Recently we were privileged to have a two-week visit from master engraver Paul Lantuch as he completes the finishing on a pair of ornate guns that had just returned from case colour hardening. As those of you may already know, Paul is the mind behind the elaborate ‘India’ and ‘Africa’ .600 sidelock double rifles that were completed in recent years. These were some of the largest engraving commissions undertaking here at Westley Richards and Paul continues to execute on our behalf projects of outstanding quality, creativity and technicality.
During his visit, we took many photos that we thought would be worth sharing with you as they show part of the process involved in the careful removal of the case colour hardening and subsequent re-working of the gold inlay as executed on this pair of shotguns. It goes without saying that the work was both time consuming and delicate. We will share the final results with you when the entire project is complete.
The component parts as returned from case colour hardening.
Re-detailing the top lever and sharpening the edges of the carving.
Re-matting (or stippling) the goldwork was a labour of love.
The gold edges needed careful blending.
One side of the action as yet untouched.
The horsemen now gently brushed back and the sculpting highlighted.
Delivered this season is this magnificent pair of our ‘Modéle de Luxe’ hand detachable lock shotguns. Whilst the small bores remain popular in the USA here in the Uk the seasoned game shooter still likes the versatility of the 12 bore shotgun and invariable our orders here tend to lean towards pairs as driven game shooting continues to boom (no pun intended!) as a sport.
The use of a pair of guns is the ultimate in game shooting and whilst initially it takes a little time to adjust to, once mastered brings a whole new dimension to game shooting. The finest game shots in the country make it look effortless and easy, cleaning picking a pack of grouse or partridge apart, or tackling stratospheric pheasant often having 4 dead in the air. For those of us lucky enough to get the opportunity to ‘double gun’ it is one that should be relished.
For visiting sportsman coming to shoot one of the many legendary shoots here in the Uk, our advice would be to go the extra mile and treat yourself to a day or two shooting a pair of guns, you will not be disappointed by the experience!
Prince of Wales gripped stocks, single triggers and 30″ barrels with Teague multi chokes are the order of the day. Such a pair is versatile enough to tackle buzzing driven grouse and stratospheric pheasants.
Elaborate scroll coverage with carved detailing and gold lettering is a feature of this modern interpretation of the ‘Modéle de Luxe’ gun.
Just back from engraving is this latest interpretation of the Westley Richards ‘Ovundo’ model 20g shotgun. The Ovundo project was reintroduced in 2004 after an absence of 60 years and it must be admitted that it has turned into a real labour of love. The gun is complex to say the least as it incorporates Westley Richards famous hand detachable locks and single selective trigger. The best grade guns and rifles had the side plates with side opening ports as shown here.
The British over and under shotgun has always been a complex affair and the Ovundo probably pushes the boundary of what technically can be built into an over and under gun whilst remaining faithful to the companies unique patents and designs. The Ovundo is a technical marvel (perhaps anomaly?!!!) and in the sleek lines of a 20g it is contrary to popular belief a very elegant gun.
This particular gun has a modern take on an elaborate scroll design that was first seen on a Maharaja Ovundo rifle that resides here at the factory. The fences have been carved in a suitable scroll design which carries forward onto the barrel breech ends before turning into an almost Celtic design along the barrel bar. Interestingly with vintage Ovundo’s there seems to be a lot of variation in the engraving pattern from gun to gun, certainly more so than the house scroll droplock sides by sides that the company built during the same period. So it goes that all the Ovundos built in the modern era have varied in engraving design, so carrying on the tradition of individuality.
Carved fences and bars is a feature of all the modern Ovundo.
The elaborate scroll design carries well across the hinged cover plate and trigger guard.
Raw back from the skilled engraving hands of Vince Crowley comes this stunning little .410 droplock shotgun. It is often difficult with an image to appreciate just how small these guns are and so for a change we decided to add a little sense of scale with a 10 pence coin rightfully showing the Queen face up.
As with scaling anything, so the scroll engraving itself must be scaled to fit the finer proportions of the .410 action body and parts. This finer scroll concept was started many years ago at Westley Richards by Rashid El Hadi who many of you will know was one of the most talented engravers of his generation. Whilst Rash may be remembered for his exceptional creative designs and execution of such masterpieces as the ‘Hummingbird Gun’, it was some of his finer work that really showed the skill of the man.
Thankfully these skills were passed on to Vince who has carefully and very skillfully carried this concept forward with the gun you see before you.
In this particular instance the client had seen an earlier example of this fine work and requested a revised version with carved fences, a staggered name banner and an elegant Woodcock in flight game scene. We hope you will agree that Vince has captured everything the client wished for magnificently.
The gun will now go for full case colour hardening of all parts which should add another dimension to the overall look of the gun. Subject to how the case colours complement the gun, will determine the final finish. We will post pictures once back from hardening and perhaps put the question to you.
Absolutely stunning Woodcock game scene!
Staggered banner proudly bearing the Westley Richards name.
Super fine detail on a small frame gun cannot be beaten.
With the African hunting season well under way and members of our own team here having recently returned from their own adventures, it is great to have completed yet another droplock double rifle destined for some action in the bush.
One of the true stories behind the rifles and for that matter guns we build is the fact that they do actually get used! People often assume that these rifles end up in some private collection never to see the dust of Africa, but the reality is quite different.
Whilst recent years has seen a proliferation of fancy rifles, Westley Richards heritage is based on building rifles that do the business when the chips are down. This particular rifle has a game scene that perhaps harks back to yesteryear, yet is as relevant today in rifles such as this .500 3″ nitro express.
Super vivid case colour hardening adds greatly to the deluxe relief scroll.
Many a story filters back to the factory of how a charge was stopped or a serious incident averted by the swift handling and serious firepower packed in the twin barrels of a Westley Richards double rifle. The double rifle is considered by many the ultimate weapon of choice for the hunting of dangerous game and has stood the test of time since the first heavy breech loading black-powder bore rifles of the late 1800’s.
We very much hope that this rifle begins its own series of tales over the coming years and that we remember why such rifles are considered the pinnacle of gun making.
For some hunters a nightmare, for others the day they dreamed of!!!!!
Full case colour hardening of all the metal components lends a touch of uniqueness to the finish of this rifle.
Stunning walnut as always!
Cased extra hand detachable locks – a typical addition with droplock double rifles.
With a bank holiday approaching this weekend we thought it would be good to let you ponder this magnificent little 28 bore droplock shotgun that has recently been finished and is out for delivery to the client today. Completed to our ‘Modele de Luxe’ standard this pretty little gun once again typifies the quality of workmanship that is being painstakingly produced here at the Westley Richards factory. No detail has been overlooked from the elegant lines of the gun, to the stunning engraving, through to the hand made tools, case and cartridge magazine.
The classic hallmarks of the Westley Richards hand detachable lock (droplock) action, scroll back, hinged cover plate, wide top lever with model ‘c’ dolls head fastener, single selective trigger and distinctive safety button.
The real beauty of this project was the patience and trust that the client showed in Westley Richards. What originally started out as a ‘test’ piece for his relationship with the company, developed into a ‘well clearly you know what your doing, I’ll keep out of it now’. And so with that kind of trust placed upon us we set out to deliver a unique piece of work that we very much hope surpasses all of his expectations!
Exceptionally fine detail in the engraving of this gun continues to raise the bar here at Westley Richards. This particular work was executed by Vince Crowley.
Beautiful French fitted lightweight leather case with hand made tools.
Projects such as this really are great fun for all involved as they develop into much more than delivering ‘just another gun’. Talking through our own ideas with the client turns this into something very personal and as you will have seen from blogs posted in recent months, every gun and rifle we now build has some individual twist, in our opinion the very essence of having a ‘bespoke’ gun or rifle made in the first place. To those brave enough to trust us we say thank you and to this particular client we say ‘wait until you see your next project!’
Glorious Turkish walnut finished with a Woodward grip and heel and toe plates once again demonstrates Westley Richards commitment to producing the truly ‘bespoke’.
Bespoke leather upright cartridge magazine made to complement the gun case and complete a fantastic all round package.
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.
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.
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).
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!