Fresh back from engraving is this super .500 droplock double rifle with bold scroll engraving, gold naming and a game scene of a hunter being charged by a bull elephant.
The game scene is an interesting and not unusual concept which always poses the question ‘What happened next?’ For anyone who has ever been in such a situation there is nothing more exciting! A large bull elephant with ears spread wide, kicking up dust is a truly intimidating sight, one that makes even the largest of double rifles seem small in the hands of the hunter.
More often than not the tension is relieved by the mutual backing off of both parties, each content to go their separate way. Then again, should it all go wrong…………………..!!!!!
Highlighting rare guns and rifles, regardless of the maker or the price, is one of the great features of this Blog. A wonderful high condition small bore double rifle has recently come through our doors and it is certainly one worthy of being highlighted here. A rifle that checks all the boxes for the collector of fine guns and one that has caused quite a stir at the factory.
Made in 1927 this J. Purdey & Sons Self Opening Double Rifle is chambered in the company’s .246 caliber and remains in remarkable original condition. Retaining nearly all the original color hardening and barrel black as well as the original pad and untouched wood, this is one of the highest condition between the War Purdey rifles we have ever encountered. Built on the famous Beesley Patent Self Opening Sidelock Ejector action it is strengthened with a bolstered frame, third bite and sideclips. The rifle is a pleasure to handle being very slim and appropriately sized for Purdey’s smallest proprietary cartridge. Adorned in Purdey’s house Rose & Scroll this is yet another example of the between the Wars quality that, in my mind, makes this engraving pattern and this era of gun making so famous.
Introduced in 1923 the .246 Purdey hurled a 100gr bullet at just under 3,000 fps and was described in Purdey’s advertising as “one of the most up-to-date small bore rifles for deer, buck and wild boar it is one of the fastest double rifles made…”. While the .246 Flanged matched the ballistics of cartridges that are exceedingly popular today, the same as the .369 Purdey, it never reached much popularity. Still available in the 1940’s the cartridge was simply ahead of its time and very few rifles were made by Purdey’s in this caliber; just 13 according to Donald Dallas’ book.
Finding such a rare rifle in such high original condition is a rare feat in and of itself, but this little gun had a few more stories to tell. Stuck to the right side of the butt stock is a tattered label from Spain’s Patrimonio Nacional that administers and manages the assets ceded to the Spanish State by the Crown. In a call to our colleagues at Purdey’s, we were told the ledgers state:
Completed 12th July 1927 for the King of Spain
Barrel length: 25 1/2″
Stock length: 15 5/8″
Weight: 9lbs 13oz
While the ledgers are a bit vague stating simply the “King of Spain” King Alfonso XIII, who reigned from 1886 to 1931, was a well-known patron of Purdey’s and known to be a very keen shot and avid hunter. +
One can draw their own conclusions from these clues but nevertheless, it only adds to the mystique of such a rifle. Simply put this is an excellent example of a very rare rifle, from a storied time period, by a World-renowned maker, in extremely high original condition and with royal provenance. There’s really nothing else a collector of fine guns can ask for.
Although by no means prolific, it is always great to see a new bolt action rifle in Westley Richards signature .318 calibre reach completion here at the factory. Once the medium bore calibre by which all others were judged, like so many of the great British calibre’s, including .333 Jeffery and .350 Rigby, it slipped into semi obscurity after the Second World War.
In truth the .318 Westley Richards cartridge shooting a 250 grain bullet at 2250 feet per second is still a great and fun cartridge to use for general plains game hunting and even driven boar in Europe. The long torpedo bullet has phenomenal sectional density and with its moderate velocity (by modern standards) proves a deep penetrating round, at one time capable of tackling every type of big and dangerous game on the planet.
Peep sight located on the cocking piece.
The rifle you see here was built to a very traditional lightweight format with the addition of Westley Richards take-down system. The client had requested the rifle to be built primarily for open sight use, hence the sleek lines of the rifle. Westley Richards signature patent combination foresight was a given as no true Westley Richards magazine rifle is complete without one. It was then decided to fit a very traditional island rear sight base with one standing plus three leaf express sight regulated to 200 yards. A peep sight fitted to the cocking piece was also utilised so creating a very classic style of rifle.
As with all our guns and rifles a super piece of Turkish walnut was selected with which to stock the rifle. We came to the conclusion some time back that with the comparatively small number of guns and rifles that we build each year, we may as well use the very nicest wood that we can obtain.
Certainly destined for Africa, we are looking forward to hearing how this classic round performs in this new rifle.
Beautiful Turkish walnut stock.
The new rifle compared to a vintage example. Either rifle would be fun to use today in Africa.
Page from Westley Richards ‘Centenary’ catalogue detailing the .318 Westley Richards.
An interesting find this last week was this ‘Spicer’s Stalking Records’ of 1914, detailing Red Stag trophies from the 1913 season. The reason we say interesting is that a close link existed between Westley Richards and the famed taxidermist Peter Spicer of Leamington Spa, which until now we have never seen published in anything other than Westley Richards ‘Centenary’ catalogue of 1912.
Peter Spicer was born in 1839 and died in 1935, aged 96. He was one of the pre-eminent taxidermists of the day and was renowned for the quality of his cased birds, fish and Red Stag mounts. His studio operated primarily from Leamington Spa with an offices based in Inverness, Scotland, that handled many of the trophies hunted in the north.
Peter Spicer 1839-1935
The opening page of ‘Spicer’s Stalking Records’ giving the two retail address’s used by Westley Richards at the time.
Individually ‘tipped in’ photos of some of the better stags shot during the 1913 season.
‘Spicer’s Stalking Records’ is a very nice publication that detailed many of the great deer forests, along with the best trophy Red Stags shot on those estates. Many of the better stags have tipped in images along with a short story about the trophy. The would unquestionably have been fierce competition amongst estates to produce the best trophies!
Westley Richards clearly had strong links with Peter Spicer and although no records exist today of how this relationship came about, it is probably safe to assume that it was of mutual benefit between the two great companies. If clients shot game with Westley Richards guns and rifles then clearly they needed a good taxidermist to prepare the varying trophies. It is worth remembering that Westley Richards also offered fishing rods, reels and accessories at the time and so all forms of taxidermy were a requirement for the sporting elite of the day.
Interestingly, Spicer’s Inverness office offered for sale Westley Richards guns and rifles, clearly acting as an agent in the north for the company, something we were until now unaware of.
The First World War would soon consume everyones attention and it would be somewhat sobering if time permitted, to see how many of the names listed in this 1914 Stalking Records actually survived the war.
An advert for Westley Richards Deer Stalking rifles.
An interesting rifle completed this week, is this lovely scroll back droplock double rifle in .500/.416 calibre. The round so it goes was developed to replicate the power of the legendary .416 Rigby, but in a flanged case that could be used successfully in double rifles. Developed by Kriegoff in the mid 1990’s, the round was based on the tried and tested .500 nitro express case in 3 1/4″ format. In Norma ammunition, the cartridge propels a 410 grain Woodleigh bullet at a very respectable 2325 feet per second so generating 4922 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. All round a great cartridge for general African use, from the larger plains game all the way up to the largest of the most dangerous game.
Only the second rifle in this calibre to be built by us, we have to say that the lines of the rifle are only enhanced by the profile of the barrels which have a very nice and gentle sweep tapering down to the muzzle. The rifle weighs in at 10lb 6ozs which makes it extremely comfortable to shoot. The rifle has been regulated at 100 yards, hence the fitting of a scope, the whole package complete in a dark green canvas and leather trimmed lightweight case.
Vivid case colour hardening complements the traditional house scroll engraving and gold details.
The rifle comes complete in a dark green canvas and dark tan leather trimmed case.
Every now and then you get one of those great guns come through the door that you just have to stop and admire. This week we had the opportunity to look at a fabulously original Westley Richards 12g ‘Pigeon’ gun that retains nearly all of its original factory finish. Guns in such condition really are hard to find these days and one in this configuration even rarer still.
Completed in 1931 this Westley Richards was built as a ‘special quality’ gun intended for the live pigeon circuit, a pursuit still undertaken in hushed corners of the world. The Anson & Deeley fixed lock action has a wonderful depth and presence that genuinely and perfectly puts the weight at an impressive 8lbs 7ozs. The gun is supremely steady in the hands with a muzzle forward pointability that makes the gun swing with ease.
Vivid case colour hardening dominates the action.
The large breech ends, side clips, cross bolt and high shoulders add a real distinctive look to the gun which is only enhanced by the 30″, 3″ chambered barrels with distinctive flat top ventilated competition rib. Choked 3/4 and Full the gun packs some serious ‘out there’ capability!
The 14 3/4″ pistol grip with horn cap continues the flowing lines of a formidable gun that has wonderful engraving of pigeons, the metalwork itself retaining all of the original vivd case colour hardening and charcoal blueing of the furniture.
Here in the UK, it would make a fantastic ‘high bird’ gun capable of handling some of the more punchy cartridges favoured for this discipline. Alternatively it could just as well return to the live pigeon arena, the environment for which it was originally intended.
The name David McKay Brown should need no introduction to readers of this blog. Scotlands premier gun and rifle maker, David is still building guns at his factory in the village of Bothwell, near Glasgow, Scotland. From an early age David was always a keen gun and rifle enthusiast as well as an avid bird shooter, stalker and fisherman. After an apprenticeship with Alex Martin (Gunmakers) of Glasgow, David set out on his own producing his very first round action gun in 1974. Since then David has specialised in round action guns in both side by side and over and under configuration with an occasional and small output of double rifles over the years.
The double rifle here is one of only a handful built by David in .470 3 1/4″ nitro express calibre, built on his round action design with double triggers, auto ejectors, automatic safety, 25″ barrels, 14 3/4″ pull over an exhibition walnut stock, weighing in at 11lb 5ozs. The rifle is engraved with full traditional scroll coverage and an elephant game scene, all executed by English engraver Martin Smith. The rifle was completed in 1999 and appears pretty much as new and unfired retaining nearly all of the original case colour hardening. The barrels have a wonderful, almost stepped breech which is not uncommon on Fraser double rifles and even early small bore Rigby double rifles.
For any David McKay Brown aficionado who fancies a tussle with the big game of Africa, this would make a great addition to the armoury. Few double rifles of his come to the market, especially in such a useful African calibre.
One of the nicest features of this .470 double rifle is the revolving combination foresight bead. Speaking with David earlier this week, it appears the concept was presented to him many years ago by none other than Simon Clode, Westley Richards former Managing Director! David thought the design was a good one and for “a not insignificant sum” acquired the prototype from Simon and adopted it for his own rifles. In truth a stroke of genius as it really is a very neat design!
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 14 3/8” 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.