Every now and then one of those nice little finds gets passed our way here at Westley Richards. And so it is that this 10 round .22 rimfire stock magazine came our way recently and has been added to the archive here at the factory.
Discovered in the back of an old shop as literally ‘dead stock’ it must have been there from before the First World War and once again highlights that you never know what might be lurking, tucked away in some dark corner. One day I hope to find that elusive Westley Richards howdah pistol, complete with case and accessories in pristine unfired condition…………..
Westley Richards is a name synonymous with rifles; double, magazine and single shot. Over the years the reputation of the company has been founded on large calibre rifles that have proved effective on all the worlds big game. The list of big game calibres built by the company reads like a who’s who of the very best the British gun and rifle makers could produce, ever since the introduction in 1898 of the first .450 3 1/4″ nitro express metallic cartridge.
With such a reputation for large calibre rifles it is a genuine pleasure to get to build the first and probably only .22-250 Remington calibre take down magazine rifle in the history of the company. This fine little calibre can trace its ancestry back to the 1930’s and the boom in wildcatting that our good friends in the USA were running with. In essence the .22-250 is the .250 Savage case necked down to take the .224 bullet. It was officially adopted by Remington in 1965 and has been chambered in production rifles by most of the major rifle manufacturers ever since.
Principally a varmint (sorry ‘vermin’ for us Brits!) calibre it is also a devasting Roe deer calibre north of the border here in Britain. Unusually and much to our gratification, this rifle is intended for use here in the Uk which makes this an extra special build for the factory as most of the guns and rifles we build head overseas.
A Swarovski 1″ Z3 scope in old school claw mounts sits well on the rifle making use of the original rear square bridge.
When building a rifle of this scale in British terms the key to the build is in the action. You need something small and being a British riflemaker that traditionally has to be a Mauser ’98. Now modern small ‘Kurz’ (short) actions are available, but with a project this unique you really need to look for something special. So it was that we pulled from the depths of the factory an original Mauser Oberndorf Kurz action with a rear single square bridge still retaining its original factory fittings for a quick detachable scope system.
Taking things a step further it was decided to build the rifle as a takedown, the smallest of which we have built. This in itself was an interesting excercise as we opted to review the takedown release catch traditionally found on the right side of the forend, to use a revised underside catch fashioned in the shape of our famous Deeley forend catch so giving the rifle that classic Westley Richards touch.
Case colour hardening predominates tthe finish of this rifle enhancing the unusual ‘Byzantine’ design.
Engraving wise the client requested a design based around ‘Byzantine’ motifs. The Byzantium period in history is said to span over 1000 years so clearly there was a lot to chose from so with the aid of the client, a geometric border (found commonly on gold jewellery of the period), combined with a floral motif was used as the basis for the engraving with the family crest set in the centre of the floorplate surrounded by a design that was taken from an architectural feature. To cap it all of the clients initials for both the stock and case disk were engraved from the Uncial alphabet!
Looking down on the rifle the elegant lines are enhanced by the rich black, electric blue and vivid case colours of the final finish.
In its finished state with the addition of a case colour hardened floorplate and magazine box the rifle is a wonderful mixture of the old and the new. The original Mauser ’98 Kurz action was without doubt the right way to go with such a project and we trust that complete in its traditional lightweight canvas case this unique little rifle will give its owner decades of fun and pleasure.
A close figured exhibition grade piece of walnut furnished with heel and toe plates sets the rifle off.
For me, as I am sure it is for many of our readers, the British gunmakers have always set the standard by which all other sporting guns and rifles are measured. One American rifle maker that certainly measured up to its British counterparts was Griffin & Howe.
In 1923 famed shooter, outdoorsman and writer, Colonel Townsend Whelen helped bring together a cabinet maker turned stock maker named Seymour R. Griffin and a tool maker turned gunsmith named James V. Howe, to form a company to make high quality custom rifles. Today Griffin & Howe remains one of America’s premier purveyors of fine firearms.
G&H always offered a wide range of gunsmithing services throughout their history. The company started out refining surplus Springfield Model 1903 bolt action rifles as well as building single shot target rifles. The company also gained a reputation for building very high-quality custom rifles and specializing in large bore rifles built on Magnum Mauser actions. In 1927 G&H introduced their iconic scope mount; a version of this mount being supplied to the U.S. Army during WWII and, following the war, was one of the most popular ways to mount a scope on a sporting rifle. I have also seen everything from a re-barreled Savage 1899 Lever Action to a full custom rifle in .505 Gibbs built using a Magnum Mauser action.
So, when a Griffin & Howe single shot rifle built on a Farquharson action came through the U.S. Agency, I was not necessarily surprised, but it is the first one I have ever seen.
Originally patented in 1872 by John Farquharson, the Farquharson single shot falling block action was solely produced by the gunmaker George Gibbs until the patent ran out in 1889. Soon after the patent expired, other British makers started producing rifles using Farquharson actions made by August Francotte of Belgium. These actions were stamped “PD”, which stood for “public domain”, to note there was no infringement on the patent. Today the original Gibbs and Francotte actions remain highly desirable, either on finished rifles or as actions for a future project.
The Griffin & Howe rifle pictured here was built in the 1950’s using a “PD” marked Farquharson action. The rifle is chambered in .375 Flanged Magnum, Holland’s rimmed .375 cartridge intended for breech loading rifles. The rifle’s barrel and action have the original blue finish, color hardening on the lever and butt plate and original oil finish on the stock. On the sides of the action, there is arabesque scroll engraving in a diamond pattern done by Josef Fugger, G&H’s in-house engraver at the time.
The rifle also features Griffin & Howe’s pattern quarter rib and banded ramp front sight with a removable sight hood, both engraved to match the action. The quarter rib is grooved for quick detachable lever lock G&H rings mounting a period correct J. Unertl 4X “Hawk” telescopic sight. In the absence of a fixed rear sight, there is a small peep sight that fits on the quarter rib when the scope is removed. The 26” barrel is marked, as usual, with the Maker’s serial number and name, “2288 Griffin & Howe Inc. New York”.
The two piece stock has an ebony forend tip and a full pistol grip checkered in the classic G&H point pattern with G&H’s distinctive beaded cheekpiece. The butt stock has a case colored and engraved steel strap butt plate where the removable peep sight is stored while the telescopic sight is in use.
Overall, the rifle is in excellent original condition and is a very good, and very rare, example of an American made best quality rifle.
Although repairs and refurbishments have always been a part of the Westley Richards repertoire, in recent years, following record numbers of new gun and rifle orders, we have sadly had to reduce the amount we take on. Repairs can be disruptive to the steady flow of new gun manufacture and often, on vintage guns of various makes, can be time consuming when machining and fitting new parts. Even the small amount we now do results in our production manager pulling his hair out trying to work out quite how he’s going to fit it in his extremely busy new gun and rifle schedule and without wishing the poor chap to be bald before his time, we have to be selective on what we take in. On the odd occasion I do manage to sneak a few into the workshops and one such rifle we have recently completed is this superb Rigby .450 Nitro Express Farquharson rifle. I thought the readers of the Explora would enjoy a few before and after photos of this stunning rifle.
In summary, our initial task was to re-regulate the sight work and sort the issue of faulty extraction. The rifle was shooting high and struggling to extract the spent cartridge. Once the rifle was back into working order it could be stripped down and we could then begin the cosmetic works. The wood work was put into the stock finishing shop and the many coats of oil were carefully applied to build the finish up to our normal best quality, high gloss finish. The action was annealed and we then recut and picked up all the engraving, bringing back to life the elaborate scroll work, Rigby name, double line border and sight work. Any pins that were tired or chewed were replaced and engraved. Once done it could be polished and prepped for hardening. The barrel was then polished and best quality re-blacked, topped and tailed, ready to be reassembled. The action, lever, safety button, grip cap and forend diamond were re-colour hardened, the trigger and pins were blued, sight worked and sling stud were blacked. The rifle was then freed up and fully reassembled before the final checks and finishing coats of oil on the stock were applied, ready for final inspection.
I think you’ll agree the rifle has turned out quite superbly and we are proud to have restored this wonderful rifle back to its former glory.
I am just returning from a trip in which I visited one of America’s oldest and most historic cities. A fitting place to find this pair of cased Westley Richards 16g Percussion Holster Pistols made in the first half of the 19th Century.
Originally ordered for stock, this pair of pistols was shipped, in their ‘box”, on May 16, 1839 to the London Agency at 170 New Bond St. Now, 180 years later, these pistols are being offered for sale by this firm. Only this time, at Westley Richards’ U.S. Agency.
A “boxed” or cased set of pistols like this were a sign of status and they were finished to a very high standard. The locks, hammers, trigger guards and breach blocks are decorated with a traditional acanthus scroll engraving and the maker’s name is engraved on each lock plate.
The small sized, bar action hammer locks have flat plates and are fitted with flat faced serpentine hammers with stylized dolphin heads and back sliding safeties.
Each pistol has 8” twist octagon barrels that are engraved with the maker’s name on the top flats. They have V-notch rear sights on the breach irons and small brass beads at the muzzles. The barrels are fitted with bridled steel ramrods that still operate flawlessly.
Lightly figured European walnut stocks have “bag” shaped grips and forends that extend to within 5/8” of the muzzle. The stocks have very nice flat top checkering, are iron mounted and have rectangular crest plates engraved with a “rising eagle”.
Overall the pair’s condition is excellent and the guns remain completely original. The locks and hammers display strong amounts of their color hardening and most of the original brown is left on the barrels that have excellent bores. The stocks are also sound, crack free and in superb original shape retaining almost all their original oil finish. The forearm wedges and triggers still show a vivid charcoal blue and almost all the original black remains on the trigger bows.
The pistols are paired in the original mahogany case that is also in very nice original condition still retaining the original trade label and well preserved green baize.
This pair of pistols is another great example of the high-quality arms Westley Richards has produced and sold for over two hundred years.
The latest offering from our used gun department is this superb James Purdey & Sons 12g sidelock ejector. Completed around 1964 the gun features an unusual barrel length of 27 9/16” which are choked 1/2 in the right and Extra Full in the left with 2 3/4” chambers and a raised engine turned top rib. The action has the classic Purdey house rose and scroll engraving and retains some beautiful and vivid case colours. The gun was originally built as a double trigger but has subsequently been converted to single.
A stunningly figured straight hand stock measures 14 3/4″ to the centre of the leather covered recoil pad and has a drop of 1 3/8″ at the comb and 1 7/8″ at the heel, the cast is dead straight. Weighing 7lbs 2oz the gun is lively in the hands but also retains a smooth and controlled swing.
The gun is neatly cased in its motor case complete with tools and a canvas outer and also comes with the framed London proof certificate of 1963, which reads;
Certificate of Proof
It is hereby certified that on the 3rd Day of April 1963,
the Small Arm and/or Gun Barrel, details of which are set out below, was
duly presented for proof at the Proof House of the Worshipful Company of
Gunamkers and there was found of proof in accordance with the Gun Barrel
Proof Acts 1868 and 1950. Signed Proof Master
SMALL ARM and/or BARREL NUMBER 26976 BORE 12 MAKER’S NAME J. Purdey & Sons. CHAMBER LENGTH 2 3/4″
Condition of this gun is excellent and testament to its previous owners. The gun is now live on our used gun website.
It is still interesting what turns up here at Westley Richards that we never quite knew about. In the last couple of weeks we sent the old directors desk in for a subtle refurbishment and height increase. Clearly the directors of old were short fellows and rather than confine their old desk to some dusty corner it seemed worthwhile carrying out the described works.
Anyway, it was whilst at the refurbishers that the attached exhibition medal was discovered stuck in the base of one of the drawer pedestals. Now how long this medal has been stuck in the back of the drawers is anybodies guess as none of the old timers here seem familiar with it and I myself have never seen this medal before.
The exhibition medal itself was awarded at the ‘South African Industrial And Arts Exihibition’ held in Grahamstown, South Africa from 1898-1899 and is inscribed ‘Westley Richards & Co. Ltd. Gold Medal For Revolver Convertible To Carbine’. Looking through the archive here at Westley Richards we can only find references to ‘small arms’ improvements all lodged by the renowned Leslie B Taylor for the periods 1897 and 1899. Obviously one of these must relate to this medal.
Two other things make this medal interesting. Firstly it states that this is a ‘Gold Medal’ but clearly it is Bronze. Another medal awarded to Westley Richards from the same exhibition is gilded bronze.The second significant fact from a historical point of view is that 1899 is the same year that the second Boer War (1899-1902) began and this appears to be the last exhibition attended by the company in South Africa.
Part of Westley Richards fame can without question be attributed to the Anson & Deeley fixed lock gun design of 1875. It was this design that overnight revolutionised the modern sporting gun and rifle world.
Today the construction of a fixed lock rifle here in the factory has been largely superseded by the hand detachable (droplock) design. That makes each fixed lock rather special as we get to complete one every couple of years. This particular rifle is in the fabulous .500 3″ nitro express calibre which has proved itself a great tackler of thick skinned dangerous game.
As with every gun and rifle built here at the factory, this rifle caters to the new owners particular tastes which in this instance include a fine dotted border around all the metal parts. Combined with the gold naming and vivid case colour hardening this adds a subtle touch to a simple and beautiful rifle. May its new owner enjoy many years of hunting success.
The original patent drawing for the 1875 fixed lock design. This design revolutionised the gun world.
Vivid case colour hardening by the St.Ledger brothers is a real feature of this rifle.
The beaded border pattern adds a geometric element to the rifle, something a little more than the classic ‘Gold Name’.Complete in its lightweight leather case with traditional complement of tools the rifle is ready to set foot in Africa.
I relish in offering up second hand guns and rifles that are fresh to the market. With the Westley Richards & Co. name and reputation, we are in a very good position to find these gems that have stayed put away and haven’t languished for sale on-line with some other dealer or been tossed around the various auction houses. A few recent examples are the Holland & Holland ‘Royal’.410 and Westley Richards A&D 8g, both exceedingly rare and unique guns, sold here at the U.S. Agency. As luck would have it (and a lot of hard work) I have come across another very interesting rifle, in all original and near new condition, acquired from the original owner’s family.
Solid wall Mauser based action.
The rifle is a Westley Richards .425 Magnum Express Best Quality Mauser bolt action built circa 1955. The rifle is still paired in its original maker’s case with the original accoutrements still wrapped in their tissue paper. During the 1950’s, Westley’s was supplying a rifle of a similar format, albeit with much less finish, to Game Scouts in Kenya and Rhodesia. However, this rifle was bought by a sportsman, is engraved and has a Monte Carlo cheekpiece, a stock shape that rose to prominence in America after World War II. Many of the top tier English makers adopted this stock shape to cater to the U.S. market that was now the largest sporting gun market in the world. This was also the time period when rifles were increasingly fitted with telescopic sights, especially those built for American clients. It is unusual that the rifle was never drilled and tapped and quite remarkable that it has remained unaltered for all these years.
Lever release floorplate with elegant house scroll engraving.
Westley Richards classic and distinctive combination foresight with patent flip over protector.
As if the lovely condition of the rifle isn’t enough, there is another interesting part of this rifle’s story. In the early 1970’s, the original owner used the rifle to successfully take an elephant that body size eclipsed the world record at the time. The gentleman’s record can be found in various record books of the period and you can still see his name, written in pen, on the boxes of ammo. One box includes a few empty brass cases; 6 to be exact. It would stand to reason these are the same 6 rounds Mr. Nielsen mentions in his retelling of the fateful trip. Remarkably, the rifle shows little to no signs of its travels and remains in top form, making it a very viable candidate for anyone’s next dangerous game hunt.
Contained in its original case the rifle is one of those wonderful finds.
The sidelock double rifle is one of those rarified items from the house of Westley Richards. Known traditional for our hand detachable lock guns and rifles, every now and then we love to throw a sidelock gun or rifle out there just to show the London houses what the team here in Birmingham are capable of achieving.
In this particular instance, we have a fantastically proportioned .375 H & H Magnum calibre double rifle which has proved to be a great platform for this exceptional engraving. The design combines elaborate scroll with gold inlay and impressive scenes of elephant, buffalo and lion. The scenes have real movement about them which adds genuine character to the rifle and gives the whole design a unique flow.
Our sidelock double rifles have really proved in recent years to be the basis for many great museum-worthy projects including the ‘India’ and ‘Africa’ rifles, with several more exceptional pieces already in the pipeline. We will keep you posted as these projects progress as some exhibit embellishment techniques not seen since the days of the Maharajah’s.
A lion snarls out from the underside of the action body.
Wonderful gold detailing adorns the elaborate scroll. Our sidelock in unique to Westley Richards in that it incorporates our famous model ‘C’ dolls head fastener and snap action lever work.
Bull elephants in battle adorn the right lock plate.