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’.
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.
Today saw the launch of our ‘Orvis Residency’ here at the Westley Richards showroom and factory. A three month collaboration running straight up through the coming Christmas period.
Here at Westley Richards, a true adoration for the great outdoors and all its splendour is in our blood, and none more so than Orvis can rightfully share that spirit. Whilst Westley Richards may have a rich 207 year heritage, Orvis deservedly boasts a 163 year history themselves, and are regarded as one of the oldest manufacturers of fly-fishing rods and reels in the world.
In the USA, Orvis is cherished as an iconic American outdoor brand, known for presenting a much desired lifestyle based around the pursuit of fin and feather.
With a strong following here in the UK it made perfect sense to partner Orvis and showcase some of their superb fly fishing and dog products. Many a keen fieldsports enthusiast is just as eager to cast a fly as fire a shot, therefore we are excited to position their collections side by side our best guns and fine leather goods.
Our store will be holding a range of fishing equipment and dog accessories.
Fly casting techniques were ably demonstrated by Orvis fly fishing specialist Keith Passant, who kept all entertained with his pinpoint accuracy and easy teaching style. Many who had never held a rod before were soon learning the fundamental techniques of successful casting under Keith’s watchful eye.
To top the whole exciting day off, ‘Bentley Birmingham’ were in attendance with their magnificent Bentayga SUV, a tour de force in car manufacture, which unquestionably added some style and elegance to the day. Another iconic British brand, Bentley has always been at the forefront of luxury car design and shares Westley Richards’ drive for constant innovation. This year they celebrate their 100th year in the automotive industry with the launch of the much lauded EXP 100 GT, a fully electric exploration into how grand touring could look by 2035.
The whole day was thoroughly enjoyed by all and it cannot be that often that you get three iconic brands together with a combined history of 470 years!
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……
Westley Richards has a very International reputation for building best quality guns and rifles. So much so in fact that 90% of our order book will head overseas a year, leaving very little to be seen here in the Uk shooting field.
In fairness Westley Richards is very much a niche brand here in the Uk, staying under the radar building great guns and rifles for true entusiasts who get what we are about and appreciate superb quality and attention to detail.
So it was, rather ironically, that at the SCI Convention in 2016 we took an order for a 28 bore droplock from an Englishman who was attending the show to book a couple of hunts.
Now to the US market a 28 bore does not appear too unusual, but here in the Uk they appeal to either the experienced shot or the eccentric, take your pick. You see over here most game shooting involves shooting high driven birds which require the firepower of the 12 bore or for the more ambitious a choked up 20 bore. 28 bores are used by very few, although in truth (and the right hands) they can be deadly.
Should you wish to make things even tougher on yourself, decide (as engraved on this gun) to tackle the Common Snipe with your gun. Now this tiny dart of a bird is hard to shoot in most instances, as they either spring away zig-zagging in front of you, or if driven, appear but a mere speck in the sky, often resembling a mosquito in size. Both targets are equally difficult to shoot, the shots to hits ratio rapidly spiralling out of control. It genuinely requires a seasoned shot to tackle such game and thankfully this is exactly who this gun is going to. We are looking forward to a few fabled stories about this gun as the shooting season here in the Uk gets into full swing.
The clients favourite game bird the Common Snipe adorns the cover plate.
A tight and highly figured piece of walnut suits the diminutive nature of this ‘English’ droplock.
Fresh from engraving is another of our ever popular .410 droplock shotguns. Over the years we have worked on scaling every detail on these fine little guns to such an extent that the engraving has now become an important and final element of this process.
Westley Richards traditional house scroll can trace its ancestry back to the earliest guns produced by the company. Guns of the muzzle loading era were ruled by the larger 12, 14 and 16 bore hence engraving designs were bolder with large scrolls to provide more coverage and suit the tastes of the time. With the advent of the Anson & Deeley boxlock gun design of 1875 Westley Richards ‘house’ engravers had the final canvas on which to perfect the companies own scroll design, one that remains the standard for the guns and rifles built today.
Interestingly, small bore guns built on scaled action frames were often the tool for boys and consequently lacked any real engraving, more often the only form of engraving was the Westley Richards name simply adorning the action sides.
Fast forward to the re-introduction of the droplock .410 in 1989 and you’ll note that one of the first guns produced from the original batch of six was engraved by the renowned Brown brothers (Paul & Alan) with a beautiful bouquet (rose) and fine scroll design. Whilst game scenes also featured on this gun, the small scroll design really lifted this little gun into a new light.
Over the last couple of years, several of these modern droplock incarnations have been handed around various engravers each of whom has given their own unique twist on this beautiful design. The images which illustrate this blog shows one of the latest which you really must see in the hand to truly appreciate. Whilst it is a given that the gun is small, the delicate nature of the scroll design really does complete the refined scale of this gun.
The Westley Richards patent top lever makes a great canvas for the delicate scroll.
The ‘scroll back’ of the action creates a natural starting point from which the scroll can emerge and flow.
The application of gold on traditional sporting arms—and especially on British examples—is a very easy thing to get wrong. Recall that the aesthetics of Britain’s classic designs, their shapes, their lines, their engraving, evolved during an age and in an empire where ostentatious decoration on firearms was generally frowned upon.
In English Guns & Rifles, J.N. George’s fine 1947 treatise on the evolution of British sporting arms, the author noted a trend evident by the late 18th Century—“a marked tendency toward greater simplicity of form, combined with the abolition of all kinds of ornament which might impair either its utilitarian value or its appearance of neatness and smooth finish, began to be apparent in all forms of the sporting gun.”
Broadly speaking these strictures dominated British gunmaking, and British gun engraving, throughout the 19th Century and well in to the 20th. Lavishly embellished outliers, with some exceptions, are most notably the guns and rifles made for the princes of India and the royalty of the East, to whom Westley Richards was a favourite gun and rifle maker.
By its nature, gold—in all its flashy, sometimes heavy opulence— can readily overwhelm the spare elegance and quiet lines of a traditional English firearm, and often does when applied—unless the applicator has not only hands of great technical virtuosity but also the eyes of an artist and an aesthetic taste congruous with the object to be engraved.
As his gold inlays and the bejewelled engravings on the India Rifle (2013) and the Africa Rifle (2016) illustrate, Lithuanian-born and America-based Paul Lantuch possesses each of these talents. This spring, after 6 1/2 years in the making, Lantuch completed the ‘Arab Warrior Guns’, a pair of sidelocks, the third and fourth examples of the largest, most expensive, and the most elaborate commissions that Westley Richards has placed with an engraver since the Boutet Gun of the 1980s, engraved by Alan and Paul Brown.
The pair, 12-bore rounded-body sidelocks, feature panoply of carved Arab warriors with interwoven Arabesque ornamental motifs against a full background of inlayed, stippled gold. Built for a member of Qatar’s royal family, there is more precious metal on display on these guns than at Fort Knox, but … but—and I say this as a conservative rose & scroll purist—the effect is sumptuous, certainly regal, but not gaudy, nor garish. That is because Lantuch’s design effectively integrates the figures and ornaments in with the gold in a manner so that no one element visually dominates another, nor does the gold crush the fine lines of the canvas—which is, after all, a traditional British shotgun.
Lantuch is first and foremost an artist; he studied at Lithuania’s Vilnius Institute of Arts, and is accomplished in many mediums—drawing, painting, printmaking, and creating jewellery of elaborate and innovative design. The late Simon Clode, in his 2013 introduction to Lantuch on The Explora, wrote: “Gun engravers who can draw and design are scarce, engravers who can conceive, draw, design and execute to the standard of Paul are even scarcer.” Clode—not only a connoisseur of engraving but a champion of the art and a sponsor of talented young engravers—recognised something special after Anthony Alborough-Tregear brought Lantuch’s work to his attention upon seeing it at the American Custom Gunmakers Guild Exhibition, in 2011 in Reno.
The process of embellishing the Arab Warrior Guns began in 2016, beginning with discussions between Lantuch and Clode about depictions of mounted warriors struck in fighting poses. The concept called for the figures and ornaments to be carved and depicted in relief against a stippled golden background, as if they were set on shimmering sands in the sunlit deserts of Arabia. “The balance of figures to the gold surfaces had to be carefully calculated,” emphasised Lantuch. In his final design this balance, to my mind, is the key to the success of the composition.
Lantuch and the team at Westley Richards exchanged notes and photos of evolving designs over two-and-half months until the right concept crystallised. The physical process of engraving started, Lantuch explained, with him transferring the drawings on to the steel surfaces with a needle, then cutting contour lines. Lantuch shaped and carved the warriors with a variety of chisels.
“The figures are actually based on 19th Century Orientalist European art, rather than real Islamic iconography,” Lantuch explained. “The ornamental work is florid in style, with geometric inclusions; this is called Arabesque, a kind of European interpretation of Islamic art.”
With flat chisels Lantuch removed steel for the background down to a depth of 1.5mm, and he then punched thousands of dots into the recesses before crisscrossing them with a sharp flat chisel. This creates a gripping surface for the gold inlay. Then, using pure 24-karat gold wire—and a lot of it, 1.8 ounces for the two guns—Lantuch hammered and inlayed the gold with a flat punch, then textured the background with special tools that he made himself.
After the guns were returned to England and had been traditionally pack-hardened nearby in the premises of Birmingham’s famed Richard and Bob St. Ledger, Lantuch flew to England to begin the two-week-long finishing process.
The correct finishing of any carved gun is critical to the quality of its final appearance, and it is a delicate, painstaking multi-step process. First, the case colours must be removed, but not all of them, so to account for and to accentuate shadows and highlights, and the figures and ornamental motifs re-detailed and their lines sharpened where necessary. In some places the background needed re-matting and, beautifully, the gold seams between the action and lockplates were hammered and joined as if each action was one unit. “Paul essentially sealed the guns’ actions to mate up all the goldwork,” said Alborough-Tregear. “It gives the guns a svelte, almost organic quality.”
Though best known for its hand-detachable droplocks, Westley Richards still builds sidelocks, and the mechanics of the Arab Warrior Guns conform to the firm’s preferred modern-day configuration for its sidelock shotguns: Boss-type bar-action locks, rounded actions, Southgate-type ejectors, with H&H-type assisted openers, and single non-selective triggers. The 29-inch barrels are fitted with gold and ruby foresight beads.
Despite the carvings and gold, the guns appear as fleet as the long-limbed Arabian stallions portrayed on them. They are even lightweight—6-pounds, 8-ounces each. “Regrettably, many London guns are now getting heavier and heavier, with loggish, long barrels made to fire heavy cartridges—really missing the point of a fine gun,” said Alborough-Tregear. “The Westley Richards round-body guns are so elegant you could easily mistake our 12s for 16s.”
The pair is housed in an oak-and-leather case appropriate to the guns: outwardly clad in best black alligator hide, French-fitted, goat-skin lined, all metalwork gold plated, tools made with horn handles, and geometric marquetry in the frame, the owner’s name hand-embossed in traditional gold leaf. It is a showcase in the most literal sense of the word and befitting of display in any museum of the arts.
Vic Venters is a journalist and author of The Best of British: A Celebration of British Gunmaking, as well as Gun Craft: Fine Guns and Gunmakers in the 21st Century. He has covered the British and European fine gun trade since the early 1990s and is the Senior Editor of America’s Shooting Sportsman magazine.
After a two-year hiatus, the Scottish Sporting Journal is back, injecting a modern design into a much-loved 40-year-old title; the same passion for Scotland, captured and documented in a new, exciting way. Evolving from the Gazette to the Journal, this 180-page bi-annual magazine is a visual and written journey through Scotland’s wild places, capturing the passion, craft and pursuits within them.
The ethos behind the publication is that Scotland represents a way of life that is long lost to much of the modern world; a way of life in which the people, wildlife and landscape are all intrinsically linked. The aim of its content is to share this emotion and experience, offering true escapism to their readers. From chasing brown trout in small spate rivers to stalking stags in the Highlands to spending time with faraway island communities, Scottish Sporting Journal puts the focus on visual storytelling, capturing the essence of what makes Scotland such a unique country.
Volume II, Issue I highlights include:
– The Arab Warrior Guns from Westley Richards A unique pair of museum-quality featuring the most prolific gold inlay coverage of any guns they have built in their 207-year history
– Hunting with golden eagles We head high into the Cairngorms National Park to witness golden eagles hunting mountains hares in their natural habitat
– Hidden Scotland with Jim Richardson Renowned National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson shares some of his favourite images from his adventures around Scotland
– The new spirit of Scotland With Scottish gin reportedly set to usurp whisky in the next 12 months, we visit the Isle of Harris distillery to see it first hand
– Exploring the Isle of Arran Known as Scotland in Miniature, we explore the many sporting opportunities and way of life on the Isle of Arran
– Spearfishing in remote seas Spearfishing guide Will Beeslaar heads into the cold waters in pursuit of Pollock, with bespoke underwater photography
– Salmon fishing on the Spey A morning with ghillie Roddy Stronach, who has lived and worked on the Spey for 15 years, to understand how the role of a ghillie is changing