This stunning 12g ‘Gold Name’ droplock has just been completed and once again highlights for us gunmaking in its purest form. The ‘Gold Name’ gun comes barely embellished, but makes its statement in this instance through wonderful craftsmanship, stunning wood and vivid case colour hardening.
Whenever one of these ‘Gold Name’ guns is completed the typical question of why somebody would order such a gun without any engraving comes up. Many assume it is a cost cutting exercise but nothing could be further from the truth. Building guns is an expensive business regardless and for some clients the gun in its purest form brings as much pleasure as a highly embellished one. The client of this particular gun is lucky enough to own several of our guns and rifles, many highly ornate. This one should add nicely to the collection whilst being a totally practical and elegant gun to use.
Vivid case colour hardening is one of the highlights of a ‘Gold Name’ Westley Richards.
Cased extra hand detachable locks complement this 12g droplock.
The lines of this gun are only enhanced by the elegant Woodward style grip.
In the history of African safari there are the names of individual hunters that should need no real introduction, F.C.Selous, Captain James Sutherland, W.D.M.Bell and J.A.Hunter to name but a few. Whilst some hunted professionally for ivory, others hunted as professional guides taking the emerging elite of the world on lavish safaris into the heart of East Africa.
Amongst this elite group of Professional Hunters can be counted one Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke (1886-1946), Swedish aristocrat, serial womaniser and husband of famed writer Karen Blixen who wrote one of the greatest books ‘Out of Africa’, so immortalising what many consider the golden age of safari hunting.
The J.Purdey & Sons sidelock underlever double rifle in .500/.465 calibre.
Now Blixen was not your usual run of the mill professional hunter. His reputation for securing huge elephant trophies and for ensnaring beautiful women came in equal measure, only surpassed by his legendary drinking skills! That all said and done, he was without question one of the toughest, ethical and courageous big game hunters who ever lived who had a client list booked many years in advance to hunt with him.
As with all professional hunters of the time, Blixen had at his disposal an assortment of both bolt action and double rifles with which to tackle the multitude of game that inhabited the vastness of the African continent.
Whilst he clearly owned several rifles of his own, legend has it that he also borrowed the occasional rifle including the rifle shown here. This particular Purdey double rifle in .500/.465 calibre was originally built in November 1908 for the Earl of Landisborough, before finding its way into the hands of a Swedish businessman who regularly took to hunting in East Africa. It is said that rather than travel back and forth from Africa with the rifle that it was left in the capable hands of Blixen ‘on permanent loan’.
Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke on safari.
The rifle certainly seems to have seen some ‘bush use’ judging by the many subtle knocks and scrapes that it displays, all suggesting that it was used, not abused. The rifle has fantastic crisp rifling and appears as tight today as the day it was made. Interestingly the rifle features a bold scroll engraving pattern as opposed to the more traditional house rose and scroll engraving design found on the large majority of Purdey guns and rifles. The ‘bolted’ safety was a common feature of Purdey rifles, a double safety mechanism to stop the accidental discharge of a rifle should the safety button be innocently pushed off.
The rifle undeniably makes for an interesting piece of history and Africana, we only wish that it could tell a story or two!
The ‘bolted’ safety system as used on the majority of vintage Purdey nitro express double rifles.
‘African Hunter’ by Bror von Blixen-Finecke published in 1937.
The latest rifle to reach completion is this quite stunning .375 H&H magnum bolt action rifle. A close working relationship between the client and ourselves has resulted in the perfect balance between being aesthetically pleasing yet remaining a very practical and versatile hunting rifle. The highly figured exhibition grade stock coupled with the bold foliate scroll coverage chosen by the client marks his stamp of individuality and expresses his taste for design and embellishment, while the two quick detachable scopes and the .375 calibre, means this rifle will be at home on a wide variety of hunts around the world.
Built with a 23” barrel on a double square bridge magnum action the rifle is fitted with Swarovski scopes on quick detachable mounts, one being a Z6i 1-6×24 for use on African game and a Z6i 2-12×50 for red stags at dusk and wild boar under moonlight in Europe. It gives me great pleasure to know it will be hunted with extensively and I have no doubt it will be put through its paces.
Black finished action with case colour hardened pins, bolt shroud, recoil bar, grip cap and floor plate release. Gold lettering throughout with our combination foresight, quarter rib and gold pyramid rear express sight, regulated at 50, 100 and 200 yards. The stock has a full pistol grip shape, grip cap with trap, ebony forend tip and slim leather covered recoil pad. Neatly housed in its lightweight leather case with green alcantara lining and accessories it is a complete package built to the highest quality and a worthy addition to any sportsman’s battery.
Wilderness – noun – definition – an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region. On our small island that we call home, there are few, if any places you can truly call a wilderness. The cities and towns are forever expanding into the countryside with the government’s relentless obsession of building thousands of houses on productive farmland, the dog walkers who see the woodlands as an extension of their garden for their beloved pooch to run riot wherever it so chooses and not forgetting the ramblers who exercise their ‘right to roam’ as if their lives depended on it. For the game, and those of us who chose to pursue it, we’re coming into contact with other people more than ever.
However in saying that, the Scottish Highlands is, in my opinion, our last true wilderness and one that befits its definition. Uncultivated – definitely, uninhabited – mostly, inhospitable – more often than not. An area and landscape that should need no introduction, it still offers a truly wild hunting experience for those who wish to escape the crowd, be surrounded by utter beauty and work hard for their trophy.
My latest hunt took me to a remote and central part of the highlands where my friend from college is the head stalker on a 20,000 acre hunting estate. The vast open hills, lochs, rivers and forests make up this sporting paradise where the Red Stag is king, or monarch of the glen as he’s more famously known. The enchanting hills are steeped in Scottish history and folklore, once home to hardy and violent clans such as the Robertsons, Macdonalds and Campbells, they have in recent history been made famous by the location for films such as Harry Potter and was the setting for the dramatic finale to the James Bond film, Skyfall.
The stalk is a hard one, the terrain is difficult to traverse, the hills are steep and the weather is often miserable, but that’s what I love about it. You have to put in the hard yards and be willing to graft for your game. The sodden ground is energy sapping and the peat hags that crisscross the moor are an obstacle course in themselves. The deer, however, can cover the ground like it’s not even there. They lie up on knowles which provide great vantage points, meaning the final approach to your chosen stag is more often than not a long and wet crawl through the soaking moss, mud and peat.
The 8 wheeled Argocat, which handles the hills like no other machine, is probably the most unpleasant vehicle to ride in but you’re certainly glad of it after a full day on your feet. It is also the means by which the game is extracted from the hill. Ponies were always traditionally the method used to get stags back to the larder but they are time consuming and often extremely stubborn. There are many stories of pony boys who have hiked miles to retrieve a stag, only for the pony to slip its lead and bolt all the way back to the stable, closely followed by a cursing, irate pony boy.
We spent the first 5 hours stalking and glassing the wide expanse, only to come across several small groups of hinds and young stags. The south west side of the glen was facing a strong and bitter wind, so we hiked over the ridge and dropped down into the sheltered corrie looking for a shootable stag. After a further hour of bumping hinds we spotted a good stag which was bedded down on a knowle, surveying his land. The wind was right but his view spanned nearly every direction, so it took a further hour and a half of stalking and maneuvering the edge of the loch to get into a good spot from which to take the shot. The rut has just started and a few stags were jostling for dominance, sorting out who was the boss amongst them. My stag was still bedded down when a younger and better stag approached him for a challenge, upon getting to his feet, the shot presented itself and the .270 cleanly dispatched him. The stag, which was roughly 8/9 years old, was past his prime and was certainly going back, the right beast to take and a good representative of a Scottish hill stag. No match in terms of size compared with their lowland cousins due to the hard life and poor diet but every bit the worthy trophy.
For me it’s hugely important to explore, hunt and experience these wild lands. To reconnect with what it is that we enjoy and treasure about the sport. To refresh your enthusiasm for adventure and savour in the solitude of such a place that will hopefully, always remain, a wilderness.
With the African hunting season well under way and members of our own team here having recently returned from their own adventures, it is great to have completed yet another droplock double rifle destined for some action in the bush.
One of the true stories behind the rifles and for that matter guns we build is the fact that they do actually get used! People often assume that these rifles end up in some private collection never to see the dust of Africa, but the reality is quite different.
Whilst recent years has seen a proliferation of fancy rifles, Westley Richards heritage is based on building rifles that do the business when the chips are down. This particular rifle has a game scene that perhaps harks back to yesteryear, yet is as relevant today in rifles such as this .500 3″ nitro express.
Super vivid case colour hardening adds greatly to the deluxe relief scroll.
Many a story filters back to the factory of how a charge was stopped or a serious incident averted by the swift handling and serious firepower packed in the twin barrels of a Westley Richards double rifle. The double rifle is considered by many the ultimate weapon of choice for the hunting of dangerous game and has stood the test of time since the first heavy breech loading black-powder bore rifles of the late 1800’s.
We very much hope that this rifle begins its own series of tales over the coming years and that we remember why such rifles are considered the pinnacle of gun making.
For some hunters a nightmare, for others the day they dreamed of!!!!!
Full case colour hardening of all the metal components lends a touch of uniqueness to the finish of this rifle.
Stunning walnut as always!
Cased extra hand detachable locks – a typical addition with droplock double rifles.
A Holland & Holland .410 bore The “Royal” Model bar action sidelock ejector finished in 1964 and displaying all the hallmark patent features of Henry Holland’s collaborative designs.
A wonderful little gun recently showed up at the U.S. Agency, a Holland & Holland The’Royal’ Model in .410 bore. Finished in 1964, this gun was acquired from the family of the original owner and it remains in original, as new condition.
Henry Holland was apprenticed to his uncle Harris Holland in 1860 and by 1876 the two formed a partnership creating the firm “Holland & Holland”. Among the firm’s fifty-one patents, it is Henry Holland’s ‘Royal’ model sidelock ejector, Holland’s flagship hammerless double gun or rifle, that remains one of the main reasons guns from this maker are among the most sought after in the World. I would also venture to say, it is most likely a Holland & Holland ‘Royal’that pops in your head when you think of a sidelock shotgun. The ubiquitous design is used on the best guns offered from makers in England, Spain, Belgium, Italy, and Turkey all the way to Japan and it remains the most copied sidelock action design in history.
A 1901 Holland & Holland advert from The Badminton Magazine
A best quality Holland & Holland ‘Royal’ stocked with a long LOP over a thin leather recoil pad. The stock oval still retains the initials of the original owner “JFT”.
Today bestquality shotguns in .410 bore and 28 bore are in high demand worldwide by both collectors and shooters but this is a relatively new phenomenon. At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, the rapid development of hammerless breach loading gun designs in England was largely fuelled by the sport of shooting driven birds. Shooters were looking to fill big game bags and a pair of 12g guns became the standard for most shooters. While they may have been a bit less effective knocking down a late season pheasant, the smallest bore sizes like the 28 and .410 were considered more appropriate for women or youngsters. As a result these bore sizes are most often encountered as trade made, lesser quality guns with smaller, youth sized stock dimensions.
However, discriminating American hunters preferred the smaller bore sizes for North America’s smaller game birds such as grouse, woodcock and quail. Moreover, the small-bore guns with shorter barrels and lighter weights lend themselves to the American style of walk up shooting over dogs that often occurs in heavy cover. Between the two World wars, the American’s start to fill the English gun maker’s books and a trend emerges of English guns being made in more “American” configurations. By the time gun making resumes in England after World War II, the U.S. had become the biggest market in the World for sporting arms and as a result, the English made guns we encounter from the post-war era reflect this heavy influence of “American” preferences.
That said, while there was an increase in the demand for small bore guns and, as a result, an increase in their production, they remain quite rare, especially in a best quality gun.
This .410 bore is fitted with all of Holland’s hallmark patent features such as hand detachable locks, single trigger, ejectors, self-opening mechanism and the house style ‘Royal’ engraving. In addition, the size of the action is wonderfully filed and scaled, the engraving is beautifully cut and the fit and finish is superb. This is a best quality Holland in every respect.
The ‘Royal’ was originally introduced in 1883 by Henry Holland and John Robertson. Holland’s patent single selective trigger design, arguably one of the finest in the English gun trade, was finalized in 1897. In 1908 the hand detachable lock, or lock plates that are removable by unwinding of the lever on the left side, was patented by Henry Holland and Thomas Woodward.
The unmistakable Holland & Holland ‘Royal’ engraving developed in the late 1890’s.
Holland’s self-opening mechanism was patented by Henry Holland and William Mansfield in 1922.
Once again the team here at the factory have put together a super two rifle battery of magazine rifles destined in this instance for Africa. In .375 H & H Magnum and .500 Jeffery, these two rifles are capable of handling all that Africa has to throw at them from its diminutive plains game right through to the heaviest dangerous game.
Both calibres have formidable reputations and really should need no introduction. The .375 has been regulated to shoot 300 grain loads, whilst the .500 shoots its classic 535 grain bullet, in this instance Woodleigh Weldcore’s, from modern Kynoch ammunition.
As is becoming the norm with our ‘Modéle de Luxe’ guns and rifles, only the very best walnut has been used as this makes such a statement when viewed by even the most casual of observers. We take great care in sourcing only the very best and like to think that the clients expectations will be more than surpassed.
Full deluxe scroll, gold lettering and game scenes complemented by deep black, case colour hardening and light blue finish.
Engraving wise the client had asked for our deluxe scroll with gold naming throughout and the addition of a Cape Buffalo game scene on the .375 and a Bull Elephant on the .500. With our classic combination of blacking, case colour hardening and light blue finish the overall look of the rifles is subtle and classic.
Heading south of the equator shortly, these rifles will be sure to get a lot of use, with the team here at the factory keen to see the results of all the hard work. It is one thing to build beautiful rifles, but as the saying goes ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’ or in this case the shooting!
Spectacular matching wood for the rifles.
Cape Buffalo and Bull Elephant adorn the floor plates of the two rifles.
With a bank holiday approaching this weekend we thought it would be good to let you ponder this magnificent little 28 bore droplock shotgun that has recently been finished and is out for delivery to the client today. Completed to our ‘Modele de Luxe’ standard this pretty little gun once again typifies the quality of workmanship that is being painstakingly produced here at the Westley Richards factory. No detail has been overlooked from the elegant lines of the gun, to the stunning engraving, through to the hand made tools, case and cartridge magazine.
The classic hallmarks of the Westley Richards hand detachable lock (droplock) action, scroll back, hinged cover plate, wide top lever with model ‘c’ dolls head fastener, single selective trigger and distinctive safety button.
The real beauty of this project was the patience and trust that the client showed in Westley Richards. What originally started out as a ‘test’ piece for his relationship with the company, developed into a ‘well clearly you know what your doing, I’ll keep out of it now’. And so with that kind of trust placed upon us we set out to deliver a unique piece of work that we very much hope surpasses all of his expectations!
Exceptionally fine detail in the engraving of this gun continues to raise the bar here at Westley Richards. This particular work was executed by Vince Crowley.
Beautiful French fitted lightweight leather case with hand made tools.
Projects such as this really are great fun for all involved as they develop into much more than delivering ‘just another gun’. Talking through our own ideas with the client turns this into something very personal and as you will have seen from blogs posted in recent months, every gun and rifle we now build has some individual twist, in our opinion the very essence of having a ‘bespoke’ gun or rifle made in the first place. To those brave enough to trust us we say thank you and to this particular client we say ‘wait until you see your next project!’
Glorious Turkish walnut finished with a Woodward grip and heel and toe plates once again demonstrates Westley Richards commitment to producing the truly ‘bespoke’.
Bespoke leather upright cartridge magazine made to complement the gun case and complete a fantastic all round package.
It never ceases to amaze us of the depth and variation shown by our predecessors here at Westley Richards. In fairness, with over 200 years of history there are always going to be new finds and something interesting to arouse the collectors or hunters eye.
Take for instance this Westley Richards .318 magazine rifle completed in 1909. It has all the best features of a Westley Richards bolt action of the time including horn tipped bolt handle, wooden side panels, edged cheek-piece and bold scroll engraving. However, of far more interest is the full length engine turned rib which is finished at the muzzle with Westley Richards patent flip over combination foresight that actually recesses into the rib!
The amount of work required to do this would have been considerable and the attention to detail shown by some long lost gun maker is all that we have come to expect of historical Westley Richards.
The story does not end there. Attached to the cocking piece is a Rigby style peep sight which allows for a clear view all the way along the top rib as the actual express sight consists of totally flush fitting leafs regulated out to 500 yards! The peep sight itself has been regulated to match perfectly with these leafs.
The rifle retains most of its original finish including take down cleaning rod in the butt plate and spare foresight beads in the grip trap. To find a rifle in this condition, in this configuration really is a rarity and it always reminds us that you have never seen it all and never know what might just be out there!
Lovely traditional bold scroll coverage.
Horn tipped bolt handle. A classic Westley Richards feature.
Scooped top rib to accommodate Westley Richards flip over foresight protector.
The full length engine turned rib is an unusual feature of this rifle.
Just as other British gun makers offered Winchester rifles for sale prior to WWII, Westley Richards & Co. also offered a large variety of pistols, revolvers and rifles from makers all over the World such as Colt, Browning/Fabrique Nationale, and Mauser. In addition, Westley Richards also stocked and sighted various types of barrelled actions like the Martini single shots and magazine rifles based on the Mannlicher-Schonauer, Lee-Enfield and Mauser service rifles. However, as diverse as Westley Richards offerings were in the first part of the 20thCentury, neither myself or anyone else I know has ever encountered a Krag Jorgensen rifle by Westley Richards.
In 1893 a Swedish-Norwegian commission set out to develop the perfect military round and came up with a 6.5mm caliber bullet and a rimless case that was 55mm long. The new cartridge has had many names throughout its history but today is known as the 6.5x55mm and remains a tried and true choice for hunters in North America, England, and Europe. In 1894, after that commission’s findings, Norway’s Army adopted the 6.5x55mm cartridge and the Model 1894 Krag-Jorgenson rifle, designed by Norwegians Ole Herman Johannes Krag and Erik Jorgensen, as its new military rifle. Krag rifles are a bolt action repeating rifle instantly recognisable by the “half-capsule” clam-shell type magazine mounted on the right side of the action. Somewhere around 33,000 Model 1894 rifles were made under contract with Steyr of Austria between 1896 and 1897 for the Norwegian Army and the Civilian Marksmanship Organisation.
Sometime prior to 1906 Westley Richards stocked and sighted this original Model 1894 Krag-Jorgensen barrel and action made by Steyr in 1897. A new stock was expertly shaped and inletted to accommodate the unusual action and it has a checkered pistol grip and forend and the original smooth steel trap butt. The barrel remains the original 27” but was turned down and tapered to a livelier weight and a pedestal mounted front sling eye was added. The rifle was sighted with Westley’s pattern sights including a ramp front sight with protector and an island rear sight base fitted with a standing Express sight regulated for 100 yards, two folding leaves regulated at 200 and 300 yards and a Tangent sight marked to 1000 yards. Each sight leaf is “platina-lined” as our catalogs from the early 1900’s referred to the platinum alloy wire inlay on the sight leaves. The barrel carries 6.5mm London proof marks and just under the rear sight the barrel is engraved “.256 Krag Jorgensen Cartridge”, the commercial name for the 6.5×55 used in England through the 1930’s. Finally, the top of the barrel is named “Westley Richards & Co., London”.
Inside the stock the rifle is numbered 32107which is no doubt a Westley Richards serial number. Sadly though, we do not have the ledger book containing this block of numbers, which would have just preceded the book we have starting in 1906. While we may never know the whole story on this most unusual Westley Richards rifle, it is a good reminder that there is always something new to learn from a company with such a long and interesting history.