Single shot rifles have always held a fascination with rifle shooters. From earliest times they were the benchmark for accurate shooting and held sway for decades as the rifle of choice for serious competitive shooting. Most of the major British sporting arms manufacturers have at one time supplied single shot rifles from flintlock through to the centre-fire breechloading era.
Yet another first calibre wise for us recently was the completion of this heavy barrel plains game rifle in .270 Winchester Short Magnum. The .270 WSM is one of those cartridges born of the ‘magnum’ craze and was introduced in 2002 by Winchester. Based on the .300 WSM (introduced in 2001) it has the same case necked down to accept .277″ bullets in the 110 to 150 grain range. Compared to the original .270 Winchester the long time favourite of gun writer Jack O’Connor, the more modern magnum version of the .270 unquestionably has greater velocity and a flatter trajectory.
This particular rifle is intended for shooting plains game out to longer ranges and has been built with a heavier barrel contour and recessed muzzle crown to assist with both stability of the rifle, whilst eking out every last ounce of accuracy.
Scotland is without doubt one of those magical places where sportsmen armed with rifle, gun and rod can still pursue quarry in some of the most outstanding scenery found anywhere in the world. On an island now heavily populated and ever more restricted, Scotland remains one of the last bastions of the wilderness, a place where the environment and weather are still capable of reminding you that nature is a force to be reckoned with.
‘Sporting Estates’ as they are known became fashionable in Victorian times and even with the current political climate they remain the favoured retreats of sports men and women from around the world. Last May we were lucky enough to head up to a small private estate in Aberdeenshire for a spot of roebuck stalking, in particular looking for bucks out on the open hill.
A first just completed by us is this detachable barrel Westley Richards magazine rifle in .450 Rigby. Over the years we have built magazine rifles in all manner of cartridge, but this is the first to be built in .450 Rigby.
The cartridge has an interesting history as it is one of very few ‘new’ cartridges introduced by any of the British rifle makers over the last three decades. The concept for the cartridge came from Paul Roberts former owner of J.Rigby & Co back in the 1990’s. Paul is acknowledged as one of the most experienced big game hunters in the UK and still continues to build rifles for a small and loyal clientele under the Roberts name in the south of England.
It is hard to believe that we completed these guns 20 years ago when the only serious pandemic of that time was the fear of the ‘millennium bug’, a software technicality that was going to bring the electronic world to a crashing end. Thankfully nothing happened and we all started the new millennium with renewed excitement.
The Millennium was for many gunmakers a golden opportunity to produce some unique and in many instances one off guns. Holland & Holland, James Purdey and Westley Richards were just some of those lucky enough to have the patronage of some very serious collectors who lavished orders for many individual and often extravagant sets of guns.
Recently through our hands were this lovely pair of Westley Richards 12 bore Ovundo shotguns. Completed in 1937 the guns have until now remained in the same family and retain great mechanical and aesthetic condition. Whilst single Ovundo are not particularly uncommon, pairs of Ovundo really are. We have only ourselves seen three pairs, two of which were droplocks, which makes these fixed locks quite unusual. They were clearly built for British game shooting and quite amazingly for such big looking guns they weigh a very respectable 6lbs 10ozs with 27″ barrels and 14 3/4″ stocks.
The guns are one of the several variants made available by Westley Richards in the Ovundo model, these being of fixed lock, side plated, single selective trigger configuration. First patented in 1914, fixed locks followed by droplocks were offered with square back, scroll back and side plated action options. Side opening ports came on the highest grade droplock sideplated versions with Westley Richards famous single selective trigger an obvious choice for the ‘modern’ over and under sporting gun. The unique Westley Richards top lever and safety thumb piece were a distinctive feature that were incorporated into the Ovundo from the very start.
These particular guns exhibit wonderful bold acanthus scroll engraving with a fabulous ‘Celtic’ motif along the barrel bar. This elaborate design really complements the surface area of the sideplated gun and gives a real presence to the large size of the action. Even as potentially fixed lock working guns, they were clearly of ‘best’ finish.
As so this week we come to the magazine rifles and yet another week in isolation. As you all probably know, Westley Richards has been building magazine rifles for as long as suitable actions were available. Single shot rifles were the order of the day until reliable repeating rifle actions became available able to handle ‘modern’ smokeless powders.
Naturally Paul Mausers action of 1898 remains the firm favourite amongst British classic rifle manufacturers and over the years we have used all manner of variants from original Oberndorf ‘Sporters’ to Military ’98’s to the modern production actions coming out of the USA and Germany.
Whilst fixed barrel rifles have always been a given, the ‘detachable barrel’ or take-down configuration has become a firm favourite within the Westley Richards armoury. Over the years we have been lucky enough to build our rifles in most of the popular big game calibres as well as our own proprietary ones, the .318 and .425. The detachable barrel version making for an elegant and practical travelling rifle.
Anyway, we hope you enjoy the selection below and wish you once again a safe week ahead.
That most classic of calibres the European 9.3 x 62 built to our ‘Modele de Luxe’ standard in a detachable barrel configuration. This rifle once again displayed a variety of engraving techniques with a beautifully carved ‘Maral’ stag on the floor plate.
Afternoon ladies and gentlemen, we trust that you are all keeping well and managing to entertain yourselves with guns, rifles and hunting stories?
So we come to some of the more rarified of Westley Richards weapons manufacture – sidelocks. Whilst the hand detachable lock (droplock) has always been the pinnacle of Westley Richards production, sidelock double rifles and shotguns have always featured throughout the production of our ‘sporting’ guns and rifles.
As with all things Westley Richards, subtle nuances distinguish our sidelock double rifles, including our unique model ‘C’ dolls head fastener and wide pivoting lever work, Deeley catch forend fastener from the competition, making these rifles instantly recognisable as a Westley Richards.
This recent .375 H&H Magnum calibre sidelock exhibits ‘aggression’ in all the game scenes bringing to life the actual rifle. The elaborate scroll is wonderfully executed with gold accents and a gothic text.
Here at Westley Richards we are proud to be developing some of the future’s finest gun makers, engravers and leather workers in the world. None more exemplify this than the exceptionally talented Léo, who at 22 has already played an instrumental part in the creation of our new exhibition magazine rifle “The Roebuck Rifle”.
In June 2020 he will celebrate 2 years with Westley Richards and has certainly come a long way since he sent a chance letter to the company, all the way from Belgium, to enquire about an apprenticeship. It is clear that our dedication to working with young talent, giving them unique opportunities and watching them thrive is at the very heart of the Westley Richards DNA.
Léo, where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Belgian countryside, in a little village outside of Liège.
Did you always want to be a gun engraver?
Not exactly. I did always want to have an artistic job but in fact only started to think about the engraving profession a few months before my studies began in this subject. The idea first came to mind when my father took me to a hunting show where my soon-to-be teacher, Pierre Dôme, was performing a demonstration for the Léon Mignon School of Liège.
What did your education/apprenticeship entail?
At Léon Mignon School I learnt the two key areas of engraving both the handcraft and drawing. This included traditional techniques of hammer and chisel and the hand-chisel as well as technical drawings of ornament composition and game-scene sketches. Thereafter I taught myself how to use the pneumatic chisel and stereo zoom microscope, which I use today.
Hollands ‘.30 Super’ cartridge is without doubt one of those all time classics that spurned a modern generation of .300 magnums. Introduced in 1925 it was developed to fill the gap between Hollands .275 and .375 Magnum cartridges, at a time when the British gunmakers were competing incessantly to cater for a booming worldwide hunting market. India and Africa were the principle hunting destinations of the time where the topography and native big game species allowed for the use of these ‘modern’ long range magnum cartridges.
Interestingly the .30 Super does differ from the .300 Holland & Holland Belted Magnum so care must be taken when loading for this particular cartridge. As a cartridge the .30 Super was capable of handling 150, 180 and 220 grain bullets all of which respectively proved devastating on medium to large game. Elmer Keith the famous American gun writer, editor and hunter was a big fan of the cartridge and built several rifles up which he used to take numerous North American big game animals including several trophy class sheep.
As the .300 Holland & Holland Belted Magnum the calibre won world acclaim in 1935 when it was used to win the Wimbledon Cup at 1000 yards. Such was the success of the calibre that it led to a new generation of American magnums including the .300 Weatherby Magnum introduced in 1944 and the .300 Winchester Magnum introduced in 1963.
This particular Holland & Holland take-down rifle was built in 1928 and so can claim to be one of the early .30 Super’s. In pretty much original condition, the rifle has a used look about it yet the bore is still sharp and the rifle a slick shooter. Contained in its original canvas case the rifle makes for a great usable vintage rifle.