It was many months ago now that I first posted about these tool rolls I found in Germany in 2015. It was in that post I laid down my intentions to reproduce the rolls authentically and here we are a year later and the job is finally completed! Why did it take so long I wonder?But considering the fabric has to be made, the correct buttons and buckles sourced and time has to be found to make it all up and perfect I suppose it is possible, or perhaps someone took their eye off the ball, most probably me! Anyway here finally is our version of the Safari tool roll which is shortly going to be available online. The roll can be filled with a variety of personal items, the stars holders adjust to hold various sizes making it pretty flexible. Here we show with a torch, leatherman and a set of cleaning tools.
Another product that I have always wanted to faithfully reproduce is my Fathers old fishing bag from the 1950’s, one which I was handed down when he hung up his rods. This was made with a fine cloth with excellent zips and fittings but sadly I lost more flies through the holes than I did in the brush behind me on the riverbank, so it had to be retired. We have now sourced all the parts and made this version in our workshops and I myself am very pleased with the result. A classic bag but with the security given by the additional zip closures. I now just need to think of a name for it!
The leather bag is one of the first prototypes of Ralph Lauren’s Ricky bag which we developed in conjunction with their design team as an overnight bag for their Purple Label brand many years ago. The bag later developed into their signature handbag and remains available to this day.
The commas in the title of this little article are appropriate because one function of a comma is to give pause. During the handling of many a fine gun over the years, it has sometimes been the case that an initial and cursory inspection has brought the manufacturing style and form of Westley Richards to mind. However, after having paused to confirm that sterling name on the rib, locks or body, another lesser known name has been revealed. Some of the names we encountered included Army & Navy, Bentley & Playfair, James Collins, J. D. Dougall, Richard Ellis, William Ford, I. Hollis, Charles Henry Maleham, Andrew Maloch, John Patstone, Pittsburgh Firearms Co., E. M. Reilly, Charles Smith, Thomas Turner, Webley & Scott, and even some Continental producers and retailers.
My favorite gun writer has said that he can afford Westley Richards and I am heartily glad for him. We have learned that there is deservedly a great deal of financial ‘blue sky’ and cachet associated with that justifiably famous marque. It is however quite possible to buy perfectly good ‘Westley-made’ guns for a lot less money when they were marked and marketed by someone else. In this third year following the Bicentennial of Westley Richards we present a few such examples..
A bar in wood pin fire by James Collins with the WR doll’s head lever work.
James Collins was listed at 12 Vigo Lane, Regent Street in 1826 which was clearly too early for this lovely pin fire. Then he was listed at 115 Regent Street in 1853 just when the pin fire was becoming popular in London.
A gun by Dougall. Photos courtesy of Kirby Hoyt.
James Dalziel Dougall is best known for his Lockfast action and he had a well established network of workmen so he might well have needed only to have bought-in barreled actions from WR. Alas, we no longer own a 16 bore WR Anson & Deeley bearing his name but we replaced it with this lovely 12 bore made in 1877, just two years after the A&D was patented.
An A&D with intercepting sears, which Ian regards as a solution to a nonexistent problem. This one was marketed by William Ford. Photo courtesy of Tom Oppel.
William Ford was a barrel borer by trade and a good one, too. He was not a maker per se but bought things out of the Trade and retailed them just like everybody else. He did a lot of specialist boring when choke became the rage, and he was highly regarded for his expertise within the Birmingham Trade.
This example shown is by Isaac Hollis (London 1861-1900) and it employs the first lever work used by Westley Richards. Isaac Hollis had several patents to his own credit and he is known to have made the guns for Crockart of Blairgowrie, Scotland. Photo courtesy of David Condon.
The Maleham. Photo courtesy of Guns International.
According to Boothroyd’s Revised Directory of British Gunmakers Charles Henry Maleham took over the business from his uncle, George Maleham, who was listed at 5 West Bar, Sheffield from 1854-1857. C.H. Maleham joined the firm about 1860 and retired in 1910. The address on the subject gun is 20 Regent Street Waterloo Place, London. It is quite an early example of the Anson & Deeley boxlock and bears use number 148 indicating manufacture in about 1877-78.
Next is an extensively engraved 12 bore bar in wood pattern hammer gun without rebounding locks retailed by Andrew Maloch, sporting goods dealer of Stirling, Scotland. It has the very distinctive and patented WR dolls-head extension and top lever bolting system, along with the mechanically unusual but invariably reliable two piece strikers that are struck by the ‘up and over’ pin-fire style hammers. These hammers do not contact the striker with their downward facing horizontal face, as would be the case with a pin-fire chambering but rather with the underside of the inner curve of the hammer nose. The 30 inch cylinder bore gun with Windsor pattern three wire Damascus barrels has accounted for many high and fast birds since it came down to the States from Canada over a decade ago.
The WR/Maloch still hunts after a century and a half.
Even the tail of the top tang was engraved. The WR patent dolls- head fastener is clearly identified on this gun marketed by Maloch.
The WR/Maloch exhibits very high quality scroll engraving. Might it have been sporting goods dealer Andrew Maloch’s personal gun? It is much better engraved than the WR Queen Victoria gave to Prince of Wales Albert Edward in 1870.
The cylinder bore of the WR/Maloch can catch a bird.
John Lewis Patstone was in business from 1860 in Birmingham. His sons George and John and their sister Elizabeth continued the business after their father’s death in 1915. The three siblings maintained at their old address until the business was acquired by William Cox and Son in 1926. John Lewis Patstone and his eldest son George were quite well known jobbing gunmen within the Whittall St. area of the Trade, in the later Victorian era.
Two views of a John Patstone Anson & Deeley boxlock. The much copied and classic profile of the A&D action introduced in 1875. Photos courtesy of Merz Antiques.
Joseph Charles Reilly set up as a jeweler in 1816, and went into the gun business in 1835. His son Edward Michael joined him in 1848 and was well established by the time that breech-loading guns became popular. It is more than probable that E M Reilly built no guns himself but he contracted with the very best makers including at least WR and Thomas Turner, and he marketed their excellent guns under his own name, E. M. Reilly and Company since 1882. Reilly did well enough that for some years he maintained a shop in Paris as well. In an 1887 advertisement Reilly claimed to be gunmaker “By special appointment to His Majesty the King of Spain; His Majesty the King of Portugal; His Majesty the King of the Netherlands.” Two prominent Victorians were associated with E.M. Reilly. Sir Samuel Baker used a pair of Reilly 10 bores and inspired by Baker, Frederick Courtney Selous took a Reilly 10 bore to Africa on his first venture there. Selous’ gun was stolen shortly after he arrived and so it is mentioned only ruefully, but Sir Samuel’s pair achieved fame through his books. Because Baker was a hero to the Victorians and his books sold well, the fact that he used Reilly guns was a good endorsement. The example we present here (SN 30363) is Number 1 of a pair. It is stamped on the action flats with Deeley’s Patent Ejector use number 428 and Anson and Deeley’s Patent use number 6250 for the box lock action. Stocked in well figured walnut it shows cast on for a left -handed shooter. Please inform us if you know the whereabouts of the No. 2 gun!
Reilly also supplied pairs of guns.
The fences of the Reilly are well covered with tight scrolls as is the rest of the receiver. Note the pin head behind the ball shape of the fence. This was the pivot of an intercepting safety sear; Ian says that it is a solution for a non-existent problem!
Andrew Maloch and Charles Smith both obtained whole guns, or very nearly so from WR.
Boothroyd’s useful Revised Directory of British Gunmakers lists Charles Smith & Sons as gunsmiths at 37 Market Place, Newark beginning in 1879. Like E M Reilly, Smith did not actually manufacture guns but bought them in. The specimen shown above is the No.2 gun of a pair made in 1928 for an Irishman whose family crest appears on a gold plate on the stocks. The No. 1 gun has equally attractive ‘smoke and honey’ wood but it was in use by a friend when the photo was made. Here we have the lovely old Maloch of ca. 1870 with the No. 2 Charles Smith A&D box lock.
The Thomas Turner gun has an unusually short fore end. They were sometimes fitted when the user was disabled, by the loss or curtailed use of the forward hand. Photo courtesy of G. R. Young.
Turner also modified the typically broader WR top lever. Photo courtesy of G. R. Young.
Thomas Turner was born in 1805. By 1834 he was in business as a gun barrel maker in Birmingham. He is credited with eight gun related patents and he expanded his business to outlets in Basingstoke, Newbury and Reading. His most prestigious address was 19 Brook Street, London from 1884-1891. Thomas Turner was also a valuable sub-contractor to WR, had the entire Birmingham trade around him and was quite capable of making, or having made, the entire gun ‘under license’ if he wanted to. Perhaps he used the same forgings that WR bought-in from the foundries and machined them himself? Or did WR just send him down all of the rough machined bits? Maybe they let him have everything in-the-white? Get the idea? Who made this ‘Westley Richards’?
Looking at other types and grades of guns marketed by Reilly, Patstone, and Turner in particular will also show features that originated at the hands of William and Charles Scott and Philip Webley’s workmen and other lesser known suppliers as well as WR. As information has been collated by such excellent researchers as Douglas Tate and Donald Dallas we have recently learned that Webley and Scott were also makers to big name London dealers such as Holland and Holland and (gasp) even Purdey. Oh yes, Westley Richards also received whole guns from Webley and Scott. According to research by Douglas Tate, a very highest grade William Rochester Pape of 1871 was probably made entirely by Edward B. Wilkinson of Whittall Street in Birmingham. So, to find ‘Westleys’ with so many other names attached really should come as no surprise as the complex workings of the British gun Trade become more clear. It has been said that emulation is the most sincere form of flattery. That being so Westley Richards have been very well flattered over 200 years. They are quite rightly proud of all the pistols, rifles and guns bearing their own name. The global copying of the Anson and Deeley boxlock action since 1875 guarantees their place as one of the ‘greats’ in the eyes of those who appreciate firearms.
The Anson & Deeley action was adopted for some powerful center fire nitro big game rifle cartridges. Here are three that were marketed on the European continent. Photo courtesy of the Double Gun Journal.
Even the Americans got into the act. The Pittsburgh Firearms Co. knew a good thing when they saw it. In business only from 1860-1885 they marketed this fine old Westley under their own name. This was a $700 gun when I had it. Imagine how much more it might have cost with Westley Richards in that banner!
That broad top lever and dolls head fastener are certain identification as to where this gun was made.
An original pre war George Gibbs Ltd. .505 Gibbs Rifle. Willis & Geiger safari shirt.
I started hunting with my late father in those halcyon days in the early 1970’s, just before Kenya banned hunting in 1977
My father’s hunting career had started in the late 1930’s, his prime hunting area the South and South Eastern slopes of Mt Kenya and the trout abundant rivers and streams that flowed down the forested mountain to the plain. From his accounts, an area then abundant with vast herds of cape buffalo, big lion and numerous rhino. His preferred heavy calibre, a .404 Jeffery with a very heavy worn tapering barrel, and a thick solid stock of dark ochre red walnut.
Growing up in Nairobi in my formative years, I would haunt certain shops: Rhodes Books, Guns and Cameras, Nairobi Sports house, and, almost opposite the New Stanley on Kenyatta Avenue, the famous Kenya Bunduki.
I have vivid recollections of one particular visit to the armoury of Kenya Bunduki and browsing through the racks of heavy calibre magazine rifles, mainly the calibre of the age, the .458 Win Mag, interspersed with a few .404 Jeffery’s. One single rifle however, caught my attention. It stood out like a short –legged Borana Bull amongst a herd of Friesian cows; a monstrous .505 Gibbs. Its twenty-two inch heavy barrel blueing worn silver, dark walnut stock bruised and scratched from countless safaris. It spoke of adventure, elephant in the humid coastal forests, and the grey ghostly spider like Commiphora woodland of Tsavo and the Tarn Desert, stretching far beyond to the emerald green riverine forest tangle of the Tana River, and north, far north of south from nowhere else, to the isolated reed beds of the vast Lorian Swamp. Rhino in the coolness of the dark, damp cedar and giant Podo forests and glades, the Abedares and the snowy peaked Mt Kenya.
Lion on the red oat grass plains of Maasailand and Cape Buffalo in the scented Leleshwa, and yellow barked Aecacia choked lugas, and gullies of the Loita Hills.
The rifle symbolised a force of nature, in its short muscular dimensions, it gave you confidence to stop anything however large, however dangerous, and under whatever circumstances.
A friend of my father farmed the lower forested fringes of the Abedare range in the 1930’s, he used the Gibbs on control work, and I recall seeing old sepia images of rhino culled as vermin. I shake my head at the thought that rhino were once so common as to be vermin. Can you imagine how many rhino there must have been?
Later, in the 1970’s, when I apprenticed to the Seargent Major on his cattle ranch in northern Kenya, and while being Askari for the livestock at night, we would sit around a fire at night, chewing the cud so to speak, while countless shooting stars criss-crossed the endless void of the equatorial night skies.
He was a man who had been around the block a few times with regards to hunting, control work and as an Honorary Game Warden in colonial times. His battery consisted of a very well looked after but battered .318 Westley Richards and a Cogswell and Harrison .375 H and H Magnum. With these he took everything from impala to elephant, but he always stated that when things got “naughty”, (he was a master of the understatement), he loved the confidence and dependency the Gibbs gave him.
The Kenya Game Department at the time had a few Gibbs in service for control, and he had used one with great satisfaction when he needed that extra edge. He had used numerous calibres, but always quoted the Gibbs as having a distinct advantage in stopping power over the others. The talk would quite often enter the early hours, and around the fire at the break of dawn, “a lot of dead soldiers”, one of the Seargant Major’s long ago expressions from the Second War, meaning a lot of empty beer bottles in this case, “White Cap”, accompanied by a throbbing head.
It was a place with the most extraordinary light. I have never, to this day, seen a sky with such an intensity of blue and some days I would spend hours on Leopard Rock Kopje, with a pair of Zeiss, looking north into the eternal, far, far distance of Kenya’s Northern frontier District.
I will not go into the Gibbs’ history and ballistics; this has been done and anyway, you always have the internet for that.
Why buy a Gibbs? Firstly, the romance, for it is part of the Golden Age of big game hunting, mostly used by professionals and Game Control officers. Secondly, its large case capacity offers lower Chamber pressure, hence you won’t have any extraction problems when that Cape Buffalo that has designs on turning you into a doormat, heads your way. Its ballistics, although almost similar to the top new .450 calibre magazine rifles, has a considerably greater bore size, thus creating a larger wound channel.
Personally, I would want my Gibbs to have a short, heavy, twenty-two inch barrel and weigh around 11lbs, a single iron sight this is a stopping rifle, not for long range, although Leaf sights look great.
Its other great appeal is that it has always been rather elusive. You hear a lot about its wonderful reputation, but never actually see one: it’s like a ghost, talked about but never seen. When you have one built, the phantom becomes a reality.
On a final note, some of you may remember that old 1970’s Janis Joplin song: “Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz”. Change some of the lyrics round, maybe not as catchy… I guess you know where I am coming from.
Westley Richards .505 Gibbs rifle which left the factory last month.
I have shot at The Park since 1967, when I first went beating with my father, who has had a gun there continuously since 1960. It is a private shoot, run by the Bliss family, who have farmed the parkland and surrounding countryside since the interwar period, when Desmond Bliss’s grandfather bought the Hall. During the Second World War the hall was requisitioned by the Army and used for officer training. After the war the hall became a special school and was recently converted into a luxury hotel.
On the death of Desmond Bliss’s grandfather, his father Thomas took over the running of the farm and re-established the shoot. The land is gently undulating with many woods planted for shooting and includes The Park as well as outlying areas of farmed land. Desmond attended the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester and helped his father run the farm. Thomas retired from active land management in the 1990s and Desmond has run the farm and shoot since then.
Arriving I park up in the farmyard, amongst the four wheel drives of my fellow guns and the cars of beaters and pickers-up. My father, as usual, is already there, having been one of the first to arrive. It had attempted to rain on my drive north and the cloud cover is low and gray, though usefully a decent wind is blowing. Ralph the keeper greets us and thrusts into my hand an old ice cream tub with money in it as well as a clipboard. “Can you do the guns sweepstake, please Tim?” This is an old tradition, where all the guns and beaters guess what the bag total will be at the end of the day. A few years ago Desmond decided to spice things up by insisting we then multiply our choice by the number of species shot. I guess 406, which means a bag of 106 made up of four species; I know we shall get pheasant and duck, but I’m hoping also for a pigeon and perhaps a fox.
Today, in addition to me, my father and Desmond, the guns include Jonty Bliss, Desmond’s younger brother and now a noted surgeon; Jonty and I used to spend school holidays wandering around the farm bagging rabbits, rooks and rats with his father’s Savage .22 rifle. Also along is regular gun Arthur Pinfold, who has shot at The Park for over 30 years and is an ex-boyfriend of one of my sisters; Mike Tolhurst and Scud Wells, farming neighbours of Desmond’s and lastly Minty Everard, daughter of one of Desmond’s good friends. She is using her 20 bore, all the rest of us use our side by side 12s. My father has his Beesley, I am using my great-grandfathers Henry Clarke, Desmond has a Holland & Holland Royal, Jonty his late father’s Stephan Grant side-lever.
We have a quick word from Desmond on the plan for the day and a reminder to pick up our empties, shoot cocks only and to shoot ground game if we wish. He then produces one of his collection of position finders; today it is a delicate silver fan of peg numbers that are revealed when the clam box it is contained in is opened. I draw peg number three. Then we mount up into the old sheep cart behind the equally old Fordson tractor, which has been the shoot transport forever. We sit on straw bales along each side; game is hung from a bar at the far end. We chatter away, catching up with each other’s news. Everyone knows each other and has shot together before. It’s chilly but not cold, the dogs in the cart are keen and we lean against our guns, snug in their leather slips, as we talk. It’s not long before we stop alongside a green gate set into the park wall, built of a lovely honey coloured local sandstone, where we debus and walk into a ploughed field. We have had a good deal of rain in the past months and Desmond has just been telling us about how he has had to plough back in his autumn drilling as the seeds became too waterlogged to grow. He’s not happy about it and we don’t really fancy the fact we shall be spending a good deal of the day tramping about in the plough.
As we often do the day starts with a stand around the lakes. There are three lakes built on three levels. They were used once to breed captive fish for feeding the halls residents and even now a local angling club has the rights to the fishing. We line up around the bottom lake, release our guns from the captivity of their slips and load up with bismuth cartridges for this drive. We wait for the beaters to push the duck off the top lake, where they like to gather first thing in the morning. At first it is quiet, with the occasional sound of a bird and the wind in the trees. We wait several minutes before two mallard come from behind us and fly, unerringly, straight over Desmond at peg five; he brings them both down and they fall with a splash into the water. He rarely misses. A couple of minutes later a group of a dozen duck fly over us, pretty much out of range, before Ralph blows his whistle to signify the end of the drive. Jonty is keen for his young Springer Spaniel Tess to do a retrieve from water and, with his unloaded gun broken over his arm, he paces quickly up to Desmond, indicates to Tess and watches her find the first duck. It’s always lovely to see Springers working and I miss mine terribly, even though it is now over ten years since I had my own put down. As Tess swims back with her proud retrieve, Jonty steps to the edge of the bank to help our out. To his dismay, the bank gives way under him and he finds himself up to his chest in the icy water. His boots scrabble for some footing and he raises his arm above his head to keep his gun away from the water. Desmond pulls his brother from the lake and makes arrangements for him to change into some of his own clothes for the remainder of the day.
As Jonty wends his squelching way back to the farm house, the rest of us move through the trees and back onto the ploughed field we had come in by, though this time we move up three pegs and onto our new numbers. I am on peg six for this drive, which is a maize strip running along the inside of the park wall. Desmond established it five years ago and it has become known as Hellfire. The beaters start at both ends of the maize and beat it in toward the centre. As they start to do so, a watery but none the less bright sun emerges from behind the clouds, in time to provide us all with an excuse for missing any birds, as it shines straight into our eyes. One of the beaters dogs is badly behaved and can be seen scurrying forward well in advance of the beating line. A lone pheasant erupts and flies upward and away to my left, to present itself nicely for Desmond, who is now on the left hand end of the line. He fires, the cocks head folds back and it lands on the plough in a burst of feathers, stone dead. By this time a refreshed and dried Jonty has taken his place on peg number one, having purloined a pickers-up car to hurry his mission. Now the birds start to come over the line and we all manage to dirty our barrels for the first time. A lone cock heads for me, making a nice, high overhead shot. I need my second barrel to hit it and it lands behind me, almost in front of one of the picking-up team. As the whistle blows for the end of the drive and we stow our guns back in their slips, I bend down to gather my empty cases and check the bird I hit has been gathered in to hand. It has and the dogs are doing their bit to make the day successful, by bounding around and finding all the birds we managed to get.
By now the sun is making sporadic appearances and the wind continues to blow in a reasonable way. As the beaters move off for the next drive the guns gather around the cart and I produce my hip flask for some elevenses. I made some sloe gin two years ago and it has matured nicely. I have a sweet tooth and like my tipple syrup-like; my father, who does not share my affliction, winces as he swallows the mixture. He’ll have his revenge on me later. No-one else complains and the flask is soon emptied. Desmond issues us with instructions for the next drive, which is outside The Park. For Jonty and me this entails a long trudge around the edge of another ploughed field and slight uphill pull for us to reach Gorse Wood. As number one peg I have to walk some 30 yards ahead of the beaters on the south side of the wood, as they push through. Jonty is away to my left covering the north side, where he will eventually move onto his peg to join the line of guns around the far edge of the trees. The cry goes up from Ralph and the beaters start to work their way eastwards. I am mindful of the two flag men away to my right flank, ensuring birds that attempt to escape are pushed back over the trees and onto the guns. A lone cock explodes from the undergrowth and reaches for the top of the trees, curling away over me. It is not a hard shot but I manage to miss with both barrels and I gently swear as I break my gun to reload. The next bird to get up flies over Jonty and he brings it down. We progress slowly forward and soon the other guns are getting in some shooting. I attempt a long shot at a bird getting up behind me, but miss again. Oh dear, perhaps I should have had a few more practice clays a few weeks earlier! I get to the hedgerow where I am to stop and act as a back gun whilst the beaters turn north to complete their work. Two grey squirrels make an appearance at the top of a nearby tree. I choose one and bring my gun to bear. As I fire the creature disappears around the back of the trunk. Fired four, missed three. I notice a small black crossbow bolt lodged into a branch at chest height. I pluck it from its rest and examine the steel tip. It is rusted so has been there a while, but it has also been heavily sharpened. It probably belonged to a poacher after deer. I take it to give to Desmond and let him know that there has been activity up on that hedge. The whistle blows and I make my way through the wood to where the guns had been standing. Jonty is off to my left looking for a bird. I meet up with Scud and Minty and we walk down back toward The Park wall, chatting about the price of lambs; Scud has just got out of sheep altogether and put his entire farm out to contract. He has trebled his profits as a result.
Back in the park and it’s time to gather around the cart again, this time for a nip of my father’s sloe gin; it is dryer and tangier than mine, no doubt about it. Time now to move onto Frogs Leap, which is one of my favourite drives at The Park. On peg four I know I shall be in the shooting. But the rain starts and we button up against both it and the wind, which turns things rather colder than either have been. We usually have to wait a fair time for the beaters to do their work before the birds start appearing, but not so this morning. We are soon stuck in to some wonderful high birds and I manage to bring down six. One very high bird off to my right was particularly rewarding, especially with just the one shot to it. Jonty is to my right and I can see he too is having a good time getting on to some high birds. The wind is bringing them to us just right and we seem to be in the pound seats; wonderful. At the end of the drive we disappear into the woods behind us. They surround the top lake and there are a couple of birds that have landed in the water. The pickers-up are getting them in before Jonty ventures anywhere near to the bank. I pick four birds myself but love to watch the dogs beavering away in the undergrowth, keen as mustard and willing to please. There is time for one more drive before lunch so we all hop into the cart, now with the bag swinging from the pole at the far end.
Moving up three for the Picket, I find myself at peg seven. This is a good spot as it is the lowest peg and the birds tend toward this end of the line to fly into the wood behind. However, with all the rain the ground under my feet is very heavy and I have large clumps of plough on my boots before the drive starts. Similar to Hellfire, the beaters move in towards the middle of the cover from both ends. Over to my right and on higher ground, stands a small sandstone covered cupola where the hall’s then owners stood to watch a famous civil war battle unfold in the distance. As the birds start to appear I find that my position, stuck in the mud, renders me incapable of effectively swinging around to my left so I chose the birds coming overhead. One high bird is hit hard but not dead. I stop to watch its descent, fortunately into the out flung arms of Chris the tractor driver, who gathers it in safe and administers a quick wring of its neck. Again Jonty and I have enjoyed a great stand and had a fair share of the shooting. Away to the right of the line Minty has been pulling the birds down too, a fact remarked on by many of us; she blushes. It’s certainly feeling like lunch now and we hop into the cart to return to the farmyard.
For as long as we have been going to The Park, lunch has been taken in the old estate carpenters workshop. It is the last of a line of lovely old brick built outhouses; the game is hung in the next door room and the beaters use the workshop beyond for their lunches. In the room the old treadle lathe still resides under the window and Desmond has already lit the log fire in the grate. Three wooden tables, that have seen much better days, are placed longitudely in the room, with benches along each side. At the fare end an old glass fronted bookcase acts as repository for glasses, wine and port. On the side away from the fire, up against the bookcase, is my father’s perch. He has always sat there. I slide in next to him and he produces lunch for us both. We start with a glass of dry sherry, followed by a mug of hot soup. Sandwiches are next, usually accompanied by Scotch eggs or cold sausages, as we have today. There are also some small cherry tomatoes. By now all the guns are sat around the table and we gently steam dry. Our caps and jackets are hung on the old metal hooks by the door. Tess lies under the table. The wine is circulated. We are warm, in good fellowship and pulling each other’s legs about the mornings shooting or the state of Arthur’s car. My father produces tangerines and a chocolate bar, Desmond offers us festive mince pies and soon, my favourite bit; the port decanter comes around. As is also traditional, a bottle of port goes to the beaters. Some of them have been beating at The Park almost as long as my father has been shooting there. It all adds to the timeless nature of the place. After he has finished his first glass of port, Desmond pops next door to see the beaters off to the next drive. He soon returns to tell us that we have six minutes before moving off and pours himself another port. It is with a degree of reluctance and stiffness of limb that we prise ourselves away from the warmth and comradeship of the table, don our kit and get back onto the cart.
Scud and I have lit our cigars and we puff contentedly on these as we rattle our way to the bridge over the brook that runs through the park. Here we stop and walk off to our pegs for Sheepfold Wood the centrepiece drive at The Park. The wood sits on top of a small hill and at its southern side Desmond always plants a cover crop. Large round straw bales at the northern side provide a wind break for the birds as well as a useful riser to get them up and flying. The pegs are lined along the brook at the bottom of the hill and by the time the birds are over us, they are stood tall, high and fast. Some curve away to the right or left of each gun, some set their wings to glide into the wood behind us. These are always testing birds, there are usually a lot of them and it is an exciting stand. Pulling these birds down is a satisfying achievement. I’ve accounted for five of them by the time the whistle is blown and the beaters appear out of the wood. The pickers-up dogs are having a wonderful time finding the birds and the guns feel that they have been well tested, as we walk across the plough to Old Teds, the final drive of the day.
I carry my father’s gun as it is a hard pull up the hill in the porridge-like plough and, at close to 85, he is entitled to some assistance. I’m on peg five, whilst he is out on the left flank at eight. Jonty comes up past me, puffing hard to reach his peg. Minty and Scud are chatting on his peg at number three. From up here we have a splendid view behind us, facing north, looking across the brook below and then the land rises gently to meet the next wood, with open grassland between. Away in the distance is the mainline railway, carrying trains from London to the north, on up to Scotland. In the distance I can hear a helicopter and see the tall Elizabethan chimney pots of the hall. The wind has died down somewhat now and the rain has held off. The beaters start to flush through Old Teds and soon we are getting into more birds. This time and despite being in the middle of the line, the birds favour the guns on each side of me, splitting as they approach me. I still get one and it thumps down behind me. I’m satisfied though as I have had another wonderful days shooting and as I walk back to the cart with Desmond and Jonty we agree that the weather has generally held good for us and the birds have flown well.
We return to the yard and put our kit away in the back of our cars. Ralph comes around to give us two brace each for the pot. We give him a tip and then pop in to thank the beaters for their hard work, before retiring again into to the warmth of the shoot room. In there hanging on a wall is a notice board. Attached to the top is a pair of gun barrels, one of them displaying a ferocious looking tear half way along. Those are the original barrels to my Clarke and a notice next to them describes the circumstances of their bursting when my father was shooting at The Park, back in 1975. Old copies from game books from The Park’s heyday in the late Victorian years are there and photos of long ago shooting parties. The sense of history, of time stood still is palpable and comforting. After a cup of tea from our thermoses and another mince pie, it is time to say goodbye. We part knowing we shall shoot together again and having enjoyed each other’s company, the fresh air and glorious countryside. We’ll sleep well this night, but before doing so, I shall replay the day’s highlights to myself, the better to remember and be able to recall when I see the entry in the game book. 90 pheasant, 2 duck.
Simon’s note. The names and places have been changed in this account and for the photographs I have taken the liberty to use various from our library to attempt to illustrate a family day of shooting.
Over the weekend we attended the Southern Side by Side. I would like to thank all the people who took the time to visit our stand and talk about guns with Anthony (Trigger) and Ricky from the factory and I look forward myself to being present at the show once again next year.
Thank you to Larry also for taking the time to send me some photos of the show to post, giving us an idea what the small show looks like.
To many, a rear sight is just a bit of steel sticking up with a notch filed in the top.However the forensic attention to detail at Westley Richards requires something a little more thoughtful and sophisticated, even on the smallest detail.
The process of finishing a rear sight for a Westley Richards rifle covers the stages of marking out, inlaying the gold, and finally matting the surrounding face.
The colours of yellow on black is the highest contrast colour combination as seen in eg. police warning tape, police vehicles, wasps and of course parking tickets.
This combination is chosen to give the clearest sight picture when aiming.
The gold, when inlaid is not highly polished which would give rise to reflections,but is left in a dull state so that it appears to be just ‘yellow.’ The 24 carat pure gold used is the richest and yellowest metallic colour available.
The matting that surrounds and contrasts with it presents a reflection free surface. To make it appear ‘blacker than black’ the matting cuts are angled downwards so that any light from above ‘falls’ into these microscopic cuts and cannot reflect outwards.
When the sight is finally blued to match the barrels, the view down the rib is of a high contrast yellow triangle against a dead black background.
The following photos show this process from start to finish on a rifle recently displayed on this blog.
Left. H. Holland .577 Snyder circa 1867. Right. Holland & Holland .360 No.5.
One gun that has always seemed very interesting to me is the so-called Howdah pistol. The history is rich and it was originally created to serve as a last-ditch effort from attacking animals whilst on the hunt. The name of the gun originates from the use of the Howdah – or rather the carriage if you will – placed atop an elephant while hunting. These were quite popular for hunting in India especially during the late 19th and into the early 20th century. The need arose after, one must assume, a few hunters were plucked from their howdahs by angry tigers! The hunter needed a way to defend himself quickly and easily – much more so than a long barreled rifle could provide. H. A. Leveson is quoted in regards to the howdah pistol, “to be effective, the muzzle must be placed close to the tiger’s head, and care must be taken not to kill the mahout.” The mahout was the one who would lead or tend the elephant and was generally the first to be attacked by a tiger.
These guns started out merely as cut-down, out of use rifles. Therefore, it is typical to see them using rifle cartridges that have also been trimmed. The original howdah pistols could be smooth or rifle bored guns; although I’m sure many of them were built from rifles that had seen their rifling deteriorate through heavy use; making them nearly useless for accurate shooting. Because of the close range use, long distance accuracy was not a requirement! Over the years, I have seen a few of these that were of the original variety and, although they were not pretty, I’m sure they were able to get the job done! It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century when the English makers started producing guns specifically meant for howdahs – or merely a defense type gun that could be worn on one’s belt. All of the big names – Westley Richards, Holland & Holland, and Purdey – made these types of Howdah pistols. They were also naturally produced by much smaller firms and probably cobbled together in India, as well.
Peterson and Elman in their book, “The Great Guns,” reference a variety of howdah pistols. One of the earliest mentioned in their book is “made by Westley Richards between 1835 and 1850, [and] was a caplock with a heavy, octagonal, .722 caliber barrel.” Obviously this was one of the earliest Howdah pistols manufactured, before the demand really took off. Through the natural evolution of cartridges, the howdah pistol was later manufactured using pinfire and then centerfire cartridges. As stated earlier, many of these were merely shortened version of their rifle counterparts or would otherwise employ cartridges such as the 577 Boxer which was developed by William Tranter of Birmingham or, later on, the more common 455 Webley.
I have seen many of these howdah pistols over the years and quite a few of them go through the major auctions. It’s quite often that they are found cased or in pairs; especially those of the nicer variety that were most likely bespoke. Many of them are very similar having side by side barrels and an underlever; though occasionally one will see something unique such as an over/under with a side lever like Lancaster made. Perhaps not serving much of a true purpose these days, I still think they are typically great values if one is interested in the history or possible providence of these types of guns. As some would say, “if only these guns could talk…”
The recent auction at James Julia in USA featured amongst its many lots, a large collection of English guns and rifles of the ‘large bore hammer variety’. Some of these hailed from the Nizam of Hyderabad’s collection. These items raised my interest particularly, Hyderabad being one of the many armouries that my father, Walter Clode was responsible in successfully acquiring during his days trading in India. (which I might ass continue to this day, his last visit, in his 86th year, being in January 2016! ). Hyderabad was the largest and most significant collection he acquired during is days with WR and was a deal completed in conjunction with Malcolm Lyell of Holland & Holland who helped finance it.
Last week a huge crate containing many of the Antique guns from this auction arrived at the factory and it was suggested I photograph them ‘whilst we had the opportunity’ and before they were delivered to the client who was away hunting at present. ‘They will make good material for the blog’ I was told, whilst at the same time I was openly asking for help to do just that!
Besides being an interesting collection of rifles what aroused my interest was all the paperwork that came with the individual guns, old invoices and letters from the makers regarding the history. There is often talk when dealing guns about the investment value of certain items and here we have some physical evidence.
In my opinion the market is in a low period at the moment, a buyers market for sure. As such I believe that many of the guns which passed through Julia did not get as much as I expected. As with any auction some exceptional pieces did very well but the bulk were just so so. This has always been a strong consideration of mine when advising people about auction houses, they are not on the whole a good place to sell guns, quick perhaps also efficient, but it is the volume commission they are after, not the individual sellers best interest.
The 8g Holland & Holland Paradox was made for Nizam of Hyderabad in 1893 and from there the history is a bit murky. The letter below to a US resident in 1966 seems to put the Paradox in USA before the main armoury in Hyderabad was obtained. It could have been the Nizam didn’t like it and it was returned or he disposed of in an earlier deal, after Partition and the handing in of guns to the police lines when the Maharajah’s effectively lost their direct power.
We do know the owner who consigned the Paradox to auction paid $4250.00 for it, I will assume that that was probably in the same year David Winks gave him the history which was 1981. So 35 years later and with the additional cost of the restoration and Huey case the rifle achieved a price of $23,000 and I think the buyer got great value, here is provenance, make, scarcity, all the things you look for. The whole only let down by the non original Huey case.
I think we will each draw our own conclusion from these details, if we spent $4250 on a car in 1981 it would have perhaps been gone and replaced now many times, an S coupe Mustang would have cost you $5250 and unless you covered it up and kept it pristine who knows what that would be worth.
Hopefully this firearm as well as the others he had gave him much pleasure during his life and for sure his investment returned a hell of a lot more than all this electronic junk we surround ourselves with today!
For actual information about Paradox guns there is a book, one I am afraid I have never been able to tackle!
“You must come to the Kalahari with me. It’s hunting the way it should be, walk and stalk. It’s also real camping, so you’ve got to take practically everything with you. You’ll love it.”
They say all good things come to those who wait. After Paul’s invitation (issued after his second trip to the Kalahari in 1992), a personal change of career and circumstance, meant it took twenty three years before I could call him and ask if his offer was still good. It was and what a trip it turned out to be.
A vast semi-desert of over 900,000 square kilometers, the Kalahari covers most of Botswana and vast parts of Namibia and South Africa and is spectacularly beautiful, especially the sunsets. But to the uninitiated, perhaps looking out the window of a moving car, it can seem monotonously similar in both colour and topography for many kilometers and hours of travel. But when you turn off the main road, it starts to weave its magic.
We arrived at our camp on a huge tract of some 25000 hectares of red land not far from Askham. As part of a land restitution process it had been handed back to the ǂKhomani San tribe who are descended from the bushmen who had roamed the area in centuries gone by. As a sustainable way of earning money for their people, they had removed all internal fences and were guiding paying hunters during the season. A tank holding 500 litres of water, three sacks of ‘Kameeldoring’ firewood and a cleanly swept campsite is provided. It was all we needed because as Paul said, he had brought everything else along.
We pitched tents and arranged the supplies with the help of our two guides and trackers, ‘Blade’ and ‘Arries’. They would be our companions for the time we hunted there and from the banter that started right after we arrived, I knew it was going to be an entertaining five days.
Everything was in its place by midday so we decided to start hunting straight away. We had two gemsbok, four springbok and one red haartebees on our permit, none of which I had hunted before. I had once enjoyed succulent springbok venison made by Paul’s wife Eliese, so I was really after springbok and was using Paul’s little custom made 6×45mm. He carried his 7×57mm Mauser in case we came upon gemsbok.
I quickly found my prior efforts to gain fitness for hunting the Kalahari should have been a bit more rigorous, because that red sand is soft. You also need good ankle high boots or else that fine sand finds its way through your socks and causes blisters. The dunes which traverse the landscape are separated by the hollows between them called ‘strate’ (or streets), where the game is most often found grazing or loafing. Dunes vary greatly in height and each has to be laboriously climbed to gain a vantage point to scout for game in the straat below. I was amazed however, at how fast one can pick up a bit of fitness after a few days when pushed.
Although there was a good amount of game, abundance is a relative term due to the low carrying capacity of the veld and they were by no means in every straat, so a lot of up and down hiking took place before Arries pointed out a lone springbok ram on the side of a dune across from the one we had crawled up. I was breathing hard and sweating freely as I lay and settled into the sand to aim and finally squeeze the trigger. It had been a long time since I had hunted and I was incredibly relieved when the ram dropped where it stood. Paul’s range finder said 180 meters so I was quite pleased with myself, but it was pushing the truth when Arries said “Man jy’s nes a sniper!” I was to prove him very wrong the next day.
Despite the bitterly cold mornings, we rose at 5.30am each day to get the fire going. We then had coffee and rusks at about 6am and were driving to put some distance between us and camp by 6.30am just as the Eastern horizon lightened. Once we switched off the bakkie’s engine, the silence was as vast as the land we stood in and we waited a while, soaking it all in. Then we would start walking.
That second morning we eventually found a relaxed group of springbuck after an hours walk and I crawled closer to take a long downhill shot at a ram standing off to one side. The ram fell over at the shot but got up immediately and started running with the herd. We could not find a single drop of blood at the spot, but there was no doubt he had been hit. “Nou begin die werk” Paul said, which turned out to be an understatement, and we started tracking the herd of about 40 springbuck.
We hoped to find the ram lagging to one side or even lying dead as we tracked the herd up and over numerous dunes. But no such luck. Distances are big in the Kalahari and when we did get the herd in sight from time to time, they were just moving dots to the naked eye and it was only with binoculars that we could actually see any detail. Eventually Arries noticed a small bit of the plume of white hair (which runs the length of the back and is called a ‘pronk’ in Afrikaans), was raised on one buck when on the others it lay flat. Although that animal was easily keeping up with the rest, we felt it was the wounded ram exhibiting some discomfort and it gave us renewed hope. After another hour tracking and following, Arries said he thought he could see a small red mark high up on the shoulder and we became pretty certain it was my ram and we pressed on harder because the herd kept moving steadily, covering ground at a surprising pace.
Eventually the herd split and we were undecided which group my ram had run with. Paul and Arries opted for the left, leaving Blade and myself to check those that had veered to our right. Eventually we heard Paul’s Mauser boom in the distance and we turned back towards the sound. I could see the smile on their faces from a long way off and a feeling of relief rushed through me before we met beneath a camelthorn.
There is no glory or fun about wounding an animal, but there is a sense of satisfaction in working hard for the next best outcome. It took us an hour to find the herd of springbuck. Then from the time of my first shot to Paul’s coup de grace, it was five and a half hours of hard slog. Then another two hours of direct, sweaty walking back to the bakkie, which we would have struggled to find without Blade and Arries showing the way. Then another hour to drive, pick up the ram, drop it at the cold rooms and finally get back to camp. Never has a beer tasted so good!
I think Paul is right when he said that hunts often tend to be more memorable for the cockups than the success stories. Over the next three days, he got a springbuck and two gemsbok with good shots and after a long stalk I got another big springbuck ram and dropped it where it stood, but the details of retrieving the wounded ram are clearer than all the rest. We never got close to those cunning hartebeest though and I would love to make them a mission for another day.
It’s not only the hunting that makes a trip memorable and two incidents were out of the ordinary; the name Kalahari is apparently derived from the Tswana word Kgalagadi, meaning ‘a waterless place’. Well, it started raining softly, late one afternoon and a rainbow arched in the East as the sun set in the West. There is nothing quite like falling asleep in a tent, in the middle of nowhere, to the patter of rain.
In June the swarms of sociable weavers were widely dispersed and other bird species are fairly quiet. Nights are cold and insect life is practically dormant, but miracles of nature occur when least expected. One night, a large, pale colored moth landed on the lip of my wine glass and literally quivered in excitement. I poured a small bit of red wine into the palm of my hand and it then alighted on my thumb, unfurled its proboscis and sipped long and contentedly. Where had it been hiding and how on earth did it smell that fruity liquid and find it so accurately? Once it had drunk its fill, it flew off into the night and I fancied it did a barrel roll just as it left the firelight thrown by the burning camelthorn logs.
“Only accurate rifles are interesting”, as the rather hackneyed saying goes. This famous quote is attributed to the late Colonel Townsend Whelen, the American soldier and rifleman from yesteryear and in essence, I agree with him. An inaccurate rifle is at best a nuisance and at worst potentially life threatening. Whether in the heat of Africa or otherwise faced with the trophy of a lifetime, an accurate rifle would seem to me to be a necessity. However, how do we define accurate? One man or woman’s ‘minute of buffalo’ is a wholly unacceptable level of inaccuracy to another. Most of us would accept that our hunting rifles need not match the inherent accuracy of a bench rest or F-class target rifle but where do we draw the line? More importantly, can we have our cake and eat it? In other words, can we have a rifle built around the magnificent Mauser ’98 action but with levels of accuracy we might expect from modern, factory sporting rifles? I believe we can, but the journey to this sporting nirvana is not necessarily straightforward. My own struggles began when I first discovered just how accurate a ‘rattly old Mauser’ could be during the few months I spent in the South Atlantic in 1982. Shortly after the end of hostilities, my colleagues and I began the task of rebuilding the airfield at Port Stanley from the debris and chaos of the Falklands War. Working in a tented camp not dissimilar to the one from ‘MASH’, we spent months on end working in and around the bombed out and shattered remains of the old airfield, trying to get back to some sort of military normality. Time off was at a premium and even when we did get a few hours away from work, we couldn’t go far as most of the roads and all the beaches surrounding the airfield were heavily mined. Nevertheless, one particular afternoon off will always stick in my mind. This particular day, we were invited to inspect (a euphemism for have a play with) some trophies recovered from ‘the other side’ at a variety of sites in and around Stanley. One such trophy was a very old and battered Mauser sniper rifle, which at the time never occurred to me but was most likely one of the legendary DWM Modelo 1909 rifles for the Argentinian contract (to me, one of the finest of all Mauser ’98 variants). Anyway, that afternoon ‘the officers’ were allowed to put it through it’s paces, taking pot shots at a rock about 700 yards out to sea from a sand dune at the back of the airfield. With iron sights, much rust and a sobering recent history, the accuracy was mind-blowing. In fact, I can’t remember shooting anything quite so immediately impressive before or since.Fast-forward about 25 years and I again proudly held a Mauser ’98 rifle in my hands. This time, a fairly well known UK gun maker had built the rifle for me. Having waited excitedly for several months to get my hands on my new pride and joy, I rushed off to my local range to break in the barrel. With mounting frustration, I tried to zero it using my default Norma factory ammunition – the same ammunition that had recently grouped well under an inch at 100 yards in a well-known Finnish ‘value for money’ factory rifle of the same calibre, plastic bits and all!
To say I was disappointed would be the understatement of the century. Minute of buffalo is one thing but ‘minute of barn door’ was rather taking the mickey. Everything was tightened up, checked, checked again, different ammunition was tried but no, this rifle was never going to satisfy my accuracy requirements. Eventually, it had to go.
A few years later, I was again the proud owner of another Mauser ‘98 based rifle, from a different UK gun maker. This was much better and in all other ways a wonderful rifle but there was still a slight tinge of disappointment that my factory rifles costing thousands less would run rings around it in terms of accuracy. My sporting nirvana still seemed a long way off…
Having now had numerous rifles built for me (unfortunately, not all with Mauser actions), I have reached a conclusion as to how I might one day be able to own my perfect rifle i.e. a reliable, bombproof ‘do everything’ hunting rifle that is both very accurate and built around some form of Mauser ’98 action. Before I go on, I should stress that I am not a gunsmith, nor even an engineering expert, just an enthusiast with a desire for the best things in life. Unfortunately, as my wife often remarks, such material ambitions often fail to dovetail with the available contents of my bank account but such mundane issues have no place here. I have no doubt that very accurate rifles can be built on original Mauser ’98 actions but I suspect the process is not straightforward. As I understand, it is much easier for a skilled gunsmith to ‘accurize’ a Remington action or similar, compared to an original Mauser action. However, this only leads to a rifle built, albeit very accurately, around a push feed action, the very antithesis of the qualities I demand in my rifles (see my Explora blog article entitled “In praise of the Mauser ’98” from August 2014 for my views on bolt action mechanisms for hunting rifles). Of course, top end makers such as Westley Richards can work wonders with original Mauser actions but I presume there is a lot of work involved to get them shooting right. The action needs a full blueprint and also benefits from being properly bedded into the stock, all tasks that are perfectly feasible but in my experience not always carried out to an appropriate standard by other gun makers. To my mind, the real answer would be to combine the time-honoured function and design of the legendary Mauser ’98 action with modern metallurgy and CAD design, CNC machining etc. Then we might finally achieve that sublime mix of perfect function under all conditions with the accuracy we have come to expect from modern factory rifles, such as those odd push me, pull you German jobs!
I know that such actions exist. Indeed, I know of at least one UK firm now making wonderful brand new Mauser ’98 actions using just such modern engineering techniques. I also know that similar engineering is being employed to make modern Mauser actions in Europe. As I said earlier, I am just an enthusiast and gun trade customer, so obviously not party to the components used at present in the construction of modern bolt rifles by the ‘best’ trade. However, I would be surprised if the likes of Westley Richards were not sourcing such modern engineering marvels for at least some of their fine bolt rifle commissions these days?
All I know is that as my piggy bank slowly fills up in preparation for my not too distant dream purchase, I have every confidence that when that great day at Pritchett Street arrives, ‘my rifle’ will show all the traditional skills of the gun makers art but with the unerring accuracy those of us sadly raised on plastic Fantastic rifles now demand.
Guest Post by David Hack.
Illustrations from our new gun catalogue available from our shows and shop.