Delivering a new double rifle to a client always has a good feeling, not least because it has probably been in production here at the factory for the best part of three years! The craftsmen have spent considerable time and effort slowly building the rifle through its various stages of production, the finished article an accumulation of many hundreds of hours of work.
Whilst many things can make the rifle special or unique to the individual owner, one of the very first considerations is the choice of calibre, something that may have taken many months to initially consider, often consulting trusted friends and even more trusted professional hunters!
From Westley Richards own perspective what makes this rifle so interesting is the fact that it is built in our proprietary .425 calibre. Now to those of you unfamiliar with the round, the .425 was introduced in 1909 by Leslie B Taylor former Managing Director of Westley Richards and one of the foremost ballistics experts of his time.
What makes the .425 so special is that it was designed as a short round to fit into a standard length Mauser 1898 action. Longer rounds like the .416 Rigby had to be built into magnum length actions which were of course more expensive to manufacture. Many today would argue that the .425 was the first of the ‘short magnums’, with its short, fat case there is certainly a strong argument for this title. Firing a 410-grain soft nose or solid bullet the round became a firm favourite of none other than Captain F.C.Selous shortly before his death in World War I.
Wonderfully, this rifle is the first to be produced in a double for the best part of 15 years and whilst we have put a couple of modern magazine rifles through the books it really is great to see this double go out. It will without question see use in the field these next few years and if its magazine rifle predecessors are anything to go by then it should be a great success. The calibre is notoriously accurate and pleasant to shoot, making it ideal for all round dangerous game hunting. We wish the new owner much luck and fun with this modern take on a great calibre.
Vintage examples of Westley Richards .425 ammunition sit next to this modern production rifle. The rebated rim of the cartridge is a distinctive feature.
The completed package now ready to leave the Westley Richards factory.
The debate of what rifle, in what calibre, is the best for hunting in Africa is a discussion as old as the sport itself and I don’t intend to delve into or attempt to answer such a lengthy and hotly contested question in this blog. But what I want to share with the readers, is a rifle, that has recently come through our doors, which I believe quite comfortably covers with ease, a wide range of African game and safaris and has a serious chance of answering the aforementioned question for me.
Ray Ward Gunmakers, based in Knightsbridge London, have been a high end gun retailer for a number of years and in more recent times have become a gunmaker in their own right. One such rifle to have been built by the London makers is this superbly versatile take down bolt action rifle, two barrel set in .375 H&H Magnum and .416 Remington Magnum. Completed around 2001, the rifle is built on a standard length Obendorf action with two interchangeable, screw threaded barrels using the Jeffery style screw in peg to secure them in place. The .416 barrel measures 23 3/8” with a ramp foresight and single standing express sight. While the .375 barrel is 22” with the same open sight configuration with the addition of a flip over foresight hood. The Zeiss Conquest DL 1.2-5×36 scope is mounted on H&H QD mounts and the rifle weighs 10lbs 1.7oz in .375 and 10lbs 7oz in .416.
The pistol grip stock is beautifully figured and measures 14 1/8” to the centre of the Silver’s recoil pad with a cheekpiece, grip cap, gold oval, sling stud, two recoil bars and horn forend tip. Expertly engraved by David Tallett with a bold scroll coverage, the case colour floor plate is engraved in gold with the calibres and FOR BIG GAME. The scope rings are also gold inlaid with the calibres and makers name.
The rifle is finished to a very high standard, is well balanced and points with ease. The action is smooth, the barrels are tight on the action and the bores are both in mint condition. It is neatly presented in its leather case with a sling, turnscrew, cleaning rods and accessories.
The .375 has proven its worth time and time again and shouldn’t need me argue its case. The .416 Remington since its introduction in 1988 has gained the affection of hunters world wide, non more so than legendary PH, Robin Hurt. Firing a 400 grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2400 fps, it is capable of taking Africa’s largest game and compliments the .375 perfectly. It’s an attractive and beautifully made African all-rounder that you’d be hard pressed to find a hunt it didn’t suit.
Raw back from the skilled engraving hands of Vince Crowley comes this stunning little .410 droplock shotgun. It is often difficult with an image to appreciate just how small these guns are and so for a change we decided to add a little sense of scale with a 10 pence coin rightfully showing the Queen face up.
As with scaling anything, so the scroll engraving itself must be scaled to fit the finer proportions of the .410 action body and parts. This finer scroll concept was started many years ago at Westley Richards by Rashid El Hadi who many of you will know was one of the most talented engravers of his generation. Whilst Rash may be remembered for his exceptional creative designs and execution of such masterpieces as the ‘Hummingbird Gun’, it was some of his finer work that really showed the skill of the man.
Thankfully these skills were passed on to Vince who has carefully and very skillfully carried this concept forward with the gun you see before you.
In this particular instance the client had seen an earlier example of this fine work and requested a revised version with carved fences, a staggered name banner and an elegant Woodcock in flight game scene. We hope you will agree that Vince has captured everything the client wished for magnificently.
The gun will now go for full case colour hardening of all parts which should add another dimension to the overall look of the gun. Subject to how the case colours complement the gun, will determine the final finish. We will post pictures once back from hardening and perhaps put the question to you.
Absolutely stunning Woodcock game scene!
Staggered banner proudly bearing the Westley Richards name.
Super fine detail on a small frame gun cannot be beaten.
Think of a tie and the image of a gentleman in his finest business suit springs to mind. There is something about a perfectly knotted tie that gives you the confidence to take on whatever obstacles the day might throw in your way. In years gone by it would have been unheard of for any self-respecting gentleman whether president or postman to turn up to his place of business without a properly knotted tie around his neck.
Whilst not all of us here at Westley Richards can confess to being daily tie wearers and gone are the days where the gunmakers donned a tie in the undertaking of their duties, we do find ourselves drawn by the idea of wearing a tie on a more frequent basis. Now comes the problem. Whilst there are still a few remaining fine tie makers in England, their focus seems to be on paisley, blocks, stripes and dots, and whilst this is all well and good for the masses it does lack personality and individuality. Those ties that do reflect our hobbies, such as shooting, either appear dated in their motifs or are made poorly from a material that is stretching itself to be called silk!
So here at Westley Richards we set about making the finest ties we could, pulling together designers, manufacturers, printers and a whole raft of clothing to ensure the colours would work for shoot days or office days. First, we commissioned four distinctive designs of Grouse, Pheasant, Partridge and Mallard with the aim that they should be easily recognisable up-close and abstract at a distance.
We then took these designs to one of England’s premier tiemakers who put us in touch with one of the few remaining silk screen printers in England. Printing each design by hand on heavyweight 36 ounce silk and incorporating the W.R & Co. Ltd logo into the design, we selected a broad range of colours to suit (no pun intended!) the tastes of both the city and country man.
Once printed the silk was passed over to the tie maker to undergo the 9 stage process involved in creating a luxury 5 fold tie, a process that is only possible by hand and uses 50% more fabric than a standard tie, giving it a thick luxurious feel, ensuring a perfect knot every time.
The end result is a truly unique series of ties made to the very highest standards here in England. Available in a host of colourways there should be no excuse now turning up in the shooting field, or for that matter the office, without looking the distinguished gentleman!
The name Beretta needs no introduction to a gun enthusiast. As the World’s oldest gun maker still in existence, the firm has been family owned and operated for almost 500 years and has provided weaponry for every major European war since 1650. For such a long and important history, Beretta’s Worldwide presence in the sporting market is fairly new. In 1933, Beretta introduced its first modern over/under shotgun, the S1, that would be the start of the firm’s very well respected “S” series of sidelock over/under shotguns. Almost 70 years later Beretta would introduce the SO10, what many consider the pinnacle of Beretta o/u shotguns and no doubt one of the finest over/under shotguns being made in the World today.
Typically fine Italian engraving depicting Cock Pheasant.
Machined from a solid piece of steel this hand detachable sidelock design is unique to Beretta. Using a bifurcated lump like the famous Boss & Co. and J.Woodward designs, the low profile SO actions are instantly recognised by the opposing shoulders of the receiver and barrels. Each action is scaled specifically to its gauge and reinforced with a Kersten type double cross bolt. The design makes the actions exceptionally robust yet slim, trim and a delight to handle. The graceful shape of the action is complemented by a pinless surface with hidden detachment levers making them an uninterrupted canvas for the World class engraving the Italians are famous for.
Two wonderful examples of the SO10 have recently walked into the U.S. Agency. A true pair of 20g SO10 EELL, Beretta’s highest grade guns. The pair is beautifully engraved by Maestro Dario Cortini in unbelievably realistic bulino engraving of English partridge, woodcock and pheasants complemented by a decorative Italian scroll. The 30” barrels, solid top and side ribs, with great stock dimensions make these guns a practical choice for the driven bird hunter.
English partridge and woodcock grace the opposing locks on each gun.
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.