Its not often these days that we get to see a really great hammer gun by Westley Richards pass through our hands. There are clearly notable collectors of hammer guns out there and there must be some wonderful pieces tucked away, but truth is we just don’t see them.
Last week at the factory a simple stunning and elegant 12 bore black powder proof centre-fire hammer gun came in. Not just any hammer gun, but the one used in our 200 year history ‘In Pursuit of the Best Gun’. This gun has remained tucked away in a private collection for many years and we have always coveted it. This gun is about as good as it can get from Westley Richards, especially when you consider that it was built as late as 1885, 10 years after the invention of our famous Anson & Deeley hammerless gun!
Mixing elegance, exuberance and subtleness is something Westley Richards has mastered the art of like no other gunmaker. The skill of producing a fine pair of exhibition grade guns that possess all the qualities of ‘collection grade’ with the attributes and modesty of ‘field grade’ is evident in our latest creation, this superb pair of hand detachable lock 20 gauge shotguns.
An original, unopened package of Westley Richards .450 No. 1 Carbine for the Deeley-Edge Model 1869 Carbine. Among his seminal developments such as the doll’s head extension, Westley Richards, the founder’s eldest son, was instrumental in the development of the solid drawn brass case. While metal cases were not a new concept, the Westley Richards patent number 1572 of 1871 introduced a longer, stronger brass case capable of handling higher velocities. This had lasting effects on both military and sporting arms.This is some of the first ammunition to be loaded with such cases. With 55 grains of blackpowder, it shoots a 380gr paper patched soft lead bullet at 1,300 fps.
Prior to World War II, the demand for small bore shotguns, namely those in .410, did not exist like it does today. One reason was the perception that the .410, the smallest of the shotgun bores, was considered a cartridge best suited for a new shooter like a child or a smaller frame shooter such as a lady. However, despite its size, in the right hands the cartridge can be lethal on even the heartiest of small game such as wood pigeons or rabbits and hares.
In a late 1920’s Westley Richards catalog introducing the “Westley Richards .410 Shot Gun and its Cartridge”, the catalog highlighted these same sentiments:
“For occasional use about the place, and for Ladies. Carefully bored – even and deadly effect”
the catalog continues…
“We say that the .410 is an excellent little weapon for the beginner…yet even the old hand need not despise this little gun…it is a most useful addition to the gun room if only for the express purpose of keeping down the vermin in the close season.”
The latest guns to be offered for sale at our UK factory is this fantastic pair of 20g droplock shotguns. Completed in 2000 they feature scroll back actions with our patent hand detachable locks, Westley snap lever work, beetle back safety and double triggers. Expertly engraved by Peter Spode with bold floral scroll, Westley name in gold banner and numbered 1&2 in gold in the usual places. Both sets of 27″ barrels have 1/2 choke in them, with 2 3/4″ chambers, engraved in gold ‘Westley Richards England’ on both ribs. Highly figured, handsome walnut stocks measures 14 3/4″ to the centre of the chequered butt, a bend of 1 3/8″ at the comb and 1 7/8″ at the heel, cast off 1/4″. Straight hand grips and gold stock ovals, splinter forends with horn tip and Deeley catch release. The guns weigh 5lbs 10oz and come in their mid tan leather case with tools. They will be on the used gun site shortly.
It’s rare for us to have a pre-owned Westley 20g for sale and even more so a pair in such great condition and specification. The 1/2 choking in all barrels makes the guns a great pair of all rounders and 1/2 choke is ideal for pretty much any type of game shooting, open enough for grouse and early season partridge but tight enough for January pheasants. Many shooting instructors recommend having the same choke in both barrels as often driven targets are shot at the same distance and it also helps to focus your mind on your shooting rather than thinking about what barrel is what choke and the inevitable blaming of the gun for your poor shooting! The stock measurements are ideal for driven shooting with a slightly higher than average comb height, this enables you to see more of the top rib which encourages lead on straight driven birds, helps you keep sight of your target throughout and also enables you to keep your cheek glued to the stock to maintain a proper gun mount, aim and a consistent line on your target.
Here at Westley Richards we are proud to be developing some of the world’s finest gunmakers, engravers and leather workers. None more exemplify this than our recently appointed foreman Stuart Richards, who at 29 has seen over 300 guns and rifles pass through the factory.
In September 2020 he will celebrate 12 years with Westley Richards, rising through the ranks of the company, capping it off with his instrumental role in the creation of our new exhibition rifle “The Forest Rifle”. 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.
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.
Westley Richards referred to its rifle as a ‘sliding block’ rifle whilst other makers and modern literature refer to it as a ‘falling block’ action.
When I first arrived at Westley Richards, one of the areas that really impressed me was the quality and depth of photography the company had produced over the years. This in large part began with Simon Clode, the former Chairman & Managing Director of the company, who as a young man developed a keen interested in the medium while studying art at the British Institute in Florence. It was during this time of experimentation with cameras, darkrooms and composition that Simon established his uncompromising eye for fine detail and appreciation of aesthetics.
A gun or rifle is a canvas for something truly unique for a visionary group of collectors. Individuality is what sets them apart, and for a select few, that extends to commissioninga Westley Richards ‘special project’.
Westley Richards has a long history of producing super high-grade guns and rifles,with ‘Modèle de Luxe’ and ‘Modèle de Grande Luxe’ gracing our early 20th-century catalogues. Production of such masterpieces reached their peak in the 1930s, the heyday of the Maharajas, whose commissions set the standard in gunmaking quality at a time when British manufacturing was at its very zenith.
The late 1980s was to see the resurgence of such quality with Westley Richards’ very own ‘Gorilla Gun’ and later ‘Rhino Rifle’ signaling the beginning of a new age of highly-embellished pieces, as collectors from the USA embraced the unparalleled quality of craftsmanship offered by British gun and rifle makers.
As another busy week draws to a close, we’ve brought you a selection of photos from the Westley Richards factory floor. Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, in accordance with government guidelines and strict social distancing measures, the gunmakers have not stopped working and the factory has been running full bore! A steady flow of new guns have reached completion and we are very grateful to our gunmakers and outworkers who have kept the wheels turning through such a difficult time. Fingers crossed we are through the worst of this virus and we are pleased to say the showroom is now open and the majority of WR is business as usual. So please feel free to drop us a line to discuss anything gun, clothing or hunting related!
The traditional gun making skills, which are unchanged for the last 100 years, are still very much common place in the factory. A smoke lamp is used by each gunmaker on a daily basis to identify the bearing parts of two adjacent surfaces.