Through the works and looking quite stunning this month is one of our Westley Richards 20 bore ‘Ovundo’ shotguns. As previously mentioned this gun is one of the original 13, a project that was originally commissioned in 2004. Even by modern gunmaking standards the renewed ‘Ovundo’ project has been a long affair!
Historically speaking, the first ‘Ovundo’ patents were registered in 1914 as the scramble among British gunmakers for something new and exciting in the world of guns, took Westley Richards, Boss, Woodward, Edwinson Green and others in the direction of the over and under shotgun. The concept itself of the over and under was not a particularly new one as British makers had been making over and under pistols and rifles since the flintlock era.
During the next two decades the Westley Richards over and under was driven to its own level of perfection with models based around the two key actions associated with the company, namely the ‘boxlock’ and ‘hand detachable lock’. Looking to the under hook barrel design for the rotation of the barrels on the action Westley Richards ‘ovundo’ was unquestionably a deep actioned gun compared to the Boss design of 1909. However the depth of the action allowed for the fitting of components based around the boxlock and hand detachable lock design and it has to be noted that making the ‘ovundo’ a hand detachable lock really took some doing. The gun really is a mechanical masterpiece.
Variants on these two actions included double and single triggers, non-ejector and ejector, scroll back, side plated and availability in both shotgun and rifle calibres as well as the ‘Faunetta’ and ‘Explora’ rifle choked formats. These variations make the ‘ovundo’ genuinely collectable as you never quite know what might turn up in the market.
Vivid case colour hardening adds impact to the bold etched scroll design. The gold lettering stands out crisply against the colours. The ‘ovundo’ features Westley Richards signature top lever shape and safety button.
Vintage Westley Richards promotional material showing the exact format of gun as built today. Whilst the ‘ovundo’ project has been a long one it highlights the level of skill required to build a gun that has unique features in the over and under market.
The side opening ports on the dummy lock plates are a unique feature of the ‘Ovundo’. Simple maintenance of the single trigger was achieved through these ports, whilst also adding a little novelty to the design. Westley Richards has always had a knack of outdoing itself!!!!
The etched background to the elaborate ‘acanthus’ engraving design adds a sharpness to the engraved coverage.
A beautiful green goat skin lined lightweight leather case complements this modern ‘ovundo’.
So here it is finally finished, the first .375 H & H calibre sidelock double rifle that we have built in modern times. Scaled onto the appropriate frame and incorporating Westley Richards unique model ‘C’ fastener and top lever work, the rifle has its own distinctive look and elegant lines. Without any form of bolster the sides of the action provide a clean canvas on which the engraver can indulge their art.
Richly coloured exhibition wood once again sets Westley Richards apart.
This rifle pays homage to three of the famed ‘Big 5’ and it is only now that the rifle has been hardened, brushed and lacquered that all the detail really stands out. The darkened cut away back ground contrasts wonderfully with the elaborate scroll, motifs, gold work and finely depicted game scenes. The scenes were intended to be more animated with fighting bull elephant and buffalo on the respective lock plates.
Westley Richards unique model ‘C’ dolls head fastener with wide pivoting snap action lever work makes a great area to elaborate and embellish.
Fighting bull elephants in clouds of dust with cattle egrets highlight the right hand lock.
Built in Hollands iconic .375 belted magnum cartridge this calibre remains to this day a firm favourite on safari and we continue to build both magazine and double rifles in this calibre. The addition of quick detachable scope mounts and a Swarovski Z6I scope not only adds versatility to this rifle but also helps those whose eyes are not quite as sharp as they used to be!
Now brushed the detail in the engraving is even more spectacular. Such detailed work is time consuming but certainly worth all of the effort when finally finished.
Complete in a buffalo hide lightweight leather case with a classic complement of horn handled tools the final package is simple yet stunning!
Every now and then a maker needs to deviate a little from the norm and so it is with this .404 Jeffery calibre take down bolt action rifle that we had the opportunity to lay down our own interpretation of best ‘rose & scroll’ engraving.
Fine ‘rose & scroll’, or ‘bouquet & scroll’ as it is also known, is a pattern of engraving that can trace its ancestry back to the mid 1800’s. Developed in the London gunmaking houses, it still features on best guns and rifles there, Boss & Co. being the most notable.
Even today, vintage guns engraved meticulously by hand set the standard by which modern guns and rifles are judged. Subtle nuances in the execution and layout were the difference between ‘best’ and ‘also ran’. Names such as Harry Kell and Jack Sumner were famous for their exceptional standards and today pre-war guns engraved by these masters still hold a premium.
With all this in mind we decided it was time to take one of our own rifles and execute under the careful hand and skilled eye of Brad Tallett, our take on this classic pattern. The results are unquestionably elegant with wonderful pockets of detail utilising all the design attributes you might expect on a double gun. The cut of the engraving is absolutely vital as it needs to catch the light just right, hence traditional hand engraving is a must.
In preparation now for final finish we cannot wait to see how the case colour hardening, black, and light blue, highlight the engraving on the various surfaces of the rifle.
The classic Westley Richards combination foresight is wonderfully detailed.
Pockets of fine scroll interspersed with elegant rose bouquets and geometric patterns adorn the surfaces of the rifle.
An elephants rear foot print is carved into the grip trap door.
All lettering and numbering is executed in platinum.
With the US dove hunting season now underway and quail season only around the corner it is always great to see another of our .410 droplocks head Stateside to indulge in a touch of some fine sport. This particular little example has been engraved by Vince Crowley with delicate fine scroll, carved fences and a beautifully etched game scene of a Woodcock flighting through the timber.
Unusually with this gun the client asked for a ‘staggered ribbon’ gold name border on the sides of the action which lends itself tastefully to the execution of the engraving, allowing a different interpretation of the centre panel. It just goes to show that you can never rest on your laurels, but must continually strive to improve, often in the most subtle of ways.
The ‘staggered ribbon’ gold name adds a subtle variation to the engraving.
A stunning etched scene of a Woodcock in the timber.
Looking down onto the action, the vivid case colour hardening adds a touch of flare to the delicate engraving.
Fresh from engraving is another of our ever popular .410 droplock shotguns. Over the years we have worked on scaling every detail on these fine little guns to such an extent that the engraving has now become an important and final element of this process.
Westley Richards traditional house scroll can trace its ancestry back to the earliest guns produced by the company. Guns of the muzzle loading era were ruled by the larger 12, 14 and 16 bore hence engraving designs were bolder with large scrolls to provide more coverage and suit the tastes of the time. With the advent of the Anson & Deeley boxlock gun design of 1875 Westley Richards ‘house’ engravers had the final canvas on which to perfect the companies own scroll design, one that remains the standard for the guns and rifles built today.
Interestingly, small bore guns built on scaled action frames were often the tool for boys and consequently lacked any real engraving, more often the only form of engraving was the Westley Richards name simply adorning the action sides.
Fast forward to the re-introduction of the droplock .410 in 1989 and you’ll note that one of the first guns produced from the original batch of six was engraved by the renowned Brown brothers (Paul & Alan) with a beautiful bouquet (rose) and fine scroll design. Whilst game scenes also featured on this gun, the small scroll design really lifted this little gun into a new light.
Over the last couple of years, several of these modern droplock incarnations have been handed around various engravers each of whom has given their own unique twist on this beautiful design. The images which illustrate this blog shows one of the latest which you really must see in the hand to truly appreciate. Whilst it is a given that the gun is small, the delicate nature of the scroll design really does complete the refined scale of this gun.
The Westley Richards patent top lever makes a great canvas for the delicate scroll.
The ‘scroll back’ of the action creates a natural starting point from which the scroll can emerge and flow.
The application of gold on traditional sporting arms—and especially on British examples—is a very easy thing to get wrong. Recall that the aesthetics of Britain’s classic designs, their shapes, their lines, their engraving, evolved during an age and in an empire where ostentatious decoration on firearms was generally frowned upon.
In English Guns & Rifles, J.N. George’s fine 1947 treatise on the evolution of British sporting arms, the author noted a trend evident by the late 18th Century—“a marked tendency toward greater simplicity of form, combined with the abolition of all kinds of ornament which might impair either its utilitarian value or its appearance of neatness and smooth finish, began to be apparent in all forms of the sporting gun.”
Broadly speaking these strictures dominated British gunmaking, and British gun engraving, throughout the 19th Century and well in to the 20th. Lavishly embellished outliers, with some exceptions, are most notably the guns and rifles made for the princes of India and the royalty of the East, to whom Westley Richards was a favourite gun and rifle maker.
By its nature, gold—in all its flashy, sometimes heavy opulence— can readily overwhelm the spare elegance and quiet lines of a traditional English firearm, and often does when applied—unless the applicator has not only hands of great technical virtuosity but also the eyes of an artist and an aesthetic taste congruous with the object to be engraved.
As his gold inlays and the bejewelled engravings on the India Rifle (2013) and the Africa Rifle (2016) illustrate, Lithuanian-born and America-based Paul Lantuch possesses each of these talents. This spring, after 6 1/2 years in the making, Lantuch completed the ‘Arab Warrior Guns’, a pair of sidelocks, the third and fourth examples of the largest, most expensive, and the most elaborate commissions that Westley Richards has placed with an engraver since the Boutet Gun of the 1980s, engraved by Alan and Paul Brown.
The pair, 12-bore rounded-body sidelocks, feature panoply of carved Arab warriors with interwoven Arabesque ornamental motifs against a full background of inlayed, stippled gold. Built for a member of Qatar’s royal family, there is more precious metal on display on these guns than at Fort Knox, but … but—and I say this as a conservative rose & scroll purist—the effect is sumptuous, certainly regal, but not gaudy, nor garish. That is because Lantuch’s design effectively integrates the figures and ornaments in with the gold in a manner so that no one element visually dominates another, nor does the gold crush the fine lines of the canvas—which is, after all, a traditional British shotgun.
Lantuch is first and foremost an artist; he studied at Lithuania’s Vilnius Institute of Arts, and is accomplished in many mediums—drawing, painting, printmaking, and creating jewellery of elaborate and innovative design. The late Simon Clode, in his 2013 introduction to Lantuch on The Explora, wrote: “Gun engravers who can draw and design are scarce, engravers who can conceive, draw, design and execute to the standard of Paul are even scarcer.” Clode—not only a connoisseur of engraving but a champion of the art and a sponsor of talented young engravers—recognised something special after Anthony Alborough-Tregear brought Lantuch’s work to his attention upon seeing it at the American Custom Gunmakers Guild Exhibition, in 2011 in Reno.
The process of embellishing the Arab Warrior Guns began in 2016, beginning with discussions between Lantuch and Clode about depictions of mounted warriors struck in fighting poses. The concept called for the figures and ornaments to be carved and depicted in relief against a stippled golden background, as if they were set on shimmering sands in the sunlit deserts of Arabia. “The balance of figures to the gold surfaces had to be carefully calculated,” emphasised Lantuch. In his final design this balance, to my mind, is the key to the success of the composition.
Lantuch and the team at Westley Richards exchanged notes and photos of evolving designs over two-and-half months until the right concept crystallised. The physical process of engraving started, Lantuch explained, with him transferring the drawings on to the steel surfaces with a needle, then cutting contour lines. Lantuch shaped and carved the warriors with a variety of chisels.
“The figures are actually based on 19th Century Orientalist European art, rather than real Islamic iconography,” Lantuch explained. “The ornamental work is florid in style, with geometric inclusions; this is called Arabesque, a kind of European interpretation of Islamic art.”
With flat chisels Lantuch removed steel for the background down to a depth of 1.5mm, and he then punched thousands of dots into the recesses before crisscrossing them with a sharp flat chisel. This creates a gripping surface for the gold inlay. Then, using pure 24-karat gold wire—and a lot of it, 1.8 ounces for the two guns—Lantuch hammered and inlayed the gold with a flat punch, then textured the background with special tools that he made himself.
After the guns were returned to England and had been traditionally pack-hardened nearby in the premises of Birmingham’s famed Richard and Bob St. Ledger, Lantuch flew to England to begin the two-week-long finishing process.
The correct finishing of any carved gun is critical to the quality of its final appearance, and it is a delicate, painstaking multi-step process. First, the case colours must be removed, but not all of them, so to account for and to accentuate shadows and highlights, and the figures and ornamental motifs re-detailed and their lines sharpened where necessary. In some places the background needed re-matting and, beautifully, the gold seams between the action and lockplates were hammered and joined as if each action was one unit. “Paul essentially sealed the guns’ actions to mate up all the goldwork,” said Alborough-Tregear. “It gives the guns a svelte, almost organic quality.”
Though best known for its hand-detachable droplocks, Westley Richards still builds sidelocks, and the mechanics of the Arab Warrior Guns conform to the firm’s preferred modern-day configuration for its sidelock shotguns: Boss-type bar-action locks, rounded actions, Southgate-type ejectors, with H&H-type assisted openers, and single non-selective triggers. The 29-inch barrels are fitted with gold and ruby foresight beads.
Despite the carvings and gold, the guns appear as fleet as the long-limbed Arabian stallions portrayed on them. They are even lightweight—6-pounds, 8-ounces each. “Regrettably, many London guns are now getting heavier and heavier, with loggish, long barrels made to fire heavy cartridges—really missing the point of a fine gun,” said Alborough-Tregear. “The Westley Richards round-body guns are so elegant you could easily mistake our 12s for 16s.”
The pair is housed in an oak-and-leather case appropriate to the guns: outwardly clad in best black alligator hide, French-fitted, goat-skin lined, all metalwork gold plated, tools made with horn handles, and geometric marquetry in the frame, the owner’s name hand-embossed in traditional gold leaf. It is a showcase in the most literal sense of the word and befitting of display in any museum of the arts.
Vic Venters is a journalist and author of The Best of British: A Celebration of British Gunmaking, as well as Gun Craft: Fine Guns and Gunmakers in the 21st Century. He has covered the British and European fine gun trade since the early 1990s and is the Senior Editor of America’s Shooting Sportsman magazine.
After a two-year hiatus, the Scottish Sporting Journal is back, injecting a modern design into a much-loved 40-year-old title; the same passion for Scotland, captured and documented in a new, exciting way. Evolving from the Gazette to the Journal, this 180-page bi-annual magazine is a visual and written journey through Scotland’s wild places, capturing the passion, craft and pursuits within them.
The ethos behind the publication is that Scotland represents a way of life that is long lost to much of the modern world; a way of life in which the people, wildlife and landscape are all intrinsically linked. The aim of its content is to share this emotion and experience, offering true escapism to their readers. From chasing brown trout in small spate rivers to stalking stags in the Highlands to spending time with faraway island communities, Scottish Sporting Journal puts the focus on visual storytelling, capturing the essence of what makes Scotland such a unique country.
Volume II, Issue I highlights include:
– The Arab Warrior Guns from Westley Richards A unique pair of museum-quality featuring the most prolific gold inlay coverage of any guns they have built in their 207-year history
– Hunting with golden eagles We head high into the Cairngorms National Park to witness golden eagles hunting mountains hares in their natural habitat
– Hidden Scotland with Jim Richardson Renowned National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson shares some of his favourite images from his adventures around Scotland
– The new spirit of Scotland With Scottish gin reportedly set to usurp whisky in the next 12 months, we visit the Isle of Harris distillery to see it first hand
– Exploring the Isle of Arran Known as Scotland in Miniature, we explore the many sporting opportunities and way of life on the Isle of Arran
– Spearfishing in remote seas Spearfishing guide Will Beeslaar heads into the cold waters in pursuit of Pollock, with bespoke underwater photography
– Salmon fishing on the Spey A morning with ghillie Roddy Stronach, who has lived and worked on the Spey for 15 years, to understand how the role of a ghillie is changing
Hot off the press and looking magnificent is TheExplora journal by Westley Richards. This last week we received the first 10 copies for approval and we all have to say that it surpasses even our demanding standards!
Having taken 2 1/2 years to bring to fruition it was with great excitement, trepidation and relief that we got to handle the first copies fresh in from the printers. This project was a true labor of love for the team here at Westley Richards, so it was finally great to see the fruits of all that hard work.
The front cover features Westley Richards stunning and as yet unseen ‘Forest Rifle’, a magnificent .600 droplock double rifle specially commissioned to reflect the Central African forest environment. Fully carved in exceptional detail with the flora and fauna of the forest floor, the story of this rifle unfolds in the stunning photography The Explora fans have come to expect from Westley Richards.
Other articles, specially commissioned, focus on engraving, gunmaking, historical weapons, shooting and gun fit, topics we hope will be close to the heart of many an avid sporting man and woman.
Presented in a beautifully-designed luxury format with a combination of high quality uncoated and gloss coated paper stock and an outer cover finished with a scratch resistant matt lamination with spot gloss varnish and gold foil embossed logo. The 180-page journal, epitomises the exceptional standards and painstaking attention to detail synonymous with Westley Richards.
With a limited print run of only 1000 copies, never to be re-printed, The Explora journal is set to become a collectors item that no self respecting Westley Richards afficiando should be without.
The first copies to clients will be coming out in the next few weeks so for those of you yet to place your order now is the time!!!!!
To order your copy of The Explora journal click here
Westley Richards is a name synonymous with rifles; double, magazine and single shot. Over the years the reputation of the company has been founded on large calibre rifles that have proved effective on all the worlds big game. The list of big game calibres built by the company reads like a who’s who of the very best the British gun and rifle makers could produce, ever since the introduction in 1898 of the first .450 3 1/4″ nitro express metallic cartridge.
With such a reputation for large calibre rifles it is a genuine pleasure to get to build the first and probably only .22-250 Remington calibre take down magazine rifle in the history of the company. This fine little calibre can trace its ancestry back to the 1930’s and the boom in wildcatting that our good friends in the USA were running with. In essence the .22-250 is the .250 Savage case necked down to take the .224 bullet. It was officially adopted by Remington in 1965 and has been chambered in production rifles by most of the major rifle manufacturers ever since.
Principally a varmint (sorry ‘vermin’ for us Brits!) calibre it is also a devasting Roe deer calibre north of the border here in Britain. Unusually and much to our gratification, this rifle is intended for use here in the Uk which makes this an extra special build for the factory as most of the guns and rifles we build head overseas.
A Swarovski 1″ Z3 scope in old school claw mounts sits well on the rifle making use of the original rear square bridge.
When building a rifle of this scale in British terms the key to the build is in the action. You need something small and being a British riflemaker that traditionally has to be a Mauser ’98. Now modern small ‘Kurz’ (short) actions are available, but with a project this unique you really need to look for something special. So it was that we pulled from the depths of the factory an original Mauser Oberndorf Kurz action with a rear single square bridge still retaining its original factory fittings for a quick detachable scope system.
Taking things a step further it was decided to build the rifle as a takedown, the smallest of which we have built. This in itself was an interesting excercise as we opted to review the takedown release catch traditionally found on the right side of the forend, to use a revised underside catch fashioned in the shape of our famous Deeley forend catch so giving the rifle that classic Westley Richards touch.
Case colour hardening predominates tthe finish of this rifle enhancing the unusual ‘Byzantine’ design.
Engraving wise the client requested a design based around ‘Byzantine’ motifs. The Byzantium period in history is said to span over 1000 years so clearly there was a lot to chose from so with the aid of the client, a geometric border (found commonly on gold jewellery of the period), combined with a floral motif was used as the basis for the engraving with the family crest set in the centre of the floorplate surrounded by a design that was taken from an architectural feature. To cap it all of the clients initials for both the stock and case disk were engraved from the Uncial alphabet!
Looking down on the rifle the elegant lines are enhanced by the rich black, electric blue and vivid case colours of the final finish.
In its finished state with the addition of a case colour hardened floorplate and magazine box the rifle is a wonderful mixture of the old and the new. The original Mauser ’98 Kurz action was without doubt the right way to go with such a project and we trust that complete in its traditional lightweight canvas case this unique little rifle will give its owner decades of fun and pleasure.
A close figured exhibition grade piece of walnut furnished with heel and toe plates sets the rifle off.
The sidelock double rifle is one of those rarified items from the house of Westley Richards. Known traditional for our hand detachable lock guns and rifles, every now and then we love to throw a sidelock gun or rifle out there just to show the London houses what the team here in Birmingham are capable of achieving.
In this particular instance, we have a fantastically proportioned .375 H & H Magnum calibre double rifle which has proved to be a great platform for this exceptional engraving. The design combines elaborate scroll with gold inlay and impressive scenes of elephant, buffalo and lion. The scenes have real movement about them which adds genuine character to the rifle and gives the whole design a unique flow.
Our sidelock double rifles have really proved in recent years to be the basis for many great museum-worthy projects including the ‘India’ and ‘Africa’ rifles, with several more exceptional pieces already in the pipeline. We will keep you posted as these projects progress as some exhibit embellishment techniques not seen since the days of the Maharajah’s.
A lion snarls out from the underside of the action body.
Wonderful gold detailing adorns the elaborate scroll. Our sidelock in unique to Westley Richards in that it incorporates our famous model ‘C’ dolls head fastener and snap action lever work.
Bull elephants in battle adorn the right lock plate.