Interview with Westley Richards Engraver – Léo Lambert

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.

Who inspired you to become an engraver?

My family principally, but I do have two very special people who really inspired me to become the person I am today. My two best friends, Laëtitia Copine and Nicolas Braud. Laëtitia taught me about the world of the arts and greatly influenced how I now consider, analyse and understand art. Nicolas helped me to appreciate unexpected challenges and importantly how to remain stoic in front of them, an incredibly vital quality in the practice of engraving.

Who would you count as mentors in the field of engraving?

I am fortunate to have a few master engravers that I have had the privilege to meet and call mentors. The first are my two teachers from the Léon Mignon School, Master Lucien Gironi and Master Pierre Dôme, who I regularly keep in touch with. Others who I have had the chance to cross paths with who need no introduction, who very much like my school teachers, shared their work, ideas and knowledge with great kindness. Masters Paul Lantuch, Alain Lovenberg and Bram Ramon.

How long did it take to learn the art of engraving?

I began learning the art of engraving in September 2015, with my background in the arts and the first class education I received, I have had a rapid rise. But when you ask “How long did it take to learn the art of engraving?”, it is a difficult question as like others, I’m sure, consider that I will never stop learning (and  that’s a great thing).

Indeed the continual learning is the most exciting part of the job, always amazed by the masterpieces of great engraving masters, past and present, who have work for Westley Richards. Holding their works in my own hands is always such a privilege.  Spending many an hour researching I discover talents across the globe who produce such technically impressive works with skills that are out of this world. Knowing this drives me to keep experimenting and push boundaries with this historic craft.

Tell us about the ‘Roebuck Rifle’ that you recently completed for Westley Richards?

The Roebuck Rifle is my very first grand-scale project in engraving. At first, embarking on this project made me acutely aware of my level as engraver and how long still the path of apprenticeship really is. To be honest in the beginning I was very nervous about such an important artwork, but with the fantastic team around me at Westley Richards, and the nerves subsiding, I began to have fun and enjoyed the entire process.

The ornamentation was my first challenge, the client had decided upon a carved leaf design using a technique I had only used once before at my school in Liège. At that time I used the traditional hammer and chisel method, however with my new pneumatic tools this was a completely fresh experience and one I threw myself into. Fortunately the path of this level of engraving I was able to begin on the smaller elements, like the roebuck head on the safety shroud, to build confidence.

On the advice and information kindly shared by older masters I moved into the larger game scenes, for example the roe deers seen on the floorplate. When Trigger and I decided on the pair of animals we wanted to capture for the scene, from a picture where we see the male chasing the female, my next big challenge emerged. Trigger had selected an image where only the top of their bodies were visible due to high grass covering their chest, undersides and legs.

I spent many an hour studying deer anatomy and movement through reading veterinary books and watching live action video in slow motion, to finally deduce the exact musculature positioning to achieve a true to life visual. Seeing as I have rarely been near the animal in real life I relied on my colleagues to add those final touches to the end result.

A special thanks to the Westley Richards patron, who commissioned such a fabulous artwork, and to my colleagues and mentors for their critical advice and encouragement. Without them I would not have reached the new heights of technical and artistic excellence I have dreamed to achieve and will continue to strive for.

Head to our engraving section, to discover the incredible variety of engraved artworks that patrons have commissioned over the years.

A Vintage Holland ‘.30 Super’ Here At Westley Richards

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.

Complete in original canvas case with accessories, the rifle has an honest pedigree.

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.

Hollands side mounts with a period scope appear to be a later addition to the rifle.

Hollands take-down magazine rifle has always been a classic in the sporting rifle world.

Further details on the rifle can be obtained from Ricky Bond ricky@westleyrichards.co.uk

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.

To inform the initial concepts we fought hard to ensure that this new collection exemplified the finest in English style, hand craftsmanship and quality, and ultimately for it to be delivered through the distinctive lens of Westley Richards and its heritage.

Being a gun company, synonymous with Africa and safari, our key ideas for the collection rightly stemmed from there. The principal twin pocket concept, seen on the front, takes the form of bellows pockets, which is drawn directly from our safari sporting attire. A great example of this can be seen on the Westley Richards Bushveld Safari Jacket.

Further inspiration comes from our celebrated bespoke gun cases, visible on those front pocket strap closures. These straps are hand-stitched together using traditional saddlery techniques, also reflecting the ancestry of the region. Another key detail arrived in the form of a repeat diamond embossing. A clear reference to gun stock checkering and originally used, at this large scale, on a hand-embossed copy of our bi-centennial book “The Pursuit of the Best Gun 1812-2012”.

Finally, and I’m sure most pertinent for The Explora reader, is the introduction of the exclusively designed lining by master engraver Paul Lantuch, used across all our travel bag collections. This wonderfully illusory illustration reveals, within its decorative design, a different face-like apparition when held in opposing directions. An ingenuous idea, absolutely befitting of such a legend.

Once the concepts were agreed the designs were established into four key bag types, catering for a classic gentleman’s lifestyle. A soft briefcase for professional life, a 48hr weekend bag with wash bag for recreational life, and a rucksack for everyday life.

In the next part – Making of the Bournbrook: Part 2 – I will share the exciting task of selecting the eventual materials, producing countless samples, hours of testing out in the field and the final presentation of the collection you see today.

The Bournbrook Travel Bag Collection is now available to buy in-store and online in a range of vegetable tanned & exotic leather, buffalo hide and strong canvas combinations. Like all our fine leather goods we offer bespoke initialling to add that very personal touch.

www.westleyrichards.com/bournbrook

 

We’re On The Cover Of Shooting Sportsman

This month we’re extremely pleased to be on the front cover of Shooting Sportsman, the leading wingshooting and fine guns publication in the US today. Do pick up a copy because inside you’ll find our collaborative article with the legendary Vic Venters, wonderfully discussing the unique bespoke journey and finer points of ordering a new best-quality English gun.

He eloquently takes the reader through seven key areas that each Westley Richards patron will usually experience on their path to receiving their very own prized best gun. From the gun’s purpose, selecting the right gunmaker, the process and relationship, letting the gunmaker lead, heritage & house style, the eventual waiting game, and how handmade delivers a gun of such rare beauty and handle that it is truly one of a kind.

Shooting Sportsman is a US-based brand with a 30-year history of presenting some of the best wingshooting and fine-gun content found anywhere—their January/February issue’s cover and feature article on Westley Richards being exemplary. The magazine and its social pages dig deep into an array of topics ranging from gunmaking to international shooting travel—all featuring great writing and spectacular images.

Subscriptions are available on shootingsportsman.com and their social media pages can be accessed via facebook.com/shootingsportsman/ and @shootingsportsmanmag

A Westley Richards .450/.400 3″ ‘Modéle de Luxe’ Side Plated Double Rifle

Once again the team here at Westley Richards have delivered yet another stunning example of our classic hand detachable lock, nee droplock double rifle, this time in the venerable .450/.400 3″ nitro express.

The rifle is built to our ‘Modéle de Luxe’ standard with extra finish engraving, side plates, single selective trigger and exhibition grade walnut. As one of the pre-eminent English gunmakers the team here continue to deliver individual and unique guns and rifles, every one of which displays the finest English craftsmanship.

 A mean old bull buffalo looks out from the left lock plate.

When the first example of a side plated droplock appeared nobody is quite sure. From our own point of view we first really encountered it on a vintage .303 double rifle built in 1913. This rifle is illustrated on page 167 of Westley Richards 200 year history ‘In Pursuit of the Best Gun’ and was built for a middle eastern potentate. One logical reason for the addition of side plates to the droplock design was to give the rifle more coverage for engraving. It seems unlikely the plates were added to make the rifle look like a true sidelock, as the company would certainly have been able to supply one should it have wished.

In more recent times the side plated droplock has become slightly more regular in our order book having been built in both double rifle and shotgun format. In fact we have just taken a commission for a pair of 28g side plated droplocks which should really be quite beautiful. Today the sideplates tend to be more rounded giving the gun or rifle a smooth flowing shape to the grip. That said we are in the throes of designing a side plated action that will have the characteristic look of a true sidelock whilst in fact being of the droplock design. This particular beast will be in the .577 nitro express calibre, so giving us a large area to work with!

A magnificent male lion holds centre stage on the right lock plate. Cats of any description are difficult to engrave, many looking notoriously ‘cartoon like’.

From an engraving stand point, the side plates really are a bonus. The rifle shown here has been engraved with elaborate bold scroll, chevron border, gold naming and three game scenes of bull buffalo, bull elephant and a male lion all looking equally impressive in their respective environs. The traditional and uninterrupted lines of the side plated droplock allow for an organic engraving design that can flow along the action sides and underneath to the cover plate.

The sleek proportions of the .450/.400 3″ rifle can be seen clearly in this photograph. The relatively small nature of this classic big game cartridge allows for a scaled action and wonderfully tapering barrels.

Now in the USA, the rifle is travelling with us on the show circuit and may be seen at Safari Club International in Reno from 5th to 8th February. We look forward to seeing you.

The rifle is complemented with a best oak & leather case covered in brown buffalo skin, fitted with a full set of horn handled tools.

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.

Capt F.C.Selous’ Iconic Westley Richards .425 On The USA Show Circuit 2020

There can be few greater names in the history of big game hunting than that of Captain Frederick Courtenay Selous D.S.O, soldier, explorer, big game hunter, scout and adventurer. Born in 1851 Selous’s intention from a young age was to be a naturalist and ultimately one of the finest big game hunters ever to set foot in Africa.

By the age of 19 Selous was in Africa where he was granted permission by Lobengule, King of the Matabele to hunt within his vast domains. This was still the era of the large bore muzzle loader and Selous came to typify the young, tough individuals who sought a very dangerous trade hunting elephant and other game for ivory and meat.

The coming years saw Selous hunt extensively throughout central Africa attaining many specimens for private collections and the British Natural History Museum. He was held in such high regard that in later life a bronze bust of Selous was mounted in the NHM where it can still be seen today as you walk up the grand stairway.

His knowledge of Africa led to his appointment as ‘guide’ to the British South Africa Company which was mounting an expedition into Mashonaland. He would fight in two Matabele wars during the 1890’s before his much celebrated visit with none other than President Theodore Roosevelt during his epic safari of 1909-10. The two would become great friends, as they were equally keen on conservation as they were hunting.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Selous joined up to serve in East Africa as a Captain in the 25th Royal Fusiliers. Having distinguished himself in 1916 receiving the DSO for his actions, he was killed by sniper fire a year later at a place called Beho Beho in what is now the Selous Game Reserve.

Selous was unique in that he saw the use of large bore muzzle loading rifles, through black powder breech-loaders, to the ultimate in modern cordite repeating rifles.

The .425 purchased by Selous was most likely the last rifle ever acquired by him. He wrote a testimonal for Westley Richards on 4th July 1912 stating:

“I can only give your .425 Magazine Rifle the highest praise. Had I only possessed such a rifle in my old elephant hunting days I am sure that I could have killed three or four times as many Elephants as I actually laid low.”

The rifle remains in exceptional condition to this day retaining most of its original finish. How the rifle came to be in the hands of its current owner is one of those great pieces of fortune and outright luck, a story we will tell another day. In truth the rifle could not have gone to a more dedicated fan of the company or a more genuine hunter.

The ‘Selous’ rifle has been very kindly loaned to Westley Richards to display at the 2020 Safari Conventions in the USA. Please pay a visit to our stand to view one of the most iconic rifles owned by without doubt one of the greatest big game hunters of all time.

Dallas Safari Convention 9th To 12th January 2020

Safari Club International 5th To 8th February 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. 

Some Great Vintage Holland’s At Westley Richards US Agency

Four very nice Holland & Holland shotguns have come into the Westley Richards U.S. Agency and are just going up on the secondhand gun site (https://www.wrusedguns.com/view/all-listings/). We have been fortunate to have some very fine Hollands this year and this new group of guns is no exception.

Holland’s is famous for many innovations in gun making, but none more so than the Royal model hammerless sidelock. While the Royal needs no introduction to most readers of this blog, this most recent group of guns features some of the more obscure models offered by the storied firm.

The first two guns are 12g and 20g Northwood models. After WWII, Holland & Holland offered a boxlock ejector that was made in the Birmingham trade then finished, shot and regulated by Holland’s in London. This gun was known as a Northwood.  Sometime in the 1980’s, Holland’s made moves to produce their own boxlock. The project lead to the company purchasing the venerable Birmingham gunmaker W. & C. Scott and offering two models, the new Cavalierand the Northwood, the latter being the less adorned of the two.

Both models were based on the proven Anson & Deeley fixed lock or “boxlock” action. Available in 12g and 20g and built on dedicated frame sizes with scroll backs and Scott’s spindle top lever. All the parts were made in Birmingham at the W&C Scott factory and the guns were stocked, engraved and finished in London at Holland’s factory. According to Donald Dallas’ book Holland & Holland, The Royal Gunmakers, Complete History (Quiller Press, 2003)the project ran about a decade ending sometime in the 1990’s and Holland’s only made about 200 of the very high-quality guns.

The two Northwood models here at the Agency have traditional scroll engraving, color case hardened finishes and 2 ¾” chambers with 1989 Birmingham proof marks. They are nicely stocked with straight hand grips, auto-safeties, two triggers, and rolled trigger bows. The 12g weighs just over 6 lbs. with 28” barrels and the 20g weighs just under 6 lbs. and is fitted with 27” barrels. Both of these guns are in superb condition and in their own lightweight canvas case.

The ‘Northwood’ Model

The ‘Riviera’ Model

Another gun in the group is a factory two-barrel set 12g called the Riviera Model. In Dallas’ book, he says the Riviera Model was offered for more than 30 years, from 1933 to 1967. Despite being available for over three decades, it is a rarely encountered model.

I have seen the Riviera model featured in Holland catalogs from before and after WWII and described as:

“…12 bore Hammerless Ejector Gun with two pairs of interchangeable 28 inch barrels, treble grip action, two triggers-front hinged, hand-detachable locks, selected French walnut, chambered for the 2 ¾-inch case, weight about 7 lbs. 4 oz. to 7 lbs. 6 oz…introduced particularly for sportsmen desirous of a using one gun only, for either game or trap shooting. One pair of barrels bored full choke, while the second pair throw more open patterns for game shooting”

The Riviera was built on a Badminton hammerless ejector sidelock action with Holland’s patent hand detachable locks and Treble Grip action that accepted their hidden third bite. Another obscure name from Holland’s, Badminton was used for a plainer sidelock that employed the same action as the Royal model but without the famous Royal pattern house engraving.  This was originally known as a No. 2 but donned a new name after WWI and named for Holland’s Badminton shooting school.

This Riviera was built in 1937 and ordered with very specific details by the customer. As specified on the factory build sheet, the first set of barrels are choked at .004” and .010” and listed on the build sheet as “field” barrels. The second set of barrels are choked .029” and .040” and described as “pigeon” barrels. Each set of barrels have original 2 ¾” chambers and the same wall thickness as specified on the factory build sheet (.024” in the field barrels and .026” in the pigeon barrels). The barrels are numbered, in gold, “1” and “2” respectively and also marked with the “98 New Bond St.” address and “Riviera” is engraved on each top rib.

The action of the Riviera model is engraved in a bold floral pattern with the Maker’s name on each lock plate in flowing banners with gold lined cocking indicators and fire blued pins, and the word “SAFE” inlaid in gold. On the bottom of the action it is engraved “Badminton Ejector”. The gun comes complete in its original two-barrel “VC” case.

Last and certainly not least, is a Holland & Holland 20g Royal Brevis. The ‘Royal Brevis’ Model

The word Brevis is Latin for “short” and is the name Holland’s uses for any Royal gun made with barrels shorter than 28”. Introduced in 1931, the Royal Brevis was conceived to keep up with the trend of shooting with shorter gun barrels made popular by Robert Churchill. Referring again to Mr. Dallas’ book, The Royal Brevis name was not used in any Holland catalogs after WWII, but he says it remained available. In my own experience, I have encountered many post-war Holland’s with barrels shorter than 28” but not marked Brevis; no doubt this is a very rare gun to find made in modern times.

I know barrels shorter than 28” are often frowned upon by some. But let’s be honest, most upland hunting in North America is for walked up birds that flush in different directions, with little to no warning, and often in tight cover. This type of shooting is simply better served by shorter barrels. While I fully understand the benefits to long barrels for pass shooting doves or high driven pheasants, the fact is so called “short” barrels are handier in tight cover and easier to change their direction when shooting birds who flush or fly erratically. Lightweight guns like this Brevis are fast handling and easy to carry making them tailored made for the kind of hunting we Americans enjoy.

Finished in 1992, this gun is made in the traditional Brevis configuration with 26 1⁄2″ barrels but specially ordered as a lightweight, weighing only 5 1⁄4 lbs. The gun has a an exceptionally dainty action body and beautifully struck lightweight barrels. The gun also employs all the same best quality features of the Royal such as hand detachable locks, Holland’s self-opening mechanism on the barrels and Royal engraving. This gun has a brushed or “coin” finish, gold lined cocking indicators, two triggers with the front one being articulated and a rolled trigger bow and the serial number and the word “SAFE” are inlayed in gold.

All in all, this group of guns offers a nice selection of Holland & Holland guns, all at different price points, and are more examples of why vintage Hollands remain so desirable.

For further information on any of these guns please contact:

‘LD’ E. Duke McCaa II

Telephone: 850 324 1150  Email: ld@westleyrichards.com