A Needle in a Haystack. My Search for a Westley Richards Gun of my Own.

Westley Richards 12g Droplock Damascus Pair

The past seven or eight years I have been looking for a Westley Richards hand detachable lock shotgun to both use and complement my very modest mix of English, Scottish and American made doubles. And though I have found many, most have had some malady or a mix of short or ill repaired stocks, barrel problems of varying degrees, poorly re-blacked, excessively brushed, chambers lengthened by an unassignable person in most cases, and in short poorly repaired or restored not to mention the most common problem of screws that have been disfigured. The combinations of problems can be innumerable. In these instances you are left to rely on someone’s evaluation and you will likely not have any idea about their integrity or ability to assess the condition and attributes of the gun. I have bought and returned two guns that were not even in the same hemisphere as the dealers’ description. The only conclusion I can come to regarding this is that these, and in no sense am I implying all, dealers are banking on the client being either not knowledgeable enough to recognise the issues or is too lazy to return the gun. The downside for them is that when they do stumble upon a knowledgeable client that has this knowledge they will likely never return to them as a customer, with any sense of trust having been squandered. I have found the good guns, very good ones and they have for the most part been priced out of my range or the timing for me was bad. The guns that I have located without these issues were, at the time, simply not in the budget.

Cased pair Westley Richards 12g  Damascus Droplocks.

While I have a great appreciation for side lock guns, the simplicity in design of the Anson & Deeley action is my personal favorite and the Westley Richards hand detachable design takes it to a pinnacle of the concept and achievement. I have had a desired configuration in mind which has been the proverbial “needle in the haystack” for me. I wanted: pre-war, hand detachable, 30 inch barrels, straight hand, and preferably cased, and as un-molested as possible. In October of 2015 I took notice of a really nice clean Westley Richards, Heronshaw model on the used gun site. The barrels were 28 inches and the gun was in a nice condition and priced very fairly. After going back and forth to the site over a couple of days and taking several looks I decided, “I’ll take it”. Honestly knowing this is not the configuration I wanted. Yet I then sent off an email and get a prompt reply from Simon that it is being held for a fellow who is away on holiday and that the gun is sold. At this point I am beginning to think that I am not going to find what I want even if I will compromise on model and configuration. Of course the gun I want is available on order, and I am patient and have no problem with the wait, but I cannot make the financial side work. I would just have to sell too many of my other guns to make that happen. In my back and forth communication with Simon I had expressed what I ultimately wanted and he encouraged me to, “Probably better to wait for a droplock. I may have one (or 2) in a minute!” So then a proper used gun remained my opportunity. I would come to realize that this is the first installment of good advice that I would receive and I came to a few conclusions right then, that:

  1. I would rely more on Simon and Westley Richards as the knowledge and ability to correct any issues with the guns lies there, while continuing to look elsewhere. I could purchase a gun in another place and should it be in unacceptable condition or have problems I would need to contract out any work on my own taking additional risk. Just the shipping here and there, back and forth, especially overseas adds up significantly. I wanted to avoid this additional expense.
  2. I would need to have a range of configuration requirements in mind and be quick to know what compromises I would be willing to make quickly. I really had to know what I wanted.
  3. I needed to have an idea concerning grade and condition that is a minimum that I would accept.
  4. I would need to have the budget amount nailed down to allow me to commit to a deal quickly.

So, some 6 months later, getting to the office early as usual and running through the suspect sites including, The Explora, and Westley Richards, I see the blot post, “Damascus Game Guns Sir”? The picture caught my attention immediately. In it I see not one but two droplocks, in a three lock, three label case. The pictures alone told me a story of pre-war guns that interest me. In Simon’s description I learn that they were made in 1907 that the barrel length was 30 inches and that barrel integrity and original chambers were there. He then proceeded to outline the detailed elements of the restoration for both of these particular guns. At this point there is not much for me to think about, only to get a few more details as soon as possible.

Before restoration

The difference is that this time I was prepared along the lines of the criteria I previously mentioned and I believed that I might have found my “needle(s) in the haystack”. I immediately sent an email with a few basic questions and received a prompt reply. The guns were available and the terms were given to me with a note to “be quick”! I countered the terms, lost the battle, and was promised satisfaction with the guns with a more or less, “trust me, you will not be sorry” statement from Simon. At this point I committed to the deal, he agreed and a really pleasant experience began, which in all honesty only enhanced the whole affair. I took a look back through the emails and this was approximately a four hour process from start to finish. Simon did let me know via email the following morning that I had in fact been quick, made a good decision and that his inbox was full of those who wanted these guns. I was next contacted by Ricky Bond, Gunroom Manager and he entertained a few questions, supplying prompt answers as to choke, etc. Ricky asked me what modifications that I wanted to make, did I want to vacate the stock ovals and add my initials? I knew that I wanted to keep it all, guns and case, in a sense together as it came. So the ovals were left as they were though they were made better as to fit and finish through the process. My follow on to that was that we should just complete the work that Simon has outlined. Throughout this four month restoration process Ricky kept me appraised of various activities; barrels back from proof house, barrels at browner, stock being refinished, checkering completed, etc. This level of communication makes the wait easier. Then, as it seems as I get older, the time just went away somewhere and Ricky gives me notice that we are, “about two more weeks or so out”, followed a few days later with “your guns have been shipped”.

Then last Friday as I am wrapping up a busy week. I received an email that my package has been delivered to my dealer. This was a very long day at work! My first impression was the care taken in crating and packaging. I am not really sure that I had a picture in my mind of what the package would look like or had even thought about it but I was nonetheless impressed. The whole thing was in a very well-done wood crate clearly made to fit its contents. The original leather case was on top inside the crate wrapped in bubble wrap and blocked to the center with foam blocks. The original leather case had been fitted with very nice replacement leather case straps that were missing in the original pictures. This was the first of a few more surprises. Upon opening the leather case, there were no guns, only small items wrapped in tissue. After removing the leather case I find in the bottom of the crate a nice hard aluminum and plastic foam lined case also blocked into place. In this one, the guns, carefully wrapped first in oil paper, followed by tissue, and then bubble wrap. This was a better package opening experience than any Christmas Morning! The best though, was yet to come. The original case had been, in Simon’s words, “made right”. A great surprise and added bonus was that the original case had been very nicely re-accessorized with basic Westley Richards branded items and those all wrapped as little gifts in tissue. I do not know that I could have unwrapped the guns any more slowly. One I was being careful and two I didn’t want this process to be over so fast. This was fun!

After looking over each piece of the guns I could now see what Simon saw in the beginning that these guns were great candidates for, “a light restoration and refurbishment” as he had put it. As we say in the South, there were just no “hickeys” on these guns. Only honest, even wear and in their original configuration and clearly had been very well cared for.

WR 12g Damascus After Restoration-47

To say that the work undertaken and the results exceeded my expectations is maybe the understatement of my life. Every facet of these guns are now in fabulous condition. The wood is even better than the excellent photographs reveal, remaining just proud as is desired even after refinishing. I had expected the heel and toe plates to not fit perfectly but they do. All screws are North and South. The barrel striking and browning is of such quality that it is hard to describe and is just superb along with the re-blacking of the furniture. The checkering is in great shape and the stock finish all that could be desired. I believe that these are either a three or four iron pattern Damascus pattern and they are beautiful with mirror bores. They were reproofed at 1 1/8 oz. and that is suitable for any use that they will see. I shot them for pattern with Hull brand plastic case 15/16 oz. #7’s and Hull brand paper case 1 oz. #6’s. The barrels pattern beautifully consistent left to left and right to right as the bore and choke dimensions are virtually identical in both guns. Incidentally the guns are consecutively serial numbered along with the barrels, top lever, and forend iron being numbered #1 & #2 in gold. The cast-off in both stocks is at about 3/16 inch which is perfect, with good length, they fit very well. They will be off to West Texas to Dove hunt in the next two weeks followed by a trip to South Dakota for Huns, Sharp-tails, and Pheasant in late October then winter Quail hunting in West Texas and Western Oklahoma. I look forward to using them throughout the coming months.

Finally, I have not one but two Westley Richard’s hand detachable guns. A true pair, so engraved, consecutively serial numbered, cased, scroll back action with beautiful wood and barrels along with many more fine attributes. Not only pre-war but pre-many wars. The other thing that I have not mentioned is that these guns lived their life in the immediate vicinity of my family’s ancestral home. That did draw me to these guns in some odd way.

In this journey my contribution was listening and taking Simon Clode at his word and advice along with exercising patience which is a quality I am thankful to possess. The major contribution was made somewhere around the year 1907 when these guns were specified and built by outstanding turn of the century Gunmakers. I can imagine that they went home at the end of the day deeply satisfied at the results of their labor of love. The latest contribution in this year of 2016, 109 years later, has been made by the team existing at Westley Richards today, to include all of them, each playing an equally important role and function. I feel that they should go home at the end of the day equally as satisfied and proud of their effort just as those that did in 1907. They are building on and enhancing a truly historic legacy and one that is very uncommon today. The entire team has done what their mission states if I may take a little liberty, “They have restored and refurbished a Unique pair of Especially Good Shotguns”. I do not know of any better way to praise the whole team than to say that, “I strongly recommend them without any hesitation”.

Am I a sycophant for Westley Richards? No. There are many great Gunmakers and guns. Am I a fan, supporter, advocate, and customer? Yes. And unapologetically so!

Am I happy with this whole process, from the discovery of the guns, through the whole of the process until today? Why yes, furthermore ecstatic. I found my needle in the haystack!

A Unique Pair of Charles Lancaster 7g Percussion Double Rifles.

Pair of Charles Lancaster 7g Percussion Rifles

For the past 2 weeks or so I have been unable to get behind the camera to take some photographs of new or vintage guns, the shooting season is on us, there is much to do.

Earlier this week I was spurred into action when this magnificent and very rare pair of near mint condition, Charles Lancaster percussion double rifles ‘walked in the door’. Today I was able to put some time aside so that I can share them with you.

The ‘Princely’ guns and rifles of India have played a large and important part in our recent history and during the 60’s and 70’s were ultimately responsible for the survival of the company. The gun dealing was the backbone of the business during the years of small ‘new gun demand’. India with its magnificent armouries were the resource and backbone of this dealing activity a result of which is my admiration and fondness for guns and rifles such as these. These are the predecessors and inspiration to my India and Africa rifle projects, guns and rifles ‘fit for Kings’.

This pair of Charles Lancaster rifles are a magnificent  example of what could be discovered in the armouries and this particular pair of percussion rifles have remained in near perfect condition, down to their original slings, since their manufacture for the Maharajah of Joudhpur  in 1862, no mean feat in itself as they have travelled many miles.

I hope that you enjoy them as much as I have as items like these rarely walk in the door these days to be seen and discovered.

Pair Charles Lancaster 7g Rifles

Pair Charles Lancaster 7g Rifles

Pair Charles Lancaster 7g Rifles

Pair Charles Lancaster 7g Rifles

Pair Charles Lancaster 7g Rifles

A Paradoxical Return – The Restoration of an Exquisitely Rare Gun. – Ross Seyfried for The Explora.

HH Paradox

Under normal circumstances when we consider “restoring” most kinds of firearms it is a fool’s play. As one of my old mentors would say, “Like pounding fat down a rat hole.” If done well, by quality workmen, you will almost certainly spend more than the arm is worth and it will not be worth what you spent in the end. . . . HOWEVER!

One day I was pulled onto the rocks by the siren’s song by a piece so rare and wonderful that I could not resist. It had the look of “Out of India” with a very bad restock, forend used completely up and an attempt at a new hinge pin. But otherwise it was untouched; high mileage yes, but unmolested by “gunsmiths”. And what it was, at least in my mind, justifies my folly. It was an early Patent Royal Best Quality Holland & Holland. It was 16 gauge, it had Damascus barrels and it was a Paradox!

HH Paradox pre restoration

The bores had some frost, but were untouched and the first question before any madness began was, “would it still shoot.” It answered well, with both black powder and nitro loads with bullets from an original mould. So, her soul was alive and well. Now was the time for grand decisions; first, who to do the work and then what to do.

Westley Richards Super Magnum Explora

My whole thought process was aided and assuaged by another gun. This was a best quality, gold-name, Super Magnum Explora with detachable locks that I paid her makers extravagantly for more than a decade earlier. It was a very complete restoration (on an obviously unmolested gun): magnificent stock, beautiful case colours, rust and charcoal blue, done by Westley Richards. It was and is one of the most handsome firearms I have ever seen, simply magnificent elegance as it left the workshop nearly 100 years earlier. I knew what could be done and who could do it. Further I have a long association with Westley Richards and know from the owner down to many of the lads in the workshop they understand old things and their history. The Holland went into a crate and left for England.

I waited for their assessment and even to know if they would agree to take on the challenge and to my delight the answer was “yes”. Some of the work was obvious: A new stock with a perfect piece of “old” wood with stump figure as used in the originals, straighten the bent guard bow, make a new hinge pin and other various pins and screws, and put it all mechanically perfect. That was easy, but then the question from Simon Clode, “where should we quit?” The barrels obviously needed to be struck and browned, but other than some small places the engraving was still sharp and untouched. Ultimately after much discussion we decided, “Not to stop”. My final instructions were to, “Make it new again, just like the day it left the showroom in the late 1800s”. I added a few grand complications: the furniture must have real charcoal blue, the barrel brown must be perfect with high pattern definition and the chequering must be “flat top”. Now it was time to wait, and wait. There was only one sensible time requirement . . . there was no time requirement. “I want your best workmen, in their happiest mood, under no pressure.” Years passed.

HH Paradox after annealing

H&H Paradox after stocking

Then the note came that said, “We are close”, and some tantalizing photos of the progress. At every step there was wonder in the images; the lines at first and then the details. Finally one day that brown UPS truck with a red-label overnight extra signature giant box. I can only say I was shocked, stunned and thrilled. There she was, new and magnificent in every detail. The perfect inletting and lines, the impossible flat-top chequering and a horn butt plate that had grown with the tree. The furniture black looked an inch thick and the barrel brown not only perfectly coloured, but with every detail of the Damascus pattern vivid. Colour hardening as it would have been back then and the internal lock pins left properly white, while the main pins were colour hardened. The action and barrels were tight, but not that grudging tight as found on so many new guns. Ms. Holland’s action had been made “free”, one of the last and lost arts in fine gunmaking. After hardening the various bearings are burnished, made to move and fit perfectly.

The H&H 16g Paradox

Case hardened action

She came coincidentally on the first day of dove season. The first shot folded a bird at about 25 yards; the third round killed a pair, both of them stone dead crossing at 40 yards. They even added the magic! I confess it has allowed some birds to escape without a shot; I was busy staring at the gun while they slipped by.

HH Paradox 16g

Lastly, I want to personally thank each and every gunmaker who touched it, amongst whom I know Ken Halbert and Sam Banner action work, Romain Lepinois stocking, the 2 Chris’s, Eggington and Bridge finishing and all the others who played some part. Finally Simon Clode for guarding a company so it remembers that it has been making greatness for more than 200 years. The end result testifies to the fact that there was effort above and beyond; for I know a perfect restoration is much more difficult than finishing a new gun.

Westley Richards & Co. – A Visit to the Factory by Photographer Simon Upton.

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I am sure that less than 10% of our readers will ever have the opportunity to actually visit our factory in Birmingham. Everyone has the opportunity but the distances, oceans and time factors make trips like this difficult.

Recently I was fortunate enough to have the factory photographed by one of the worlds leading interior photographers, Simon Upton a keen sportsman himself. Simon travels the world extensively shooting magnificent interiors for magazines. His client list is a who’s who of interior and decoration magazines amongst which are The World of Interiors, Vogue, House and Garden, Elle Decor, Harpers Bazaar, Architectural Digest and Vanity Fair.

We were joined for the shoot days by the man who is largely responsible for the overall look of the factory, Hubert Zandburg. I first met Hubert, a young South African interior designer in 2005, just prior to my embarking on the new factory project. Hubert like myself is a compulsive ‘collector hunter gatherer’, we cannot resist buying items of interest and allow them to take over our lives and he has a remarkable ability of displaying the collected items to be shown at their very best. Literally give him a pile of objects large and small and short hours later they will be displayed in a manner you would never have expected and to great effect.

My decision to work with Hubert on the factory came from an initial sketch he did for the lobby to display my Elephant head. He placed this on a black steel riveted stand and left it in isolation in the hallway, it excited me very much. It was a clean modern look and one I felt totally appropriate for the factory, from this clean space lobby you would enter a world of objects, colour and interest. What Hubert has created for Westley Richards is very special indeed and I remain totally indebted for his work, advise and the friendship that has resulted from our meeting all those years ago.

The result of this collaboration has received a huge amount praise, the ambiance and interest that the factory generates has been fantastic and I hope that as many of you as possible will be able, at one point in your travels, be able to visit in person. We look forward to welcoming you.

This series of photographs covers the entrance lobby, showroom and after the image of antlers on the back staircase ‘my space’ at the top of the building where I now have my office and photo studio. We did not shoot in the gun making area, another set of photographs I commissioned and taken by Brett covers this and I will be posting a selection from that shoot later on this month.

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The Gunbearer. A Short Story By Colin Partridge.

Gunbearer-3

I read somewhere, it’s when you’re young and before the brain gets too cluttered -somewhere between 5 years and girl chasing age – that people you meet and things you experience, influence your values, character and behavior from then on. Therefore my parents, various relatives and friends, but especially my Uncle Pat, have a lot to answer for.

Pat grew up in a rural environment in South Africa during part of the depression. He found that the simpler pleasures in life like hunting and fishing, not only put food on the table, but also encouraged an appreciation of the incredible variety of nature.

Despite working and travelling widely in Southern Africa, he always came back later to the same small town he grew up in. Pat was not a complicated or pretentious man and everyone who knew him, liked him. He had a wiry build, a dry sense of humour, bushy eyebrows and whiskers that grow high up his cheek bones, giving him a slightly rakish air. He also had an enormous network of farming friends who were only too happy to let him fish and shoot on their farms. Apart from the fact that they enjoyed his company, he stocked their dams with bass, gave them some of the game bag, reported on the general health of their wildlife and complimented the farmer’s wife on her cooking in return.

My luck was based on the fact that Pat resisted all advances of marriage until the respectable age of 48, when a woman managed to get him to rise to the prospect of living with a wife who likes fishing more than he does – the fact that she was a former beauty finalist probably had less to do with it.

During his bachelor years, he took a keen interest in his nephews’ and nieces’ development, never once forgetting anyone’s birthday – this changed the moment he got married, which says a lot for the distractions of women. In his successful attempt at sowing the seeds for my future appreciation of the mysteries of angling, I received a trout rod and reel for my 9th birthday.

Then there were the books. Pat bought and collected books on hunting, fishing and natural history over the years and saw to it that I was the recipient of various magnificent books about the avian population, to incubate the interest that I was beginning to show in bird-egg collecting. Egg collecting is illegal today because habitat loss and too many people, have pushed many bird species’ numbers to a point that no small, egg-collecting schoolboys could ever have done. At that time however, many happy kilometers were spent walking through the veld, or wading up to the nostrils in some oozing vlei for the thrill of finding a new species’ nest, keeping us fit and igniting a life-long interest in birds.

Living so far from Pat’s town, meant that I only got to do the really exciting stuff on the odd school holiday, but it’s funny how a few things stick so vividly in the memory of a small boy; on a visit to Pat one winter holiday, it was announced that it was time to take me rabbit hunting as my grandmother ‘needed’ to taste a game pie again. The night before this important expedition I could hardly sleep, knowing that I would be carrying the .22 rifle, despite the fact that it was nearly as long as I was tall. Pat said he wanted to give his little Belgian-made .410 ‘side-by-side’ an outing, seeing as we would be near a river and that maybe an ignorant duck would be flying low enough on what turned out to be a clear, cold day.

The Belgian .410 and .22

Hours have a habit of moving really slowly for a boy awake since the milkman set the dogs barking, waiting for the afternoon and for the adults to realise that lunch and endless pots of tea should be wolfed down, not savoured, in order to get to the important stuff.

We finally did see a rabbit that day, and when Pat hissed ‘Get it!, I put down the .22 and tried to run that rabbit down – I didn’t realise I was supposed to actually use the rifle, thinking rather that I was merely to be the trusty gunbearer. I don’t think Pat had laughed so much for a while and how he managed to shoot that high-flying duck while sniggering and wiping tears from his eyes, I’ll never know.

It seems like yesterday, going off to the ‘lock, stock and barrel’ farm auction where the smell of fat cattle and dust mingled with the odour of sweaty bidders standing in the sun, while the women pored over the contents of the kitchen. There was an old, broken-down ox-wagon behind the auctioneer’s table and it was piled with all sorts of useful looking equipment. Sticking out from under a dusty tarpaulin, were two slightly scuffed, polished leather cases with buckle straps undone. I managed to lift the top one’s lid high enough to glimpse sleek twin barrels, a burnished dark, warm, wooden stock and to just get that smell of ‘adventure’, before the auctioneer got going and I was asked with an empathetic grin to move away from behind him. The books Pat had his eye on came up under the hammer before those two leather cases did, so we left early but to this day, I have a feeling that we missed out on the bargain of a lifetime.

A few holidays later, we were staying on my Mother’s cousin’s farm, close to Pat’s town. This farm is one of Pat’s favourites and seeing as the bird season had opened, it was decided that it was time for me to be initiated into the art of guineafowl shooting. In winter, these gamebirds form flocks that can number in the hundreds and when so sociably associated and not distracted by the urge to impress the opposite sex, their many eyes look out for predators very sharply and they are not easily surprised. They are also one of the gamebird species that are not very effectively hunted with dogs, since they have the habit of heading for the nearest trees, from where they cackle down abuse at the canines while often ignoring the hunters. It is not considered very sporting for grown men to shoot them sitting in trees!

This all means that it takes more strategising than Napoleon had to do at Waterloo, to figure out a way of getting them to fly over or past the guns. They like flying downhill, but like flying with the wind even more and they don’t like flying over you if they can see you, so there are always a number of variables to consider. If an initial successful flush is achieved, it can be a much easier job of following them up and flushing them out as singles or small groups, but the first big flush is the most exciting as they take off with a concentrated, muffled rustling of massed wings. If they do come over you as planned, it takes an enormous amount of disciplined concentration to pick only one bird at a time, when the sky seems dark with them.

The farm supported a relatively modest number of birds that year, due to a reduction in the acreage of maize being grown, but we reckoned we knew where they would be that early winter morning.

Sure enough, as we quietly crept through the dewed grass towards the maize land at the bottom of the old apple orchard, we could hear their metallic ‘chink-chink’ call as they sociably picked their way across a bare piece of land between their roosting spot and the field, with us positioned directly in their path. All that needed to be done then, was to wait a short while for them to get closer and for me to have a go at them with the .22 on the ground (acceptable since I was a beginner), which would put them in the air for Pat and his 12 bore side by side. The trap was perfectly set.

The trap was sprung when the herdsman, Elias, and his skinny dog came whistling down the track on his way to move the cattle. If it had been Elias alone, the guineas may have just hesitated a while, but they took one look at the mongrel and flew off in a flurry, to a clump of wattle trees about 300 meters away. That dog must have seen something in our expressions as we rose out of the grass, because it took one look at our faces and headed off to less murderous places.

After a short session of re-strategising, we decided to try the direct approach and headed straight for the wattles; two guns were not enough to surround them and the wattle patch was on flat ground with no nearby cover. It was a desperate plan from the start, because the birds already thoroughly alarmed, saw us from miles away and peeled out cackling in one’s and two’s. By the time we got there, it seemed to be round one to the birds.

It never pays to be too hasty though, because as Pat lit a thin cheroot and I looked mournful, we spotted a lone bird that had decided to attempt an invisible pose, skulking high in a far tree. Uncle Pat unexpectedly took the .22 from me, thrust the 12 bore into my hands and whispered softly, ‘Shoot!’ I don’t remember aiming, I don’t remember the bang or the shoulder-thumping recoil, but the sight of that guineafowl toppling out of the tree, the smell of burnt powder and the ‘thud’ as my backside hit the dirt, remain as clear as a trout stream to this day.

It was a very proud boy who arrived back at the farmhouse, where everyone agreed that it was probably the biggest guineafowl they had ever seen; in fact judging by the size of its crest, a trophy in all likelihood. The next evening around the dinner table, it was also agreed that it was extremely well shot because there were no pellets to break your teeth on. Thinking back now, maybe it died of fright.

Two days later, in the absence of Elias, we ambushed the guineafowl coming out of the maize land again. I missed with the .22 but watched the rest of the plan unfold properly, as Pat took a high left and right – the birds fell within seven feet either side of him.

Belgian .410 and .22 Rifle. The Gunbearer .

The .410 and the 12 bore are on permanent loan to me now. Every time I admire them, I am reminded why I love the sound of guineafowl calling in the evenings, fishing for speckled trout and the reason why I am ever searching for scuffed leather gun cases.

The Last Great Adventures.

Mozambique

I am sat here at the weekend contemplating hunting as perhaps ‘the last great adventure’.  In this modern world of super communication and internet many of the worlds once wild places have become easily accessible and where once there was great adventure getting to them, most have become easy to get to and ‘no great wonder’.

As hunters we are the very lucky few who really get to see some of the last remaining wild places on earth.  They are often very difficult to get to which requires a determination I have really only seen in sportsmen.  By way of example two very good friends who also happen to be clients of mine have just returned from a memorable trip in British Columbia where they both managed to achieve through true hard work 2 magnificent trophy Stone Sheep and 2 great Mountain Goats.  What I found most interesting in listening to their story is that the valley they actually took their trophies in had not been hunted for 18 years!  The whole area was remote and still very much untouched by man.

Tracking a dry riverbed in remote Mozambique

In the last year I myself was lucky enough to hunt in South Africa, Tanzania, Alaska and the USA, whilst also visiting India. All were adventures in their own way, but Tanzania and Alaska stand out as truly wild places.

As another good friend and client heads out to Mozambique with his fine collection of vintage rifles we should count ourselves lucky that we have the interest, passion and will to pursue game in the wildest of places.  It is in our interest to share the stories of our adventures with the next generation so that they might pursue game in these places, for to remain remote and wild they need to be appreciated and more often than not real passion only comes from the sportsman.

A high point for viewing the land.

 Images from one of our Safari’s in remote Mozambique by Mark Hall.

Ricky Bond – Gunroom Manager at Westley Richards & Co.

Ricky Bond Westley Richards Gunroom manager. Ricky outside the main vault at Westley Richards.

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself to our readers of the Exlpora. My name is Ricky Bond and I am the gunroom manager here at the Westley Richards & Co. factory and showroom and have been in this role now for 2 1/2 years, previously working as gunroom manager for William Powell under the guidance of Peter Powell.

I now consider myself fortunate enough to work under the guidance of both Simon Clode and Anthony Tregear ‘Trigger’, my path into the trade has been an enviable one and I’ve been lucky enough to gain some great experience and knowledge from some of the very best in the business. I spent most of my early career farming at home in Devon and when people ask how or why I ended up here, the answer is simple, my love of guns and hunting. I have been fortunate to hunt all over the UK, as well hunting in New Zealand. So I share the same passion and interests as most of our clients and am always on hand to offer advice or arrange shooting here in the UK or overseas where we have a huge network of contacts we know personally and trust.

icky Bond Shooting at the company event.Ricky is a keen and very competent shot, winning the last Westley Richards team event.

My role is very much a varied one and the main reason why I enjoy my job. No two days are the same here at Westley Richards, one minute I’m visiting outworkers in the trade, blackers, hardeners, engravers dealing with new gun and repairs, the next I’m conducting a factory tour for a team of visiting hunters and then I’m out field testing a new shotgun before it passes to the next stage of production or completion.

While my title is gunroom manager, on my first day at WR Trigger made it clear that the company didn’t really believe in being tied to job titles and that here we just get on and get things done, whether it is specifically in our job roll or not, the important factor being to make sure our clients are always serviced quickly, efficiently and politely, something that we as a company believe very strongly about. Therefore my role encompasses pretty much everything we do here at Westley Richards, from new gun and rifle production, the buying and selling of used guns, historical enquiries, dealing with the import and export paperwork, and even helping out with Teague Precision Chokes our sister company when needed.

Ricky Bond Gunroom Manager Westley Richards

In addition to this I manage the collection of over 200 best guns and rifles that we have on display here at the factory. This is possibly the finest individual collection of best guns in the country and covers both vintage and new guns by most of England’s premier makers. We have  an excellent range of classic bolt actions from original .500 Jeffery’s to modern day Hartmann & Weiss, we have old Holland Royals in most calibre’s and new ones also, Boss’s, Purdey’s, Fabbri’s and many other wonderful examples engraved by the modern masters, Browns, Coggan’s, Lantuch, Crowley, Spode and even Italian masters. In Westley Richards own make we have a very wide variety including the unique Boutet Gun, Africa and India rifles through to our vintage Ovundo’s single shots and other unique examples. The knowledge to be gained from this collection alone is invaluable.

The personal favourite part of my job is the used gun dealing, something which Simon is very passionate about and which he has enthused me to pursue and shares his intimate knowledge. The used gun dealing has always kept Westley Richards alive and helped us continue to trade to this day. From Mr. Walter Clode’s dealings in Inida and then Simon in more recent times, acquiring some of the finest English guns and rifles made to ever come to market has been their passion and has made Westley Richards the place to buy from if you’re a serious collector. I would think 70% of this business is done discreetly and privately as many clients don’t want it known they are either selling or buying. As a result we’re always on the look out to buy used guns individually or as collections either outright or to be sold on a commission basis competitive to the auction house terms.  I love to see old guns put back through our workshops, given a new lease of life, knowing the enjoyment the new customer will have with them will be probably as much as the person who first bought them 100 or so years ago.

Ricky Bond. Westley Richards Gunroom Manager.

To contact Ricky please call at the factory (44) 121 333 1900 or via our email.

Westley Richards is now actively looking for an an assistant to join our team in Florida USA. A person with a passion for guns and hunting with great admin and customer skills and a desire to learn our business. Please email me via the Explora for details. Simon

Three Famous Westley Richards .577’s

When discussing vintage nitro Westley Richards rifles there are three in particular that always end up dropping into the conversation somewhere along the line.  Not only were they used by three very famous individuals, but all were of the same calibre – .577 3″ Nitro Express.

These rifles were owned by professional ivory hunter Capt James Sutherland, hard man actor Stewart Granger, and legendary writer Ernest Hemingway.  All three men suited this iconic calibre as their personalities were certainly of the larger than life variety.

James Sutherland .577Captain James Sutherland’s .577 now on display at our factory.

Sutherland’s rifle resides here at the factory and although well used it still has crisp rifling and great condition.  Luckily we have the case and spare locks to go with it.  This rates as my own all time big game rifle particularly as it has all the great Westley Richards features, including our single selective trigger!

Stewart Granger .577Stewart Granger’s .577 with tallies of game hunted inlaid in stock.

The Granger and Hemingway rifles now reside in private collections and are both cherished by their respective owners.  Each is a great historical rifle in terms of our own legacy and that of the two men who owned them.

Ernest Hemingway 577Ernest Hemingway’s .577 complete with original case.

Both of these rifles retain lots of original finish as they were ‘client’ as opposed to ‘professional’ use rifles.  I always like Grangers inlaying of Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo in the stock with the tally of each hunted, those marked with a ‘c’ having charged him!

I was lucky enough myself to hunt buffalo with a brand new Westley Richards .577 hand detachable lock double rifle last year in Tanzania with Danny McCallum safaris.  Not only was it a privilege to hunt my buffalo with Danny himself, but I was able to take one at under 15 paces in typically long grass.  Whilst there are many that would deride the use of such a heavy calibre rifle I have to say that it was certainly very comforting in the thick stuff and as Danny himself said ‘it speaks with authority’.  Need I say more!

Westley Richards Exhibition Projects – The Next Paul Lantuch Engraved Guns in Design.

Westley Richards 1rs

Two months ago when Paul Lantuch visited the factory after completing the finishing of the Africa rifle we discussed at length the next projects that were on the cards. These included a pair of round action 12g guns, a .577 Hand Detachable lock rifle and a further .600 NE sidelock double rifle in the Africa, India series.

I was in 2 minds whether to post these drawings of the fist project up, the pair of 12g round body sidelocks, initial thoughts of people plagiarising a practise rife in this area. Perhaps it is a bit premature, but then I felt they are such nice drawings why not!

The drawings also show nicely the process of designing an exhibition gun so that a concrete theme can be executed. So many guns are engraved with minimal, if any, layout and composition work being done in advance. Paul and I have been bouncing drawings and thoughts back and forth across the Atlantic for the past 2 months and these are now the working drawings for  the guns. There will of course be additional engravings and carvings but the “theme is set”.

The pair of guns will be executed in the Rococo style, carved steel relief figures and decoration with a gold background. I am afraid you will have to be very patient to see the end result but we are off and running now as they say!

Westley Richards 1ls

Westley Richards 2ls

Westley Richards 2rs

Westley Richards 3b Westley Richards 1b Westley Richards 2b

Hunting with Open Sights.

Up Close

One of the greatest experiences in the hunting world has to be approaching dangerous game with a large calibre rifle intent on using only the open or ‘iron’ sights to aim.  The need to stalk in really close, as quietly as possible, often under tough conditions really adds a physical and mental element to the hunt and certainly heightens all the senses of the hunter!

Long before man had perfected the telescopic sight the majority of big game was hunted with open sights.  Long range target competitions were shot with open sights, as were nearly all military weapons.  As the telescopic sight improved for sporting arms so man learnt to shoot his game more accurately and humanely, often at more extreme ranges. Where dangerous game was concerned, buffalo in particular could be shot out to longer distances.

A Westley .577 goes in close in Tz.

At this point the question of ‘sport’ raises its head.  Dangerous game was traditionally hunted very up close and personal.  As those of you who have hunted dangerous game will know, part of the sport in this type of hunting is the element of danger associated with being in close proximity to such game and that if all goes wrong then you really may be required to shoot your way safely out of a very tight situation.

Hunting with open sights may not be for everyone, but for a growing number of keen enthusiastic hunters it is. Certainly, say when hunting one buffalo on a safari it is better to enjoy the days with stalking and chase than taking a long distance shot on the first day that doesn’t even get the adrenalin flowing. I would prefer a ‘shitty’ buffalo and an exciting hunt any day, as opposed to a long distance better quality one. If of course a monster comes out a different decision may need to be made!

Tz 2014

Hunting with a double I have always felt puts a different perspective on the hunt, it does force you in closer where you can take a safe accurate shot, practise with the rifle being the key here. Similarly with smaller game, hunting with say a classic .318 or .275 with open sights is immense fun and I always take greater satisfaction from taking a trophy in this manner.

For any PH’s out there wincing at these words, sorry, I know it makes you have to work a little harder but even you’ll agree it makes for a far more exciting hunt.  Ultimately this is one of the very reasons for a hunter coming to Africa and the reason so many return.

Good luck hunting!