Making The Bournbrook Leather Collection – Pt. 2

A couple weeks ago we featured the first part of “Making of the Bournbrook”, giving you a behind the scenes look into our creative exploration from collection concept to design. In the second and final part, we continue our journey through the rigorous detailing of material selection, production sampling, tests out in field and ultimately the delivery of our final bags.

To meet the dedicated high standards of quality that the Westley Richards name is globally recognised for, ever since our founder coined the mantra – “to be the maker of as good a gun as can be made” – we put no time limit on these stages to achieve the pinnacle of end results.

First critical decision came in the form of material selection. Westley Richards has had a long relationship with both its leather and canvas manufacturers, however we felt this an ideal opportunity to research new partners. After much time spent sourcing, meeting and testing new options nothing compared to our existing relationships… I’m sure there is an old adage for that.

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Making The Bournbrook Leather Collection – Pt. 1

At the end of last year we launched the first members of our new Bournbrook travel bag collection. Conceived, designed and importantly hand-fabricated by our expert leather department here at the Westley Richards’ Pritchett Street headquarters.

Unlike our fellow gunmakers we uniquely manufacture all our fine and exotic leather goods, both sporting and travel, in-house and side by side with our gun making. For myself and others alike, it is a great pleasure to witness English craftsmanship at its zenith within these four walls; and of particular importance, that Westley Richards continues the Midlands’ proud heritage as the centre of England’s leathermaking since time immemorial.

The Bournbrook’s journey begun early in 2019. With aims to expand our leather offering through a new luxury lifestyle collection, the team’s initial focus centred on ‘town and country’ as a territory. Many patrons of the company split their time between their residences, the city and the field, and therefore a collection that travels with them at every moment revealed itself as an ideal place to begin.

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The Finest Westley Richards .425 Magazine Rifle Ever Built!!!

Without really realising it we are a very lucky bunch here at Westley Richards. We get to spend our time building some of the worlds finest sporting guns and rifles, all in the name of work. Every single gun and rifle that we build is unique to the individual and as such genuine ‘one of a kind’ items that allow both the patron and the gunmakers here at Westley Richards to indulge themselves.

Now the level of individuality expressed in an individual gun or rifle can be either heavily influenced by the patron or more hands off, left to the spirit of the gunmaker. It was with this latter attitude in mind that one of our long standing patrons put to us ‘build the best damn .425 magazine rifle that you have ever built!’

Well here is just that rifle. What you see before you is unquestionably THE FINEST Westley Richards .425 detachable barrel magazine rifle ever built by the company, one that exemplifies the very meaning of ‘excellence’ in a modern British sporting rifle. Not only did we get to build a rifle how we wanted to see it, but what better way is there to reward someones faith than by producing something truly exceptional.

Black Rhino feature on the inset panel of the left side of the unique Westley Richards extended magazine.

The basis for this ‘special project’ started several years ago when we were approached to build a ‘Model de Grande Luxe’ detachable barrel magazine rifle in our own iconic .425 Westley Richards calibre. At the time nothing of the wood or engraving was discussed, quite simply we examined all the features that might go into making this rifle something special, a platform from which to build a rifle the likes of which we had never had the opportunity to do. We naturally began with a modern Mauser ’98 action with double square bridges, a side safe and traditional interchangeable flag safe, strap over comb, extended guard tang and a peep sight.

The action would be of our detachable barrel configuration, variants of which we have been producing since pre-War days. The detachable barrel was an important feature of this project as it would allow us later down the line to fit the rifle into a neat more ‘balanced’ case.

Almost unique to Westley Richards the action was also hand fitted with our ‘side clips’ and radius lifter which appear on many of the higher quality .425 calibre rifles built by us over the years. These combined features help with the feed of the cartridge which has a rebated rim and so needs a controlled and positive pick up and feed into the chamber.

No piece of the rifle has gone without some form of engraving ornamentation. Carving, elaborate scroll, intricate gold line work, checkering and beautiful flush gold inlays feature throughout the rifle.

Another interesting feature of this rifle which has probably not been picked up on before is the extended magazine release catch inside the trigger bow. Whilst widely used on British Mauser ’98 based rifles (and now most modern rifles) older .425 rifles tended to have the earlier lever release mechanism as seen on many original own brand Mauser ’98 rifles. Several years ago we built a classic .425 and at this point machined our own extended magazine boxes with the ability to release through the trigger bow. Whilst only a minor modification, aesthetically it makes a huge difference where a rifle is likely to be heavily engraved. Not only that, but the lines of the rifle with the big magazine look more trim.

Traditional open sights sat on our house style quarter rib, with the classic Westley Richards combination foresight, all of these features complemented on the barrel with the addition of a traditional ‘hook eye’ sling swivel base.

Cape buffalo in a savana setting sit within the inset panel of the right side of the unique Westley Richards extended magazine. 

Turning to the engraving of the rifle this is where the patron of this rifle took the ultimate ‘leap of faith’. He left the decision entirely to us. At this point you know that you have to produce something really quite outstanding and in our mind was to execute something of a classic yet extravagant nature, befitting of a ‘Model de Grande Luxe’. We looked to the era of the maharajas who had a penchant for gold work, elaborate scroll and game scene engraving. Engravers of that time had only ever seen animals in books and perhaps zoos if they were lucky and so game scenes of that time were more often naive in execution. Today we have the finest photography and to a degree time. With this in mind it was decided to bring together the skills of three engravers so bringing the very best of each element to the rifle.

Stunning, stunning walnut with Westley Richards traditional ‘kidney’ cheekpiece and checkered side panels reflect the heritage of this rifle.

A stunning East Africa bull elephant strides from the base of the magazine. A bongo adorns the trigger bow and a leopard the door of the grip trap cap.

So it was that the engraving began with the most careful of fine gold border inlay. This task in its own right is a difficult one as against the bright of the steel the gold lines can look deceptively neat. It is only in the final finishing that the true straightness and sharpness of execution can really be seen. At this point the animals were decided upon and whilst the Dangerous game or ‘Big 5’ of Africa were a natural choice, warthog, bongo and waterbuck would add a little novelty. Once again these were executed in flush gold with fine detailing, the bull elephant on the base of the extended magazine looking particularly impressive. Elements of carving were then added to features of the rifle, the remaining space being filled with a beautifully delicate, yet masculine scroll. No area of the rifle went un-noticed including the swivel bases and trigger.

The lines of the rifle speak only of elegance. Even a large calibre rifle can be built to look attractive to even the untrained eye.

With such a unique rifle it was only fitting to finish the project off with a suitably matching case. So it was that a brown buffalo skin best quality oak and leather case was created, the internals fully French fitted in green goat skin. The external would be protected by our signature outer cover with patron detailing. The hand made tools, sling and pouches add a further refinement to the internal fitting, all finished off with a gold leaf impressed lid insert, all once again carried out by hand. All in all the rifle and its case has consumed hundreds and hundreds of hours, utilising the finest crafts men and women. Ultimately that is what it takes, along with a generous and visionary patron, to produce the finest .425 magazine rifle ever built, in fact one of the finest rifles ever built in our history.

This rifle will be on display with us at both the Dallas Safari Convention and Safari Club International in 2020.

A Twist In The Tigers Tail – Westley Richards .577 ‘Gold Name’ Double Rifle

The Westley Richards Gold Name model of gun and rifle is something long synonymous with the company. Back in the pre-war era of gun and rifle manufacture, a gun or rifle was fundamentally a tool that needed to perform flawlessly either out in the covert shooting driven game or tackling dangerous game in the thick jungles of India and Africa. Tastes back then were more subtle and a gentleman did not openly display lavishness.

Engraving on guns was confined to traditional scrolls, each company designing its own unique ‘house’ pattern. Westley Richards had its own version which remains faithful to the original design to this very day. The unblemished lines of the droplock action allowed for a beautiful ‘name in rolling banner’ which formed the centerpiece of the main action body design. Thousands of guns and rifles were built with this ‘best’ scroll design, the first examples being the fixed lock guns from 1875.

The vividness of the case colour hardening can make all the difference with a ‘Gold Name’ gun or rifle. The checkered side panels is a feature from the very earliest fixed lock guns.

How and why the Gold Name model came about is certainly open to a little debate. The most obvious reasoning is the discount offered by not having the full engraving. Early literature describes the ‘Westley Richards Hammerless Ejector Gun – Plain Quailty’ at a cost of 55 Guineas, the ‘Westley Richards Best Quality Hammerless Ejector Gun’ at 70 Guineas. For the absolute purest looking for nothing but mechanical perfection the difference in cost would certainly have made a difference. Interestingly, later literature made a more positive point of having the droplock gun without all the engraving. Handled correctly and from a pure marketing point of view, Westley Richards was able to capitalise on a larger market share capturing what we might term today the ‘aspirational buyer’.

That all said, how do we really perceive the Gold Name model? Truth be told an absolute masterpiece! Whilst some may think the lack of engraving suggests a cost saving, in real terms the unadorned weapon actually requires a higher level of finish as there is nowhere to hide any imperfection.

Many, many years ago when Roy Hill (former workshop foreman and harpoon specialist) was around and paying us a visit I asked him why were the majority of British built guns fully engraved, considering we were well known for the Gold Name model? In Roy’s usual matter of fact way he responded ‘Well where do you hide a tree? In a forest. Where do you hide a scratch? Among other scratches!!!’

Not the most subtle of answers I grant you, but to this day it has stuck with me and in fairness every Gold Name gun or rifle that we have completed since, of which I seem to be the biggest advocate, has a level of critical perfection that drives the gun makers here crazy.

The original sketch for the ‘Tiger’ as executed by Paul Lantuch.

The actual ‘Tiger’ executed in the Japanese style with carved steel and inlaid gold.

Turning to the Gold Name rifle you are looking at here, this is anything but a simple rifle. When originally ordered the specification was for a pre-War configuration Westley Richards best quality hand detachable double rifle in .577 3″ Nitro Express. This specification meant extra cased hand detachable locks, Westley Richards patent single selective trigger, patent combination foresight, hinged cover plate, bolted safety, model ‘C’ dolls head fastener with patent lever work, scroll back action, extra foresight beads contained in brass tin, checkered side panels, traditional WR cheekpiece…………….The only modern(ish) twist was the extended strap over comb.

Initially the engraving was going to be a full on exhibition piece but as the years ticked by the client developed a hankering for something more pure. Hence the idea of producing a Gold Name rifle with a gentle twist came to mind and so as the rifle reached the engraving stage a few basic concepts were thrown our way with only two provisos. Firstly, what engraving there was had to be as near perfect as possible. Secondly, that master engraver Paul Lantuch had to design and execute a tiger in whatever style he saw fit for the rifle. The client would have no further involvement or decision making.

After a brief discussion, Paul came up with the idea of executing a tiger in carved inlaid gold, a style familiar to students of Japanese arms. Certainly unique in this instance, the design would act as both a centerpiece, whilst simultaneously complementing the other gold detailing found on the rifle.

Beautiful exhibition grade walnut counters the simplicity of the engraving.

Now complete, cased and ready to go, the rifle without doubt highlights the skills of many talented craftsmen and women. It has tested all those involved in putting this unique project together and confirmed that not everything simple is as easy to build as it looks. The rifle has an understated grace backed up with some considerable firepower and we would like to think that the gunmakers and hunters of 100 years ago would approve of this Gold Name ‘Tiger’ rifle.

This rifle will be on display with us at both the Dallas Safari Club Convention and Safari Club International in 2020.

Stunningly Classic Westley Richards .404 Now Complete

Due out the factory in the New Year is this stunningly classic .404 Jeffery calibre detachable barrel Westley Richards magazine rifle. Images of this rifle appeared a couple of months back fresh from engraving, the ‘Rose & Fine Scroll’ engraving creating quite a stir among our more traditional clients.

As mentioned then, classic rose & fine scroll engraving is a tradition of the London gunmaking houses so it was a very nice departure for the team here at Westley Richards. Our intention (which we hope we have attained) was to build a classically featured, classically engraved and classically finished rifle that would fit comfortably with the guns and rifles built during the pre-war era. This era is considered one of the finest in the history of British gunmaking, where the actual build quality and final execution mattered more than fancy embellishment.

The careful use of case colour hardening, blacking and light blue, is an important element of this rifle, as with the exception of the platinum engraving the rifle is intended to be very understated.

As a calibre the .404 Jeffery is one of those great work horses, once the preferred cartridge of the East African game departments. The rifle is set for a big safari next spring, rightfully out where it belongs in the great hunting fields of Africa.

The contrasting case colour hardening, blacking and light blue makes for a classic finish to the rose and fine scroll engraving.

The more liberal use of case colour hardening harks back to guns built in the pre-war era.

The balance of rose and scroll is best observed looking down onto the rifle. Small pockets of fine scroll allow for a ‘fuller’ coverage. 

New Westley Richards 20g ‘Ovundo’ Just Completed

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’.

Stunning Westley Richards .375 Sidelock Double Rifle

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!

A New Westley Richards ‘Rose & Scroll’ Engraved Magazine Rifle

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. 

A Sweet Little .410 Westley Richards Heads Across The Pond

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.

Delicate .410 Fine Scroll Westley Richards Droplock

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.

Stunning detail on the cover plate.