A few weeks ago, an old friend, client and supporter of our company for many years, contacted me and told me he wanted to order himself an 80th birthday present for himself, he had worked hard all his life and deserved the treat! The only problem was he didn’t know what he wanted most, a 28g shotgun or a small bore single shot rifle use on his ranch in Texas. Of course he needs neither, it is just a desire to have something bespoke made as a treat for oneself as he reaches the 80th year, something to look forward to receiving ‘on the day’ .
We make, on a quite regular basis, the 28g hand detachable lock shotgun, it is a very popular gauge and one that I am particularly found with, the size, scale and handling is superb if I say so myself! The single shot rifle is something we have never actually made under my tenure here, I have always wanted to, but have never actually pushed the ‘go’ button, there were other projects taking up the R&R budget or whatever!
I decided in the end to photograph the two possible choices together and send them to him, ones that I had in safe and that were not examples of what he may have wanted but would invite comment. I suggested that I should put them on The Explora for a vote of confidence and see what the people say, he agreed, so here they are!
A single shot vintage Westley Richards rifle in .360 which is a larger frame than we would want but can be scaled down and made hand detachable lock, together with one of the favourite 28g hand detachable lock guns we have made over the years.
I look forward to hearing the advice our readers can give! Single or Double?!
It is always nice to complete an African Safari rifle in what I might call hunting format, all best features but no frills, a rifle destined to hunt. Especially nice is that this rifle is going to a client in Africa, to a man who hunts regularly and has done since childhood, a man who has chosen our brand for his adventures, something we appreciate very much.
A two barrel take down rifle rifle built on a modern magnum Mauser 98 action with the Westley Richards take down lever assembly. Swarovski telescopes on quick detachable mounts, quarter ribs with express sights and Westley Richards patent front sights. The whole cased by our leather shop in a motor case with extra compartments for ammunition and slings. Put the case in the hunting car and off you go!
These are what Ken refers to as screw plates, we are not sure what date they hail from, only what they are used for. They are plates which have a variety of screw die cut sizes for making pins for guns from small to large. These are the forerunner to the modern screw thread die you see at top right. Joseph Whitworth standardised thread sizes in 1841 so these probably hailed from earlier days than this and were continued to be made and used in the trade for when old guns with bastard or non standard threads came in for repair.
The procedure for cutting the threads was much the same as with modern die cutters. A piece of silver steel was turned to the correct size and run through the chosen slot in the screw plate. The increments in size were small and many on these screw plates fall between the now standard BA sizes.
To make a corresponding tap for the female thread for the pin made another largest diameter piece of silver steel is run through the die and then small slots are ground vertically up the cut thread, the whole then hardened and tempered to cut the female thread size.
This item is for testing the force of the blow on the striker and cartridge cap of a gun lock. Made by ICI, no doubt as an assurance that the cartridges they were supplying were getting the correct ‘blow’ or ‘strike’ from the makers gun or rifle. We have above 12g and .577 testers. A weak blow/strike to the cartridge cap will result in a misfire.
Instructions For Use.
(1) Insert a copper crusher between the two steel pads in the tester body.
(2) Place the tester in the gun chamber and snap off the trigger.
(3) The striker blow is satisfactory that is at least 3.5 ft.lb., if the crusher is shortened sufficiently to pass freely through the slot in the base of the tester body.
(4) The pad receiving the blows of hardened steel but if the striker is of correct hardness no damage should result unless too frequent tests are made. If the point of the striker is found to be flattened after the test it is probably too soft.
Contents of Box.
(1) Tester Body
(2) Three steel pads, one spare.
(3) Pad extractor
(4) Fifty copper crushers in metal container.
Please direct any questions on use to the resident expert in its use, Ken Halbert care of this blog!
Here is a nice old jig which I think you will find of interest. Yesterday, I did an informal deal with my old foreman Ken Halbert, we traded ‘gun ephemera’ for ‘fishing ephemera’. I like the gun stuff and he is now into salmon fishing in his retirement. A ‘win win’ situation and always a fun deal, one which he normally wins! My end of the deal involved getting back some bits which were under ‘admittedly questionable ownership from his bench’ along with some other very nice bits and pieces from his collection, in return I equipped him for the salmon rivers!
Once the standing sight of an Express sight assembly has been cut after shooting it is necessary to mark and cut the remaining leaves in a straight line. This is the jig used for the job. I think it is self explanatory how it works but incase.. The blade is put in the shot V notch and then the part with the ‘top strap’ looking can be lifted and moved over the next blade of the sight (which at this stage would not be V’d) and marked in a perfect line with the first. This would continue until all sight blades are marked.
For those of you who have seen the old Westley Richards rifles with 5 or 6 leaves on the rear Express sight you will see immediately the advantage and accuracy of this jig. The Brass knob on the side of the Jig will position the blade over the V moving it left to right.
Some more bits and pieces from the deal will be shown over the next few days.
Bob Francis and Rich Cousins in Africa together with the Westley Richards .318
At the beginning of April you showed a beautiful .475 no.2 Eley Droplock rifle on the blog. As I read through the comments, one of the respondents had asked how long a set of drop locks would last. This rather intrigued me as I did not know the answer. I think the reason I did not know was because I have never had a problem with any of the Westley locks.
Then I realized I did have an answer of sorts. I currently own a Droplock .318 WR, this rifle was made in 1908, and shipped to India. Unfortunately I could find no history of the rifle in India. However, the rifle surfaced in Australia sometime after the end of WW2. The rifle was owned by a rancher in the northern territory. I have some second hand verbal history regarding its use on kangaroos and buffalo. The rifle was later sold to another gentleman in Australia, and I have some first-hand verbal history of its use at that time.
Sometime in the early nineties, the rifle ended up in the U.S. A gentleman from Montana bought the rifle and used it to shoot at least one elk. It was then traded or sold back to Westley Richards, and I was delighted to buy it at that time. It is a plain, non-engraved action with a tropical nickel finish. C type dolls head and a stalking safety, nicely engraved 26″ barrels, patent foresight and very nice French walnut. Q/D talley rings and bases were added at this time. The rifle has been re-blacked, the wood cleaned up and a new silvers pad installed. The rifle is on face, very accurate and shows no sign of ever being messed with. It has the original serial numbered locks.
I have taken the rifle to Africa seven times, and shot a wide variety of plains game, from steenbok to eland with this rifle.
In 2008, a friend of mine made a nice one shot kill on a lovely 8 x 6 elk with this rifle, on its one hundredth anniversary!
Now I have been a little long winded about this rifle, but it is very seldom that you can get some history albeit verbal, other than the story from the dealer who you bought it from. And some basic information from the maker.
The indications are that all the previous owners were hunters or shooters. The rifle was used, cleaned and cared for, otherwise it would be in a lot worse condition than it is now. It was not a safe queen, or used a couple of times and put into storage. The rifle has been used on four continents, and seen some constant use for over a hundred years.
Now for an answer. If you take care of a Droplock Westley, clean it, take reasonable care of it and cherish it, a Westley Richards rifle will last you a lifetime, or in the case of my .318, both the rifle and lock mechanism have lasted 108 years.
Bob Francis managed our first independent USA Westley Richards shop in Springfield, Missouri. This we opened after the Tulsa Gunshow in about 1995 and it was the formal brick and mortar start for me of what have been 20 wonderful years dealing in USA, from where I have been fortunate to meet so many enthusiasts who remain friends to this day. Rich Cousins is one of these people who over the years has given me good advice and always remained a Westley Richards flag bearer. I will always look upon the days in Missouri as some of the most exciting in my career, the heady days of gun dealing! Simon
Returning from the engraving benches of father David Tallett and his son Bradley this week is this lovely little .410 hand detachable lock game gun which is destined for Texas and action against the quail at King Ranch, a vast ranch with a storied quail hunting reputation. The fine scroll has been executed by Dave and the game scenes and carved thistle fences by Brad.
Next stop for the gun is the workshop of Richard St Ledger, 400 yards up the road from our factory for the case colour hardening finish. This will be followed by the possibly hard decision of whether ‘to leave with colour on or to remove the colour’.
The support cartridges in this photograph are a selection of vintage 2 inch .410
I think it was early 2000 when these rifles were commissioned. A large bore Hand Detachable lock rifle in .600 NE and a small bore in .243 Winchester, both to be deep carved engraved with scenes of Africa of the .600 and American game for the .243 Winchester. Two rifles which show the range we build in our rifles, from very large to small.
Whilst we have made quite a few .600 rifles in recent years I do believe this is the first and only .243 that we made. I say this cautiously as last time I quoted ‘a first’ calibre someone turned up a previous rifle we had made in the very same calibre, luckily a bullet variation of that calibre allowed me to side step that embarrasment.
The proportions of a large rifle and a small rifle are dramatically different but perhaps not as much as you would expect. The .243 is a petite rifle, but here looks quite large. The governing factor is the size of the action needs to be able to withstand the proof test pressure of the round being built for. The .243 is indeed a small bullet but with a large case and develops a pressure of approximately 60,000psi whereas the .600 is 36,000psi as a comparison. The .600 weighs 14lbs 8ozs and the .243 8lbs 3oz.
Each rifle is cased in an individual black alligator covered oak case fitted with sterling silver case fittings and with bright red goat skin lining and french fitted Ivory tooling. The rifles are part of the collection now housed here at Westley Richards.
The engraving work on both rifles was executed by Peter Spode. Peter first started working for us in the early 90’s whilst at the same time also filling the role of headmaster at a boys school in Malvern. I think I possibly urged him to take early retirement so he could work on our guns full time, something which he has been doing now for many years. Peter is an extremely talented engraver with the rare ability to execute work in a variety of styles and he is also a person who continues with his teaching background by sharing his extensive knowledge and helping engravers entering the field with technique.
The commas in the title of this little article are appropriate because one function of a comma is to give pause. During the handling of many a fine gun over the years, it has sometimes been the case that an initial and cursory inspection has brought the manufacturing style and form of Westley Richards to mind. However, after having paused to confirm that sterling name on the rib, locks or body, another lesser known name has been revealed. Some of the names we encountered included Army & Navy, Bentley & Playfair, James Collins, J. D. Dougall, Richard Ellis, William Ford, I. Hollis, Charles Henry Maleham, Andrew Maloch, John Patstone, Pittsburgh Firearms Co., E. M. Reilly, Charles Smith, Thomas Turner, Webley & Scott, and even some Continental producers and retailers.
My favorite gun writer has said that he can afford Westley Richards and I am heartily glad for him. We have learned that there is deservedly a great deal of financial ‘blue sky’ and cachet associated with that justifiably famous marque. It is however quite possible to buy perfectly good ‘Westley-made’ guns for a lot less money when they were marked and marketed by someone else. In this third year following the Bicentennial of Westley Richards we present a few such examples..
A bar in wood pin fire by James Collins with the WR doll’s head lever work.
James Collins was listed at 12 Vigo Lane, Regent Street in 1826 which was clearly too early for this lovely pin fire. Then he was listed at 115 Regent Street in 1853 just when the pin fire was becoming popular in London.
A gun by Dougall. Photos courtesy of Kirby Hoyt.
James Dalziel Dougall is best known for his Lockfast action and he had a well established network of workmen so he might well have needed only to have bought-in barreled actions from WR. Alas, we no longer own a 16 bore WR Anson & Deeley bearing his name but we replaced it with this lovely 12 bore made in 1877, just two years after the A&D was patented.
An A&D with intercepting sears, which Ian regards as a solution to a nonexistent problem. This one was marketed by William Ford. Photo courtesy of Tom Oppel.
William Ford was a barrel borer by trade and a good one, too. He was not a maker per se but bought things out of the Trade and retailed them just like everybody else. He did a lot of specialist boring when choke became the rage, and he was highly regarded for his expertise within the Birmingham Trade.
This example shown is by Isaac Hollis (London 1861-1900) and it employs the first lever work used by Westley Richards. Isaac Hollis had several patents to his own credit and he is known to have made the guns for Crockart of Blairgowrie, Scotland. Photo courtesy of David Condon.
The Maleham. Photo courtesy of Guns International.
According to Boothroyd’s Revised Directory of British Gunmakers Charles Henry Maleham took over the business from his uncle, George Maleham, who was listed at 5 West Bar, Sheffield from 1854-1857. C.H. Maleham joined the firm about 1860 and retired in 1910. The address on the subject gun is 20 Regent Street Waterloo Place, London. It is quite an early example of the Anson & Deeley boxlock and bears use number 148 indicating manufacture in about 1877-78.
Next is an extensively engraved 12 bore bar in wood pattern hammer gun without rebounding locks retailed by Andrew Maloch, sporting goods dealer of Stirling, Scotland. It has the very distinctive and patented WR dolls-head extension and top lever bolting system, along with the mechanically unusual but invariably reliable two piece strikers that are struck by the ‘up and over’ pin-fire style hammers. These hammers do not contact the striker with their downward facing horizontal face, as would be the case with a pin-fire chambering but rather with the underside of the inner curve of the hammer nose. The 30 inch cylinder bore gun with Windsor pattern three wire Damascus barrels has accounted for many high and fast birds since it came down to the States from Canada over a decade ago.
The WR/Maloch still hunts after a century and a half.
Even the tail of the top tang was engraved. The WR patent dolls- head fastener is clearly identified on this gun marketed by Maloch.
The WR/Maloch exhibits very high quality scroll engraving. Might it have been sporting goods dealer Andrew Maloch’s personal gun? It is much better engraved than the WR Queen Victoria gave to Prince of Wales Albert Edward in 1870.
The cylinder bore of the WR/Maloch can catch a bird.
John Lewis Patstone was in business from 1860 in Birmingham. His sons George and John and their sister Elizabeth continued the business after their father’s death in 1915. The three siblings maintained at their old address until the business was acquired by William Cox and Son in 1926. John Lewis Patstone and his eldest son George were quite well known jobbing gunmen within the Whittall St. area of the Trade, in the later Victorian era.
Two views of a John Patstone Anson & Deeley boxlock. The much copied and classic profile of the A&D action introduced in 1875. Photos courtesy of Merz Antiques.
Joseph Charles Reilly set up as a jeweler in 1816, and went into the gun business in 1835. His son Edward Michael joined him in 1848 and was well established by the time that breech-loading guns became popular. It is more than probable that E M Reilly built no guns himself but he contracted with the very best makers including at least WR and Thomas Turner, and he marketed their excellent guns under his own name, E. M. Reilly and Company since 1882. Reilly did well enough that for some years he maintained a shop in Paris as well. In an 1887 advertisement Reilly claimed to be gunmaker “By special appointment to His Majesty the King of Spain; His Majesty the King of Portugal; His Majesty the King of the Netherlands.” Two prominent Victorians were associated with E.M. Reilly. Sir Samuel Baker used a pair of Reilly 10 bores and inspired by Baker, Frederick Courtney Selous took a Reilly 10 bore to Africa on his first venture there. Selous’ gun was stolen shortly after he arrived and so it is mentioned only ruefully, but Sir Samuel’s pair achieved fame through his books. Because Baker was a hero to the Victorians and his books sold well, the fact that he used Reilly guns was a good endorsement. The example we present here (SN 30363) is Number 1 of a pair. It is stamped on the action flats with Deeley’s Patent Ejector use number 428 and Anson and Deeley’s Patent use number 6250 for the box lock action. Stocked in well figured walnut it shows cast on for a left -handed shooter. Please inform us if you know the whereabouts of the No. 2 gun!
Reilly also supplied pairs of guns.
The fences of the Reilly are well covered with tight scrolls as is the rest of the receiver. Note the pin head behind the ball shape of the fence. This was the pivot of an intercepting safety sear; Ian says that it is a solution for a non-existent problem!
Andrew Maloch and Charles Smith both obtained whole guns, or very nearly so from WR.
Boothroyd’s useful Revised Directory of British Gunmakers lists Charles Smith & Sons as gunsmiths at 37 Market Place, Newark beginning in 1879. Like E M Reilly, Smith did not actually manufacture guns but bought them in. The specimen shown above is the No.2 gun of a pair made in 1928 for an Irishman whose family crest appears on a gold plate on the stocks. The No. 1 gun has equally attractive ‘smoke and honey’ wood but it was in use by a friend when the photo was made. Here we have the lovely old Maloch of ca. 1870 with the No. 2 Charles Smith A&D box lock.
The Thomas Turner gun has an unusually short fore end. They were sometimes fitted when the user was disabled, by the loss or curtailed use of the forward hand. Photo courtesy of G. R. Young.
Turner also modified the typically broader WR top lever. Photo courtesy of G. R. Young.
Thomas Turner was born in 1805. By 1834 he was in business as a gun barrel maker in Birmingham. He is credited with eight gun related patents and he expanded his business to outlets in Basingstoke, Newbury and Reading. His most prestigious address was 19 Brook Street, London from 1884-1891. Thomas Turner was also a valuable sub-contractor to WR, had the entire Birmingham trade around him and was quite capable of making, or having made, the entire gun ‘under license’ if he wanted to. Perhaps he used the same forgings that WR bought-in from the foundries and machined them himself? Or did WR just send him down all of the rough machined bits? Maybe they let him have everything in-the-white? Get the idea? Who made this ‘Westley Richards’?
Looking at other types and grades of guns marketed by Reilly, Patstone, and Turner in particular will also show features that originated at the hands of William and Charles Scott and Philip Webley’s workmen and other lesser known suppliers as well as WR. As information has been collated by such excellent researchers as Douglas Tate and Donald Dallas we have recently learned that Webley and Scott were also makers to big name London dealers such as Holland and Holland and (gasp) even Purdey. Oh yes, Westley Richards also received whole guns from Webley and Scott. According to research by Douglas Tate, a very highest grade William Rochester Pape of 1871 was probably made entirely by Edward B. Wilkinson of Whittall Street in Birmingham. So, to find ‘Westleys’ with so many other names attached really should come as no surprise as the complex workings of the British gun Trade become more clear. It has been said that emulation is the most sincere form of flattery. That being so Westley Richards have been very well flattered over 200 years. They are quite rightly proud of all the pistols, rifles and guns bearing their own name. The global copying of the Anson and Deeley boxlock action since 1875 guarantees their place as one of the ‘greats’ in the eyes of those who appreciate firearms.
The Anson & Deeley action was adopted for some powerful center fire nitro big game rifle cartridges. Here are three that were marketed on the European continent. Photo courtesy of the Double Gun Journal.
Even the Americans got into the act. The Pittsburgh Firearms Co. knew a good thing when they saw it. In business only from 1860-1885 they marketed this fine old Westley under their own name. This was a $700 gun when I had it. Imagine how much more it might have cost with Westley Richards in that banner!
That broad top lever and dolls head fastener are certain identification as to where this gun was made.
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.
Westley Richards .505 Gibbs rifle which left the factory last month.