Holland & Holland .470 NE Modéle de Luxe Sidelock Ejector Double Barrel Rifle.

Just arrived at the U.S. Agency is one spectacular Holland & Holland .470 NE Model de Luxe double rifle. According to the factory ledgers, the rifle was completed in 1964 for a renowned hunter, firearms aficionado and very influential patron of the gun making trade, Mr. Donald S. Hopkins.

In one of my favorite books, White Hunters: The Golden Age of African Safaris by Brian Herne (John Macrae/Henry Holt & Co., 1999), which is a history of the safari tradition and influential hunters on the African continent, Mr. Hopkins is mentioned and best summed up. According to the passage, “Donald S. Hopkins of Spokane, WA…was a very wealthy man and co-developer on several different rifle cartridges known as the O.K.H. (e.g. the .333 O.K.H. Invented by Charles O’Neil, Elmer Keith and Don Hopkins). The first Hopkins safari was three months…hunts often lasted six months…he made a record eleven safaris averaging nine months apiece in search of an elephant (thought to be mythical by his hunters) with tusks weighing 150 pounds each.”.

Not only was Mr. Hopkins a passionate hunter but, judging by this rifle, he was also a very serious patron of the English gun making trade. The bespoke rifles he commissioned pop up from time to time and this must be one of the finest I have ever encountered.

Obviously, Mr. Hopkins pushed the makers to deliver the best that could be had, as this rifle features engraved game scenes of a quality and realism far beyond the norm for this vintage. Each game scene on this rifle is highly detailed and of excellent quality, even by today’s standards, but certainly when compared to the somewhat naïve engraving still prevalent at the time the rifle was made. As noted in the factory ledgers, this rifle was engraved by none other than Ken Hunt.

I have read that Mr. Hunt started his apprenticeship at Purdey’s in 1950, studying under the great Harry Kell, Jim Jones (formerly of Sumner’s workshop) and Bill Smith. Each man was a master of his respective type of engraving. For instance, Mr. Jones had been engraving small scroll and floral patterns since he was 13 years old and Mr. Smith was equally experienced and specialized in large scroll. Finally, there was Mr. Kell who specialized in-game scenes and carving and, in the view of many, is one of the father’s of modern engraving.

After World War II, there was a growing trend of fine guns and rifles becoming the canvas for high art engraving. Mr. Hunt learned his trade from these masters and, in turn, perfected the skills required to execute not only the standard house pattern scrolls developed around the turn of the 20th century but also the ability to engrave and carve steel with breathtaking realism.

Today, Mr. Hunt is widely viewed as one of the World’s finest engravers and he remains one of the last links between the old-world, standard “house” engraving and the modern role of engraving as an art form in and of itself.

A rifle that is not short on details, the color hardened lock plates are pinless, meaning the pins that hold the action’s parts to the plates do not show on the outside leaving the surface uncluttered for engraving. A fitting touch for such wonderful engraving. The highly detailed game scenes show running black rhino on the right side, a bull elephant bluffing a charge on the left and, in my opinion, what would become one of Ken Hunt’s signatures, the head of a lion with piercing eyes on the bottom of the action. The Maker’s name is engraved along the action bolsters and the balance of the receiver is engraved in a very well executed bold foliate scroll pattern true to Holland’s Model de Luxe motif of the pre-war era. Rounding out the engraving, the fences are carved in a vine and leaf pattern and each game scene vignette is signed “K.C. Hunt”.

The 25” chopper lump barrels have Holland’s hidden Treble Grip third fastener, and hand filed pattern quarter rib and front sight. There is a factory original pop-up “ghost ring” sight behind single folding leaf regulated at 100 yds along with a folding moon-sight on the front.

The highly figured walnut stock has a thin leather covered pad, right-hand beaded cheekpiece, traditional drop points, and a full pistol grip with a trap grip cap. The original owner’s initials are inlaid in the bottom of the stock in gold block letters. Again, another special feature noted in the ledgers is the rifle was sent to the U.S. to be checkered by Monty Kennedy who literally wrote the book on the subject, Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks (The Stackpole Co., 1952). Both the stock and semi-beavertail forearm are checkered in an exceedingly well-cut, and very fine point pattern.

The rifle is housed in its original Oak & Leather case and canvas and leather outer cover. Included in the case are the original gilded spare strikers and replacement pin for the detachable lock lever, all housed in a jar made of ebony. The interior of the case retains its original red baize lining, serial numbered charge card and a very rare trade label that Holland’s used for only 3 years (ca. 1960 – 1963). The outer cover’s initial patch reads: “Donald S. Hopkins Spokane, WA”.

The rifle remains in wonderful condition holding nearly all of its original stock finish, color hardening and barrel black.

Clearly, a man passionate about firearms and hunting, this rifle reflects the unrelenting standards and influence Mr. Hopkins had. It also illustrates part of the allure collectors feel to guns and rifles ordered by people of fame, influence and stature. It was customers like these who, more times than not, demanded and received very special care and this rifle is a prime example of what that could produce.

 

Orvis Residency At Westley Richards

Today saw the launch of our ‘Orvis Residency’ here at the Westley Richards showroom and factory. A three month collaboration running straight up through the coming Christmas period.

Here at Westley Richards, a true adoration for the great outdoors and all its splendour is in our blood, and none more so than Orvis can rightfully share that spirit. Whilst Westley Richards may have a rich 207 year heritage, Orvis deservedly boasts a 163 year history themselves, and are regarded as one of the oldest manufacturers of fly-fishing rods and reels in the world.

In the USA, Orvis is cherished as an iconic American outdoor brand, known for presenting a much desired lifestyle based around the pursuit of fin and feather.

With a strong following here in the UK it made perfect sense to partner Orvis and showcase some of their superb fly fishing and dog products. Many a keen fieldsports enthusiast is just as eager to cast a fly as fire a shot, therefore we are excited to position their collections side by side our best guns and fine leather goods.

Our store will be holding a range of fishing equipment and dog accessories.

Fly casting techniques were ably demonstrated by Orvis fly fishing specialist Keith Passant, who kept all entertained with his pinpoint accuracy and easy teaching style. Many who had never held a rod before were soon learning the fundamental techniques of successful casting under Keith’s watchful eye.

To top the whole exciting day off, ‘Bentley Birmingham’ were in attendance with their magnificent Bentayga SUV, a tour de force in car manufacture, which unquestionably added some style and elegance to the day. Another iconic British brand, Bentley has always been at the forefront of luxury car design and shares Westley Richards’ drive for constant innovation. This year they celebrate their 100th year in the automotive industry with the launch of the much lauded EXP 100 GT, a fully electric exploration into how grand touring could look by 2035.

The whole day was thoroughly enjoyed by all and it cannot be that often that you get three iconic brands together with a combined history of 470 years!

 

A Sweet Little .410 Westley Richards Heads Across The Pond

With the US dove hunting season now underway and quail season only around the corner it is always great to see another of our .410 droplocks head Stateside to indulge in a touch of some fine sport. This particular little example has been engraved by Vince Crowley with delicate fine scroll, carved fences and a beautifully etched game scene of a Woodcock flighting through the timber.

Unusually with this gun the client asked for a ‘staggered ribbon’ gold name border on the sides of the action which lends itself tastefully to the execution of the engraving, allowing a different interpretation of the centre panel. It just goes to show that you can never rest on your laurels, but must continually strive to improve, often in the most subtle of ways.

The ‘staggered ribbon’ gold name adds a subtle variation to the engraving. 

A stunning etched scene of a Woodcock in the timber. 

Looking down onto the action, the vivid case colour hardening adds a touch of flare to the delicate engraving.

New Westley Richards .470 Droplock Double Rifle

The journey of a new gun order with Westley Richards is one that is as individual as the gun itself and one that can and will take many different paths to completion. Having clients based all over the world means not everyone gets the opportunity to visit the factory as often as they would like and the gun ordering and design process is done via a digital route. Nothing wrong with that and it by no means impedes the enjoyment, experience or more importantly the outcome of the order, but as with so many digital experiences in life, they can be somewhat lacking and there really is no substitute for the real thing! The latest rifle to be completed is the result of a very personal and hands on journey for the client, the result of which has led to this truly superb .470 droplock double rifle.

The flight time from Frankfurt to Birmingham is a casual 1hr 30mins and from the airport, we are a 15 minute drive, so regular visits for this client were not only relatively easy but very important for him to ensure his involvement throughout the design and build of his first Westley double. Days spent at the factory were filled with testing the rifle post regulation, discussing engraving and viewing vintage gun and rifles for inspiration, comparison and selection of an appropriate stock blank, checks of stock measurements and fit, approval of trigger pulls and final finish. No detail overlooked, no stone left unturned.

Just being at the factory and immersing yourself in the sights, smells, atmosphere and history of the company creates the interest, inspires the imagination and helps focus the mind as to what it is you want from a new gun or rifle. There is simply no other gun house like it in the country and that is not me being biased, having visited all the others, it’s simply fact.

The rifle is the perfect combination of practicality, traditionalism and individuality. Designed as a rifle to be used, first and foremost, with a classic level of embellishment, subtly changed to add the client’s personal touch. The rifle features expertly executed detailed Westley scroll engraving with deluxe carved fences, clam shell engraved Dolls Head, gold WR banner name and a vintage style scroll engraved cover plate which was inspired by a pre-war gun in our collection, selected by the client on one of his visits. The bold case colours complement the engraving beautifully and the stunning exhibition grade walnut with a tight, strong grain through the hand which runs beautifully on both sides of the stock, gives contrast between the light and dark elements of the wood. The file up and the neat proportions of the .470 action makes for a sleek and slender looking rifle while still having the correct weight and handling for a big bore rifle. Beautifully packaged in a lightweight leather case the rifle oozes style and class. Regulated for Norma PH 500gr ammo, shooting a 1” group at 50 yards the rifle will certainly be put through its paces on what should be an epic Buffalo hunt in Mozambique next year.

Not only has this journey for the client resulted in a fantastic rifle but it has cemented a great friendship between us with numerous hunting stories exchanged, many laughs shared and one or two beers consumed along the way. Now for the next order……