Whilst I was down in Devon last week, the gentleman loading for me told me he had a nice collection of Westley Richards shot cartridges and asked if I would be interested to see them. He then kindly brought them to the shoot and I was able to take a few photographs.
Westley Richards had a very active role in making cartridges both for shotguns and rifles and a good variety were always offered in our our old catalogues. I even remember as a child the shot shell loading machines in one of the sheds at the Grange Road factory churning out cartridges. My Father stopped making them as people were driving into the carpark, asking the cartridge loader to throw 1000 in the trunk of their car and then never being invoiced as the sale was not getting passed through to the showroom. Also cartridges used to be sold solely from the gun dealers and when they became available through ironmongers and farm shops, this drove the prices down and they remain a ‘loss leader’ to this day and small scale loading is just not viable.
This is certainly a very comprehensive collection of our earlier rolled crimp cartridges and includes some of the Faunetta which are very scarce indeed. My thanks for being given the opportunity to see them.
This is one of the first paper case cartridges we produced. I am not sure the exact date!
The Cartridge Collector and a Loader Roscoe Wright who ‘never missed a beat’.
I don’t recall that we have made a set like this is recent years. Indeed we have made the full set of 7 guns, from .410 to 8g for our Bicentennial, but they were cased in a huge display case and these are cased in a triple motor type case for travel and use. Flexibility in a leather case, if you are not managing with the .410 you can step up a grade and go for the 28g, still no luck and onto the 20g and vice versa of course! A gun for every quarry.
The engraving on these guns was executed by Frederique Lepinois who’s work you have hopefully seen on The Explora before. Frederique is the sister of our stocker Romain but I am not sure if we made this a completely family affair with him doing the stocking also.
These guns are destined now for Dallas and an eager ranch owner, to whom I wish many years of pleasure hunting the native quail for himself, his children and grandchildren
Part of our problem at Westley Richards is we are never quite able to say NO when an interesting project is offered, the Rafiki 700/500 and the pair of 4g guns immediately spring to mind. So when we were asked by a long standing client Dallas Safari Club convention some years ago to build a new falling block rifle, we said YES!
Three years on we have finally completed the work and the first Take Down Farquharson rifle we as a company have built in many years is ready for delivery. I am not sure exactly how many years since our last, but I don’t think I would be far out if I said 100 years.
Projects like this are very good for a gunmaker, perhaps not financially but certainly it is an opportunity to show the diversity of skills and the ability to build guns and rifles ‘off price list’ or non standard guns, bespoke gunmaking just as it should be. It is always good to show something new and unusual and I do know enthusiasts love these classic single shot rifles.
After sending the first photos of the rifle to the client last night, I anxiously awaited his first reaction and was relieved this morning to get his response.
“It looks magnificent and thanks to everyone involved for sticking with it when I am sure you would rather have given up on it.That’s the problem with WR your word is your bond and you keep your word!”
A surprise visit today at the factory, Graham Halsey MD of Boss & Co., dropped in to introduce the new owner of Boss gunmakers, Arthur Demoulas. We had a very brief visit and I was able to give a flash tour of our factory before they departed to London.
I must say, it came as a little bit of a surprise, this will now be the 4th owner of Boss & Co. during my time here. I wish the company every success and hope that they continue to build their very fine guns without compromise. The pair of 28g Over and Under Guns we have here at the factory which were built by a combination of the last 3 owners of the company are quite superb and I know they have prompted customers to order similar, as has the .500 NE over under we have.
About 20 years ago now, we re-introduced the PH model Anson & Deeley fixed lock double rifle. At the time we did this aimed primarily at the Professional Hunter market. The rifle was specified to be everything that was needed for Africa but without any frills in order to keep the cost down. The rifle was built by exactly the same people as our other rifles and to the same very high standards.
The barrels are chopper lump, the action is a removable hinge pin, A&D action with Model C bolting, manual safe work and Southgate ejectors. Sights were kept simple with a ramp front sight and a standing and folding rear sight. In its original PH offering the wood grade was plainer and the standard format engraving was Gold Name and case colour hardening.
Over the years since introduction we have built a variety of these rifles in .577, .500 and .470 some Gold Name and some fully engraved.
Upgrade the original format too much and the distance to the hand Detachable lock rifle is closed quickly and for this reason we build relatively few of this model. By the time best wood, WR front sight, traditional engraving and other things are added it becomes ever closer to the cost of our standard droplock double which includes these options.
A good week for the take down rifles with 2 separate rifles completed, cased and ready for delivery. Both the rifles are combination 2 barrel sets in .375H&H and .300H&H and built on double square bridge magnum Mauser actions. All the optics (each rifle has two scopes) are by Swarovski. Both rifles were cased in house by our leather department.
You can see from these photographs that each gunmaker creates his own space here at the factory. Come 5 o’clock, the gun parts are put in the vault and the bench left to pick up the work the next day..
IF I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Every individual bench at Westley Richards has its own unique pile of well worn tools, files, turnscrews, small hammers, punches and an assortment of other things. Every pile is individual, but every pile has something in common, handles worn and polished over time by constant years of use. There is much talk about CNC machines and clever engineering but the real backbone of our craft lies in the use of these piles of tools which a gunmaker will add to constantly over the years, making some, inheriting some. If you can’t use these hand tools, you can’t make a best gun, it is as simple as that.
Last week I was explaining to two of our young gunmakers who are taking over the filing up of our actions, that whilst I expect them to adhere to the traditional Westley Richards shapes, I also expect them to be constantly competing to find the most beautiful and subtle shapes to the fences, action and parts, to create a signature of their own they are proud of. I want to be able to pick up a gun and know who filed it up, know that a person filed it up, not a CNC machine.
On the polishers bench is a small mountain of abrasive paper from coarse to fine, his tools!
This .375 H&H belted magnum droplock double rifle was delivered in 1953 to its first owner. The rifle remains in remarkably good condition with original case colour and other finishes, partly due to the fact it has resided in our care for the past 15 or so years. The rifle is fitted with Westley Richards pattern QD mounts holding a low mounted Lyman scope which is very comfortably viewed over the Monte Carlo style stock. The scope may be considered old fashioned, but it certainly works fast, putting you on target if your eyesight is anything like mine, poor!
I remember when I started here at Westley Richards the choices for double rifles were essentially .458 and .375, both of which were at the time considered ‘The Calibre’s‘ for Africa. Ammunition was freely available and these were the days before the introduction of the wide range of old British calibre’s, pioneered by Bell (Brass Extrusion Laboratories) and then bettered and perfected by the likes of Wolfgang Romey, who we ourselves used to develop our own range of ammunition, in the late 80’s.
Whilst not having the knock down power of the current revived and more popular dangerous game calibre’s like the .470 and .500 the .375 H&H remains a superb and popular calibre, one that can be used all around the world and a rifle that still lives up to its name as ‘one rifle for Africa’.
This rifle will be on our used gun site shortly and we will be fitting it in an appropriate case.