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.
Game scene rifles of the pre war era have always seemed thin on the ground and outside of the great Mahrajah’s and the occasional ostentatious aristocrat, the majority of double rifles tended to be of the traditional house scroll engraved format. An Englishman was far more reserved and refined in his tastes!
This pretty little Rigby in .256 rimmed is one of those exceptional little rifles that you would like to own just because the engraving takes you back to the golden age of big game hunting when the continents of India and Africa competed for the attentions of the avid big game hunter. Beautifully engraved with game scenes of Indian big game including tiger, leopard, black buck, sambar and cheetal deer, all credit must be paid to the engraver who most likely had never viewed any of these game animals live and most certainly not from some download off the internet.
The small calibre of the rifle, single trigger and stepped breach only add to the delicate nature of both the rifle and game scenes. Completed in 1907 for H.H Maharana of Udaipur it has obviously been well used without being over-abused and surely if it could speak would have many an exciting story to tell!
The Bissell or Rigby ‘rising bite’ third fastener.
Wonderfully detailed Indian big game scenes throughout.
Stepped breach, dipped edge lock plate and single trigger.
As a once keen wildfowler it is always nice to see one of the vintage big bore guns built by Westley Richards. In this instance we have a lovely 10g, 3″ chambered, 32″ barrelled Anson & Deeley fixed lock shotgun that was completed in 1886 for J.Palmer O’Neil & Co. of Pittsburgh, USA. This company clearly acted as an agent for Westley Richards and retailed guns, rifles, revolvers, ammunition, fishing tackle and other sportsmens goods. A gun almost identical to this illustrates the front cover of one of their early catalogues.
The lines of the gun considering its size are very elegant and it points superbly. The round pistol grip has a gentle sweep that makes the gun comfortable to handle. Weighing 10lb 10 3/4ozs it is great to swing and with ‘extreme choke’ as defined in the ledger entry, it would certainly have worked well on high Mallard, Pintail and Geese. Interestingly the rib states ‘Highest Quality’ and we have to admit that it is probably one of the finest fixed lock guns that we have seen here at the factory. The damascus is of the typical high quality found on all of the Westley Richards guns built up until around 1910 and the wood is as good as anything we would use today.
The gun has the single model ‘c’ dolls head extension and classic lever work, no underbolt, which is a testament to the strength of the design and quality of the workmanship when jointing the gun. It remains as tight on the face as the day it was made and if it was mine there is no question that it would see a goose blind this autumn!
Another masterpiece has returned recently from one of our top engravers and we have to say that it is certainly one of the prettiest small bore guns that we have seen anywhere in a while.
The actual engraving is a choice made from several designs that were put forward, aimed specifically at the small bore guns that we build, in this case a 28g droplock. The client was looking for an intricate design that would look both complex and clean on the delicate frame of the gun. The etched background only adding to the overall effect of the design.
As with all elaborate scroll engraving, the actual ‘flow’ of the scrolls is very important and this particular execution seems to capture that very well. The little carved touches add considerably to the whole design and once case colour hardened, inked and brushed the gun should look spectacular. We look forward to sharing the end result with you.
You may have found us a bit quieter than usual of late. Well, that is because we have been hard at work on an exciting new project. After considerable time and effort, we at Westley Richards are proud to announce the launch of our brand new website.
Featuring the finest imagery and design, and industry-leading technology, it showcases the world of Westley Richards like never before. Designed and developed especially for those with a passion for fine guns, hunting, bespoke leather goods and the very best shooting clothing and products, the new site is a reflection of what we do here at Westley Richards in our relentless pursuit of perfection. We hope you enjoy it and we look forward to welcoming you all into our world.
Houston’s Cyril Adams is one of the most influential figures in the revival of interest in British guns—particularly hammer guns and those with Damascus barrels—that swept America in the 1980s and ‘90s. During the period he owned London’s Atkin Grant & Lang (1984-1999), Adams resuscitated the once-great maker and aided by the expert tutelage of Ron Solari produced some of the finest sporting shotguns made in Britain during that time. In 1996, along with co-author Robert Braden, Adams published Lock, Stock & Barrel, which remains one of the best single-volume primers on the principles and methods of best quality British gunmaking.
Newly out is his magnum opus: Live Pigeon Trap Shooting, the first book written in the English language on the subject in more than 120 years, and by far the most comprehensive ever published. Clearly written throughout its 275 pages, and complemented with hundreds of rare photographs and illustrations, it is encyclopedic in its detail of the sport past and present.
Pigeon shooting was also popular in America, as shown in this 1891 illustration from Harper’s Weekly.
Today live pigeon trap shooting is arcane and little known but in its heyday in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was not only enormously popular internationally—drawing large crowds of spectators—but also critically important in the development of modern wingshooting, shotguns, ammunition, and the target-shooting sports such as trap and Helice that are its direct descendants. In 1886, English shooting writer A.J Stuart-Wortley wrote of the sport: “Here every modern improvement in guns, powder, or cartridges has been brought to the test, and there can be no doubt that the practical proofs supplied by pigeon shooting have been of great service to the science of modern gunnery.”
Monte Carlo was the epicenter of international pigeon shooting, and its most prestigious venue. This photo likely dates from the early 1920s.
Italians have been many of the sport’s most successful shooters. The stylish Duke of Abruzzi in northern Italy in 1929.
As Adams explains in his overview introduction: “In the pigeon ring, new ideas for improvements to guns and ammunition could be tried against each other under consistent conditions with repeatable results. This is not possible in the field, but useful improvements developed and then proven by pigeon shooters were quickly incorporated into field guns and ammunition.” This was particularly true in the British gun trade, where pigeon shooting remained popular until the end of the 19th Century. Successful pigeon shots were often a gunmaker’s best source of advertising and publicity.
1930 World Championship program.
The action and excitement of a columbarie shoot in south Texas.
Westley Richards was just one of many gunmakers that used the success of pigeon shooters to promote its guns.
The Westley Richards “Ovundo” was offered in trap configurations and one was used by Henry Quersin to take several championships in Belgium in the 1920s.
Adams—an engineer by training with a specialty in low-temperature physics—has competed in pigeon and Helice rings around the world for half a century, and is a uniquely qualified author. The book comprises seven chapters: 1) History; 2) Bird and Traps; 3) Guns; 4) Ammunition; 5) Notable Shots; 6) Descendants; 7) How to Do It. A bibliography and an appendix of pigeon and Helice championship results and the rules governing the sport round the work out—and given its quality it is the most important book on wingshooting and fine guns to be published in 2017.
Cyril S. Adams, at home, in the ring, with his 34-inch-barreled Stephen Grant hammer gun — aka “Supergun.”
Live Pigeon Trap Shooting is available in the UK and internationally from the publisher, The Sporting Library, an imprint of BPG Media, which publishes Fieldsports: www.thesportinglibrary.co.uk. It is available to Americans purchasers directly from the author: firstname.lastname@example.org
It was back in June 2014 on the Explora that we were singing the merits of fine vintage bags and how they influence the leather goods we develop here in our leather shop. Our latest reproduction of a vintage bag is a classic game bag which previously featured in our 1912 catalogue.
By examining the details on the vintage bag, our leather department has been able to recreate a new version of the bag with the same look, feel and function. Faithful to the original bag, the materials used are our house waxed cotton, our classic brass fittings; and hand-woven hemp netting from the fishing town of Bridport in Dorset.
A classic and versatile bag, which would be at home on a variety of different hunts. May many a pheasant, grouse, quail or bottle of whiskey grace its pocket. This is now available to purchase on our website here.