On one of the recent posts showing the take down rifles in .425 & .318 I mentioned the fact that both calibre’s were originally designed to be clip fed and that ammunition was sold in that manner. Here is a few shots showing the clips in use and some vintage .318 ammunition boxed and in original clips.
In a few short days I have driven from Chicago to Bozeman where I am visiting the office for a few days. It is a beautiful drive if you should ever get the chance. I managed to get within 20 miles of Bozeman before I was stopped for speeding and was luckily let off, they like guns in Montana!
This was a 20 hour drive all told and interestingly, with just a few stops ‘en route’ I have been able to see more fine English guns than most persons would probably see in a lifetime! Literally 1000’s and I am determined to revisit with more time to record some of the more unique and rare guns, in order they can be seen by others.
For the next week I will be at our shop in Bozeman so please call if you have a chance and if I can help you with anything whilst I am over here.
Next week we are having one of our vaults refitted so we can hold our collection of guns and rifles with more visibility. Visitors to the factory have always enjoyed seeing the variety of different firearms we have here, a collection not restricted to our own manufacture, but including guns and rifles from most of the English makers.
Whilst moving guns out of the way today we unearthed this ‘one of a kind’ gold name hand detachable lock double rifle which we completed in 1996 for a French professional hunter. I had actually completely forgotten we had this rifle in the building. The calibre is .577/.500 No.2 and when I say one of a kind, I mean it in terms of it being the only double rifle we have built in this calibre. It has a ‘no frills’ finish which is typical of a professional hunters requirements, better to spend the engraving money on ammunition!
The rifle has no sling swivels and a flat beavertail forend which fills two roles, one giving plenty to hang onto and secondly to provide a comfortable flat surface so the rifle can be carried on the shoulder with barrels facing forwards. You can see where all the barrel black is worn off from just behind the front sight block where the rifle has been held for many a mile. The rifle also has a stalking safety, the front sight cover is removed, there is a large gold V on rear sight to aid faster sighting and a large bull elephant engraved by Rashid on the cover plate. This is no doubt a species identity help, something like the perfect shot, see a bull that looks like this ‘take it’! All in all, a totally practical rifle.
The .577/.500 No2 calibre in nitro format was a cartridge introduced by Hartman and Weiss who made some single shot falling block rifles in this calibre. The original cartridge was a black powder version which was introduced sometime before 1879 this was then developed in various formats including Nitro for black and fullNitro load with a variation in bullet weight of from 300 grains up to 570 grn, The nitro version for our rifle used the 570 grn. bullet and we think the velocity was around 2300 fps. It was a powerful round and the rifles weight of 14 lbs. compensated for this.
A few days ago I posted some pictures on Instagram of 2 take downs we have in the safe. I had a pretty fast response from a regular visitor to this blog saying he was willing to take ‘those 2 old nails’ off my hands for a small fee if it would help the cause! Further to this he mentioned that one rifle had obviously been used more than the other and what would be my approach to restoring the one in less good condition, would I or would I not touch it.
We have had this rifle for quite some time now and so the answer lies to some extent in that fact alone, if I had thought it needed restoring I would have done it by now. The .425 seen here is in what could be called quite tired condition but I would call it very nicely used. The rifle both functions and shoots perfectly and those are the key points. The blueing and blacking is worn and patchy, the stock is thick with oil and the checker is pretty beaten up, all in all not a showpiece rifle but when the 2 rifles are put besides each other, as they are above, the .425 is by far the nicest rifle.. at least to me it is.
I have not, and would not do anything to this rifle, if I started the whole rifle would have to be refinished, you could not do one part and keep some of the patina, it is an all or nothing job. The stock would have to be scraped off and re-polished, the checker redone, the barrel and action would all have to be re-blued and re-blacked and at the end of this it would look like a new rifle, it would have no stories to tell and that is what I like about it now!
I have said it before, more great guns have been ruined by over or bad restoration than any other factor. It takes very skilled hands, a skilled eye and a very sympathetic touch to restore a gun well so always proceed with caution!
On my recent trip to USA I was fortunate to meet some very nice people and take some very nice orders for new guns. One of the customers having received his quotation and deposit statement responded with “I need to find a hammer to break open the piggy bank”, a feeling I quite understand.
To assist, I had one of our apprentices make a small hammer with which to break open the said piggy bank. Hand filed and hardened, stocked with best walnut and with a buffalo horn handle end. A very nice job….. I hope it works!!
As a footnote, no, we will not be making these as I was shocked how many hours it took even at apprentice rates!!
Over the past few weeks the W. R. & Co. team have run a competition to win an initialled Lyell overnight bag for “The Greatest Adventurer”, a competition I was not allowed near the judging of due to ‘possible bias’ opinion relating to knowing the clients. The competition was judged by Lauren and Steve who run our retail shop and webshop so well and they have awarded the prize to K. Nash, to whom congratulations!
Thank you to each and everyone who sent in an entry with your stories, some of which I have posted below!
First (and only) Prize! by K. Nash.
The Essentials of My Safari Kit by Keith Fahl
Courteney Boots and W.R. & Co. Ltd. products have been the most essential part of my hunting kit for many years now. From local hunts in the Pacific Northwest to safaris in Africa, their products have given me many years of service due to the high standards and quality of their manufacture.
I ordered my first pair of Courteney boots in 2001. I had them custom made from my hippo hide, taken on safari in Zimbabwe that same year. They were a perfect fit and have definitely stood the test of time, I am still wearing these boots 14 years later. I was so impressed with comfort and quality that I decided to get a second pair. I traveled to the Westley Richards Agency in Bozeman, Montana in 2003 and looked over the Courteney line. I decided on a pair of Tracker boots. To this day, it is my favorite style and the only boots I will ever wear for hunting. The boots are rugged, dependable and comfortable. The fit is excellent. I have walked hundreds of kilometers on safari, wearing Courteney boots and Faulk sox. I have never had a blister or feet too sore to keep trekking. I now own 10 pair of Westley Richard Courteney boots and shoes in various leathers and styles that I wear for all occasions. They are simply, the best.
I purchased a Westley Richards double rifle, manufactured in 1907. This is what prompted my original trip to the Westley Richards U.S. facility in Bozeman. While there, I found many items I find absolutely essential for my hunting kit. The gun cases and slips, belts, slings, ammo wallets, cleaning accessories, travel bags, etc., etc. are all of the best quality. My personal favorite is the 4 and 5 shot ammunition wallets. I use them to carry extra rounds in my pocket. They are quiet and an easily accessible way to carry additional rounds or rounds that have a different bullet type than you have loaded in your rifle (i.e. solid or soft nose). If you ever begin using them, you will never go on another hunting trip without them.
The Courteney Boots and W.R. & Co. Ltd. products that I take hunting, I am able to pack into one large, canvas W.R. & Co. Sutherland bag, weighing up to 70 pounds. My bag has carried this load on well over 20 trips and baggage handlers have yet to damage it. It has aged well and I get many inquiries as to where I purchased it. Again, these products are of the best quality and built to last.
I will continue to purchase Westley Richards products. They have served me well and should last for many more hunting adventures. I know I can depend on them to hold up and that makes the hunt that much more enjoyable.
Totally satisfied customer of Westley Richards,
I’ve easily walked a thousand miles in my Courtenay Trackers – in the field, on camping trips and at the shooting range. They’ve held up well partly because I don’t wear them in the city very much. They prefer dirt and grass rahter than concrete.
My greatest adventure with them has to be our our trip to RSA and Botswana in 2013 when I wore them on a plains game hunt in the Kalahari desert. The trip was capped by two days of pursuing red hartebeest. I bagged my trophy as it looked back at us obscured by the setting sun behind us.They are comfortable, stylish and as tough as nails. And the Professional Hunter said he could always find me, given the distinctive footprints the tread left behind.
I walked the length of the Pacific Crest Trail (Mexican border to the Canadian border) last summer in my Courtney boots (Ostrich skin) with nary a blister. This was in celebration of my 60th birthday and to commemorate having done it 40 years earlier at age 20. My Courtney boots held up better than the technical mountaineering boots I bought from the North Face lo those many years ago. And everyone at my shooting club still says they’re the best looking shoes they’ve seen. Hell, women even stop me in the grocery store and ask me where I bought them. It doesn’t get any better than that, form and function. I’m going to buy another pair just to be sure I get out of life with them on. Keep up the great work.
I have had walking boots all my life – I spent 35 years in the Army! and was looking for a shoe/boot that I could wear for numerous activities, including in lieu of conventional suede ‘chukka boots’. Following extensive research, including speaking to your staff, I bought my Courteney Tracker boots by mail order just over two years ago and it wasn’t long before I wished I had done so years before! I have worn them on safari in Africa in 2013, walking in the Swiss Alps last summer, when fishing and also before (en route), or after, shooting and stalking. They are perfect for long sight seeing days, be it along the snow covered streets of Vienna in winter, or the wide avenues of Seville in the spring from where my wife and I have just returned. Having worn them in, they now look and feel better than the day I first put them on, I am wearing them now!
I have recommended them to any number of friends, they represent outstanding value and your brochure description is spot on, they are really comfortable, multi functional and they certainly do what it says on the tin! I do not travel anywhere without them.
Jeffery de Visser.
I bought my Courtney Safari Boots back in 2011 just before I graduated telling myself I was going to go out and explore a little before settling in. In 2012/2013 I drove 58,000 kilometres around Africa in an old Land Rover; from the Netherlands to South Africa along the eastcoast of Africa, and back up along the westcoast. I pretty much just wore my Courtneys all day every day for over a year – through jungles, cities, savannah and deserts. I settled down in South Africa now and still wear them when I go out venturing into the wild.
As a hunter, an indestructible spirit is essential to keep us returning to exotic and remote areas of the world. And sometimes we believe so much in our own longevity that we really don’t plan well for life-threatening events that frequently occur in these adventurous places . . . Hunting with Barrie Duckworth, P.H. and owner of Mokore Safaris, I just survived one of the best and most memorable elephant hunts possible. We were at Kazuma National Forest located in the extreme northwest corner of Zimbabwe, about a two hour drive by bushroad from Victoria Falls. After nine safaris to Africa and waiting several years to access this recognized big bull area, this trip was intended to be a memorable one. Not only was my son, Donald, accompanying me to Africa for the ﬁrst time, but our main target was to take a minimum sixty pound-plus bull – not an easy task these days. Being a very patient hunter, I had spent several years going through the agonizing and difﬁcult thought process that a true hunter requires when trying to decide to actually hunt the world’s largest and most dangerous land animal. For me, the peculiar set of ethical, economical and emotional decisions involved in elephant hunting not only took a long time, but called into question the very essence of the hunt, i.e. is it right to kill such a noble animal? So with heavy thoughts accompanying me and with stout heart (I thought) we found ourselves in the Kazuma Camp outside of Victoria Falls.
Armed with my .470 Nitro Express, my Courteney boots, and my Westley Richards leather cartridge belt, we were ready to hunt elephants. Everything went well for the ﬁrst day – seeing and stalking lots of large bulls, enjoying my son Donald’s delight at seeing Africa game for the ﬁrst time, and renewing acquaintances with several locals who I had met the previous years. By the second day I noticed I wasn’t able to walk more than few hundred yards without some shortness of breath and chest pain. At 64 years, I pride myself on being in reasonably good shape and since I always hunt hard in Africa, I make sure I increase my workouts prior to the trip. By the fourth day, and now in some distress, I decided to visit the tiny Victoria Falls clinic for a checkup. After an ECG and blood pressure checks, all is declared normal and the local doctor suggests a severe case of indigestion, and sends me back on the 90 kilometer journey through the bush to camp. Mid-afternoon of the following day, hunting in the famous Panda Masai block, we see three large bulls at a distance. Reluctantly, since by this time I was unable to walk without distress, we decided to stalk. After a one mile walk we were able to see the way – all three bulls were above 50 pounds and one was well over 60. Finally, after several years, “my elephant”! A heart pounding ﬁnal stalk, but at last moment, all the bulls decided to depart. Again, a decision to continue following is made with a certain understanding that physically I am in deep trouble. Another mile or so of excruciating pain and we ﬁnd ourselves again in the ﬁnal stalk of the largest bull. Finally, a ﬁrst barrel to the heart at 65 yards and a quick second barrel as the bull turns to run. A fast and furious 250 yard run and after two more left and rights, the bull ﬁnally collapses in a cloud of broken trees and dust. Simultaneously, I collapse and cannot move. I am at the ﬁnal stage of a four-day heart attack! Brieﬂy I recover enough to appreciate the majesty of this magniﬁcent animal and reﬂect on the abject stupidity of my continuing a hunt that should have ended several days earlier. A 90 kilometer evacuation through the bush to the Victoria Falls airstrip precedes a lapse into full cardiac arrest just as the Air Rescue plane taxis to a stop. Aboard is (wonder of wonders!) a cardiac deﬁbrillator machine that miraculously brings me back to life. A two hour plane ride to Johannesburg, heart surgery, and I’m home in two weeks. I am reminded of the great line in the very bad movie “White Hunter, Black Heart”, when famous director John Huston, told that killing an elephant was a crime, responded, “No, it’s far worse than that, it is a sin.” So, sometimes life is not all what it seems to be. As I reﬂect on this experience, now seven months past, I realize it simply was not my time to go. But I can’t help but appreciate the poetic irony of both my magniﬁcent 65 pound bull and myself dying at the same precise moment. Can you imagine the great stories that he is telling his friends in Elephant Heaven about the day he almost got even?
I think we have all suffered at some point in our hunting career the indignity of being ‘scoped’, how many times have you seen a friend return with a black or bleeding eye, a few I am sure! Considering the amount of shots we take here with scoped rifles I am amazed how rare an occurrence it is. The last ‘war wound’ I recall was at the old premises when a customer test fired an old .425 on our range. On this occasion the rear sight flew off and lodged itself in his forehead, needless to say that sale was not concluded satisfactorily!
Today’s job for Stuart, our regulator here at Westley Richards, was test firing a .500 Jeffery to which we fitted new mounts for a customer who’s failing eyesight had rendered the rifle useless with only iron sights. I am quite sure that many of you will have now made the assumption that ‘only a fool would put a scope on a rifle of that size’ which to some extent I would agree, a .500 Jeffery goes off with quite a thump. you will have assumed that the rifle and scope flew back and hit Stuart in the face but this was not the case, the scope came off and hit him! Deliberations are now ongoing as to whether the Smithson mounts are not man enough for the 500J & .505 or if the tightness adjustment was just not tight enough and blame can be laid at the bench of the fitter!
Check your scope is tight!!
For many of our big game hunting customers, their first bespoke rifle ordered from Westley Richards is a bolt action. Every sportsman hunting big game will need a bolt action rifle in their battery, for precision shooting of game in cover or at longer distances than achievable with a double. Those hunting around the world will most certainly need more than one, covering small, medium and large calibres, they can be stalking rifles, mountain rifles or dangerous game rifles. The bolt action rifle comes in many different guises, and literally hundreds of different calibre’s.
Set of four Westley Richards rifles built on original Oberndorf actions. The calibers are as original actions were made for. .250-3000 on kurtz, .275 on intermediate, .318 on standard and .404 on magnum. Engraving by the late Shaun Banks.
Most of the Westley Richards bolt action rifles over the last 115 years have been built on the Mauser 98 action, itself introduced in 1898. Rifles were also built on the Enfield and Mannlicher actions. The ‘tangible’ rifle records we have start with a very dilapidated book, with a missing front end. The first entry in this book is rifle 36286 which was built in 1906, our most recent delivered rifle is a number 43674 a .404, thus accounting for 7388 rifles built in the same period during which we delivered 1000 double rifles. In 1912 a .425 bolt action rifle in take down format cost £25.0.0 and a best quality .476 hand detachable lock double rifle, cased, cost £80 Guineas. The droplock double rifle in 1912 was 3 times the cost of the bolt action, interestingly, today the same ratio applies, with the doubles starting at £59,500 and bolt action at £18,500.
The bolt action production always has been and continues to be a very important part of our business. We currently have 24 bolt action rifles being made in the factory and these are specified from a simple, plain, name only stalking rifle to a very elaborate take down with a large engraving budget. We have orders for a multitude of calibers, .505 Gibbs, .500 Jeffery, .416 Rigby, .425 WR, .375 H & H, .318 WR, .300 Win, Wby & H&H, .275 Rigby, 9.3 x62 as well as others. Each calibre is built on the correct size action which ensures smooth feed and the correct weight of rifle. The actual handling and balance of our bolt actions is just as important as that found with our doubles and this can only be achieved by appropriate scaling. This means the ribs, sights and stocking are all scaled down or up to suit the calibre and action.
I have always been very proud of the bolt actions we have produced in recent years. At Westley Richards we know that delivering an exceptional bolt action rifle will in most cases lead to the subsequent order for a double rifle. We take a lot of time to ensure that the rifles work faultlessly and look exceptional. I am probably biased but I don’t think any other rifle maker is making as good a looking rifle as we are. This is mostly down to the exceptional stocking skills of Romain Lepinois and Keith Haynes who have the profiles for our rifles perfected on each size of action we use, the stock of the bolt action is the essential ingredient for good looks!
In recent years the ‘take down’ version of our rifles has gained in popularity, I think in the past people had reservations on the accuracy of a take down barrel vs fixed barrel, this concern has now certainly been dispelled. The take down rifles have proved themselves to be an exceptional sporting rifle and the ease of travelling with them has proved a huge benefit. There is also less risk of damage to a take down rifle as the aircrews handling firearms today seem to take more care with a smaller case, perhaps it is just easier for them to handle too! Of course the perfect safari combination is a case fitted with a take down and a double!