Completed this week are this fabulous pair of Westley Richards ‘Modele de Luxe’ 12g hand detachable lock shotguns. When originally approached about building this pair of guns the client was kind enough to ask “What would you build?”
Well there are many things that we would like to build here including a few special projects yet to be patronised. However, in this particular instance we were to look at building a pair of traditional format game guns. With that in mind we decided on our unique hand detachable lock action, with two triggers, automatic safeties, 29″ barrels, 2 3/4″ chambers, 1/4 and 1/2 choke, both guns being supplied with extra hand detachable locks. For the stocks we selected a fabulous pair of exhibition grade Turkish walnut blanks with Woodward horn capped grips, the butt ends beautifully finished with heel and toe plates separated by a horn centre.
From an engraving perspective the guns have a wonderful, elaborate foliate scroll, the actions featuring carved fences with a shell motif, scroll pyramids up the barrels and gold naming and numbering throughout. Our intention from the start was to build a modern day pair of ‘Modele de Luxe’ shotguns without compromise.
Complete in antique brown alligator case with full complement of tools they make for a very eye-catching pair of game guns, that will certainly get a good outing this year amongst the late season partridge and pheasant.
The .600 Nitro Express cartridge as released by W.J.Jeffery circa 1900 has always held a certain mystic for those admirers of the British big game rifle. Its formidable reputation as the largest of the original big bore calibres elevated it to a position of authority that remains to this day.
W.J.Jeffery originally built a handful of these rifles on their now famous and very distinctive snap action underlever action all but one of the actions being of fixed lock configuration. A mammoth of a rifle, they were built heavy to absorb the recoil of the 900 grain bullet as it left the muzzle at 1,850 feet per second.
Even in the heyday of British big game rifle manufacture from 1898 to the start of the Second World War, the .600 nitro express remained a rare beast indeed. Original rifles by any of the great makers of the day, built in this calibre are highly sought after and extremely valuable collector pieces. As the originator of the calibre, W.J.Jeffery rifles are certainly the most desired.
It is therefore refreshing to have in our hands today this superb new example of a W.J.Jeffery .600 nitro express, the only one in fact completed since the Second World War. In pristine and unfired condition it was reverse engineered from an original example and demonstrates all of the great features associated with the original rifle including under lever push forward snap action opening, dolls head extension, Jeffery style scroll back action, full scroll engraving, ejectors, weighing in at a sensible 14lb 8ozs with 24″ barrels.
The real beauty of this rifle is that whilst being highly collectible in its own right, it is a modern and totally useable rifle. Complete in elephant skin case it really is an impressive piece and would add greatly to any armoury. Any interested parties should contact me directly firstname.lastname@example.org
Well here it finally is. A treat for the weekend. Several years in the making and several thousand hours later and our latest creation is ready to show to you complete in all its magnificent splendour.
Back in January we posted some pictures of this rifle fresh back from engraving with a promise to show you the finished article. Well perfection takes time and when you see the whole package as presented here you can understand why it has taken so long.
Whilst we are sure the rifle and its embellishment will not be to everyones taste, the level and variety of skills necessary to put a project like this together are the real challenge, particularly in this day and age. It is not every day that you get to see rifles completed like this and whilst we are continuing our legacy for such pieces, they are on the whole rare.
Highly embellished from muzzle to butt, the rifle depicts various hunting scenes from the great continent of Africa along with an assortment of flora and fauna. The execution is breathtaking, exhibiting carving, gold inlay, raised gold work and fine scroll, the actual finishing process after case colour hardening, adding to the character of the work. Strikingly the stock is inlaid with solid silver scenes of White Rhino and a pod of Hippo below a thundering waterfall.
Complete in a black alligator skin case with silver fittings, full complement of ivory handled tools french fitted into blue goatskin, with a pure gold leaf detailed lid interior, it certainly makes a statement. The lid is actually fitted with slide off hinges so that the rifle can be displayed in the lower case section only, should the new owner wish.
Not only are such pieces a credit to the craftsmen in Westley Richards very own workshops, but all those smaller tradesmen who contribute in their own unique way to the finished package that you see before you. The rifle and case embody all that makes British craftsmanship so special,and why patrons from around the world travel to these shores to commission such fantastic pieces. More importantly consider that such quality is still being produced here in the City of Birmingham.
The .500 3″ nitro express continues to be a firm favourite among the large bore double rifles that we build here at Westley Richards. We are often asked what are the most popular calibres for a big game double rifle and the .500 3″, along with the .470 3 1/4″, .577 3″ and .600 are certainly the leaders.
The droplock double rifle illustrated here is a little different to the .500’s that we normally build in that it has been built on a larger action frame. In recent decades the .500 was built on a trimmer frame which led to a final weight in the 11lb to 11lb 8oz region. This suited clients who wanted the firepower of a .500, without the extra weight in the rifle.
Records indicate that .500 double rifles built by the firm pre-war tended to be more in the 12lb to 12lb 8oz range. This particular client wanted to revert to that original weight specification and so it was that we built this very elegant .500 droplock rifle for him.
The rifle has all the usual hallmarks of a Westley Richards droplock double rifle, the subtle difference being the engraving which has carved fences in keeping with the scroll design, gold naming and a mean looking Cape Buffalo carved on the cover plate. We hope in the coming years it gets to add a few buffalo like this to its tally!
Late last year we completed the first for many a year ‘Gold Name’ droplock double rifle in .577 3″ light. The simplicity of the ‘gold name’ engraving highlighted the elegance and beauty of a modern big bore double rifle where gunmaking could be seen in its purest form.
Well for those non-rifle fans amongst you here is the latest ‘Gold Name’ to leave our factory and it happens to be a small gauge shotgun, a 20g droplock. One of the keys to building a great unembellished gun is to stock it with fabulous wood and once again we managed to dig into the depths of our reserves and find a super piece of Turkish exhibition grade walnut. More importantly the actual craftsmanship must be second to none, as such a gun leaves nothing to be hidden.
Another nice attribute of this gun is the case which we put together as a lightweight leather in dark tan cowhide, with double locks and then French fitted inside with green goatskin to add a more classy finish.
It goes without saying that the hard work of all those involved in the manufacture of this gun and case made something that looks so simple, look so damn nice. It required far more work than the photos here can ever tell, but therein lies the secret.
Well we just keep having to raid the vaults to find those little items of interest that keep you interested in the world of best guns and rifles. Once again we have a gem of a rifle built by another of the great Scottish gun and rifle makers, in this instance Alexander Henry.
Famous primarily as a rifleman and rifle maker Alexander Henry set up his business in Edinburgh in 1852, at 12 South St Andrew Street. As an avid competition shooter and member of the Edinburgh Rifle Volunteers he was to see the transition from muzzleloading to breechloading firearms and was responsible for many innovations of the time. His first significant patent was no. 2802 of 1860 which was for his famous ‘Henry Rifling’, this was followed by patent no. 1701 of 1865 for the first of his falling block action designs. Most famously it was the Martini action with Henry’s rifled barrel that really made his name, when it was adopted by the British Army as the standard service arm in 1870.
Alexander Henry passed away in 1894, and the business was subsequently taken over by his two sons. Sadly the business fell into decline and eventually ended up as part of the group of famous Scottish gun and rifle makers acquired by Dickson & MacNaughton.
The rifle shown here is based on patent no.1776 and built on the miniature version of the falling block action in .360 black powder. As with other Scottish makers, the quality is simply outstanding with no attention to detail passed upon, from the engraving, to the stocking, to the final casing with all of the accessories.
As a modern gunmaker we appreciate just how hard it must have been for these great gun and rifle makers of old to maintain the unbelievably high standards that they did. In an age well before modern machining and computer design they were way ahead of their time and a credit to the industry.
Now well into their 70’s the great gunmaking pair of Gerhard Hartmann and Otto Weiss continue to produce some of the finest guns and rifles in the world. Whilst double guns and rifles only materialise in small quantities, bolt action and single shot rifles tend to come around on a slightly more frequent basis.
The two rifles shown here have all the fine hallmarks of Hartmann & Weiss. Built in 7mm Winchester Short Magnum and .300 Wincester Short Magnum the makers have utilised their own short or ‘Kurz’ action which comfortably holds three rounds in the magazine. The rifles feature strap over combs, extended guard tangs, peep sights, heel/toe plates and the makers own distinct take down mechanism. Stocked with exhibition Turkish walnut they make for a wonderful brace of rifles with very elegant lines.
The engraving was executed by maestro Alain Lovenberg and quite obviously has an Arabic theme. The geometric pattern has an etched background with wonderfully inlaid white and yellow gold throughout. The sheer accuracy and cleanliness of the work a definite hallmark of his.
Long may the gentleman at Hartmann & Weiss continue to produce such masterpieces.
Just arrived in Zambia this last week was this new Westley Richards .500 droplock double rifle built very much to our traditional format. Whilst super high grade work graces our factory on a regular basis these days, it is always nice when one of these ‘originals’ finally leaves for the hunting field. The client made subtle additions, like the carved fences and gold naming, but otherwise left to us the task of building him the perfect hunting rifle.
Perhaps we have become a little too blasé in recent times, as this is the type of rifle that helped build Westley Richards reputation as a dependable and formidable rifle maker over a century ago. In recent years our rifles have hunted all over Africa and accounted for some truly wonderful big game trophies. This rifle is set to continue in that vain and will in the coming decades have many stories of its own to tell. Most importantly a new generation of young clients are the ones embarking on those adventures.
The gunmaking name E.J.Churchill conjures up for the majority of gun enthusiasts the ‘XXV’ (25″) barrel shotguns that the company was so famous for promoting in the pre-war years. The raised rib and short barrels made for quick gun handling and suited a very instinctive style of shooting promoted by family member Robert Churchill. Brand names such as ‘Hercules’, ‘Zenith’ and ‘Premiere’ remain synonymous with the company.
Double rifles by the maker are few and far between so this particular rifle really is a treat. Built as a ‘Hercules’ best quality model fixed lock ejector in the fantastic .470 nitro express calibre and completed circa 1940, everything about the rifle really is ‘best quality’ with wood that even by modern standards is super exhibition quality, complemented with a fabulous fleur dy lis checkering pattern. The engraving is the tight full coverage Churchill house scroll with the rifle retaining nearly all of its original case colour hardening and finish. As fixed lock double rifles go it is probably one of the best you will see.
Established in 1891 by Edwin John Churchill, the company still thrives from its base in West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, where ironically and very professionally it caters to thousands of shooters every year, a fitting tribute to both Edwin John Churchill and later Robert Churchill who were fanatical shotgun enthusiasts and instructors. For any travelling sportsman coming this season to shoot in the Uk you cannot go wrong paying the shooting grounds a visit and sharpening up your skills.
Above is the portrait of Mr. Charles Boswell (1850-1924) and no doubt his name will be familiar to readers of the Explora. From relatively humble beginnings and a love of shooting his entry into the gun trade, age 14, was through an apprenticeship to Mr. Thomas Gooch and two years at the Royal Small arms factory at Enfield as a sight filer. In 1872 he started his own gun making business, initially carrying out repairs and general gunsmithing. A much admired gun maker, he was popular with the ladies and a talented live pigeon shot, frequenting Hornsey Wood and Westley Richards’ very own Hendon shooting ground, North London, where his skills were noticed by the trap shooters of the time. Boswell would impress and schmooze these shooters, converting them into clients which was common practice for gun makers of the time, James Lang and Harris Holland to name a couple.
The Westley Richards shooting school at Hendon, North London.
Considered to be no great inventor, he preferred to use other makers’ patents under licence but made a of variety guns including large bore fowling pieces, hammer and hammerless actions, muzzleloaders and pistols. Live pigeon guns proved to be Boswell’s specialty and took up a good deal of his production until the prohibition of live pigeon shooting in the UK came about in the early 1920’s. His 126 Strand address in the West End of London is his most famous and the majority of his guns in existence today bear that name.
An active member of the gun trade, in 1906 and 1907 he was elected Chairman of the Gunmakers Association and served it for many years. Around 1914 Boswell changed from having his guns proofed in London and instead moving them to the Birmingham Proof House. One train of thought is he was buying barreled actions in from the Birmingham trade, or another reason is he or his son, who was involved in the business, fell out with the London Proof Master. Hence why it is not uncommon to see his guns with Birmingham proof marks.
One such rifle built by Boswell, which is evidence of his skills as a gun maker, is this fabulous little .303 single shot rifle we currently have at the factory. Completed around 1905, it has the most superb and rare engraving, not commonly found on a rifle such as this. Featuring a selection of African plains game such as Eland, Bluewildebeest and Impala surrounded by intricate scroll work. The name C. Boswell gently rolls around the hinge pin on both sides of the action, the raised panel fences with their bold scroll fold round to the top of the action where I can only guess it to be a 1905 gun engraver’s idea of a Duiker, which stands alert on the top of the tang top lever. The engraving is though, beautifully executed and the three Eland on the right hand side of the action are very accurate and have to be my personal favourite.
The rifle features a 28″ octagonal barrel with matted rib, ramp foresight, one fixed 100 yard express sight and six folding leaves regulated to 700 yards with the 126 Strand address engraved at the breech. A 14 1/4″ pistol grip stock with grip cap, cheekpiece, oval and Silvers recoil pad. The rifle weighs 7lbs 5oz and we think it’s a very cool little rifle and a great example of early 1900’s craftsmanship, imagination and flair.