There are certain things that Westley Richards is famous for, such as the drop lock action, the .425 or the snap lever work, but the .318 Accelerated Express cartridge is about as Westley as it gets and one that provokes great emotion, not only with collectors but the ‘gun nuts’ here at the factory. This .318 that we recently acquired has been round all the gun makers, each one, in turn, taking his time to admire the shape, feel and form of a classic Westley rifle, hand crafted by their predecessors 104 years ago. They cannot but appreciate the skills they possessed, feel a sense of pride that this is ‘one of our own’ and then try and work out how they are going to acquire it for themselves! It’s really quite special to have this rifle back in our possession and a rarity to say the least.
The .318 is a thing of legend and its credentials needs no questioning. Formidable for its size and a firm favourite for many a hunter, with its 250 grain bullet, it’s conquered the largest of game and has been used around the world. Even after the release and rise in popularity of the .375 H&H Magnum it was still a hugely popular calibre and other gun makers built bolt action rifles in this calibre, proving the success and demand for this round.
This rifle, which is a really super example in characterful condition was completed in 1913, features a 22″ barrel with our combination foresight, raised express sight with one standing 100 yard and four folding leaves regulated to 500 yards. The action is engraved with bold scroll, chequered bolt grip, has a flag safety and a hinged magazine plate with release latch. The full pistol grip stock measures 14 1/2″ to the centre of the steel plated butt and has a grip cap with trap, side panels with points, horn forend tip, cheek piece and a neat peep sight fitted into the nose of the comb. The rifle weighs 7lbs 14oz, has been tested on our range and shoots a 1.5″ group at 50 yards. It will be on our used gun site soon!
It was a fine winter day, in the duck season. I had my pickup loaded with all things for an afternoon hunt. My Labrador, Miss Feather (Miss Duckhill Sheba’s Bournebrook Feathershower) had already occupied her place in the passenger’s seat for several hours as she always did on these days. I had worked through the never-easy task of selecting the gun and this one was well beyond ordinary. It was a Scott Premier 10 bore, with Damascus barrels. It was all done up in ducks as they often were, but this one was decorated with several odd and unusual species of sea ducks. I was almost out the door for the 1 ½ hour drive when I received word that Simon had gone to the other side.
My first reaction was not to go hunting, but then realized that was a very foolish notion, one that would disappoint him deeply. Instead, the day and the GUN would be a tribute. The Scott was befitting almost any occasion, but today it had to be a Westley and not just any Westley, but the finest one I knew. One only has to witness the title of these pages to know Simon valued Exploras and I value them as well. In fact I see them as the most complete and sophisticated firearms ever made. The gun today would be “The Queen of Birmingham” a Deluxe Explora and the most wonderful Explora and Westley I have ever met.
It came to me in a rather unusual way; out of an auction. I saw the gun, held it and crushing-love at first sight would be an understatement. It was glorious and essentially new… and I knew I could not afford it. A mutual friend liked the gun equally, but he had something I did not, an invincible purse. He told me simply to bid and buy the gun. If in the end I could afford the hammer price I could have it, if not I was to continue and buy it for him. I wrote a number, my very last number, down before the bidding began. The hammer fell on that number.
With it I began to perfect Explora ammunition, ammunition that would be ballistically identical to that which the great Leslie B Taylor had created. I used a ballistic technique similar to the originals to get 735 grains (1 ¾ ounces) to go 1250 fps at normal shot gun pressure. Then I developed bullets that would fly like the L.T. Capped originals. In the end I had a cartridge driving bullets that would fly exactly to those glorious sights, each and every one of them, all the way to 300 yards; and be deadly when they arrived.
The Queen performed wonderfully as a shot gun; taking valley quail, rare mountain quail, and ducks with perfection. Its crowning moment came late one autumn afternoon in the Sheep Creek Valley. The great yellow 6 x 6 bull elk walked out of the thick young timber into a room-sized open meadow and stood broad side. I was sitting with The Queen on my knees and made my best estimate of 250 yards and turned up that leaf. I looked at those massive shoulders over the sights, sights that were strangely rock solid and crystal clear. My son was beside me and I whispered, “250 yards????”… “Yes, very close”, was his reply. I pressed the front trigger. The big bullet arced across the valley and landed with a mighty “wok” as the bull lurch into the black timber. We listened, for there was nothing to see and suddenly there was a huge fir-rending crash in the timber, followed seconds later by another when the big bull slid out into a little clearing. The bullet struck the top of the front sight with laser precision, dead center and completely through both of his shoulders. She is a very, very special Westley.
I thought back on these things as we watched the sky over the pretty little pond. It was a still cold, a day without ducks. And then he came, the loan magnificent mallard drake with the most brilliant orange feet I have ever seen. He circled twice and levelled across the far side of the decoys; at 40 yards… almost too far for an Explora barrel. The same right barrel spoke and he folded; the only duck we saw that day. Feather broke ice to retrieve him. To me there was a perfection about it all.
It may seem odd that I waited so long to write this, but it took me time to heal and find the courage to fully address the loss of this wonderful man. While he was a bastion of the trade and a truly passionate gun person I think I miss that dry humour and wit most of all. Some time ago I addressed my Selvyt Pad and Tin for preserving the Westley Detachable locks in these pages. When he received this he feigned being stricken and stunned. He thought he had the only tin and I had poached in this sacred space. But then in virtually his last notes to me, he won the day as always, “Well only real Westley men have a tin”!
He does not know this yet, but a Hundred Pounder is making those tracks he is following.
New in this week from engraving is another of our traditional hand detachable lock double rifles in .500 3″ NE. This particular rifle has been built on a heavyweight frame as the client requested that the rifle weigh close to 12lb 8ozs on completion. Aesthetically the additional size at the breach ends makes for a nice sweep in the barrels which will become more evident once the rifle is finished.
Engraving wise we have another variation on our traditional ‘house’ scroll. In this instance the fences have been carved with a design that complements the scroll very well. The game scene of a mean old looking buffalo combines carving with fine detailing, as opposed to the more rounded carving of animals you get to see, which often lacks lifelike details. There is a nice perception of distance with the scene that should be highlighted more when the cover plate is blacked in the traditional manner.
We are looking forward to getting this one completed and out to the hunting field this year where with a bit of luck it will take a big buffalo or two!
Here we have a small selection of used guns that have recently come up for sale at our UK factory.
The first offering is a slightly unusual Westley Richards 12g, fixed lock ejector, assisted opener. Built in 1955, on a Webley scroll back action with two triggers, tang top lever and automatic beetle back game safe. It retains some original case colour and is engraved with large scroll and the Westley name in a block format. It has 26” barrels with 2 ¾” chamber, choked ¼ & ⅝. The straight hand stock measures 14 ⅝ to centre and a splinter forend with Anson push rod release. It’s slightly unusual to have made a fixed lock action with assisted opening and it’s not a gun we would have made many of. It’s a very lively gun in the hands and points very quickly weighing only 6lbs 3oz, it would make the ideal walk up gun and the assisted opener works flawlessly meaning you really can get your next two shots off much quicker. The gun would benefit from a light refurbishment but is sold as is and personally I would just take this gun out and shoot it and enjoy it for what it is, a solid, usable quick shooting boxlock.
Next we have a superb Marcel Thys sidelock double rifle in 7x75R Vom Hofe calibre. Bolstered sidelock action with two triggers, the front of which is chequered and articulated, engraved with large floral scroll and retaining all original case colour hardening. 24 ½” chopper lump barrels with a single folding leaf sight regulated to 100 yards and ramp foresight. Semi beavertail forend and a full pistol grip stock measuring 14 ⅛” to centre with carved drop points, strap over comb, grip cap with trap and black rubber recoil pad. The wood is exhibition quality and absolutely stunning. Weighing 9lbs 2oz this is a high quality rifle from a very respected Belgium maker.
In bolt actions we have a Holland & Holland .275 H&H Magnum take down rifle. Built on a Mauser ’98 action with a 26” threaded take down barrel held in place by a locking pin and keeper pin, it has a rear island base with one fixed sight regulated to 200 yards and two folding leaves at 350 and 500 yards. The stock measures 14” to centre with a cheek piece, horn heel plate, case colour hardened grip cap with trap and horn forend tip. Weighing 7lbs 14oz this is an opportunity to own a really very nice Holland take down rifle in their propriety cartridge.
We also have a Gastinne Renette of Paris bolt action rifle in .300 H&H. Built on an DWM Mauser action it has a 25” barrel with a rear island base with one fixed and 3 folding leaf express sight and ramp foresight. Full pistol stock measuring 13 ½” to centre with a rubber recoil pad, strap over comb and grip cap with trap. The rifle comes with a Zeiss Diavari 1.5-6×42 on quick detachable claw mounts. A well-made bolt action in a popular plains game calibre. Weighing 7lbs 14oz with the scope, a nice practical package.
Last but not least we have a J.Rigby .275 which has been re-barrelled by Paul Roberts of J.Roberts & Son. 22″ barrel with a mint bore, hinged floor plate, 13 7/8″ semi pistol stock with a slim Silvers pad and sling studs. Weighing 7lb 5ozs the rifle comes with 1″ mounts and is an affordable and usable English rifle in a popular, smooth shooting calibre.
All the guns and rifles will be on our used gun site shortly but for any initial enquires, please email me at email@example.com or call +44 121 333 1918.
The show season continues unabated this year with our return to home soil and the British Shooting Show. This year we will be displaying a nice collection of our new guns and rifles including the ‘India’ and the ‘Africa’ .600 sidelock double rifles, as well as the ‘Lion’ .470 sidelock double rifle.
The show goes from strength to strength each year and represents a strong cross section of what is available to the shooting public in the Uk and from further afield. Attendance is certainly growing as the show refines, and being indoors certainly makes for a great day out mitigating the usual vagaries of the Uk weather!
We look forward to welcoming our customers old and new to our stand located in hall 2 zone 7.
A few years ago a group of shooting friends decided to place three similar orders with us for a combination pair of guns comprising a .410 and a 28g droplock. Whilst they all agreed on the same gauge combination, other elements of the guns would become far more personal.
The two most obvious distinctions which you are going to seeing other the next few weeks are the style of engraving and the figuring of the wood. Take for instance this first pair of guns that we have just completed.
The engraving has been executed by Frederique Lepinois whose work you are now familiar with from this blog. She has her own distinctive style which to our mind falls into the modern ‘Italian’, naturally a product of where she is based. This work comprises beautiful elaborate scrolls with fine game scenes wrapped in ornamental borders. There is always a delicate nature to this Italian style and it works really well with these small frame guns.
The wood on this pair is naturally rich in colour and has that fabulous contrast that we so often like to see here at the factory. It has always been our goal to provide our clients with the very best selection of wood from which to make their choice. Lets face it, we only build around 35 guns and rifles a year so we had best make each one very special. What better starting point than a fabulous piece of wood!
As the other guns come through, you will see just how diverse peoples taste can be which is why building bespoke guns and rifles is so much fun.
At Westley Richards we are lucky enough to build a multitude of large calibre big game bolt action rifles. All of these tend to be in the classic British calibres, .318 WR, .375 H &H, .416 Rigby, .500 Jeffery, .505 Gibbs, with the odd European classic for driven big game hunting.
Whilst hunting in Africa a few years back, a very good Professional Hunting colleague asked if we could put together a stopping rifle for him. Naturally the answer was ‘yes’ and so then came the classic question of calibre? At the time he was using a .505 Gibbs that he had borrowed and found to be adequate and so this was the immediate choice. A fine and reputable calibre, capable of stopping the largest of big game.
The order was raised back at the factory, but then later on a phone call came ‘can you build the rifle in .460 Weatherby?’ Well those of you in the know are very aware of the ‘brute’ introduced by Roy Weatherby in 1958. At the time it was the most powerful commercially loaded big game cartridge, capable of pushing 500 grain projectiles well over 2600 feet per second. Its reputation was formidable and whilst the idea of the power impressed many, the ability to shoot it was quite another!!!!!
So, back to the rifle in question. Yes it is a .460 Weatherby and yes it is a beast! That said knowing the history of the calibre we were careful to make sure that the stock was slightly thicker at the forend to obtain more grip, the open sights you will see are unusual style for our rifles and were manufactured specifically as wrap arounds so that the bearing surface on the barrel was the absolute maximum. The rifle is set up specifically for open sights so the stock is shaped specifically for this and set the foresight bead to hit point of aim.
The final result is a very handy and quite frankly devastating stopping rifle made to the PH’s exact requirements ‘bespoke’, like all our guns and rifles.
Just be sure to stand behind it when the ‘beast’ goes off!
My Father, a Veteran of WWII combat in the Pacific Theatre had a few sayings and was not one to suffer fools. He could best be described as a very gentle man. Four amphibious combat assaults will apparently teach one much about themselves. At thirteen, I lost him too early. It is a strange phenomenon that we continue to learn from our parents long past adulthood, and even after they have gone ahead. There seems to be to be a certain imprinting that takes place and endures.
He had many sayings, which were as a practical matter his philosophies. He lived by them without much, if any, variation or discussion. One of these sayings I often think of and find can be applied to business dealings and the contingent relationships. “When all is said and done, let more be done than said”. I never met my Grandfather, he had passed early as well, but my Father spoke of what he learned from him in tough days during the American Depression. They fed themselves and family, gardening, hunting small game, and fishing. I hope that I have those qualities in my character.
Character can exist in many things and manifest itself in many different ways. It can make up and distinguish an individual, group, or nation as to how they conduct themselves and behave; it can separate distinguishable things into categories; identify a nature. It can separate things by its essential elements or traits; it can be a set of qualities that make a place or thing different from other places or things.
A good friend of mine for some thirty five years and a knowledgeable gun lover of the highest order just recently returned from a three week tour of Scotland, Ireland, and England. He had reserved a good part of the last week of the trip to visit London Gunmakers and a few dealers he was familiar with. In our conversation I expressed to him that I would like to make that exact trip. His response was, “Don’t. Instead see the tourist things in London, the famous Gunmakers are a waste of time, and no fun. I felt like I was at my in-laws”. This statement did shock me just a bit. He went on to tell me that he went into one of the most famous makers, at a most famous location and of three employees, not one, spoke even a single word to him. He is a good sport and can find humor in almost anything, and left the subject alone after the comment, “I suppose they would have taken cash, but they didn’t ask for it”. I actually found this hard to believe yet he assured me his account was accurate. He went on to tell me about his experiences at a couple of the other famous makers and felt it was a little better, but not by much and he just did not feel welcome. He came away with the impression that because he was dressed comfortably for a full day of activity that he was somewhat disqualified at a glance. He tells me that his experience at some of the dealer shops was an altogether the opposite experience, telling me what he saw and may follow up on. This man does not have a pretentious bone in his body nor any “chip on his shoulder”. If he is right, that he was dismissed just on his casual appearance a big mistake was made. This gentleman can impact an order book in a serious way if he so chooses, and likely has time for the wait.
The magnificent facade of James Purdey & Sons.
I do feel that this is an extreme example and at least hopefully not the norm. In full disclosure I have not made the trip, so have not had this experience personally at the London locations. This was not the first time I have heard this, but this time from a most reliable source. I have experienced it in a different environment at the large shows of SCI and DSC in the United States, admittedly not so extreme. The very nature of these shows is a little more relaxed. The puzzling thing that has occurred to me on many occasions is that I have looked at a maker’s guns and walked away without having either been taught anything about their particular guns nor have they solicited any questions or business. Maybe I am just lucky to get to see their guns or need to wear a suit.! They are not doing anyone favors by letting them look at their goods. Isn’t the purpose of being at these shows, for lack of a better description, an attempted outreach to new customers? This approach is baffling to me.
This seems to me to be a relationship model, maker to customer, which is completely inverted. It is at minimum in my opinion an organizational character problem. If in the previous account of my friends experience the front line sale force will not make contact, certainly there is little hope of anything more. The periodicals that I read which are both American and English are full of very well done, slick ad copy. These ads do give you a sense of what a company can do, at least for someone! This perceived ‘stuffiness’ is I am convinced at least one of the reasons there is a healthy used or secondary market in English guns. Of course there is the favorable pricing, immediate delivery, but I am suspect that it is also to avoid this stuffiness!
There are exceptions in my experience;
Marc Newton in the Rigby Workshop.
I believe over the last three years at DSC that Mark Newton, MD of John Rigby & Co. has recognized me, if not by name, and made an effort to answer any and all questions and go as far as to sit down and take a few minutes to have a friendly visit. They set their space up in a manner that facilitates, and invites this. This seems to me to be the purpose and value of being there. From what I can see they are on to a good thing, and I for one wish them well and greatly appreciate the way that I have been approached. I believe that they, “get it”.
I do believe, and this from personal experience, that Westley Richards is the standout in all phases of service and customer care and I hear this consistently from friends of mine who are clients. They also have great advertising content, with excellent photography, but this is not the end of it. They show a diverse catalog of new and used guns, along with restoration services, traditional in-house made leather goods with custom one-off capability. There is also a comprehensive retail side of clothing, foot wear, etc. It is approaching impossible to thoroughly cover all of the in-house capability that Westley Richards currently have. Even with this large offering of goods and services this is still not the end of it.
While this is all outstanding, it goes much deeper than this. There is a transparency that you will not see anywhere else and much of it displayed on The Explora. I think Ross Seyfried said it best in a previous post, “those in the workshop understand old things and their history”. Westley Richards staff know and understand the historic legacy and standards that comes together to form the character of the company. Because the folks working there gain an understanding of the company’s history and where it came from they gain an insight into its character. Those in leadership know that this understanding is just as important as the technical and trade skill competency. Should a project’s complexity require it, advice is available to a client not only from experienced and qualified manager of a particular department but from the owner of the company. I am sure it could be found at the smaller boutique makers as well. This same advice may exist at other makers and I am just not aware of it. If so and you find this opinion offensive; my apologies. I do not think though that so much knowledge across such a broad spectrum of products, guns, and rifles exist anywhere else. Not to mention used guns and restoration capability. It goes beyond sales, yes that is an element, but it manifest itself more in the manner of consultation and a way of doing business.
Where does this come from? It comes from knowing the company’s history. It comes from a family’s investment, dedication, and toil in a company through good and bad times. It comes from Walter Clode knowing the company’s history, where it came from, all the way to the turn of the last century and beyond and spending time in the land where many of the companies guns were sold and lived, repatriating those guns to be given a new life. This knowledge and experience being passed on to Simon to steward this legacy and at the same time moving the company forward as conditions require yet not forgetting the past and acutely understanding the character of the company. This cycle of work, failure, success, adjustment, and work builds character. The character of Westley Richards is one of perseverance, doing the best work that they are capable of doing, and being in a position to consult clients in a manner that gives the customer confidence. The strength and competency of the individuals who understand the history of a company, when in a collective creates a company whose core competency as a company then becomes one of character. When the day to day work and customer contact is being conducted in the context of a constancy of purpose, “to build the best gun that we can build”. When the leadership is making decisions in a cycle of continuous improvement, not forgetting the history and hard won character of a company. All of this separates, distinguishes, and creates a window of transparency into a company. I believe that knowing who they are is the strength of Westley Richards.
I believe they are very much a company that exhibit, “when all is said and done, let more be done than said”.
When discussing vintage nitro Westley Richards rifles there are three in particular that always end up dropping into the conversation somewhere along the line. Not only were they used by three very famous individuals, but all were of the same calibre – .577 3″ Nitro Express.
These rifles were owned by professional ivory hunter Capt James Sutherland, hard man actor Stewart Granger, and legendary writer Ernest Hemingway. All three men suited this iconic calibre as their personalities were certainly of the larger than life variety.
Captain James Sutherland’s .577 now on display at our factory.
Sutherland’s rifle resides here at the factory and although well used it still has crisp rifling and great condition. Luckily we have the case and spare locks to go with it. This rates as my own all time big game rifle particularly as it has all the great Westley Richards features, including our single selective trigger!
Stewart Granger’s .577 with tallies of game hunted inlaid in stock.
The Granger and Hemingway rifles now reside in private collections and are both cherished by their respective owners. Each is a great historical rifle in terms of our own legacy and that of the two men who owned them.
Ernest Hemingway’s .577 complete with original case.
Both of these rifles retain lots of original finish as they were ‘client’ as opposed to ‘professional’ use rifles. I always like Grangers inlaying of Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo in the stock with the tally of each hunted, those marked with a ‘c’ having charged him!
I was lucky enough myself to hunt buffalo with a brand new Westley Richards .577 hand detachable lock double rifle last year in Tanzania with Danny McCallum safaris. Not only was it a privilege to hunt my buffalo with Danny himself, but I was able to take one at under 15 paces in typically long grass. Whilst there are many that would deride the use of such a heavy calibre rifle I have to say that it was certainly very comforting in the thick stuff and as Danny himself said ‘it speaks with authority’. Need I say more!
It gave me very great pleasure this afternoon when Jason Morris (above), who had earlier this year been tasked with implementing a formal ISO 9001:2015 qualification for Westley Richards told me the result of our first certification audit.
A pass of both stage 1 & 2 certification audit with no non conformance’s meaning certification is approved! My congratulations to all involved, the team of gunmakers, managers and the consultants who helped us get ready for this undertaking, a first in the English trade I believe.
Jason Morris in the new gun vault.
Quality has always been an intrinsic part of our company, it is in our DNA you might say, but this type of quality control has never followed a documented procedure, a procedure it had yes, but one not recorded and not easily able to bring new efficiency and accountability to the operation.
I believe that having this formal quality certification, will without doubt, enhance our operation here and enable us to continue in our mission to build the very finest guns and rifles possible.
The draft certificate to be replaced with official in 30 days.
More than one million certified companies in the world take advantage of the notable ISO 9001 standard as a tool for managing their organization and continually improving their performance. The standard contains internationally applicable requirements for the quality of products, services and development.
A company’s quality management system is operating effectively when clear corporate goals have been defined. Achievement of those objectives needs to be reflected in measurable results – based on meaningful key indicators that result from efficient and transparent processes. The best evidence of the quality ability of an organization is continuously improving results.
Eight management principles provide orientation for the task of managing an organization in a focused and systematic manner and ensure continuous improvement. The first of the eight principles of quality management requires consistent customer orientation – the most important thing for business success.
ISO 9001 benefits:
Increased customer confidence and satisfaction
Clearly define responsibilities
Foster employee motivation
Minimize corporate risk
Save time and operating costs
Prevent errors instead of correcting them
Improve corporate image
Reduce information gaps
I would also like to thank Westley Engineering and the Quality Manager Tom Langford for his assistance with gaining this certification., Tom and his team look after an unusual 3 quality standards at Westley Engineering where we are certified to supply Aerospace and Automative as well as ISO 9001. As seen below.