For any of you who travelled to the London gunshops during the days when Asprey had their gunroom on Albermarle Street, the face of Tony Pritchard will perhaps be a familiar one. Tony was the manager of the gunroom floor at Asprey for the full duration of its existence, about 16 years. Opened whilst under the control of the Asprey family in the early 1990’s, ownership by the Sultan of Brunei followed for a short period and the gunroom was finally closed down in 2005, under the then new owner Lawrence Stroll, himself a keen shot and sportsman.
Tony, like myself, worked for Oceaneering, the American based diving company prior to entering the “Gun Trade”. Having decided to end his diving career, which included a record depth decent, Tony headed for London and worked for J C Field & Stream, a company based in Fulham, London. It was a beautiful shop and became the agent in London for Westley Richards for some time. Unfortunately the business didn’t last too long and following this I helped Tony gain the position in Asprey.
It was really very nice to meet up with Tony last week at his home in the South of France where he now runs a small guest house “La Theroniere”with his wife Kate or ‘KDP’ as she is called. Stop by if you are in the area and Tony will entertain you with endless stories of his years at Asprey selling guns to the more interesting states of the world.
The Birmingham firm of Westley Richards is one well known to all with an interest in arms: a firm established in 1812 by William Westley Richards, surviving the passage of time and is still with us today.
Westley Richards took over the management of the firm from his father in 1840 and ran it until his retirement in 1872. He was undoubtedly one of the most successful of the British gunmaker inventors of the period. When we look at the records of the British Patent office we find that between the years 1855 and 1872 alone he obtained no less than 17 major patents relating to firearms and many of these protected more than one invention. One of them No 633 of 1858 related to the design of the famous capping breech loader affectionately known as the “Monkey Tail”.
A capping breech loader is one of those transitional breech loading systems developed in the mid-nineteenth century, it is a gun loaded at the breech but fired by means of a percussion cap placed on an external nipple. It is one of the stages that firearms design passed through before development of the metallic self-contained center-fire cartridge.
The Monkey Tail is an arm that I am sure needs no introduction to readers of our list, an arm well know and sought after by collectors worldwide. It was without doubt the most successful of all British made capping breech loaders. The British War Office was to adopt it for cavalry issue and purchased over 2000 carbines direct from the inventor, a further 19,000 were made at the Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield under licence. Substantial numbers of rifles were also obtained for infantry troop trials, and further experiments were carried out with Pattern 1853 Enfield rifles converted to breech loading by this system. The military authorities of the day seriously considered adopting it as the first standard issue breech loading rifle of the army. Curiously this honour was given to the Mont Storm another capping breech loader in 1865, and then being passed to the Snider, when it was found the Mont Storm skin cartridges were to fragile to be practical for military use.
A testament to the success of the Monkey Tail in government service is the fact that it was not declared obsolete until 1881. An advertisement circulated by Westley Richards in the late 1860’s lists the following governments and units which purchased and used arms of this design.
Here is our latest knife creation, a classic hunting knife sporting a 4″ blade. Each knife we are now producing is individually hand made and follows traditional lines executed to the highest standard. If you have a design in mind that you would like us to execute then please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
James Sutherland Sat On One Of The Many Elephant He Shot With His Westley Richards .577 ‘One’ Trigger Droplock Double Rifle
The Escutcheon Engraving On Sutherlands .577 WR Sutherlands Classic Book From 1912
James Sutherlands .577 WR Serial Number 16650
Depending on your own historical tastes there are many great hunters from the world of big game hunting in Africa. These include classics such as William Cotton Oswell, F.C.Selous, W.D.M.Bell and my own favourite James Sutherland.
Sutherland was born in 1872 and after arriving in Africa late in the 1890’s turned his hand to becoming a full time professional elephant hunter. This could not have been a more opportune time to embark on such a career as not only were there still great elephant herds to be found throughout Africa, but it marked the beginning of the nitro express age.
Luckily for Westley Richards, Sutherland decided that he would be a patron of the company and amongst the various rifles ordered his most famous is certainly the one ordered in 1906, one ‘best quality W.R double hammerless ejector rifle fitted with one trigger and hand detachable locks .577 bore.’
As a calibre quickly adopted by Westley Richards at the turn of the last century the .577 3″ Nitro Express was real firepower for the professional elephant hunter. The fact that Sutherland ordered it with ‘One’ trigger really says something about his faith in the company and its products. To this day we are still building one trigger double rifles, as well as plenty of .577’s.
Today Sutherlands rifle holds pride of place at Westley Richards and always creates quite a stir when produced for the discerning big game hunter. Few individuals get access to such famous rifles as most are in private collections and extremely valuable. This one always draws the question ‘I wonder what stories this rifle could tell?’
Sutherland saw his years out as a professional elephant hunter to the very end. He passed away in 1932 in his beloved Africa and with him went one of the last of the great elephant hunters. Thankfully his fantastic book of 1912 and his wonderful rifle remain as a reminder of the man.
Every once in a while we get a query regarding the Westley Richards .318 ‘Square’ shoulder cartridge. In all the years that I have been involved with Westley Richards I have only ever seen a couple of examples of both the ammunition and rifles including one double rifle chambered for the round. Its history and reason for introduction has always been a bit of a mystery, until now.
Recently Robert Wegele a cartridge collector in the USA contacted me asking what I knew about the square shoulder round. As usual I responded that we had no information about it and that the round was a rare modification. Robert thanked me for my kind response and that was that. However a couple of months later and Robert kindly forwarded me the attached pamphlet which in turn came from another collector Bill Fleming.
The pamphlet is self explanatory so I don’t need to labour on about its content. What it does establish for me is why the design probably never became hugely popular. It came to the market in 1914 the year the Great War began. Westley Richards moved massively into War production and so the ‘improved’ case came at a time when other interests were of far more importance. After the Great War it was probably forgotten as industry slumped.
Hopefully for those of you lucky enough to own a square shoulder .318, this pamphlet from our friends across the pond goes a long way to clearing up the mystery.
New to Westley Richards are the new range of traditional ‘Dealer’ boots from Sowerby of England. The Sowerby family has been crafting boots since 1927 when brothers Arthur and William opened their first shoe and repair shops in the Midlands.
Still a family run business, the third generation of Sowerbys are committed to supplying Dealer boots that combine quality, reliability and style that remain original to the founders manufacturing traditions.
Whether in the country or the town the quintessential Dealer boot should be a staple in every mans boot room.
We hunt because we love it, but why do we love it so?
As an inherited instinct, hunting is deeply rooted in human nature. Around the world in all cultures the urge to hunt awakens in boys. They use rocks, make weapons or sneak an air gun out of the house to kill a bird or small mammal. In many cases the predatory instinct appears spontaneously without previous experience or coaching, and in the civilized world boys often hunt despite attempts to suppress their instinct.
The fundamental instinct to hunt may link up with the spiritual. An analogy is falling in love, in which eros, the sexual instinct, connects with agape or spiritual love, a vertical convergence of lower with higher. Initiation on the path of love changes our life irreversibly. Henceforth, we shall know the meaning of authentic love experienced with the totality of our being.
Hunting is how we fall in love with nature. The basic instinct links up with the spiritual, and the result is that we become married to nature. Among outdoor pursuits, hunting and fishing connect us most profoundly with animals and nature. As Robert Bly said in his best-selling book, Iron John, only hunting expands us sideways, “into the glory of oaks, mountains, glaciers, horses, lions, grasses, waterfalls, deer.
“ Hunting is a basic aspect of a boy’s initiation into manhood. It teaches him the intelligence, beauty and power of nature. The young man also learns at a deep emotional level his inseparable relationship with nature as well as his responsibility to fiercely defend it.
This was the first set of advertisements we did under the art direction of Colin Townsend back in 1998 and still looking relevant today, Colin was responsible for design and layout of In Pursuit of the Best Gun. These were done to promote our entry into USA with our own shop, in Missouri at that time. We photographed the backgrounds first, printed them in black & white and then laid product on for the individual shots. Quite a lengthy process in the days before digital photography. A set of photographs I always feel set a standard for our future advertising.
We desire to apologise to our world-wide customers for what may perhaps appear to have been lack of attention in dealing with orders entrusted to us during the war, now happily over and won, and with that thought in our minds we take this opportunity of setting forth the reasons such orders may not have been executed, and in some cases vague replies given in response to enquiries regarding same.
We venture to hope that a perusal of this leaflet will set this matter right and show that the personal attention given to all our customers requirements in pre-War days has only been suspended during the War by Force Majeure, and that in the days to come the same care, and attention, and enthusiasm, which customers requirements- however varied- always received, will again be bestowed.
In the early days of the War our ordinary Sporting Gun Trade was shut down. We sought to find how our factory could be helpful. We received an urgent order from the government to convert ten thousand Service Rifles to a modern type for the use of our Army. This involved certain new machinery, alterations to our factory, and the employment of all our highly skilled labour – and early and late working – for the rifles were badly needed.
The work was exacting and tedious. A government Inspection Department was set up in our works to examine and view the new components needed and made by us, as well as the altered parts in course of manufacture.
The work was carried out successfully by us, and “we delivered the goods.”
Yesterday, I went on a ‘boys day’ out to Graz in Austria, home of the Mercedes G Class development and manufacture. There, we had a tour of the Steyr-Puch manufacturing plant, who build the vehicle in association with Mercedes. We were shown the 4×4 & 6×6 versions being assembled in all its various guises, commercial, military and AMG variations of the G Class are all built on the same immaculate production line, staffed by people who take pride in the ‘hand built’ qualities of the vehicle, some of whom had been on the line for 22 years.