A Droplock Masterpiece From Engraver Vince Crowley

This last week Vincent Crowley payed us a visit to deliver back one of his more recent masterpieces. Vince and I have known each other from our earliest days in the ‘gun trade’ having both started out with Westley Richards. It has been a pleasure working with him for over 20 years now, on some of the finest guns and rifles to leave the Westley Richards factory.

Vince has always been one of those lucky talents and I remember with envy some of the exceptional pieces he created as little more than a kid. Both of us have matured (supposedly!) since those early days and through the kind patronage of some fantastic clients, have been privileged to put together some genuine masterpieces of the gun-maker and engravers art.

Gold feathers add beautiful detail to the lock plates.

The gun shown here is one of our classic hand detachable or ‘droplock’ shotguns in 28 bore. With this particular gun Vince has used a process where raised steel scenes are actually carved onto the main action body and cover plate, rather than being of a relief carved style. This gives the scenes unparalleled dimension and it is almost as though the birds are flying out of the backgrounds and streaming past you. For interests sake, the gun is adorned with Bobwhite Quail, Chukar and Pheasant, with a Black Labrador on the trigger guard bow.

As we have come to expect with Vince, the rest of the gun has a wonderful combination of super fine rose bouquets and scroll, carved fences, pierced lever work and super delicate gold work. All of us are very much looking forward to seeing the finished article, as there are a few other nice touches to complete the final package.

Pheasant adorn the cover plate, whilst a Black Labrador retrieves a bird.

Bobwhite quail stream down the right side of the action.

New ‘Modéle de Luxe’ Westley Richards 20g Droplock

A few months ago we posted images of this gun fresh back from engraving and now here it finally is all complete and ready to head out to the USA. The transformation from ‘in the white’ parts to a finished gun really is quite distinctive and the gun as a whole becomes an object of both gunmaking art and functionality.

One of the more subtle features of the gun is the actual colouration of the steel after it has been case colour hardened and subsequently brushed. All of our double guns and rifles go through the case colour hardening process as carried out by the St.Ledger brothers here in the old Birmingham gun quarter.

Before CCH the steel has a certain silver quality about it that is in basic terms raw and bright. The actual CCH process creates a surface hardness which allows the steel to flex under stress yet provides a protective outer shell or ‘case’. When the fine surface layer of colour is actually removed the steel maintains a slightly more greyed tone which adds a real subtlety to parts that might otherwise look like a shined coin!

In direct sunlight it is often possible to see the very finest traces of colour which can be used effectively to enhance the engraving of the gun. Some engravers will insist on finishing their own work for this very reason. With Westley Richards, no matter who is finishing the gun or rifle, we always try to leave CCH on the triggers, action flats, action face, forend iron and inside the trigger bow. This always adds a tasteful touch, particularly when the gun is disassembled for travel. It also seems such a waste to remove them all!

The gold flush game scenes must be carefully cleaned and highlighted after the case colour hardening process.

The finished article in its lightweight leather case, complete and ready to go.

New Westley Richards .470 Droplock Double rifle

Once again the team of craftsman here at the Westley Richards factory have completed yet another stunning droplock double rifle, in this instance in the tried and tested .470 3 14” nitro express.

Whilst it might take upwards of three years to build a rifle of this quality, we appear on the surface to be one of the few British gun and rifle makers consistently delivering new double rifles to a worldwide clientele. Our current order book has 7 x 57R, .375 H&H Belted Magnum, .375 Flanged Magnum, .450/.400 3″, .470, .500, .577 and .600 nitro express double rifles in production with the orders for such remaining strong. It would appear that the double rifle is the pinnacle of gunmaking excellence and regardless of whether a client is actually ever going to hunt with one, they certainly feel the need to own one!

The wood on this particular rifle, even by our standards has finished beautifully, merely enhancing the quality of craftsmanship carried out here in Birmingham. Long may the traditions of building the double rifle continue to thrive.

 Buffalo game scene cameo on cover plate.

Vivid case colour hardening executed by the St.Ledger brothers.

Stunning exhibition grade walnut finished by hand to a high gloss sheen.

A Vintage Holland & Holland .30 Super Magazine Rifle

One of my personal favourites in the magazine rifle calibre realm is the tried and tested Holland & Holland .30 Super or .300 H & H Belted Magnum cartridge as it is also known. A forerunner to the later .300 Winchester Magnum and .300 Weatherby Magnum, the original was a devastatingly effective rifle for long range shooting and more than capable of taking medium to large soft skinned game.

Introduced in 1925, various bullet loadings were available from 150 grain through to 220 grain. Most settled for the 180 grain load as the most generally effective, but the heavier loads were very good for tackling heavier African plains and North American big game where deeper penetration was required.

The cartridge came to fame in the USA when it won the 1000 yard Wimbledon cup in 1935. It was a great favourite with famous American gun writer Elmer Keith who shot some super North American sheep and other big game with it pre World War II. His book ‘Keith’s Rifles For Large Game’ is a great reference on the calibre in the USA and is an otherwise interesting read on big game rifles and calibre’s in general.

Whilst often overlooked today, I can vouch for its outstanding abilities having used one in both Africa and Alaska over the years. My rifles have always been slightly beat up examples like the one shown here which tend to show the rifle has been put to good use rather than consigned to a gun cabinet. In today’s world of stainless steel and synthetic stocks there is a real pleasure to be derived from using one of these vintage rifles. If ever you get a chance to hunt with one take it, you’ll be surprised by how much fun it is whilst safely reassured that it still packs a deadly punch.

The Holland & Holland quick detachable scope mount system.

Completed in 1934 this rifle has been back to Holland and Holland for upgrades over the years, adding to the character and history of the rifle.

Unusual And Unique New Pair of Westley Richards 20g Droplock Shotguns

Westley Richards is noted for the diversity of engraving that regularly graces the pages of this blog and it is always fun to note peoples reactions to the individual projects we undertake.

The pair of guns shown here would appear at first glance to be a pair of sidelock shotguns, but are in fact a pair of our side plated droplock shotguns in 20 bore, fitted with all the usual Westley Richards features, including our single selective trigger. As an alternative to the traditional sidelock shotgun they make for a great gun and are without question unique to Westley Richards.

As you begin to scroll down through the images you’ll begin to notice just how different the engraving is! The client in this instance lives both in the UK and South Africa these guns being a reflection on his various passions. In the UK he has a wonderful Aston Martin DB5 and regular fly’s around in his Squirrel helicopter. Down in South Africa he keeps a vintage Willy’s Jeep from World War II and lives within view of Table Mountain one of the most easily recognisable landmarks. The Giraffe is a favourite animal of the family and we had to be very carefully in the selection of the correct sub species as the various giraffe found throughout Africa have quite distinct markings.

The guns are wrapped in a tight rose and fine scroll pattern with the usual 1 and 2 numbering replaced with a single pheasant flying and a pair of pheasant flying. Complemented with a buffalo skin case the guns carry forward the Africa theme and should certainly make for an interesting conversation piece come the shooting season!

Aston Martin DB5 And The Southern Giraffe In View Of Table Mountain.

The Family Crest Adorns The Underside Of The Actions. 

Vintage World War II Willy’s Jeep And Squirrel Helicopter.

A Westley Richards 20g Droplock ‘Texas’ Bird Gun

Destined once again for a good client of ours in the USA is this sweet 20g droplock shotgun. As the client is based in Texas it was only natural to engrave the gun with some nice scenes of dove and Bobwhite quail set amongst some of the cactus brush country familiar to his own ranch.

The scroll is a slightly finer version than we usually use on the larger frame guns and rifles, but we feel that everything should be scaled and in proportion with the frame size. You’ll also notice some rose bouquets which we think add a tasteful look and break to the overall engraving design.

One final feature that always works well with these small bore guns are the carved fences which always add a touch of masculinity to an otherwise delicate gun.

Flushing Bobwhite quail in Texas brush country.

Carved fences always add a nice touch to our delicate bird guns.

Classic dove game scene on the right side of the action.

Heel & Plates with horn centre.

An Older Westley Richards Rifle Returns To The Factory

It is always nice to see when one of our guns or rifles returns back to the factory after many years of service in some distant place. They often come back bruised and battered with many a great story to tell.

The rifle illustrated here is not particularly old by our 200 year standard, having been completed in 1990 for a Swedish businessman who’s passion was moose hunting. His calibre of choice was the trusted .30-06, a calibre of great versatility and with the heavier 200 grain loadings a capable calibre for Europe’s heavier game.

An interesting part of this story is that the rifle was acquired by a client of ours who we recently built a .505 Gibbs bolt action rifle for. This rifle came up for sale in his native Sweden and being a Westley Richards fan he jumped at the opportunity to own it and pair it up with the .505 Gibbs. Quite a combination!

This particular rifle was engraved with a Norse theme in mind and amongst other things depicts in raised gold the former clients favourite quarry. These more unusual and very personal engravings are always nice to look at once again, even though no-one can quite remember the story behind them.

The rifle was returned to us for a gentle refurbishment of the wood, a good service and a test for accuracy with modern ammunition. We have left where possible all the original finish on the metalwork as the client (quite sensibly) wanted to maintain as much originality as possible, as much out of respect for the former owner, as for his own benefit. The wood will certainly age back nicely over time, developing its own unique patina with the odd scar to remind the client of a day (hopefully successful!) in the field.

The rifle will shortly be returning to Sweden where without question it will have the opportunity to hunt moose later in the year, a sport we are told is not for the lover of sunshine and warmth!!!!!!!

Norse theme engraving throughout the rifle.

Original wear showing on the metalwork.

Westley Richards patent combination foresight with flip over protector.

Vivid case colour hardening on the grip trap cap.

Fabulous Lovenberg Engraved Hartmann & Weiss Rifle Trio

We make no apologies here at Westley Richards for showing you some of the finest guns and rifles built by some of the worlds greatest craftsman. Included in this list of master craftsman are without doubt Gerhard Hartmann and Otto Weiss, founders of Hartmann & Weiss, gun and rifle makers of Hamburg, Germany.

For many years, perhaps decades, they set the standard for excellence in gun and rifle manufacture so encouraging a whole new generation of craftsmen both in Europe and the Uk, a benefit to us all and the industry as a whole.

This set of three take down bolt action rifles in .300 Winchester Magnum, .416 Rigby and .500 Jeffery, are testament to their continued skill. What makes them even more special is the fabulous engraving executed by master engraver Alain Lovenberg. The detail and precision of work is without compromise and explains why Alain has forged such a reputation in the engraving world. It is great to see his level of workmanship on these three fine rifles.

At SCI this year I had the pleasure, along with several other gunmakers from both the Uk and Europe of sharing Otto Weiss’s company at the bar for a few beers. Whilst you might take him for an unassuming and quiet old man, he can still hold his own at the bar regaling many a fantastic tale of yesteryear. Later this year Otto celebrates his 80th Birthday, a landmark by anyones reckoning, even more so when you consider he still turns up for work every day!

Elegant lines in keeping with vintage British rifles.

Fantastic design and execution by master engraver Alain Lovenberg.

Intricate engraving detail throughout the rifles.

.500 3″ Droplock Double Rifle Fresh Back From Engraving

Fresh back from engraving is this super .500 droplock double rifle with bold scroll engraving, gold naming and a game scene of a hunter being charged by a bull elephant.

The game scene is an interesting and not unusual concept which always poses the question ‘What happened next?’ For anyone who has ever been in such a situation there is nothing more exciting! A large bull elephant with ears spread wide, kicking up dust is a truly intimidating sight, one that makes even the largest of double rifles seem small in the hands of the hunter.

More often than not the tension is relieved by the mutual backing off of both parties, each content to go their separate way. Then again, should it all go wrong…………………..!!!!!

New Westley Richards .318 Take Down Bolt Action Rifle

Although by no means prolific, it is always great to see a new bolt action rifle in Westley Richards signature .318 calibre reach completion here at the factory. Once the medium bore calibre by which all others were judged, like so many of the great British calibre’s, including .333 Jeffery and .350 Rigby, it slipped into semi obscurity after the Second World War.

In truth the .318 Westley Richards cartridge shooting a 250 grain bullet at 2250 feet per second is still a great and fun cartridge to use for general plains game hunting and even driven boar in Europe. The long torpedo bullet has phenomenal sectional density and with its moderate velocity (by modern standards) proves a deep penetrating round, at one time capable of tackling every type of big and dangerous game on the planet.

Peep sight located on the cocking piece.

The rifle you see here was built to a very traditional lightweight format with the addition of Westley Richards take-down system. The client had requested the rifle to be built primarily for open sight use, hence the sleek lines of the rifle. Westley Richards signature patent combination foresight was a given as no true Westley Richards magazine rifle is complete without one. It was then decided to fit a very traditional island rear sight base with one standing plus three leaf express sight regulated to 200 yards. A peep sight fitted to the cocking piece was also utilised so creating a very classic style of rifle.

As with all our guns and rifles a super piece of Turkish walnut was selected with which to stock the rifle. We came to the conclusion some time back that with the comparatively small number of guns and rifles that we build each year, we may as well use the very nicest wood that we can obtain.

Certainly destined for Africa, we are looking forward to hearing how this classic round performs in this new rifle.

Beautiful Turkish walnut stock.

The new rifle compared to a vintage example. Either rifle would be fun to use today in Africa.

Page from Westley Richards ‘Centenary’ catalogue detailing the .318 Westley Richards.