It is always hard to get back to work after a long holiday but for those of us in the outdoor and shooting industry it is an especially hectic time. With the new year comes the trade show and convention season, this year having events from Reno, Nevada to Nuremberg, Germany and scheduled well into the month of March.
For a British gun maker like ourselves, the two hunter’s conventions put on by Dallas Safari Club and Safari Club International remain quite important to our business.
Just coming off of Westley Richards’ 20th Dallas Safari Club convention, Trigger, Ricky, our leather shop manager Tom Beete, and myself are still busy working our way through the many orders and sales we made at the show. This year’s event seemed especially busy with a strong U.S. economy and Dallas Safari Clubs ascension to what many now consider the premier hunting convention in America.
As usual we had an amazing array of wonderful Exhibition Westley Richards guns and rifles, most being displayed for the first time. Showcasing Westley Richards vast repertoire one could see everything from a delicately engraved .410 bore shotgun to the groundbreaking fully carved .600 NE Forest rifle. Highlighting the hand craftsmanship and long gunmaking heritage of Westley Richards, also on display was the last rifle F.C. Selous ever bought and the finest .425 Take-Down the firm has ever produced.
Westley Richards .425 Magnum Express Bolt Action with Detachable Barrel. Bought new by F.C. Selous in 1912.
Exhibition projects, such as the one’s displayed at this show, have become a hallmark of what Westley Richards is capable of producing and why many consider Westley Richards to be England’s premier gunmaker.
At DSC, we were also able to debut our new line of adventure travel bags, the Bournbrook collection. This new line of luxurious handmade luggage represents an exciting expansion to the fine leather goods made in our factory, right next to our gunmakers. Along with old favourites such as our open ammo wallets and the Deeley rifle slips, these new products like the Bournbrook 48 hour bag, represent the best of British styling and quality and were very well received in their debut.
Westley Richards’ long history as one of the World’s premier firearms makers was also recognized at the Dallas show by the magazine Sporting Classics. Based out of South Carolina this periodical has long focused on the outdoors and the fine artwork, literature and handmade items that discerning outdoorsman use and collect. We were flattered to be recognized by the magazine and given their Award of Excellence for Sporting Heritage.
We appreciate all of the repeat customers who stopped in to say hi and a very big “thank you” to those that placed new orders. We also want to welcome those of you new to the Westley Richards firm and thank you for your new commitment.
For anyone who missed our display in Dallas we will be at the SCI convention in Reno booth # 2431… We’ll look forward to seeing you there.
Once again the team here at Westley Richards have delivered yet another stunning example of our classic hand detachable lock, nee droplock double rifle, this time in the venerable .450/.400 3″ nitro express.
The rifle is built to our ‘Modéle de Luxe’ standard with extra finish engraving, side plates, single selective trigger and exhibition grade walnut. As one of the pre-eminent English gunmakers the team here continue to deliver individual and unique guns and rifles, every one of which displays the finest English craftsmanship.
A mean old bull buffalo looks out from the left lock plate.
When the first example of a side plated droplock appeared nobody is quite sure. From our own point of view we first really encountered it on a vintage .303 double rifle built in 1913. This rifle is illustrated on page 167 of Westley Richards 200 year history ‘In Pursuit of the Best Gun’ and was built for a middle eastern potentate. One logical reason for the addition of side plates to the droplock design was to give the rifle more coverage for engraving. It seems unlikely the plates were added to make the rifle look like a true sidelock, as the company would certainly have been able to supply one should it have wished.
In more recent times the side plated droplock has become slightly more regular in our order book having been built in both double rifle and shotgun format. In fact we have just taken a commission for a pair of 28g side plated droplocks which should really be quite beautiful. Today the sideplates tend to be more rounded giving the gun or rifle a smooth flowing shape to the grip. That said we are in the throes of designing a side plated action that will have the characteristic look of a true sidelock whilst in fact being of the droplock design. This particular beast will be in the .577 nitro express calibre, so giving us a large area to work with!
A magnificent male lion holds centre stage on the right lock plate. Cats of any description are difficult to engrave, many looking notoriously ‘cartoon like’.
From an engraving stand point, the side plates really are a bonus. The rifle shown here has been engraved with elaborate bold scroll, chevron border, gold naming and three game scenes of bull buffalo, bull elephant and a male lion all looking equally impressive in their respective environs. The traditional and uninterrupted lines of the side plated droplock allow for an organic engraving design that can flow along the action sides and underneath to the cover plate.
The sleek proportions of the .450/.400 3″ rifle can be seen clearly in this photograph. The relatively small nature of this classic big game cartridge allows for a scaled action and wonderfully tapering barrels.
Now in the USA, the rifle is travelling with us on the show circuit and may be seen at Safari Club International in Reno from 5th to 8th February. We look forward to seeing you.
The rifle is complemented with a best oak & leather case covered in brown buffalo skin, fitted with a full set of horn handled tools.
Time in the field is priceless. It’s why we do what we do. Whether you’re a gun maker, cartridge supplier, clothing retailer, gamekeeper or client, it is our passion and our pride, our one common ground and the place where all the hard work comes together in a glorious celebration of our time honoured traditions. Anticipation for the coming season builds through late summer and as the invites slowly come in and autumn spreads through the countryside, our thoughts (and nerves) turn to the first day on the peg. For the purists, the excitement never wanes and each season brings about new experiences, challenges and most of all memories.
Westley Richards is privileged to work with some of the finest shooting and hunting estates in the UK and Spain and has, over the years, built up a network of trusted partners through which we can offer world class shooting experiences to our varied client’s abilities and expectations. Our many years of experience in the field has helped us select only the premier outfitters which has provided our clients with some unforgettable moments.
November saw a visit from a team of American guests to Wales to undertake their very first taste of traditional UK driven pheasant and partridge shooting. We organised the days through our partners at Bettws Hall, who offer one of the most professional but relaxed days shooting available. Approximately 1hr 30m from our factory, in the stunning Mid Wales countryside, they have 6 shooting estates to choose from and the variety and quality of sport on offer is arguably unbeatable. Luxury accommodation is based at Bettws Hall HQ and the hospitality is as good as it gets. They are able to provide tailor made days to full teams of guns or individuals looking to join a line of guns. The past 30 years has seen the company grow to be one of the top sporting outfitters here in the UK and are they also able to offer sport abroad.
Our guests are seasoned duck hunters in the US and have also shot driven partridge in Spain so were not completely new to shooting game on the wing, however proper driven pheasant shooting was an altogether new experience for them. Trigger and I were on hand to host the days and aide with the safety, field etiquette and shooting technique that our guests required. Between us both there aren’t many shoots we haven’t shot and our experience and knowledge would be hard to beat. Guns and cartridges were supplied by us and our fully stocked showroom has everything a sportsman or woman could possibly need. Transport around the estate was conducted in style in the Bentley Bentayga that was kindly loaned to us by Bentley Birmingham.
Two back to back days of superb shooting were shot at Kempton and Maesmawr estates, which offer typical steep Welsh valleys, deep rivers, ancient oak woodland and historic manor houses. The topography lends itself perfectly to present medium to high birds which creates a variety of targets for the majority of abilities and as confidence grows, one can begin to pick higher and more challenging birds. Numbers of birds shot is catered to the client’s requirements and typically shot over 4 different drives. Most importantly the day is very relaxed, fun and informal. The camaraderie is often more important than the shooting we aim to make the day as inclusive for non-shooting guests as the ones pulling the trigger.
Bettws Hall HQ
A shooting trip for our clients always ties in well with a visit to our factory to view the progress on their gun or rifle and time in the field allows us to spend quality time with clients who we may not see as often as we’d like. We aim to make each shoot or hunt as unique and as enjoyable as possible look forward to discussing any potential trips with you.
Our American guests plan to return next year for 4 more days shooting with us and we very much look forward to shooting with them again.
As we begin 2020, I would like to take this good moment to introduce myself to the friends and followers of Westley Richards who regularly read our much-loved blog, The Explora. My name is Stephen Humphries and I recently joined the company in the brand new role of Creative Director. A thrilling opportunity that will involve the continued elevation of this adored company – through greater visibility to the wider field sports world and taste making community-at-large, and the establishment of Westley Richards fine leather goods & sporting attire as the ultimate in style for the well-versed adventurer.
My background has been within the luxury brands environment for many years having collaborated with a number of globally recognised British and international prestige brands, from fashion, jewellery and leather goods to elite beverages, hospitality and publishing.
Having been surrounded by sporting enthusiasts throughout my career it is a true privilege to mention the name Westley Richards, and I look forward to bringing my distinct expertise honed over the years with similar spirited businesses – those that are family-owned, steeped in heritage and with unparalleled quality and hand craftsmanship.
In the first few months here I have been getting to know all the many wonderful and awe-inspiring parts of the company and its impressive premises in Birmingham. By way of its exceptional gunmakers, engravers, leather workers, production & sales teams, brand & photographic departments and senior management.
Those of you who have had the privilege to visit the Pritchett Street factory will first enter into our flagship store, a showroom that far surpasses any selling environment I have visited in Mayfair. Inside, a constant selection of Westley Richards British country clothing, smart travel bags and fine leather goods are on display alongside our selected partner brands, catering for English shoots, Safaris and adventurous travellers alike.
Past the gun room, housing clients recent bespoke creations, one takes the stairs to the first floor, home to the gun factory. There a hive of activity takes place where bench-trained gunmakers are in full flow, each at different points of the gunmaking process. Having studied and begun my career in product engineering this was a particular delight for me as many familiar machines, tools and paraphernalia were in attendance. One area of handcraft that really struck me came in the stocking room, where I witnessed some checkering being applied. This I could tell immediately, required such accuracy and dexterity from our makers, as any mistakes would be critical.
Side by side with the gun factory sits our leather department, this is rare amongst our major competitors who often manufacture their leather goods outside of the UK. English made leather is second to none, the country’s traditional skills and styles lend to an extremely high quality product, with endurance, a trait proudly synonymous with the Westley Richards name.
And finally, to the second and uppermost floor. For those dedicated readers amongst you will know, this is The Apartment. A beautifully designed interior space resplendent with Westley Richards ephemera, trophies, literature, photographs, artworks and artefacts. Collected and assembled by Simon Clode during his transformation of the business to what we know today. This remarkable place has such visual, textural and historical appeal even the most esteemed of our clients are stopped in their tracks on entry, and has often delighted them for many an hour on their visits.
In my short time here it is evident that there is an unbelievable depth of heritage and character around the company that must be carefully nurtured, as has been by those many important figures past and present. With this front of mind I, along with the rest of the team, very much look forward positively, distinctively and with great expectation into the bright and exciting future ahead.
On that note, I leave you for now with our recent wordsmithing of the future facing Westley Richards vision that first featured in the inaugural winter retail catalogue – Collections 2020.
“Established upon a heritage of wild adventure, Westley Richards has long been regarded as one of the finest gun and rifle makers the world has ever seen. At the side of generations of audacious huntsmen, we proudly handcraft history’s most beautiful and prized art guns, leather goods and sporting attire, taken on journeys like no other.
Our independent spirit has cultivated an unparalleled culture of innovation, artistry and excellence for well over 200 years, commanding enviable respect from our peers and continuously lionised by true characters of the outdoors.
As the leading light of England’s original Gun Quarter, Westley Richards are honoured to be part of Birmingham’s illustrious past and modern renaissance.”
Without really realising it we are a very lucky bunch here at Westley Richards. We get to spend our time building some of the worlds finest sporting guns and rifles, all in the name of work. Every single gun and rifle that we build is unique to the individual and as such genuine ‘one of a kind’ items that allow both the patron and the gunmakers here at Westley Richards to indulge themselves.
Now the level of individuality expressed in an individual gun or rifle can be either heavily influenced by the patron or more hands off, left to the spirit of the gunmaker. It was with this latter attitude in mind that one of our long standing patrons put to us ‘build the best damn .425 magazine rifle that you have ever built!’
Well here is just that rifle. What you see before you is unquestionably THE FINEST Westley Richards .425 detachable barrel magazine rifle ever built by the company, one that exemplifies the very meaning of ‘excellence’ in a modern British sporting rifle. Not only did we get to build a rifle how we wanted to see it, but what better way is there to reward someones faith than by producing something truly exceptional.
Black Rhino feature on the inset panel of the left side of the unique Westley Richards extended magazine.
The basis for this ‘special project’ started several years ago when we were approached to build a ‘Model de Grande Luxe’ detachable barrel magazine rifle in our own iconic .425 Westley Richards calibre. At the time nothing of the wood or engraving was discussed, quite simply we examined all the features that might go into making this rifle something special, a platform from which to build a rifle the likes of which we had never had the opportunity to do. We naturally began with a modern Mauser ’98 action with double square bridges, a side safe and traditional interchangeable flag safe, strap over comb, extended guard tang and a peep sight.
The action would be of our detachable barrel configuration, variants of which we have been producing since pre-War days. The detachable barrel was an important feature of this project as it would allow us later down the line to fit the rifle into a neat more ‘balanced’ case.
Almost unique to Westley Richards the action was also hand fitted with our ‘side clips’ and radius lifter which appear on many of the higher quality .425 calibre rifles built by us over the years. These combined features help with the feed of the cartridge which has a rebated rim and so needs a controlled and positive pick up and feed into the chamber.
No piece of the rifle has gone without some form of engraving ornamentation. Carving, elaborate scroll, intricate gold line work, checkering and beautiful flush gold inlays feature throughout the rifle.
Another interesting feature of this rifle which has probably not been picked up on before is the extended magazine release catch inside the trigger bow. Whilst widely used on British Mauser ’98 based rifles (and now most modern rifles) older .425 rifles tended to have the earlier lever release mechanism as seen on many original own brand Mauser ’98 rifles. Several years ago we built a classic .425 and at this point machined our own extended magazine boxes with the ability to release through the trigger bow. Whilst only a minor modification, aesthetically it makes a huge difference where a rifle is likely to be heavily engraved. Not only that, but the lines of the rifle with the big magazine look more trim.
Traditional open sights sat on our house style quarter rib, with the classic Westley Richards combination foresight, all of these features complemented on the barrel with the addition of a traditional ‘hook eye’ sling swivel base.
Cape buffalo in a savana setting sit within the inset panel of the right side of the unique Westley Richards extended magazine.
Turning to the engraving of the rifle this is where the patron of this rifle took the ultimate ‘leap of faith’. He left the decision entirely to us. At this point you know that you have to produce something really quite outstanding and in our mind was to execute something of a classic yet extravagant nature, befitting of a ‘Model de Grande Luxe’. We looked to the era of the maharajas who had a penchant for gold work, elaborate scroll and game scene engraving. Engravers of that time had only ever seen animals in books and perhaps zoos if they were lucky and so game scenes of that time were more often naive in execution. Today we have the finest photography and to a degree time. With this in mind it was decided to bring together the skills of three engravers so bringing the very best of each element to the rifle.
Stunning, stunning walnut with Westley Richards traditional ‘kidney’ cheekpiece and checkered side panels reflect the heritage of this rifle.
A stunning East Africa bull elephant strides from the base of the magazine. A bongo adorns the trigger bow and a leopard the door of the grip trap cap.
So it was that the engraving began with the most careful of fine gold border inlay. This task in its own right is a difficult one as against the bright of the steel the gold lines can look deceptively neat. It is only in the final finishing that the true straightness and sharpness of execution can really be seen. At this point the animals were decided upon and whilst the Dangerous game or ‘Big 5’ of Africa were a natural choice, warthog, bongo and waterbuck would add a little novelty. Once again these were executed in flush gold with fine detailing, the bull elephant on the base of the extended magazine looking particularly impressive. Elements of carving were then added to features of the rifle, the remaining space being filled with a beautifully delicate, yet masculine scroll. No area of the rifle went un-noticed including the swivel bases and trigger.
The lines of the rifle speak only of elegance. Even a large calibre rifle can be built to look attractive to even the untrained eye.
With such a unique rifle it was only fitting to finish the project off with a suitably matching case. So it was that a brown buffalo skin best quality oak and leather case was created, the internals fully French fitted in green goat skin. The external would be protected by our signature outer cover with patron detailing. The hand made tools, sling and pouches add a further refinement to the internal fitting, all finished off with a gold leaf impressed lid insert, all once again carried out by hand. All in all the rifle and its case has consumed hundreds and hundreds of hours, utilising the finest crafts men and women. Ultimately that is what it takes, along with a generous and visionary patron, to produce the finest .425 magazine rifle ever built, in fact one of the finest rifles ever built in our history.
This rifle will be on display with us at both the Dallas Safari Convention and Safari Club International in 2020.