We have to be quite secretive about who we work with in this field, especially in the area of engraving where quality work is competed for. Hence I am afraid this will be a ‘no names’ given out piece of writing!
A year or so ago, I was approached by a man determined to get into gun engraving as a second career, I invited him to the factory and he came to visit me and showed me his practise plates. He had done a wide variety of work, scroll, game scenes, inlay and I think even perhaps a little relief work. All the work had been done with only a little advise and help from one of our more regular engravers who had steered him over a period of months. The work was very impressive considering mainly self taught and the dedication to doing the work even more so. There was however the confusion of too many subjects and techniques being used, none of them mastered, very nice work but not ready to put on one of our guns.
Over a period of months I handed out various practise and unpaid projects which were taken on board and executed as carefully as possible. I emphasised, as I tend to do, that the basis for all engraving is getting the design and execution of fine scroll down and looking great before trying to move on to the more elaborate work. There is always a tendency with people starting to engrave, to race in and try and compete with the master engravers in the game scene and relief work arena, an area I have always felt best avoided until the scroll is mastered, why run before you can walk! After all who wants a game scene surrounded by badly executed scroll? There is scroll, be it fine or bold on every gun, but by no means do all guns have game or other fancy engraving work specified. Scroll and perfect lettering are the fundamentals as far as the gunmaker is concerned.
This 20g hand detachable lock gun is now the 4th gun the engraver has executed on commission for us in the traditional Westley Richards pattern. My message in this post is to thank him for his work, for listening and staying with the programme to get the fine scroll nailed. I know for both him as an individual engraver and for us a company the method will pay dividends and for my part it will be a great pleasure watching his work develop over the coming years into what I am quite sure will be something very special indeed, after all I have seen the practise plates and what is to come!
The Westley Richards ‘Ovundo’ is a very distinct over and under shotgun that was developed and retailed in various formats between 1913 – 1937. Recently we acquired this vintage 12g version that was originally completed in 1936 which was towards the end of production. The gun has a very lively feel and balance and quite interestingly weighs in at a mere 6lb 8ozs which for a 28″ sideplate over and under is surprisingly light and makes for a great game gun.
The design has been oft-maligned over the years as an often cumbersome looking gun, which is why several years ago we produced a very small batch of guns in only 20g as this appeared the most aesthetically pleasing.
One of the modern pairs of 20g Ovundo with elaborate scroll engraving.
One of the modern pair with full case colour hardening.
People have often questioned why Westley Richards opted for the deep action design of the under hook lump as opposed to the bifurcated system so typical of the shallow bodied Boss and Woodward design. Well you have to go back to the time this gun was being designed and considered that Westley Richards as a company had introduced in side by side format both the fixed lock gun design and then shortly afterwards the hand detachable lock (droplock) design. Both models were absolute signatures of the company and remain so to this day.
Now if you put these designs into an over and under gun, matters become a lot more interesting! Clearly the company was trying to work out its own way of building the over and under format gun in both a fixed lock and droplock format and quite simply the under hook design was the only way they saw fit to do so, allowing for the respective firing mechanisms.
What really amazes me and is so often forgotten is the actual number of variations built in ‘Ovundo’ format. There are fixed lock actions with square back, scroll back and side plates, there are droplock with scroll back, side plates and side plates with inspection ports. Some fixed lock versions have hinged cover plates as in the example shown here. Obviously there were single and double trigger versions and they were built in 12g, 16g, 20g and a multitude of rifle calibres from .425 WR down to .240 Flanged. The are even rifle/shotgun combo’s in one set of barrels and we have a Super Magnum Explora here at the factory.
From left: Vintage 12g Super Magnum Explora, .240 & .350 Rifles, Close up of .240 Rifle.
Much maligned? Well clearly not at the time as it was unquestionably one of the most produced British over and unders. Interestingly the recent 20g examples we built continue to create lots of interest and we are always asked when will the next generation of ‘Ovundo’ be released. With the modern move towards heavier guns shooting bigger loads I am certain it is something in our not too distant future.
The .300 Winchester Magnum, first introduced in 1963 is certainly proving to be a continued favourite in the rifle world and here we have two recently completed at the Westley Richards factory.
The first is a true left handed rifle built on a double square bridge Mauser ’98 left hand action. The client in this case was very specific about a heavier than normal barrel contour with a recessed muzzle crown as he wants to eke every last bit of accuracy out of the 25″ barrel. The second is on a right handed double square bridge Mauser ’98 action and has our traditional barrel profile with our patent combination foresight and quarter rib. Both have quick detachable scope mounts that integrate very nicely with the square bridges.
One of the nicest things about these rifle and one that we always discuss with a client, is how high grade wood can really make all the difference on a bolt action rifle, particularly if the engraving is being kept to a minimum. Both rifles have stunning exhibition pieces of Turkish Walnut that the finishers here in the factory have spent hours hand oiling to the very highest gloss finish. We think it speaks for itself.
Both rifles have our elegant ‘name and border’ engraving, with little touches on the recoil bar, pins, sights and square bridges, all executed to the highest standard. This is a point often missed by other makers who see such engraving as a cheap option. We use our very best engravers to execute this work and it is always worth the extra time and expense.
May the new owners enjoy many years of use and hopefully perform as well as the rifles do!
It was some months ago now that I posted the first photographs of this .470 rifle, just after it had been case colour hardened. I posed the question about leaving the colour on, or brushing the colour off, the post attracted numerous opinions. (Previous Article).
Here, at last, we see the finished rifle together with the final choice of the client, the case colour left on, the rifle ready for the bush and the natural wear that will occur over time.
In my opinion the correct choice, I always liked the big carved R.B.Rodda rifles with their case colours and I believe this rifle continues in that vein. In the opinion of Paul Lantuch the engraver, the incorrect choice as I know he wanted to see the rifle showing off the engraving at its best!
Either way this engraving work is spectacular and the rifle has, and I am sure will continue to receive many favourable comments from people who have seen it. Not a bad slab of timber also!
A Westley Richards .470 Hand Detachable Lock double rifle. Engraving by Paul Lantuch. Cased by Westley Richards leather shop in a traditional lightweight green canvas Safari style case.
Somewhere, in USA I believe, lies the 3rd matching gun of this set of three Joseph Lang 8g guns. These were purportedly built for 3 wild fowling friends to the exact same specification and on consecutive serial numbers in 1911. The only noticeable difference you will spot is the case label initials, every other detail is that of a paired guns, minor stock measures aside, which are hardly noticeable!
These, once again, like the Lancaster guns and Howdah pistols I showed recently are in remarkable condition and show no sign of use. It is always exciting to find guns in this condition now, a condition which is seemingly so scarce now and guns and rifles found of this quality easily form cornerstones of a collection. These are the types of guns which I have always considered ‘bullet proof’ when it comes to future values, they are guns which no dealer can ever pick fault with in an attempt to realise a (lower) value!
J.Lang 8g Sidelock Underlever side by side shotgun #15061. 34″ chopper lump barrels bored .840 in both with extra full choke. 3 1/4″ chamber. Concave game rib with single bead foresight. Sidelock non ejector action with dolls head third fastener, double triggers and manual safety. Full fine scroll engraving with 95% plus colour remaining. Rounded pistol grip stock with horn extension and engraved oval. English splinter forend with push rod release. Weight 13lb 1oz. Complete in best oak & leather case with velvet lining and compliment of tools. Stock measures 13 1/2″ pull, 1 13/16″ x 3 1/8″ drop, cast off 1/4″ at heel and 5/16″ at toe.
J.Lang 8g Sidelock Underlever side by side shotgun #15062. 34″ chopper lump barrels bored .840 in both with extra full choke. 3 1/4″ chamber. Concave game rib with single bead foresight. Re-proofed in 1980 but only logical reason is that this gun was originally proofed as a 9/2 bore. Sidelock non ejector action with dolls head third fastener, double triggers and manual safety. Full fine scroll engraving with 95% plus colour remaining. Rounded pistol grip stock with horn extension and engraved oval. English splinter forend with push rod release. Weight 13lb 1/4oz. Complete in best oak & leather case with velvet lining and compliment of tools. Stock measures 13 1/2″ pull, 1 13/16″ x 2 13/16″ drop, cast off 1/4″ at heel and 1/4″ at toe.
The Nizam of Hyderabad’s Armoury was the largest single armoury that my father, Walter Clode, purchased during his times in India. The size and expense of the armoury led to a joint venture between his old friend and former manager of Westley Richards London, Malcolm Lyell. Malcolm went on to combine his acquisition of the Westley Richards Agency London with Holland & Holland. The joint venture between Holland & Holland and Westley Richards was a financial split and my father taking care of all the purchase and logistics getting the armoury home from India with which he was much more capable than the other party involved.
Over the weekend I was talking to my father about various times past and this little catalogue was brought out of some cubby hole and given to me. I had seen it many years ago but forgotten about the display cabinets which it represents. I have no idea how many were ever made and sold but I have never seen them appear on the market since.
I am sure that many of you who follow the market and auctions will have seen in recent months various collections being disposed of which were made at the time of this deal taking place. Hyderabad weapons featured quite strongly in these collections and were all magnificent items. I hope that the content of the catalogue will provide the information on the cavalry pistols so I have not repeated it.
For me this catalogue reminded me the attention to detail that Malcolm Lyell applied to the work he did at Holland & Holland. Rather than just sell the pistols individually he created and had made these displays which keep a group of the pistols together, a very nicely considered piece of marketing.
Every year Malcolm would have some special exhibition piece to draw attention to the company and sell, the carved guns by Alan Brown, Saurian 4g, Herculean 4g, the Rococco .410 gun, cased sets of rifles and sets of guns. These items went under the term “Products of Excellence” an annual offering which was immediately stopped by Roger Mitchell when he took over from Malcolm. I have always thought that a very, very stupid move!
At home discussing the ‘old times’ including Hyderabad with my father last weekend.
It is always nice to find rifles with good provenance and the Potocki family certainly bring that. This .318 carbine rifle is very nice in a few ways, we don’t see many surviving Westley Richards rifles in this original carbine format, rarely when we do will they have the original telescope and pouch. To have it in its original case and with provenance is the icing on the cake in this instance. This rifle was built for the 3rd Count Alfred Potocki who inherited the family estates during the first world war and who was reputed to be the wealthiest man in Europe. Descendent of William the Conqueror, godson to Kaiser Wilhelm II, this final Count Alfred was related to virtually all the royalty of Europe. Though land and legal reforms in the 1920s stripped him of some of his inherited properties and noble priviledges, Count Alfred was believed by some to be the wealthiest man in pre-Second World War Europe. Educated at Oxford and Vienna, Alfred traveled the world visiting royalty, hunting on safari, collecting impressive works of art to add to his palace collection and tending to his many properties throughout the continent. In the years before World War II, royalty and the super-wealthy dined, hunted and vacationed at Count Potocki’s palace and his several impressive lodge houses throughout the area.
Another famous member of the family Count Józef Potocki (1862-1922) inherited his mother’s estate in Antoniny, while his elder brother Roman was master of Łańcut. A man of remarkable talent and energy, he turned the 55,000 ha property into a very profitable entreprise. His gains financed the expansion of a stud via acquisitions of new stock in Egypt, India and the Middle East, which brought him in contact with Anne & Wilfred Blunt. His true passion however was hunting. Józef organized several remarkable expeditions in the 1890s to India, Ceylon, Somaliland and later to the Sudan, recounted in beautifully bound and illustrated books. One of them was translated in English under the title “Sport in Somaliland” and this book remains one of the most expensive and collectable books in the big game hunting department, often commanding prices in excess of £6000, a copy of which I have never ‘manned up’ enough and bought!
I think we have only made a handful of pairs of 16g hand detachable lock guns during my time here. As I have mentioned in the past the 16g is a fantastic gauge of gun, filling the position of weight and power so well between the 12g and 20g. The wide variety of cartridges available for 12 and 20 doesn’t cover the 16g as well, which has perhaps dampened the popularity of the gauge, that said there is an increasing rather than decreasing offering now available and we seem to be making more 16g guns now than ever previously over the last 30 years.
This pair of guns were completed in 2008. The guns have 30″ barrels, 15″ stocks which are currently cast on and can be altered cast off. The 2 3/4″ guns are choked 1/4 & 3/8 in both pairs of barrels and they weigh in at 6lbs 1oz. Bore and barrel measurements are as new.
With the £ value against the $ so low now these guns are a rare and excellent opportunity for an as new cased pair of game guns. This pair of 16g guns are on our used gun sitewith full selection of detailed photographs.
It is well known that the Birmingham gun trade, in addition to servicing its own requirements, supplied an enormous variety of individual parts, part finished and finished guns to the both the London and the provincial gun trade. There are many examples, for example I have a copy of the records of the London gunmaker James Lang & Co. Ltd and its later incarnation as Lang & Hussey and I’ve lost count of the number of times the name Osbourne appears in the ledgers under the heading “from”. In the past I believe that this was perhaps an inconvenient truth to some people, but now the same knowledge is recognised for what it is; unequivocal evidence of the diverse range skills and entrepreneurship of generations of craftsman from Birmingham and the Black Country. What was often of less concern to many in the past was the supply of parts and part-finished guns from Birmingham to the provincial gun trade. I’ll put my cards on the table; I am a strong advocate of the hypothesis that numerous examples of guns can be found bearing the names of provincial makers that are unknown to many but are at least equal in terms of quality and craftsmanship to those that carry the name of many well-known London makers.
My paternal line has at least part of its origins in Manchester and I have in my possession a memorial plaque or “Widow’s Penny” sent to soldier’s families during the Great War bearing the name of my Great Grandfather, Private Thomas Newton of the 1st Battalion King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, who fell at Ypres on 2nd May 1915. When I learned that there was also a Manchester gun maker called Thomas Newton, I had all the excuses I needed to start a collection.
One of the first Thomas Newton guns I acquired was an early 20th century Anson & Deeley type box ejector. It was in overall good condition but there were a few dings and scratches on the stock which had also been spoiled with a varnish-like finish, so I set about to strip the old finish, raise the dents and apply a proper hand rubbed oil finish.
When I took the forend wood off the iron work, I found the words ‘Westley Richards & Co’ a number, which I assumed is a part number, and ‘WR’ in a triangle engraved on the ejector box.
I had started researching the history of the maker Thomas Newton and the businesses which subsequently traded under his name and now another piece of the jigsaw had just fallen into place. What else might it tell me I thought? I got in touch with Karena Clode whose business card I had picked up at a CLA Game Fair, I emailed a picture of the ejector box and asked if these marks could be used to date the part or if anything was known about the supply of these to the Manchester gun makers such as Newton ? My email was forwarded to Trigger who quickly confirmed that the marks were original and it was a genuine Westley Richards supplied part, but unfortunately no records existed to show when such parts were supplied to the trade or anything else.
As quickly as that door on the history of Thomas Newton’s business had opened, it had closed, but never mind it was further proof of the provenance of my Manchester gun; Westley Richards played a part in creating my wonderful box lock ejector before it moved north to Manchester. My collection of guns, both hammer and hammerless and other pieces of shooting ephemera bearing the name Thomas Newton, has grown since I discovered the connection with Westley Richards’ work for the gun trade. Now, I’ve always wanted a Westley Richards and I’m wondering is this the excuse I need to start another collection?
Dear Simon, I have an idea for what I think would be an interesting blog post, that only you can do, and that is valuation in buying and selling of the kind of guns that WR deals in. A great example would be the recent Lancaster’s. They are a time machine. In fact if you didn’t own them I would be suspect. Single guns, not so hard I know. But more toward unique guns. I know that you must have ready buyers and high volume collectors for a lot of the high end guns. I think that folks would be interested in how condition, rarity, attribution, etc. is weighted in you thinking to arrive at a price. I play this game all the time in my mind seeing a gun and mentally attempting to price it. I think it would be of great interest.
When taking orders for our new guns it is often quite hard to sell a best quality case to go with the gun or rifle. This is understandable, they are hand made to each gun or pair of guns and as such expensive, they also have no real practical value for todays travel as cannot be checked in to a flight and taken on hunts, they are suited to car, private jet or ocean carriage only, cases to be handled with care.
I think for me, the case is always the cornerstone of the guns of value, the original case play’s a very important part in my whole buying, valuation and selling process. This applies to antique guns as well as what we can term as modern guns, those built since 1900 to the same designs we use today. So if we were to roll on 100 years from orders taken today, I think that then the original fitted makers case will play an important part in the value of the guns and more than return the investment made. I know one large collector who has in recent year stopped casing his new guns, this from a practical reason as much as anything, he has a whole huge shed full of cases and the logistics of finding a case is quite complicated. I do however feel this is a mistake as when the time comes to sell these high end multi barrelled sets of guns, things are going to get in a muddle.
So firstly I believe the presentation of the guns is an extremely important factor in the valuation of the guns. Simply put a pair of mint condition guns in a plastic travel case will not be as valuable as a the same pair of guns in their original case with all the accessories, the whole package patinated with age.
For my part a decision ‘to buy’ or ‘desire to buy’ is normally made within a few seconds of opening a case, it is a time at the gun trade shows, private homes or wherever the item is offered to me for the ‘poker face’. At this point you will first see the make, type and condition of the guns, you may open the case to reveal some heavily and badly restored guns or open the case to what you know are guns that have been sleeping untouched in their baize, velvet or calfskin lined box for many years. The seller will no doubt be looking for a reaction! The make and type for me is unimportant at this point as any gun in great condition has value, it will just be relative, a best name one more of course than a lesser name. The Westley Richards used gun department has always dealt in all makes of guns and rifles, we have never limited ourselves to dealing in our own product alone and over recent years have handled a sold a huge variety of different makes and types of firearms, condition of whatever gun we handle will determine the price.
Would I want this Gun back at this Price?
One final and important part of my valuation process is asking myself if the price I have set would lead me to wanting to buy the guns back in the future or would this be a sale that I would have to hide from the remainder of my life. I have built my business on a relatively small customer base, one to which I have provided an excellent service including finding best and unusual guns for their collection, items never seen on our used gun sites. The pool of very good guns is not deep, there are many average guns in the market, sporting guns which have now tired with age and whilst seemingly cheap are now in the breaking down stage, extremely expensive to maintain with new parts, assuming you can find the gun maker to effect the repair. Knowing that the really great guns are few and far between means that at some point in my career I will be wanting to buy the guns back so I can repeat the deal with a new collector. My clients are very familiar with my constant nagging about isn’t it time you sold me back this or that gun, you must be fed up with it by now!
When I value a gun I never go over the top, I always charge what I feel is a good fair market price and this price will have come from my knowledge of the market for the type of gun, the presentation, condition and finally my rule will this price allow me to make a further deal some years down the road.
Many of the prices asked now on guns for sale are what can only be called ‘pie in the sky.’ I see so many guns with quite extraordinary prices on, totally unjustifiable and they just tend to sit and sit for years unsold getting in worse and worse condition as they are hauled from show to show and handled badly. These guns have either been purchased badly and the owner is adamant about not making a loss or in order to win consignment sales high tempting prices are given the owners and they are unachievable. The Peterson collection of recent years is a typical example of highly overpriced shotguns and rifles, items at $150,000 which should be more like $70,000 which is what they would perhaps fetch on the open market.
Valuation is an important aspect of the business, quite frankly we need to be selling the guns to remain in business and turn our stock like any other business. None of us want to leave money on the table but in order to get deals working on a constant and regular basis I think it is best when valuing guns to leave some incentive as a knowledgeable buyer will know he is being well looked after and return to do more business, which after all is what it is all about.