And so to the last of the ‘new’ production weapons produced by Westley Richards, the ‘Fixed Lock’ double rifle. For those of you who have spent any time studying sporting firearms, you cannot have read anything with realising that Westley Richards is famous for the introduction of the Anson and Deeley gun design of 1875, the ‘Fixed Lock’ or ‘Boxlock’ action. This design was absolutely revolutionary in that it transferred external hammers to the inside of the action body, whilst allowing the fall (or drop) of the barrels to cock the internally fitted hammers.
To this day the design remains the most copied, and has been produced in some way by every major manufacturer who produces side by side guns and rifles.
In 1995, former Managing Director ,Simon Clode decided it was time to re-introduce the fixed lock action in a double rifle. At the time the big hunting world was seeing a serious revival and whilst pre-owned rifles sold easily, there appeared a niche in the market to produce a sensibly priced fixed lock double rifle that appealed to Professional Hunters and clients alike. So the new fixed lock was released and whilst never produced in the same quantities as ‘droplock’ double rifles, they have always appeared in our order books.
Just as important as “location” is to the value of real estate, so is “condition” to the value of a gun. The common rule is, the closer the gun remains to its original factory condition, the more desirable it is among collectors.
Another important factor to a gun’s value can be its rarity. Guns can fall into the “rare” category if they are found in a configuration seldom produced by a maker. Another reason a gun could be considered “rare” is if it remains in high original condition despite its age or intended purpose. If you look long enough and have a lot of good luck, you might even encounter a gun in a rare configuration that is also in high original condition.
After a long time of looking and more than my share of good luck, an exceedingly rare and extremely well preserved Westley Richards 562 Grade Hammerless Combination Shotgun and Rifle chambered in 12g and .500 Black Powder Express recently landed at the U.S. Agency. This is the type of gun collectors can spend a lifetime looking for.
The elegant lines of the Westley Richards magazine rifle in .450 Rigby calibre.
A first just completed by us is this detachable barrel Westley Richards magazine rifle in .450 Rigby. Over the years we have built magazine rifles in all manner of cartridge, but this is the first to be built in .450 Rigby.
The cartridge has an interesting history as it is one of very few ‘new’ cartridges introduced by any of the British rifle makers over the last three decades. The concept for the cartridge came from Paul Roberts former owner of J.Rigby & Co back in the 1990’s. Paul is acknowledged as one of the most experienced big game hunters in the UK and still continues to build rifles for a small and loyal clientele under the Roberts name in the south of England.
As a company known for the finest in English craftsmanship, it is no surprise that at every point of the manufacturing process we strive to use the best raw materials available, wherever they exist in the world.
Whether that be the wood selection for our stocks, specialist yarns for our safari apparel or atypical hides for our fine leather travel goods, Westley Richards go to great lengths to continually source the highest grade in each class.
For our craftsmen and women these materials are a complete joy to work with and importantly deliver an end result that will be admired for generations.
Tärnsjö Gaveri prepare the hides using a liming process
Our journey to source the right leather partner for our sporting and travel ranges began some years ago; with the guiding philosophy that any Westley Richards product is made to be truly used, last and age well, suitably reflecting its owners adventures and stories like any great companion.
And so all safely with another two weeks under our belts we come to Westley Richards sidelock shotguns. The sidelock shotgun has always been offered by Westley Richards, but as with the sidelock double rifle it has primarily been a product of the London makers.
Westley Richards comparable product for decades was the hand detachable lock (droplock) shotgun which was utterly unique to the company and our ‘signature’ model. The highest grade droplock variants cost as much as any best sidelock and so Westley Richards never really saw the need to compete with their own version of a sidelock.
In more recent years the sidelock shotgun has been offered by Westley Richards to accommodate existing patrons who wanted a sidelock built by us. These more modern sidelocks are built on the more elegant rounded action which gives much cleaner lines, great balance and a more comfortable feel.
Whilst never built in the same numbers as the droplock shotguns, we do hope that the examples you see before you once again emphasise that Westley Richards in the modern era is all about quality and individuality.
As promised, after a fantastic response to our recent ‘The Greatest Adventurer’ competition, I wanted to share some other inspiring entries. Stories that differ in their style and origins, but end with the all too similar love affair of the Westley Richards Courtney Boots.
Westley Richards became the USA & UK importer of the exclusive range of Courteney Safari boots in 1998 and continue to this day to have a very good working relationship with the factory in Zimbabwe, which is managed by Gale Rice.
Over these years we have sold many hundreds of pairs of boots and have lots of satisfied customers who are still wearing the first boots they purchased from us 15 years ago. The Courteney range of footwear is built to be comfortable and to last, very similar to the philosophy behind our guns, which makes this a great partnership.
It is hard to believe that we completed these guns 20 years ago when the only serious pandemic of that time was the fear of the ‘millennium bug’, a software technicality that was going to bring the electronic world to a crashing end. Thankfully nothing happened and we all started the new millennium with renewed excitement.
The Millennium was for many gunmakers a golden opportunity to produce some unique and in many instances one off guns. Holland & Holland, James Purdey and Westley Richards were just some of those lucky enough to have the patronage of some very serious collectors who lavished orders for many individual and often extravagant sets of guns.
Wonderful scenes of English partridge adorn the sides of the actions. Built for an English gentleman it is hard to believe that these guns were built 20 years ago!
Recently through our hands were this lovely pair of Westley Richards 12 bore Ovundo shotguns. Completed in 1937 the guns have until now remained in the same family and retain great mechanical and aesthetic condition. Whilst single Ovundo are not particularly uncommon, pairs of Ovundo really are. We have only ourselves seen three pairs, two of which were droplocks, which makes these fixed locks quite unusual. They were clearly built for British game shooting and quite amazingly for such big looking guns they weigh a very respectable 6lbs 10ozs with 27″ barrels and 14 3/4″ stocks.
The guns are one of the several variants made available by Westley Richards in the Ovundo model, these being of fixed lock, side plated, single selective trigger configuration. First patented in 1914, fixed locks followed by droplocks were offered with square back, scroll back and side plated action options. Side opening ports came on the highest grade droplock sideplated versions with Westley Richards famous single selective trigger an obvious choice for the ‘modern’ over and under sporting gun. The unique Westley Richards top lever and safety thumb piece were a distinctive feature that were incorporated into the Ovundo from the very start.
The distinctive bold ‘house’ engraving pattern with the Celtic rope border featuring on the barrel bars.
These particular guns exhibit wonderful bold acanthus scroll engraving with a fabulous ‘Celtic’ motif along the barrel bar. This elaborate design really complements the surface area of the sideplated gun and gives a real presence to the large size of the action. Even as potentially fixed lock working guns, they were clearly of ‘best’ finish.
As so this week we come to the magazine rifles and yet another week in isolation. As you all probably know, Westley Richards has been building magazine rifles for as long as suitable actions were available. Single shot rifles were the order of the day until reliable repeating rifle actions became available able to handle ‘modern’ smokeless powders.
Naturally Paul Mausers action of 1898 remains the firm favourite amongst British classic rifle manufacturers and over the years we have used all manner of variants from original Oberndorf ‘Sporters’ to Military ’98’s to the modern production actions coming out of the USA and Germany.
Whilst fixed barrel rifles have always been a given, the ‘detachable barrel’ or take-down configuration has become a firm favourite within the Westley Richards armoury. Over the years we have been lucky enough to build our rifles in most of the popular big game calibres as well as our own proprietary ones, the .318 and .425. The detachable barrel version making for an elegant and practical travelling rifle.
Anyway, we hope you enjoy the selection below and wish you once again a safe week ahead.
That most classic of calibres the European 9.3 x 62 built to our ‘Modele de Luxe’ standard in a detachable barrel configuration. This rifle once again displayed a variety of engraving techniques with a beautifully carved ‘Maral’ stag on the floor plate.
Westley Richards has always offered high quality, fine leather goods and other accessories for the discerning sportsman to transport and care for their guns and rifles. Today Westley’s continues to produce these traditional handmade items, made side by side with our guns in the Birmingham factory, with a whole host of other gun care products that today’s hunter and shooter will still find useful.
As someone who travels extensively with firearms for hunting as well as travelling to trade shows and making house calls, there are four items from our leather shop that I find are especially well thought out for the travelling sportsman and shooter. The Westley Richards Tool Roll, the Gun Cleaning Mat, the Redfern Cleaning Pouch and the small J/M/B pouches are items that have become indispensable for me and I think they would benefit any shooter or hunter by adding these to their shooting kit.