Capt F.C.Selous’ Iconic Westley Richards .425 On The USA Show Circuit 2020

There can be few greater names in the history of big game hunting than that of Captain Frederick Courtenay Selous D.S.O, soldier, explorer, big game hunter, scout and adventurer. Born in 1851 Selous’s intention from a young age was to be a naturalist and ultimately one of the finest big game hunters ever to set foot in Africa.

By the age of 19 Selous was in Africa where he was granted permission by Lobengule, King of the Matabele to hunt within his vast domains. This was still the era of the large bore muzzle loader and Selous came to typify the young, tough individuals who sought a very dangerous trade hunting elephant and other game for ivory and meat.

The coming years saw Selous hunt extensively throughout central Africa attaining many specimens for private collections and the British Natural History Museum. He was held in such high regard that in later life a bronze bust of Selous was mounted in the NHM where it can still be seen today as you walk up the grand stairway.

His knowledge of Africa led to his appointment as ‘guide’ to the British South Africa Company which was mounting an expedition into Mashonaland. He would fight in two Matabele wars during the 1890’s before his much celebrated visit with none other than President Theodore Roosevelt during his epic safari of 1909-10. The two would become great friends, as they were equally keen on conservation as they were hunting.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Selous joined up to serve in East Africa as a Captain in the 25th Royal Fusiliers. Having distinguished himself in 1916 receiving the DSO for his actions, he was killed by sniper fire a year later at a place called Beho Beho in what is now the Selous Game Reserve.

Selous was unique in that he saw the use of large bore muzzle loading rifles, through black powder breech-loaders, to the ultimate in modern cordite repeating rifles.

The .425 purchased by Selous was most likely the last rifle ever acquired by him. He wrote a testimonal for Westley Richards on 4th July 1912 stating:

“I can only give your .425 Magazine Rifle the highest praise. Had I only possessed such a rifle in my old elephant hunting days I am sure that I could have killed three or four times as many Elephants as I actually laid low.”

The rifle remains in exceptional condition to this day retaining most of its original finish. How the rifle came to be in the hands of its current owner is one of those great pieces of fortune and outright luck, a story we will tell another day. In truth the rifle could not have gone to a more dedicated fan of the company or a more genuine hunter.

The ‘Selous’ rifle has been very kindly loaned to Westley Richards to display at the 2020 Safari Conventions in the USA. Please pay a visit to our stand to view one of the most iconic rifles owned by without doubt one of the greatest big game hunters of all time.

Dallas Safari Convention 9th To 12th January 2020

Safari Club International 5th To 8th February 2020

 

 

A Twist In The Tigers Tail – Westley Richards .577 ‘Gold Name’ Double Rifle

The Westley Richards Gold Name model of gun and rifle is something long synonymous with the company. Back in the pre-war era of gun and rifle manufacture, a gun or rifle was fundamentally a tool that needed to perform flawlessly either out in the covert shooting driven game or tackling dangerous game in the thick jungles of India and Africa. Tastes back then were more subtle and a gentleman did not openly display lavishness.

Engraving on guns was confined to traditional scrolls, each company designing its own unique ‘house’ pattern. Westley Richards had its own version which remains faithful to the original design to this very day. The unblemished lines of the droplock action allowed for a beautiful ‘name in rolling banner’ which formed the centerpiece of the main action body design. Thousands of guns and rifles were built with this ‘best’ scroll design, the first examples being the fixed lock guns from 1875.

The vividness of the case colour hardening can make all the difference with a ‘Gold Name’ gun or rifle. The checkered side panels is a feature from the very earliest fixed lock guns.

How and why the Gold Name model came about is certainly open to a little debate. The most obvious reasoning is the discount offered by not having the full engraving. Early literature describes the ‘Westley Richards Hammerless Ejector Gun – Plain Quailty’ at a cost of 55 Guineas, the ‘Westley Richards Best Quality Hammerless Ejector Gun’ at 70 Guineas. For the absolute purest looking for nothing but mechanical perfection the difference in cost would certainly have made a difference. Interestingly, later literature made a more positive point of having the droplock gun without all the engraving. Handled correctly and from a pure marketing point of view, Westley Richards was able to capitalise on a larger market share capturing what we might term today the ‘aspirational buyer’.

That all said, how do we really perceive the Gold Name model? Truth be told an absolute masterpiece! Whilst some may think the lack of engraving suggests a cost saving, in real terms the unadorned weapon actually requires a higher level of finish as there is nowhere to hide any imperfection.

Many, many years ago when Roy Hill (former workshop foreman and harpoon specialist) was around and paying us a visit I asked him why were the majority of British built guns fully engraved, considering we were well known for the Gold Name model? In Roy’s usual matter of fact way he responded ‘Well where do you hide a tree? In a forest. Where do you hide a scratch? Among other scratches!!!’

Not the most subtle of answers I grant you, but to this day it has stuck with me and in fairness every Gold Name gun or rifle that we have completed since, of which I seem to be the biggest advocate, has a level of critical perfection that drives the gun makers here crazy.

The original sketch for the ‘Tiger’ as executed by Paul Lantuch.

The actual ‘Tiger’ executed in the Japanese style with carved steel and inlaid gold.

Turning to the Gold Name rifle you are looking at here, this is anything but a simple rifle. When originally ordered the specification was for a pre-War configuration Westley Richards best quality hand detachable double rifle in .577 3″ Nitro Express. This specification meant extra cased hand detachable locks, Westley Richards patent single selective trigger, patent combination foresight, hinged cover plate, bolted safety, model ‘C’ dolls head fastener with patent lever work, scroll back action, extra foresight beads contained in brass tin, checkered side panels, traditional WR cheekpiece…………….The only modern(ish) twist was the extended strap over comb.

Initially the engraving was going to be a full on exhibition piece but as the years ticked by the client developed a hankering for something more pure. Hence the idea of producing a Gold Name rifle with a gentle twist came to mind and so as the rifle reached the engraving stage a few basic concepts were thrown our way with only two provisos. Firstly, what engraving there was had to be as near perfect as possible. Secondly, that master engraver Paul Lantuch had to design and execute a tiger in whatever style he saw fit for the rifle. The client would have no further involvement or decision making.

After a brief discussion, Paul came up with the idea of executing a tiger in carved inlaid gold, a style familiar to students of Japanese arms. Certainly unique in this instance, the design would act as both a centerpiece, whilst simultaneously complementing the other gold detailing found on the rifle.

Beautiful exhibition grade walnut counters the simplicity of the engraving.

Now complete, cased and ready to go, the rifle without doubt highlights the skills of many talented craftsmen and women. It has tested all those involved in putting this unique project together and confirmed that not everything simple is as easy to build as it looks. The rifle has an understated grace backed up with some considerable firepower and we would like to think that the gunmakers and hunters of 100 years ago would approve of this Gold Name ‘Tiger’ rifle.

This rifle will be on display with us at both the Dallas Safari Club Convention and Safari Club International in 2020.

Stunningly Classic Westley Richards .404 Now Complete

Due out the factory in the New Year is this stunningly classic .404 Jeffery calibre detachable barrel Westley Richards magazine rifle. Images of this rifle appeared a couple of months back fresh from engraving, the ‘Rose & Fine Scroll’ engraving creating quite a stir among our more traditional clients.

As mentioned then, classic rose & fine scroll engraving is a tradition of the London gunmaking houses so it was a very nice departure for the team here at Westley Richards. Our intention (which we hope we have attained) was to build a classically featured, classically engraved and classically finished rifle that would fit comfortably with the guns and rifles built during the pre-war era. This era is considered one of the finest in the history of British gunmaking, where the actual build quality and final execution mattered more than fancy embellishment.

The careful use of case colour hardening, blacking and light blue, is an important element of this rifle, as with the exception of the platinum engraving the rifle is intended to be very understated.

As a calibre the .404 Jeffery is one of those great work horses, once the preferred cartridge of the East African game departments. The rifle is set for a big safari next spring, rightfully out where it belongs in the great hunting fields of Africa.

The contrasting case colour hardening, blacking and light blue makes for a classic finish to the rose and fine scroll engraving.

The more liberal use of case colour hardening harks back to guns built in the pre-war era.

The balance of rose and scroll is best observed looking down onto the rifle. Small pockets of fine scroll allow for a ‘fuller’ coverage. 

New Bournbrook Travel Bag Collection

It is with great excitement that we launch our new town and country travel bag collection, under the moniker, Bournbrook. As you all will be aware the name holds a very special place in the history of Westley Richards and its best gunmaking.

Following the success of our Anson & Deeley Boxlock action, still referenced in modern sporting shotgun and rifles today, Westley Richards upgraded to a purpose built premises in Bournbrook, Birmingham in 1894. Described as an elegant factory, both ‘useful’ and ‘ornamental’ – it was intended to accommodate more rationally the different departments of gunmaking in one place. Designed by local C.E Bateman, a celebrated architect associated with the prevailing Arts and Crafts movement of the era and the Birmingham Guild of Handicraft.

The company remained in Bournbrook for over 110 years until 2008 where a planned move to the city’s historic Gun Quarter gave the opportunity to further house the gun and burgeoning leather factories under a single roof alongside a new flagship retail space.

Leather making is a big part of the future for Westley Richards and unlike our key competitors we make all our leather goods in house side by side with the gun making. The West Midlands has been a centre of leather-making since time immemorial so it is fitting that Westley Richards should have moved into the business. It began with the manufacture of high-quality slips and cases to protect clients’ guns but is now expanding into other areas, offering a wide range of traditionally-tanned and exotic leather goods to adventurous travellers and field sports enthusiasts alike.

The Bournbrook Collection is greatly inspired by both the checkering our master gunsmiths carefully handcraft onto our gun stocking, and key details seen in our traditional gun cases. An ode to the master engraver Paul Lantuch is on display with an exclusive lining design. Each design is available in our signature range of tanned leather, buffalo hide and strong canvas combinations.

Bournbrook 48hr bag

A refined 48hr travel bag for those charming weekend breaks away. Whether heading to your favoured shooting lodge or simply a quiet place for some R & R, this smartly designed weekender has all the functionality you require, including secure compartments inside and out and a collapsible shoe section. Comes with a suitcase slip, fountain pen holders, bellows pockets and a deluxe leather adjustable strap.

Prices begin at £1495.

Bournbrook briefcase

A soft briefcase created with the commuter in mind, travelling between their fine country home to meetings in town. Thoughtfully designed with secure compartments for laptops, devices and documents. Comes with a suitcase slip, fountain pen holders, bellows pockets and a deluxe leather adjustable strap.

Prices begin at £1095

Bournbrook wash bag

The Bournbrook Wash Bag is your perfect travelling partner. Sports a large open interior with a robust matching handle and a secure external pocket for extra storage.

Prices begin at £265

As Westley Richards moves into 2020 and beyond, the company has exciting plans to establish itself as the foremost manufacturer of the finest English-made leather goods, with the finesse and flair for which they are widely recognized. Walking through its factory today is a great privilege: with centuries of knowledge and experience in their hands, Westley Richards’ master gunmakers and leather artisans are bringing to life their clients’ next most prized possession.

Superb W. J. Jeffery 12g Sidelock Ejector

We are often tasked with finding a good quality English side by side ejector, in tidy condition, by our clients for the upcoming season. Something to use on smaller days when double guns are not required or as a more traditional alternative to the modern over and under, a gun they may shoot well with, but lacks the passion and character of a proper English side by side. Finding an English side by side is easy, I hear you say, but not, as our discerning clients would expect, in superb original condition, ready for the season.

The latest used gun to arrive at WR UK is exactly that. A superb W.J. Jeffery No. 3 Model, 12g sidelock ejector in, what can only be described as, first class condition. Completed around 1930, the gun is built on a 7 pin, square body, sidelock action beautifully engraved with two bouquets of roses on each lock plate, both fences, forend iron and a single large bouquet on the bottom of the action, all surrounded by a fine scroll coverage. The action retains nearly all its original case colours and the file up and shape is of real quality. The 28” barrels feature 2 1/2” chambers and are choked 1/4 in the right and 3/4 in the left. The bores read almost as proofed and the wall thickness is .025″ at the thinnest point.

The stock measures 14 5/8” to the centre of the leather covered recoil pad and has a bend of 1 1/2” at the comb and 2 1/8” at the heel. The cast measures 1/4” off at the heel and 3/8” at the toe. The splinter forend has the Anson push rod release, forend diamond and engraved tail pipe. Weighing 6lbs 7.4oz the gun comes to the shoulder with ease and is as delightful to handle as it is to look at. Cased in a lightweight, compact, leather case with a set of cleaning rods, snap caps and cleaning accessories. A very beautiful but perfectly usable sidelock for a variety of game shooting.

The trade label reads 9, Golden Square, Regent Street, London W1, which matches the engraving on the rib. William Jackman Jeffery died in 1909 and the company was taken over by his brother Charles. His nephew F. Jeffery Pearce took over the company in 1920 when Charles died and saw it through till 1957 when the company was sold to Malcolm Lyell who at that time, also owned the Westley Richards London agency and fishing tackle specialist, Farlows.

The No. 3 model sits between the No. 1 and No. 4 sidelocks that were offered by Jeffery’s at the time. Costing £52 for a single gun and £105 for a pair and came in 12, 16 or 20g.

While we would normally associate the name W.J. Jeffery more with rifles, their shotguns, and sidelocks in particular, were of superb quality and this gun would rightfully hold its own against the other London makers of the time.  To quote the Jeffery catalogue of the 1930’s:

The excellence of our Guns and Rifles is known all over the world, and we claim that for accuracy, soundness of workmanship, durability, and style of finish, goods of our manufacture are unequalled. We make every effort to keep the price of our weapons down to the lowest possible limit consistent with sound workmanship. We can confidently invite a comparison of our prices with any other firm doing the same class of business, feeling sure that this comparison will result in our favour”.

The gun will be on our used gun site shortly. Please contact me direct for any initial inquiries at ricky@westleyrichards.co.uk