A Pair of Westley Richards 28g Droplock Shotguns and below a single action from pair.
Everyone is happy in the factory when the guns pass their final inspections at the end of the month and get packed up to be sent or delivered to the customer. I am sure the customer is delighted also, especially in the case of this pair of Ovundo’s which are 2 of only a handful (12) of these guns that we are making, the order book for these was opened and closed within an hour, a moment of stupidity on my behalf some years ago at SCI convention! That said I am very pleased that we did make these guns again, even in very limited numbers and I think the team in the factory have done a magnificent job on making them unique and special for those that had an order.
This pair of 28g droplock shotguns have also come out very well and I hope these guns will be tested against the English game in the coming season.
A Pair of Westley Richards 20g ‘Ovundo’ Single Selective Trigger Droplock Shotguns and below a single action from the pair.
The end of the shooting season in England is always followed for a few months after, with the steady influx of “I am hanging up my guns, guns”, the guns belonging to people who have either decided to hang up their guns permanently or those trading in for something new for the coming season. Here, for those on the lookout for a new gun or pair for their next season, is a small selection which is going on the Westley Richards Used Gun Site in the next few days .
A Cased Pair of Westley Richards Sidelock Ejector Guns
My intention this evening was to do a short interview with my father prior to his birthday evening celebrations. I arrived at the family home early with a camera and some cryptic questions on his early days at the company. There are not that many people around now who were active in the English gun trade in the mid 1950’s, not many able to recall what the trade was like in the years after the war, and I have never asked the questions. Anyway I was promptly told to stop being so stupid, sort out his apple laptop, check the work done on his roof and then discuss how I can help dispose of his vast collection of Indian photographs. No talking shop!
My father purchased the majority shareholding of Westley Richards in 1957 for £2000 and invested a further £12,000 in the company at that time to get it back on its feet. Subsequent to that he invested years of hard work to keep the company making guns and rifles with a full compliment of gunmaking staff. I think only those in positions running gunmaking companies will appreciate what an achievement it was to take Westley Richards through the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s on into the 90’s.
WAC waiting on a day bed in India for an appointment with a Maharajah. C1965
Every year since 1960 has involved a trip or two to India, I would imagine 2 months a year for 54 years have been spent in India searching for guns, and more recently photographs ( he returned after his 3 month trip last week ) some 10 years in total! Countless rifles have been repatriated to England restored to their former glory, and put back into use all over the world. These guns were sold annually at the Las Vegas Antique Arms show where customers were like “bees around a honey pot” fighting for the new stock from the East.
WAC at Las Vegas Antique Arms 1970’s.
Many amazing firearms passed through the business and kept the company alive during the days of low/no demand for new guns and rifles. A time of the rebuilding of the gunmaking skills after the losses of the war to put us where we are today. No small achievement.
Anyway I think on behalf of everyone here at Westley Richards thank you, congratulations and Happy Birthday. I will get to the interview later!
The ‘Boutet Gun’ was a speculative gun built by Westley Richards in the mid 1980’s. The gun was a 12g pinless sidelock commissioned by my father Walter Clode. The Boutet style was designed in the style of Nicolas Noel Boutet (French, Versailles and Paris, 1761-1833) for the gun by Hew Kennedy. Hew, a family friend, partnered my father on many of his deals in India over the years, is both a very talented restorer and very knowledgeable collector of antiques, especially of fine arms and armour. The commission was faultlessly executed by the then mostly unknown but now infamous ‘Brown Brothers’.
I recall clearly a visit home from the oil field when I went to my fathers house and saw the gun delivered for the first time completed by Alan and Paul, I remember the pride and excitement of all parties. The work was truly amazing then and remains truly amazing to this day. I can quite understand the designs perhaps not being to everybody’s taste, but the quality of the work is undeniable.
Incorporated into the gun there is every kind of technique an engraver can draw upon, flush gold work, sculpted gold, carved steel, sculpted silver, fine engraving, inlaid gemstones, carved woodwork, the list seems endless. This work took Alan and Paul a full year, they groan now even thinking about the effort! Alan was full time and I think Paul part time but not sure how part time, he was teaching also at this time. This was the single largest commission the brothers have ever undertaken and I have always thought, wished perhaps, they would do another work of the same scale at least, preferably more!
After the euphoria of having the gun delivered came the need to sell it and I remember this not going quite to plan. The Middle Eastern market had been targeted as the place to sell it and the London firm of Asprey was asked to assist, but this didn’t work out. I am sure at this point my father was in a near state of panic, the gun had cost an enormous amount of money (at the time) for a single gun, especially by this company, and it was not something that could remain unsold for long. Quite by chance an Englishman came to the factory, saw the gun, and purchased it immediately. It then remained essentially unseen ( as he had requested no photographs so only those few taken by the Browns existed) and untouched until the gentleman’s death, at which point we were able to purchase the gun back from the family. The gun is here now and we show it to very, very, few people, Vic Venters being the last and which brought the gun back to my mind for this post!
An Original Boutet Flintlock Rifle at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A very common question we are asked by the first time African Safari hunter is “what do we need to take”. The list can of course be endless and depends very much on how much or how little baggage you want to take with you. Rifle cases and ammunition boxes add immediate extra pieces of luggage so it is wise to think about what you need well before you go and take only what is necessary.
The most important item besides the rifles and ammunition is the footwear you will hunt in. You need to be 100% sure these are comfortable and fit well before you travel. Don’t make the mistake I have made, taking new custom boots and ending up incapacitated with massive blisters. Use good socks and wash them before you travel, again not new ‘off the rack’. We have recommended the Falke LR socks for years and they have proved totally reliable.
Take something to protect your rifle with on the vehicle and something to clean it with like a bore snake, this you should have with you in your day pack. A sling is often insisted upon so the rifle is carried muzzle up, not pointing at the PH’s back. I know many PH’s who won’t hunt without the client using a sling.
Laundry will be done daily so you don’t need an abundance of clothes. Remember early mornings are often freezing mornings so take warm layers you can easily peel off as the day heats up. Again wash your clothes in advance and take items made of good quality cloth. Heat, long walks and running = sweat and can = chaffing, so take some cream also!
Don’t forget sunglasses and a good hat, a little first aid kit and also blister packs, suntan cream, insect spray and eye drops as it is very dusty. Malaria pills if travelling to those areas are essential.
A back up camera is a good idea, take a prime and a small spare digital should disaster strike before you get your major trophy!
We are always happy to advise on what items we find have worked and those we found haven’t so please do not hesitate to call us if we can help. Have a great trip!
When the gunmakers J Rigby & Co. left the UK in 1997 for USA it was indeed a sad day in English gunmaking history. I don’t think any of us could have foreseen quite how badly the famous name would be used. The company entered a period of gunmaking that I am sure everyone would prefer to forget. This period was also notable for confusion about the ownership of the name Rigby and many other things which I am sure annoyed many people not least the true Rigby enthusiasts.
The company has now entered a new lease of life under the direction of Marc Newton and Patty Pugh, now on her 2nd Rigby revival. With new premises in London and the backing of the mighty Mauser name the company has hit the ground running at the early annual shows in the USA and IWA. The famous 416 Rigby bolt action rifle was of course built on the Magnum Mauser action so this is an appropriate marriage and they are leading the charge with a very competitively priced modern 416 Rigby built on a Magnum ‘Mauser’ action.
The return of Rigby to this country is excellent news for the English Gun trade as a whole. Rigby is one of the greatest names in our Gunmaking history and we are certainly glad to see them back.
A .256 Bissell Rising Bite Sidelock Ejector
A .275 No.2 Spade Head Sidelock Ejector
A .470 Sidelock Ejector Showing Bissell Rising Bite
A few years ago I was introduced to the art of John Seerey-Lesterby one of my customers who also very kindly gave me a limited edition copy of his book Legends of the Hunt. I had seen some of the artists work before, but always at Safari Club, a venue where I am in a constant rush, so never managed to spend the time to look properly.
For me these small paintings are reminiscent of the photographs I have collected over the years, they tell a story, capture the mood of the outdoors, the hunt itself and the camp fire afterwards. I encourage those who are also not familiar withJohn’s work to visit his website for a look and perhaps add his wonderful work “Legends of the Hunt“ to your libraries.
It is always nice to welcome ‘gun enthusiasts’ through our doors and author Vic Venters certainly falls within this category. Vic is senior editor of Shooting Sportsmanmagazine, the author of 2 books, Gun Craft and The Best of British and an avid and enthusiastic wing shooter. Currently on a ‘European Tour’ visiting craftsmen and gunmakers, Vic spent the day here at Westley Richards talking at length with members of the gunmaking staff as well as suffering an hour of my ramblings and opinion of the gun trade today!
Those of you who know Vic’s column in Shooting Sportsman will know of his desire to get the individual craftsmen, who are involved in the making of best guns, recognised in their own right, a job he does extremely well I might add, with articles focusing on the pool of individual craftsman and talents we all rely upon, the sum of which add up to the making of the individual best guns which are available today by the various makers.
Here at Westley Richards, Vic looked at both ends of the lifecycle of the gunmaker, he took Ken Halbert back to his early days when he entered the gun trade 60 years ago, and learned of his journey making guns up to this day. Following on from this he visited with the young men here at the factory who are starting a similar journey, those at the beginning of their apprenticeship with much to learn and many guns to build. We all look forward to seeing the fruits of his visit in future articles.
From 1902 – 1910 Bell hunted in East Africa. This led him through British East Africa, Uganda, Ethiopia and The Lado Enclave. In 1911 he moved to West Africa (Liberia) where there were no regulations on hunting elephants or other species. On this trip he left his Mauser 7mm at home and brought with him a Westley Richards .318, at the end of six months he had shot twenty-seven elephants. Bell served as a pilot in the 1914 – 1918 war and after the war he went back to Africa to the Ivory Coast where he shot quite a few large elephants with his .318. After the Ivory Coast he was joined by his old friend, Wynne Eyton and they moved to Northern Cameroon. Bell took his .318, Eyton took a .450 NE by Rigby and a .318 Westley Richards. On this trip the elephants were scarce but Bell was able to kill enough to cover the expense of the expedition. This was to be Bell’s last elephant hunt in Africa, as he then moved permanently to his estate in Scotland.
Bell was an exceptional shot and was said to be able to shoot cormorants in flight with the .318, he often mentioned the .318 with its 250grn Bullet. In total he shot 983 Elephants.
Major G. H. Anderson
In 1907 Anderson went to British Somaliland in East Africa with the intention of hunting Lion. He put out bait and armed with a .450 NE awaited the arrival of a Lion. As night fell a Lion finally appeared, Anderson fired at it in poor light conditions and only wounded it. At first light he followed the spoor and drops of blood. They suddenly came upon the Lion, Anderson fired at it with the right barrel but again wounded it and the Lion charged him. Holding his nerve he waited until the Lion was at short range and then gave it the left barrel in the chest. Unfortunately this failed to stop the Lion and it was on Anderson in a flash. The Lion gave Anderson a tremendous bite on his right knee and knocked him over, it then took him by the thigh and shook him before proceeding to claw him all over. His gun bearer was able to shoot it again with a second rifle, it let go of Anderson and fell dead a few yards away.
In 1912 he met James Sutherland and they became life long friends. Between 1912 – 1913 they where issued a license for forty elephants which must have been interesting for Anderson who had never shot an elephant in his life! Sutherland must have advised him to have a .577 NE, which was Anderson’s favourite caliber in later years, he also used a .318 Westley Richards and a .470 NE. These three calibres remained the most satisfactory for him until the end of his hunting activities. Anderson’s first elephant had tusks of 109 and 112 pounds. During this hunt Anderson and Sutherland bagged their forty elephants and obtained 5,511 pound of ivory an average of 136 pound per elephant. Curiously the last elephant Anderson bagged thirty-four years later in April 1946 in Northern Kenya also had tusks over 100 pounds each. Sutherland died in 1932 when he was sixty; he bequeathed his property to Anderson including his Westley Richards .577 and .318. Anderson shot between 350 and 400 elephant. He also founded the East African Professional Hunters Association and wrote the book African Safaris.
Grogan came out to British East Africa in 1905 and started hunting in The Lado Enclave in 1907. He was the brother of the famous Col. Ewart S Grogan who walked from the Cape to Cairo between 1898 – 1899. Grogan was very interested in trying out calibers against elephant some suitable and others more controversial like the .256 Mannlicher and the .280 Ross. He also tried the. 450 NE but finally settled on a .318 Westley Richards and a .577 Westley Richards both of which he used until the end of his days as an Ivory Hunter. He shot between 250 and 300 elephant.
In 1909 Longden went to The Lado Enclave, right from the start he got excellent trophies his best was an enormous elephant with tusks of 141 and 139 pounds which he shot in 1911. He once wounded an elephant which charged him and was unable to stop it with the 450 NE he was using. The elephant caught him and began to batter him, and his gun bearer managed to kill it with a brain shot from the .318 Westley Richards. He was in a critical state and so carried across the Nile to the post of Wadelai where he died. He shot between 60 – 70 elephant.
Dennis D. Lyell in his book The African Elephant and its Hunters 1924 writes ‘if I was going back to hunt in Africa I would buy a couple of .318 Mauser Action Magazine Rifles, for I believe this is a perfect size as an all round rifle and notwithstanding the critics who have not always had practical experience as a backing to their opinions, I am no believer in heavy rifles which are usually somewhere in the rear when most wanted’.
James H. Sutherland
In a chapter in his book The Adventures Of An Elephant Hunter Sutherland gives a brief summary of the rifles he used. At the start of his activities in Mozambique in 1898 he used a .303 Military Rifle and later a Mauser 10.75 mm, .450 and .500 NE. Finally he brought a .577 NE and a .318 Magazine Rifle from Westley Richards. The .577 was a best grade double rifle with Westley Richards patent hand detachable lock’s, snap action lever work and single selective trigger. In 1912 he sent both rifles back to Westley Richards to be cleaned, in his letter he wrote ‘Perhaps it may interest you to know that I have shot 322 males out of a total of 447 Elephants with your most excellent rifles some of which I got from you over ten years ago. 223 of these fell to the .577 I think you will find the rifling as good as ever’. Once Sutherland began to use the .577 and the .318 he never felt the need for any other rifles. He also wrote in his book ‘the double barreled .577 which I have used for several years and found admirable in every detail was built for me by Westley Richards & Co. of Bond Street. The construction of the locks are excellent and simple to a degree, so that should anything go wrong there is no difficulty in instantly detaching the lock by hand and replacing it with a duplicate. The single trigger and ejectors on this rifle have on no occasion failed to act. In open country, against Elephants and Rhinoceroses where the quarry is difficult to approach and long shots are often required I find that I can do all that is requisite with the .318 using of course, solid nickel covered bullets. Throughout his life Sutherland shot between 1,300 and 1,600 elephants.
Acknowledgement. Elephant Hunters by Tony Sanchez-Arino. Available from Safari Press