The Finest Westley Richards .425 Magazine Rifle Ever Built!!!

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.

Capt F.C.Selous’ Iconic Westley Richards .425 On The USA Show Circuit 2020

There can be few greater names in the history of big game hunting than that of Captain Frederick Courtenay Selous D.S.O, soldier, explorer, big game hunter, scout and adventurer. Born in 1851 Selous’s intention from a young age was to be a naturalist and ultimately one of the finest big game hunters ever to set foot in Africa.

By the age of 19 Selous was in Africa where he was granted permission by Lobengule, King of the Matabele to hunt within his vast domains. This was still the era of the large bore muzzle loader and Selous came to typify the young, tough individuals who sought a very dangerous trade hunting elephant and other game for ivory and meat.

The coming years saw Selous hunt extensively throughout central Africa attaining many specimens for private collections and the British Natural History Museum. He was held in such high regard that in later life a bronze bust of Selous was mounted in the NHM where it can still be seen today as you walk up the grand stairway.

His knowledge of Africa led to his appointment as ‘guide’ to the British South Africa Company which was mounting an expedition into Mashonaland. He would fight in two Matabele wars during the 1890’s before his much celebrated visit with none other than President Theodore Roosevelt during his epic safari of 1909-10. The two would become great friends, as they were equally keen on conservation as they were hunting.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Selous joined up to serve in East Africa as a Captain in the 25th Royal Fusiliers. Having distinguished himself in 1916 receiving the DSO for his actions, he was killed by sniper fire a year later at a place called Beho Beho in what is now the Selous Game Reserve.

Selous was unique in that he saw the use of large bore muzzle loading rifles, through black powder breech-loaders, to the ultimate in modern cordite repeating rifles.

The .425 purchased by Selous was most likely the last rifle ever acquired by him. He wrote a testimonal for Westley Richards on 4th July 1912 stating:

“I can only give your .425 Magazine Rifle the highest praise. Had I only possessed such a rifle in my old elephant hunting days I am sure that I could have killed three or four times as many Elephants as I actually laid low.”

The rifle remains in exceptional condition to this day retaining most of its original finish. How the rifle came to be in the hands of its current owner is one of those great pieces of fortune and outright luck, a story we will tell another day. In truth the rifle could not have gone to a more dedicated fan of the company or a more genuine hunter.

The ‘Selous’ rifle has been very kindly loaned to Westley Richards to display at the 2020 Safari Conventions in the USA. Please pay a visit to our stand to view one of the most iconic rifles owned by without doubt one of the greatest big game hunters of all time.

Dallas Safari Convention 9th To 12th January 2020

Safari Club International 5th To 8th February 2020

 

 

A Twist In The Tigers Tail – Westley Richards .577 ‘Gold Name’ Double Rifle

The Westley Richards Gold Name model of gun and rifle is something long synonymous with the company. Back in the pre-war era of gun and rifle manufacture, a gun or rifle was fundamentally a tool that needed to perform flawlessly either out in the covert shooting driven game or tackling dangerous game in the thick jungles of India and Africa. Tastes back then were more subtle and a gentleman did not openly display lavishness.

Engraving on guns was confined to traditional scrolls, each company designing its own unique ‘house’ pattern. Westley Richards had its own version which remains faithful to the original design to this very day. The unblemished lines of the droplock action allowed for a beautiful ‘name in rolling banner’ which formed the centerpiece of the main action body design. Thousands of guns and rifles were built with this ‘best’ scroll design, the first examples being the fixed lock guns from 1875.

The vividness of the case colour hardening can make all the difference with a ‘Gold Name’ gun or rifle. The checkered side panels is a feature from the very earliest fixed lock guns.

How and why the Gold Name model came about is certainly open to a little debate. The most obvious reasoning is the discount offered by not having the full engraving. Early literature describes the ‘Westley Richards Hammerless Ejector Gun – Plain Quailty’ at a cost of 55 Guineas, the ‘Westley Richards Best Quality Hammerless Ejector Gun’ at 70 Guineas. For the absolute purest looking for nothing but mechanical perfection the difference in cost would certainly have made a difference. Interestingly, later literature made a more positive point of having the droplock gun without all the engraving. Handled correctly and from a pure marketing point of view, Westley Richards was able to capitalise on a larger market share capturing what we might term today the ‘aspirational buyer’.

That all said, how do we really perceive the Gold Name model? Truth be told an absolute masterpiece! Whilst some may think the lack of engraving suggests a cost saving, in real terms the unadorned weapon actually requires a higher level of finish as there is nowhere to hide any imperfection.

Many, many years ago when Roy Hill (former workshop foreman and harpoon specialist) was around and paying us a visit I asked him why were the majority of British built guns fully engraved, considering we were well known for the Gold Name model? In Roy’s usual matter of fact way he responded ‘Well where do you hide a tree? In a forest. Where do you hide a scratch? Among other scratches!!!’

Not the most subtle of answers I grant you, but to this day it has stuck with me and in fairness every Gold Name gun or rifle that we have completed since, of which I seem to be the biggest advocate, has a level of critical perfection that drives the gun makers here crazy.

The original sketch for the ‘Tiger’ as executed by Paul Lantuch.

The actual ‘Tiger’ executed in the Japanese style with carved steel and inlaid gold.

Turning to the Gold Name rifle you are looking at here, this is anything but a simple rifle. When originally ordered the specification was for a pre-War configuration Westley Richards best quality hand detachable double rifle in .577 3″ Nitro Express. This specification meant extra cased hand detachable locks, Westley Richards patent single selective trigger, patent combination foresight, hinged cover plate, bolted safety, model ‘C’ dolls head fastener with patent lever work, scroll back action, extra foresight beads contained in brass tin, checkered side panels, traditional WR cheekpiece…………….The only modern(ish) twist was the extended strap over comb.

Initially the engraving was going to be a full on exhibition piece but as the years ticked by the client developed a hankering for something more pure. Hence the idea of producing a Gold Name rifle with a gentle twist came to mind and so as the rifle reached the engraving stage a few basic concepts were thrown our way with only two provisos. Firstly, what engraving there was had to be as near perfect as possible. Secondly, that master engraver Paul Lantuch had to design and execute a tiger in whatever style he saw fit for the rifle. The client would have no further involvement or decision making.

After a brief discussion, Paul came up with the idea of executing a tiger in carved inlaid gold, a style familiar to students of Japanese arms. Certainly unique in this instance, the design would act as both a centerpiece, whilst simultaneously complementing the other gold detailing found on the rifle.

Beautiful exhibition grade walnut counters the simplicity of the engraving.

Now complete, cased and ready to go, the rifle without doubt highlights the skills of many talented craftsmen and women. It has tested all those involved in putting this unique project together and confirmed that not everything simple is as easy to build as it looks. The rifle has an understated grace backed up with some considerable firepower and we would like to think that the gunmakers and hunters of 100 years ago would approve of this Gold Name ‘Tiger’ rifle.

This rifle will be on display with us at both the Dallas Safari Club Convention and Safari Club International in 2020.

Stunningly Classic Westley Richards .404 Now Complete

Due out the factory in the New Year is this stunningly classic .404 Jeffery calibre detachable barrel Westley Richards magazine rifle. Images of this rifle appeared a couple of months back fresh from engraving, the ‘Rose & Fine Scroll’ engraving creating quite a stir among our more traditional clients.

As mentioned then, classic rose & fine scroll engraving is a tradition of the London gunmaking houses so it was a very nice departure for the team here at Westley Richards. Our intention (which we hope we have attained) was to build a classically featured, classically engraved and classically finished rifle that would fit comfortably with the guns and rifles built during the pre-war era. This era is considered one of the finest in the history of British gunmaking, where the actual build quality and final execution mattered more than fancy embellishment.

The careful use of case colour hardening, blacking and light blue, is an important element of this rifle, as with the exception of the platinum engraving the rifle is intended to be very understated.

As a calibre the .404 Jeffery is one of those great work horses, once the preferred cartridge of the East African game departments. The rifle is set for a big safari next spring, rightfully out where it belongs in the great hunting fields of Africa.

The contrasting case colour hardening, blacking and light blue makes for a classic finish to the rose and fine scroll engraving.

The more liberal use of case colour hardening harks back to guns built in the pre-war era.

The balance of rose and scroll is best observed looking down onto the rifle. Small pockets of fine scroll allow for a ‘fuller’ coverage. 

New Westley Richards 20g ‘Ovundo’ Just Completed

Through the works and looking quite stunning this month is one of our Westley Richards 20 bore ‘Ovundo’ shotguns. As previously mentioned this gun is one of the original 13, a project that was originally commissioned in 2004. Even by modern gunmaking standards the renewed ‘Ovundo’ project has been a long affair!

Historically speaking, the first ‘Ovundo’ patents were registered in 1914 as the scramble among British gunmakers for something new and exciting in the world of guns, took Westley Richards, Boss, Woodward, Edwinson Green and others in the direction of the over and under shotgun. The concept itself of the over and under was not a particularly new one as British makers had been making over and under pistols and rifles since the flintlock era.

During the next two decades the Westley Richards over and under was driven to its own level of perfection with models based around the two key actions associated with the company, namely the ‘boxlock’ and ‘hand detachable lock’. Looking to the under hook barrel design for the rotation of the barrels on the action Westley Richards ‘ovundo’ was unquestionably a deep actioned gun compared to the Boss design of 1909. However the depth of the action allowed for the fitting of components based around the boxlock and hand detachable lock design and it has to be noted that making the ‘ovundo’ a hand detachable lock really took some doing. The gun really is a mechanical masterpiece.

Variants on these two actions included double and single triggers, non-ejector and ejector, scroll back, side plated and availability in both shotgun and rifle calibres as well as the ‘Faunetta’ and ‘Explora’ rifle choked formats. These variations make the ‘ovundo’ genuinely collectable as you never quite know what might turn up in the market.

Vivid case colour hardening adds impact to the bold etched scroll design. The gold lettering stands out crisply against the colours. The ‘ovundo’ features Westley Richards signature top lever shape and safety button.

Vintage Westley Richards promotional material showing the exact format of gun as built today. Whilst the ‘ovundo’ project has been a long one it highlights the level of skill required to build a gun that has unique features in the over and under market. 

The side opening ports on the dummy lock plates are a unique feature of the ‘Ovundo’. Simple maintenance of the single trigger was achieved through these ports, whilst also adding a little novelty to the design. Westley Richards has always had a knack of outdoing itself!!!!

The etched background to the elaborate ‘acanthus’ engraving design adds a sharpness to the engraved coverage.

  A beautiful green goat skin lined lightweight leather case complements this modern ‘ovundo’.

Stunning Westley Richards .375 Sidelock Double Rifle

So here it is finally finished, the first .375 H & H calibre sidelock double rifle that we have built in modern times. Scaled onto the appropriate frame and incorporating Westley Richards unique model ‘C’ fastener and top lever work, the rifle has its own distinctive look and elegant lines. Without any form of bolster the sides of the action provide a clean canvas on which the engraver can indulge their art.

Richly coloured exhibition wood once again sets Westley Richards apart.

This rifle pays homage to three of the famed ‘Big 5’ and it is only now that the rifle has been hardened, brushed and lacquered that all the detail really stands out. The darkened cut away back ground contrasts wonderfully with the elaborate scroll, motifs, gold work and finely depicted game scenes. The scenes were intended to be more animated with fighting bull elephant and buffalo on the respective lock plates.

Westley Richards unique model ‘C’ dolls head fastener with wide pivoting snap action lever work makes a great area to elaborate and embellish.

Fighting bull elephants in clouds of dust with cattle egrets highlight the right hand lock.

Built in Hollands iconic .375 belted magnum cartridge this calibre remains to this day a firm favourite on safari and we continue to build both magazine and double rifles in this calibre. The addition of quick detachable scope mounts and a Swarovski Z6I scope not only adds versatility to this rifle but also helps those whose eyes are not quite as sharp as they used to be!

Now brushed the detail in the engraving is even more spectacular. Such detailed work is time consuming but certainly worth all of the effort when finally finished.

Complete in a buffalo hide lightweight leather case with a classic complement of horn handled tools the final package is simple yet stunning!

A New Westley Richards ‘Rose & Scroll’ Engraved Magazine Rifle

Every now and then a maker needs to deviate a little from the norm and so it is with this .404 Jeffery calibre take down bolt action rifle that we had the opportunity to lay down our own interpretation of best ‘rose & scroll’ engraving.

Fine ‘rose & scroll’, or ‘bouquet & scroll’ as it is also known, is a pattern of engraving that can trace its ancestry back to the mid 1800’s. Developed in the London gunmaking houses, it still features on best guns and rifles there, Boss & Co. being the most notable.

Even today, vintage guns engraved meticulously by hand set the standard by which modern guns and rifles are judged. Subtle nuances in the execution and layout were the difference between ‘best’ and ‘also ran’. Names such as Harry Kell and Jack Sumner were famous for their exceptional standards and today pre-war guns engraved by these masters still hold a premium.

With all this in mind we decided it was time to take one of our own rifles and execute under the careful hand and skilled eye of Brad Tallett, our take on this classic pattern. The results are unquestionably elegant with wonderful pockets of detail utilising all the design attributes you might expect on a double gun. The cut of the engraving is absolutely vital as it needs to catch the light just right, hence traditional hand engraving is a must.

In preparation now for final finish we cannot wait to see how the case colour hardening, black, and light blue, highlight the engraving on the various surfaces of the rifle.

The classic Westley Richards combination foresight is wonderfully detailed.

Pockets of fine scroll interspersed with elegant rose bouquets and geometric patterns adorn the surfaces of the rifle.

An elephants rear foot print is carved into the grip trap door.

All lettering and numbering is executed in platinum. 

Orvis Residency At Westley Richards

Today saw the launch of our ‘Orvis Residency’ here at the Westley Richards showroom and factory. A three month collaboration running straight up through the coming Christmas period.

Here at Westley Richards, a true adoration for the great outdoors and all its splendour is in our blood, and none more so than Orvis can rightfully share that spirit. Whilst Westley Richards may have a rich 207 year heritage, Orvis deservedly boasts a 163 year history themselves, and are regarded as one of the oldest manufacturers of fly-fishing rods and reels in the world.

In the USA, Orvis is cherished as an iconic American outdoor brand, known for presenting a much desired lifestyle based around the pursuit of fin and feather.

With a strong following here in the UK it made perfect sense to partner Orvis and showcase some of their superb fly fishing and dog products. Many a keen fieldsports enthusiast is just as eager to cast a fly as fire a shot, therefore we are excited to position their collections side by side our best guns and fine leather goods.

Our store will be holding a range of fishing equipment and dog accessories.

Fly casting techniques were ably demonstrated by Orvis fly fishing specialist Keith Passant, who kept all entertained with his pinpoint accuracy and easy teaching style. Many who had never held a rod before were soon learning the fundamental techniques of successful casting under Keith’s watchful eye.

To top the whole exciting day off, ‘Bentley Birmingham’ were in attendance with their magnificent Bentayga SUV, a tour de force in car manufacture, which unquestionably added some style and elegance to the day. Another iconic British brand, Bentley has always been at the forefront of luxury car design and shares Westley Richards’ drive for constant innovation. This year they celebrate their 100th year in the automotive industry with the launch of the much lauded EXP 100 GT, a fully electric exploration into how grand touring could look by 2035.

The whole day was thoroughly enjoyed by all and it cannot be that often that you get three iconic brands together with a combined history of 470 years!

 

A Sweet Little .410 Westley Richards Heads Across The Pond

With the US dove hunting season now underway and quail season only around the corner it is always great to see another of our .410 droplocks head Stateside to indulge in a touch of some fine sport. This particular little example has been engraved by Vince Crowley with delicate fine scroll, carved fences and a beautifully etched game scene of a Woodcock flighting through the timber.

Unusually with this gun the client asked for a ‘staggered ribbon’ gold name border on the sides of the action which lends itself tastefully to the execution of the engraving, allowing a different interpretation of the centre panel. It just goes to show that you can never rest on your laurels, but must continually strive to improve, often in the most subtle of ways.

The ‘staggered ribbon’ gold name adds a subtle variation to the engraving. 

A stunning etched scene of a Woodcock in the timber. 

Looking down onto the action, the vivid case colour hardening adds a touch of flare to the delicate engraving.

A New ‘English’ Westley Richards 28 Bore Droplock Shotgun

Westley Richards has a very International reputation for building best quality guns and rifles. So much so in fact that 90% of our order book will head overseas a year, leaving very little to be seen here in the Uk shooting field.

In fairness Westley Richards is very much a niche brand here in the Uk, staying under the radar building great guns and rifles for true entusiasts who get what we are about and appreciate superb quality and attention to detail.

So it was, rather ironically, that at the SCI Convention in 2016 we took an order for a 28 bore droplock from an Englishman who was attending the show to book a couple of hunts.

Now to the US market a 28 bore does not appear too unusual, but here in the Uk they appeal to either the experienced shot or the eccentric, take your pick. You see over here most game shooting involves shooting high driven birds which require the firepower of the 12 bore or for the more ambitious a choked up 20 bore. 28 bores are used by very few, although in truth (and the right hands) they can be deadly.

Should you wish to make things even tougher on yourself, decide (as engraved on this gun) to tackle the Common Snipe with your gun. Now this tiny dart of a bird is hard to shoot in most instances, as they either spring away zig-zagging in front of you, or if driven, appear but a mere speck in the sky, often resembling a mosquito in size. Both targets are equally difficult to shoot, the shots to hits ratio rapidly spiralling out of control. It genuinely requires a seasoned shot to tackle such game and thankfully this is exactly who this gun is going to. We are looking forward to a few fabled stories about this gun as the shooting season here in the Uk gets into full swing.

The clients favourite game bird the Common Snipe adorns the cover plate.

A tight and highly figured piece of walnut suits the diminutive nature of this ‘English’ droplock.