Just arrived in Zambia this last week was this new Westley Richards .500 droplock double rifle built very much to our traditional format. Whilst super high grade work graces our factory on a regular basis these days, it is always nice when one of these ‘originals’ finally leaves for the hunting field. The client made subtle additions, like the carved fences and gold naming, but otherwise left to us the task of building him the perfect hunting rifle.
Perhaps we have become a little too blasé in recent times, as this is the type of rifle that helped build Westley Richards reputation as a dependable and formidable rifle maker over a century ago. In recent years our rifles have hunted all over Africa and accounted for some truly wonderful big game trophies. This rifle is set to continue in that vain and will in the coming decades have many stories of its own to tell. Most importantly a new generation of young clients are the ones embarking on those adventures.
The gunmaking name E.J.Churchill conjures up for the majority of gun enthusiasts the ‘XXV’ (25″) barrel shotguns that the company was so famous for promoting in the pre-war years. The raised rib and short barrels made for quick gun handling and suited a very instinctive style of shooting promoted by family member Robert Churchill. Brand names such as ‘Hercules’, ‘Zenith’ and ‘Premiere’ remain synonymous with the company.
Double rifles by the maker are few and far between so this particular rifle really is a treat. Built as a ‘Hercules’ best quality model fixed lock ejector in the fantastic .470 nitro express calibre and completed circa 1940, everything about the rifle really is ‘best quality’ with wood that even by modern standards is super exhibition quality, complemented with a fabulous fleur dy lis checkering pattern. The engraving is the tight full coverage Churchill house scroll with the rifle retaining nearly all of its original case colour hardening and finish. As fixed lock double rifles go it is probably one of the best you will see.
Established in 1891 by Edwin John Churchill, the company still thrives from its base in West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, where ironically and very professionally it caters to thousands of shooters every year, a fitting tribute to both Edwin John Churchill and later Robert Churchill who were fanatical shotgun enthusiasts and instructors. For any travelling sportsman coming this season to shoot in the Uk you cannot go wrong paying the shooting grounds a visit and sharpening up your skills.
To all great rifle enthusiasts the name of Daniel Fraser should need no introduction. Established in 1878 in the city of Edinburgh, Fraser would become one of the pre-eminent Scottish gun and rifle makers, with particularly emphasis placed on rifle manufacture. Anyone who owns or has ever handled one of Frasers original rifles can only be impressed by the level of workmanship and quality that went into its manufacture.
Take for example the double rifle illustrated here. Built in .475 3 1/4″ nitro express calibre, the rifle has the distinctive crescent shaped action, carved fences and wonderful fine rose and scroll engraving familiar to all of Frasers best quality double rifles. Interestingly the rifle is fitted with scope mount bases, the scope itself sadly missing from the case. This same scope mount can be found on Frasers wonderful single shot rifles which seems to indicate that he was a great advocate of the riflescope and its aid to accuracy. How the scope performed under the recoil from such a rifle is anyones guess and perhaps explains its absence!
Fraser’s business was relatively short lived, as the cost of producing such high grade rifles, coupled with competition from the vast Birmingham manufacturers, sadly led to his closing of the business in the early 1900’s. Various family members continued in the gun trade, but the name of Daniel Fraser & Co. vanished until the 1980’s when it saw a re-birth and later amalgamation into the Dickson & MacNaughton group, based once again in Edinburgh. Regrettably this year the Edinburgh premises of Dickson & MacNaughton was closed sliding this once great name back into exile.
Webley & Scott is a name with a long pedigree that can trace its proud Birmingham ancestry back to the early 1800’s and the then independent business’s of one William Scott and Philip Webley. Both these individuals ran their respective gun and rifle business’s with various family members up until 1897 when a merger between the two took place. The name subsequently changed in 1906 to Webley & Scott Ltd which is the name this wonderful rifle carries.
Engraved with both Indian and African dangerous game this has to be one of the finest pre-war .600 sidelock double rifles anywhere. The attention to detail in the engraving is really quite outstanding for the period with a level of shading not seen very often, each vignette complemented with detail of flora in both the fore and background. The scroll surrounding the scenes, combined with the relief work on the fences, top lever and action body completes a truly superlative rifle.
Well, finally we made it! Here at last are the final composed pair of guns in .410 and 28g. They say “all good things come to those who wait” and this last pair really are quite exquisite with there most unusual engraving and fabulous motor case to complement the whole package.
At least now the owners of all three pairs can sit together and compare their respective tastes!
Shotguns depicting Buffalo and Elephant game scenes have made for an interesting variation
The wood has once again turned out stunning and it must be said that all three pairs of guns really are a credit to all those involved in making them. A fabulous project that has been a pleasure to undertake and complete. May all the new owners enjoy many years of fun and sport.
Now we are going to have to be honest here and say that whilst we are great fans of the fabulous revolvers designed and manufactured by Samuel Colt, we are in no way experts on the various models or variations thereof. That said, what we do know about the three shown here is that they are all rare and interesting either historically or aesthetically and would take pride of place in any collection.
This fabulous .44 Colt ‘Dragoon’ is by all accounts special as it is a fully engraved or ‘Presentation’ model. Three models of dragoon were manufactured between the period 1848 and 1860 all with subtle variations. Numbers manufactured between all models was fairly low by modern production standards, which makes any of them highly collectible today. This revolver has the serial number 20.
The wonderful ‘English’ style engraving on the ‘Dragoon’ revolver
This .36 Navy Colt revolver was manufactured at Colt’s factory in London between 1853-1856 and was later used in the siege of Delhi in 1857. The British navy and army ordered a combined 18,000 of these pistols but the British never adopted the revolver as the official sidearm of the military establishment. This accounts for the short term manufacture of these pistols in London, as Samuel Colt closed the factory and shipped all the manufacturing machinery back to the USA. Clearly British interests were at stake and needed protecting!
This final .36 Navy Colt really is unique as with this revolver Major Henry Tombs (later Major General Sir Henry Tombs) was awarded Britain and the Commonwealths highest award for gallantry, the ‘Victoria Cross’. It was during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, on 9th July at the siege of Delhi, that Tombs twice came to the aid of Lieutenant James Hill saving his life with this very revolver. Interestingly this was the same year that the Victoria Cross was officially introduced and awarded. The revolver comes in a fabulous Manton & Co, Calcutta case and really is a great piece of British military history.
The ‘Victoria Cross’ – Britain and the Commonwealths highest award for gallantry
Thomas Horsley Gunmaker, was originally founded in 1832 in Doncaster, England moving within only a couple of years to the City of York where the rifle shown here was manufactured circa 1840. This particular .450 percussion rifle retains much of its original finish and patina, but is particularly interesting in that a damascus telescopic sight has been added at some stage, presumably by the maker. This is the only muzzleloading double rifle that we have seen fitted with a quick detachable telescopic sight and there certainly cannot be too many around as it would undoubtedly have been a very new invention for the time.
Going back to the business, Thomas Horsley the elder passed the company onto his son Thomas who continued the operation from Coney Street, York. On his death, circa 1915, the business passed on once again to his son, another Thomas (!) who ran it with his brothers from Blossom Street, York and later Micklegate, York, which was to be the company’s last address when it ceased trading in the late 1950’s.
Another interesting feature of this rifle is its compact size. Whilst we cannot confirm it, we have always rather romantically referred to this rifle as a ‘Howdah Rifle’ as its compact nature befits the tight space likely encountered from the howdah on the back of an Indian elephant. It would certainly be very handy to use and the telescopic sight might just help pick an animal out from amongst the tall grass. The wonderfully naive engraving on the lock plates of tiger and deer adds greatly to this hypothesis!
It is always nice to see another ‘beast’ completed here at the factory and this .577 droplock proves that we continue to lead the way with the production of big bore double rifles. Based very much on the Sutherland .577 double rifle that we have here at the factory this rifle has been built very much to be used and its new owner is itching to get the rifle into the field and hunt some dangerous game.
This rifle is the full blown magnum version of the .577 firing the 750 grain bullet, however the rifle only weighs in at 12lb 8ozs and so it is a little lively on the range! Before anyone asks, this is how the client wanted it built and so true to form we built the rifle. Lets be honest, in the face of a full on charge a handy .577 will be of less concern than a touch of recoil!
Just off to case colour hardening is this .577 3″ nitro express droplock double rifle which combines bold scroll and classic game scenes of the ‘Big 5′. Whilst talk of late has centred around the decline of big game hunting in certain African countries, we have to say from our own point of view that double rifles continue to be a mainstay in our production, so guys are undoubtedly getting out there in the field.
This particular rifle is going to the next generation of hunter who has already built up a strong affair with the great safari tradition of Africa and is very much determined to continue the pursuit. Truth be told Africa has always been volatile and unpredictable which is probably one of the attractions. To still have the privilege to hunt in some of these great countries is something that no-one should take for granted and all keen hunters should be encouraged to undertake in a fair and sporting manner.
Africa is one of the last great wilderness’s on earth and the ultimate destination for a big bore double rifle such as this. Long may the tradition continue.
An update from a great Westley Richards enthusiast in the USA
Now, with a fair number of rounds on targets both circular and winged I’m perhaps in a position to look back on the shooting season just past and understand a bit better what a remarkable thing a really good Westley Richards .410 bore gun can be.
I’ve shot something over 4,000 targets with it both on the skeet field and from a three trap trailer which we position along a river while we stand beyond and above the traps on an old pumping station over the river. The wobble targets here are all crossing shots, some level, some climbing and some well below. The latter being about as sporty as any I want to try. At any rate, they all are a real learning experience with a .410 and I’ve never run a 25 straight.
In the “winged” department, a fair number of doves fell out of the sky. Good conditions and picked shots required. We were fortunate enough to be invited back to King Ranch once again. Bobwhites and more bobwhites. Wonderful dog work and wonderful people. South Texas in the winter time is my favorite place on this earth.
Winchester’s 3″ AA load of 3/4 ounce of #8 1/2 shot at only 1,100 fps will kill quail and doves with no foolin’ about it. Teague insert chokes at .10″ constriction seems to be the ticket in this particular gun on game. On the skeet field 1/2 ounce of 9’s again in AA’s work the best. Probably all in my head but the Winchester loads give me better scores than the same loads from Federal. Go figure.
To sum up, a heck of a lot of clay targets, quite a few doves, I’m not telling anybody how many bobwhites, one armadillo and, two weeks past, a small, by Texas standards, diamondback rattlesnake have been accounted for with this little gun. Varied bag in any company.
Point being, I’ve shot this gun enough to where, with a good night’s sleep and proper alignment of the stars, things just work. Never has the gun failed to go bang, eject and the triggers are as crisp as on day one. The wood has a few small dings now which bother me not at all. What a wonderful thing it would be to shoot it long enough and often enough to wear the checkering off. I think in the end shooting is about memories and that’s the real gift of a gun like this.