Charles Lancaster – A Pair of Rare and Unique Howdah Pistols.

Elephants with Howdah Pistols.

I am afraid this will be a general, visual post rather than a technical one, I took these photos just before I left the factory on Friday and I didn’t note down any of the details of the pair of pistols, the main and obvious question being the bore size. I was slightly (actually very) overwhelmed by the quality and condition of the whole package and the details seemed irrelevant at the time.

The Howdah pistol was the ‘last line of defence’ for a hunter high on top of an elephant whilst hunting tiger. If a Tiger was to charge the elephant and climb up to attack the people occupying the Howdah there was little room in which to defend oneself at the last moment, it was likely that the muzzle loading long arm had been discharged by this time.. Hence the Howdah pistol the short barrel, large bore firearm that could be drawn and manoeuvred in tight space, providing a killing blow, or in the case of this pair 4 barrels, 4 killing blows.

I have always liked very much the whole concept of the Howdah pistol and it was always something that I wanted to make a current version of, a large bore rifle cased together with a matching double barrel Howdah pistol. Our laws on barrel length and pistols has prevented that project from ever happening which is a shame.

Whilst I have seen a small amount of Howdah pistols in my years dealing, they are certainly  not common and they have normally been single and quite plain models. I had a pair of Holland & Holland .577 Howdah pistols many years ago at Las Vegas and I remember them selling in a flash.

This pair is quite unique and the condition is remarkable, all the accessories down to spare springs numbered for each lock. One of the oil bottles even has the seal unbroken and contains the very oil filled with 150 years ago, quite remarkable!

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (1 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (2 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (3 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (4 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (5 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (6 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (7 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (8 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (9 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (10 of 11)

Charles Lancaster Howdah Pair (11 of 11)

untitled (1 of 1)This sculpture is at the Royal Armoury in Leeds where the National Collection of Firearms is held. It depicts very well the drama of the tiger hunt and the moments leading up to where a Howdah pistol would be useful if the shot he has held is a miss!

Grand Obscura. Great Rarity from Westley Richards Past

To me, a great part of the enjoyment of fine guns is the discover of things apparently insignificant; the “bits and pieces” that form parts of the whole that is history. Here are three of them that speak quietly of grand times gone by.

Westley Richards Selvyt Tin

Westley Selvyt Tin with Model Deluxe Faunetta.

It is a simple thing, a finely painted tin box holding a miniature pillow anointed with some very special elixir. We often find the “Selvyt” cloth, a kind of short velvet, perhaps the predecessor to micro fiber for wiping down and preserving guns. But here is the Selvyt “Preserving Pad”. Its single purpose was to maintain the wonderful Westley Richards Hand Detachable Locks. At this modern moment it has another, to correct and maintain history properly. They are not, droplocks. They are, “Westley Richards Hand Detachable Locks, one of the grand accomplishments in gun making. Regardless of purpose, the wee Selvyt pad and tin are one of those delights of days gone by.

Westley Richards Explora 'Fixer'' tool.

Westley Richards Explora 'Fixer'' tool.

Explora Bullet Page from Catalogue

Next is a tool, the only of its kind I have ever encountered and one that more or less should not exist. It is a “Fixer” a tool very common in the world of the Holland & Holland Paradox and other shot and ball guns. Its job is to create a ring crimp in the cartridge case, pressing into the big groove in the Fosbery-Paradox bullet. These “normal” Paradox loads began as black powder loads (that were routinely reloaded) and evolved to some degree into the nitro era. Our “Fixer” here is Westley Richards AND Explora marked. The curious thing about it is, unlike the other shot and ball guns, the Explora began life as a very high performance nitro/cordite round. There were many sophisticated things inside: a special liner to support wads allowing the powder to burn and among others a very long “primer” that was turbo-charged with black powder or gun cotton to effectively ignite a powder that was fundamentally too slow for the application. Also, the L.T. Capped Explora bullets had only a very small central ring and the Explora cartridges I have seen are not “ring” crimped in the same way as the other shot and ball loads. In short I just do not think the average hunter/shooter loaded Westley Richards Explora cartridges. But here we are, confronted with a Westley Richards Explora Fixer. My answer to its existence is the “Special bluff cone jungle bullet”. These are big round nose bullets, with a very large central ring. I suspect this fixer is made to crimp them in place, perhaps in darkest Africa or India, with black powder.

Bishop of Bond Street Shot Flask

Lastly we find a quiet relic, something to my eye that is very special. When I bought it, it was quality shot pouch in nice condition. The maker was “Bishop” but I thought little of that. When I unwrapped it, there it was; not just Bishop, but Bishop Bond St.! Now that was another Bishop altogether, this Bishop was none other than Westley Richards Bishop, The Bishop of Bond Street. This is William Bishop who was Westley Richards’ agent in London for a very long time. His hands and a Westley Richards percussion gun grace the dust cover of The Second Edition of the Bicentennial book Westley Richards, In Pursuit of The Best Gun. Also, within the book is a very interesting chapter about “The Bishop.”

Bishop of Bond Street Shot Flask

Bishop of Bond Street Shot Flask

The flask is simple plain leather with a steel lever top, but obviously of fine quality and one that has had care beyond the norm. All of the stitching and leather are still in good pliable working order, including the ring at the bottom. These almost always fail after 150 years. It is shown in the photograph with an original swivel, spring snap on an original harness, keeping company with Westley Richards #9360, a best percussion lock 10 bore game gun circa 1850. (The serial number conflicts with later dates, but there is a significant duplication from the mid percussion era and the early 1900s in that range). I will carry the gun again this autumn, but this year it will be charged from the Bishop’s flask. If one is afflicted with the romantic, it is pretty easy to see the Bishop in his top hat and white cuffs handing the gun to his customer and wrapping the flask in a packet of brown paper for the coach ride home.

A Unique Pair of Charles Lancaster 7g Percussion Double Rifles.

Pair of Charles Lancaster 7g Percussion Rifles

For the past 2 weeks or so I have been unable to get behind the camera to take some photographs of new or vintage guns, the shooting season is on us, there is much to do.

Earlier this week I was spurred into action when this magnificent and very rare pair of near mint condition, Charles Lancaster percussion double rifles ‘walked in the door’. Today I was able to put some time aside so that I can share them with you.

The ‘Princely’ guns and rifles of India have played a large and important part in our recent history and during the 60’s and 70’s were ultimately responsible for the survival of the company. The gun dealing was the backbone of the business during the years of small ‘new gun demand’. India with its magnificent armouries were the resource and backbone of this dealing activity a result of which is my admiration and fondness for guns and rifles such as these. These are the predecessors and inspiration to my India and Africa rifle projects, guns and rifles ‘fit for Kings’.

This pair of Charles Lancaster rifles are a magnificent  example of what could be discovered in the armouries and this particular pair of percussion rifles have remained in near perfect condition, down to their original slings, since their manufacture for the Maharajah of Joudhpur  in 1862, no mean feat in itself as they have travelled many miles.

I hope that you enjoy them as much as I have as items like these rarely walk in the door these days to be seen and discovered.

Pair Charles Lancaster 7g Rifles

Pair Charles Lancaster 7g Rifles

Pair Charles Lancaster 7g Rifles

Pair Charles Lancaster 7g Rifles

Pair Charles Lancaster 7g Rifles

The Westley Richards 2016 Pocket Catalogue.

Westley Richards Pocket Catalogue

Based on an old 1912 period small pocket catalogue, of which I have only ever seen one copy, the one above, our 2016 pocket catalogue has been very well received and I hope many of them are kept and reveal themselves in 100 years time.

As many people will not have had the opportunity to pick one up at the various shows we do, or at the shop here in UK. Here is the full content of the catalogue which I hope you enjoy.

WR_Brochure_Part2 WR_Brochure_Part3 WR_Brochure_Part4 WR_Brochure_Part5 WR_Brochure_Part6 WR_Brochure_Part7 WR_Brochure_Part8 WR_Brochure_Part9 WR_Brochure_Part10 WR_Brochure_Part11 WR_Brochure_Part12 WR_Brochure_Part13 WR_Brochure_Part14 WR_Brochure_Part15 WR_Brochure_Part16 WR_Brochure_Part17 WR_Brochure_Part18 WR_Brochure_Part19 WR_Brochure_Part20 WR_Brochure_Part21 WR_Brochure_Part22 WR_Brochure_Part23 WR_Brochure_Part24

“African Rifles & Cartridges” by John ‘Pondoro’ Taylor

African Rifles and Cartridges  John TaylorThis is the 2nd edition of the book with a dust wrap illustrating C. Fletcher Jamieson with his Holland double .450 

As a manufacturer of traditional big game rifles there are always those classic books that come up in discussion and without question one of the very best is John ‘Pondoro’ Taylors “African Rifles & Cartridges” published in 1948.

I have always found this book a great resource as it details all the great British calibre’s, specifically bullet weight and velocities.  Having worked at Westley Richards for well on 13 years this has proved invaluable as we have been lucky enough to deal in so many great vintage rifles, both double and bolt action in every calibre mentioned in Taylors book.  Being able to turn to this book in my early days was of real benefit when looking up the oddities that still arrived from India.

What continues to amaze me from a modern perspective is that even with the advancement in bullet technology and optics, the traditional British big game rifle of Taylor’s era has remained virtually unchanged, a testament perhaps to all round perfection in gunmaking.   

Today we have in production double and bolt action rifles in .300 H & H, .318 WR, .375 H & H, .425 WR, .450/.400 3″, .404 Jeffery, .470, .500, .505 Gibbs, .577 and .600, calibres all discussed in detail in Taylor’s book.

African Rifles & Cartridges - Taylor

Taylor himself spent the greater part of his life as an ivory hunter, come poacher and was lucky enough to be around at a time when big game hunting and access to the rifles of the great British manufacturers of the time were both readily available.

Whilst Taylors own exploits and life remain controversial, no-one can take away the fact that he wrote a fantastic book, one that has often been copied, but never bettered.  The whole layout, photography and line drawings make for a great visual and informative book dealing principally with British big game calibres, rifles and hunting in Africa.

L Taylor in CampOne of the many photos taken by the famous hunter C.Fletcher Jamieson which illustrate Taylors book

318 DrawingThe line drawings and descriptions of the various cartridges and bullets make for a fascinating insight

600NE drawing from African Rifles

Photo from Taylor African Rifles & CartridgesThe Sable has always been a top trophy and one that I have always wanted to hunt.  Whilst Taylor considered this a ‘fair average’ specimen it would probably be considered very good indeed today!

Westley Richards .425 Take Down.A modern era Westley Richards take down bolt action rifle in .425 WR.

In my own humble opinion no serious African hunter or avid gun collector should be without a copy of this book in their library.  I have owned several copies since the age of 15 and at one stage ticked off all the different calibre’s I was lucky enough to shoot here at Westley Richards and out in the field!

Holland & Holland RiflesA brace of Holland & Holland .375 Flanged Magnum ‘Royal’ double rifles.

Taylor was always a great advocate of the .375 Holland cartridge and today it still remains the ‘all around’ cartridge and one which no hunter should be without.

A Mini .410 Size Westley Richards Perfecta Cartridge Bag.

Westley Richards Perfecta Bag .410

I seem to be having quite a lot of luck on the miniature item front recently, the very nice small 1890 vintage .410 cartridge magazine of a few weeks past and now a very small version of our Perfecta cartridge bag, again something I had never encountered before. I was actually very surprised and pleased when the package was opened as I thought it was just a normal size bag when I bought it online.

This will certainly now head for the leather shop and a faithful reproduction! It will make a nice ladies purse size bag too, for Christmas in crocodile!

Westley Richards Perfecta Bag .410

Westley Richards Mauser C96 ‘Broomhandle’ Pistol

Mauser C96 7.63mm broom handle pistolOriginal Westley Richards retailed Mauser C96 ‘Broomhandle pistol complete with walnut holster/stock.

Whilst Westley Richards has always been a manufacturer of its own guns and rifles, during the heady days of Empire there was a huge requirement for general sporting and military type arms for personnel serving in the armed forces.  To fulfil their needs (and budgets) and to capture its share of the market Westley Richards often turned to other manufacturers including Mauser, Mannlicher, Colt, Smith & Wesson, etc.

One of the more interesting firearms sold by the company was the Mauser C96 ‘Broomhandle’ semi automatic pistol in 7.63mm calibre.  Retailed exclusively by Westley Richards between 1899 – 1904.  It was one of the most deadly weapons of its day and found favour with officers serving in the British Army due to its rapidity of fire.  One notable user was W.L.S.Churchill who used one during the battle of Omdurman and the 2nd Boer War.

Directions for use of the mauser self loading pistolRare instruction pamphlet for Westley Richards Mauser C96 pistol 

As you would expect with Westley Richards several improvements were made including an interchangeable wind gauge peep and v sight for fine shooting, along with a new bullet called ‘the all range destructive’.

Clip of 10 rounds of WR all range destructive bulletsWestley Richards ‘all range destructive’ bullets in 10 round clip

Examples of the pistol can still be found today bearing the ‘Westley Richards & Co’ name on the left hand side of the action.  Many came supplied with a walnut holster which doubled as a clip on stock for long range shooting.  I have always wondered how many saw active service fighting the Germans in WWI, the ultimate irony!

WEstley Richards Mauser Record BookAll the Mauser pistols retailed by Westley Richards during our licensed period are recorded in one bound book which we still retain.

On my Recent Trip to Gulf Breeze Florida, I discovered ‘HOBO” Knives.

Hobo Knives

As you have seen with the various ‘gun junk’ I scatter around my photographs, I like picking up bits and pieces relating to our sport as I travel around, they all add to the collection of interesting, nicely made items, each with a story to tell, that I keep in my apartment here in England for use as photo ‘props’.

A few weeks ago I made a quick trip to Florida to meet contractors and shop-fitters for our new offices in Gulf Breeze. With the shop being next door to Gulf Breeze Firearms I spent quite some time in there.  Duke McCaa has amassed over his years in the trade a treasure trove of little bits and pieces. ‘Cutlery’ is a large part of their business besides firearms and I have always enjoyed picking up simple and useful types of hunting knives and wing shooting knives so I thoroughly enjoyed picking through his collection and trying to pry the rarer pieces from his private showcase.

I had never seen or heard of these ‘Hobo Knives’ before and ended up getting the three here which I am very pleased with. I see them as a very useful ‘campaign’ type accessory, nice to have in your pocket when deep in the bush for a picnic.

Hobo Knives in Open Position

This interesting article about the history of the Knives is for anybody else who has yet to discover the Hobo. Each page can be clicked on to enlarge and read.

Hobo 1Hobo 2Hobo 3Hobo 4Hobo 5Hobo 6Hob o 7Hobo 8

Captain Mavrogordate’s Mystery Duel in 1848.

Duel with Pistols

Whilst clearing out the workshops yesterday, a process we do to keep on top of all the accumulated bits and pieces and keep the work benches looking reasonably clear and tidy. An old cabinet was moved and this framed notice fell out of the back where it must have been lodged for many years.

We have no idea about the history of this duel and disgraceful events which followed. If anyone can shed some historical light on Captain Mavrogordate and this duel I am sure it will be of interest!