A Droplock Masterpiece From Engraver Vince Crowley

This last week Vincent Crowley payed us a visit to deliver back one of his more recent masterpieces. Vince and I have known each other from our earliest days in the ‘gun trade’ having both started out with Westley Richards. It has been a pleasure working with him for over 20 years now, on some of the finest guns and rifles to leave the Westley Richards factory.

Vince has always been one of those lucky talents and I remember with envy some of the exceptional pieces he created as little more than a kid. Both of us have matured (supposedly!) since those early days and through the kind patronage of some fantastic clients, have been privileged to put together some genuine masterpieces of the gun-maker and engravers art.

Gold feathers add beautiful detail to the lock plates.

The gun shown here is one of our classic hand detachable or ‘droplock’ shotguns in 28 bore. With this particular gun Vince has used a process where raised steel scenes are actually carved onto the main action body and cover plate, rather than being of a relief carved style. This gives the scenes unparalleled dimension and it is almost as though the birds are flying out of the backgrounds and streaming past you. For interests sake, the gun is adorned with Bobwhite Quail, Chukar and Pheasant, with a Black Labrador on the trigger guard bow.

As we have come to expect with Vince, the rest of the gun has a wonderful combination of super fine rose bouquets and scroll, carved fences, pierced lever work and super delicate gold work. All of us are very much looking forward to seeing the finished article, as there are a few other nice touches to complete the final package.

Pheasant adorn the cover plate, whilst a Black Labrador retrieves a bird.

Bobwhite quail stream down the right side of the action.

New ‘Modéle de Luxe’ Westley Richards 20g Droplock

A few months ago we posted images of this gun fresh back from engraving and now here it finally is all complete and ready to head out to the USA. The transformation from ‘in the white’ parts to a finished gun really is quite distinctive and the gun as a whole becomes an object of both gunmaking art and functionality.

One of the more subtle features of the gun is the actual colouration of the steel after it has been case colour hardened and subsequently brushed. All of our double guns and rifles go through the case colour hardening process as carried out by the St.Ledger brothers here in the old Birmingham gun quarter.

Before CCH the steel has a certain silver quality about it that is in basic terms raw and bright. The actual CCH process creates a surface hardness which allows the steel to flex under stress yet provides a protective outer shell or ‘case’. When the fine surface layer of colour is actually removed the steel maintains a slightly more greyed tone which adds a real subtlety to parts that might otherwise look like a shined coin!

In direct sunlight it is often possible to see the very finest traces of colour which can be used effectively to enhance the engraving of the gun. Some engravers will insist on finishing their own work for this very reason. With Westley Richards, no matter who is finishing the gun or rifle, we always try to leave CCH on the triggers, action flats, action face, forend iron and inside the trigger bow. This always adds a tasteful touch, particularly when the gun is disassembled for travel. It also seems such a waste to remove them all!

The gold flush game scenes must be carefully cleaned and highlighted after the case colour hardening process.

The finished article in its lightweight leather case, complete and ready to go.

Westley Richards .22 Rook Rifle

How nice is this?! The latest treasure to arrive at the factory is this simply stunning little Westley Richards .22 rook rifle. Originally built in 300 calibre, it has been Parker rifled to .22LR, as were so many rook rifles over the years and comes complete with an Aldis Bros Ltd scope on Parker Hale rings. The 25” octagonal barrel with matted top is fitted with a standing 50 yard express sight and two folding leavings regulated at 100 & 150 yards.

The action has our classic semi bold scroll coverage, snap lever work, beetle back safety and retains lots of original case colour. The pistol grip stock, which has been pinned at the head, is beautifully figured and has an extended tang, grip cap, silver stock oval and vulcanite stock extension to 14 ½”. The snap forend has the traditional horn tip.

A quaint and very rare little rifle, it weighs 6lbs 13.5oz with the scope on and the rifle comes in the original case with some interesting accoutrements. Completed on the 22ndMarch 1907 for ‘Twyford’, it was, for many years, the property of Major Ernest & Mrs. Vivian Ambler, of Branton Court, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.  Major Ambler of the West Yorkshire Regiment passed away in 1958 and Mrs. Ambler, who lived to be 94, passed away in 2002, which was when this rook rifle was acquired by its latest  owner, another passionate collector. Their house was said to be a treasure trove of fantastic art work, antiques and arms. And clearly this little rook rifle had spent many years in a fine gun collection being well looked after.

 

The last time a rifle like this arrived back at the factory was in 2002 and was fortunately caught on camera. For those who don’t know, Clarissa & The Countryman was series of TV programmes in the UK which followed TV chef Clarissa Dickson-Wright and her friend Johnny Scott, involved in hunting and all things country pursuits related, a show which now would be the thing of nightmares for mainstream media bosses.

The TV crew paid Simon a visit at the Bournbrook factory and below is a short video of Simon inspecting a very similar rook rifle and an interview with barrel filer Roy Hall and mater engraver Rashid El Hadi (with a small clip from the proof house half way through).

Pre-Season Preparation

As I sit and write this latest blog the UK is currently in the grip of a heatwave and the mercury is due to hit 88°F here in Birmingham today, which is hot for England! With weather like this, thoughts of last winter’s sport are a distant memory and it’s hard to image that in just over 6 weeks’ time we will be putting back on our tweeds, dusting off our shooting kit and heading north for the start of the grouse shooting season.

While most people are thinking about the beach rather than the shooting season at this time of year, estates all over the UK have been busy preparing for this coming season’s sport from the moment the final horn blew on the last drive back in February. Relying on purely wild numbers only, moorland keepers are taking stock of what grouse they have on the ground from their spring and summer counts and are planning drives and days accordingly. Lowland keepers are beginning to welcome this year’s birds to the woods and over the next few months will be feeding them into the various drives of the shoot. Equally as important will be the job of pushing back straying birds from the boundaries with their dedicated team of dogs.

We’ve been busy preparing guns for the coming season. We have recently completed an engraving job on a pair of droplocks for an American client who asked us to polish out the old scroll engraving and re-engrave a Cock Pheasant and Hen Pheasant motifs on the cover plates. Beautifully executed by Bradley Tallett, the iris of each bird is gold inlaid along with a gold ring border. The surrounding space is tastefully engraved with scroll work to match the rest of the action. Next step is to case colour harden the plates and brush and ink the motifs.

The client and his team are regular visitors to our shores to hunt driven pheasant and partridge and these guns are now a fitting homage to their chosen quarry.

Wishing all of our American readers a happy Fourth of July!

Unusual And Unique New Pair of Westley Richards 20g Droplock Shotguns

Westley Richards is noted for the diversity of engraving that regularly graces the pages of this blog and it is always fun to note peoples reactions to the individual projects we undertake.

The pair of guns shown here would appear at first glance to be a pair of sidelock shotguns, but are in fact a pair of our side plated droplock shotguns in 20 bore, fitted with all the usual Westley Richards features, including our single selective trigger. As an alternative to the traditional sidelock shotgun they make for a great gun and are without question unique to Westley Richards.

As you begin to scroll down through the images you’ll begin to notice just how different the engraving is! The client in this instance lives both in the UK and South Africa these guns being a reflection on his various passions. In the UK he has a wonderful Aston Martin DB5 and regular fly’s around in his Squirrel helicopter. Down in South Africa he keeps a vintage Willy’s Jeep from World War II and lives within view of Table Mountain one of the most easily recognisable landmarks. The Giraffe is a favourite animal of the family and we had to be very carefully in the selection of the correct sub species as the various giraffe found throughout Africa have quite distinct markings.

The guns are wrapped in a tight rose and fine scroll pattern with the usual 1 and 2 numbering replaced with a single pheasant flying and a pair of pheasant flying. Complemented with a buffalo skin case the guns carry forward the Africa theme and should certainly make for an interesting conversation piece come the shooting season!

Aston Martin DB5 And The Southern Giraffe In View Of Table Mountain.

The Family Crest Adorns The Underside Of The Actions. 

Vintage World War II Willy’s Jeep And Squirrel Helicopter.

A Westley Richards 20g Droplock ‘Texas’ Bird Gun

Destined once again for a good client of ours in the USA is this sweet 20g droplock shotgun. As the client is based in Texas it was only natural to engrave the gun with some nice scenes of dove and Bobwhite quail set amongst some of the cactus brush country familiar to his own ranch.

The scroll is a slightly finer version than we usually use on the larger frame guns and rifles, but we feel that everything should be scaled and in proportion with the frame size. You’ll also notice some rose bouquets which we think add a tasteful look and break to the overall engraving design.

One final feature that always works well with these small bore guns are the carved fences which always add a touch of masculinity to an otherwise delicate gun.

Flushing Bobwhite quail in Texas brush country.

Carved fences always add a nice touch to our delicate bird guns.

Classic dove game scene on the right side of the action.

Heel & Plates with horn centre.

Fabulous Lovenberg Engraved Hartmann & Weiss Rifle Trio

We make no apologies here at Westley Richards for showing you some of the finest guns and rifles built by some of the worlds greatest craftsman. Included in this list of master craftsman are without doubt Gerhard Hartmann and Otto Weiss, founders of Hartmann & Weiss, gun and rifle makers of Hamburg, Germany.

For many years, perhaps decades, they set the standard for excellence in gun and rifle manufacture so encouraging a whole new generation of craftsmen both in Europe and the Uk, a benefit to us all and the industry as a whole.

This set of three take down bolt action rifles in .300 Winchester Magnum, .416 Rigby and .500 Jeffery, are testament to their continued skill. What makes them even more special is the fabulous engraving executed by master engraver Alain Lovenberg. The detail and precision of work is without compromise and explains why Alain has forged such a reputation in the engraving world. It is great to see his level of workmanship on these three fine rifles.

At SCI this year I had the pleasure, along with several other gunmakers from both the Uk and Europe of sharing Otto Weiss’s company at the bar for a few beers. Whilst you might take him for an unassuming and quiet old man, he can still hold his own at the bar regaling many a fantastic tale of yesteryear. Later this year Otto celebrates his 80th Birthday, a landmark by anyones reckoning, even more so when you consider he still turns up for work every day!

Elegant lines in keeping with vintage British rifles.

Fantastic design and execution by master engraver Alain Lovenberg.

Intricate engraving detail throughout the rifles.

.500 3″ Droplock Double Rifle Fresh Back From Engraving

Fresh back from engraving is this super .500 droplock double rifle with bold scroll engraving, gold naming and a game scene of a hunter being charged by a bull elephant.

The game scene is an interesting and not unusual concept which always poses the question ‘What happened next?’ For anyone who has ever been in such a situation there is nothing more exciting! A large bull elephant with ears spread wide, kicking up dust is a truly intimidating sight, one that makes even the largest of double rifles seem small in the hands of the hunter.

More often than not the tension is relieved by the mutual backing off of both parties, each content to go their separate way. Then again, should it all go wrong…………………..!!!!!

Super ‘Modèle de Luxe’ Westley Richards 20g Droplock

Elaborate scroll designs have featured more and more in the engraving of Westley Richards droplock shotguns in recent years.

Over a century ago, such guns were promoted by the company as ‘Modèle de Luxe’ featuring the ‘highest quality and finish’. These guns compared very easily and often surpassed in both quality and price the very best guns being built in London at the time. The general demise of the gun trade post World War Two, combined with the worldwide financial ravages of war saw the rapid decline in the ordering of such guns from the Westley Richards books.

Westley Richards 1912 catalogue describing the ‘Modèle de Luxe’ droplock shotgun.

Fast forward to the 1990’s and from the USA came a renewed interest in the British gun trade signalling what would become a renaissance in the hand made gun and the craftsmanship associated with it. A modern age of collectors started to push the gunmakers for models and a quality of product not built since the war.

At the same time a new generation of engravers were coming to the scene capable of executing some extraordinary designs. Thus saw the re-birth of high art guns and the first of a new generation of Westley Richards ‘Modèle de Luxe’ and ‘Modèle de Grande Luxe’ guns and rifles. Though originally few in number, recent years have seen a big shift in the production of these very individual guns and rifles.

The gun shown here is a 20g droplock featuring elaborate etched back scroll with carved fences and a Setter flushing two Bobwhite quail. Inlaid in gold the Setter is integrated within the scroll design so adding a realistic feel of being stood within the cover.

Exquisite Westley Richards .410 Droplock

Happy New Year to you all! What better way to start the new year off than with this exquisite little .410 droplock that was completed just before the Christmas break.

Beautifully engraved with Bobwhite Quail scenes, the gun was fully case colour hardened and then the two game scenes carefully brushed off to highlight the detail. The elaborate scroll with gold bordering is not something we have done for the best part of 25 years now and this updated version reminded us just how good it can look on a small frame scroll back action.

Once again the gun is stocked with a fabulous piece of Turkish walnut which has stunning figure and depth of colour, unquestionably complementing the full case colour hardening.

We are now about to hit the show circuit in the USA and very much look forward to meeting with our clients both old and new, perhaps discussing that special little gun that you are sure is missing from your armoury!

Delicate Bobwhite Quail game scenes decorate the action sides.

Stunning Turkish walnut complements the case colour hardening.

Full case colour hardening.

 The devil is in the detail!