Elaborate scroll designs have featured more and more in the engraving of Westley Richards droplock shotguns in recent years.
Over a century ago, such guns were promoted by the company as ‘Modèle de Luxe’ featuring the ‘highest quality and finish’. These guns compared very easily and often surpassed in both quality and price the very best guns being built in London at the time. The general demise of the gun trade post World War Two, combined with the worldwide financial ravages of war saw the rapid decline in the ordering of such guns from the Westley Richards books.
Westley Richards 1912 catalogue describing the ‘Modèle de Luxe’ droplock shotgun.
Fast forward to the 1990’s and from the USA came a renewed interest in the British gun trade signalling what would become a renaissance in the hand made gun and the craftsmanship associated with it. A modern age of collectors started to push the gunmakers for models and a quality of product not built since the war.
At the same time a new generation of engravers were coming to the scene capable of executing some extraordinary designs. Thus saw the re-birth of high art guns and the first of a new generation of Westley Richards ‘Modèle de Luxe’ and ‘Modèle de Grande Luxe’ guns and rifles. Though originally few in number, recent years have seen a big shift in the production of these very individual guns and rifles.
The gun shown here is a 20g droplock featuring elaborate etched back scroll with carved fences and a Setter flushing two Bobwhite quail. Inlaid in gold the Setter is integrated within the scroll design so adding a realistic feel of being stood within the cover.
With the international following that Westley Richards has, most of both the new and pre-owned guns and rifles that we sell never return to the factory, having been shipped out to some far flung corners of the globe. On the odd occasion, guns that are sold slightly closer to home can sometimes end up back in our hands, generally with more character and a few more war stories to tell.
One such example in this classic William Evans .500 nitro express, boxlock ejector, double rifle. Sold to an Englishman by Trigger and Simon through our Grange Road factory 22 years ago.
Completed in 1912 for Consul General Christian Thams it was built as a plain, 2nd quality boxlock ejector double rifle with 26” barrels with a raised, engine turned top rib with ramp foresight, flip up moon sight, 100 yard standing express sight with two folding leaves regulated at 200 & 300 yards. A 15” pistol grip stock with no cheek piece, grip cap and traditional recoil pad. The fixed lock, double trigger action interestingly is fitted with an automatic game safety and is engraved with a small coverage of fine scroll. The barrels are engraved; William Evans (From Purdey’s) “500 3″ Solid Taper Case”
63 Pall Mall St. James’s London 80 Grs Cordite 500 Grs Soft Nose Nickel Bullet.
The rifle has seen a great deal of action and has been to Africa many times. It’s a true workhorse, a classic, no frills big game rifle of the African bush. It’s easy to see why the English boxlock ejector was the go to rifle for client and PH alike. It’s also testament to the strength and durability of the Webley action, the rifle performs faultlessly, the action is tight as a drum, the club head barrel extension is as strong as they come, and the rifle points with ease. On first inspections, the bores look a little frosty, but the rifling is good and as they say, the proof is in the pudding; this test target shows just how accurate the rifle still is, after all these years and many a safari.
William Evans ledger from 1912 showing rifle No. 9897
It’s hard not to admire an old rifle like this, although simple in design and engraving, it’s just a very cool, classic double that has been there, done it, got the t-shirt and after 106 years, is ready to do it all over again.
Fresh into stock at our UK factory are these two Westley Richards boxlock ejectors. Firstly we have a classic ‘Heronshaw’ model, built on a fixed lock, double trigger action with all the usual Westley Richards features; snap lever work, model C dolls head extension and beetle back safety catch. Ordered by Mr. A. FitzHerbet-Wright and delivered in 1926, the action is engraved with the usual Heronshaw style basket weave and retains some lovely original colour. Original 28” barrels which have recently been reproved, with 2 3/4” chambers and are choked 1/4 and 3/4. The well figured, straight hand stock measures 14 7/8″ to the centre of the butt, with drop points, silver escutcheon, horn heel plate, splinter forend with a horn tip and Deeley catch. The gun weighs 6lbs 8ozs and is offered for sale in a leather case. This is a fine example of the Heronshaw model which has proved to be popular with shooters and collectors alike.
Secondly we have a Westley Richards boxlock ejector, completed in November 1933, that was built for a Major W.H.Taylor as the No.2 gun to pair with the No.1 gun that we built for him in 1912. Built in very much the same style as the Heronshaw, it has a fixed lock, double trigger action with all Westley Richards features. The action is engraved with a bold scroll, very typical of the boxlocks we built in this era. 28” barrels with original proof, 2 1/2” chambers and choked 1/4 and 5/8. Straight hand stock, lighter in colour, measuring 15 1/4” with a horn heel plate, gold stock oval, splinter forend with horn tip and Deeley catch. Number 2 is engraved on the top rib, lever and forend iron. The gun weighs 6lbs 6½ozs and is cased in a compact green canvas case.
The boxlock gun is often overlooked but it represents fantastic value for money, is a strong and reliable action and still has all the style and handling that you’d expect from a best quality sidelock or droplock. Both guns will be on the used gun site shortly.
Happy New Year to you all! What better way to start the new year off than with this exquisite little .410 droplock that was completed just before the Christmas break.
Beautifully engraved with Bobwhite Quail scenes, the gun was fully case colour hardened and then the two game scenes carefully brushed off to highlight the detail. The elaborate scroll with gold bordering is not something we have done for the best part of 25 years now and this updated version reminded us just how good it can look on a small frame scroll back action.
Once again the gun is stocked with a fabulous piece of Turkish walnut which has stunning figure and depth of colour, unquestionably complementing the full case colour hardening.
We are now about to hit the show circuit in the USA and very much look forward to meeting with our clients both old and new, perhaps discussing that special little gun that you are sure is missing from your armoury!
Delicate Bobwhite Quail game scenes decorate the action sides.
Stunning Turkish walnut complements the case colour hardening.
Just completed and in time for Christmas delivery is this exquisite little 28g droplock shotgun. Built as a modern version of our ‘Modele de Luxe’ grade gun, it features a specially commissioned elaborate scroll design incorporating beautiful shell motifs on the fences and top lever.
The gun is a special project commissioned by a father for his son and it is always a pleasure for the team here at the factory to bring such a project to fruition, especially for the gift of a life time. As a ‘Modele de Luxe’ gun it features Westley Richards model ‘C’ dolls head fastener, single selective trigger, drop locks, scroll back, exhibition wood, heel/toe plates with a slim horn centre, and a hand painted enamel oval with family crest. Teague multi chokes were fitted from the guns inception to give it real versatility in the field, for a lifetime of use.
Exquisite elaborate scroll design with carved shell features.
Teague multi chokes contained in a hand made pocket case.
The whole package could only be complete with a super bespoke made case, covered in black antique finish alligator skin. The interior has been tastefully lined in blue alcantara, with inset case label and an assortment of functional tooling. The extra drop locks have been French fitted into one of the compartment lids under which sits a hand made choke box.
Merry Christmas from us all here to one very lucky new owner!
In February 2018 the British Shooting Show celebrates its 10th Anniversary. The show has come a long way since its inception, and under the guidance of John Allison and Anne Bertrand has grown from being almost a local show into the pre-eminent gun, rifle and shooting show in the UK.
This coming year the show moves to the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, Westley Richards very own home town. The show promises to be the biggest of its kind in the UK, with prominent manufacturers from the traditional hand built gun market, including Holland and Holland, Boss & Co., Watson Brothers and John Rigby, through to the highly respected Browning, Perazzi, Beretta, Blaser, Mauser and Ceasar Guerini to name but a few.
Access to the show could not be easier with direct links by road, rail and air. Re-locating to the NEC certainly brings a more international accessibility and the show is sure to continue to go from strength to strength. We look forward to seeing you there.
At Westley Richards we take real pleasure in displaying rare and unusual guns for the readers of the Explora and we certainly handle more than most gunmakers. Sadly not all of these guns are for sale and it’s more of a case of ‘you can look, but don’t touch’. Luckily though, from time to time, we do get those rare and interesting guns come through that are for sale and you can by all means look, touch, shoot, own, admire and adore.
One such gun is this very special and neat little single barrel 20g non ejector shotgun, a model we very seldom see. Completed on the 17th of December 1926, built for stock and sold through our Bennetts Hill, Birmingham city centre shop, it features a 28” ribless barrel with a 2 ½” chamber, choked 5/8 and proofed for 7/8oz loads. Built on an Anson & Deeley fixed lock action with a tang top lever, automatic safety, with name and border engraving, it retains some lovely original case colours. A highly figured, straight hand stock measures 14 ¼” to the centre of the chequered butt, complemented with a silver oval, snap forend and horn tip. The gun weighs 5lbs 10oz and is a real beauty to handle.
This gun would bring a different type of enjoyment to hunting. It’s not about how many you can shoot, or how high, it’s the simplistic, no frills, bare roots of the single barrel and action coupled with its rarity, classic looks and quaint demeanour which would make for some very special and memorable hunting.
A similar gun which featured in our pre-war catalogue was the Single Barrel Top Lever Pigeon Gun at a cost of £25.
I couldn’t think of a more fitting Christmas present for your son, daughter, wife or more likely, yourself. The gun will be advertised on our used gun site shortly.
Just back from engraving is this very nice little 20g droplock shotgun which as you can see from the pictures is destined for the bird hunting fields of Texas. The engraving of the gun is a collaboration between David and Bradley Tallett who are a father and son engraving duo who have worked on various projects for Westley Richards over the years. Dave who is now semi retired has contributed significantly to the British gun trade having engraved for most of the fine gunmaking houses.
The gun features a fine scroll design executed by Dave, with small rose bouquets set within it. This slightly tighter layout of engraving works very well on the small gauge droplock shotguns that feature prominently in our order book. Bobwhite quail and dove were the choice of bird for the game scenes, which along with the carved fences were executed by Brad. All in all a very nice design for a great little gun.
Flushing Bobwhite quail.
Beautiful fine scroll with rose bouquets.
Flighting dove, a popular quarry in the southern states of the USA.
Hammerless black powder rifles, particularly in the smaller calibres like this .400 Express are always a pleasure to look at and handle as they are so often more delicate than there nitro express cousins. Double rifles built in the period between the box lock hammerless design of 1875 and the first reliable smokeless powder cartridges of the 1890’s can be some of the most elegant rifles built, with slim action file ups and long gently tapering barrels.
Aesthetics aside, this very nice little double rifle by W.W.Greener has some wonderful game scene engraving depicting animals appropriate to European hunting fields. Retaining lots of its original finish the rifle has clearly been well looked after and was a prized rifle to its former owner. It is great to see dogs featuring in the engraving layout as they have always featured heavily in big game hunting traditions, particularly in Europe. It is easy to picture this rifle on a classic driven hunt, once the sport of Kings, nobility and heads of state.
For those eager gun enthusiasts among you the name Donald Dallas should need no introduction. He has almost single handedly written the history of many of the great names in British gun and rifle making including that of Holland & Holland, James Purdey & Sons, Boss & Co., David McKay Brown, John Dickson & Son and now with his latest publication, Alexander Henry.
Alexander Henry was unquestionably one of Scotlands finest rifle makers, posts on this blog testifying to the outstanding quality of the rifles built by him. What makes this book so special is the access Donald had to family archive via the great great grandson of Alexander Henry himself, one Richard Brown. Between the two of them they have put together the most complete history on the maker which is long overdue.
In Donald’s own words:
“It isn’t often that a gun or rifle maker is known to the general public, but Alexander Henry is with the Martini-Henry rifle. Although Henry was in business for a short time between 1852 until his death in 1894, he became a very well-known rifle maker not only in Great Britain but throughout the world. Henry was of a clever, inventive mind with his 1860 rifling and drop block action of 1865 and in addition, he was also astute in promoting this riflemaking ability. He attended all the major competitions, gave his rifles as prizes and was an early enthusiastic founder of the burgeoning Volunteer Movement.
By the 1860s Alexander Henry was the most well-known and pre-eminent rifle maker in Great Britain and the Empire. Orders flowed in from all parts of the world, with the customers in his Dimensions Books reading like a veritable Who’s Who of the period. He received Royal Warrants, unusual for a gunmaker outside London, and was on personal terms with the Prince of Wales.
Such were Henry’s achievements and fame that he featured regularly in The Scotsman and The Times newspapers in their records of shooting competitions, new inventions and military development. This contemporary documentary evidence is quite unusual for a gunmaker and was a great benefit in writing this book. He was a very public figure with not just self-interest driving his ambition, he was very patriotic and was keen to strive towards the greater good for his country.
One fortunate element in writing the Alexander Henry history is the existence of his complete records in the form of two Dimensions Books dating from 1852–1950. These books belong to John Dickson & Son and record in great detail every single firearm he constructed, making it possible to build up a very accurate account of his production.
Yet, for all his undoubted success in business and his contribution to rifle development, his personal life was marred by immense sadness and disappointment. However, he seemed to rise above this despondence and right to the end of his days strove constantly for perfection in all his works. The history of Alexander Henry is one of the most interesting histories of a gunmaker that I have encountered, an amalgam of worldwide success, yet tinged with disappointment and tragedy.”
The book contains around 200 full colour photographs, including the trade labels, patent drawings, photos of Henry’s personal shooting medals, with all 8000 guns and rifles listed by serial number. No gun library should be without a copy!
To purchase Donald’s latest book and for information on his previous publications, please visit http://donalddallas.com/