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Only 2 more days now and the shooting season in England begins. Guns are flying in from all around the world and the excitement is in the air. 2013 is set to be another vintage year with excellent counts having taken place. We have had such a nice summer recently so hopefully the weather will remain good and everyone will be able to enjoy great sport next week and onwards into the season. For anyone looking for “some sport of kings”, Nick Mason of agent Davis & Bowring tells me there should be some great opportunities throughout the season.
I am very pleased to have added some new images of Simon Upton’s recent private project work Stilleven, meaning Still Life in Dutch, to our walls here at the factory. One day I hope to coax him here to the factory to photograph our interiors. These photographs are available in a variety of sizes and also in a book format by contacting Simon Upton direct or please email our office.
The latest Fall edition of African Hunting Gazette, which is now on the newstands, has a very nice article about the return of Ernst Hemingway’s Westley Richards .577 rifle to Africa. In the hands of the new owner Bill Jones, we all feel it showed a great deal of confidence in our rifles to head off back to Africa to hunt dangerous game with this 100 year old single trigger rifle which had been sitting on display for many years in a guest house in Florida. A rifle which also set a world record price for a rifle of this kind at auction a few years ago . Having not been used for about 50 years it shows the beauty and simplicity of our Hand Detachable locks, take them out, a quick clean and off you go!
Bill Jones at Safari Club 2012
Our desire to create a blog for the company has resulted primarily from the work we did in 2011, writing, designing and publishing the firms 200 year history. The response to the book was exceptional and whilst it answered many questions about the company, it could by no means in one volume, answer them all. The work we did researching the book left us with a fully organised archive of our documents and ephemera together with thousands of photographs. It seemed a sensible idea to us to continue the publication of this material in a less formal manner. ‘The Westley Richards Explora’ was born, again.
‘The Explora’ was the name given to a propriety shotgun with rifled chokes which was first introduced in 1905. Its design purpose was to put in the hands of the explorer and hunter a weapon that could shoot both solid projectiles and shot, thus negating the need to carry 2 guns into the jungle or bush. It was a remarkably effective weapon, providing both protection from large game and the ability of putting small game in the pot.
This blog will aim to explore the world we operate in, the products we make now and have made in the past. We will talk with and show guns built by other gun makers from around the world as well as meet the craftsmen who continue to keep this tradition alive, the barrel makers, actioners, stockers and finishers, learning from these people how the best guns come to be. We will see how the specialty trades like engravers, hardeners, blackers and case makers take the gunmakers canvas and help us pull the individual commissions together to completion.
Hunting destinations are discussed in our offices on an almost daily basis either by customers visiting, recounting their latest escapades, or people calling in with their news from the field. We will share this first hand knowledge as well as other findings and thoughts on new places to hunt and new people to take you there.
We hope that the things we perhaps take for granted, running this business day to day, will give pleasure and add interest to those of you who count this as your sport.
I was really pleased recently to find a complete copy of “Dogs in the Field” by Marguerite Kirmse. The volume is an oblong folio of 24 lithographed plates and with an additional set of 6 lithograph prints which are so often missing. The work was printed in an edition of 685 copies in 1935 by the Derrydale Press. This work has now inspired the engraving on a set of three 20g Ovundo’s we are currently completing.
Westley Richards have always been very active dealers in good quality used guns and rifles. Finding great guns and rifles to offer our customers has become very much harder over recent years, with more and more collectors gathering in large quantities of best guns. We have been fortunate this year to once again have had some superb guns, all of which have been snapped up pretty quickly. This 20g Boss OU, which was completed in 1946 and in “as new” condition is a prime example of what we get, or should I say was, as it has now gone to a new home where it will probably lay undisturbed but admired for another 50 years. A couple of years ago we were fortunate to have a similar condition Boss .410 OU for sale which was turned down by the gentleman who bought the 20g. He valued the .410 then at $75,000 which is about what you expect to pay for a very good 12g! As only a handful of .410’s were made pre-war it is a decision and value he will regret for a long time!
I have just received my trophies from this years Monteria’s in Spain which I attended in January. After many year’s of poor shooting & luck, this year I managed to get the largest Stag ever shot in a Monteria by Espacaza the outfitter who organised the hunt. For those of you looking for a new destination and type of hunt I cannot recommend Diego Satrustegui and his team highly enough. For over 12 years now Diego has been organising hunting for me and my clients in Spain, Africa, Mongolia and just about anywhere else you can dream up.
His Higness The Maharajah of Patiala at the Coronation Durbar.
The Original Order of 1924.
When I joined Westley Richards in 1987, it was very apparent we had to start taking new gun making seriously. My father had spent most of his years at the company dealing in secondhand guns and rifles, these he acquired in India from his frequent visits and relationships with the Maharajah’s. In the early days these guns and rifles were bought and sold in crates to buyers like Abercrombie & Fitch who paid by weight rather than content, each shipment a surprise! Double rifles had little value, there was no ammunition being made and they were thus “obsolete”.
There were three individuals competing for the business in India at the time, Malcolm Lyell, the ex Manager of Westley Richards’ London shop, owner of our London agency, and Managing Director of Holland & Holland, Paul Roberts of J. Rigby, and my father. Malcolm and my father were long time friends and worked, more often than not, as a team with Hollands providing finance and Clode doing the deals. Paul Roberts was the competition and to some degree still is! More on this subject another day I think as I drift from the point!
When I started to consider making our new guns it was at a time when we had one of Patiala’s .410’s in stock. I remember taking it to the Safari Club Convention in 1988 and selling it there, for what I recall, about $30,000. A huge sum for one of guns at the time! This sale led to our starting the new “drop lock” production with the .410 model, which has now continued over the past 25 years to our making the final size of 4 gauge today.
The initial order for the 6 .410’s was received in October 1924, part of a total order valued at £4079.00 and consisting of 18 pages of typed items similar to the sheet above. Considering a new droplock .410 at £135 this order equated to 30 new guns!
Correspondence (above) shows that by late November, our then Managing Director Leslie Taylor, was apologising to His Highness that he would be unable to make the Christmas delivery and assuring him that the new guns ordered in October would all be completed and on board a ship to India before the end of January 1925.
It took 4 months to develop and deliver the first 6 .410 droplocks! Leslie Taylor, “Please, please come and tell me how you did it”!
One of the 6 Patiala .410’s formed part of the Robert E. Petersen collection and is now offered for sale by Tony Galazan at Connecticut shotguns for $75,000. Unfortunately the image is so bad I cannot display it. Alternatively we would be pleased to built you a new .410 Detachable Lock, unfortunately not within 4 months, but for $55,000.