IN PRAISE OF THE MAUSER ’98 (In a roundabout sort of way!) Guest Post by D. HACK.

Westley Richards, Bolt action, mauser 98How might we define the word ‘reliable’? According to the Oxford dictionary, it is something or someone “consistently good in quality or performance; able to be trusted”. Such an epitaph might flatter those of us of a certain age but in our modern world, such a moniker might suggest a slightly dull, if worthy quality that is definitely not  ‘trending ‘ or fashionable! Nevertheless, we are all instinctively comforted by the idea of reliable – the car that never lets us down, the aged relative who always remembers a childhood birthday or the loving parent who is the unswerving rallying point in a turbulent world. Moreover, we often link the qualities of ‘reliable’ with the similar concept of integrity, “ the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”. How all this relates to the function of the ‘big game’ rifle is the theme of this article.

I got my first taste of the meaning of ‘reliable’ and ‘integrity’ as a young man at public school. In the twilight of the stiff upper lip era, I soon learned that one was expected to front up and demonstrate moral fibre in order to prove one’s worth. At the age of 10 and three-quarters, this all seemed terribly unfair but this all-pervading attitude undoubtedly laid the foundations for adult life, where the ability to be true to your word and look someone (or your enemy) in the eye without blinking soon proved invaluable, both in business and in life.

However, I learned most about such values from my father and in particular, from the stories of his time as a young subaltern in the Indian Army during World War Two. At some point, he found himself in charge of a POW camp, where soldiers who had ‘run home to Mummy’ were locked up for a year in punishment. Apart from a couple of Indian NCOs and a handful of guards, he was entirely alone. One particular morning, due to a grievance about their food, the entire prison population mutinied, broke out of their accommodation and stormed towards my father’s single story wooden office. The guards were soon overrun and I think father rather assumed the end was nigh! He came out onto the verandah and stood his ground as the mob surged towards him. He reached for the Webley revolver at his side (made in Birmingham, a relevant fact for later in this story). He told me he knew it would fire reliably and so he reckoned he could take down six men before the inevitable end. This was his ‘moment’ – his end game. However, something inside him gave him great courage and allowed him to think with intense clarity for just a few seconds as the mob closed on the verandah. He took a step forward; the mob stopped in their tracks. In fluent Urdu, he told them he would not deal with a rabble but would speak to a nominated representative to hear their grievance. Soon, amongst much jabbering and gesticulation, a ‘representative’ was pushed forward out of the crowd. Father heard his grievance about the poor food and promised it would be investigated and appropriate improvements made, as necessary. This was all they wanted – the ‘representative’ spoke to the crowd and they all quietly wandered back to their blocks. Father retreated to his office and with trembling hands, poured himself a stiff drink and lit a cigarette. He was twenty years old.

webley-fosbery, revolver

Many of us have had a ‘moment’, whether in the armed forces or police or in the game fields of far-away lands. Such events are common on the battlefield, where chaos and mayhem are the norm, not the exception. Here, a reliable weapon will literally save your life. Such was the thinking of German firearms genius, Peter Paul Mauser during the development of his now legendary bolt-action mechanism. Through various iterations, he finally achieved engineering perfection in 1898 with the release of what is now called the Mauser ’98 bolt-action rifle. People far more knowledgeable than me have written many excellent tomes on the history of the Mauser rifle, so I won’t go into too much detail about this engineering marvel here. Nevertheless, I am not alone in believing that the design of this rifle mechanism has never been surpassed in over a hundred years. Apart from Mr Starley and his remarkable ‘safety bicycle’ of 1885 (pretty much the same design we ride about on today), I can’t think of many machines that were designed when Queen Victoria was still on the throne that haven’t been improved or updated in the intervening century! The Mauser 98, by contrast, was and remains a perfect engineering design. Why so special? Well, the trite answer is the ability to guarantee operational reliability and mechanical integrity anywhere, at any time, under any conditions. Although designed for the battlefield, it wasn’t long before generations of sportsmen discovered that the     ‘operational reliability’ and ‘mechanical integrity’ of the Mauser ‘98 mechanism, so vital on the battlefield, were also rather useful when facing a charging lion in the depths of the African continent. What is so special about the Mauser ’98? Much is made of the ‘controlled round feed’ but to me it is the positive extraction of the case from the chamber by the full-length non-rotating claw extractor that is more important. Above all, it is the positive ejection of the case from the chamber via a fixed blade ejector that makes me desire a rifle of this design more than any other.

mauser 98

I have been around rifles all my life, mostly in the military of one form or another. In more recent years, I have discovered stalking both here and abroad and have a particular penchant for chasing wild boar. For most of this period, I have made do with relatively cheap, mass-produced sporting rifles that do NOT come with the benefits of the Mauser ’98 action. Most of the time, this is all fine; however, a recent ‘moment’ has convinced me that I must, simply must, give up normal life (food, clothes, that sort of thing) until such time I have replaced my ordinary rifles with those built around the wonder that is the Mauser ‘98 bolt action (I am on my way and am now the proud owner of an excellent M98 rifle in .275). What was this life-changing moment? Well, on enthusiastically pulling the bolt backwards to eject the spent case before chambering a fresh round, I suffered something that would not look out of place in the Cirque du Soleil! Rather than seeing the spent case ping off into the undergrowth to my right, it instead did a perfect back flip within the receiver of the rifle, before coming to rest on top of the remaining live rounds in the magazine but now facing the bolt face! In a matter of a second, my rifle was rendered useless. I soon cleared the problem by a mixture of prodding and shaking but the damage was done. Plunger ejectors and tiny little extractors? No thank you, never again!

OK, this particular ‘moment’ happened on the range but it doesn’t take much imagination to think how such a trivial issue could be life threatening in Africa or Alaska etc. Peter Paul Mauser certainly thought so because he rejected such a ‘push feed’ bolt mechanism long before he reached his zenith in 1898.

So, what is the moral of this story? Well, many so-called ’experts’ will tell you that modern push feed rifles are more accurate and perfectly reliable enough for deer stalking and the like. They may have a point but I am now on a crusade – for me, I demand guaranteed reliability and mechanical integrity in my sporting rifles and nothing less than the Mauser ’98 action will ever achieve that in my eyes.

webley-(2)

Indeed, Africa is beckoning and so a larger calibre rifle, with Mauser ’98 action of course, will be required before I finally pull on the ‘Eric Morecambe’ khaki shorts. My father trusted his life to a firearm made in Birmingham and I can think of no better place to conduct my own personal pilgrimage in search of my rifle Nirvana. Because I do have to eat occasionally and because it is hard to explain why we should sell the house and move to the shed in the garden so I can acquire my boyhood dream rifle, I have to save up. So, long before I decided to write this article, I started my own saving fund for the sole purpose of buying my next special rifle. Hopefully, if things stay as they are and we don’t end up going to war against the French or similar in the near future, I should be in a position to beat a path to Pritchett Street sometime towards the end of next year. There, with my father’s words ringing in my ears, I shall take that ‘step forward’ and order a perfect machine based on the Mauser ’98 action, built from metal and wood by master craftsmen who truly understand that ‘reliable’ and ‘mechanical integrity’ have as much relevance today as they did all those years ago. Then, regardless of whether I ever need to find great courage or think with intense clarity for just a few seconds in the fields of Africa or elsewhere, at least I know I will be equipped with the ultimate tool for the job.

Westley Richards, Mauser 98, take down, bolt action

 

My thanks to David Hack for this guest post, my second entrant to win my fully signed up, leather bound copy of the  Westley Richards book, “In Pursuit of the Best Gun”!

 

ENGLISH SIDELOCK DOUBLE RIFLES

holland and holland, double rifle, express rifle, 500 nitro,

Holland & Holland Royal Deluxe .500 NE Engraving by Phil Coggan. 

James Purdey, Double Rifle, 470,

James Purdey & Sons .470 Engraving by Cecile Flohimont.

James Purdey, Double Rifle, Nitro Express, 475,

James Purdey & Sons .475 NE Engraving by Creative Arts.

James Purdey, Express Rifle, Double rifle, 375

James Purdey & Sons .375 H&H Engraving by Vincent Crowley.

Westley Richards, Double Rifle, 500 Nitro, 500 3inch, Nitro Express rifle,

Westley Richards .500 NE Engraving by Vincent Crowley.

Westley Richards, Double Rifle, India Rifle, .600, 600,Nitro express

Westley Richards ‘The India Rifle’ .600 NE Engraved by Paul Lantuch.

THE TROUBLE WITH ENGRAVERS

Gunmakers_Arms_towards_Bath_St2

There is a famous pub in the old gun quarter called  ‘The Gunmakers Arms ‘ which was frequented by many who worked in the Birmingham gun trade. There is a story, possibly apocryphal, about an engraver working in a local gunmakers many years ago who apparently, was very fond of a little liquid refreshment at lunchtime at  this public house. During the morning , he had been working on two guns; one a shotgun and the other a double rifle. Mistakenly he had engraved elephants on the shotgun and pheasants on the rifle. After lunch, he staggered back to work and his error was  pointed out to him and he was told in no uncertain terms to go and ‘ sort it out’ before the day was over. He was not pleased! At the end of the day, he had just engraved a pair of wings on the elephant and a small trunk on the pheasant……….

It couldn’t happen today…..could it ?

 

THE WESTLEY WOODLOUSE

WoodlouseEvery make of gun has its own design of safety catch. Some are ‘ramps’ , some have a small button in the middle and some are just domed.

All safety catches are checkered in some way or another to help provide grip . Ease of use and reliability in use are a prerequisite for this small but important part of a gun. The movement backwards is usually automatic upon opening the gun, so  the design must facilitate this sliding catch being pushed forward.

The Westley Richards design is one of uniqueness in that there is a good length behind the button which together with the two widely spaced lugs below make for a smooth and precise action. The large high button at the front  provides a larger than average area for grip and its height allows the thumb additional purchase when pushing forwards.

woodlouse1

A significant difference is in the treatment of the button. My own nickname for  this is the  ‘Westley woodlouse’  ( pillbug or  rolypoly in the US ) . Instead of cross hatched checkering, all the sharp grooves are cut at right angles to the direction of travel,  giving the appearance of this attractive  well known small creature.

These are not just decorative lines, but are deep enough to do a real job under all circumstances. They give maximum grip under the thumb and ensure easy operation with a sweaty thumb or when wearing heavy gloves. It may not be the end of the world when a less than efficient safety catch design means the loss of a bird, but faced with a very large angry beast at close quarters the story could be very different.

This unique example of form and function has stood the test of time and continues to offer utter reliability when it really matters – just another small feature that characterises a Westley Richards gun.

woodlouse2

THE WESTLEY RICHARDS ‘GOLD NAME’ DETACHABLE LOCK SHOTGUN

Westley Richards, Gold Name, Droplock, 12g, Detachable Lock, Westley Richards 12g Hand Detachable Lock ‘Gold Name’ gun.

The gold name gun is pure gunmaking, a naked gun with no engraving to hide the flaws. I have always admired and liked these guns very much, it is quite nice to have a rest from all the engraving and just see the gun as what it is intended, a tool for shooting birds.

I recall well a lesson given to me by the infamous David Winks of Holland & Holland at a Sotherby’s auction when I first started in this trade. David kindly showed me around all the guns offered at the auction, sharing his experience, and explaining all the traps that I would encounter when buying at auction. When we came across a Greener 8g with only name engraving, nothing else, his eyes lit up and he explained the making of such guns and how they were in fact, much harder to make than the engraved ones. Every part had to be perfectly finished to receive either the case colour or the charcoal blue.

Rarely have I seen an example of our Gold Name gun, which is naked besides the name in gold block, in such nice condition with its colour worn off where handled but remaining where not.

Westley Richards, Gold Name, Droplock, Detachable Lock, 12g, Shotgun

David Winks was a Director of Holland & Holland and possibly one of the most knowledgeable men I have met during my years in the gun trade. David posses a wealth of  knowledge both in antique and sporting arms. In the years before Chanel took over Holland & Holland, Westley Richards and Holland & Holland cooperated actively together in many ways, primarily in the India dealings but also in many other areas. These were the days when the gunmakers understood who they were and worked together, something completely lost when the corporate takeovers of Purdey and Hollands took place and the accountants took over.

 

A Superb Vintage BOSS & Co. 12g Over and Under.

Boss & Co, Over Under, Shotgun, 12g, Left Handed,

Boss & Co, 12g, shotgun, over under, vintage Boss,

Boss & Co, Over and Under, Shotgun, 12g, vintage gun

Certain guns just seem to have ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is. I guess a combination of perfect barrel making, actioning, file up, stocking, engraving and finishing. When you combine all this with unmolested patina you have a great gun and this Boss & Co. 12g over and under is such a gun.

Part of the reason that it has probably remained in such nice condition is that it is a left hand opening gun. Even left handed people don’t know how to use a left hand opening gun it seems nowadays, they have adapted to using right handed ones. So with no demand it seems a perfect reason to keep it in the safe and enjoy it!

Boss & Co., Rose and scroll, over and under, great engraving,

A nice reference for any budding engravers who seem these days to race past the basics and try to go to the game scenes and carving too quickly. Rose and scroll such as this is timeless and so few people can actually do it any more to a standard such as this. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

CLA GAME FAIR 2014 BLENHIEM PALACE

Blenhaim Palace

We look forward to welcoming customers old and new to our stand P0569 on Gunmakers Row and to showing you our complete range of bespoke shotguns and rifles and hand crafted leather goods. All the team will be at the show and look forward to meeting you.

Courteney Selous

We will also have a full range of Courteney boots available for you to try on and buy at the CLA Game Fair. Customers will receive 10% off any pair of Courteney boots when this post is  mentioned.

Sutherland Bag

Our full range of hand made leather goods will be on display and customers ordering any leather goods at the show will receive free initialling worth £30.00

 

A few of the guns that will be on display at the game fair.

India_Rifle_FINAL

12g_Lantuch_Engraving_Final

WR 12g Round Action

A SUPERB COLLECTION OF HIGH END PERAZZI

Perazzi SCO/C, Galeazzi, Patelli, Game Scenes, Deluxe,

In a slight departure from the normal English guns and rifles that we sell, we will shortly be bringing to market a substantial collection of high end Perazzi’s which have been collected by one of our long standing clients. The collections covers a wide spectrum of Perazzi models and includes 12g, 20g, 28g and .410 guns, mostly in new and unfired condition. As soon as the guns have been properly listed they will be found on our used gun site.

Perazzi, MX12 SCO/O, Gold, Pair, Deluxe engraving Perazzi, MX410, Sidelplate, Game Engraving, Deluxe Wood, Perazzi, SCO/C, MX8, Sideplate, Deluxe Engraving, Perazzi, Extra Gold, Galeazzi,SCO/O, Game Engraving, Deluxe wood,

Perazzi, MX12, SCO/O, Gold, Deluxe

Perazzi, Deluxe, Gold, 12g, Galeazzi, Deluxe

Perazzi, Extra, !2g, Bulino, Bonsi, Game Engraved,

A SUMMER VISIT TO AMERICA.

Storm I90 USAAnd here was me thinking it was summer!  

The manager of our US shop is on vacation for 2 weeks so I decided to come over and sit in our Bozeman office for a few weeks and catch up with friends this side of the pond. Flying into Chicago I have made my way here by road, stopping off and filling my rented suburban with guns. I think my timing could have been better, everyone is away on holiday and July 4th is not the best time for a Limey in Montana!

Whilst here I have managed to pick up some very nice new guns to offer on our website which are being photographed now and will soon be online. I will also be heading down to Twin Bridges to visit Sweetgrass rods who have made my first replica WR split cane rod. I look forward to collecting it and trying it out on a spring creek.

Anyone who would like to catch up whilst I am here, and anyone who has some unwanted guns needing selling please call me on the office number in Bozeman where I will be during the week.

Holland & Holland, Coggan, Royal Deluxe, 28g, shotguns, pair,A Pair of Holland & Holland 28g Royal Deluxe engraved by S. Coggan.

Holland & Holland, 20g, Set of 3, Grifnee, Royal Deluxe,A set of 3 Holland & Holland Royal Deluxe engraved by the late Phillipe Grifnee.

McKay Brown, 410, shotgun, creative arts, pair of guns,A Pair of .410 round body shotguns by David McKay Brown. Creative Arts engraving.