle which we completed in 1996 for a French professional hunter. I had actually completely forgotten we had this rifle in the building. The calibre is .577/.500 No.2 and when I say one of a kind, I mean it in terms of it being the only double rifle we have built in this calibre. It has a ‘no frills’ finish which is typical of a professional hunters requirements, better to spend the engraving money on ammunition!
The rifle has no sling swivels and a flat beavertail forend which fills two roles, one giving plenty to hang onto and secondly to provide a comfortable flat surface so the rifle can be carried on the shoulder with barrels facing forwards. You can see where all the barrel black is worn off from just behind the front sight block where the rifle has been held for many a mile. The rifle also has a stalking safety, the front sight cover is removed, there is a large gold V on rear sight to aid faster sighting and a large bull elephant engraved by Rashid on the cover plate. This is no doubt a species identity help, something like the perfect shot, see a bull that looks like this ‘take it’! All in all, a totally practical rifle.
The .577/.500 No2 calibre in nitro format was a cartridge introduced by Hartman and Weiss who made some single shot falling block rifles in this calibre. The original cartridge was a black powder version which was introduced sometime before 1879 this was then developed in various formats including Nitro for black and fullNitro load with a variation in bullet weight of from 300 grains up to 570 grn, The nitro version for our rifle used the 570 grn. bullet and we think the velocity was around 2300 fps. It was a powerful round and the rifles weight of 14 lbs. compensated for this.
A .22LR is dwarfed by the 2 rounds of .577/.500 No 2.
A few days ago I posted some pictures on Instagram of 2 take downs we have in the safe. I had a pretty fast response from a regular visitor to this blog saying he was willing to take ‘those 2 old nails’ off my hands for a small fee if it would help the cause! Further to this he mentioned that one rifle had obviously been used more than the other and what would be my approach to restoring the one in less good condition, would I or would I not touch it.
We have had this rifle for quite some time now and so the answer lies to some extent in that fact alone, if I had thought it needed restoring I would have done it by now. The .425 seen here is in what could be called quite tired condition but I would call it very nicely used. The rifle both functions and shoots perfectly and those are the key points. The blueing and blacking is worn and patchy, the stock is thick with oil and the checker is pretty beaten up, all in all not a showpiece rifle but when the 2 rifles are put besides each other, as they are above, the .425 is by far the nicest rifle.. at least to me it is.
I have not, and would not do anything to this rifle, if I started the whole rifle would have to be refinished, you could not do one part and keep some of the patina, it is an all or nothing job. The stock would have to be scraped off and re-polished, the checker redone, the barrel and action would all have to be re-blued and re-blacked and at the end of this it would look like a new rifle, it would have no stories to tell and that is what I like about it now!
I have said it before, more great guns have been ruined by over or bad restoration than any other factor. It takes very skilled hands, a skilled eye and a very sympathetic touch to restore a gun well so always proceed with caution!
On my recent trip to USA I was fortunate to meet some very nice people and take some very nice orders for new guns. One of the customers having received his quotation and deposit statement responded with “I need to find a hammer to break open the piggy bank”, a feeling I quite understand.
To assist, I had one of our apprentices make a small hammer with which to break open the said piggy bank. Hand filed and hardened, stocked with best walnut and with a buffalo horn handle end. A very nice job….. I hope it works!!
As a footnote, no, we will not be making these as I was shocked how many hours it took even at apprentice rates!!
Tanzanian apprentice PH Mubarak Atik with my .416 WR in Rungwa, Tanzania 2013
For many of our big game hunting customers, their first bespoke rifle ordered from Westley Richards is a bolt action. Every sportsman hunting big game will need a bolt action rifle in their battery, for precision shooting of game in cover or at longer distances than achievable with a double. Those hunting around the world will most certainly need more than one, covering small, medium and large calibres, they can be stalking rifles, mountain rifles or dangerous game rifles. The bolt action rifle comes in many different guises, and literally hundreds of different calibre’s.
Westley Richards .416 Take Down rifle in Left handed configuration.
Set of four Westley Richards rifles built on original Oberndorf actions. The calibers are as original actions were made for. .250-3000 on kurtz, .275 on intermediate, .318 on standard and .404 on magnum. Engraving by the late Shaun Banks.
Most of the Westley Richards bolt action rifles over the last 115 years have been built on the Mauser 98 action, itself introduced in 1898. Rifles were also built on the Enfield and Mannlicher actions. The ‘tangible’ rifle records we have start with a very dilapidated book, with a missing front end. The first entry in this book is rifle 36286 which was built in 1906, our most recent delivered rifle is a number 43674 a .404, thus accounting for 7388 rifles built in the same period during which we delivered 1000 double rifles. In 1912 a .425 bolt action rifle in take down format cost £25.0.0 and a best quality .476 hand detachable lock double rifle, cased, cost £80 Guineas. The droplock double rifle in 1912 was 3 times the cost of the bolt action, interestingly, today the same ratio applies, with the doubles starting at £59,500 and bolt action at £18,500.
Westley Richards .416 take down rifle with engraving by Paul Lantuch.
The bolt action production always has been and continues to be a very important part of our business. We currently have 24 bolt action rifles being made in the factory and these are specified from a simple, plain, name only stalking rifle to a very elaborate take down with a large engraving budget. We have orders for a multitude of calibers, .505 Gibbs, .500 Jeffery, .416 Rigby, .425 WR, .375 H & H, .318 WR, .300 Win, Wby & H&H, .275 Rigby, 9.3 x62 as well as others. Each calibre is built on the correct size action which ensures smooth feed and the correct weight of rifle. The actual handling and balance of our bolt actions is just as important as that found with our doubles and this can only be achieved by appropriate scaling. This means the ribs, sights and stocking are all scaled down or up to suit the calibre and action.
Romain Lepinois putting the final touch, the gold oval, on a take down rifle.
I have always been very proud of the bolt actions we have produced in recent years. At Westley Richards we know that delivering an exceptional bolt action rifle will in most cases lead to the subsequent order for a double rifle. We take a lot of time to ensure that the rifles work faultlessly and look exceptional. I am probably biased but I don’t think any other rifle maker is making as good a looking rifle as we are. This is mostly down to the exceptional stocking skills of Romain Lepinois and Keith Haynes who have the profiles for our rifles perfected on each size of action we use, the stock of the bolt action is the essential ingredient for good looks!
In recent years the ‘take down’ version of our rifles has gained in popularity, I think in the past people had reservations on the accuracy of a take down barrel vs fixed barrel, this concern has now certainly been dispelled. The take down rifles have proved themselves to be an exceptional sporting rifle and the ease of travelling with them has proved a huge benefit. There is also less risk of damage to a take down rifle as the aircrews handling firearms today seem to take more care with a smaller case, perhaps it is just easier for them to handle too! Of course the perfect safari combination is a case fitted with a take down and a double!
Westley Richards .300 Winchester rifle profile with and without telescope mounted.
James Hornsby assembling a bolt action rifle. James himself is a competing marksman.
Westley Richards .318 take down rifle cased in our lightweight leather.
If were asked ‘if you were allowed one book on guns’ what would it be question, it would have to be Modern Sporting Gunnery by Henry Sharp. This is a book I seem to buy endless first editions of, and which always get given away or ‘walk’ from my shelves.
Those of you who are not familiar with the book will see from the cover that it is perhaps a little ‘biased’ to Westley Richards, the detachable lock being a feature of the front cover. It is indeed so and with reason that Leslie Taylor assisted Sharp a great deal with technical aspects of gunmaking in the initial chapters of the book.
Here is a book which in a ‘no nonsense’ manner covers most of what you want to know on shotguns, rifles and their use in the field. All of the information is as relevant today as it was when written in 1906, after all, we are making very much the same guns and rifles now as we were at that time so the process of having a gun made has changed very little in the time that has passed.
Chapters include, Modern shot-guns, shot-gun ammunition, modern sporting rifles, new accelerated express rifles, ball and shot guns, sighting of rifles, sporting bullets, gun fitting, game shooting, wildfowl shooting, shooting abroad and ladies in the field. The writing is technical but in an informative way to the layman, explaining the process of building best guns, the difference between the types of guns, other things that should be made aware of like chokes and gun weights, fitting and all the other options that are available like single triggers and stalking safety, sighting arrangements on rifles etc. It is an excellent, profusely illustrated book and one for every gunroom!
The best place to look for a copy of the book is on abebooks.com and the first editions seem to go from £100 – 200 depending on condition
This gun, our first ‘top lever’ gun has been shown in our previous catalogue, our book and in some posts here on the blog. What I have never shown is the whole gun, only a close up of the top lever and butt plate. So here for the first time is a shot of the whole gun. You can pull this photo off the blog and turn it the right way around on your desktop!