The Princes of India. Finally on the Walls at Westley Richards.

A Grid of the Princes of India on the wall at Westley Richards.

It has taken a few years, convincing my Father to sell, getting them framed and then up on the wall, but finally I have hung a grid of the Princes of India on the wall here at the factory. I have always thought these portraits very appropriate for a gunmakers like ourselves, the Princes were after all the lifeblood of the English gun trade for many years, driving innovation due to their hunger for new calibre’s and types of rifles and guns.

I think many people who own a Princely rifle will gain pleasure from seeing what the original owner actually looked like and here, on the wall, they are shown in all their splendour, photographed at the time of the 1911 Durbar.

This wall was the very last empty wall space in the factory, every wall is now covered and my framing bills have finally come to an end!

A Grid of the Princes of India on the wall at Westley Richards.

 

 

Maharajah of Jodhpur, Westley Richards, The Explora

 

An article on Cecil from The New York Times

Over the past week I have been sent many articles on the Cecil saga. I had decided it best not to make any comment, I don’t know the facts so why should I, and how could I. I only know it doesn’t help the welfare of animals in the wild one little bit and unjustifiably, hunting and therefore gunmaking takes another knock.

One article I was sent I think puts the uproar in perspective, written by a Zimbabwean and published in the New York Times a few days ago.

In Zimbabwe, We Don’t Cry for Lions by Goodwill Nzou

Winston-Salem, N.C. — MY mind was absorbed by the biochemistry of gene editing when the text messages and Facebook posts distracted me.

‘So sorry about Cecil’.

‘Did Cecil live near your place in Zimbabwe’?

Cecil who? I wondered. When I turned on the news and discovered that the messages were about a lion killed by an American dentist, the village boy inside me instinctively cheered: One lion fewer to menace families like mine.

My excitement was doused when I realized that the lion killer was being painted as the villain. I faced the starkest cultural contradiction I’d experienced during my five years studying in the United States.

Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? That all the talk about Cecil being “beloved” or a “local favorite” was media hype? Did Jimmy Kimmel choke up because Cecil was murdered or because he confused him with Simba from “The Lion King”?

In my village in Zimbabwe, surrounded by wildlife conservation areas, no lion has ever been beloved, or granted an affectionate nickname. They are objects of terror.

When I was 9 years old, a solitary lion prowled villages near my home. After it killed a few chickens, some goats and finally a cow, we were warned to walk to school in groups and stop playing outside. My sisters no longer went alone to the river to collect water or wash dishes; my mother waited for my father and older brothers, armed with machetes, axes and spears, to escort her into the bush to collect firewood.

A week later, my mother gathered me with nine of my siblings to explain that her uncle had been attacked but escaped with nothing more than an injured leg. The lion sucked the life out of the village: No one socialized by fires at night; no one dared stroll over to a neighbor’s homestead.

When the lion was finally killed, no one cared whether its murderer was a local person or a white trophy hunter, whether it was poached or killed legally. We danced and sang about the vanquishing of the fearsome beast and our escape from serious harm.

Recently, a 14-year-old boy in a village not far from mine wasn’t so lucky. Sleeping in his family’s fields, as villagers do to protect crops from the hippos, buffalo and elephants that trample them, he was mauled by a lion and died.

The killing of Cecil hasn’t garnered much more sympathy from urban Zimbabweans, although they live with no such danger. Few have ever seen a lion, since game drives are a luxury residents of a country with an average monthly income below $150 cannot afford.

Don’t misunderstand me: For Zimbabweans, wild animals have near-mystical significance. We belong to clans, and each clan claims an animal totem as its mythological ancestor. Mine is Nzou, elephant, and by tradition, I can’t eat elephant meat; it would be akin to eating a relative’s flesh. But our respect for these animals has never kept us from hunting them or allowing them to be hunted. (I’m familiar with dangerous animals; I lost my right leg to a snakebite when I was 11.)

The American tendency to romanticize animals that have been given actual names and to jump onto a hashtag train has turned an ordinary situation — there were 800 lions legally killed over a decade by well-heeled foreigners who shelled out serious money to prove their prowess — into what seems to my Zimbabwean eyes an absurdist circus.

PETA is calling for the hunter to be hanged, Zimbabwean politicians are accusing the United States of staging Cecil’s killing as a “ploy” to make our country look bad. And Americans who can’t find Zimbabwe on a map are applauding the nation’s demand for the extradition of the dentist, unaware that a baby elephant was reportedly slaughtered for our president’s most recent birthday banquet.

We Zimbabweans are left shaking our heads, wondering why Americans care more about African animals than about African people.

Don’t tell us what to do with our animals when you allowed your own mountain lions to be hunted to near extinction in the eastern United States. Don’t bemoan the clear-cutting of our forests when you turned yours into concrete jungles.

And please, don’t offer me condolences about Cecil unless you’re also willing to offer me condolences for villagers killed or left hungry by his brethren, by political violence, or by hunger.

Goodwell Nzou is a doctoral student in molecular and cellular biosciences at Wake Forest University.

Original New York Times article here.

A Pair of William Powell 12g Best Quality Sidelock Game Guns

Pair of William Powell 12g Game Guns.

With the game season on us I am sure there are people looking for a good pair of sidelocks that won’t break the bank. We have just bought in this pair of single trigger William Powell sidelock game guns made in 1926, they are their best quality guns of the period, Model No.1’s.

The guns have 28 inch barrels and have a length of pull of 14 1/2″ over the single trigger. We will be re-jointing (fitting new joint pins), refinishing the stocks and recutting the checker as well as giving a good strip and clean and test shoot. These guns are competitively priced at £9500 ($14,950) and come in original leather makers case.

Pair of William Powell 12g Game Guns.

Pair of William Powell 12g Game Guns.

Engine Turning or ‘Spotting’ the 4 Bore Locks.

4g Lock Plate Westley Richards

Even a small and perhaps relatively straight forward job like spotting the detachable locks  becomes a bigger task when we move up to the 4 bore. This is work that requires a keen eye combined with patience. In normal circumstances, Jason will be sitting at a pillar drill with the lock components in a jig, he will carefully bounce the lapping paste on the lock plates whilst indexing the jig to move to the next spot. Getting the perfect alignment of spots is not an easy task I assure you, a small run off in direction becomes very noticeable and when that happens it is a polish off and start again situation.

Spotting the 4g lock plate

With the size of the 4g lock plates being too large for the pillar drill, the next stop is the Bridgeport Miller where the lock plate is set up with the scaled up size ‘spotting stick’. Lining up and indexing the head on the digital read out is the method on this larger machine, the digital read out takes over from the eye. Bigger locks, bigger machine and more time on the job.

The pair of 4 bore guns have extra locks to each gun, a total of four pairs of locks which will take Jason about 60 hours of careful work to get perfectly finished.

Spinning spotting post with lapping paste.The spinning stylus covered with lapping paste creates the polished circles. These are overlapped to create the desired finish effect.

 

The 4g Locks in process of spotting.The 4g Lock alongside a 12g Lock

Some thoughts on Gunmaking from the Game Fair.

Harewood House. CLA Game Fair

With the heavy rains at the game fair came the opportunity to step away from our empty stand and catch up with some of my contemporaries, those responsible for running some of the other English gunmaking companies. During the mostly ‘rained off’ day I had interesting and varied conversations with Daryl Greatrex from Holland & Holland, Sir Edward Dashwood of Churchill’s, William Asprey of William & Son, James Cox of William Evans, the newly appointed James Horne of Purdey & Son and newcomer on the block Peter Boxall of Boxall & Edminson.

Of course with these discussions everyone is quite guarded about exactly what they are up to and how their business is going, but what never fails to come through, is the underlying confidence in the sport and thus their trade. It was apparent that the people who ‘know who they are and what their companies represent’ were upbeat and saying business was good and that they had confidence in the sport, those who were not quite so clear were much less confident, these were ‘The Luxury Gun purveyors’.

William Asprey comes from a long line of superb retailers and has recently combined his 2 William & Son. Mount Street shops into one new, purpose built home, right next door and overlooking, Holland & Holland on Bruton Street. His doors are open and welcoming to anyone who is rattled by the prices in Holland’s or who wants to sample the service the Asprey family are so famous for. William is a very keen shot and from his new gunroom you will find everything for a days shooting from fine guns to colourful gaiters. Everything is of great quality, chosen with good taste (by his wife!) and with a reason of practicality for the sport. William and Son offer a bespoke hand made sidelock shotgun which is built by their team of ex Holland and Holland workers for £57,000, this is some £30,000 less than next door or the short walk to South Audley Street.

The Churchill battle bus

Sir Edwards’ Churchill shooting grounds go from strength to strength under the direction of the enthusiastic and tireless Rob Fenwick. We talked over tea at the top of his battle bus which has a view over the whole of gunmakers row at CLA. Besides being upset at the ‘terrible grouse season’ that is shortly upon us and which is ‘practically a wipe out’ Sir Edward is upbeat and selling lots of guns to lots of newcomers to the sport. Churchill’s threw in the towel with making new guns a few years ago and concentrated their efforts on the shooting grounds where they introduce 100’s of new people to the sport as well as teach exisiting shots how to be better at their sport and thus enjoy it more, an invaluable resource for us all.

James Cox who took the helm of William Evans a few years ago told me of the plans to open a William Evans shop in Calgary based on the growth of the business over here which is encouraging news. They have been hiring new staff in London and with his newly diversified range of co branded guns and rifles is seeing a large pick up in trade from the St James’ premises. William Evans continue to offer ‘bespoke’ English made guns and rifles and these represent the top of their ‘something for everyone’ range. I think that William Evans has always been the ‘go to’ gunshop if you wanted, guns, repairs, a reasonably priced shooting coat or whatever.

Peter Boxall was doing well at the show, here he introduced his new 16g over and under which now compliments his 12g and 20g. He has plans for a 28g and says that will be it as far as introducing new models for the time being. I admire what Peter has done getting this company going and offering such a well priced (£25,000) English made gun. I have absolutely no experience with the gun so you will have to read reviews to find out about it but I believe it has been very well received and written up. Peter was the man taking orders when I was at the show! At least that is what he told me!

The H&H Range Rover

The Holland & Holland Range Rover dominated the stand at Holland’s so you now have the choice of buying a £175,000 .577 rifle or a £180,000 car from the same tent. I certainly don’t envy Daryl’s task of getting the orders rolling in for either of them! Gone are the days when Holland’s were a gunmaker selling a wide variety of new, used and antique guns, catering to every sportsman needs. These are the days of catering exclusively to the super rich field sportsman and I don’t know how many these there are, especially considering the closure of the Russian market. Daryl was off on holiday the next day, I bet it is very well deserved!

James Purdey & Son did not attend the game fair this weekend with a stand, in hindsight not a bad move. They have a new factory and this weekend are refurbishing their South Audley Street premises, a job which is taking only 3 days, so cannot be extensive. The shop will open again next week with the Long Room now the gunroom a move advised years ago but ignored. James suggested that the prices of his guns need to go up and I guess that is to keep pace with Holland’s recent 7.5% rise or perhaps to pay for the new factory and shop refurbishment. I can’t remember the exact details of supply and demand but I always thought it was very dangerous to increase prices when you couldn’t sell at the existing prices. I know that doesn’t work in our engineering business, we just have to be more efficient and productive as the car companies demand a 2.5% price decrease annually! It is early days of James’s tenure at Purdey so we can hope that with his business experience he can get the flag flying proudly outside the South Audley shop once again, something I suggested might not be done whilst wearing a ‘Guns on Pegs’ tie, his other business interest.

So what did I learn from my conversations? I think that those with clear focus on what they are, which is gunmakers, were positive, confident and thinking of the future whilst those with Luxury group masters were struggling to come to terms with filling their order books. Whilst not blowing the trumpet on my own rifles the fact that you could now get 3 hand detachable lock 577’s for the price of one Holland or Purdey 577 shows that something strange has happened since the years when all our guns were priced extremely closely in the years before the war.

 

CLA Gamefair 2015. Rain, Rain and more Rain.

CLA Gamefair 2015

It is always a shame when it rains at the CLA game fair, unfortunately this is quite a common feature of the show! Today we had a fine start to the day with good business and then at about midday the heavens opened up, the rains started and were pretty relentless for the remainder of the day. Th crowds soon had had enough and by closing time when the sun decided to come out the grounds were empty. Such is the gamble of CLA!

CLA Gamefair 2015

CLA Gamefair 2015 Steve Harridence and Emily from Filson while away the afternoon as it rained.

CLA Gamefair 2015 The rain came followed by the mud. The Churchill bus was a safe haven from the wet.

CLA Gamefair 2015An evening stroll for Ricky Bond (rt) and Jason (ct) from Westley Richards.