I am very pleased that today we received from the printers our new 48 page pocket sized gun catalogue that we have been working on for the forthcoming shows. I do hope you will pass by our stands at one of the shows, say hello and get hold of a copy.
A comment by Neil in my last post suggested a post on ‘what I would like Santa to bring me in my Christmas stocking’ so this is the first item I want to see sticking out the top when I wake up!
Before I go to my box I would really like to hunt a Marco Polo sheep and/or an Altai Argali sheep. I don’t relish the thought of altitude sickness and filthy camps but I find the Marco Polo a majestic animal and it has been on my bucket list for many years. ‘Thou shall not covet another mans trophies’ but I have always done so with my friend and frequent hunting companion Sultan Al Thani’s Altai Argali, one which he took in the early 90’s and was a very close world record. The size and mass of the horns make me want to steal it every time I see it to add it to the walls of interesting stuff here at WR.
In order to do these hunts I need a nice, light, bomb proof rifle with a fixed scope. A rifle with which I can learn to control my shakes and ineptitude with a scoped rifle when shooting at distance. A rifle I can leave at the top of the mountain if needed. The Plastic Fantastic was born, but, I hastily add, has not yet been conceived. The specifications seemed pretty simple to me, a special alloy sheathed lightweight fluted barrel on a new Mauser 98 action all fitted to a synthetic stock to our normal stock design and shape in a take apart format.
To date retaining crisp lines on our stock profile has been a problem, I have paid for moulds and machining and all kinds of stuff, I have 3 or 4 failed attempts and the cost of my rifle grows with alarming pace and is shortly going to exceed that of one our very best take downs. The trophy fees unfortunately grow at an alarming pace also!
They say a shoe maker never has a pair of his own shoes and the same certainly applies to this gunmaker. I have attempted many times to make my own new guns and rifles but the dealer in me always lets them go before I finish them and I start again. So if Santa could help complete this quickly I would be a very happy hunter!
I can imagine all the traditional readers rolling around in horror at the very thought of Westley Richards doing such a thing but just wait until you see the finished item, you will want one for your mountain trips in your stocking too!
The days have been passing with great haste as we lead up to our Christmas shut down next week. I had a message earlier today just checking I was still alive, this as a result of my poor activity here on the Explora! So just to show I am alive, a quick post with some new shots taken this week for use at our shows in the USA next month. Familiar guns I know but in a different setting.
Next week, assuming the printer delivers as promised, I look forward to revealing our new pocket catalogue which we have prepared for our shows next year and one which I posted about some months ago, when it was in planning stages. In pre press it looked really nice and i look forward very much to seeing the finished item myself.
Thank you for your continued visits!
A year or so ago, a very good client of ours purchased from a used gun dealer this .476 double rifle, it is a Gold Name model rifle made in the early 1900’s. Having received it he then had problems getting it to shoot and so sent it across the Atlantic for us to have a look at.
The rifle had, unfortunately, been shot at some point with monolithic solid bullets which had pushed the rifling to the outside of the barrels rather than being on the inside. Worse still there was a hairline crack in the centre of the barrel, barely noticeable unless you look carefully, rendering them as scrap.
Whilst hugely disappointing for the client I was very pleased that he immediately thought of sending us the rifle to check, rather than load and try to get the rifle to shoot himself. The barrels were totally unsafe and the crack could at any point have opened up and potentially caused injury.
I have come across quite a lot of old rifles which have been shot with the wrong ammunition, and whilst I will not say this is a common problem, it is not uncommon either. When you are buying a double rifle ( or shotgun in fact) the barrels are the most expensive item to replace and it is worth thinking a vintage gun is only as good as its barrels. Spend the time to check them or have someone check them for you. It is possible in the case of the rifle to see the rifling on the outside if it has been raised by the wrong solid use, hold the barrels to the light and look up the outsides and you can see the feint twist of the rifling. This is perhaps easier said than done but worth remembering to check or ask someone to check for you! The penalty is a bill for in excess of $20,000 for new ones!
I don’t recall that we have made a set like this is recent years. Indeed we have made the full set of 7 guns, from .410 to 8g for our Bicentennial, but they were cased in a huge display case and these are cased in a triple motor type case for travel and use. Flexibility in a leather case, if you are not managing with the .410 you can step up a grade and go for the 28g, still no luck and onto the 20g and vice versa of course! A gun for every quarry.
The engraving on these guns was executed by Frederique Lepinois who’s work you have hopefully seen on The Explora before. Frederique is the sister of our stocker Romain but I am not sure if we made this a completely family affair with him doing the stocking also.
These guns are destined now for Dallas and an eager ranch owner, to whom I wish many years of pleasure hunting the native quail for himself, his children and grandchildren
Part of our problem at Westley Richards is we are never quite able to say NO when an interesting project is offered, the Rafiki 700/500 and the pair of 4g guns immediately spring to mind. So when we were asked by a long standing client Dallas Safari Club convention some years ago to build a new falling block rifle, we said YES!
Three years on we have finally completed the work and the first Take Down Farquharson rifle we as a company have built in many years is ready for delivery. I am not sure exactly how many years since our last, but I don’t think I would be far out if I said 100 years.
Projects like this are very good for a gunmaker, perhaps not financially but certainly it is an opportunity to show the diversity of skills and the ability to build guns and rifles ‘off price list’ or non standard guns, bespoke gunmaking just as it should be. It is always good to show something new and unusual and I do know enthusiasts love these classic single shot rifles.
After sending the first photos of the rifle to the client last night, I anxiously awaited his first reaction and was relieved this morning to get his response.
“It looks magnificent and thanks to everyone involved for sticking with it when I am sure you would rather have given up on it. That’s the problem with WR your word is your bond and you keep your word!”
About 20 years ago now, we re-introduced the PH model Anson & Deeley fixed lock double rifle. At the time we did this aimed primarily at the Professional Hunter market. The rifle was specified to be everything that was needed for Africa but without any frills in order to keep the cost down. The rifle was built by exactly the same people as our other rifles and to the same very high standards.
The barrels are chopper lump, the action is a removable hinge pin, A&D action with Model C bolting, manual safe work and Southgate ejectors. Sights were kept simple with a ramp front sight and a standing and folding rear sight. In its original PH offering the wood grade was plainer and the standard format engraving was Gold Name and case colour hardening.
Over the years since introduction we have built a variety of these rifles in .577, .500 and .470 some Gold Name and some fully engraved.
Upgrade the original format too much and the distance to the hand Detachable lock rifle is closed quickly and for this reason we build relatively few of this model. By the time best wood, WR front sight, traditional engraving and other things are added it becomes ever closer to the cost of our standard droplock double which includes these options.
A good week for the take down rifles with 2 separate rifles completed, cased and ready for delivery. Both the rifles are combination 2 barrel sets in .375H&H and .300H&H and built on double square bridge magnum Mauser actions. All the optics (each rifle has two scopes) are by Swarovski. Both rifles were cased in house by our leather department.
Every individual bench at Westley Richards has its own unique pile of well worn tools, files, turnscrews, small hammers, punches and an assortment of other things. Every pile is individual, but every pile has something in common, handles worn and polished over time by constant years of use. There is much talk about CNC machines and clever engineering but the real backbone of our craft lies in the use of these piles of tools which a gunmaker will add to constantly over the years, making some, inheriting some. If you can’t use these hand tools, you can’t make a best gun, it is as simple as that.
Last week I was explaining to two of our young gunmakers who are taking over the filing up of our actions, that whilst I expect them to adhere to the traditional Westley Richards shapes, I also expect them to be constantly competing to find the most beautiful and subtle shapes to the fences, action and parts, to create a signature of their own they are proud of. I want to be able to pick up a gun and know who filed it up, know that a person filed it up, not a CNC machine.
This .375 H&H belted magnum droplock double rifle was delivered in 1953 to its first owner. The rifle remains in remarkably good condition with original case colour and other finishes, partly due to the fact it has resided in our care for the past 15 or so years. The rifle is fitted with Westley Richards pattern QD mounts holding a low mounted Lyman scope which is very comfortably viewed over the Monte Carlo style stock. The scope may be considered old fashioned, but it certainly works fast, putting you on target if your eyesight is anything like mine, poor!
I remember when I started here at Westley Richards the choices for double rifles were essentially .458 and .375, both of which were at the time considered ‘The Calibre’s‘ for Africa. Ammunition was freely available and these were the days before the introduction of the wide range of old British calibre’s, pioneered by Bell (Brass Extrusion Laboratories) and then bettered and perfected by the likes of Wolfgang Romey, who we ourselves used to develop our own range of ammunition, in the late 80’s.
Whilst not having the knock down power of the current revived and more popular dangerous game calibre’s like the .470 and .500 the .375 H&H remains a superb and popular calibre, one that can be used all around the world and a rifle that still lives up to its name as ‘one rifle for Africa’.
This rifle will be on our used gun site shortly and we will be fitting it in an appropriate case.