If were asked ‘if you were allowed one book on guns’ what would it be question, it would have to be Modern Sporting Gunnery by Henry Sharp. This is a book I seem to buy endless first editions of, and which always get given away or ‘walk’ from my shelves.
Those of you who are not familiar with the book will see from the cover that it is perhaps a little ‘biased’ to Westley Richards, the detachable lock being a feature of the front cover. It is indeed so and with reason that Leslie Taylor assisted Sharp a great deal with technical aspects of gunmaking in the initial chapters of the book.
Here is a book which in a ‘no nonsense’ manner covers most of what you want to know on shotguns, rifles and their use in the field. All of the information is as relevant today as it was when written in 1906, after all, we are making very much the same guns and rifles now as we were at that time so the process of having a gun made has changed very little in the time that has passed.
Chapters include, Modern shot-guns, shot-gun ammunition, modern sporting rifles, new accelerated express rifles, ball and shot guns, sighting of rifles, sporting bullets, gun fitting, game shooting, wildfowl shooting, shooting abroad and ladies in the field. The writing is technical but in an informative way to the layman, explaining the process of building best guns, the difference between the types of guns, other things that should be made aware of like chokes and gun weights, fitting and all the other options that are available like single triggers and stalking safety, sighting arrangements on rifles etc. It is an excellent, profusely illustrated book and one for every gunroom!
The best place to look for a copy of the book is on abebooks.com and the first editions seem to go from £100 – 200 depending on condition
Under the new direction of Marcus Janssen, who became their editor just over a year ago, Fieldsports magazine has gone from strength to strength and it now sits firmly at the top, being best of all the shooting magazines offered in this country.
Unique I think for this magazine is the diversity of articles that are included and which cover wing-shooting, big game shooting, shotguns, rifles, fishing and dogs amongst other things which interest the field-sportsman. There is literally something for everyone, all informative, well written and well illustrated.
In this months issue you will find an article written by Marcus on Double Rifles, for us this is very nice to see, it being a subject not often covered in the magazines here in England.
For those of you who have not yet seen this magazine I strongly recommend getting a subscription which you can do here, Fieldsports subscriptions, I am quite sure you will not regret the 6 issues at £29.99 for UK subscribers and £54 ($80) for USA worldwide.
This gun, our first ‘top lever’ gun has been shown in our previous catalogue, our book and in some posts here on the blog. What I have never shown is the whole gun, only a close up of the top lever and butt plate. So here for the first time is a shot of the whole gun. You can pull this photo off the blog and turn it the right way around on your desktop!
We, actually Paul, is currently about 2/3rd of the way through engraving the Africa Rifle, we anticipate completion of that work in about September. The Africa Rifle is the pair .600 rifle to the India Rifle seen above, I have been fully involved with the progress of the Africa rifle and very much like what I see to date. Once again a completely unique new look to an otherwise much rolled out subject.
I was asked recently by Shooting Sportsman for some photos of Paul’s work on Westley Richards guns and rifles over the past few years, and took this group of all the guns he has engraved for us. It didn’t work for the size and space of the article and was perhaps a little gloomy so here it is rather than waste the effort!
This photograph does show, in one hit, the diversity and creativity of Paul’s work which in my opinion has, love it or hate it, introduced a new style and level to modern day gun engraving.
The article on Paul Lantuch by Doug Tate, the author of British Gun Engraving, will be in the next issue of Shooting Sportsman.
I recall well my first safari and buffalo hunt, it was in the northern delta of Botswana a most fabulous concession called Vunumtiki which, the following year, unfortunately went to being a photographic camp, it was fabulously rich in game. I arrived with my new Russell boots, a .470 and .275 rifle.
We left the vehicle at about 8 in the morning and tracked a small herd of Buffalo all day until about 4pm when I had to call a halt. I had blisters the size of dinner plates on my feet and couldn’t walk another step. This was the result of a bad combination of boot and socks which rendered the whole day unsuccessful, we had to give up ‘for a stupid reason’ after putting so much hard work in.
It was a good lesson for me and with safari costing so much I made sure that this would not happen again. Good footwear is as essential as an accurate rifle. I researched the socks that were available and found the Falke brand of Left-Right specific hiking socks which we have been selling ever since. I and many of our customers have been using these since that time, and I for one, have never had a further similar problem with blisters and judging by the repeat business on these socks neither have our customers.
The combination of the Courteney boot and Falke sock is one we have promoted for many years now and one we have complete trust in.
When I walk around a gun show, or visit a gun shop, there are two things that I am always subconsciously looking out for, the Westley Richards pattern guncase and the Westley Richards Top Lever. Those two unique features will always identify a Westley Richards gun from a distance. Yes, there are other things such as the scroll back and the single selective trigger but these are perhaps a little less obvious whilst walking the aisles.
The Westley Richards top lever is unique in its shape, one which was reached in a period of development from 1859 -1871. The photograph above shows this development of our top lever and how it arrived at the current shape. The gun on the left was the first gun we sold with a ‘top lever’, our first breech opening gun, delivered to a customer in 1862. I am guessing, when I say that the length of the lever was probably made as it is, so that the hand wrapped over it, and was therefore comfortable. No doubt after a bit of use it was realised it was rather unwieldily and could be shortened to the next gun over which was also made in 1862. Both of these guns use the same principle of locking down on top of the extension but you can see that the shape of the extension has become more round like it is today. ( This gun has also been converted to centre fire from pinfire )
The next development in 1863 was the pull back top lever, which also saw further improvement to the shape of the actual extension and the movement of the bite to the centre of the extension from the top as it was in the two previous guns. Finally the gun on the right is a little jump in time to 1876 showing a hammerless gun with the pivoting top lever the direct forbear to the lever we use today. This pivoting lever is to be found on hammer guns and can be seen below in the 3rd gun down which was made in 1865.
The Westley Richards Model C Dolls Head and Top Lever on current production .577
For the past few days when I have walked past the bench of apprentice newcomer Sam, I have asked “is it square yet?” referring to the block of steel he has been assigned to file into a perfectly flat and right angled block. “not yet Sir”! When I was sorting these photos I noticed the huge banana like file he was using and asked ‘does he know he has a file like a banana?” I was quickly told that ‘selected file’ was part of the problem he had been set, learning to concentrate and use the file properly, a perfectly flat sharp file would be too easy! I wish him luck, once he has got it square he will have to turn it into a ball.
Elsewhere around the workshops the lads are all busy and with their heads down!
Occasionally when trawling through antique shops you come across some interesting item related to your hobby. Collecting guns is one thing but finding the bits and pieces which were made for the sport is always nice. These were salesman samples of the then newly developed smokeless powders made and marketed by The New Explosives Company of London. The four vials of powder come in a velvet lined japanned tin, all very nice!
I have never been one for wandering around Africa with a very expensive watch on my wrist, why tempt fate! Now I can safely leave the Rolex at home as Filson have recently launched an extensive collection of watches, developed in collaboration with Shinola of USA. These are rugged looking watches which seem to me to be perfect for Safari, especially the 2nd and 3rd from the top of photo.
Assembled by hand in Shinola’s state-of-the-art Detroit factory, the watches feature a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, a screw-down crown, and a case back secured by six screws for protection from the elements. Each is rated at 20 ATM, or 660 feet, and made with the most durable materials available.
Studio portrait of a Baluchi tribesman c1870s, full length standing, he wears a white turban over his long curling hair, a cloth wrapped around his shoulders, knee-length baggy pyjamas, he carries a traditional sword tulwar and a lacquered round dhal shield decorated with four bosses.
My Father has been collecting photographs from India for many years now, he has always been my source for the many images we have around the factory and those I have used here on the blog. His collection is substantial and of a very good quality. Rareindianphotographs.com
As a sort of ‘swan song’ to his collecting years he has decided to host a selling exhibition of his images of India at a ‘pop up ‘ gallery in London for a week at the end of this month. The exhibition will be held at The Royal Opera Arcade Gallery, 5b Pall Mall, Londonfrom 25th May – 30th May. There will be about 140 images on show and I hope that anyone who has an interest in this subject will take the time to visit and see the collection.
An attractive group portrait of the young Maharaja of Rewa, Venkat Raman Singh, with his sirdars, courtiers and retainers, circa 1880. The image records a scene from one of the old-style rajput courts which was quickly receding into the past. Indeed, some of the elders in the group were undoubtedly mutiny veterans, retainers of Venkat Raman Singh’s father, Raghuraj Singh, who had remained loyal during the mutiny. The unfortunately Falstaffian image of Raghuraj Singh is well-known, crown slipping off his head, sitting under the burden of his title, his spreading costume and his sickness – leprosy. He appears to glare balefully out at the photographer, face painted to disguise his unhealthy palour caused by his medication – daily doses of dilute arsenic; hands and feet clothed in jewel-covered gloves and slippers to disguise the scars. The photograph was taken the year he died, 1880, when the 4 year-old Venkat Raman Singh succeeded.
ANONYMOUS PHOTOGRAPHER, c. 1900s, portrait of a Tibetan servant.The servant wears a fur-lined cap and a heavy woollen tunic/coat over a white shirt, he has a flute with an ivory mouthpiece stuck in the coat, he wears an ear ring on a chain around his ear.
Studio portrait of Kishan Singhji, Rawat of Bijolia c1870s, seated in an armchair, wearing full protective armour, gold damascened 4-piece char aina cuirass body armour, secured with leather straps, ensuite damascened dastana arm guards with chain mail gauntlets, padded shoulder protective epaulettes, kula khud helmet with camail and sliding nasal, surmounted by horse hair spray and peacock feather finial, he wears a bazu band jewelled armband and jewelled necklaces with pendants and he carries the traditional Rajput tulwar sword.
ANONYMOUS PHOTOGRAPHER, possibly Herzog and Higgins of Mhow, June 1903, shikar trophy group portrait, Lord Curzon, Maharaja of Rewa, Captain Wigram ADC, Rewa retainers, trophies of a tiger and a leopard lying in front, a row of elephants behind in a forest setting.
ANONYMOUS PHOTOGRAPHER, BUT PROBABLY HERZOG AND HIGGINS OF MHOW 1901, shikar trophy group portrait of Viceroy Lord Curzon, Maharaja Chandra Shamsher of Nepal and Captain Wigram ADC with a row of elephants behind, Nepal retainers and beaters, tiger shikar trophy lying in front of the group.
Shikar trophy portrait of Madho Singh II, Maharaja of Jaipur and a young boy c1910s. They are seated by the elephant gate of Amber fort, each holding a shotgun, with the tiger trophy lying at their feet. Maharaja Madho Singh II had no children by his official wives hence no legitimate heir. However, he had 60 children by his numerous concubines, of which the boy in the portrait may be one, possibly even a favourite, of the Maharaja’s. The same princeling appears in two earlier shikar group portraits of the Maharaja and his ADCs with a group of foreign guests. To ensure the legitimacy of the succession to the throne of Jaipur, the Maharaja adopted, as he himself had been, Sawai Man Singh from the Isarda Thikana, who succeeded to the gaddi on the death of Madho Singh in 1922 and was later celebrated as the suave, polo playing husband of the beautiful Maharani Gayatri Devi.
Portrait of a European/English Shikari at rest in his hunting camp with his servants, set on a level area below a scrub hillside, he wears a soft cloth cap, his sola topee pith helmet is on the ground nearby, he wears a jacket, puttee protective cloth windings around his legs, ankle-height laced overshoes, he holds his gun and rests on a deerskin-covered wood folding chair, his hunting hound rests on another deerskin on the ground while his fox-terrier sits on another deerskin-covered chair, his barefoot Cook stands on his right, in his white turban, kurta tunic and churidar pajamas, his gun-bearer stands to his left, gun in hand, he wears a turban, kurta tunic with a cartridge belt, water bottle, a skinning knife slung from his shoulder, he wears puttees and overshoes, the hunter’s sparse furniture can be glimpsed through the open tent flap, a bed and folding bedside table with shaving bowl and glass.