The Classic .425 Westley Richards rifle has become a scarcer and scarcer item to locate. The distinctive style and performance make it a desirable rifle for both collectors and hunters alike. The rifle has a totally distinct look which is, like the hand detachable locks, unique to our company. The .425 round is a match for the .416 Rigby, Rigby would say their round is more powerful and we would of course claim our is. Both use a .410gr bullet. The .425 is certainly more comfortable to shoot and being built on the standard size Mauser action is also faster to feed and load. The drop magazine was designed to take ‘at speed’ the contents of the 5 round clips of ammunition by which it was sold.
Finding a .425 rifle like this in its original specification and without having been through poor restoration or repairs is a very welcome surprise these days, it is a rifle I would like to be able to sell frequently but rarely get the chance. This particular rifle has been ‘sleeping’ in South Africa ‘has done a little work’ and is now home here at the factory and will be up on our used gun site shortly.
The rifle was built in 1937 and has the original 28″ barrel ( 27 3/8″ from front ring of which many of which have been shortened to 25-6″) stock length of 14 3/8″ and weighs 9lbs 15oz. The rifle is not cased and the accessories shown are from my collection of bits and do not come with the rifle. We do make in our leather shop a replica of the sling with hooks and also the belt and ammo holder.
I am afraid this will be a general, visual post rather than a technical one, I took these photos just before I left the factory on Friday and I didn’t note down any of the details of the pair of pistols, the main and obvious question being the bore size. I was slightly (actually very) overwhelmed by the quality and condition of the whole package and the details seemed irrelevant at the time.
The Howdah pistol was the ‘last line of defence’ for a hunter high on top of an elephant whilst hunting tiger. If a Tiger was to charge the elephant and climb up to attack the people occupying the Howdah there was little room in which to defend oneself at the last moment, it was likely that the muzzle loading long arm had been discharged by this time.. Hence the Howdah pistol the short barrel, large bore firearm that could be drawn and manoeuvred in tight space, providing a killing blow, or in the case of this pair 4 barrels, 4 killing blows.
I have always liked very much the whole concept of the Howdah pistol and it was always something that I wanted to make a current version of, a large bore rifle cased together with a matching double barrel Howdah pistol. Our laws on barrel length and pistols has prevented that project from ever happening which is a shame.
Whilst I have seen a small amount of Howdah pistols in my years dealing, they are certainly not common and they have normally been single and quite plain models. I had a pair of Holland & Holland .577 Howdah pistols many years ago at Las Vegas and I remember them selling in a flash.
This pair is quite unique and the condition is remarkable, all the accessories down to spare springs numbered for each lock. One of the oil bottles even has the seal unbroken and contains the very oil filled with 150 years ago, quite remarkable!
This sculpture is at the Royal Armoury in Leeds where the National Collection of Firearms is held. It depicts very well the drama of the tiger hunt and the moments leading up to where a Howdah pistol would be useful if the shot he has held is a miss!
After a couple thousand targets, a few doves and one armadillo who insisted on digging under everything in our yard, I’m down that road far enough to have formed some opinions about .410 guns and one Westley Richards gun in particular.
First and foremost, this gun has given me more enjoyment and just plain fun than any gun of any sort I’ve ever had. Super quick, super light, no recoil and super unforgiving if I don’t pay very strict attention. When the stars align and things seem right with the world, targets break and birds come tumbling down. When they don’t, they really don’t.
For me, at least, the lesson is pay attention to all the little details; leads, follow through and especially gun mount. The slightest error in any of these things and my success rate drops, really drops.
Chokes and loads have been an education. While I have neither the patience nor the statistical background to properly dissect the mathematical meaning of all those little dots on our plating board I can determine if the centers of patterns are where they belong and if a bird or a target is in danger at various distances in those patterns. Loads go where I point, no question and with both barrels. Half ounce loads of number nines will break every target on the skeet field if I do my part but much beyond 25 yards with .004″ constriction skeet chokes things fall apart very quickly. In my opinion this is simply not an adequate combination for game shooting. However, thankfully there is a three quarter ounce of number eight and one half loads from Winchester which is another story indeed. I’ve shot several hundred of these loads at various distances at targets both feathered and clay and I see little difference between success rates with the .410 Winchester loads and with standard 28 gauge loads. If the Quail gods smile this season I fully intend to do as much damage to the population as I possibly can with this little .410 as the primary weapon.
By this point the gun has been pretty well vetted and I can say as an absolute fact that the function has been perfect. Ejectors always work, trigger pulls consistent and lock up is the same after a couple thousand rounds as it was with the first box of cartridges.
For whatever it might be worth, the view that a .410 is a silly, useless toy is simply wrong.
A really good .410 with the proper chokes and loads used under reasonable conditions can be as enjoyable a gun as one could hope for.
Proof of the pudding being I run my eye over a group of pretty nice guns almost daily and recently realized I’ve used almost nothing else for the past two months. That is something that has never happened with me prior to this Westley Richards .410 showing up at our door. I’m fortunate indeed.
A simple yet useful addition to our range of leather shop cleaning accessory goods, is this Gun Mat which has been designed to compliment our small travel tool roll.
Providing a soft sheepskin pad for your gun cleaning or display, this roll up mat is made from our very durable ‘salt and pepper’ Swiss army canvas trimmed with organic veg tan leather binding and straps. An integral pocket allows for a small selection of cleaning kit, rod, jags, mops and cloths.
The roll is available now in our online store in standard format and is, like any other of our products, available to order with initialling and in other materials such as full leather.
The drawings are transferred to the guns with some corrections according to the real “geography” of the objects. I’m practicing on steel copy of British coin, 38 mm in diameter, the figure of Pistrucci’s St. George is bigger than the horsemen on the shotguns, any way, technically it is close. Sending photos of all stages of unfinished experiment.
For the past 2 weeks or so I have been unable to get behind the camera to take some photographs of new or vintage guns, the shooting season is on us, there is much to do.
Earlier this week I was spurred into action when this magnificent and very rare pair of near mint condition, Charles Lancaster percussion double rifles ‘walked in the door’. Today I was able to put some time aside so that I can share them with you.
The ‘Princely’ guns and rifles of India have played a large and important part in our recent history and during the 60’s and 70’s were ultimately responsible for the survival of the company. The gun dealing was the backbone of the business during the years of small ‘new gun demand’. India with its magnificent armouries were the resource and backbone of this dealing activity a result of which is my admiration and fondness for guns and rifles such as these. These are the predecessors and inspiration to my India and Africa rifle projects, guns and rifles ‘fit for Kings’.
This pair of Charles Lancaster rifles are a magnificent example of what could be discovered in the armouries and this particular pair of percussion rifles have remained in near perfect condition, down to their original slings, since their manufacture for the Maharajah of Joudhpur in 1862, no mean feat in itself as they have travelled many miles.
I hope that you enjoy them as much as I have as items like these rarely walk in the door these days to be seen and discovered.
I am sure that less than 10% of our readers will ever have the opportunity to actually visit our factory in Birmingham. Everyone has the opportunity but the distances, oceans and time factors make trips like this difficult.
Recently I was fortunate enough to have the factory photographed by one of the worlds leading interior photographers, Simon Upton a keen sportsman himself. Simon travels the world extensively shooting magnificent interiors for magazines. His client list is a who’s who of interior and decoration magazines amongst which are The World of Interiors, Vogue, House and Garden, Elle Decor, Harpers Bazaar, Architectural Digest and Vanity Fair.
We were joined for the shoot days by the man who is largely responsible for the overall look of the factory,Hubert Zandburg. I first met Hubert, a young South African interior designer in 2005, just prior to my embarking on the new factory project. Hubert like myself is a compulsive ‘collector hunter gatherer’, we cannot resist buying items of interest and allow them to take over our lives and he has a remarkable ability of displaying the collected items to be shown at their very best. Literally give him a pile of objects large and small and short hours later they will be displayed in a manner you would never have expected and to great effect.
My decision to work with Hubert on the factory came from an initial sketch he did for the lobby to display my Elephant head. He placed this on a black steel riveted stand and left it in isolation in the hallway, it excited me very much. It was a clean modern look and one I felt totally appropriate for the factory, from this clean space lobby you would enter a world of objects, colour and interest. What Hubert has created for Westley Richards is very special indeed and I remain totally indebted for his work, advise and the friendship that has resulted from our meeting all those years ago.
The result of this collaboration has received a huge amount praise, the ambiance and interest that the factory generates has been fantastic and I hope that as many of you as possible will be able, at one point in your travels, be able to visit in person. We look forward to welcoming you.
This series of photographs covers the entrance lobby, showroom and after the image of antlers on the back staircase ‘my space’ at the top of the building where I now have my office and photo studio. We did not shoot in the gun making area, another set of photographs I commissioned and taken by Brett covers this and I will be posting a selection from that shoot later on this month.
I read somewhere, it’s when you’re young and before the brain gets too cluttered -somewhere between 5 years and girl chasing age – that people you meet and things you experience, influence your values, character and behavior from then on. Therefore my parents, various relatives and friends, but especially my Uncle Pat, have a lot to answer for.
Pat grew up in a rural environment in South Africa during part of the depression. He found that the simpler pleasures in life like hunting and fishing, not only put food on the table, but also encouraged an appreciation of the incredible variety of nature.
Despite working and travelling widely in Southern Africa, he always came back later to the same small town he grew up in. Pat was not a complicated or pretentious man and everyone who knew him, liked him. He had a wiry build, a dry sense of humour, bushy eyebrows and whiskers that grow high up his cheek bones, giving him a slightly rakish air. He also had an enormous network of farming friends who were only too happy to let him fish and shoot on their farms. Apart from the fact that they enjoyed his company, he stocked their dams with bass, gave them some of the game bag, reported on the general health of their wildlife and complimented the farmer’s wife on her cooking in return.
My luck was based on the fact that Pat resisted all advances of marriage until the respectable age of 48, when a woman managed to get him to rise to the prospect of living with a wife who likes fishing more than he does – the fact that she was a former beauty finalist probably had less to do with it.
During his bachelor years, he took a keen interest in his nephews’ and nieces’ development, never once forgetting anyone’s birthday – this changed the moment he got married, which says a lot for the distractions of women. In his successful attempt at sowing the seeds for my future appreciation of the mysteries of angling, I received a trout rod and reel for my 9th birthday.
Then there were the books. Pat bought and collected books on hunting, fishing and natural history over the years and saw to it that I was the recipient of various magnificent books about the avian population, to incubate the interest that I was beginning to show in bird-egg collecting. Egg collecting is illegal today because habitat loss and too many people, have pushed many bird species’ numbers to a point that no small, egg-collecting schoolboys could ever have done. At that time however, many happy kilometers were spent walking through the veld, or wading up to the nostrils in some oozing vlei for the thrill of finding a new species’ nest, keeping us fit and igniting a life-long interest in birds.
Living so far from Pat’s town, meant that I only got to do the really exciting stuff on the odd school holiday, but it’s funny how a few things stick so vividly in the memory of a small boy; on a visit to Pat one winter holiday, it was announced that it was time to take me rabbit hunting as my grandmother ‘needed’ to taste a game pie again. The night before this important expedition I could hardly sleep, knowing that I would be carrying the .22 rifle, despite the fact that it was nearly as long as I was tall. Pat said he wanted to give his little Belgian-made .410 ‘side-by-side’ an outing, seeing as we would be near a river and that maybe an ignorant duck would be flying low enough on what turned out to be a clear, cold day.
Hours have a habit of moving really slowly for a boy awake since the milkman set the dogs barking, waiting for the afternoon and for the adults to realise that lunch and endless pots of tea should be wolfed down, not savoured, in order to get to the important stuff.
We finally did see a rabbit that day, and when Pat hissed ‘Get it!, I put down the .22 and tried to run that rabbit down – I didn’t realise I was supposed to actually use the rifle, thinking rather that I was merely to be the trusty gunbearer. I don’t think Pat had laughed so much for a while and how he managed to shoot that high-flying duck while sniggering and wiping tears from his eyes, I’ll never know.
It seems like yesterday, going off to the ‘lock, stock and barrel’ farm auction where the smell of fat cattle and dust mingled with the odour of sweaty bidders standing in the sun, while the women pored over the contents of the kitchen. There was an old, broken-down ox-wagon behind the auctioneer’s table and it was piled with all sorts of useful looking equipment. Sticking out from under a dusty tarpaulin, were two slightly scuffed, polished leather cases with buckle straps undone. I managed to lift the top one’s lid high enough to glimpse sleek twin barrels, a burnished dark, warm, wooden stock and to just get that smell of ‘adventure’, before the auctioneer got going and I was asked with an empathetic grin to move away from behind him. The books Pat had his eye on came up under the hammer before those two leather cases did, so we left early but to this day, I have a feeling that we missed out on the bargain of a lifetime.
A few holidays later, we were staying on my Mother’s cousin’s farm, close to Pat’s town. This farm is one of Pat’s favourites and seeing as the bird season had opened, it was decided that it was time for me to be initiated into the art of guineafowl shooting. In winter, these gamebirds form flocks that can number in the hundreds and when so sociably associated and not distracted by the urge to impress the opposite sex, their many eyes look out for predators very sharply and they are not easily surprised. They are also one of the gamebird species that are not very effectively hunted with dogs, since they have the habit of heading for the nearest trees, from where they cackle down abuse at the canines while often ignoring the hunters. It is not considered very sporting for grown men to shoot them sitting in trees!
This all means that it takes more strategising than Napoleon had to do at Waterloo, to figure out a way of getting them to fly over or past the guns. They like flying downhill, but like flying with the wind even more and they don’t like flying over you if they can see you, so there are always a number of variables to consider. If an initial successful flush is achieved, it can be a much easier job of following them up and flushing them out as singles or small groups, but the first big flush is the most exciting as they take off with a concentrated, muffled rustling of massed wings. If they do come over you as planned, it takes an enormous amount of disciplined concentration to pick only one bird at a time, when the sky seems dark with them.
The farm supported a relatively modest number of birds that year, due to a reduction in the acreage of maize being grown, but we reckoned we knew where they would be that early winter morning.
Sure enough, as we quietly crept through the dewed grass towards the maize land at the bottom of the old apple orchard, we could hear their metallic ‘chink-chink’ call as they sociably picked their way across a bare piece of land between their roosting spot and the field, with us positioned directly in their path. All that needed to be done then, was to wait a short while for them to get closer and for me to have a go at them with the .22 on the ground (acceptable since I was a beginner), which would put them in the air for Pat and his 12 bore side by side. The trap was perfectly set.
The trap was sprung when the herdsman, Elias, and his skinny dog came whistling down the track on his way to move the cattle. If it had been Elias alone, the guineas may have just hesitated a while, but they took one look at the mongrel and flew off in a flurry, to a clump of wattle trees about 300 meters away. That dog must have seen something in our expressions as we rose out of the grass, because it took one look at our faces and headed off to less murderous places.
After a short session of re-strategising, we decided to try the direct approach and headed straight for the wattles; two guns were not enough to surround them and the wattle patch was on flat ground with no nearby cover. It was a desperate plan from the start, because the birds already thoroughly alarmed, saw us from miles away and peeled out cackling in one’s and two’s. By the time we got there, it seemed to be round one to the birds.
It never pays to be too hasty though, because as Pat lit a thin cheroot and I looked mournful, we spotted a lone bird that had decided to attempt an invisible pose, skulking high in a far tree. Uncle Pat unexpectedly took the .22 from me, thrust the 12 bore into my hands and whispered softly, ‘Shoot!’ I don’t remember aiming, I don’t remember the bang or the shoulder-thumping recoil, but the sight of that guineafowl toppling out of the tree, the smell of burnt powder and the ‘thud’ as my backside hit the dirt, remain as clear as a trout stream to this day.
It was a very proud boy who arrived back at the farmhouse, where everyone agreed that it was probably the biggest guineafowl they had ever seen; in fact judging by the size of its crest, a trophy in all likelihood. The next evening around the dinner table, it was also agreed that it was extremely well shot because there were no pellets to break your teeth on. Thinking back now, maybe it died of fright.
Two days later, in the absence of Elias, we ambushed the guineafowl coming out of the maize land again. I missed with the .22 but watched the rest of the plan unfold properly, as Pat took a high left and right – the birds fell within seven feet either side of him.
The .410 and the 12 bore are on permanent loan to me now. Every time I admire them, I am reminded why I love the sound of guineafowl calling in the evenings, fishing for speckled trout and the reason why I am ever searching for scuffed leather gun cases.
Two months ago when Paul Lantuch visited the factory after completing the finishing of the Africa rifle we discussed at length the next projects that were on the cards. These included a pair of round action 12g guns, a .577 Hand Detachable lock rifle and a further .600 NE sidelock double rifle in the Africa, India series.
I was in 2 minds whether to post these drawings of the fist project up, the pair of 12g round body sidelocks, initial thoughts of people plagiarising a practise rife in this area. Perhaps it is a bit premature, but then I felt they are such nice drawings why not!
The drawings also show nicely the process of designing an exhibition gun so that a concrete theme can be executed. So many guns are engraved with minimal, if any, layout and composition work being done in advance. Paul and I have been bouncing drawings and thoughts back and forth across the Atlantic for the past 2 months and these are now the working drawings for the guns. There will of course be additional engravings and carvings but the “theme is set”.
The pair of guns will be executed in the Rococo style, carved steel relief figures and decoration with a gold background. I am afraid you will have to be very patient to see the end result but we are off and running now as they say!
Based on an old 1912 period small pocket catalogue, of which I have only ever seen one copy, the one above, our 2016 pocket catalogue has been very well received and I hope many of them are kept and reveal themselves in 100 years time.
As many people will not have had the opportunity to pick one up at the various shows we do, or at the shop here in UK. Here is the full content of the catalogue which I hope you enjoy.