People who have visited our factory and toured the workshops will have been shown the set of parts from which our guns are made. It is the starting point of every tour we give as they are the starting point of every gun we make. The set of parts illustrated above is for a 28g hand detachable lock with single selective trigger, one pair of locks, tip and toe plates and a woodward style grip.
These parts are made for us by Westley Engineering as and when the various orders come in, each set is gun or rifle specific and includes all the options that the customer has requested. We do not hold any stock of parts but rather manufacture specific parts to each individual order, thus using the very latest drawings allowing us to deliver the very latest developments.
These parts are all made using primarily 3 CNC machines, Milling, Wire EDM and Die Sink EDM, we also use traditional lathe and surface grinders. A full set of parts takes between 250 – 300 hours of both manned and unmanned machine time.
Over the next months I hope to show you how these parts are transformed from the machining we receive, to the final component used in the gun.
I have revisited the pages of The Explora over the past few evenings, enjoying the broad range of posts and articles while taking a closer look at the photography. While scrolling back through the months I find myself slowing and paying closer attention to certain categories more than others among the various articles. However, it is primarily those of the Gunmakers as individuals and as a group that I find myself dwelling on. In various posts and articles, respect and recognition has been given to the folks at Westley Engineering, St. Ledger, tube providers, barrel blackers, and others rightly so. All of them ‘best quality’ compatible providers of absolutely critical components and elements to the whole of gunmaking.
That being said, ultimately a craftsman will begin work with parts and pieces. This will be a person who will have a defined scope of work to accomplish, and all the other work that is to be done forward in the sequence of production, will be dependent on the quality of his initial work. He is laying the foundation for all of the qualities that must exist in the resulting gun or rifle, qualities that all the other work will be built upon. Now it is clear that this is a well-organized process and that there is an astounding level of inner dependence among them. Considering the many functions that must take place, this is quite an orchestration, much more symphony than chamber music. Many hands creating a bespoke gun or rifle built to a historic standard.
I can imagine there is an amazing level of trust that must exist from function to function and person to person. These men accept a burden of continuing and extending a 200 year tradition and standard of excellence. They could be fulfilling a persons lifelong dream, interpreting a collector’s vision, repairing an heirloom, building a tool for a professional or all of these. But to these standards and quality, given the history and legacy, never are they just making a gun. In a kitchen it is said, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” In this instance of gunmaking the result is beyond the sum of the parts. It is remarkable that each person will only have a certain function, a piece or percentage of the total effort, yet they will each play a critical role in achieving such a refined outcome.
More than once, in fact dozens of times at various shows over the years I have overheard or been asked, ‘but how could it cost that much?’ A reasonable question, most likely and usually from someone who may own firearms or be an outdoors person but lacking any exposure to the kind of gun or rifle they are now seeing. It is an opportunity to share a little and certainly hope to instill an appreciation beyond the price!
I know of no better way to attempt to answer their question than with this quote from “The Antiquary”.
‘It’s no fish ye’re buying, its men’s lives’ – Sir Walter Scott (c. 1816)
Having only landed back in England yesterday after the Las Vegas show, our show season continues. From Friday we will be found with our guns, rifles, leather goods and clothing at the The British Shooting Show in Warwickshire. Amongst the rifles that we will have on display at the show is ‘The India Rifle’ which represents the largest engraving commission we have placed in recent years and was a full years work by an individual engraver.
We very much hope that some of you will take the time to visit us at Stoneleigh Park over the weekend. The show is open daily from 8.30am – 4.30pm Friday, Saturday & Sunday.
Here at the factory we have two of HH The Maharaja of Alwar’s 1920’s ‘Ovundo’ double rifles. Each of the rifles were formerly part of sets, I have rifle No. 3 in .400/.350 and rifle No 2 in .240 Flanged Magnum. Each rifle is easily distinguished as Alwar’s by the presence on the top lever of his coronet, this was inlaid to every gun we built for His Highness. Additionally the Alwar rifles are always notable for the presence of tangent or ladder sights, which on these 2 rifles are sighted out to an optimistic 600yds.
‘Ovundo’ rifles are very scarce, I am not quite sure how many we made, but I know it was only a few. I think they possibly ‘had some issues’ especially when a novelty, which they were in the early 20’s, then also in the hands of passionate hunter who had an abundant supply of ammunition and targets on which to use them, a severe testing ground for a new product.
I have seen, from correspondence from Alwar’s private secretary, that the rifles initially had ejection and striker problems when first used and that they were soon returned to England for proper testing and repair. The rifles I know were initially made in an extreme hurry, they only just made the boat to India when HH returned, a condition at the time of the order and were presumably not shot nearly enough to resolve issues they may have had. That said, HH liked very much the handling of the new rifles and although disappointed with the problems of the first rifles, he ordered more, having confidence the problems would be soon resolved, which they no doubt were.
And lastly no, we will not be taking orders for these any time soon!
Mentioning the word Rigby seems to raise tension with some readers, as seen in the previous post where I commented about the girls at their SCI party. So here to placate the Rigby fans is a rare and very old rising bite rifle in (I believe!) .256 Mannlicher, if anyone can date and confirm the calibre I would be grateful. The rifle has a very bulbous barrel contour to suit the bottleneck cartridge and it also, unusually, has a wooden top rib which is attached from below with a series of screws. I have never seen this before.
For anyone unfamiliar with the Rigby Rising bite following are a few shots of it both open and closed. Rigby are currently re-introducing the rising bite rifle and had their first production model at the Safari Club this year, it was being stocked whilst at the exhibition.
The rising bite ‘for and against’ discussion is an ongoing one. The Rigby purists and enthusiasts believe it is the “Holy Grail” of top fastening systems, others believe it was dropped in preference to the dolls head when the larger and more powerfull nitro express cartridges in .470 and larger became more widely used. No doubt time will tell, now that new rifles are being made in this format. We will find out if it was dropped for strength reasons or just because it was too difficult to make.
The .256 Männlicher ( 6.5 x 53mmR ) was a military bottleneck cartridge in service in the Netherlands from 1893 – 1945. It sent a 150gr bullet at 2433 ft/sec with 2050 ft/lbf energy. ‘Kiramojo’ Bell was a great admirer of the round and used it in the rimless format to take over 300 Elephants. Whilst Bell is commonly associated with the 7 x 57 or .275, the 6.5 was actually his preferred cartridge.
These pictures show the wooden top rib and its fastening method from underside.
An Elephant passes in the background as Trigger discusses rifles with a client.
It is always very hard to judge how Safari Club has been, every business will judge the show by its own order book, so for some it will have been spectacular and some dreadful. Certainly for Westley Richards business was better than last year, sales of our boots, leather goods and clothing were up significantly. On the gun side of the stand we sold some very nice used guns and took orders for new ones, both shotguns and rifles. I was certainly too busy to get out and get any photographs of the show this year.
The African operators I know and talked to, the bigger operators, appeared to be quiet on the whole but that said, one had a superb show with many bookings, so who knows!
Whilst it does seem that attendance was significantly down from last and previous years, I am sure the organisers will strongly deny that! I personally don’t see a lot of new faces coming to the show, by which I mean first timers, mostly it seems to be people who have attended either for many years or at least for a few. The show unfortunately appears to have lost its buzz, so we will see in future years if that is just a temporary blip or a permanent problem for the organisers.
There was always a good crowd trying on Courteney boots, buying leather and clothes.
And the nicest looking item at the party on the Rigby stand was….? Correct the girls.
So the 2015 Safari Club Convention has come to a close, time for us to pack up and head back home. A sincere ‘thank you’ from all of us at Westley Richards to all those people who visited our booth during the convention to see our guns, rifles and leather goods, and in many cases buy or order them! We appreciate it very much and look forward to welcoming you once again next year.
Here we go again, BA back to Las Vegas! The Safari Club International 2015 Convention starts tomorrow morning, held at the Mandalay Bay Convention centre in Las Vegas. We look forward to welcoming everyone onto our stand there which you will find in the Gunmakers section of the show. We have a great selection of our new guns and rifles, the India Rifle and the Lion Rifle to name a few, ones which you have perhaps seen here on The Explora and can now see in the flesh at the show.
Safe travels to all attending and we look forward to saying hello!
Quite unusual these, a set of 3 fully re-furbished 12g hammer ejector guns by J. Purdey & Sons. The work on these guns was done by J. Purdey and included new barrels, new stocks, and case colour hardening. They are in the condition of new guns and cased in a triple leather case with cover.
I got these guns about 10 or so years ago, they were lying at the time in storage at Purdey’s. The owner of the guns was going through a divorce and had asked Purdey to sell them for him, but they had done nothing about it. On his request, I went down to Purdey and asked to see the guns, Peter Blaine showed them to me along with a pair of Boss 16g side lever guns and a pair of Boss 20g round action guns all owned by the same gentleman, my visit promptly reminded Blaine about the guns, “Oh, I really must do something about these”
I walked out onto South Audley Street, called the owner and gave him a price for the 7 guns, we haggled a bit and the offer was soon agreed and accepted. I walked back into the shop as he called, spoke to Blaine and released the guns to me, which they did, bemused! I walked off with them, stolen, as it were, from right under their eyes!