More than a few people brought guns for me to see at the recent Southern side by side championship shoot in North Carolina, many of them said they were not using them because of the weather, it was raining quite heavily most of the time.
English guns like bad weather, if they didn’t we, and that is a ‘we’ that includes all the English gunmakers, would not be in business! I don’t think anyone in England has ever got through a shooting season without getting soaked at some time or more probably many times. It is just the nature of the beast over here, rain, rain and more rain. If our guns failed in the rain or got damaged in it we would never have got to 2 years let alone 200 years in business!
In 1995 our showroom at Grange Road was robbed one night, about 5 double rifles were taken and a couple of shotguns. Police later recovered one of the shotguns, which had been sawn off, during a drug raid in the city. The person arrested later told the police that the other guns stolen were thrown in the canal as they couldn’t get ammunition. Police divers recovered the rifles and returned them to us immediately. The rifles had been in the water for 3 months, we stripped them, dried the stock and forend out slowly, oiled the metal parts and they were fine!
The only damage that will occur to your gun from water is from negligence after the event. If you don’t clean, dry out and oil your gun after a day shooting in the rain, it will rust, guaranteed. The barrels are straightforward to clean and lubricate and with the stock and action spray some oil into the action, wipe off any water and leave to dry in a warm place with the action pointing down so any moisture can drain out rather than go to the head of the stock. Oil again after drying and the gun will be ready for the next shoot.
I have seen people take out the sidelocks of guns but I don’t recommend you do this unless you know what you are doing. I have shot with many sidelocks in wet conditions and have never done this. With our droplock guns it is easy to remove the locks, clean and lubricate them lightly and leave out whilst the rest of the gun is drying out.
Hopefully next year when you bring guns to show me, you are using them, rain or no rain!
This week we completed another .577 hand detachable lock double rifle, bringing the total we have delivered since 1900 to 97. This rifle will be accompanied on its first safari by Trigger, who is travelling with the client later this summer to ‘Christen’ the rifle on safari in Tanzania, hosted by Danny McCallum.
The .577 has been a special calibre for Westley Richards having been used by many prominent hunters over the years. James Sutherland, Admiral Baker, Count Potocki, Ernest Hemingway, Stuart Granger all took a Westley .577 to Africa. Today you see a number of gunmakers around the world making .470 and .500 rifles but rarely do you see anyone attempting the .577 or .600.
When filling in the ledger for this new rifle and noticing it was the 97th, it occurred to me that the 100th .577 we deliver should be a special one, so I have reserved that number for a special ‘celebration rifle’. It will have to be a single trigger rifle with extra locks and also it will have to look like a classic hunters rifle, with perhaps a slightly more extravagant execution of the traditional engraving. A stout canvas case and a cartridge magazine containing 100 rounds would be appropriate. It is the sort of project I enjoy putting in work!
I have mentioned before that pairs of double rifles have always appealed to me. We have just completed this pair of .470 sidelock rifles which are now heading off to hunt in Africa. The rifles are engraved with fine rose and scroll executed by Dave Tallett and are cased in a best oak and alligator leather case which was made in our leather department.
Ever since starting the Double Gun Journal in 1989, Daniel Côté has not attended any shooting event or exhibition to promote his magazine, his attendance at the Southern side by side championship in Sanford last week was a first for him, and I was very pleased that for his first show I found him occupying the booth next to my stand.
For 25 years I have conversed with Daniel by phone, negotiating advertising and pitching articles but I had never never met him, so it was with great pleasure that I did so at the show. Daniel is a quiet, reserved and creative man who has single handedly produced and edited the highest standard magazine on double gun shooting there is on the market today. I enjoyed the meeting very much and the three days of company he provided during the wet days of the show.
A significant point I noticed at the show was that Shooting Sportsman, Sporting Classics and Covey Rise were all giving away copies of their magazines, not so Daniel with his Double Gun Journal, people were queueing up to buy and subscribe, not only the current issue but all the back issues at anything up to $87 which was for the very first issue, an issue that was put together and bound by hand at his kitchen table in 1989. I think this alone affirms the popularity of the magazine, one which remains a publication of the highest quality and one which rightly commands the respect of the shooting fraternity.
The very first issue of Double Gun Journal from Winter 1989.
A recent issue which shows the addition of single shot.
It seems that each visit I make to the US east coast gun shows, I am fortunate to pick up an old first edition book I have never seen, and am then glad to own for my library, it becomes source material for future engraving work. This year was no exception and I found a copy of this excellent small book which is both beautifully illustrated and has a very interesting forward, one which I reproduce in full below.
No region in the world was better endowed with an abundance and variety of game birds than what is now the United States when the white man came to these shores to make his home. These early settlers were essentially rifle men and, except for the wild turkeys and geese, paid little attention to the birds so long as big game was plentiful. But as the population increased and the larger animals were killed off or driven out, the shotgun came into favour and wild fowl, grouse, quail and snipe became the game on the family table.
In those days the wild pigeons appeared in clouds that darkened the sky. Ducks and geese were like swarms of midges in the air. Coveys of quail were in every stubble field. Grouse drummed out in flocks from every cover, and the marshes and beaches saw such a host of shore-birds as we may never know again.
This abundance of Game birds went on until the late seventies of the last century, when suddenly the millions of wild pigeons failed to appear on their annual flights. “What has happened to the wild pigeons?” was the question of the day. The answer was not apparent until many years later, when reports were complied on wild pigeon killing for market. Some impressive figures were turned up. Hornaday says, in Our Vanishing Wild Life, that from one little town in Michigan, in 1869, 11,880,000 wild pigeons were shipped to market in forty days! This harvest was being reaped in every section of the country and all our other game birds were going to market in proportionate numbers. But still our game birds persisted in tremendous numbers until, within the last twenty years, the growing scarcity of good shooting has impressed every sportsman who loves the game.
The forebears of the artist who did the pictures in this book were among the colonials who came into this once great heritage of game birds. From them came his love of this game and of the scatter gun, and it was his god fortune to begin his shooting days while the birds were still plentiful in western New York, where he was born, and in southern Michigan, where he grew up. Many people were still living who had seen the wild pigeon darken the skies of Michigan, had taken part in squirrel drives and had guarded their ripening corn with shotguns against the hosts of wood ducks. There were quail in abundance and plenty of woodcock. Jacksnipe swarmed during migrations, and every stream and pond had its generous supply of ducks. Canada and white fronted geese came into the stubble fields and the long-gone upland plover was plentiful on the pasturelands. There was never a keener gunner than this lad, and in addition to his enthusiasm for shooting he was endowed with a sense of the beauty of the game birds and with the ability to draw them. Since he could not bear to stuff the handsome creatures into the pockets of his shooting coat, he carried paper to wrap them in, one by one, that they might reach home unruffled and unsoiled, to become models for the artist.
Hence this book of game pictures. They are selected from among the studies covering many years afield in many parts of the country. Some of the pencil drawings were done as preliminaries for paintings, and many of them are assembled from books of field notes made on shooting trips and from studies of game birds in captivity. The paintings reproduced in these pages were all done in recent years, and ten of them are here shown through the courtesy of Edgar Burke, MD, to whom the artist extends his very sincere thanks.
It is with the hope of stimulating, among sportsmen, their appreciation of the great beauty and variety of our game birds, and of stirring anew in them a determination that their game shall be preserved and restored for the recreation of themselves and of all the generations of American shotgun enthusiasts to come, that this book is presented by one of them who has gunned through the years of plenty to the now lean days.
Lynn Bogue Hunt. New York City. April 1st, 1936.
In 1936, a first edition of 1225 copies of An Artists Game Bag were printed by the Derrydale Press, Inc. New York. There are a total of 45 plates of illustrations.
It is strange what you can run into on a short trip in the USA!
The Greener St George gun is a gun that has been copied more than once by the current Greener company, perhaps I should say re-interpreted rather than copied. There is however never anything quite like the original version, the one which carries the history and the story. The Greener St George was started in 1890 as a “show gun” and was made at ‘no expense spared’. The very best damascus barrels, a beautifully figured piece of Circassian walnut which required over 100 perfect inlays that would normally have been considered uneconomical and 12 months of engraving by Greener’s then top engraver Harry Tomlinson working to Harry Greener’s designs.
Tomlinson broke down twice whilst executing the engraving. On both occasions after throwing his tools around the workshop he was later found in the public house opposite the factory gates where he remained for several days, unconscious for the most time and totally drunk’ ( The Greener Story. Graham Greener).
This gun is built on what is known as the Greener Unique version with a Greener cross bolt and a non selective single trigger. The gun was never checkered.