I own a Westley Richards cartridge bag. A hundred-capacity ‘Perfecta’ type, made from pigskin. It is probably a hundred years old, originally made for ‘Uncle Geoff’; a grand old aristocrat who served in WW1 and bought my father his first shotgun, back in 1957. It bears not only the Westley Richards stamp, but his initials ‘G.C.W.W’ in classic block format.
It is always interesting to build a rifle in one of the old, oft forgotten classics and so here we have one of our signature droplock double rifles in the .450 3 1/”4″ nitro express cartridge. Now for those of you not familiar with the cartridge, its development can be attributed to John Rigby & Co. and with its launched in 1898 can be said to be the turning point in British big game rifles.
Why, you might ask? Well quite simply this cartridge was the first to use modern smokeless powders combined with steel jacketed bullets that could be propelled at then unheard of velocities delivering phenomenal penetration and considerable energy. Previous to this rifles were mentioned in bore size and anything below 10g being considered a small bore! These old brutes fired lead bullets propelled by black powder which had the rather annoying habit of obscuring the target after the first shot! Real men used 6 bores and bigger for the heavy pachyderms and the rifle could weigh in at a hefty 24lbs!
The name ‘Kynoch’ should need no introduction to those with a passion for vintage sporting guns and rifles. The name is etched into our psyche, synonymous with wonderful cartridge display boards, vibrant red and yellow boxes, the lion trademark and big game hunting. A company renowned for the exceptional quality of their products, who, at one timesupplied practically every major gun and rifle maker in Britain. So where did it all start?
The name we all recognise today started out with one George Kynoch, a Scotsman born in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire in 1834, who at a very early age recognised that he had much bigger ambitions than his native home could foster. In his early 20s, he decided to move south and headed for the very heartland of the industrial age – Birmingham, said to be the city of a thousand trades and, amongst other things, one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world. Naturally, where there were arms, there was a need for primers and explosives. It was into this rather unconventional world that George Kynoch was drawn, taking a job at percussion cap manufacturers, Pursall and Phillips of Whittall Street.
Patented in 1875, the Anson & Deeley Hammerless action is still receiving praise for its design and proven performance. Even in today’s world with more variety in sporting firearms than ever before, the 145 year old design continues to capture the imagination of anyone who appreciates the craftsmanship of a fine gun. Just this year, there is a New book out on the origins of the Anson & Deeley action, Birth of the British Boxlock Shotgun by John Campbell. More recently, a cover shot on the Fall 2020 “Guns & Hunting” issue of Sporting Classics of a pair of modern Westley Richards 20g Modele De Luxe shotguns. The issue’s featured article by Doug Tate is about the timeless virtues of the A&D action that he sums up with, “It warrants the hype that that has grown up around it”.
I could not agree more. The A&D action is what this firm “hangs its hat on” and thanks to this brilliant design and its enduring qualities, we have an order book that is bulging at the seams. The A&D action is one the most celebrated designs in sporting arms history and, again, the praise is certainly warranted but it sometimes overshadows the many other accomplishments, landmark patents, and contributions the firm, and the brilliant men that served here, gave to firearms development and gunmaking.