When I first arrived at Westley Richards, one of the areas that really impressed me was the quality and depth of photography the company had produced over the years. This in large part began with Simon Clode, the former Chairman & Managing Director of the company, who as a young man developed a keen interested in the medium while studying art at the British Institute in Florence. It was during this time of experimentation with cameras, darkrooms and composition that Simon established his uncompromising eye for fine detail and appreciation of aesthetics.
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 commissioning a 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.
As another busy week draws to a close, we’ve brought you a selection of photos from the Westley Richards factory floor. Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, in accordance with government guidelines and strict social distancing measures, the gunmakers have not stopped working and the factory has been running full bore! A steady flow of new guns have reached completion and we are very grateful to our gunmakers and outworkers who have kept the wheels turning through such a difficult time. Fingers crossed we are through the worst of this virus and we are pleased to say the showroom is now open and the majority of WR is business as usual. So please feel free to drop us a line to discuss anything gun, clothing or hunting related!
The traditional gun making skills, which are unchanged for the last 100 years, are still very much common place in the factory. A smoke lamp is used by each gunmaker on a daily basis to identify the bearing parts of two adjacent surfaces.
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.
Three stunning pre-owned Bosis Michelangelo Over/Under shotguns are going up for sale in our Birmingham gunroom. Easily one of the finest handmade over/under shotguns produced today, guns made by Luciano Bosis are renowned for their shape, handling characteristics, superb fit and finish, their stunning stock blanks and, of course, their wonderful engraving. Just as one would expect, each gun in this composed trio, a 12g, 20g and 28g, is superb in all respects.
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.
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.
Stay safe and keep well.
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.
As so this week we come to the magazine rifles and yet another week in isolation. As you all probably know, Westley Richards has been building magazine rifles for as long as suitable actions were available. Single shot rifles were the order of the day until reliable repeating rifle actions became available able to handle ‘modern’ smokeless powders.
Naturally Paul Mausers action of 1898 remains the firm favourite amongst British classic rifle manufacturers and over the years we have used all manner of variants from original Oberndorf ‘Sporters’ to Military ’98’s to the modern production actions coming out of the USA and Germany.
Whilst fixed barrel rifles have always been a given, the ‘detachable barrel’ or take-down configuration has become a firm favourite within the Westley Richards armoury. Over the years we have been lucky enough to build our rifles in most of the popular big game calibres as well as our own proprietary ones, the .318 and .425. The detachable barrel version making for an elegant and practical travelling rifle.
Anyway, we hope you enjoy the selection below and wish you once again a safe week ahead.
That most classic of calibres the European 9.3 x 62 built to our ‘Modele de Luxe’ standard in a detachable barrel configuration. This rifle once again displayed a variety of engraving techniques with a beautifully carved ‘Maral’ stag on the floor plate.