Charles Boswell .303 Single Shot Rifle

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Above is the portrait of Mr. Charles Boswell (1850-1924) and no doubt his name will be familiar to readers of the Explora. From relatively humble beginnings and a love of shooting his entry into the gun trade, age 14, was through an apprenticeship to Mr. Thomas Gooch and two years at the Royal Small arms factory at Enfield as a sight filer. In 1872 he started his own gun making business, initially carrying out repairs and general gunsmithing. A much admired gun maker, he was popular with the ladies and a talented live pigeon shot, frequenting Hornsey Wood and Westley Richards’ very own Hendon shooting ground, North London, where his skills were noticed by the trap shooters of the time. Boswell would impress and schmooze these shooters, converting them into clients which was common practice for gun makers of the time, James Lang and Harris Holland to name a couple.

16-8The Westley Richards shooting school at Hendon, North London.

Considered to be no great inventor, he preferred to use other makers’ patents under licence but made a of variety guns including large bore fowling pieces, hammer and hammerless actions, muzzleloaders and pistols. Live pigeon guns proved to be Boswell’s specialty and took up a good deal of his production until the prohibition of live pigeon shooting in the UK came about in the early 1920’s. His 126 Strand address in the West End of London is his most famous and the majority of his guns in existence today bear that name.

An active member of the gun trade, in 1906 and 1907 he was elected Chairman of the Gunmakers Association and served it for many years. Around 1914 Boswell changed from having his guns proofed in London and instead moving them to the Birmingham Proof House. One train of thought is he was buying barreled actions in from the Birmingham trade, or another reason is he or his son, who was involved in the business, fell out with the London Proof Master. Hence why it is not uncommon to see his guns with Birmingham proof marks.

One such rifle built by Boswell, which is evidence of his skills as a gun maker, is this fabulous little .303 single shot rifle we currently have at the factory. Completed around 1905, it has the most superb and rare engraving, not commonly found on a rifle such as this. Featuring a selection of African plains game such as Eland, Bluewildebeest and Impala surrounded by intricate scroll work. The name C. Boswell gently rolls around the hinge pin on both sides of the action, the raised panel fences with their bold scroll fold round to the top of the action where I can only guess it to be a 1905 gun engraver’s idea of a Duiker, which stands alert on the top of the tang top lever. The engraving is though, beautifully executed and the three Eland on the right hand side of the action are very accurate and have to be my personal favourite.

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The rifle features a 28″ octagonal barrel with matted rib, ramp foresight, one fixed 100 yard express sight and six folding leaves regulated to 700 yards with the 126 Strand address engraved at the breech. A 14 1/4″ pistol grip stock with grip cap, cheekpiece, oval and Silvers recoil pad. The rifle weighs 7lbs 5oz and we think it’s a very cool little rifle and a great example of early 1900’s craftsmanship, imagination and flair.

Game Scene .577 Droplock Double Rifle

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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.

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A Vintage Game Scene Small Bore Rigby Rifle

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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!

J. Rigby Rifle #17394-3763-Edit J. Rigby Rifle #17394-3730-Edit The Bissell or Rigby ‘rising bite’ third fastener.

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New Westley Richards Website Launch

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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.

Click here to visit the new homepage.

A Stunning Pair Of Westley Richards Elaborate Scroll Droplock 12g Shotguns

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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!

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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’.

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A Traditional Westley Richards .500 Double Rifle

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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.

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A Westley Richards .600 Sidelock Double Rifle Back From Engraving

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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’.

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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!

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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.

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A Singular Piece Of Engraving Skill

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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.

WR .410 Hummingbird gunThe ‘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!

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The 4 Bore ‘Bicentennial’ Back From Engraving

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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.

Westley Richards 12g    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.

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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.

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A New Scroll Back .470 Droplock Double Rifle.

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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.

Westley Richards .470 Droplock Rifle.

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Westley Richards 470 droplock double rifleAn original .476 scroll back droplock double rifle built in 1929.