It seems at present that we are having a real glut on guns and rifles returning from the Westley Richards stable of engravers. With each new gun or rifle comes a different style of engraving and what really impresses us now is how hard the engravers are working to raise the bar on the execution and style. The engravers are now appreciating the work that goes into building each one of our guns and rifles and they are keen not to let down the gunmakers who are putting in so much effort in the first place. This combination is really paying off and continues to emphasise the high standards set by all those involved with the company.
What is becoming more evident is how truly ‘bespoke’ Westley Richards is becoming. Our aim now is to build individually and uniquely for every client and that nothing we do is of the ‘norm’. Looking back at the guns and rifles in recent weeks with the exception of this matched pair all of them have variations in the build and execution, sometimes subtle, often quite significant. Whilst from a manufacturing point of view this can be at times slow going, it is far more inspirational for the gunmakers, engravers and more importantly the clients. At the end of the day we aim to please!
The pair of guns shown here are engraved with a beautiful floral and scroll design that was in fact inspired by a single barrel muzzle loading gun built by the company over 150 years ago. In this modern instance the engraver has re-designed the pattern to work with double barrel hammerless guns adding carved elements and gold lettering to create a very elegant coverage. Of course such work does take time, but as they say ‘you can never rush quality’.
Last week saw another of our signature ‘droplock’ double rifles finished from engraving. In this case we have a classic .500 3″ nitro express with our traditional full scroll coverage, gold naming and an elegant gold border around the breach ends with scroll pyramids extending forward. This particular rifle has an extended tang or ‘strap over comb’ which can often be a nice touch. This rifle is going for full case colour hardening of all parts, which should make for a very nice looking version of a traditional format rifle.
Just returned last week from engraving is this fabulous .600 sidelock double rifle engraved by Vince Crowley.
I remember fondly the first time I met Vince when in truth we were both kids just starting out in the gun trade. He approached the door at the old Westley Richards factory in Bournbrook like a scrawny Oliver Twist and rather quietly asked ‘Do you have any engravers that can help me? I would like to be a gun engraver.’ Lucky for Vince we had one of finest of the day Rashid El Hadi on site who took Vince under his wing and as the saying goes ‘the rest is history’.
The basis for this exhibition project is our .600 sidelock ejector double rifle action, with extended tang, back action locks, model ‘C’ dolls head fastener and snap action lever work. These heavy action .600’s really do make a statement and they provide a huge canvas upon which to work. The gunmakers here at the factory put many hundreds of hours of patience and skill into building and preparing this magnificent rifle for Vince.
The theme of the rifle is classic hunting scenes from the ‘Dark Continent’ combined with a general feel for the flora and fauna. Vince himself estimates that he spent somewhere in the region of 3000 hours engraving this monster. Hard to believe? Just take a look. Practically every single inch of the action has been embellished and what you find on closer inspection is a delicate mixture of fine scroll, sculptured scroll, carving, flush gold inlay, raised gold, and game scenes. The grip trap you saw in an earlier post (‘A singular piece of engraving skill’) and we have yet to show you the butt plate!
Some of the most outstanding workmanship is on the barrels where a combination of flush and raised gold work along with fine game scene detailing and carved animals is pretty spectacular. Once complete the rifle should make quite a statement about the level of gunmaking and craftsmanship achievable today.
As many of you have seen over the years we have been very privileged here at Westley Richards to post images of some truly stunning workmanship created dually by our gunmaking and engraving team.
Yesterday Vince Crowley returned with a magnificent .600 sidelock double rifle that he has just finished engraving for us. From a pure engraving perspective the rifle is a real showcase of the diverse skills that he has developed and as always there are lots of beautiful touches. As such one piece in particular really stood out and that was the grip trap cap.
The ‘Hummingbird’ Gun engraved by Rashid El Hadi
Vince was mentored many years ago by Rashid El Hadi who engraved the fabulous Hummingbird Gun. Rashid still rates as one of the finest, most talented engravers we have ever met and his imagination and creativity were exceptional. He inspired and influenced Vince greatly and I think that this singular piece showcases just that.
More images will follow in the coming weeks but as a taster this seems a fitting introduction!
Many of you may remember that to celebrate our Bicentenary in 2012 a very unique set of 7 droplock shotguns were commissioned from .410 through to 8 bore. Each of these guns was built on a scaled frame increasing proportionately in size as they increased in bore. The guns were engraved in a style found on an original and very beautiful ‘Model de Luxe’ shotgun built in 1927.
A rare 1927, 12 gauge Model de Luxe shotgun from which the design of the bicentennial set of seven guns was created.
Missing from this set was a 4 bore double barrel droplock as at the time we had no designs or had ever in fact built such a gun. To commission such a new design did in our mind require more than just the one order as the amount of research and development would be quite considerable.
As things often turn out shortly after the completion of the set of 7 another client approached us with his desire to have a pair of super deluxe quality droplock double barrel 4 bores built. With this in mind we approached the owner of the set of 7 who readily took us up on the offer and challenge – finally the missing piece of the puzzle was underway!
About this time last year we finally completed the first pair of 4 bores which really were a credit to the skills of the gunmakers here at the factory. The scaling up or down of any action design is always tricky, but the guys here did a great job with the 4 bore as it really is so much bigger than even an 8 bore.
Whilst we do appreciate the 4 bore ‘Bicentennial’ is a little late, it really will be a fitting climax to an already magnificent set of guns. Being the largest of the set it is appropriately engraved with carved Swans a fitting subject for such a monster of a gun.
The .470 3 1/4″ nitro express remains an old faithful in the big game hunting world, this is the latest rifle in this popular calibre to be completed here at the factory. This example is of a traditional format with our hand detachable locks, hinged cover plate, model ‘C’ dolls head fastener, patent combination foresight, Deeley forend fastener, finished with classic full fine scroll coverage and vivid case colour hardening.
One of the nicest features and one that you have probably been seeing more of recently on our droplock double rifles, is the ‘scroll back’ edge to the action. Found more commonly on all our best grade shotguns, in recent years it has proved very popular on the double rifles. The first models we made with this feature were the set of Bicentennial rifles in 2012.
Pre war examples do exist but are very few and far between. The scroll back does seem to add an element of finesse to the droplock double rifle action and enables giving a more rounded appearance to the file up for those who like that. We are sure that it will continue to be very popular.
An original .476 scroll back droplock double rifle built in 1929.
We have to be quite secretive about who we work with in this field, especially in the area of engraving where quality work is competed for. Hence I am afraid this will be a ‘no names’ given out piece of writing!
A year or so ago, I was approached by a man determined to get into gun engraving as a second career, I invited him to the factory and he came to visit me and showed me his practise plates. He had done a wide variety of work, scroll, game scenes, inlay and I think even perhaps a little relief work. All the work had been done with only a little advise and help from one of our more regular engravers who had steered him over a period of months. The work was very impressive considering mainly self taught and the dedication to doing the work even more so. There was however the confusion of too many subjects and techniques being used, none of them mastered, very nice work but not ready to put on one of our guns.
Over a period of months I handed out various practise and unpaid projects which were taken on board and executed as carefully as possible. I emphasised, as I tend to do, that the basis for all engraving is getting the design and execution of fine scroll down and looking great before trying to move on to the more elaborate work. There is always a tendency with people starting to engrave, to race in and try and compete with the master engravers in the game scene and relief work arena, an area I have always felt best avoided until the scroll is mastered, why run before you can walk! After all who wants a game scene surrounded by badly executed scroll? There is scroll, be it fine or bold on every gun, but by no means do all guns have game or other fancy engraving work specified. Scroll and perfect lettering are the fundamentals as far as the gunmaker is concerned.
This 20g hand detachable lock gun is now the 4th gun the engraver has executed on commission for us in the traditional Westley Richards pattern. My message in this post is to thank him for his work, for listening and staying with the programme to get the fine scroll nailed. I know for both him as an individual engraver and for us a company the method will pay dividends and for my part it will be a great pleasure watching his work develop over the coming years into what I am quite sure will be something very special indeed, after all I have seen the practise plates and what is to come!
It was some months ago now that I posted the first photographs of this .470 rifle, just after it had been case colour hardened. I posed the question about leaving the colour on, or brushing the colour off, the post attracted numerous opinions. (Previous Article).
Here, at last, we see the finished rifle together with the final choice of the client, the case colour left on, the rifle ready for the bush and the natural wear that will occur over time.
In my opinion the correct choice, I always liked the big carved R.B.Rodda rifles with their case colours and I believe this rifle continues in that vein. In the opinion of Paul Lantuch the engraver, the incorrect choice as I know he wanted to see the rifle showing off the engraving at its best!
Either way this engraving work is spectacular and the rifle has, and I am sure will continue to receive many favourable comments from people who have seen it. Not a bad slab of timber also!
A Westley Richards .470 Hand Detachable Lock double rifle. Engraving by Paul Lantuch. Cased by Westley Richards leather shop in a traditional lightweight green canvas Safari style case.
The drawings are transferred to the guns with some corrections according to the real “geography” of the objects. I’m practicing on steel copy of British coin, 38 mm in diameter, the figure of Pistrucci’s St. George is bigger than the horsemen on the shotguns, any way, technically it is close. Sending photos of all stages of unfinished experiment.