It is interesting to see that we have now built over one hundred .577 double rifles and that the calibre continues to be a favourite of our clients. This particular rifle, finished last week, was built to complement a .500 3″ droplock double rifle that we completed for the client several years ago, which has seen regular use in Africa.
He always fancied ordering something larger, but initially wanted to start with a calibre that was more manageable. Once he got used to the .500 3″, the .577 3″ seemed a natural progression, although in real terms it really is a step up from the .500 3″, delivering serious horsepower!
The rifle has the more square bodied action file up which was requested by the client. We offer this style and the more rounded body with the scroll back, found traditionally on our droplock shotguns. Featuring scenes of the ‘Big 5′ the rifle embodies all that is classic in a Westley Richards dangerous game double rifle.
Well here it finally is. A treat for the weekend. Several years in the making and several thousand hours later and our latest creation is ready to show to you complete in all its magnificent splendour.
Back in January we posted some pictures of this rifle fresh back from engraving with a promise to show you the finished article. Well perfection takes time and when you see the whole package as presented here you can understand why it has taken so long.
Whilst we are sure the rifle and its embellishment will not be to everyones taste, the level and variety of skills necessary to put a project like this together are the real challenge, particularly in this day and age. It is not every day that you get to see rifles completed like this and whilst we are continuing our legacy for such pieces, they are on the whole rare.
Highly embellished from muzzle to butt, the rifle depicts various hunting scenes from the great continent of Africa along with an assortment of flora and fauna. The execution is breathtaking, exhibiting carving, gold inlay, raised gold work and fine scroll, the actual finishing process after case colour hardening, adding to the character of the work. Strikingly the stock is inlaid with solid silver scenes of White Rhino and a pod of Hippo below a thundering waterfall.
Complete in a black alligator skin case with silver fittings, full complement of ivory handled tools french fitted into blue goatskin, with a pure gold leaf detailed lid interior, it certainly makes a statement. The lid is actually fitted with slide off hinges so that the rifle can be displayed in the lower case section only, should the new owner wish.
Not only are such pieces a credit to the craftsmen in Westley Richards very own workshops, but all those smaller tradesmen who contribute in their own unique way to the finished package that you see before you. The rifle and case embody all that makes British craftsmanship so special,and why patrons from around the world travel to these shores to commission such fantastic pieces. More importantly consider that such quality is still being produced here in the City of Birmingham.
The .500 3″ nitro express continues to be a firm favourite among the large bore double rifles that we build here at Westley Richards. We are often asked what are the most popular calibres for a big game double rifle and the .500 3″, along with the .470 3 1/4″, .577 3″ and .600 are certainly the leaders.
The droplock double rifle illustrated here is a little different to the .500’s that we normally build in that it has been built on a larger action frame. In recent decades the .500 was built on a trimmer frame which led to a final weight in the 11lb to 11lb 8oz region. This suited clients who wanted the firepower of a .500, without the extra weight in the rifle.
Records indicate that .500 double rifles built by the firm pre-war tended to be more in the 12lb to 12lb 8oz range. This particular client wanted to revert to that original weight specification and so it was that we built this very elegant .500 droplock rifle for him.
The rifle has all the usual hallmarks of a Westley Richards droplock double rifle, the subtle difference being the engraving which has carved fences in keeping with the scroll design, gold naming and a mean looking Cape Buffalo carved on the cover plate. We hope in the coming years it gets to add a few buffalo like this to its tally!
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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!
The Bissell or Rigby ‘rising bite’ third fastener.
Wonderfully detailed Indian big game scenes throughout.
Stepped breach, dipped edge lock plate and single trigger.
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.
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.