The Perfect African Accompaniment

The debate of what rifle, in what calibre, is the best for hunting in Africa is a discussion as old as the sport itself and I don’t intend to delve into or attempt to answer such a lengthy and hotly contested question in this blog. But what I want to share with the readers, is a rifle, that has recently come through our doors, which I believe quite comfortably covers with ease, a wide range of African game and safaris and has a serious chance of answering the aforementioned question for me.

Ray Ward Gunmakers, based in Knightsbridge London, have been a high end gun retailer for a number of years and in more recent times have become a gunmaker in their own right. One such rifle to have been built by the London makers is this superbly versatile take down bolt action rifle, two barrel set in .375 H&H Magnum and .416 Remington Magnum. Completed around 2001, the rifle is built on a standard length Obendorf action with two interchangeable, screw threaded barrels using the Jeffery style screw in peg to secure them in place. The .416 barrel measures 23 3/8” with a ramp foresight and single standing express sight. While the .375 barrel is 22” with the same open sight configuration with the addition of a flip over foresight hood. The Zeiss Conquest DL 1.2-5×36 scope is mounted on H&H QD mounts and the rifle weighs 10lbs 1.7oz in .375 and 10lbs 7oz in .416.

The pistol grip stock is beautifully figured and measures 14 1/8” to the centre of the Silver’s recoil pad with a cheekpiece, grip cap, gold oval, sling stud, two recoil bars and horn forend tip. Expertly engraved by David Tallett with a bold scroll coverage, the case colour floor plate is engraved in gold with the calibres and FOR BIG GAME. The scope rings are also gold inlaid with the calibres and makers name.

The rifle is finished to a very high standard, is well balanced and points with ease. The action is smooth, the barrels are tight on the action and the bores are both in mint condition. It is neatly presented in its leather case with a sling, turnscrew, cleaning rods and accessories.

The .375 has proven its worth time and time again and shouldn’t need me argue its case. The .416 Remington since its introduction in 1988 has gained the affection of hunters world wide, non more so than legendary PH, Robin Hurt. Firing a 400 grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2400 fps, it is capable of taking Africa’s largest game and compliments the .375 perfectly. It’s an attractive and beautifully made African all-rounder that you’d be hard pressed to find a hunt it didn’t suit.

New Westley Richards .375 H&H Magnum

The latest rifle to reach completion is this quite stunning .375 H&H magnum bolt action rifle. A close working relationship between the client and ourselves has resulted in the perfect balance between being aesthetically pleasing yet remaining a very practical and versatile hunting rifle. The highly figured exhibition grade stock coupled with the bold foliate scroll coverage chosen by the client marks his stamp of individuality and expresses his taste for design and embellishment, while the two quick detachable scopes and the .375 calibre, means this rifle will be at home on a wide variety of hunts around the world.

Built with a 23” barrel on a double square bridge magnum action the rifle is fitted with Swarovski scopes on quick detachable mounts, one being a Z6i 1-6×24 for use on African game and a Z6i 2-12×50 for red stags at dusk and wild boar under moonlight in Europe. It gives me great pleasure to know it will be hunted with extensively and I have no doubt it will be put through its paces.

Black finished action with case colour hardened pins, bolt shroud, recoil bar, grip cap and floor plate release. Gold lettering throughout with our combination foresight, quarter rib and gold pyramid rear express sight, regulated at 50, 100 and 200 yards. The stock has a full pistol grip shape, grip cap with trap, ebony forend tip and slim leather covered recoil pad. Neatly housed in its lightweight leather case with green alcantara lining and  accessories it is a complete package built to the highest quality and a worthy addition to any sportsman’s battery.

Pair of Westley Richards Percussion Belt Pistols

A rarity for sure, our latest find is this truly outstanding pair of Westley Richards, double barrel, belt pistols, we believe completed somewhere around 1830. Although there is likely to be a serial number present if you were to strip the pistols, sadly there is no number on the external so we can’t trace the history exactly, but what I can tell you, and is plain to see from the images, they are in absolute first class condition and are a marvel of early 19thcentury craftsmanship by this firm.

Built with brown twist, sighted, 3 ¼” smooth bore barrels engraved ‘Westley Richards London’ with a stirrup ram rod and blued steel belt hook. Both pistols retain vivid case colours and are engraved with a foliate scroll coverage, high fences and dolphin head hammers with a slide back safety. Crisp, finely chequered handles with silver escutcheon and engraved grip cap with trap. Weighing 1lbs 14oz they point effortlessly and remain in unmolested condition, even the pins are clean, straight and untouched.

It’s safe to say we don’t get pistols in like this very often at all and the fact that they are made by our predecessors and remain in such fantastic condition is great to see. Sadly they are not cased but nevertheless, they are quite superb in every way.

Pre-Season Preparation

As I sit and write this latest blog the UK is currently in the grip of a heatwave and the mercury is due to hit 88°F here in Birmingham today, which is hot for England! With weather like this, thoughts of last winter’s sport are a distant memory and it’s hard to image that in just over 6 weeks’ time we will be putting back on our tweeds, dusting off our shooting kit and heading north for the start of the grouse shooting season.

While most people are thinking about the beach rather than the shooting season at this time of year, estates all over the UK have been busy preparing for this coming season’s sport from the moment the final horn blew on the last drive back in February. Relying on purely wild numbers only, moorland keepers are taking stock of what grouse they have on the ground from their spring and summer counts and are planning drives and days accordingly. Lowland keepers are beginning to welcome this year’s birds to the woods and over the next few months will be feeding them into the various drives of the shoot. Equally as important will be the job of pushing back straying birds from the boundaries with their dedicated team of dogs.

We’ve been busy preparing guns for the coming season. We have recently completed an engraving job on a pair of droplocks for an American client who asked us to polish out the old scroll engraving and re-engrave a Cock Pheasant and Hen Pheasant motifs on the cover plates. Beautifully executed by Bradley Tallett, the iris of each bird is gold inlaid along with a gold ring border. The surrounding space is tastefully engraved with scroll work to match the rest of the action. Next step is to case colour harden the plates and brush and ink the motifs.

The client and his team are regular visitors to our shores to hunt driven pheasant and partridge and these guns are now a fitting homage to their chosen quarry.

Wishing all of our American readers a happy Fourth of July!

Refurbished Pair of 20g Droplock Shotguns

Although the primary focus of the factory is new gun and rifle production we do have a small amount of repair and refurbishment work taking place. Mostly on used guns that we have sold that need a service, alteration of stock measurements or a general freshen up before being delivered to the successful buyer.

One such pair that has just been completed is this very beautiful pair of 20g droplock shotguns. Completed in 2000, built for an American gentleman, they were kept here in the UK and shot every season. The guns were returned to us last year to be sold and the new owner, another American gentleman, has decided to also keep them here in the UK for his annual pheasant and partridge shooting trip.

The guns are a matched pair of best quality 20g droplocks with 27” barrels, scroll back, double trigger actions with elaborate scroll coverage and stunningly figured 14 ¾” stocks. Choked ½ in all 4 barrels they are the perfect all round guns, from early grouse through to late season pheasants. The guns are perfectly balanced and are quick in the hands like a 20 should be.  Cased in their leather case with canvas outer they are very presentable and attractive pair of guns.

The stocks have had all the handling marks removed and have been gently refinished with our high gloss finish. The barrels have been best re-blacked and both actions and lock work have been completely stripped, cleaned and checked over, ovals have been polished and engraved and the leather shop have made a new lightweight canvas outer with initial patch. The team have done a superb job on the refinish of the guns and they are now safely stored and awaiting the arrival of their new owner.

 

Holland & Holland .577 Black Powder Double Rifle

Sourcing pre-owned guns for sale is as varied and unpredictable as the British weather. From a vintage Boswell .303 single shot rifle to a pair of as new .470 droplock double rifles and everything in between, we are lucky enough to get them in all shapes, sizes, calibres and conditions.

One particular rifle that proves my point is this interesting Holland & Holland hammerless ejector double rifle in .577 black powder. Completed in 1895 and made for C.C. Branch Esquire, the rifle remains in excellent original condition. Built with a sidelock, Jones under lever action with full elaborate scroll coverage and clam shell engraved fences. Full pistol grip stock measuring 14 ¾” to the centre of the Silvers recoil pad with a strap over comb, cheek piece, plain gold oval and splinter forend with lever release. 26” barrels with mint bores and crisp rifling, rear express sight and ramp foresight with folding moon sight. The rifle weighs 11lbs 5oz and is an impressive thing to handle. It’s easy to admire the workmanship of this piece and one can only image the adventures that Mr. Branch had planned when he collected this rifle back in 1895.

Extract From Holland & Holland’s Ledger

The image above shows the development of the Holland action from the back action with external hammers circa 1887, to the rifle in question, through to the hammerless Royal from 1938 with a modern tang top lever. Spurred on by Beesley’s hammerless action which was bought by Purdey’s in 1879, Henry Holland began working on a hammerless action of his own. A collaboration between Henry Holland and John Robertson led to patent No. 23 on 1st January 1883, a hammerless action which became Holland’s most famous and best gun, the Royal.

 

Vintage Westley Richards 12g Modele De Luxe

Recently through the workshops for a full service is this simply superb Modele De Luxe 12g. In fantastic condition, this gun which was completed in 1914, was built with all the Westley best quality gun features. With the addition of a raised engine turned top rib, clipped fences and 30” barrels it’s a heavy weight gun but beautifully balanced.

As the centenary catalogue describes the Model De Luxe, the gun is ‘elaborately carved and engraved with game subjects’. After 104 years of existence the engraving is still crisp and as attractive as the day it was done and the action retains a good amount of original colour hardening. The expert file up of the action and deep carved scroll along with the extravagant chequering style, engraved barrel breeches and heel and toe plates with horn centre, certainly earns the gun its deluxe status.

It’s a pleasure to see and work on such a beautifully made gun in first class condition such as this one, which is testament to the skill of the early 20th century gunmakers and the gun’s subsequent owners who have cared so affectionately for it since. There should be no excuse as to why this gun will not still bring the same amount of enjoyment in another 100 years time.

 

Rare Westley Richards 20g Droplock Shotgun

The word nice can be a pretty boring word to describe something you like but sometimes a gun arrives at the factory and the minute you open the case and first lay eyes on it, you think to yourself ‘yep, this is a nice gun’. More often than not you take it out of the case, inspect it in closer detail, spend 10 minutes pretending to shoot driven grouse with it in the showroom and the ‘nice gun’ quickly turns into a ‘damn nice gun’. When Trigger phoned me to ask about the latest preowned gun that had just arrived, before I’d even had chance to take it out of the case, handle it, or enjoy some imaginary grouse shooting, my immediate response to him was ‘this is a damn nice gun’.

That damn nice gun I’m talking about is this rare Westley Richards droplock 20g shotgun. Completed in 1906 for C.S. Somervile Esquire, it’s a fine example of a best quality shotgun, featuring our patent hand detachable locks, single selective trigger, snap lever work, Model C dolls head extension and a removable cover plate. The scroll back action has our classic Westley scroll engraving, which extends a couple of inches down the barrels and the trigger guard is engraved with a dog on point. The beautifully shaped and scaled action retains some lovely case colours and the engraving is superbly executed and crisp to the touch.

The gun was returned to us in 1988 for a full refurbishment and we rebarreled the gun with new 28” chopper lump barrels with 2 3/4” chambers, choked 1/2 in the right barrel and 5/8 in the left. The stock is stunning and has a lovely straight grain through the hand which then flows down to the toe. Rich and dark in colour the original length of 13 7/8” was extended to 14 3/4″ by a leather covered recoil pad. The splinter forend matches the stock perfectly and has the usual Deeley catch release and horn tip. The gun weighs 6lbs 4ozs and is well balanced. Weight in the barrels encourages a steady, controlled swing, which is often an issue with lightweight smaller gauges. The gun comes in a lightweight green canvas case with accessories.

The gun is really in superb condition and I can’t stress enough how rare it is to find a best quality 20g droplock, in this condition, from this era. I’m probably doing the gun an injustice by simply calling it a damn nice gun and there are numerous superlatives one could describe this gun with, but I feel this is a gun that speaks for itself and from the images, I think you’ll agree.

Vintage William Evans .500 Boxlock Ejector Double Rifle

With the international following that Westley Richards has, most of both the new and pre-owned guns and rifles that we sell never return to the factory, having been shipped out to some far flung corners of the globe. On the odd occasion, guns that are sold slightly closer to home can sometimes end up back in our hands, generally with more character and a few more war stories to tell.

One such example in this classic William Evans .500 nitro express, boxlock ejector, double rifle. Sold to an Englishman by Trigger and Simon through our Grange Road factory 22 years ago.

Completed in 1912 for Consul General Christian Thams it was built as a plain, 2nd quality boxlock ejector double rifle with 26” barrels with a raised, engine turned top rib with ramp foresight, flip up moon sight, 100 yard standing express sight with two folding leaves regulated at 200 & 300 yards. A 14 3/8” pistol grip stock with no cheek piece, grip cap and traditional recoil pad. The fixed lock, double trigger action interestingly is fitted with an automatic game safety and is engraved with a small coverage of fine scroll. The barrels are engraved; William Evans (From Purdey’s) “500 3″ Solid Taper Case”
63 Pall Mall St. James’s London 80 Grs Cordite 500 Grs Soft Nose Nickel Bullet.

The rifle has seen a great deal of action and has been to Africa many times. It’s a true workhorse, a classic, no frills big game rifle of the African bush. It’s easy to see why the English boxlock ejector was the go to rifle for client and PH alike. It’s also testament to the strength and durability of the Webley action, the rifle performs faultlessly, the action is tight as a drum, the club head barrel extension is as strong as they come, and the rifle points with ease. On first inspections, the bores look a little frosty, but the rifling is good and as they say, the proof is in the pudding; this test target shows just how accurate the rifle still is, after all these years and many a safari.

William Evans ledger from 1912 showing rifle No. 9897

It’s hard not to admire an old rifle like this, although simple in design and engraving, it’s just a very cool, classic double that has been there, done it, got the t-shirt and after 106 years, is ready to do it all over again.