I had a Scottish reader moaning about the lack of Scottish guns featured on this blog. I did point out that this is an English gunmakers blog so one could probably expect a bias towards English guns and especially our own.
Anyway, as a means of keeping the peace as we run up to our General elections in England, during which the Scottish National Party look to take over England, here are some shots I took in my hotel room of 2 very nice 28g Over and Under Scottish guns by David Mckay Brown which I have just picked up. Both of these guns were engraved in Italy one by Creative Arts and the other by Pedretti.
The 2 unfired guns will shortly be on our used gun site and whilst engraved in different styles the guns are consecutive numbered and have the same measurements.
Nice to see hammer guns and side by sides in the shooting cart.
On Thursday this week, Bill & Mary Kempffer of Deep River Sporting Clays welcome some of the industries best know gunmakers and gun dealers to their property in Sanford NC. The event, The Southern Side by Side championships has been running now since 2000 and is now firmly established in many shooting peoples diary.
Tomorrow I am heading to USA for the weekend in Sanford followed by a road trip through North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas and ending in Texas, Dallas a week later. I look very much forward to meeting old friends at the show and to seeing old clients and trying to wrangle the guns I sold them many years ago out of their safes! I will let you know how I get right here!
Please pass by the Westley Richards stand at Sanford if you are able to attend, I look forward to saying hello!
Guy Bignell of Griffen & Howe giving Daniel Cote a break from his Double Gun Journal stand
Jeremy Musson trying to get some gossip off a reluctant Sam Banner
It was very nice to welcome back to Westley Richards today, the author and historian Jeremy Musson, who came back to the factory today in order to add the finishing touches to a new chapter which will be added to the second edition printing of our bicentennial history ‘In Pursuit of the Best Gun’ which Jeremy wrote for us in 2011.
Jeremy spent time with all the gunmakers, some whom he had met 4 years ago whilst compiling our book in 2011. Jeremy was also introduced to all the new apprentices and workers in the company and asked what made them want to take up this trade. Generally a day was spent seeing how things had developed since he was last here 4 years ago and received a nice compliment from Ken Halbert who said that his book had changed the face of Gunmakers books.
So now the new cover has been selected, the layouts and photographs chosen, the writing is well in hand and we hope to have the revised book to the printer by the end of May, with delivery to customers to start in August, marking the start of our shooting season.
Ken Halbert pointing out the mistakes made in the first edition of the book to Jeremy!
Stewart Richards and Adam Morris explaining to Jeremy how great it is to work here!
In 1949 James Purdey & Sons purchased the gunmaker James Woodward & Sons. I am sure there were other reasons for the purchase, but the main reason was to get the Woodward over and under design in order they could adapt and use it for themselves. Unlike Boss & Co., Purdey had never been successful in developing an elegant, lightweight and strong over and under. They had built a strong over and under but it was heavy, and certainly not elegant.
Vintage woodward over and unders do not seem to appear too often, I have no idea what sort of quantities they made them in but when you do get to see a vintage pair you can quickly understand why Purdey was in a hurry to buy the company. They are a superb looking gun and I believe it was, amongst other things, the stock shape that was responsible for making them look so nice. I say that as I always seem to remember the stock shape of a pair of 20g guns and a pair of 16g guns I saw many years ago in Las Vegas.
This pair of guns sit here in storage, the stocks on the guns at the moment are replacement left hand stocks but we do have the original right hand stocks also. They are a super pair of guns and came from the same collection as the Boss I have featured on this blog before. I can honestly say that that person had a very good eye, and collected some superb guns, I wish he had many more!
A few years ago now, one of the largest individual collectors of new best guns, decided, that none of his future new guns, singles or pairs should be cased. It was a simple decision, one based on the fact that his guns went into a rack in his large gunroom and the cases went into a barn on his property. He paid £6000 or more for a best, custom made oak and leather case with tooling and put it in the barn, probably never to be seen again! 100 new guns, £600,000 of cases in a barn, a sensible decision? Probably not.
If you had asked the Indian Maharajah’s if they were ever going to sell their guns and rifles I am sure they would have said ‘no, never, we love our sport and our guns, we will never sell them’. However it came to be that they did, and in vast numbers. When that time came, we, Westley Richards in the shape of my father were there in India, and we purchased a great deal of them. A frequent question we asked was ‘is it cased or are they cased?” It is a question that I am sure you yourself always ask as a gun buyer, I certainly ask it when I buy and people ask it of me when buying from me, we all actually want a case, when there is a case we will pay more for the gun or it will be the case that just tips the balance when looking at 2 similar guns, one cased the other not.
The Indians often (much like the modern auction house I regret to say) felt that the value achieved of their cased guns was more if they separate the items and so would sell the guns in one deal, the case, possibly to another person, in another deal, finally the tools in yet another deal. I recall very well a fabulous pair of Dixon ML guns we found one year in India, we bought one gun of a pair in 1992 and were then sold the case for the pair in 1993. In 1994 we were offered the tools (for those who know Dixon cases will know the tooling was extensive) Finally in 1995 they then showed us the No2 gun which they had previously denied having, which unfortunately, having been separated from its pair and case during the past few years, had fallen over in their store and the stock was broken. They ended up with about a quarter of the amount they could have got selling the cased pair as a whole!
I have over the years opened a huge amount of gun cases and I tend to buy guns on the first emotion, I open a case, always hoping for a magnificent mint condition find, and they will either just say buy me or perhaps don’t buy me! There is nothing like a great gun or rifle in its original casing. You come to recognise types of cases and you know that should be a Boss, or that should be a pair of Purdey’s, Westley Richards had a very distinct looking case so were easily spotted.
When I started at Westley Richards I always found it very hard to get a great quality case made, there were few makers around and I must say that the situation hasn’t changed much in 30 years. Mr Brady was making cases in Birmingham as was Bryant in London but they were both soon to cease. All the tooling came from Mike Marsh and to this day still does, we are grateful that Mike will still make our tooling, we buy as “much as he can make” knowing one day he will have had enough and turn off his lathe.
I established an in-house case maker quite soon, I think in about 1995 taking on Roland Lane’s case making business, Roland worked for some years on his own in our workshops making our cases and was then joined by Martin & Tracy Jones who were with Brady up until the time they closed. Martin and Tracy continue to work here and together with Witold & Joanna produce all our leather goods in house. It is a part of the business I am very proud of and one I insist that the products always compliments the quality of the guns we make.
Westley Richards leather department offer many sorts of cases, all are made for the individual gun and can be from a lightweight canvas case to oak and leather covered with alligator and anything in-between, we make flat cases and motor cases. We also hold quite a good stock of old cases which can be refitted to suit a vintage gun if needed.
So, should you case a new gun? Yes, I believe you should, It will one day come to market and you or one of your family will certainly get better value. The case will keep all the parts together and protect it over the years, the case will help the gun retain condition. It is I think a very important part of the gun, I appreciate it is expensive but I feel it is almost actually essential.
Above is a selection of cases made in the Westley Richards leather workshops over the years.
The Leica shop in Mayfair were kind enough to lend me a couple of lenses for my camera this week when mine packed up, they sent me a replacement 120mm and their Tilt Shift lens to try on the camera. It will take me some time getting to grips with the Tilt Shift lens no doubt but it can take some rather extraordinary views of a gun! It may look a little odd but it certainly puts another perspective on the shots as you can see above. I hope with a little more practise I can get the peacock on the butt-plate and the elephant in focus!
Today I attended a lunch, held at the London Proof House by The Worshipful Company of Gunmakers and hosted by The Lord Sharman . It was my first ever visit to the London Proof House, I don’t think they normally recieve Birmingham makers! The purpose of the lunch was to raise awareness of the Gunmakers Charitable Trusts need to raise a further £350,000 in order to finance ongoing bursaries to support young gunmaker apprentices coming into this trade. It is a scheme devised to help all levels of skilled craftsmen take on an apprentice and teach them their skills. Support is offered to the one man band and to the larger makers.
I think this is an honourable cause and one worth supporting, the gun trade as a whole certainly needs many more craftsmen than can be possibly generated solely by the larger makers. Training an apprentice is an expensive business and there are very few places left in the world where these skills are still held and can be passed over. Generally the trade is an ageing business and these skills will otherwise be lost. Who will service your gun then!
We took a positive approach on the hiring of apprentices in 2007 when we were moving to our new premises, for sure it has paid dividends and as a business it is essential that we keep developing these skills. However, only about 50% of the intake of apprentices survive the duration, either they give up, we give them up, or they move on to another maker or another type of job.
I know many of the readers are very passionate about the English guns and so with that in mind I ask that you read about the charity and if you feel like helping it would be gratefully received I am sure.
This pledge form can be pulled off the blog on to your desktop! If you should wish to help I would be very pleased to help and answer any questions you may have.
If I was asked to name just one of the classic Westley Richards rifles, a .425 magnum take down bolt action would have to be on the short list. Here is a .425 rifle that has just been completed in our workshops and is now destined for Botswana, to the experienced hands of a young hunter who travels Africa in search of his game.
Presented in a classic, green canvas and leather case, this is a no frills rifle, a practical rifle and one which is destined to hunt hard. For those of you unfamiliar with the calibre the .425 has ‘neck and neck’ ballistics with the .416 Rigby. Rigby would no doubt claim more power but we would object, strongly! The WR cartridge was designed to fit straight into a standard size Mauser action and originally the cartridges were sold in a 5 shot clip, you would load from the clip directly into the 5 shot drop magazine you see here on this rifle.
As you will see from the advertisement at the bottom of the post which is from our 1912 catalogue, we have reproduced the classic lines of the rifle faithfully, the drop box with horn nose which covers the hinge mechanism and the raised side panels with drop points both give this rifle its signature and masculine look.
As I imagine not everyone looks at the comments, I have added this response to the post. It says what I should have said, better than I could have!
Dear Simon, thank you, Exquisite, absolutely.
Sorry, but no 416 can come close! As you say this really is a classic rifle. The late Captain FC Selous would have been impressed. Wonderful to see this superb classic calibre making a comeback. So, we await posts highlighting new bespoke doubles with detachable locks chambering the .425. An earlier post here from your records listed a total of 33 double rifles built in .425 in just over a century.
It is timely to remember that Pondoro Taylor spoke well of this round, in fact he much desired more than just one gun in .425. This he made clear in arguing for a pair of bespoke rifles built to share a single calibre: one a double, the other a magazine, with custom barrel lengths, respectively. Poignantly, Taylor considered Westley Richard’s.425 the ideal calibre for this pair of rifles. It is worth recounting what he wrote in Big Game and Big Game Rifles (pg 207):
“I have often thought that a battery consisting of an open-sighted double .425 (26-inch barrels) and a ‘scope-sighted .425 magazine (25-inch barrel) would take an immense amount of beating for general all-round work amongst dangerous game, and am seriously considering just such a battery when it is possible for me to order a new one.” And one reads the near identical statement on pg 20 in African Rifles and Cartridges. Tragically, Taylor never realized his dream.
I like to term this nucleus of the Ideal Battery – quoting a Taylor chapter title – “Pondoro’s Pair”. Something to save for!
Further, with respect to similar big bores, we should remember the .425’s .435″ diameter bullet – at 410gr – outperforms the .423″ bullet of the highly respected and exhaustively tested .404 Jeffery; arguably, the .425 comes close to the .458s, with 90% of the latter’s cross-sectional area (CSA) and ~15% lighter bullet. But the .425 has the benefits of higher velocity and less recoil, and avoids the foibles of the too-short .458 Winchester “magnum” shell (with propellants etc) – albeit problems solved by the .458 Lott. Obviously, one is then dealing with a full-bore .450. And it is worth reflecting that the widely popular .416 has 8% less CSA.
Okay, I will stop this reply here….and not start on refuting all the silly speak by armchair critics about the rebated rim/barrel length/magazine-springs etc of the .425. This ignorant badmouthing a calibre they are unqualified to judge has been ridiculed by real experts who actually proved the .425 under challenging conditions.
Most grateful thanks to you for enlivening the easter weekend 🙂
Besides a very large and very expensive pile of wood, the only other thing I purchased when I visited the IWA show in Nuremberg earlier this month, was a small collection of vintage leather bags and ephemera. This I bought from a man who was using the items to decorate his stand, he was selling leather coats amongst many other things, his stand was certainly the best dressed stand in the whole of IWA, unfortunately I have lost the photo I took of it. Things were perhaps kind of slow for the stand, so he sold me his props.
Vintage leather has always been very desirable to a leather shop like ours. We are not so much trying to design something new but rather authentically reproduce and reintroduce items which was very well made, nicely detailed, and which had a distinct purpose use, just like this Swiss Army tool roll, a totally practical and nicely presented piece of kit.
Having sourced all the materials to do just that for this tool roll including the correct canvas, I am now left with the dilemma as to exactly what to put in it. I personally always take a small bag of tools and cleaning kit on safari with me, I can strip a rifle, clean a rifle and try and fix a camera with the bits I carry. I think that this roll with the correctly edited contents will make a much nicer piece to take with me on future expeditions.
I wonder if anyone has any bright ideas as to what should or could be included, besides of course the obvious ( essential tools and cleaning kit)? So far a Leatherman, torch, turn-screws, disc key, cocking tool, allen keys, a small cleaning rod, bore snake and various jags come to mind.