This last week Vincent Crowley payed us a visit to deliver back one of his more recent masterpieces. Vince and I have known each other from our earliest days in the ‘gun trade’ having both started out with Westley Richards. It has been a pleasure working with him for over 20 years now, on some of the finest guns and rifles to leave the Westley Richards factory.
Vince has always been one of those lucky talents and I remember with envy some of the exceptional pieces he created as little more than a kid. Both of us have matured (supposedly!) since those early days and through the kind patronage of some fantastic clients, have been privileged to put together some genuine masterpieces of the gun-maker and engravers art.
Gold feathers add beautiful detail to the lock plates.
The gun shown here is one of our classic hand detachable or ‘droplock’ shotguns in 28 bore. With this particular gun Vince has used a process where raised steel scenes are actually carved onto the main action body and cover plate, rather than being of a relief carved style. This gives the scenes unparalleled dimension and it is almost as though the birds are flying out of the backgrounds and streaming past you. For interests sake, the gun is adorned with Bobwhite Quail, Chukar and Pheasant, with a Black Labrador on the trigger guard bow.
As we have come to expect with Vince, the rest of the gun has a wonderful combination of super fine rose bouquets and scroll, carved fences, pierced lever work and super delicate gold work. All of us are very much looking forward to seeing the finished article, as there are a few other nice touches to complete the final package.
Pheasant adorn the cover plate, whilst a Black Labrador retrieves a bird.
Bobwhite quail stream down the right side of the action.
A few months ago we posted images of this gun fresh back from engraving and now here it finally is all complete and ready to head out to the USA. The transformation from ‘in the white’ parts to a finished gun really is quite distinctive and the gun as a whole becomes an object of both gunmaking art and functionality.
One of the more subtle features of the gun is the actual colouration of the steel after it has been case colour hardened and subsequently brushed. All of our double guns and rifles go through the case colour hardening process as carried out by the St.Ledger brothers here in the old Birmingham gun quarter.
Before CCH the steel has a certain silver quality about it that is in basic terms raw and bright. The actual CCH process creates a surface hardness which allows the steel to flex under stress yet provides a protective outer shell or ‘case’. When the fine surface layer of colour is actually removed the steel maintains a slightly more greyed tone which adds a real subtlety to parts that might otherwise look like a shined coin!
In direct sunlight it is often possible to see the very finest traces of colour which can be used effectively to enhance the engraving of the gun. Some engravers will insist on finishing their own work for this very reason. With Westley Richards, no matter who is finishing the gun or rifle, we always try to leave CCH on the triggers, action flats, action face, forend iron and inside the trigger bow. This always adds a tasteful touch, particularly when the gun is disassembled for travel. It also seems such a waste to remove them all!
The gold flush game scenes must be carefully cleaned and highlighted after the case colour hardening process.
The finished article in its lightweight leather case, complete and ready to go.
Once again the team of craftsman here at the Westley Richards factory have completed yet another stunning droplock double rifle, in this instance in the tried and tested .470 3 1⁄4” nitro express.
Whilst it might take upwards of three years to build a rifle of this quality, we appear on the surface to be one of the few British gun and rifle makers consistently delivering new double rifles to a worldwide clientele. Our current order book has 7 x 57R, .375 H&H Belted Magnum, .375 Flanged Magnum, .450/.400 3″, .470, .500, .577 and .600 nitro express double rifles in production with the orders for such remaining strong. It would appear that the double rifle is the pinnacle of gunmaking excellence and regardless of whether a client is actually ever going to hunt with one, they certainly feel the need to own one!
The wood on this particular rifle, even by our standards has finished beautifully, merely enhancing the quality of craftsmanship carried out here in Birmingham. Long may the traditions of building the double rifle continue to thrive.
Buffalo game scene cameo on cover plate.
Vivid case colour hardening executed by the St.Ledger brothers.
Stunning exhibition grade walnut finished by hand to a high gloss sheen.
Westley Richards is noted for the diversity of engraving that regularly graces the pages of this blog and it is always fun to note peoples reactions to the individual projects we undertake.
The pair of guns shown here would appear at first glance to be a pair of sidelock shotguns, but are in fact a pair of our side plated droplock shotguns in 20 bore, fitted with all the usual Westley Richards features, including our single selective trigger. As an alternative to the traditional sidelock shotgun they make for a great gun and are without question unique to Westley Richards.
As you begin to scroll down through the images you’ll begin to notice just how different the engraving is! The client in this instance lives both in the UK and South Africa these guns being a reflection on his various passions. In the UK he has a wonderful Aston Martin DB5 and regular fly’s around in his Squirrel helicopter. Down in South Africa he keeps a vintage Willy’s Jeep from World War II and lives within view of Table Mountain one of the most easily recognisable landmarks. The Giraffe is a favourite animal of the family and we had to be very carefully in the selection of the correct sub species as the various giraffe found throughout Africa have quite distinct markings.
The guns are wrapped in a tight rose and fine scroll pattern with the usual 1 and 2 numbering replaced with a single pheasant flying and a pair of pheasant flying. Complemented with a buffalo skin case the guns carry forward the Africa theme and should certainly make for an interesting conversation piece come the shooting season!
Aston Martin DB5 And The Southern Giraffe In View Of Table Mountain.
The Family Crest Adorns The Underside Of The Actions.
Vintage World War II Willy’s Jeep And Squirrel Helicopter.
As another busy week draws to a close and we head into the bank holiday weekend, below is a small selection of shots from the factory floor. Although this is technically deemed as the quieter time of the year, there’s certainly no let-up in the work load and we’re as busy as ever!
Destined once again for a good client of ours in the USA is this sweet 20g droplock shotgun. As the client is based in Texas it was only natural to engrave the gun with some nice scenes of dove and Bobwhite quail set amongst some of the cactus brush country familiar to his own ranch.
The scroll is a slightly finer version than we usually use on the larger frame guns and rifles, but we feel that everything should be scaled and in proportion with the frame size. You’ll also notice some rose bouquets which we think add a tasteful look and break to the overall engraving design.
One final feature that always works well with these small bore guns are the carved fences which always add a touch of masculinity to an otherwise delicate gun.
Flushing Bobwhite quail in Texas brush country.
Carved fences always add a nice touch to our delicate bird guns.
Classic dove game scene on the right side of the action.
We make no apologies here at Westley Richards for showing you some of the finest guns and rifles built by some of the worlds greatest craftsman. Included in this list of master craftsman are without doubt Gerhard Hartmann and Otto Weiss, founders of Hartmann & Weiss, gun and rifle makers of Hamburg, Germany.
For many years, perhaps decades, they set the standard for excellence in gun and rifle manufacture so encouraging a whole new generation of craftsmen both in Europe and the Uk, a benefit to us all and the industry as a whole.
This set of three take down bolt action rifles in .300 Winchester Magnum, .416 Rigby and .500 Jeffery, are testament to their continued skill. What makes them even more special is the fabulous engraving executed by master engraver Alain Lovenberg. The detail and precision of work is without compromise and explains why Alain has forged such a reputation in the engraving world. It is great to see his level of workmanship on these three fine rifles.
At SCI this year I had the pleasure, along with several other gunmakers from both the Uk and Europe of sharing Otto Weiss’s company at the bar for a few beers. Whilst you might take him for an unassuming and quiet old man, he can still hold his own at the bar regaling many a fantastic tale of yesteryear. Later this year Otto celebrates his 80th Birthday, a landmark by anyones reckoning, even more so when you consider he still turns up for work every day!
Elegant lines in keeping with vintage British rifles.
Fantastic design and execution by master engraver Alain Lovenberg.
Fresh back from engraving is this super .500 droplock double rifle with bold scroll engraving, gold naming and a game scene of a hunter being charged by a bull elephant.
The game scene is an interesting and not unusual concept which always poses the question ‘What happened next?’ For anyone who has ever been in such a situation there is nothing more exciting! A large bull elephant with ears spread wide, kicking up dust is a truly intimidating sight, one that makes even the largest of double rifles seem small in the hands of the hunter.
More often than not the tension is relieved by the mutual backing off of both parties, each content to go their separate way. Then again, should it all go wrong…………………..!!!!!
Although by no means prolific, it is always great to see a new bolt action rifle in Westley Richards signature .318 calibre reach completion here at the factory. Once the medium bore calibre by which all others were judged, like so many of the great British calibre’s, including .333 Jeffery and .350 Rigby, it slipped into semi obscurity after the Second World War.
In truth the .318 Westley Richards cartridge shooting a 250 grain bullet at 2250 feet per second is still a great and fun cartridge to use for general plains game hunting and even driven boar in Europe. The long torpedo bullet has phenomenal sectional density and with its moderate velocity (by modern standards) proves a deep penetrating round, at one time capable of tackling every type of big and dangerous game on the planet.
Peep sight located on the cocking piece.
The rifle you see here was built to a very traditional lightweight format with the addition of Westley Richards take-down system. The client had requested the rifle to be built primarily for open sight use, hence the sleek lines of the rifle. Westley Richards signature patent combination foresight was a given as no true Westley Richards magazine rifle is complete without one. It was then decided to fit a very traditional island rear sight base with one standing plus three leaf express sight regulated to 200 yards. A peep sight fitted to the cocking piece was also utilised so creating a very classic style of rifle.
As with all our guns and rifles a super piece of Turkish walnut was selected with which to stock the rifle. We came to the conclusion some time back that with the comparatively small number of guns and rifles that we build each year, we may as well use the very nicest wood that we can obtain.
Certainly destined for Africa, we are looking forward to hearing how this classic round performs in this new rifle.
Beautiful Turkish walnut stock.
The new rifle compared to a vintage example. Either rifle would be fun to use today in Africa.
Page from Westley Richards ‘Centenary’ catalogue detailing the .318 Westley Richards.
An interesting rifle completed this week, is this lovely scroll back droplock double rifle in .500/.416 calibre. The round so it goes was developed to replicate the power of the legendary .416 Rigby, but in a flanged case that could be used successfully in double rifles. Developed by Kriegoff in the mid 1990’s, the round was based on the tried and tested .500 nitro express case in 3 1/4″ format. In Norma ammunition, the cartridge propels a 410 grain Woodleigh bullet at a very respectable 2325 feet per second so generating 4922 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. All round a great cartridge for general African use, from the larger plains game all the way up to the largest of the most dangerous game.
Only the second rifle in this calibre to be built by us, we have to say that the lines of the rifle are only enhanced by the profile of the barrels which have a very nice and gentle sweep tapering down to the muzzle. The rifle weighs in at 10lb 6ozs which makes it extremely comfortable to shoot. The rifle has been regulated at 100 yards, hence the fitting of a scope, the whole package complete in a dark green canvas and leather trimmed lightweight case.
Vivid case colour hardening complements the traditional house scroll engraving and gold details.
The rifle comes complete in a dark green canvas and dark tan leather trimmed case.