Delivering a new double rifle to a client always has a good feeling, not least because it has probably been in production here at the factory for the best part of three years! The craftsmen have spent considerable time and effort slowly building the rifle through its various stages of production, the finished article an accumulation of many hundreds of hours of work.
Whilst many things can make the rifle special or unique to the individual owner, one of the very first considerations is the choice of calibre, something that may have taken many months to initially consider, often consulting trusted friends and even more trusted professional hunters!
From Westley Richards own perspective what makes this rifle so interesting is the fact that it is built in our proprietary .425 calibre. Now to those of you unfamiliar with the round, the .425 was introduced in 1909 by Leslie B Taylor former Managing Director of Westley Richards and one of the foremost ballistics experts of his time.
What makes the .425 so special is that it was designed as a short round to fit into a standard length Mauser 1898 action. Longer rounds like the .416 Rigby had to be built into magnum length actions which were of course more expensive to manufacture. Many today would argue that the .425 was the first of the ‘short magnums’, with its short, fat case there is certainly a strong argument for this title. Firing a 410-grain soft nose or solid bullet the round became a firm favourite of none other than Captain F.C.Selous shortly before his death in World War I.
Wonderfully, this rifle is the first to be produced in a double for the best part of 15 years and whilst we have put a couple of modern magazine rifles through the books it really is great to see this double go out. It will without question see use in the field these next few years and if its magazine rifle predecessors are anything to go by then it should be a great success. The calibre is notoriously accurate and pleasant to shoot, making it ideal for all round dangerous game hunting. We wish the new owner much luck and fun with this modern take on a great calibre.
Vintage examples of Westley Richards .425 ammunition sit next to this modern production rifle. The rebated rim of the cartridge is a distinctive feature.
The completed package now ready to leave the Westley Richards factory.
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.
Once again the team here at the factory have put together a super two rifle battery of magazine rifles destined in this instance for Africa. In .375 H & H Magnum and .500 Jeffery, these two rifles are capable of handling all that Africa has to throw at them from its diminutive plains game right through to the heaviest dangerous game.
Both calibres have formidable reputations and really should need no introduction. The .375 has been regulated to shoot 300 grain loads, whilst the .500 shoots its classic 535 grain bullet, in this instance Woodleigh Weldcore’s, from modern Kynoch ammunition.
As is becoming the norm with our ‘Modéle de Luxe’ guns and rifles, only the very best walnut has been used as this makes such a statement when viewed by even the most casual of observers. We take great care in sourcing only the very best and like to think that the clients expectations will be more than surpassed.
Full deluxe scroll, gold lettering and game scenes complemented by deep black, case colour hardening and light blue finish.
Engraving wise the client had asked for our deluxe scroll with gold naming throughout and the addition of a Cape Buffalo game scene on the .375 and a Bull Elephant on the .500. With our classic combination of blacking, case colour hardening and light blue finish the overall look of the rifles is subtle and classic.
Heading south of the equator shortly, these rifles will be sure to get a lot of use, with the team here at the factory keen to see the results of all the hard work. It is one thing to build beautiful rifles, but as the saying goes ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’ or in this case the shooting!
Spectacular matching wood for the rifles.
Cape Buffalo and Bull Elephant adorn the floor plates of the two 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.
It never ceases to amaze us of the depth and variation shown by our predecessors here at Westley Richards. In fairness, with over 200 years of history there are always going to be new finds and something interesting to arouse the collectors or hunters eye.
Take for instance this Westley Richards .318 magazine rifle completed in 1909. It has all the best features of a Westley Richards bolt action of the time including horn tipped bolt handle, wooden side panels, edged cheek-piece and bold scroll engraving. However, of far more interest is the full length engine turned rib which is finished at the muzzle with Westley Richards patent flip over combination foresight that actually recesses into the rib!
The amount of work required to do this would have been considerable and the attention to detail shown by some long lost gun maker is all that we have come to expect of historical Westley Richards.
The story does not end there. Attached to the cocking piece is a Rigby style peep sight which allows for a clear view all the way along the top rib as the actual express sight consists of totally flush fitting leafs regulated out to 500 yards! The peep sight itself has been regulated to match perfectly with these leafs.
The rifle retains most of its original finish including take down cleaning rod in the butt plate and spare foresight beads in the grip trap. To find a rifle in this condition, in this configuration really is a rarity and it always reminds us that you have never seen it all and never know what might just be out there!
Lovely traditional bold scroll coverage.
Horn tipped bolt handle. A classic Westley Richards feature.
Scooped top rib to accommodate Westley Richards flip over foresight protector.
The full length engine turned rib is an unusual feature of this rifle.
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.
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!
Although the primary focus of the factory is new gun and rifle production we do have a small amount of repair and refurbishment work taking place. Mostly on used guns that we have sold that need a service, alteration of stock measurements or a general freshen up before being delivered to the successful buyer.
One such pair that has just been completed is this very beautiful pair of 20g droplock shotguns. Completed in 2000, built for an American gentleman, they were kept here in the UK and shot every season. The guns were returned to us last year to be sold and the new owner, another American gentleman, has decided to also keep them here in the UK for his annual pheasant and partridge shooting trip.
The guns are a matched pair of best quality 20g droplocks with 27” barrels, scroll back, double trigger actions with elaborate scroll coverage and stunningly figured 14 ¾” stocks. Choked ½ in all 4 barrels they are the perfect all round guns, from early grouse through to late season pheasants. The guns are perfectly balanced and are quick in the hands like a 20 should be. Cased in their leather case with canvas outer they are very presentable and attractive pair of guns.
The stocks have had all the handling marks removed and have been gently refinished with our high gloss finish. The barrels have been best re-blacked and both actions and lock work have been completely stripped, cleaned and checked over, ovals have been polished and engraved and the leather shop have made a new lightweight canvas outer with initial patch. The team have done a superb job on the refinish of the guns and they are now safely stored and awaiting the arrival of their new owner.
As another busy week draws to a close and we head into the bank holiday weekend, below is a small selection of shots from the factory floor. Although this is technically deemed as the quieter time of the year, there’s certainly no let-up in the work load and we’re as busy as ever!