The most recent project completed and ready for delivery is this Best Quality Hand Detachable Lock rifle chambered in .500 3” NE. From the classic cartridge it is chambered for, to the timeless Droplock design and traditional house engraving, this is the quintessential Westley Richards double rifle in every way.
Westley Richards is credited with being the first to adapt the .500 Black Powder Express to a new smokeless propellant called Cordite, sometime around 1890. Offering a vast improvement in ballistics over the black powder loads best suited for deer or stag, the new nitro based smokeless powder load made the .500 Nitro Express a legitimate alternative to the much larger 8 and 4 bore black powder rifles historically used for animals such as elephant or buffalo.
Today’s .500 3” NE shoots a 570gr, .510” diameter bullet at a standard velocity of 2,100 fps delivering just shy of 6,000 ft lbs. of muzzle energy. However, the cartridge can be safely chambered in a rifle weighing about 11 lbs. For hunting large dangerous game, there are few rifles and cartridges that come in such a well-balanced package, combining such awesome ballistic performance in a manageable size and weight. This is the reason I believe the .500 NE remains one of the most popular double rifle cartridges ever produced.
With those new developments in propellants like Cordite, came improvements in the design and construction of rifles as well. Fast Forward over 100 years of gunmaking and we have what might be the pinnacle of double rifles, new Westley Richards rifles like this one.
Ordered as a scroll back action with Westley’s patented hand detachable locks, snap lever work and Model ‘C’ doll’s head extension, these features were invented in the 19th century and remain the foundation of Westley Richards double guns and rifles today.
In addition, the rifle’s standard features are disk set strikers, hinged front trigger, beaded trigger bow, extended guard tang, and a trap grip cap, beaded cheekpiece and drop points on a super deluxe walnut stock.
Finally, the rifle is tastefully adorned with Westley’s house engraving, an elegant small traditional scroll surrounding the Maker’s name in flowing banners on the sides of the action and, in this case, with an added pop of gold name engraving. This style of engraving, along with the geometric pattern on the cover plate, has been the firm’s signature pattern on best quality guns since before 1900.
This is a modern interpretation of what the firm has been producing for well over a one hundred years and truly is the quintessential Westley Richards double rifle. From the cartridge it is chambered for, to the action’s design and embellishments, this rifle encompasses so much of what has made Westley Richards such an enduring name in the world of gunmaking.
As a maker of luxury firearms, we believe there is nothing more flattering than when a client places another order with us. Let’s be honest, the creation of a bespoke gun or rifle is a costly endeavor that takes a long time to come to fruition. When a client is so pleased with the process that they want to repeat it, well, that says a lot.
Long before I ever thought of working for Westley Richards, a good client of mine from my previous job was asking my opinion on some secondhand English made double rifles for sale at the time. I posed the question to him, that if he was willing to spend that kind of money on a secondhand rifle, why not consider ordering a new one?
My second comment was, “if you do decide to go that route, I would order a Westley Richards droplock”.
I then introduced my friend to Simon and Trigger and the results of those conversations produced the Modele De Luxe .500 3” NE Hand Detachable rifle Trigger wrote about in a blog from September of 2018.
Fast forward a few years later, when I was actually working for Westley Richards, I took an order from the same client for this Modele De Luxe Bolt Action chambered in the venerable .416 Rigby to pair with the double rifle.
Super deluxe walnut stock complements the engraving on the metal and is highlighted by the high gloss hand rubbed oil finish.
Built as a companion rifle to the droplock in .500 3” NE, this .416 bore bolt action was engraved by the same hand that did the incredible work on the double rifle. Covered in the same deluxe bold scroll, the bolt action also features a color hardened floor plate with a brushed game scene.
Just as on the double rifle, the game scene on the bolt action depicts a similar drama unfolding. Brushing the colors away on the game scene vignettes highlights the highly detailed engraving while still maintaining the beauty of the case colors in which the bold scroll shows up in nicely. A nice touch and one more way a bespoke rifle is tailored to the customer’s preferences.
The brushed game scene vignettes highlight the high level of detail in the engraving on both rifles.
As has become standard for Westley Richards, the rifle is stocked in a stunning piece of walnut in the modern Westley Richards shape with an ebony forend tip, traditionally shaped cheekpiece and leather covered pad.
Other features include, quick detachable scope mounts, Westley’s pattern quarter rib with one standing Express sight and two folding leaves and our patent foresight.
Quick detachable mounts and WR quarter rib with standing Express sight and two folding leaves.
Despite the embellishments on both rifles, the client certainly intends to hunt with them and we look forward to hearing the stories that these rifles will surely be a part of.
With gunmaking at its core, the Westley Richards firm has a long history of dealing in secondhand guns and rifles of all makes and models. We continue that tradition today handling some of the World’s finest firearms. However, our interest does not end at just fine guns but also includes any other items built for purpose with flawless function but also beautiful in shape, fit and finish.
I believe anyone who appreciates the guns, rifles and fine leather goods produced at Westley Richards will also see the beauty in these handmade knives I came across in my most recent travels.
Jim Behring/Treeman – A longtime outdoorsman Jim Behring of Michigan is best known for his Skagel inspired knife making style. Known as “Treeman” knives, a name from a previous career cutting trees, his knives are highly regarded among collectors and hardcore outdoorsman alike.
Jim hammer forges 35 to 55 knives per month and while he is a very prolific maker, his knives are relatively rare to find on the secondhand market and certain era knives and configurations are rising in price year over year.
Pair of Behring Made 2015 Sporting Classics Knife of the Year
James Behring is the son of Jim “Treeman” Behring. Beginning his career apprenticing for six years under his father in Michigan learning the art of knifemaking, and specifically, knife designs pioneered by knife maker William B. Skagel.
In 2011, James moved to Montana and is now based out of Missoula making knives with a small team of craftsman under the name “Behring Made”. James is one of the most prolific knifemakers I know, and he is also a true outdoorsman and conservationist who makes beautiful handmade knives that are designed and made for real use.
Barry Davis Damascus Lockback Folder with Fossil scales, Damascus Switchblade with Desert Ironwood Scales and Lockback Folder with Mother of Pearl Scales
Barry Davis has been a maker since 1978. He only uses quality materials and his own forged Damascus steel. Barry Davis knives remains some of the most sought after handmade knives on the market today.
James B. Lile Small Game Skinner with Sambar Stag and Hand Signed blade & Lile Big Model 7 with Yellow Micarta Scales Engraved and Scrimshawed by James Stuart
James B. Lile – Arkansas knife maker and one of the true pioneers of the modern handmade knife, both in design and style, Mr. Lile was a contemporary of knife makers such as Robert Loveless and Bill Moran. Mr. Lile was a prolific maker with a career that spanned over 4 decades. While he is most famous for making the survival knife used by Sylvester Stallone in the First Blood and Rambo franchise of movies, his other contributions to modern knife making and design cannot be overstated.
W.D. Pease Liner Lock Folders with: Stag Scales and Engraved Bolsters, Mother of Pearl Scales with Mokume Bolsters and Gold Lip Pearl Scales and Titanium Bolsters
W.D. Pease is a former pastor turned knife maker, Mr. Pease joined the Knifemakers’ Guild in 1976 and became a full time knife maker in 1978. He specializes in high-end folders with premium handle materials and flawless fit and finish.
Antique Pocket Knives from England, France, and Germany
In addition to the handmade knives featured here and on our website, we have a very unique selection of antique pocket knives of several varieties made in England, France and Germany.
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.
Four very nice Holland & Holland shotguns have come into the Westley Richards U.S. Agency and are just going up on the secondhand gun site (https://www.wrusedguns.com/view/all-listings/). We have been fortunate to have some very fine Hollands this year and this new group of guns is no exception.
Holland’s is famous for many innovations in gun making, but none more so than the Royal model hammerless sidelock. While the Royal needs no introduction to most readers of this blog, this most recent group of guns features some of the more obscure models offered by the storied firm.
The first two guns are 12g and 20g Northwood models. After WWII, Holland & Holland offered a boxlock ejector that was made in the Birmingham trade then finished, shot and regulated by Holland’s in London. This gun was known as a Northwood. Sometime in the 1980’s, Holland’s made moves to produce their own boxlock. The project lead to the company purchasing the venerable Birmingham gunmaker W. & C. Scott and offering two models, the new Cavalierand the Northwood, the latter being the less adorned of the two.
Both models were based on the proven Anson & Deeley fixed lock or “boxlock” action. Available in 12g and 20g and built on dedicated frame sizes with scroll backs and Scott’s spindle top lever. All the parts were made in Birmingham at the W&C Scott factory and the guns were stocked, engraved and finished in London at Holland’s factory. According to Donald Dallas’ book Holland & Holland, The Royal Gunmakers, Complete History (Quiller Press, 2003), the project ran about a decade ending sometime in the 1990’s and Holland’s only made about 200 of the very high-quality guns.
The two Northwood models here at the Agency have traditional scroll engraving, color case hardened finishes and 2 ¾” chambers with 1989 Birmingham proof marks. They are nicely stocked with straight hand grips, auto-safeties, two triggers, and rolled trigger bows. The 12g weighs just over 6 lbs. with 28” barrels and the 20g weighs just under 6 lbs. and is fitted with 27” barrels. Both of these guns are in superb condition and in their own lightweight canvas case.
The ‘Northwood’ Model
The ‘Riviera’ Model
Another gun in the group is a factory two-barrel set 12g called the Riviera Model. In Dallas’ book, he says the Riviera Model was offered for more than 30 years, from 1933 to 1967. Despite being available for over three decades, it is a rarely encountered model.
I have seen the Riviera model featured in Holland catalogs from before and after WWII and described as:
“…12 bore Hammerless Ejector Gun with two pairs of interchangeable 28 inch barrels, treble grip action, two triggers-front hinged, hand-detachable locks, selected French walnut, chambered for the 2 ¾-inch case, weight about 7 lbs. 4 oz. to 7 lbs. 6 oz…introduced particularly for sportsmen desirous of a using one gun only, for either game or trap shooting. One pair of barrels bored full choke, while the second pair throw more open patterns for game shooting”
The Riviera was built on a Badminton hammerless ejector sidelock action with Holland’s patent hand detachable locks and Treble Grip action that accepted their hidden third bite. Another obscure name from Holland’s, Badminton was used for a plainer sidelock that employed the same action as the Royal model but without the famous Royal pattern house engraving. This was originally known as a No. 2 but donned a new name after WWI and named for Holland’s Badminton shooting school.
This Riviera was built in 1937 and ordered with very specific details by the customer. As specified on the factory build sheet, the first set of barrels are choked at .004” and .010” and listed on the build sheet as “field” barrels. The second set of barrels are choked .029” and .040” and described as “pigeon” barrels. Each set of barrels have original 2 ¾” chambers and the same wall thickness as specified on the factory build sheet (.024” in the field barrels and .026” in the pigeon barrels). The barrels are numbered, in gold, “1” and “2” respectively and also marked with the “98 New Bond St.” address and “Riviera” is engraved on each top rib.
The action of the Riviera model is engraved in a bold floral pattern with the Maker’s name on each lock plate in flowing banners with gold lined cocking indicators and fire blued pins, and the word “SAFE” inlaid in gold. On the bottom of the action it is engraved “Badminton Ejector”. The gun comes complete in its original two-barrel “VC” case.
Last and certainly not least, is a Holland & Holland 20g Royal Brevis. The ‘Royal Brevis’ Model
The word Brevis is Latin for “short” and is the name Holland’s uses for any Royal gun made with barrels shorter than 28”. Introduced in 1931, the Royal Brevis was conceived to keep up with the trend of shooting with shorter gun barrels made popular by Robert Churchill. Referring again to Mr. Dallas’ book, The Royal Brevis name was not used in any Holland catalogs after WWII, but he says it remained available. In my own experience, I have encountered many post-war Holland’s with barrels shorter than 28” but not marked Brevis; no doubt this is a very rare gun to find made in modern times.
I know barrels shorter than 28” are often frowned upon by some. But let’s be honest, most upland hunting in North America is for walked up birds that flush in different directions, with little to no warning, and often in tight cover. This type of shooting is simply better served by shorter barrels. While I fully understand the benefits to long barrels for pass shooting doves or high driven pheasants, the fact is so called “short” barrels are handier in tight cover and easier to change their direction when shooting birds who flush or fly erratically. Lightweight guns like this Brevis are fast handling and easy to carry making them tailored made for the kind of hunting we Americans enjoy.
Finished in 1992, this gun is made in the traditional Brevis configuration with 26 1⁄2″ barrels but specially ordered as a lightweight, weighing only 5 1⁄4 lbs. The gun has a an exceptionally dainty action body and beautifully struck lightweight barrels. The gun also employs all the same best quality features of the Royal such as hand detachable locks, Holland’s self-opening mechanism on the barrels and Royal engraving. This gun has a brushed or “coin” finish, gold lined cocking indicators, two triggers with the front one being articulated and a rolled trigger bow and the serial number and the word “SAFE” are inlayed in gold.
All in all, this group of guns offers a nice selection of Holland & Holland guns, all at different price points, and are more examples of why vintage Hollands remain so desirable.
For further information on any of these guns please contact:
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.
With Red Grouse shooting now officially underway, the game season in the Uk can now be looked forward to with real vigor and excitement! The anticipation of a busy season will see shots progress from grouse, to partridge, to pheasant as the season works on through the autumn and winter.
Double gunning, perhaps the pinnacle of driven game shooting will feature throughout the season on many of the larger estates and so it is no surprise to see a spike in the demand for pairs of guns. With this in mind it could not have been a better time to have gotten the most recent addition to the second-hand gun inventory here at the Westley Richards U.S. Agency.
This pair of Holland & Holland 12g ‘Royal’Model game guns are in excellent, original condition and one of the finest pairs of Holland & Holland guns to come to market in some time.
Signature hand detachable sidelocks.
Finished in 1953 this pair of guns represents, in my mind, one of Holland’s finest periods. I know the guns made prior to the World Wars and between the Wars, are often thought of as the bench mark for overall quality in a gun, but lay this pair of post war guns by a comparable Holland, of any era, and I think you will be surprised. The bold Royal engraving is wonderfully cut and well executed, the fit and finish of the guns is superb and remains in high original condition. The barrels were expertly struck and bored. The guns showcase all the hallmark features that made Holland & Holland such a notable name in gunmaking.
The guns are built on the H&H patented Royalmodel bar-action sidelock ejector with hand detachable locks and treble grip action bodies. The guns have two triggers, the front ones hinged, and rolled trigger bows. The guns also have automatic safeties with “SAFE” inlaid in gold as well as gold lined cocking indicators. The square bar actions have beautifully shaped beads and fences and the actions are engraved in the classic house or Royalengraving pattern of bold foliate scroll surrounding the Maker’s name. The bottom of the action is engraved “Royal Model” and each gun is appropriately numbered in gold “1” or “2” on the top lever, top rib and forend iron.
Superb original condition is a highlight of these guns.
The guns have their original 28” chopper lump barrels with Holland’s hidden third fasteners and raised matted game ribs. The barrels have original 2 ¾” chambers (1 1/4 oz proof) and carry Holland’s patent self-opening assembly. The barrels are engraved with the maker’s name and the “98 New Bond St.” address (ca. 1858-1960). The bottom rib is engraved “Made in England” and “Royal”.
The straight grip walnut stocks have Holland’s classic diamond shaped hand. The stocks have a dark contrasting figure and match nicely, both having 14 3/4″ length of pulls over checkered butts. The splinter forends have Anson push rods and Holland’s patent ejectors. Stocks and forends are checkered in a very well-cut point pattern checkering with borders and traditional drop points. Each gold stock oval has the previous owner’s initials D.J.M.
The guns come complete in the maker’s two-gun motor case with its canvas cover and the original owner’s name and hometown on the initial patch.
These guns remain in near new condition as they were used very little and were well cared for. It is hard to imagine a pair of vintage guns in a more relevant configuration for today’s shooting. The bonus is they are from wonderful period in this venerable maker’s history. This is a very special pair of guns.
A typed letter to the original owner of this pair of guns was found inside the gun’s case. The letter quotes a few days shooting on the grouse moors of Scotland and is dated 1960.
In all my years selling guns, I don’t think I ever met anyone who didn’t have a .22 LR of some kind. Probably one of the greatest cartridges ever invented, it can be used as a precision target round or a highly effective hunting tool. It is very inexpensive to produce and good reliable firearms, in both handguns and rifles, can be made and sold at very reasonable prices. Not surprisingly, the cartridge is one of the most widely used in the World and I would imagine most readers of this blog have at least one rifle chambered for the .22 Long Rifle.
The American firm J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co. firstintroduced the .22 Long Rifle (.22 LR) in 1847. It has a rimfire case (based on Louis-Nicolas Flobert’s .22 BB Cap cartridge) and shoots a 0.22” calibre 40 grain bullet at around 1,200 fps producing virtually no recoil. Being cheap, plentiful and easy to shoot, the cartridge also makes a wonderful round for teaching and practicing the fundamentals of shooting.
Due to the popularity of the cartridge, the rifles and handguns chambered for the .22 LR must be in the tens of millions. British companies such as BSA certainly contributed their fair share and even the best gun and rifle makers of England offered rifles chambered in .22 LR. I have seen .22 rifles from makers James Woodward, James Purdey, Holland & Holland, William Evans, and of course, Westley Richards. Most were single shot rook and rabbit rifles, but I have also encountered more than one Best Quality double rifle chambered for the cartridge. However, as popular as the .22 LR is, it is more often associated with a child’s gun or small game hunting. Finding any kind of .22 rifle made to the standard of a best quality big bore rifle, is something that will rarely happen.
You can imagine my surprise when I first heard of the rifle that just came through the U.S. Agency. Made in 1983 to match a customer’s big bore Westley Richards, the rifle pictured here is the only best quailty .22 LR bolt action rifle Westley Richards has ever made.
The history is fuzzy on how this rifle actually came to be but, the story goes, it started out to provide the client with a rifle to practice his shooting, in a chambering more economical and fun to shoot than his big bore rifle, yet having a similar style of sights, size and weight. The current owner had told me about this rifle but seeing it in person, it was clear this project took on a life of its own becoming much more than just a rifle to practice with.
The rifle is best quality in every way. Based on an action of Mauser design, the MAS .22 LR Training Rifle. After WWII, the Mauser factory fell into French controlled territory and during this time, the French had the factory design a .22 calibre training rifle for their military. The Mauser people drew on a previous Mauser 22 design, the KKW, and made some slight modifications. The first ones were produced in the Mauser factory but, production was moved to Manufacture d’armes de Saint-Étienne (MAS) or the Saint-Étienne Arms Manufacturer. MAS was a French state-owned manufacturing company located in the town of Saint-Étienne, where weapons have been manufactured since the Middle Ages. The rifles were assembled until the existing supply of parts were used up.
The metal is engraved in a full coverage ‘House’ pattern scroll common to Westley Richards bolt action rifles from the 1980’s. The rifle is fitted with a highly figured, full-size walnut stock complete with raised beaded cheekpiece, full pistol grip, a very fine point pattern wrap checkering and the traditional horn butt plate, pistol grip cap and forend tip. The rifle also features full size one-piece bottom metal with an inside-the-bow release straddle floor plate. The floor plate opens and reveals the 5-round detachable magazine the MAS 45 rifles were originally fitted with.
For the original MAS 45 magazines to work, the gunmakers hid the magazine under the floor plate and milled a magazine box, from a solid steel billet, to accept the magazine. This allowed the original magazines to work in a standard center fire rifle stock that is far deeper than the original training rifles.
The rifle has a 24” barrel with the same contour as a standard centerfire rifle and the muzzle’s crown is recessed ¼” with a diameter of about .330”, hiding the small .22 calibre bore and further adding to the rifle’s disguise. The barrel was also fitted with Westley Richards pattern island rear sight with one standing Express sight and three folding leaves (50, 75, 100, 150 yds) and Westley Richards patent combination foresight. The rifle was also made to accept a scope and has handmade grooved mounts that replace the original receiver sight the MAS 45 rifles were fitted with. The bases are engraved to match the rest of the rifle and accept American scope rings intended for .22 rifles with ¾” grooved receivers.
As with any bestquality gun or rifle, the devil is always in the details. This rifle is certainly not short on any details. I also imagine the rifle comes with plenty of heartache, frustration and disdain from the men who had to make it. While it is hard enough to build a gun or rifle to bestquality standards on a model of gun the makers are familiar with, applying that same standard to something the makers have never built brings a new host of challenges to its manufacture. Being that the factory had never made a .22 bolt action before, there were no plans, notes or examples to reverse engineer, so the project started with a blank sheet of paper. Add all of this with an overarching theme to deceive the viewer into thinking it is a larger calibre rifle than it is, I can only imagine the turmoil this little rifle’s creation caused.
Its rarity notwithstanding, the amount of thought, ingenuity and attention to detail that went into this project is quite astounding and, I guess, that is part of what makes this rifle so alluring.
For me, as I am sure it is for many of our readers, the British gunmakers have always set the standard by which all other sporting guns and rifles are measured. One American rifle maker that certainly measured up to its British counterparts was Griffin & Howe.
In 1923 famed shooter, outdoorsman and writer, Colonel Townsend Whelen helped bring together a cabinet maker turned stock maker named Seymour R. Griffin and a tool maker turned gunsmith named James V. Howe, to form a company to make high quality custom rifles. Today Griffin & Howe remains one of America’s premier purveyors of fine firearms.
G&H always offered a wide range of gunsmithing services throughout their history. The company started out refining surplus Springfield Model 1903 bolt action rifles as well as building single shot target rifles. The company also gained a reputation for building very high-quality custom rifles and specializing in large bore rifles built on Magnum Mauser actions. In 1927 G&H introduced their iconic scope mount; a version of this mount being supplied to the U.S. Army during WWII and, following the war, was one of the most popular ways to mount a scope on a sporting rifle. I have also seen everything from a re-barreled Savage 1899 Lever Action to a full custom rifle in .505 Gibbs built using a Magnum Mauser action.
So, when a Griffin & Howe single shot rifle built on a Farquharson action came through the U.S. Agency, I was not necessarily surprised, but it is the first one I have ever seen.
Originally patented in 1872 by John Farquharson, the Farquharson single shot falling block action was solely produced by the gunmaker George Gibbs until the patent ran out in 1889. Soon after the patent expired, other British makers started producing rifles using Farquharson actions made by August Francotte of Belgium. These actions were stamped “PD”, which stood for “public domain”, to note there was no infringement on the patent. Today the original Gibbs and Francotte actions remain highly desirable, either on finished rifles or as actions for a future project.
The Griffin & Howe rifle pictured here was built in the 1950’s using a “PD” marked Farquharson action. The rifle is chambered in .375 Flanged Magnum, Holland’s rimmed .375 cartridge intended for breech loading rifles. The rifle’s barrel and action have the original blue finish, color hardening on the lever and butt plate and original oil finish on the stock. On the sides of the action, there is arabesque scroll engraving in a diamond pattern done by Josef Fugger, G&H’s in-house engraver at the time.
The rifle also features Griffin & Howe’s pattern quarter rib and banded ramp front sight with a removable sight hood, both engraved to match the action. The quarter rib is grooved for quick detachable lever lock G&H rings mounting a period correct J. Unertl 4X “Hawk” telescopic sight. In the absence of a fixed rear sight, there is a small peep sight that fits on the quarter rib when the scope is removed. The 26” barrel is marked, as usual, with the Maker’s serial number and name, “2288 Griffin & Howe Inc. New York”.
The two piece stock has an ebony forend tip and a full pistol grip checkered in the classic G&H point pattern with G&H’s distinctive beaded cheekpiece. The butt stock has a case colored and engraved steel strap butt plate where the removable peep sight is stored while the telescopic sight is in use.
Overall, the rifle is in excellent original condition and is a very good, and very rare, example of an American made best quality rifle.
I am just returning from a trip in which I visited one of America’s oldest and most historic cities. A fitting place to find this pair of cased Westley Richards 16g Percussion Holster Pistols made in the first half of the 19th Century.
Originally ordered for stock, this pair of pistols was shipped, in their ‘box”, on May 16, 1839 to the London Agency at 170 New Bond St. Now, 180 years later, these pistols are being offered for sale by this firm. Only this time, at Westley Richards’ U.S. Agency.
A “boxed” or cased set of pistols like this were a sign of status and they were finished to a very high standard. The locks, hammers, trigger guards and breach blocks are decorated with a traditional acanthus scroll engraving and the maker’s name is engraved on each lock plate.
The small sized, bar action hammer locks have flat plates and are fitted with flat faced serpentine hammers with stylized dolphin heads and back sliding safeties.
Each pistol has 8” twist octagon barrels that are engraved with the maker’s name on the top flats. They have V-notch rear sights on the breach irons and small brass beads at the muzzles. The barrels are fitted with bridled steel ramrods that still operate flawlessly.
Lightly figured European walnut stocks have “bag” shaped grips and forends that extend to within 5/8” of the muzzle. The stocks have very nice flat top checkering, are iron mounted and have rectangular crest plates engraved with a “rising eagle”.
Overall the pair’s condition is excellent and the guns remain completely original. The locks and hammers display strong amounts of their color hardening and most of the original brown is left on the barrels that have excellent bores. The stocks are also sound, crack free and in superb original shape retaining almost all their original oil finish. The forearm wedges and triggers still show a vivid charcoal blue and almost all the original black remains on the trigger bows.
The pistols are paired in the original mahogany case that is also in very nice original condition still retaining the original trade label and well preserved green baize.
This pair of pistols is another great example of the high-quality arms Westley Richards has produced and sold for over two hundred years.