Westley Richards .600 ‘Exhibition’ Sidelock Double Rifle

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Well here it finally is. A treat for the weekend. Several years in the making and several thousand hours later and our latest creation is ready to show to you complete in all its magnificent splendour.

Back in January we posted some pictures of this rifle fresh back from engraving with a promise to show you the finished article. Well perfection takes time and when you see the whole package as presented here you can understand why it has taken so long.

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Whilst we are sure the rifle and its embellishment will not be to everyones taste, the level and variety of skills necessary to put a project like this together are the real challenge, particularly in this day and age. It is not every day that you get to see rifles completed like this and whilst we are continuing our legacy for such pieces, they are on the whole rare.

Highly embellished from muzzle to butt, the rifle depicts various hunting scenes from the great continent of Africa along with an assortment of flora and fauna. The execution is breathtaking, exhibiting carving, gold inlay, raised gold work and fine scroll, the actual finishing process after case colour hardening, adding to the character of the work. Strikingly the stock is inlaid with solid silver scenes of White Rhino and a pod of Hippo below a thundering waterfall.

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Complete in a black alligator skin case with silver fittings, full complement of ivory handled tools french fitted into blue goatskin, with a pure gold leaf detailed lid interior, it certainly makes a statement. The lid is actually fitted with slide off hinges so that the rifle can be displayed in the lower case section only, should the new owner wish.

Not only are such pieces a credit to the craftsmen in Westley Richards very own workshops, but all those smaller tradesmen who contribute in their own unique way to the finished package that you see before you. The rifle and case embody all that makes British craftsmanship so special,and why patrons from around the world travel to these shores to commission such fantastic pieces. More importantly consider that such quality is still being produced here in the City of Birmingham.

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New Westley Richards ‘Heavy’ .500 3″ Droplock Double Rifle

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The .500 3″ nitro express continues to be a firm favourite among the large bore double rifles that we build here at Westley Richards. We are often asked what are the most popular calibres for a big game double rifle and the .500 3″, along with the .470 3 1/4″, .577 3″ and .600 are certainly the leaders.

The droplock double rifle illustrated here is a little different to the .500’s that we normally build in that it has been built on a larger action frame. In recent decades the .500 was built on a trimmer frame which led to a final weight in the 11lb to 11lb 8oz region. This suited clients who wanted the firepower of a .500, without the extra weight in the rifle.

Records indicate that .500 double rifles built by the firm pre-war tended to be more in the 12lb to 12lb 8oz range. This particular client wanted to revert to that original weight specification and so it was that we built this very elegant .500 droplock rifle for him.

The rifle has all the usual hallmarks of a Westley Richards droplock double rifle, the subtle difference being the engraving which has carved fences in keeping with the scroll design, gold naming and a mean looking Cape Buffalo carved on the cover plate. We hope in the coming years it gets to add a few buffalo like this to its tally!

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Modern Take On Westley Richards 20g ‘Gold Name’ Shotgun

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Late last year we completed the first for many a year ‘Gold Name’ droplock double rifle in .577 3″ light. The simplicity of the ‘gold name’ engraving highlighted the elegance and beauty of a modern big bore double rifle where gunmaking could be seen in its purest form.

Well for those non-rifle fans amongst you here is the latest ‘Gold Name’ to leave our factory and it happens to be a small gauge shotgun, a 20g droplock. One of the keys to building a great unembellished gun is to stock it with fabulous wood and once again we managed to dig into the depths of our reserves and find a super piece of Turkish exhibition grade walnut. More importantly the actual craftsmanship must be second to none, as such a gun leaves nothing to be hidden.

Another nice attribute of this gun is the case which we put together as a lightweight leather in dark tan cowhide, with double locks and then French fitted inside with green goatskin to add a more classy finish.

It goes without saying that the hard work of all those involved in the manufacture of this gun and case made something that looks so simple, look so damn nice. It required far more work than the photos here can ever tell, but therein lies the secret.

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Alexander Henry .360 Miniature Rifle

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Well we just keep having to raid the vaults to find those little items of interest that keep you interested in the world of best guns and rifles. Once again we have a gem of a rifle built by another of the great Scottish gun and rifle makers, in this instance Alexander Henry.

Famous primarily as a rifleman and rifle maker Alexander Henry set up his business in Edinburgh in 1852, at 12 South St Andrew Street. As an avid competition shooter and member of the Edinburgh Rifle Volunteers he was to see the transition from muzzleloading to breechloading firearms and was responsible for many innovations of the time. His first significant patent was no. 2802 of 1860 which was for his famous ‘Henry Rifling’, this was followed by patent no. 1701 of 1865 for the first of his falling block action designs. Most famously it was the Martini action with Henry’s rifled barrel that really made his name, when it was adopted by the British Army as the standard service arm in 1870.

Alexander Henry passed away in 1894, and the business was subsequently taken over by his two sons. Sadly the business fell into decline and eventually ended up as part of the group of famous Scottish gun and rifle makers acquired by Dickson & MacNaughton.

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The rifle shown here is based on patent no.1776 and built on the miniature version of the falling block action in .360 black powder. As with other Scottish makers, the quality is simply outstanding with no attention to detail passed upon, from the engraving, to the stocking, to the final casing with all of the accessories.

As a modern gunmaker we appreciate just how hard it must have been for these great gun and rifle makers of old to maintain the unbelievably high standards that they did. In an age well before modern machining and computer design they were way ahead of their time and a credit to the industry.

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A Brace Of Superb Hartmann & Weiss Bolt Action Rifles

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Now well into their 70’s the great gunmaking pair of Gerhard Hartmann and Otto Weiss continue to produce some of the finest guns and rifles in the world. Whilst double guns and rifles only materialise in small quantities, bolt action and single shot rifles tend to come around on a slightly more frequent basis.

The two rifles shown here have all the fine hallmarks of Hartmann & Weiss. Built in 7mm Winchester Short Magnum and .300 Wincester Short Magnum the makers have utilised their own short or ‘Kurz’ action which comfortably holds three rounds in the magazine. The rifles feature strap over combs, extended guard tangs, peep sights, heel/toe plates and the makers own distinct take down mechanism. Stocked with exhibition Turkish walnut they make for a wonderful brace of rifles with very elegant lines.

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The engraving was executed by maestro Alain Lovenberg and quite obviously has an Arabic theme. The geometric pattern has an etched background with wonderfully inlaid white and yellow gold throughout. The sheer accuracy and cleanliness of the work a definite hallmark of his.

Long may the gentleman at Hartmann & Weiss continue to produce such masterpieces.

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New Westley Richards .500 Droplock Double Rifle

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Just arrived in Zambia this last week was this new Westley Richards .500 droplock double rifle built very much to our traditional format. Whilst super high grade work graces our factory on a regular basis these days, it is always nice when one of these ‘originals’ finally leaves for the hunting field. The client made subtle additions, like the carved fences and gold naming, but otherwise left to us the task of building him the perfect hunting rifle.

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Perhaps we have become a little too blasé in recent times, as this is the type of rifle that helped build Westley Richards reputation as a dependable and formidable rifle maker over a century ago. In recent years our rifles have hunted all over Africa and accounted for some truly wonderful big game trophies. This rifle is set to continue in that vain and will in the coming decades have many stories of its own to tell. Most importantly a new generation of young clients are the ones embarking on those adventures.

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E.J.Churchill Best Quality Vintage .470 Double Rifle

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The gunmaking name E.J.Churchill conjures up for the majority of gun enthusiasts the ‘XXV’ (25″) barrel shotguns that the company was so famous for promoting in the pre-war years. The raised rib and short barrels made for quick gun handling and suited a very instinctive style of shooting promoted by family member Robert Churchill. Brand names such as ‘Hercules’, ‘Zenith’ and ‘Premiere’ remain synonymous with the company.

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Double rifles by the maker are few and far between so this particular rifle really is a treat. Built as a ‘Hercules’ best quality model fixed lock ejector in the fantastic .470 nitro express calibre and completed circa 1940, everything about the rifle really is ‘best quality’ with wood that even by modern standards is super exhibition quality, complemented with a fabulous fleur dy lis checkering pattern. The engraving is the tight full coverage Churchill house scroll with the rifle retaining nearly all of its original case colour hardening and finish. As fixed lock double rifles go it is probably one of the best you will see.

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Established in 1891 by Edwin John Churchill, the company still thrives from its base in West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, where ironically and very professionally it caters to thousands of shooters every year, a fitting tribute to both Edwin John Churchill and later Robert Churchill who were fanatical shotgun enthusiasts and instructors. For any travelling sportsman coming this season to shoot in the Uk you cannot go wrong paying the shooting grounds a visit and sharpening up your skills.

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Charles Boswell .303 Single Shot Rifle

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Above is the portrait of Mr. Charles Boswell (1850-1924) and no doubt his name will be familiar to readers of the Explora. From relatively humble beginnings and a love of shooting his entry into the gun trade, age 14, was through an apprenticeship to Mr. Thomas Gooch and two years at the Royal Small arms factory at Enfield as a sight filer. In 1872 he started his own gun making business, initially carrying out repairs and general gunsmithing. A much admired gun maker, he was popular with the ladies and a talented live pigeon shot, frequenting Hornsey Wood and Westley Richards’ very own Hendon shooting ground, North London, where his skills were noticed by the trap shooters of the time. Boswell would impress and schmooze these shooters, converting them into clients which was common practice for gun makers of the time, James Lang and Harris Holland to name a couple.

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Considered to be no great inventor, he preferred to use other makers’ patents under licence but made a of variety guns including large bore fowling pieces, hammer and hammerless actions, muzzleloaders and pistols. Live pigeon guns proved to be Boswell’s specialty and took up a good deal of his production until the prohibition of live pigeon shooting in the UK came about in the early 1920’s. His 126 Strand address in the West End of London is his most famous and the majority of his guns in existence today bear that name.

An active member of the gun trade, in 1906 and 1907 he was elected Chairman of the Gunmakers Association and served it for many years. Around 1914 Boswell changed from having his guns proofed in London and instead moving them to the Birmingham Proof House. One train of thought is he was buying barreled actions in from the Birmingham trade, or another reason is he or his son, who was involved in the business, fell out with the London Proof Master. Hence why it is not uncommon to see his guns with Birmingham proof marks.

One such rifle built by Boswell, which is evidence of his skills as a gun maker, is this fabulous little .303 single shot rifle we currently have at the factory. Completed around 1905, it has the most superb and rare engraving, not commonly found on a rifle such as this. Featuring a selection of African plains game such as Eland, Bluewildebeest and Impala surrounded by intricate scroll work. The name C. Boswell gently rolls around the hinge pin on both sides of the action, the raised panel fences with their bold scroll fold round to the top of the action where I can only guess it to be a 1905 gun engraver’s idea of a Duiker, which stands alert on the top of the tang top lever. The engraving is though, beautifully executed and the three Eland on the right hand side of the action are very accurate and have to be my personal favourite.

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The rifle features a 28″ octagonal barrel with matted rib, ramp foresight, one fixed 100 yard express sight and six folding leaves regulated to 700 yards with the 126 Strand address engraved at the breech. A 14 1/4″ pistol grip stock with grip cap, cheekpiece, oval and Silvers recoil pad. The rifle weighs 7lbs 5oz and we think it’s a very cool little rifle and a great example of early 1900’s craftsmanship, imagination and flair.

The Game Fair 2017 – Hatfield House

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From the 28th to the 30th of July the annual UK Game Fair was held at the prestigious Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. Only 25 miles from central London, the Jacobean house was built in 1611 by Robert Cecil, the first Earl of Salisbury and Chief Minister to King James I. Still in the family, it is now home to Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the 7th Marquess of Salisbury.

It was the first time for this grand estate, once a favourite of the royals, to hold this event and its proximity to London proved to be convenient and popular. Friday had a real buzz about the place and the isles were busy. How much money people were actually parting with is always hard to tell and you occasionally hear the classic line ‘oh I can get that much cheaper online’, which gets mixed responses! Not many new products being launched this year, rather people catering for the bargain hunters and displaying their sale items trying to shift old stock or odd sizes.

The layout of the show was an improvement on Ragley but it still isn’t up to the same standard as Blenheim, for me that is the only place to have the game fair. The weather was fine and dry on Friday but in true British summer time tradition, the rains came and by Sunday afternoon it was a mud bath. It still remains a good day out with plenty of food and drink stalls, shooting clothing, cars, gun dog displays, horse jumping and pretty much anything else countryside related and it’s important to mention it’s a much needed promotion of fieldsports here in the UK.

A taster of the day captured by Emma Slater.

Wonderful Daniel Fraser & Co. .475 Boxlock Ejector Double Rifle

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To all great rifle enthusiasts the name of Daniel Fraser should need no introduction. Established in 1878 in the city of Edinburgh, Fraser would become one of the pre-eminent Scottish gun and rifle makers, with particularly emphasis placed on rifle manufacture. Anyone who owns or has ever handled one of Frasers original rifles can only be impressed by the level of workmanship and quality that went into its manufacture.

Take for example the double rifle illustrated here. Built in .475 3 1/4″ nitro express calibre, the rifle has the distinctive crescent shaped action, carved fences and wonderful fine rose and scroll engraving familiar to all of Frasers best quality double rifles. Interestingly the rifle is fitted with scope mount bases, the scope itself sadly missing from the case. This same scope mount can be found on Frasers wonderful single shot rifles which seems to indicate that he was a great advocate of the riflescope and its aid to accuracy. How the scope performed under the recoil from such a rifle is anyones guess and perhaps explains its absence!

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Fraser’s business was relatively short lived, as the cost of producing such high grade rifles, coupled with competition from the vast Birmingham manufacturers, sadly led to his closing of the business in the early 1900’s. Various family members continued in the gun trade, but the name of Daniel Fraser & Co. vanished until the 1980’s when it saw a re-birth and later amalgamation into the Dickson & MacNaughton group, based once again in Edinburgh. Regrettably this year the Edinburgh premises of Dickson & MacNaughton was closed sliding this once great name back into exile.

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