I’ve Always Wanted A .505 Gibbs by Alex Bayer.

Original Pre War .505 Gibbs.An original pre war George Gibbs Ltd. .505 Gibbs Rifle. Willis & Geiger safari shirt.

I started hunting with my late father in those halcyon days in the early 1970’s, just before Kenya banned hunting in 1977

My father’s hunting career had started in the late 1930’s, his prime hunting area the South and South Eastern slopes of Mt Kenya and the trout abundant rivers and streams that flowed down the forested mountain to the plain. From his accounts, an area then abundant with vast herds of cape buffalo, big lion and numerous rhino. His preferred heavy calibre, a .404 Jeffery with a very heavy worn tapering barrel, and a thick solid stock of dark ochre red walnut.

Growing up in Nairobi in my formative years, I would haunt certain shops: Rhodes Books, Guns and Cameras, Nairobi Sports house, and, almost opposite the New Stanley on Kenyatta Avenue, the famous Kenya Bunduki.

I have vivid recollections of one particular visit to the armoury of Kenya Bunduki and browsing through the racks of heavy calibre magazine rifles, mainly the calibre of the age, the .458 Win Mag, interspersed with a few .404 Jeffery’s. One single rifle however, caught my attention. It stood out like a short –legged Borana Bull amongst a herd of Friesian cows; a monstrous .505 Gibbs. Its twenty-two inch heavy barrel blueing worn silver, dark walnut stock bruised and scratched from countless safaris. It spoke of adventure, elephant in the humid coastal forests, and the grey ghostly spider like Commiphora woodland of Tsavo and the Tarn Desert, stretching far beyond to the emerald green riverine forest tangle of the Tana River, and north, far north of south from nowhere else, to the isolated reed beds of the vast Lorian Swamp. Rhino in the coolness of the dark, damp cedar and giant Podo forests and glades, the Abedares and the snowy peaked Mt Kenya.

Lion on the red oat grass plains of Maasailand and Cape Buffalo in the scented Leleshwa, and yellow barked Aecacia choked lugas, and gullies of the Loita Hills.

The rifle symbolised a force of nature, in its short muscular dimensions, it gave you confidence to stop anything however large, however dangerous, and under whatever circumstances.

A friend of my father farmed the lower forested fringes of the Abedare range in the 1930’s, he used the Gibbs on control work, and I recall seeing old sepia images of rhino culled as vermin. I shake my head at the thought that rhino were once so common as to be vermin. Can you imagine how many rhino there must have been?

Later, in the 1970’s, when I apprenticed to the Seargent Major on his cattle ranch in northern Kenya, and while being Askari for the livestock at night, we would sit around a fire at night, chewing the cud so to speak, while countless shooting stars criss-crossed the endless void of the equatorial night skies.

He was a man who had been around the block a few times with regards to hunting, control work and as an Honorary Game Warden in colonial times. His battery consisted of a very well looked after but battered .318 Westley Richards and a Cogswell and Harrison .375 H and H Magnum. With these he took everything from impala to elephant, but he always stated that when things got “naughty”, (he was a master of the understatement), he loved the confidence and dependency the Gibbs gave him.

The Kenya Game Department at the time had a few Gibbs in service for control, and he had used one with great satisfaction when he needed that extra edge. He had used numerous calibres, but always quoted the Gibbs as having a distinct advantage in stopping power over the others. The talk would quite often enter the early hours, and around the fire at the break of dawn, “a lot of dead soldiers”, one of the Seargant Major’s long ago expressions from the Second War, meaning a lot of empty beer bottles in this case, “White Cap”, accompanied by a throbbing head.

It was a place with the most extraordinary light. I have never, to this day, seen a sky with such an intensity of blue and some days I would spend hours on Leopard Rock Kopje, with a pair of Zeiss, looking north into the eternal, far, far distance of Kenya’s Northern frontier District.

I will not go into the Gibbs’ history and ballistics; this has been done and anyway, you always have the internet for that.

Why buy a Gibbs? Firstly, the romance, for it is part of the Golden Age of big game hunting, mostly used by professionals and Game Control officers. Secondly, its large case capacity offers lower Chamber pressure, hence you won’t have any extraction problems when that Cape Buffalo that has designs on turning you into a doormat, heads your way. Its ballistics, although almost similar to the top new .450 calibre magazine rifles, has a considerably greater bore size, thus creating a larger wound channel.

Personally, I would want my Gibbs to have a short, heavy, twenty-two inch barrel and weigh around 11lbs, a single iron sight this is a stopping rifle, not for long range, although Leaf sights look great.

Its other great appeal is that it has always been rather elusive. You hear a lot about its wonderful reputation, but never actually see one: it’s like a ghost, talked about but never seen. When you have one built, the phantom becomes a reality.

On a final note, some of you may remember that old 1970’s Janis Joplin song: “Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz”. Change some of the lyrics round, maybe not as catchy… I guess you know where I am coming from.

New Westley Richards .505 Gibbs.Westley Richards .505 Gibbs rifle which left the factory last month.

Southern Side by Side 2016. A Gallery by Larry Blunk from the Show.

Southern Side by Side 2016 (13 of 26)

Over the weekend we attended the Southern Side by Side. I would like to thank all the people who took the time to visit our stand and talk about guns with Anthony (Trigger) and Ricky from the factory and I look forward myself to being present at the show once again next year.

Thank you to Larry also for taking the time to send me some photos of the show to post, giving us an idea what the small show looks like.

The Howdah Pistol – Built for the Final Charge.

2 Holland Howdah PistolsLeft. H. Holland .577 Snyder circa 1867. Right. Holland & Holland .360 No.5.

One gun that has always seemed very interesting to me is the so-called Howdah pistol. The history is rich and it was originally created to serve as a last-ditch effort from attacking animals whilst on the hunt. The name of the gun originates from the use of the Howdah – or rather the carriage if you will – placed atop an elephant while hunting. These were quite popular for hunting in India especially during the late 19th and into the early 20th century. The need arose after, one must assume, a few hunters were plucked from their howdahs by angry tigers! The hunter needed a way to defend himself quickly and easily – much more so than a long barreled rifle could provide. H. A. Leveson is quoted in regards to the howdah pistol, “to be effective, the muzzle must be placed close to the tiger’s head, and care must be taken not to kill the mahout.” The mahout was the one who would lead or tend the elephant and was generally the first to be attacked by a tiger.

Shooting from a Howdah

These guns started out merely as cut-down, out of use rifles. Therefore, it is typical to see them using rifle cartridges that have also been trimmed. The original howdah pistols could be smooth or rifle bored guns; although I’m sure many of them were built from rifles that had seen their rifling deteriorate through heavy use; making them nearly useless for accurate shooting. Because of the close range use, long distance accuracy was not a requirement! Over the years, I have seen a few of these that were of the original variety and, although they were not pretty, I’m sure they were able to get the job done! It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century when the English makers started producing guns specifically meant for howdahs – or merely a defense type gun that could be worn on one’s belt. All of the big names – Westley Richards, Holland & Holland, and Purdey – made these types of Howdah pistols. They were also naturally produced by much smaller firms and probably cobbled together in India, as well.

Peterson and Elman in their book, “The Great Guns,” reference a variety of howdah pistols. One of the earliest mentioned in their book is “made by Westley Richards between 1835 and 1850, [and] was a caplock with a heavy, octagonal, .722 caliber barrel.” Obviously this was one of the earliest Howdah pistols manufactured, before the demand really took off. Through the natural evolution of cartridges, the howdah pistol was later manufactured using pinfire and then centerfire cartridges. As stated earlier, many of these were merely shortened version of their rifle counterparts or would otherwise employ cartridges such as the 577 Boxer which was developed by William Tranter of Birmingham or, later on, the more common 455 Webley.

Tiger Hunting Group with Howdah

I have seen many of these howdah pistols over the years and quite a few of them go through the major auctions. It’s quite often that they are found cased or in pairs; especially those of the nicer variety that were most likely bespoke. Many of them are very similar having side by side barrels and an underlever; though occasionally one will see something unique such as an over/under with a side lever like Lancaster made. Perhaps not serving much of a true purpose these days, I still think they are typically great values if one is interested in the history or possible providence of these types of guns. As some would say, “if only these guns could talk…”

Getting into the Howdah.

An 1884 Holland & Holland 8g Paradox. The Last 35 Years.

H&H 10g Paradox-3720

The recent auction at James Julia in USA featured amongst its many lots, a large collection of English guns and rifles of the ‘large bore hammer variety’.  Some of these hailed from the Nizam of  Hyderabad’s collection. These items raised my interest particularly, Hyderabad being one of the many armouries that my father, Walter Clode was responsible in successfully acquiring during his days trading in India. (which I might ass continue to this day, his last visit, in his 86th year, being in January 2016! ). Hyderabad was the largest and most significant collection he acquired during is days with WR and was a deal completed in conjunction with Malcolm Lyell of Holland & Holland who helped finance it.

Last week a huge crate containing many of the Antique guns from this auction arrived at the factory and it was suggested I photograph them ‘whilst we had the opportunity’ and before they were delivered to the client who was away hunting at present. ‘They will make good material for the blog’ I was told, whilst at the same time I was openly asking for help to do just that!

Besides being an interesting collection of rifles what aroused my interest was all the paperwork that came with the individual guns, old invoices and letters from the makers regarding the history. There is often talk when dealing guns about the investment value of certain items and here we have some physical evidence.

In my opinion the market is in a low period at the moment, a buyers market for sure. As such I believe that many of the guns which passed through Julia did not get as much as I expected. As with any auction some exceptional pieces did very well but the bulk were just so so. This has always been a strong consideration of mine when advising people about auction houses, they are not on the whole a good place to sell guns, quick perhaps also efficient, but it is the volume commission they are after, not the individual sellers best interest.

The 8g Holland & Holland Paradox was made for Nizam of Hyderabad in 1893 and from there the history is a bit murky. The letter below to a US resident in 1966 seems to put the Paradox in USA before the main armoury in Hyderabad was obtained. It could have been the Nizam didn’t like it and it was returned or he disposed of in an earlier deal, after Partition and the handing in of guns to the police lines when the Maharajah’s effectively lost their direct power.

We do know the owner who consigned the Paradox to auction paid $4250.00 for it, I will assume that that was probably in the same year David Winks gave him the history which was 1981. So 35 years later and with the additional cost of the restoration and Huey case the rifle achieved a price of $23,000 and I think the buyer got great value, here is  provenance, make, scarcity, all the things you look for. The whole only let down by the non original Huey case.

I think we will each draw our own conclusion from these details, if we spent $4250 on a car in 1981 it would have perhaps been gone and replaced now many times, an S coupe Mustang would have cost you $5250 and unless you covered it up and kept it pristine who knows what that would be worth.

Hopefully this firearm as well as the others he had gave him much pleasure during his life and for sure his investment returned a hell of a lot more than all this electronic junk we surround ourselves with today!

H&H 10g Paradox-3730

H&H 10g Paradox-3740

H&H 10g Paradox-3711

Memo

10g-Paradox-Letter

 

Letter from H&H on 8g Paradox

 

For actual information about Paradox guns there is a book, one I am afraid I have never been able to tackle!

Paradox – The Story of Colonel G.V. Fosbery, Holland & Holland and The Paradox Rifled Shot and Ball Gun. Hardcover – 2010
by David J. Baker and Roger E. Lake (Author)

 

The Southern Side by Side Championship and Exhibition 2016

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From the 22nd to the 24th of April 2016, Westley Richards will be making our annual trip to the Southern Side by Side Championship and Exhibition at Deep River Sporting Clays in Sanford, North Carolina. The show, expertly organised and run by Bill and Mary Kempffer and now in its 17th year. It is one of the principle shows on the East Coast and a personal favourite of ours.

The Spring Classic, held on Deep Rivers’ 65 acre site, features two courses, eight stations and 5-Stand fields of varying targets designed to accommodate all gauges and types of side by sides and with the emphasis being on friendly competition! There are many competitions and cups to be won in small gauge, hammer guns, Compak Sporting and several other such categories.

Aside from the shooting there are multiple tents with the industries top gun makers and dealers offering a wide variety of guns for sale, appraisals and advice, clothing, accessories and also gun fitters and shooting instructors advising and teaching. But just as important is catching up with old friends and making new ones in this relaxed, beautiful setting.

Westley Richards will have a good selection of used guns, both shotguns and rifles, as well as some examples of our new guns which we will bring from the factory for you to view. Please do stop by our stand for a chat and we look forward to seeing you all there!

The Southern Side by Side Championship and Exhibition

Friday 22nd April 2016 – Sunday 24th April 2016

9:00am – 6:00pm

Address: Deep River Sporting Clays, 284 Cletus Hall Rd. Sanford, NC 27330

A Pair of Traditional Westley Richards 12g Droplocks. 2 Guns that led to 10.

Pair Westley Richards 12g Droplocks (1 of 4)

Whilst taking the photographs of this pair of 12g guns yesterday, I hadn’t really considered the story, purpose or title of the post that I would use them for. I could talk about the stock blanks and finding a perfect matching pair, or about the condition and upkeep of guns and how it is possible to maintain a heavily used gun, in near new condition, with relatively little work along with the value of that. I could talk about the fact these are The classic ‘standard’ Westley Richards 12g Hand Detachable lock model, the only extras being tip and toe plates, extra locks and the engraving, in the traditional pattern with cameos, was executed by Rashid Hadi at a little extra expense. Any of these ideas could make for a relative and interesting post based on the guns.

After considering them and recalling the history of making them, I think the nicest story is the actual story and how it fits in with our philosophy for making our guns, so here goes.

Making a pair of guns at Westley Richards is a partnership, here we don’t have any new stock guns for sale, only guns and rifles that we have in storage which can be used to demonstrate what we make. Everything we make is bespoke, we aim to deliver a customer exactly what he wants. In a stroke we eliminate any customer who doesn’t have the patience to wait the 2+ years it takes to deliver what we make, but with that said, our order book has never, in my time here, allowed us to build any stock guns anyway. If I was ever building guns for stock I would actually be nervous, it only means you don’t have enough customers for the bespoke guns you make and that you have turned to ‘speculative’ build to keep the workers busy.

In late 2004 what I like to call a ‘bear of a man’ (big, strong, jolly and totally focused) contacted me to discuss building a pair of guns which he could use on both sides of the Atlantic both for game and sporting clays. This is a man who is totally dedicated to his shooting, when not working, he is in the field with his guns. He is a genuinely talented and admired shot and one who will compete and win against all the regular over under users, those who insist upside down is the only way to go, until they are in a shoot off with him perhaps. I have always admired the man who shoots game with a side by side as I believe that to be the ‘traditional gun’ of this ‘traditional sport’ and when I see a man winning a round of sporting clays with a side by side against all Over Under a smile always appears on my face.

Specifying the guns was quick and easy, he knew exactly what he wanted from the technical side, the barrels, bores, chokes, cartridge, pattern, stock measurements, trigger pull weights, point of balance, weight of guns and everything else was detailed, I recognised a lot of thought had gone into this and there was very little for me to do or suggest other than price the guns and pitch for the order, which I duly received.

Making the guns was a matter of following the detailed instructions exactly and delivering a pair of guns which the customer knew he could shoot well if the details were followed. From my side I knew that if I make the guns, he shoots them well and they look good a lot of people will be watching and then looking at the guns. A perfectly matched pair of blanks and the nicest quality, beautifully shaded, traditional scroll and cameos were about the extent of my input, ‘the looking good bit’

The guns were delivered for Christmas in 2006 and this year, 10 years on, we will deliver 8 more guns both to him and his ‘shooting buddies’ these in 20g, 28g and .410. I asked for the pair to come back for service and so that we could ensure the stock layout and fit is absolutely perfect for his new 20g this on the simple basis that if he continues to shoot well and is proud of his guns they will continue to attract more attention and then further orders will possibly come.

The Philosophy, Build super guns, work with the client closely, go that extra mile in the finishing and the guns will sell themselves!

Pair Westley Richards 12g Droplocks (3 of 4)The perfectly matching pair of stockblanks.

Pair Westley Richards 12g Droplocks (2 of 4)

Pair Westley Richards 12g Droplocks (4 of 4)Game cameo’s of shot game and shaded scroll by Rashid Hadi.

Westley Richards Three Barrel Guns. Guest Post by D. Tate.

Westley Richards 3 barrel Gun

British three barreled guns are rare. During the golden age of the shotgun Boss & Co in London built two, while in Edinburgh John Dickson & Sons made only nine. These modest numbers testify to the superior balance of the traditional two barreled side by side but also hint at the mechanical difficulties in designing triple barrel guns that shoot with the ease of doubles.

Volume II of The Encyclopædia of Sports and Games edited by The Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire which appeared in 1911 acknowledged exactly this; “… greater success has attended the Edwinson-Green three-barrel hammerless weapon for grouse, partridge, pheasant, and rabbit drives. The objections concerning complications of mechanism incidental to the introduction of the third barrel have been ingeniously overcome, and there is no doubt but that among a certain class of sportsman the three-barrel weapon will have a successful vogue.”

Green, who occupied retail outlets in Cheltenham and Gloucester plus a workshop in the heart of Birmingham’s gun quarter, built eighteen three barrel guns. His patent specifications of July 1902 outline an ingenious mechanism combining a single trigger with a three barrel configuration in which the right and left tumblers are cocked in the usual way by cocking rods while the central hammer is cocked by a pin protruding from the right hand hammer.

The Boss and Dickson designs are better known only because Green sold his triple barrels within the gun trade where the retailer took most of the credit. Some went to Charles Lancaster in London others to Lyon & Lyon in Calcutta but two were made up and sold as barreled actions to Westley Richards. The first, a 12 bore, left the Green factory in late February 1911 then early the next month a 16 bore was delivered. Both were given serial numbers in the Westley range 17340 and 17272 respectively and the Green records tell us Westley Richards paid 35 guineas for each.

The 16 bore, a sidelock ejector, was beautifully stocked and engraved and sent off to an international exhibition in Turin where it won a gold medal. Frederick Courtney Selous, who had recently squired Teddy Roosevelt around British East Africa wrote to Westley Richards saying, “Yours was far and away the best exhibit of Sporting Guns and Rifles (British and Foreign) in the whole exhibition.”

Both Green and Westley’s promoted the relative success of three barrel guns in their advertising literature. Green’s Gloucester trade label mentions only that they were makers of “three barrel guns with one trigger” while Westley’s catalogue offered the “new treble barreled game guns” at 80 guineas while echoing the sentiments expressed in The Encyclopædia of Sports and Game, “This weapon represents the highest development of this system, and now that reliability can be guaranteed it is confidently hoped that sportsman will appreciate its great advantages over the two-barreled gun for certain conditions of sport.”

A New Westley Richards Hand Detachable Lock Double Rifle in .475 No2 Eley.

Westley Richards Double Rifle 475 No 2 Eley

Completed in the factory this week is this scroll back, hand detachable lock double rifle in .475 No2 Eley, a rifle which is now heading to its new home in Northern Europe and then later in the year to the hunting grounds of Africa.

This is a very traditional format rifle with the addition of the scroll back, this I think has been a very nice recent ‘old’ addition to our offering, we did make rifles filed with scroll back like this in the past but it was dropped for many years. I have only seen very few pre war rifles with the scroll back and took the shape and file up we use from one such rifle, a .476 which features in our history book “In Pursuit of the best Gun”.

This rifle is supplied with a pair of cased extra interchangeable locks and is all cased in lightweight leather travel case made in our leather department with accessories.

The .475 No 2 Eley has a 480 grain bullet travelling at 2200 FPS.

WR Droplock .475 No 2  Cased

Westley Richards Double Rifle 475 No 2 Eley

Westley Richards Double Rifle 475 No 2 Eley

The Gunstock Blanks become Gunstocks.

The Pair of Gunstock Blanks at time of Purchase.

The past few years after the IWA show I have posted articles in 2014 on buying the wood there from the Turkish dealers, followed last year by the wood arriving at the factorwhich is the time you see how you have actually done with your buying.

The next stage in the whole wood process is getting the chosen blanks on the guns! This in itself may sound simple but actually often disaster can happen at any stage. The wood can develop ‘shakes’ as it adjusts to the ambient humidity, (these are small cracks which can render the blank useless) the stocker can cut the rough stock shape out and reveal a massive hole or a flaw in the wood, there are a number of things that can go wrong and the blank is then relegated to the scrap heap, expensive firewood!

So it is always a relief when the wood you choose and had high expectations for is actually on the guns, shaped up, sanded and with a first coat of clear oil on. This is the point you can actually judge how you did with your selection.

Above are a set of 3 blanks I purchased from one of the dealers in IWA in 2015 and below are a pair of new sidelocks guns fresh from the stocking shop for which I used the best of the 3 blanks for. Relief indeed, they worked out well!

Over the next months, whilst the guns are being engraved, the true richness and colour of the wood will be released by endless coats of oil and hours of hand polishing. We will show them again after that!

A Pair of Sidelock Westley Richards just our of stocking shop.

Gun Stock Ovals – A Small place to make things personal.

Traditionally the gun stock oval is a place where you will find the gun owners initials or family crest, it is a sort of signature spot for the owner, a message that ‘this is mine’!

The gold or silver oval can be treated in many ways and here I show a few examples of what can be achieved. From simple block lettering, elaborate engraved script, detailed engraved family crest, a full owners name and date, multi colour enamel crests and a single engraved item of game. Each and every one of these is individual and personal to the owner and my message is that whilst this is a simple and small area on the gun, do please give it consideration when asked what should go on it, we will always submit designs and help with ideas you can see what it will look like in advance.