Through the works and looking quite stunning this month is one of our Westley Richards 20 bore ‘Ovundo’ shotguns. As previously mentioned this gun is one of the original 13, a project that was originally commissioned in 2004. Even by modern gunmaking standards the renewed ‘Ovundo’ project has been a long affair!
Historically speaking, the first ‘Ovundo’ patents were registered in 1914 as the scramble among British gunmakers for something new and exciting in the world of guns, took Westley Richards, Boss, Woodward, Edwinson Green and others in the direction of the over and under shotgun. The concept itself of the over and under was not a particularly new one as British makers had been making over and under pistols and rifles since the flintlock era.
During the next two decades the Westley Richards over and under was driven to its own level of perfection with models based around the two key actions associated with the company, namely the ‘boxlock’ and ‘hand detachable lock’. Looking to the under hook barrel design for the rotation of the barrels on the action Westley Richards ‘ovundo’ was unquestionably a deep actioned gun compared to the Boss design of 1909. However the depth of the action allowed for the fitting of components based around the boxlock and hand detachable lock design and it has to be noted that making the ‘ovundo’ a hand detachable lock really took some doing. The gun really is a mechanical masterpiece.
Variants on these two actions included double and single triggers, non-ejector and ejector, scroll back, side plated and availability in both shotgun and rifle calibres as well as the ‘Faunetta’ and ‘Explora’ rifle choked formats. These variations make the ‘ovundo’ genuinely collectable as you never quite know what might turn up in the market.
Vivid case colour hardening adds impact to the bold etched scroll design. The gold lettering stands out crisply against the colours. The ‘ovundo’ features Westley Richards signature top lever shape and safety button.
Vintage Westley Richards promotional material showing the exact format of gun as built today. Whilst the ‘ovundo’ project has been a long one it highlights the level of skill required to build a gun that has unique features in the over and under market.
The side opening ports on the dummy lock plates are a unique feature of the ‘Ovundo’. Simple maintenance of the single trigger was achieved through these ports, whilst also adding a little novelty to the design. Westley Richards has always had a knack of outdoing itself!!!!
The etched background to the elaborate ‘acanthus’ engraving design adds a sharpness to the engraved coverage.
A beautiful green goat skin lined lightweight leather case complements this modern ‘ovundo’.
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:
So here it is finally finished, the first .375 H & H calibre sidelock double rifle that we have built in modern times. Scaled onto the appropriate frame and incorporating Westley Richards unique model ‘C’ fastener and top lever work, the rifle has its own distinctive look and elegant lines. Without any form of bolster the sides of the action provide a clean canvas on which the engraver can indulge their art.
Richly coloured exhibition wood once again sets Westley Richards apart.
This rifle pays homage to three of the famed ‘Big 5’ and it is only now that the rifle has been hardened, brushed and lacquered that all the detail really stands out. The darkened cut away back ground contrasts wonderfully with the elaborate scroll, motifs, gold work and finely depicted game scenes. The scenes were intended to be more animated with fighting bull elephant and buffalo on the respective lock plates.
Westley Richards unique model ‘C’ dolls head fastener with wide pivoting snap action lever work makes a great area to elaborate and embellish.
Fighting bull elephants in clouds of dust with cattle egrets highlight the right hand lock.
Built in Hollands iconic .375 belted magnum cartridge this calibre remains to this day a firm favourite on safari and we continue to build both magazine and double rifles in this calibre. The addition of quick detachable scope mounts and a Swarovski Z6I scope not only adds versatility to this rifle but also helps those whose eyes are not quite as sharp as they used to be!
Now brushed the detail in the engraving is even more spectacular. Such detailed work is time consuming but certainly worth all of the effort when finally finished.
Complete in a buffalo hide lightweight leather case with a classic complement of horn handled tools the final package is simple yet stunning!
Every now and then a maker needs to deviate a little from the norm and so it is with this .404 Jeffery calibre take down bolt action rifle that we had the opportunity to lay down our own interpretation of best ‘rose & scroll’ engraving.
Fine ‘rose & scroll’, or ‘bouquet & scroll’ as it is also known, is a pattern of engraving that can trace its ancestry back to the mid 1800’s. Developed in the London gunmaking houses, it still features on best guns and rifles there, Boss & Co. being the most notable.
Even today, vintage guns engraved meticulously by hand set the standard by which modern guns and rifles are judged. Subtle nuances in the execution and layout were the difference between ‘best’ and ‘also ran’. Names such as Harry Kell and Jack Sumner were famous for their exceptional standards and today pre-war guns engraved by these masters still hold a premium.
With all this in mind we decided it was time to take one of our own rifles and execute under the careful hand and skilled eye of Brad Tallett, our take on this classic pattern. The results are unquestionably elegant with wonderful pockets of detail utilising all the design attributes you might expect on a double gun. The cut of the engraving is absolutely vital as it needs to catch the light just right, hence traditional hand engraving is a must.
In preparation now for final finish we cannot wait to see how the case colour hardening, black, and light blue, highlight the engraving on the various surfaces of the rifle.
The classic Westley Richards combination foresight is wonderfully detailed.
Pockets of fine scroll interspersed with elegant rose bouquets and geometric patterns adorn the surfaces of the rifle.
An elephants rear foot print is carved into the grip trap door.
All lettering and numbering is executed in platinum.
Just arrived at the U.S. Agency is one spectacular Holland & Holland .470 NE Model de Luxe double rifle. According to the factory ledgers, the rifle was completed in 1964 for a renowned hunter, firearms aficionado and very influential patron of the gun making trade, Mr. Donald S. Hopkins.
In one of my favorite books, White Hunters: The Golden Age of African Safaris by Brian Herne (John Macrae/Henry Holt & Co., 1999), which is a history of the safari tradition and influential hunters on the African continent, Mr. Hopkins is mentioned and best summed up. According to the passage, “Donald S. Hopkins of Spokane, WA…was a very wealthy man and co-developer on several different rifle cartridges known as the O.K.H. (e.g. the .333 O.K.H. Invented by Charles O’Neil, Elmer Keith and Don Hopkins). The first Hopkins safari was three months…hunts often lasted six months…he made a record eleven safaris averaging nine months apiece in search of an elephant (thought to be mythical by his hunters) with tusks weighing 150 pounds each.”.
Not only was Mr. Hopkins a passionate hunter but, judging by this rifle, he was also a very serious patron of the English gun making trade. The bespoke rifles he commissioned pop up from time to time and this must be one of the finest I have ever encountered.
Obviously, Mr. Hopkins pushed the makers to deliver the best that could be had, as this rifle features engraved game scenes of a quality and realism far beyond the norm for this vintage. Each game scene on this rifle is highly detailed and of excellent quality, even by today’s standards, but certainly when compared to the somewhat naïve engraving still prevalent at the time the rifle was made. As noted in the factory ledgers, this rifle was engraved by none other than Ken Hunt.
I have read that Mr. Hunt started his apprenticeship at Purdey’s in 1950, studying under the great Harry Kell, Jim Jones (formerly of Sumner’s workshop) and Bill Smith. Each man was a master of his respective type of engraving. For instance, Mr. Jones had been engraving small scroll and floral patterns since he was 13 years old and Mr. Smith was equally experienced and specialized in large scroll. Finally, there was Mr. Kell who specialized in-game scenes and carving and, in the view of many, is one of the father’s of modern engraving.
After World War II, there was a growing trend of fine guns and rifles becoming the canvas for high art engraving. Mr. Hunt learned his trade from these masters and, in turn, perfected the skills required to execute not only the standard house pattern scrolls developed around the turn of the 20th century but also the ability to engrave and carve steel with breathtaking realism.
Today, Mr. Hunt is widely viewed as one of the World’s finest engravers and he remains one of the last links between the old-world, standard “house” engraving and the modern role of engraving as an art form in and of itself.
A rifle that is not short on details, the color hardened lock plates are pinless, meaning the pins that hold the action’s parts to the plates do not show on the outside leaving the surface uncluttered for engraving. A fitting touch for such wonderful engraving. The highly detailed game scenes show running black rhino on the right side, a bull elephant bluffing a charge on the left and, in my opinion, what would become one of Ken Hunt’s signatures, the head of a lion with piercing eyes on the bottom of the action. The Maker’s name is engraved along the action bolsters and the balance of the receiver is engraved in a very well executed bold foliate scroll pattern true to Holland’s Model de Luxe motif of the pre-war era. Rounding out the engraving, the fences are carved in a vine and leaf pattern and each game scene vignette is signed “K.C. Hunt”.
The 25” chopper lump barrels have Holland’s hidden Treble Grip third fastener, and hand filed pattern quarter rib and front sight. There is a factory original pop-up “ghost ring” sight behind single folding leaf regulated at 100 yds along with a folding moon-sight on the front.
The highly figured walnut stock has a thin leather covered pad, right-hand beaded cheekpiece, traditional drop points, and a full pistol grip with a trap grip cap. The original owner’s initials are inlaid in the bottom of the stock in gold block letters. Again, another special feature noted in the ledgers is the rifle was sent to the U.S. to be checkered by Monty Kennedy who literally wrote the book on the subject, Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks (The Stackpole Co., 1952). Both the stock and semi-beavertail forearm are checkered in an exceedingly well-cut, and very fine point pattern.
The rifle is housed in its original Oak & Leather case and canvas and leather outer cover. Included in the case are the original gilded spare strikers and replacement pin for the detachable lock lever, all housed in a jar made of ebony. The interior of the case retains its original red baize lining, serial numbered charge card and a very rare trade label that Holland’s used for only 3 years (ca. 1960 – 1963). The outer cover’s initial patch reads: “Donald S. Hopkins Spokane, WA”.
The rifle remains in wonderful condition holding nearly all of its original stock finish, color hardening and barrel black.
Clearly, a man passionate about firearms and hunting, this rifle reflects the unrelenting standards and influence Mr. Hopkins had. It also illustrates part of the allure collectors feel to guns and rifles ordered by people of fame, influence and stature. It was customers like these who, more times than not, demanded and received very special care and this rifle is a prime example of what that could produce.
With the US dove hunting season now underway and quail season only around the corner it is always great to see another of our .410 droplocks head Stateside to indulge in a touch of some fine sport. This particular little example has been engraved by Vince Crowley with delicate fine scroll, carved fences and a beautifully etched game scene of a Woodcock flighting through the timber.
Unusually with this gun the client asked for a ‘staggered ribbon’ gold name border on the sides of the action which lends itself tastefully to the execution of the engraving, allowing a different interpretation of the centre panel. It just goes to show that you can never rest on your laurels, but must continually strive to improve, often in the most subtle of ways.
The ‘staggered ribbon’ gold name adds a subtle variation to the engraving.
A stunning etched scene of a Woodcock in the timber.
Looking down onto the action, the vivid case colour hardening adds a touch of flare to the delicate engraving.
The journey of a new gun order with Westley Richards is one that is as individual as the gun itself and one that can and will take many different paths to completion. Having clients based all over the world means not everyone gets the opportunity to visit the factory as often as they would like and the gun ordering and design process is done via a digital route. Nothing wrong with that and it by no means impedes the enjoyment, experience or more importantly the outcome of the order, but as with so many digital experiences in life, they can be somewhat lacking and there really is no substitute for the real thing! The latest rifle to be completed is the result of a very personal and hands on journey for the client, the result of which has led to this truly superb .470 droplock double rifle.
The flight time from Frankfurt to Birmingham is a casual 1hr 30mins and from the airport, we are a 15 minute drive, so regular visits for this client were not only relatively easy but very important for him to ensure his involvement throughout the design and build of his first Westley double. Days spent at the factory were filled with testing the rifle post regulation, discussing engraving and viewing vintage gun and rifles for inspiration, comparison and selection of an appropriate stock blank, checks of stock measurements and fit, approval of trigger pulls and final finish. No detail overlooked, no stone left unturned.
Just being at the factory and immersing yourself in the sights, smells, atmosphere and history of the company creates the interest, inspires the imagination and helps focus the mind as to what it is you want from a new gun or rifle. There is simply no other gun house like it in the country and that is not me being biased, having visited all the others, it’s simply fact.
The rifle is the perfect combination of practicality, traditionalism and individuality. Designed as a rifle to be used, first and foremost, with a classic level of embellishment, subtly changed to add the client’s personal touch. The rifle features expertly executed detailed Westley scroll engraving with deluxe carved fences, clam shell engraved Dolls Head, gold WR banner name and a vintage style scroll engraved cover plate which was inspired by a pre-war gun in our collection, selected by the client on one of his visits. The bold case colours complement the engraving beautifully and the stunning exhibition grade walnut with a tight, strong grain through the hand which runs beautifully on both sides of the stock, gives contrast between the light and dark elements of the wood. The file up and the neat proportions of the .470 action makes for a sleek and slender looking rifle while still having the correct weight and handling for a big bore rifle. Beautifully packaged in a lightweight leather case the rifle oozes style and class. Regulated for Norma PH 500gr ammo, shooting a 1” group at 50 yards the rifle will certainly be put through its paces on what should be an epic Buffalo hunt in Mozambique next year.
Not only has this journey for the client resulted in a fantastic rifle but it has cemented a great friendship between us with numerous hunting stories exchanged, many laughs shared and one or two beers consumed along the way. Now for the next order……
The latest pre-owned rifle to land at WR UK is this fine .470 boxlock ejector double rifle by retailer, B. Halliday & Co. Ltd. Not a gunmaker in their own right, they had guns and rifles made for them in the Birmingham trade and were then retailed through their 63 Cannon Street, London address. Records for Halliday are hard to come by and it is thought they have either been lost or were destroyed during WW2. It is believed that Halliday was employed by W J Jeffery & Co. but then left to start his own business in 1921 at 60 Queen Victoria Street and in 1925, moved to 63 Cannon Street. Cannon street is located in the City of London itself, centrally located between St Pauls Cathedral, the Bank of England and the Tower of London.
The rifle is built on an Anson & Deeley, fixed lock, double trigger action with Tigers and Indian Elephant scenes engraving with a nicely executed scroll surround. The game scenes are typically naive, a common feature on guns from the interwar period destined for the Indian market.
The 26” barrels have tidy bores and the rifle shoots a very respectable group (see target below). They feature a file cut quarter rib with Dolls Head Extension. A rear express sight with one standing and two folding leaves regulated at 100, 200 & 300 yards and a single bead ramp foresight. The target was shot at 50 yards using Hornady 500 grain soft nosed ammunition and was shot with a 6 o’clock hold due to the rifle being regulated at 100 yards. The pistol grip stock measures 14 ¼” to the centre of the traditional recoil pad with an extended tang, grip cap and silver stock. The splinter forend features the Anson push rod release.
The rifle weighs 10lbs 9.5oz and is neatly presented in an oak and leather case with cleaning rods, snap caps, oil bottle and leather sling. The case would appear to be a later addition and features trade labels from London Guns of Victoria, Australia. The rifle was acquired by Walter Clode from India via Australia sometime in the 1980’s, during the height of Mr. Clode’s used gun dealings. It was sold to a local hunter by Mr. Clode in May 1987 and in the last 32 years has hunted on 3 different continents and has been a much trusted companion on a wide variety of hunts in East Africa, Canada and has even been back ‘home’ to Australia’s Northern Territory.
It really is a super rifle with a good deal of character. It remains in original condition and would have a had a light refurbishment by Mr. Clode in the 80’s. There are the usual handling marks on the stock as you’d expect but the stock is sound and the rifle functions perfectly. This rifle is ready and waiting for its next safari and offers someone a fantastic opportunity to acquire themselves a great English double, in one of the most popular big game calibres ever made.
The time has now come for Westley Richards to once again find a home for this great rifle and it will be on our used gun site shortly. Please contact me for any enquiries; email@example.com
With Red Grouse shooting now officially underway, the game season in the Uk can now be looked forward to with real vigor and excitement! The anticipation of a busy season will see shots progress from grouse, to partridge, to pheasant as the season works on through the autumn and winter.
Double gunning, perhaps the pinnacle of driven game shooting will feature throughout the season on many of the larger estates and so it is no surprise to see a spike in the demand for pairs of guns. With this in mind it could not have been a better time to have gotten the most recent addition to the second-hand gun inventory here at the Westley Richards U.S. Agency.
This pair of Holland & Holland 12g ‘Royal’Model game guns are in excellent, original condition and one of the finest pairs of Holland & Holland guns to come to market in some time.
Signature hand detachable sidelocks.
Finished in 1953 this pair of guns represents, in my mind, one of Holland’s finest periods. I know the guns made prior to the World Wars and between the Wars, are often thought of as the bench mark for overall quality in a gun, but lay this pair of post war guns by a comparable Holland, of any era, and I think you will be surprised. The bold Royal engraving is wonderfully cut and well executed, the fit and finish of the guns is superb and remains in high original condition. The barrels were expertly struck and bored. The guns showcase all the hallmark features that made Holland & Holland such a notable name in gunmaking.
The guns are built on the H&H patented Royalmodel bar-action sidelock ejector with hand detachable locks and treble grip action bodies. The guns have two triggers, the front ones hinged, and rolled trigger bows. The guns also have automatic safeties with “SAFE” inlaid in gold as well as gold lined cocking indicators. The square bar actions have beautifully shaped beads and fences and the actions are engraved in the classic house or Royalengraving pattern of bold foliate scroll surrounding the Maker’s name. The bottom of the action is engraved “Royal Model” and each gun is appropriately numbered in gold “1” or “2” on the top lever, top rib and forend iron.
Superb original condition is a highlight of these guns.
The guns have their original 28” chopper lump barrels with Holland’s hidden third fasteners and raised matted game ribs. The barrels have original 2 ¾” chambers (1 1/4 oz proof) and carry Holland’s patent self-opening assembly. The barrels are engraved with the maker’s name and the “98 New Bond St.” address (ca. 1858-1960). The bottom rib is engraved “Made in England” and “Royal”.
The straight grip walnut stocks have Holland’s classic diamond shaped hand. The stocks have a dark contrasting figure and match nicely, both having 14 3/4″ length of pulls over checkered butts. The splinter forends have Anson push rods and Holland’s patent ejectors. Stocks and forends are checkered in a very well-cut point pattern checkering with borders and traditional drop points. Each gold stock oval has the previous owner’s initials D.J.M.
The guns come complete in the maker’s two-gun motor case with its canvas cover and the original owner’s name and hometown on the initial patch.
These guns remain in near new condition as they were used very little and were well cared for. It is hard to imagine a pair of vintage guns in a more relevant configuration for today’s shooting. The bonus is they are from wonderful period in this venerable maker’s history. This is a very special pair of guns.
A typed letter to the original owner of this pair of guns was found inside the gun’s case. The letter quotes a few days shooting on the grouse moors of Scotland and is dated 1960.
In all my years selling guns, I don’t think I ever met anyone who didn’t have a .22 LR of some kind. Probably one of the greatest cartridges ever invented, it can be used as a precision target round or a highly effective hunting tool. It is very inexpensive to produce and good reliable firearms, in both handguns and rifles, can be made and sold at very reasonable prices. Not surprisingly, the cartridge is one of the most widely used in the World and I would imagine most readers of this blog have at least one rifle chambered for the .22 Long Rifle.
The American firm J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co. firstintroduced the .22 Long Rifle (.22 LR) in 1847. It has a rimfire case (based on Louis-Nicolas Flobert’s .22 BB Cap cartridge) and shoots a 0.22” calibre 40 grain bullet at around 1,200 fps producing virtually no recoil. Being cheap, plentiful and easy to shoot, the cartridge also makes a wonderful round for teaching and practicing the fundamentals of shooting.
Due to the popularity of the cartridge, the rifles and handguns chambered for the .22 LR must be in the tens of millions. British companies such as BSA certainly contributed their fair share and even the best gun and rifle makers of England offered rifles chambered in .22 LR. I have seen .22 rifles from makers James Woodward, James Purdey, Holland & Holland, William Evans, and of course, Westley Richards. Most were single shot rook and rabbit rifles, but I have also encountered more than one Best Quality double rifle chambered for the cartridge. However, as popular as the .22 LR is, it is more often associated with a child’s gun or small game hunting. Finding any kind of .22 rifle made to the standard of a best quality big bore rifle, is something that will rarely happen.
You can imagine my surprise when I first heard of the rifle that just came through the U.S. Agency. Made in 1983 to match a customer’s big bore Westley Richards, the rifle pictured here is the only best quailty .22 LR bolt action rifle Westley Richards has ever made.
The history is fuzzy on how this rifle actually came to be but, the story goes, it started out to provide the client with a rifle to practice his shooting, in a chambering more economical and fun to shoot than his big bore rifle, yet having a similar style of sights, size and weight. The current owner had told me about this rifle but seeing it in person, it was clear this project took on a life of its own becoming much more than just a rifle to practice with.
The rifle is best quality in every way. Based on an action of Mauser design, the MAS .22 LR Training Rifle. After WWII, the Mauser factory fell into French controlled territory and during this time, the French had the factory design a .22 calibre training rifle for their military. The Mauser people drew on a previous Mauser 22 design, the KKW, and made some slight modifications. The first ones were produced in the Mauser factory but, production was moved to Manufacture d’armes de Saint-Étienne (MAS) or the Saint-Étienne Arms Manufacturer. MAS was a French state-owned manufacturing company located in the town of Saint-Étienne, where weapons have been manufactured since the Middle Ages. The rifles were assembled until the existing supply of parts were used up.
The metal is engraved in a full coverage ‘House’ pattern scroll common to Westley Richards bolt action rifles from the 1980’s. The rifle is fitted with a highly figured, full-size walnut stock complete with raised beaded cheekpiece, full pistol grip, a very fine point pattern wrap checkering and the traditional horn butt plate, pistol grip cap and forend tip. The rifle also features full size one-piece bottom metal with an inside-the-bow release straddle floor plate. The floor plate opens and reveals the 5-round detachable magazine the MAS 45 rifles were originally fitted with.
For the original MAS 45 magazines to work, the gunmakers hid the magazine under the floor plate and milled a magazine box, from a solid steel billet, to accept the magazine. This allowed the original magazines to work in a standard center fire rifle stock that is far deeper than the original training rifles.
The rifle has a 24” barrel with the same contour as a standard centerfire rifle and the muzzle’s crown is recessed ¼” with a diameter of about .330”, hiding the small .22 calibre bore and further adding to the rifle’s disguise. The barrel was also fitted with Westley Richards pattern island rear sight with one standing Express sight and three folding leaves (50, 75, 100, 150 yds) and Westley Richards patent combination foresight. The rifle was also made to accept a scope and has handmade grooved mounts that replace the original receiver sight the MAS 45 rifles were fitted with. The bases are engraved to match the rest of the rifle and accept American scope rings intended for .22 rifles with ¾” grooved receivers.
As with any bestquality gun or rifle, the devil is always in the details. This rifle is certainly not short on any details. I also imagine the rifle comes with plenty of heartache, frustration and disdain from the men who had to make it. While it is hard enough to build a gun or rifle to bestquality standards on a model of gun the makers are familiar with, applying that same standard to something the makers have never built brings a new host of challenges to its manufacture. Being that the factory had never made a .22 bolt action before, there were no plans, notes or examples to reverse engineer, so the project started with a blank sheet of paper. Add all of this with an overarching theme to deceive the viewer into thinking it is a larger calibre rifle than it is, I can only imagine the turmoil this little rifle’s creation caused.
Its rarity notwithstanding, the amount of thought, ingenuity and attention to detail that went into this project is quite astounding and, I guess, that is part of what makes this rifle so alluring.