Thomas Horsley Gunmaker, was originally founded in 1832 in Doncaster, England moving within only a couple of years to the City of York where the rifle shown here was manufactured circa 1840. This particular .450 percussion rifle retains much of its original finish and patina, but is particularly interesting in that a damascus telescopic sight has been added at some stage, presumably by the maker. This is the only muzzleloading double rifle that we have seen fitted with a quick detachable telescopic sight and there certainly cannot be too many around as it would undoubtedly have been a very new invention for the time.
Going back to the business, Thomas Horsley the elder passed the company onto his son Thomas who continued the operation from Coney Street, York. On his death, circa 1915, the business passed on once again to his son, another Thomas (!) who ran it with his brothers from Blossom Street, York and later Micklegate, York, which was to be the company’s last address when it ceased trading in the late 1950’s.
Another interesting feature of this rifle is its compact size. Whilst we cannot confirm it, we have always rather romantically referred to this rifle as a ‘Howdah Rifle’ as its compact nature befits the tight space likely encountered from the howdah on the back of an Indian elephant. It would certainly be very handy to use and the telescopic sight might just help pick an animal out from amongst the tall grass. The wonderfully naive engraving on the lock plates of tiger and deer adds greatly to this hypothesis!
It is always nice to see another ‘beast’ completed here at the factory and this .577 droplock proves that we continue to lead the way with the production of big bore double rifles. Based very much on the Sutherland .577 double rifle that we have here at the factory this rifle has been built very much to be used and its new owner is itching to get the rifle into the field and hunt some dangerous game.
This rifle is the full blown magnum version of the .577 firing the 750 grain bullet, however the rifle only weighs in at 12lb 8ozs and so it is a little lively on the range! Before anyone asks, this is how the client wanted it built and so true to form we built the rifle. Lets be honest, in the face of a full on charge a handy .577 will be of less concern than a touch of recoil!
Just off to case colour hardening is this .577 3″ nitro express droplock double rifle which combines bold scroll and classic game scenes of the ‘Big 5′. Whilst talk of late has centred around the decline of big game hunting in certain African countries, we have to say from our own point of view that double rifles continue to be a mainstay in our production, so guys are undoubtedly getting out there in the field.
This particular rifle is going to the next generation of hunter who has already built up a strong affair with the great safari tradition of Africa and is very much determined to continue the pursuit. Truth be told Africa has always been volatile and unpredictable which is probably one of the attractions. To still have the privilege to hunt in some of these great countries is something that no-one should take for granted and all keen hunters should be encouraged to undertake in a fair and sporting manner.
Africa is one of the last great wilderness’s on earth and the ultimate destination for a big bore double rifle such as this. Long may the tradition continue.
While there are many factors that come into play when evaluating a gun for purchase, one of the main criteria I look for is that the gun is in a configuration that is relevant and desirable to today’s shooter. These same features also usually measure up for the collector and when present on a gun make it that much more desirable. Guns and rifles made by the best and most well-known makers with features that are hallmarks of that maker, are often times the most appealing types to me.
Currently for sale at the Westley Richards U.S. Agency is a J. Purdey & Sons Beesley Patent Self Opening Sidelock Ejector Double Rifle chambered in .375 H&H Rimless Magnum. Completed in the early 2000’s, this relatively rare London Best double rifle is in both a practical configuration for a hunter as well as having all the hallmark Purdey features collectors look for.
The Beesley Patent Self Opener is the heart and soul of Purdey’s side by side shotguns and double rifles. The closing of the barrels compresses a set of “lifters” that protrude from the action’s water table, thus compressing the main springs of the actions and cocking the tumblers. Upon opening, the pressure from the main springs pushes on the barrel flats and the barrels spring open. My personal experience is that the heavy, large bore rifles such as .500 NE or the .577 NE can be quite cumbersome to close on the self-opening design. However, this .375 caliber rifle closes effortlessly, yet opens smoothly with very positive ejection and quicker reload; the same benefits to a big game hunter as it is a for a wing shooter in a shotgun. This rifle handles more like a small bore shotgun than a heavy express rifle, yet the 10 lbs. 9 oz. weight handles recoil well when the rifle is shot from shooting sticks or a rest.
Proofed in 2002, and coincidentally featured in Donald Dallas’ “Purdey Gun & Rifle Makers The Definitive History” (2000 Quiller & Sons Ltd.) this rifle includes Purdey’s easily recognizable bolstered frame, incorporates Purdey’s third grip rib extension and has sideclips, all classic reinforcements found on Purdey rifles. In addition, one finds all the features to be expected on a Best quality gun such as a bolted safety and gold lined cocking indicators, rolled trigger guard and hinged front trigger, a trap grip cap, an extended bottom tang and a strap over the comb. The stock has a right hand cheekpiece, full pistol grip, and is finished in a leather pad and the forend, Purdey’s very distinctly shaped beavertail, has a push rod forend latch. Finally, the action is brushed and the clean finish showcases the house Rose & Scroll engraving nicely.
The 23” chopper lump barrels have a quarter rib with two folding leaf sights regulated for 100 yds and 200 yds respectively and factory installed claw mounts and a Schmidt & Bender scope which is complemented with a ramp front sight with a flip up moon bead and Purdey’s unmistakable “clam shell” front sight protector.
Complete in the maker’s leather case, this rifle is in the classic Purdey double rifle configuration and combines a quick release scope and the versatile .375 H&H with the added benefits and attributes of a double rifle. A rifle that incorporates all the hallmarks of this great maker in a gun that is relevant and desirable to today’s hunter.
An update from a great Westley Richards enthusiast in the USA
Now, with a fair number of rounds on targets both circular and winged I’m perhaps in a position to look back on the shooting season just past and understand a bit better what a remarkable thing a really good Westley Richards .410 bore gun can be.
I’ve shot something over 4,000 targets with it both on the skeet field and from a three trap trailer which we position along a river while we stand beyond and above the traps on an old pumping station over the river. The wobble targets here are all crossing shots, some level, some climbing and some well below. The latter being about as sporty as any I want to try. At any rate, they all are a real learning experience with a .410 and I’ve never run a 25 straight.
In the “winged” department, a fair number of doves fell out of the sky. Good conditions and picked shots required. We were fortunate enough to be invited back to King Ranch once again. Bobwhites and more bobwhites. Wonderful dog work and wonderful people. South Texas in the winter time is my favorite place on this earth.
Winchester’s 3″ AA load of 3/4 ounce of #8 1/2 shot at only 1,100 fps will kill quail and doves with no foolin’ about it. Teague insert chokes at .10″ constriction seems to be the ticket in this particular gun on game. On the skeet field 1/2 ounce of 9’s again in AA’s work the best. Probably all in my head but the Winchester loads give me better scores than the same loads from Federal. Go figure.
To sum up, a heck of a lot of clay targets, quite a few doves, I’m not telling anybody how many bobwhites, one armadillo and, two weeks past, a small, by Texas standards, diamondback rattlesnake have been accounted for with this little gun. Varied bag in any company.
Point being, I’ve shot this gun enough to where, with a good night’s sleep and proper alignment of the stars, things just work. Never has the gun failed to go bang, eject and the triggers are as crisp as on day one. The wood has a few small dings now which bother me not at all. What a wonderful thing it would be to shoot it long enough and often enough to wear the checkering off. I think in the end shooting is about memories and that’s the real gift of a gun like this.
When picking a dangerous game rifle, there is the ever present discussion of bolt action versus double rifle. While I think I can make a strong argument in favour of either platform, at the end of the day, it comes down to which style you as a hunter are most comfortable with. Safari season is in full swing and as our friends and clients are in pursuit of some of the World’s largest and most dangerous game, two rifles in our inventory come to mind.
The bolt action is chambered in Rigby’s venerable .416 Bore and built using an original, near mythical, Rigby pre-war magnum length single square bridge Mauser action. These actions were made by Mauser to Rigby specs and represent some of the finest bolt action receivers to ever be manufactured. The gun had a new stock and barrel by Rigby around the early 1990’s (1994 London Proofs). While the .416 Rigby won its popularity from Ruark’s writing as much as anything, the cartridge certainly had the performance to back up that popularity, which it still enjoys today among dangerous game hunters as well as collectors. Besides being in what I would argue was Rigby’s most famous cartridge, there are a few reasons I like this particular rifle; being based on an original single square bridge action but being stocked and barrelled to new is a great combination. It has also always been my experience that guns made under Paul Robert’s tenure at Rigby, as this rifle was, always function with great reliability and shoot equally as well, this rifle keeps with that tradition.
The double rifle I have in mind is another classic from Rigby’s; a best quality sidelock ejector in .470 3 ¼” NE. This rifle was made circa 1911 and incorporates Rigby’s patented third grip or club head rib extension. Interestingly, production of this rib extension overlapped with that of the much talked about Bissell Rising bite. Certainly one cannot argue with the strength of a screw grip type action and Rigby must have thought the same. Additionally, the rifle is chambered in .470 NE. John Rigby was a noted expert on firearms and ballistics of the day and this is the cartridge we see many of these best quality rifles chambered for. Additional classic features of this Rigby best quality rifle are the dipped-edge locks, the carved fences and the original and near perfect 28” barrels.
As I said before, I think I could argue just as convincingly for one type of rifle as the other. A double rifle’s near instant second shot versus 4 rounds in a bolt action that, with some practice, can shoot two shots as fast as a gun with a second barrel. It’s an age-old argument that will rage around fires in hunting camps for many more hunting seasons. No doubt the best way to solve the debate it is to simply have one of each!
Game scene rifles of the pre war era have always seemed thin on the ground and outside of the great Mahrajah’s and the occasional ostentatious aristocrat, the majority of double rifles tended to be of the traditional house scroll engraved format. An Englishman was far more reserved and refined in his tastes!
This pretty little Rigby in .256 rimmed is one of those exceptional little rifles that you would like to own just because the engraving takes you back to the golden age of big game hunting when the continents of India and Africa competed for the attentions of the avid big game hunter. Beautifully engraved with game scenes of Indian big game including tiger, leopard, black buck, sambar and cheetal deer, all credit must be paid to the engraver who most likely had never viewed any of these game animals live and most certainly not from some download off the internet.
The small calibre of the rifle, single trigger and stepped breach only add to the delicate nature of both the rifle and game scenes. Completed in 1907 for H.H Maharana of Udaipur it has obviously been well used without being over-abused and surely if it could speak would have many an exciting story to tell!
The Bissell or Rigby ‘rising bite’ third fastener.
Wonderfully detailed Indian big game scenes throughout.
Stepped breach, dipped edge lock plate and single trigger.
As a once keen wildfowler it is always nice to see one of the vintage big bore guns built by Westley Richards. In this instance we have a lovely 10g, 3″ chambered, 32″ barrelled Anson & Deeley fixed lock shotgun that was completed in 1886 for J.Palmer O’Neil & Co. of Pittsburgh, USA. This company clearly acted as an agent for Westley Richards and retailed guns, rifles, revolvers, ammunition, fishing tackle and other sportsmens goods. A gun almost identical to this illustrates the front cover of one of their early catalogues.
The lines of the gun considering its size are very elegant and it points superbly. The round pistol grip has a gentle sweep that makes the gun comfortable to handle. Weighing 10lb 10 3/4ozs it is great to swing and with ‘extreme choke’ as defined in the ledger entry, it would certainly have worked well on high Mallard, Pintail and Geese. Interestingly the rib states ‘Highest Quality’ and we have to admit that it is probably one of the finest fixed lock guns that we have seen here at the factory. The damascus is of the typical high quality found on all of the Westley Richards guns built up until around 1910 and the wood is as good as anything we would use today.
The gun has the single model ‘c’ dolls head extension and classic lever work, no underbolt, which is a testament to the strength of the design and quality of the workmanship when jointing the gun. It remains as tight on the face as the day it was made and if it was mine there is no question that it would see a goose blind this autumn!
Another masterpiece has returned recently from one of our top engravers and we have to say that it is certainly one of the prettiest small bore guns that we have seen anywhere in a while.
The actual engraving is a choice made from several designs that were put forward, aimed specifically at the small bore guns that we build, in this case a 28g droplock. The client was looking for an intricate design that would look both complex and clean on the delicate frame of the gun. The etched background only adding to the overall effect of the design.
As with all elaborate scroll engraving, the actual ‘flow’ of the scrolls is very important and this particular execution seems to capture that very well. The little carved touches add considerably to the whole design and once case colour hardened, inked and brushed the gun should look spectacular. We look forward to sharing the end result with you.
You may have found us a bit quieter than usual of late. Well, that is because we have been hard at work on an exciting new project. After considerable time and effort, we at Westley Richards are proud to announce the launch of our brand new website.
Featuring the finest imagery and design, and industry-leading technology, it showcases the world of Westley Richards like never before. Designed and developed especially for those with a passion for fine guns, hunting, bespoke leather goods and the very best shooting clothing and products, the new site is a reflection of what we do here at Westley Richards in our relentless pursuit of perfection. We hope you enjoy it and we look forward to welcoming you all into our world.