Here at Westley Richards we are proud to be developing some of the world’s finest gunmakers, engravers and leather workers. None more exemplify this than our recently appointed foreman Stuart Richards, who at 29 has seen over 300 guns and rifles pass through the factory.
In September 2020 he will celebrate 12 years with Westley Richards, rising through the ranks of the company, capping it off with his instrumental role in the creation of our new exhibition rifle “The Forest Rifle”. It is clear that our dedication to working with young talent, giving them unique opportunities and watching them thrive is at the very heart of the Westley Richards DNA.
Single shot rifles have always held a fascination with rifle shooters. From earliest times they were the benchmark for accurate shooting and held sway for decades as the rifle of choice for serious competitive shooting. Most of the major British sporting arms manufacturers have at one time supplied single shot rifles from flintlock through to the centre-fire breechloading era.
Westley Richards referred to its rifle as a ‘sliding block’ rifle whilst other makers and modern literature refer to it as a ‘falling block’ action.
A gun or rifle is a canvas for something truly unique for a visionary group of collectors. Individuality is what sets them apart, and for a select few, that extends to commissioninga Westley Richards ‘special project’.
Westley Richards has a long history of producing super high-grade guns and rifles,with ‘Modèle de Luxe’ and ‘Modèle de Grande Luxe’ gracing our early 20th-century catalogues. Production of such masterpieces reached their peak in the 1930s, the heyday of the Maharajas, whose commissions set the standard in gunmaking quality at a time when British manufacturing was at its very zenith.
The late 1980s was to see the resurgence of such quality with Westley Richards’ very own ‘Gorilla Gun’ and later ‘Rhino Rifle’ signaling the beginning of a new age of highly-embellished pieces, as collectors from the USA embraced the unparalleled quality of craftsmanship offered by British gun and rifle makers.
Yet another first calibre wise for us recently was the completion of this heavy barrel plains game rifle in .270 Winchester Short Magnum. The .270 WSM is one of those cartridges born of the ‘magnum’ craze and was introduced in 2002 by Winchester. Based on the .300 WSM (introduced in 2001) it has the same case necked down to accept .277″ bullets in the 110 to 150 grain range. Compared to the original .270 Winchester the long time favourite of gun writer Jack O’Connor, the more modern magnum version of the .270 unquestionably has greater velocity and a flatter trajectory.
This particular rifle is intended for shooting plains game out to longer ranges and has been built with a heavier barrel contour and recessed muzzle crown to assist with both stability of the rifle, whilst eking out every last ounce of accuracy.
Scotland is without doubt one of those magical places where sportsmen armed with rifle, gun and rod can still pursue quarry in some of the most outstanding scenery found anywhere in the world. On an island now heavily populated and ever more restricted, Scotland remains one of the last bastions of the wilderness, a place where the environment and weather are still capable of reminding you that nature is a force to be reckoned with.
‘Sporting Estates’ as they are known became fashionable in Victorian times and even with the current political climate they remain the favoured retreats of sports men and women from around the world. Last May we were lucky enough to head up to a small private estate in Aberdeenshire for a spot of roebuck stalking, in particular looking for bucks out on the open hill.
Danny with his trusty Watson Bros..450 No.2 Double Rifle. Originally built in 1907 at a cost of £21 this rifle has certainly proved worth every penny! This photo was taken by Diggory Haddoke whilst we were all on safari in Tanzania in 2015.
Anyone who is anyone who has ever wanted to hunt in Africa or has hunted in Africa should certainly have heard of Professional Hunter, Danny McCallum. Now that might sound like a dramatic introduction, but truth be told Danny is one of the legends of African hunting having been a fully licensed PH there for 53 years.
Born in Arusha, Tanzania in August 1947, Danny is from a family of Professional Hunters (his father and grandfathers were all PH’s) and after qualifying with his full ‘Unrestricted’ licence in 1967 has led a successful career as one of Africa’s most sought after PH’s. Danny is one of those PH’s who has been lucky enough to hunt in Kenya, Tanzania, Zaire, the Sudan, the CAR, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and more recently Uganda. His experiences are almost unparalleled today, especially where Africa’s dangerous game is concerned.
And so to the last of the ‘new’ production weapons produced by Westley Richards, the ‘Fixed Lock’ double rifle. For those of you who have spent any time studying sporting firearms, you cannot have read anything with realising that Westley Richards is famous for the introduction of the Anson and Deeley gun design of 1875, the ‘Fixed Lock’ or ‘Boxlock’ action. This design was absolutely revolutionary in that it transferred external hammers to the inside of the action body, whilst allowing the fall (or drop) of the barrels to cock the internally fitted hammers.
To this day the design remains the most copied, and has been produced in some way by every major manufacturer who produces side by side guns and rifles.
In 1995, former Managing Director ,Simon Clode decided it was time to re-introduce the fixed lock action in a double rifle. At the time the big hunting world was seeing a serious revival and whilst pre-owned rifles sold easily, there appeared a niche in the market to produce a sensibly priced fixed lock double rifle that appealed to Professional Hunters and clients alike. So the new fixed lock was released and whilst never produced in the same quantities as ‘droplock’ double rifles, they have always appeared in our order books.
The elegant lines of the Westley Richards magazine rifle in .450 Rigby calibre.
A first just completed by us is this detachable barrel Westley Richards magazine rifle in .450 Rigby. Over the years we have built magazine rifles in all manner of cartridge, but this is the first to be built in .450 Rigby.
The cartridge has an interesting history as it is one of very few ‘new’ cartridges introduced by any of the British rifle makers over the last three decades. The concept for the cartridge came from Paul Roberts former owner of J.Rigby & Co back in the 1990’s. Paul is acknowledged as one of the most experienced big game hunters in the UK and still continues to build rifles for a small and loyal clientele under the Roberts name in the south of England.
And so all safely with another two weeks under our belts we come to Westley Richards sidelock shotguns. The sidelock shotgun has always been offered by Westley Richards, but as with the sidelock double rifle it has primarily been a product of the London makers.
Westley Richards comparable product for decades was the hand detachable lock (droplock) shotgun which was utterly unique to the company and our ‘signature’ model. The highest grade droplock variants cost as much as any best sidelock and so Westley Richards never really saw the need to compete with their own version of a sidelock.
In more recent years the sidelock shotgun has been offered by Westley Richards to accommodate existing patrons who wanted a sidelock built by us. These more modern sidelocks are built on the more elegant rounded action which gives much cleaner lines, great balance and a more comfortable feel.
Whilst never built in the same numbers as the droplock shotguns, we do hope that the examples you see before you once again emphasise that Westley Richards in the modern era is all about quality and individuality.
It is hard to believe that we completed these guns 20 years ago when the only serious pandemic of that time was the fear of the ‘millennium bug’, a software technicality that was going to bring the electronic world to a crashing end. Thankfully nothing happened and we all started the new millennium with renewed excitement.
The Millennium was for many gunmakers a golden opportunity to produce some unique and in many instances one off guns. Holland & Holland, James Purdey and Westley Richards were just some of those lucky enough to have the patronage of some very serious collectors who lavished orders for many individual and often extravagant sets of guns.
Wonderful scenes of English partridge adorn the sides of the actions. Built for an English gentleman it is hard to believe that these guns were built 20 years ago!