There is a famous pub in the old gun quarter called ‘The Gunmakers Arms ‘ which was frequented by many who worked in the Birmingham gun trade. There is a story, possibly apocryphal, about an engraver working in a local gunmakers many years ago who apparently, was very fond of a little liquid refreshment at lunchtime at this public house. During the morning , he had been working on two guns; one a shotgun and the other a double rifle. Mistakenly he had engraved elephants on the shotgun and pheasants on the rifle. After lunch, he staggered back to work and his error was pointed out to him and he was told in no uncertain terms to go and ‘ sort it out’ before the day was over. He was not pleased! At the end of the day, he had just engraved a pair of wings on the elephant and a small trunk on the pheasant……….
It couldn’t happen today…..could it ?
All safety catches are checkered in some way or another to help provide grip . Ease of use and reliability in use are a prerequisite for this small but important part of a gun. The movement backwards is usually automatic upon opening the gun, so the design must facilitate this sliding catch being pushed forward.
The Westley Richards design is one of uniqueness in that there is a good length behind the button which together with the two widely spaced lugs below make for a smooth and precise action. The large high button at the front provides a larger than average area for grip and its height allows the thumb additional purchase when pushing forwards.
A significant difference is in the treatment of the button. My own nickname for this is the ‘Westley woodlouse’ ( pillbug or rolypoly in the US ) . Instead of cross hatched checkering, all the sharp grooves are cut at right angles to the direction of travel, giving the appearance of this attractive well known small creature.
These are not just decorative lines, but are deep enough to do a real job under all circumstances. They give maximum grip under the thumb and ensure easy operation with a sweaty thumb or when wearing heavy gloves. It may not be the end of the world when a less than efficient safety catch design means the loss of a bird, but faced with a very large angry beast at close quarters the story could be very different.
The gold name gun is pure gunmaking, a naked gun with no engraving to hide the flaws. I have always admired and liked these guns very much, it is quite nice to have a rest from all the engraving and just see the gun as what it is intended, a tool for shooting birds.
I recall well a lesson given to me by the infamous David Winks of Holland & Holland at a Sotherby’s auction when I first started in this trade. David kindly showed me around all the guns offered at the auction, sharing his experience, and explaining all the traps that I would encounter when buying at auction. When we came across a Greener 8g with only name engraving, nothing else, his eyes lit up and he explained the making of such guns and how they were in fact, much harder to make than the engraved ones. Every part had to be perfectly finished to receive either the case colour or the charcoal blue.
Rarely have I seen an example of our Gold Name gun, which is naked besides the name in gold block, in such nice condition with its colour worn off where handled but remaining where not.
David Winks was a Director of Holland & Holland and possibly one of the most knowledgeable men I have met during my years in the gun trade. David posses a wealth of knowledge both in antique and sporting arms. In the years before Chanel took over Holland & Holland, Westley Richards and Holland & Holland cooperated actively together in many ways, primarily in the India dealings but also in many other areas. These were the days when the gunmakers understood who they were and worked together, something completely lost when the corporate takeovers of Purdey and Hollands took place and the accountants took over.
Part of the “fruits” of my 3 weeks in USA more to come shortly! Please visit our used gun site for further details. These guns are all in unfired as new condition and are listed individually.
Certain guns just seem to have ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is. I guess a combination of perfect barrel making, actioning, file up, stocking, engraving and finishing. When you combine all this with unmolested patina you have a great gun and this Boss & Co. 12g over and under is such a gun.
Part of the reason that it has probably remained in such nice condition is that it is a left hand opening gun. Even left handed people don’t know how to use a left hand opening gun it seems nowadays, they have adapted to using right handed ones. So with no demand it seems a perfect reason to keep it in the safe and enjoy it!
A nice reference for any budding engravers who seem these days to race past the basics and try to go to the game scenes and carving too quickly. Rose and scroll such as this is timeless and so few people can actually do it any more to a standard such as this. Click on the photo to enlarge it.
When I passed the old farm in Montana last week I grabbed a photograph before a high wind blew it all away. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the CLA gamefair today to see it transformed into the James Purdey exhibition stand opposite ours. Anyone who can explain to me the thinking behind the worlds most exclusive brand of luxury bespoke shotguns displaying their goods from a shack, along with an old rusty land rover, a brown tent and some old fencing please, please enlighten me.
We look forward to welcoming customers old and new to our stand P0569 on Gunmakers Row and to showing you our complete range of bespoke shotguns and rifles and hand crafted leather goods. All the team will be at the show and look forward to meeting you.
We will also have a full range of Courteney boots available for you to try on and buy at the CLA Game Fair. Customers will receive 10% off any pair of Courteney boots when this post is mentioned.
Our full range of hand made leather goods will be on display and customers ordering any leather goods at the show will receive free initialling worth £30.00
A few of the guns that will be on display at the game fair.
Visit the Westley Richards stand on GUNMAKERS ROW at the CLA Game Fair for the opportunity to win one of three prizes from John Field; the Hurricane coat, the only full-length shooting coat which protects you from the weather, wherever in the world you are shooting, the Everest insulated jacket, or the Kenya waterproof blanket.
We are delighted to be presenting this new collection of technical, functional clothing from John Field. Designed for shooting, we believe that each piece is truly fit for purpose. Just drop your email address in at our stand and we will enter you into this exclusive free prize draw.
David McKay Brown has, in my opinion, been the most successful independent gunmaker in modern times. From his workshops north of Glasgow, far away from all the politics of gunmaking down south in England, David has consistently, year after year, produced a superb Over and Under and Side by Side game gun based on a classic Scottish round body, trigger plate action. The McKay gun is a gun to be used, David is not one of the small makers making a handful of guns which are never shot or used in the field, these are not ego guns, they are sporting guns.
David runs his business from the bench, is rarely seen at any of the shows now ( a waste of time) which is a shame, he was always the life and soul of the parties. He spends his time now making guns with his small team to satisfy the prolific demand and when the Grouse season starts he takes a break and starts using them. A fiercely independent maker in total control of every aspect of his gunmaking but also generous with his advice on ways he has found to do things better and make the business work.
These are the first McKay Brown guns we have had for sale at Westley Richards and if I can’t sell them I will no doubt be putting in a call to Glasgow!