An American Best Quality Rifle

For me, as I am sure it is for many of our readers, the British gunmakers have always set the standard by which all other sporting guns and rifles are measured. One American rifle maker that certainly measured up to its British counterparts was Griffin & Howe.

In 1923 famed shooter, outdoorsman and writer, Colonel Townsend Whelen helped bring together a cabinet maker turned stock maker named Seymour R. Griffin and a tool maker turned gunsmith named James V. Howe, to form a company to make high quality custom rifles. Today Griffin & Howe remains one of America’s premier purveyors of fine firearms.

G&H always offered a wide range of gunsmithing services throughout their history. The company started out refining surplus Springfield Model 1903 bolt action rifles as well as building single shot target rifles. The company also gained a reputation for building very high-quality custom rifles and specializing in large bore rifles built on Magnum Mauser actions. In 1927 G&H introduced their iconic scope mount; a version of this mount being supplied to the U.S. Army during WWII and, following the war, was one of the most popular ways to mount a scope on a sporting rifle.  I have also seen everything from a re-barreled Savage 1899 Lever Action to a full custom rifle in .505 Gibbs built using a Magnum Mauser action.

So, when a Griffin & Howe single shot rifle built on a Farquharson action came through the U.S. Agency, I was not necessarily surprised, but it is the first one I have ever seen.

Originally patented in 1872 by John Farquharson, the Farquharson single shot falling block action was solely produced by the gunmaker George Gibbs until the patent ran out in 1889. Soon after the patent expired, other British makers started producing rifles using Farquharson actions made by August Francotte of Belgium. These actions were stamped “PD”, which stood for “public domain”, to note there was no infringement on the patent. Today the original Gibbs and Francotte actions remain highly desirable, either on finished rifles or as actions for a future project.

The Griffin & Howe rifle pictured here was built in the 1950’s using a “PD” marked Farquharson action. The rifle is chambered in .375 Flanged Magnum, Holland’s rimmed .375 cartridge intended for breech loading rifles. The rifle’s barrel and action have the original blue finish, color hardening on the lever and butt plate and original oil finish on the stock. On the sides of the action, there is arabesque scroll engraving in a diamond pattern done by Josef Fugger, G&H’s in-house engraver at the time.

The rifle also features Griffin & Howe’s pattern quarter rib and banded ramp front sight with a removable sight hood, both engraved to match the action. The quarter rib is grooved for quick detachable lever lock G&H rings mounting a period correct J. Unertl 4X “Hawk” telescopic sight. In the absence of a fixed rear sight, there is a small peep sight that fits on the quarter rib when the scope is removed. The 26” barrel is marked, as usual, with the Maker’s serial number and name, “2288 Griffin & Howe Inc.  New York”.

The two piece stock has an ebony forend tip and a full pistol grip checkered in the classic G&H point pattern with G&H’s distinctive beaded cheekpiece. The butt stock has a case colored and engraved steel strap butt plate where the removable peep sight is stored while the telescopic sight is in use.

Overall, the rifle is in excellent original condition and is a very good, and very rare, example of an American made best quality rifle.

 

Rigby Refurbishment

Although repairs and refurbishments have always been a part of the Westley Richards repertoire, in recent years, following record numbers of new gun and rifle orders, we have sadly had to reduce the amount we take on. Repairs can be disruptive to the steady flow of new gun manufacture and often, on vintage guns of various makes, can be time consuming when machining and fitting new parts. Even the small amount we now do results in our production manager pulling his hair out trying to work out quite how he’s going to fit it in his extremely busy new gun and rifle schedule and without wishing the poor chap to be bald before his time, we have to be selective on what we take in. On the odd occasion I do manage to sneak a few into the workshops and one such rifle we have recently completed is this superb Rigby .450 Nitro Express Farquharson rifle. I thought the readers of the Explora would enjoy a few before and after photos of this stunning rifle.

In summary, our initial task was to re-regulate the sight work and sort the issue of faulty extraction. The rifle was shooting high and struggling to extract the spent cartridge. Once the rifle was back into working order it could be stripped down and we could then begin the cosmetic works. The wood work was put into the stock finishing shop and the many coats of oil were carefully applied to build the finish up to our normal best quality, high gloss finish. The action was annealed and we then recut and picked up all the engraving, bringing back to life the elaborate scroll work, Rigby name, double line border and sight work. Any pins that were tired or chewed were replaced and engraved. Once done it could be polished and prepped for hardening. The barrel was then polished and best quality re-blacked, topped and tailed, ready to be reassembled. The action, lever, safety button, grip cap and forend diamond were re-colour hardened, the trigger and pins were blued, sight worked and sling stud were blacked. The rifle was then freed up and fully reassembled before the final checks and finishing coats of oil on the stock were applied, ready for final inspection.

I think you’ll agree the rifle has turned out quite superbly and we are proud to have restored this wonderful rifle back to its former glory.

Pair of Westley Richards 16g Holster Pistols

I am just returning from a trip in which I visited one of America’s oldest and most historic cities. A fitting place to find this pair of cased Westley Richards 16g Percussion Holster Pistols made in the first half of the 19th Century.

Originally ordered for stock, this pair of pistols was shipped, in their ‘box”, on May 16, 1839 to the London Agency at 170 New Bond St. Now, 180 years later, these pistols are being offered for sale by this firm. Only this time, at Westley Richards’ U.S. Agency.

A “boxed” or cased set of pistols like this were a sign of status and they were finished to a very high standard. The locks, hammers, trigger guards and breach blocks are decorated with a traditional acanthus scroll engraving and the maker’s name is engraved on each lock plate.

The small sized, bar action hammer locks have flat plates and are fitted with flat faced serpentine hammers with stylized dolphin heads and back sliding safeties.

Each pistol has 8” twist octagon barrels that are engraved with the maker’s name on the top flats. They have V-notch rear sights on the breach irons and small brass beads at the muzzles. The barrels are fitted with bridled steel ramrods that still operate flawlessly.

Lightly figured European walnut stocks have “bag” shaped grips and forends that extend to within 5/8” of the muzzle. The stocks have very nice flat top checkering, are iron mounted and have rectangular crest plates engraved with a “rising eagle”.

Overall the pair’s condition is excellent and the guns remain completely original. The locks and hammers display strong amounts of their color hardening and most of the original brown is left on the barrels that have excellent bores. The stocks are also sound, crack free and in superb original shape retaining almost all their original oil finish. The forearm wedges and triggers still show a vivid charcoal blue and almost all the original black remains on the trigger bows.

The pistols are paired in the original mahogany case that is also in very nice original condition still retaining the original trade label and well preserved green baize.

This pair of pistols is another great example of the high-quality arms Westley Richards has produced and sold for over two hundred years.

Pre-owned James Purdey & Sons 12g Sidelock

The latest offering from our used gun department is this superb James Purdey & Sons 12g sidelock ejector. Completed around 1964 the gun features an unusual barrel length of 27 9/16” which are choked 1/2 in the right and Extra Full in the left with 2 3/4” chambers and a raised engine turned top rib. The action has the classic Purdey house rose and scroll engraving and retains some beautiful and vivid case colours. The gun was originally built as a double trigger but has subsequently been converted to single.

A stunningly figured straight hand stock measures 14 3/4″ to the centre of the leather covered recoil pad and has a drop of 1 3/8″ at the comb and 1 7/8″ at the heel, the cast is dead straight. Weighing 7lbs 2oz the gun is lively in the hands but also retains a smooth and controlled swing.

The gun is neatly cased in its motor case complete with tools and a canvas outer and also comes with the framed London proof certificate of 1963, which reads;

Certificate of Proof
It is hereby certified that on the 3rd Day of April 1963,
the Small Arm and/or Gun Barrel, details of which are set out below, was
duly presented for proof at the Proof House of the Worshipful Company of
Gunamkers and there was found of proof in accordance with the Gun Barrel
Proof Acts 1868 and 1950. Signed Proof Master

SMALL ARM and/or BARREL NUMBER 26976          BORE 12
MAKER’S NAME J. Purdey & Sons.                                   CHAMBER LENGTH 2 3/4″ 

Condition of this gun is excellent and testament to its previous owners. The gun is now live on our used gun website.

Vintage Westley Richards .425 Magnum Express At The U.S. Agency

I relish in offering up second hand guns and rifles that are fresh to the market. With the Westley Richards & Co. name and reputation, we are in a very good position to find these gems that have stayed put away and haven’t languished for sale on-line with some other dealer or been tossed around the various auction houses. A few recent examples are the Holland & Holland ‘Royal’.410 and Westley Richards A&D 8g, both exceedingly rare and unique guns, sold here at the U.S. Agency. As luck would have it (and a lot of hard work) I have come across another very interesting rifle, in all original and near new condition, acquired from the original owner’s family.

Solid wall Mauser based action.

The rifle is a Westley Richards .425 Magnum Express Best Quality Mauser bolt action built circa 1955. The rifle is still paired in its original maker’s case with the original accoutrements still wrapped in their tissue paper. During the 1950’s, Westley’s was supplying a rifle of a similar format, albeit with much less finish, to Game Scouts in Kenya and Rhodesia. However, this rifle was bought by a sportsman, is engraved and has a Monte Carlo cheekpiece, a stock shape that rose to prominence in America after World War II. Many of the top tier English makers adopted this stock shape to cater to the U.S. market that was now the largest sporting gun market in the world. This was also the time period when rifles were increasingly fitted with telescopic sights, especially those built for American clients. It is unusual that the rifle was never drilled and tapped and quite remarkable that it has remained unaltered for all these years.

Lever release floorplate with elegant house scroll engraving.

Westley Richards classic and distinctive combination foresight with patent flip over protector.

As if the lovely condition of the rifle isn’t enough, there is another interesting part of this rifle’s story. In the early 1970’s, the original owner used the rifle to successfully take an elephant that body size eclipsed the world record at the time. The gentleman’s record can be found in various record books of the period and you can still see his name, written in pen, on the boxes of ammo. One box includes a few empty brass cases; 6 to be exact. It would stand to reason these are the same 6 rounds Mr. Nielsen mentions in his retelling of the fateful trip. Remarkably, the rifle shows little to no signs of its travels and remains in top form, making it a very viable candidate for anyone’s next dangerous game hunt.

Contained in its original case the rifle is one of those wonderful finds.

Winchester Commemorative Rifles at Westley Richards

Being the token redneck in the English gun trade, certain duties fall to me that my British counterparts are either unqualified for or, more likely, are unwilling to do. When it comes to American guns and rifles, especially Winchesters, Ricky and Trigger call on me when they come across our threshold. Being that I also fall subject to the stereotype that all Americans have a portrait of John Wayne on the wall and a Winchester under the bed, I guess I am somewhat qualified to comment on the collection of Winchester Commemoratives Ricky recently acquired.

Starting in 1964, Winchester released different series of commemorative rifles based on the Model 94 platform. Each series was made to recognize or honor an iconic person, place, event or organization in American history with fancy wood, metal finishes and engraving and highly illustrated boxes. The different series were usually made in limited numbers with special serial numbers. The commemorative rifles were intended to be instant collectibles and they enjoy a sort of cult like following in the gun world.

While this is not the normal kind of discussions we have on The Explora, these rifles represent a fun chapter in the American gun trade and the five examples we have are some of the more iconic ones, so we thought they worth mentioning.

1969 Golden Spike Carbine Commemorative. This series features a brass framed Model 94 chambered in .30-30 Winchester commemorating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in North America. The rifle’s engraving and box illustrate when two locomotives from the two railroads met nose to nose on May 10, 1869 in Promontory Summit, Utah. 69,996 rifles produced in this series, this rifle is #GS25538

1980 Oliver F. Winchester Commemorative. This series features a brass plated Model 94 chambered in .30-30 Winchester with engraving scenes of the Winchester factory and the box is illustrated with Oliver F. Winchester’s portrait. 19,999 rifles produced in this series; this rifle is #OFW730

1981 John Wayne Commemorative. This series features a Model 94 chambered in .30-30 Winchester with a silver receiver and an engraved scene of a stage coach being chased by bandits and titles of movies John Wayne starred in engraved around the outside of the action. The rifle also features the large “Trapper” lever loop, made famous by John Wayne. 49,000 rifles produced in this series; this rifle is #JW28502

1983 Chief Crazy Horse Commemorative. This series features a Model 94 chambered in .38-55 WCF with a case color finish and the engraving and box illustrations depict Native Americans hunting bison from horseback, the portrait of the famous Lakota War Chief, Crazy Horse. The stock is decorated in a Native American theme with brass tacks. The outside of the receiver is engraved with various tribe names. 19,999 rifles in this series and this is #CCH4867

For any interest please contact Ricky or LD:

ricky@westleyrichards.co.uk

ld@westleyrichards.com

A Rifle For Any Occasion

After two very successful shows in the U.S. we are now back at the factory in Birmingham and back to business as usual, building the best guns and rifles available and continuing our to offer our clients a superb selection of high quality pre-owned guns and rifles from around the world. Our used gun department prides itself not only on the quality of the guns and rifles we offer but also the variety and we try to offer something for hunters of all types. Our latest offering does exactly that. Whether you are hunting Muntjac in the quaint English countryside, Elephant in the unforgiving African bush or anything in between, we have a rifle for that. We are pleased to offer for sale a collection of 4 great pre-owned bolt action rifles.

Firstly we have a J. Rigby & Co. bolt action rifle chambered in .243 Winchester. Completed around 1986 and built on a Sako action it features a 23 1/8” un-sighted barrel, a Zeiss Diavari 3-12×50 scope on fixed mounts. Engraved by Marcus Hunt, the floor plate features a gold Impala with the Rigby name and calibre, the serial number in gold on the trigger bow and the Rigby emblem in gold on the grip cap. The highly figured Monte Carlo stock measures 14 ¼” in length and is finished with a Pachmayr pad, horn forend tip, gold stock oval and swivel studs. The rifle weighs 8lbs 15oz.

J. Rigby & Co. .243 Bolt Action Rifle

Next we have another Rigby chambered in .275 Rigby, completed around 1998 and built on a Mauser action with a Kepplinger trigger it features a 20 ½” barrel with one fixed and one folding leaf express sight, ramp foresight with hood, Swarovski Habicht 3-9×36 scope on H&H QD mounts which are case colour hardened as is the bolt shroud. The floor plate is engraved with a Roe Buck motif and ‘Rigby’s .275’. Beautifully figured stock measuring 14 3/8”, cheekpiece, silver stock oval, recoil bar, swivel stud and barrel band. The rifle weighs 9lbs 1oz and is neatly cased in a mid-tan leather case with accessories.

J. Rigby & Co. .275 Bolt Action Rifle

No. 3 in the Rigby line up is a .375 H&H Magnum. Completed around 1997 and built on a standard length Mauser action it was built with a 23 1/8” barrel with ramp foresight and flip over moonsight, one fixed and one folding leaf express sight regulated at 100 and 200 yards, Zeiss Diavari 1.25-4×24 scope on H&H QD mounts which are case colour hardened as is the bolt shroud and grip cap. Marcus Hunt engraved with a gold Lion’s head and scroll surround on the floor plate, gold serial number on the trigger bow and Rigby emblem on the cap trap. 14 ½” stock with a black Absorb-All recoil pad (slightly damaged at the heel), cheekpiece, gold oval, swivel stud and barrel band. The rifle weighs 11lbs 7oz and is uncased.

J. Rigby & Co. .375 H&H Magnum Bolt Action Rifle

Last but by no means least we have the heavyweight of the collection, a W.J. Jeffery in .500 Jeffery calibre. Completed around 2002, it is built on a double square bridge magnum Mauser action with a flag safety, 24 5/8” barrel with one standing and two folding leaf express sight regulated at 50, 100 and 150 yards, ramp foresight with single bead and flip over moonsight, Swarovski Z6 1-6×24 scope mounted on quick detachable claw mounts. Once again engraved by Marcus Hunt with ‘Caliber .500 Jeffery’ in a gold ring on the cover plate, gold serial number on the trigger guard and gold Elephant on the grip cap. A stunningly dark, highly figured stock measuring 14 ½” in length with a tradition recoil pad, cheekpiece, gold oval, two recoil bars, swivel stud and barrel band. The rifle weighs 12lbs, is uncased and has fired no more than 4 shots from new.

W.J. Jeffery .500 Jeffery Bolt Action Rifle

This is just one collection of rifles we have for sale and we are expecting more in the coming months, keep an eye out on the blog for more news soon. The rifles are live on our used gun website and if anybody has any questions, please contact me on 0121 333 1900 or email ricky@westleyrichards.co.uk

The Perfect African Accompaniment

The debate of what rifle, in what calibre, is the best for hunting in Africa is a discussion as old as the sport itself and I don’t intend to delve into or attempt to answer such a lengthy and hotly contested question in this blog. But what I want to share with the readers, is a rifle, that has recently come through our doors, which I believe quite comfortably covers with ease, a wide range of African game and safaris and has a serious chance of answering the aforementioned question for me.

Ray Ward Gunmakers, based in Knightsbridge London, have been a high end gun retailer for a number of years and in more recent times have become a gunmaker in their own right. One such rifle to have been built by the London makers is this superbly versatile take down bolt action rifle, two barrel set in .375 H&H Magnum and .416 Remington Magnum. Completed around 2001, the rifle is built on a standard length Obendorf action with two interchangeable, screw threaded barrels using the Jeffery style screw in peg to secure them in place. The .416 barrel measures 23 3/8” with a ramp foresight and single standing express sight. While the .375 barrel is 22” with the same open sight configuration with the addition of a flip over foresight hood. The Zeiss Conquest DL 1.2-5×36 scope is mounted on H&H QD mounts and the rifle weighs 10lbs 1.7oz in .375 and 10lbs 7oz in .416.

The pistol grip stock is beautifully figured and measures 14 1/8” to the centre of the Silver’s recoil pad with a cheekpiece, grip cap, gold oval, sling stud, two recoil bars and horn forend tip. Expertly engraved by David Tallett with a bold scroll coverage, the case colour floor plate is engraved in gold with the calibres and FOR BIG GAME. The scope rings are also gold inlaid with the calibres and makers name.

The rifle is finished to a very high standard, is well balanced and points with ease. The action is smooth, the barrels are tight on the action and the bores are both in mint condition. It is neatly presented in its leather case with a sling, turnscrew, cleaning rods and accessories.

The .375 has proven its worth time and time again and shouldn’t need me argue its case. The .416 Remington since its introduction in 1988 has gained the affection of hunters world wide, non more so than legendary PH, Robin Hurt. Firing a 400 grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2400 fps, it is capable of taking Africa’s largest game and compliments the .375 perfectly. It’s an attractive and beautifully made African all-rounder that you’d be hard pressed to find a hunt it didn’t suit.

Beretta’s Finest – Pair SO10 20g Over & Under Shotguns

The name Beretta needs no introduction to a gun enthusiast. As the World’s oldest gun maker still in existence, the firm has been family owned and operated for almost 500 years and has provided weaponry for every major European war since 1650. For such a long and important history, Beretta’s Worldwide presence in the sporting market is fairly new. In 1933, Beretta introduced its first modern over/under shotgun, the S1, that would be the start of the firm’s very well respected “S” series of sidelock over/under shotguns. Almost 70 years later Beretta would introduce the SO10, what many consider the pinnacle of Beretta o/u shotguns and no doubt one of the finest over/under shotguns being made in the World today.

Typically fine Italian engraving depicting Cock Pheasant.

Machined from a solid piece of steel this hand detachable sidelock design is unique to Beretta. Using a bifurcated lump like the famous Boss & Co. and J.Woodward designs, the low profile SO actions are instantly recognised by the opposing shoulders of the receiver and barrels. Each action is scaled specifically to its gauge and reinforced with a Kersten type double cross bolt. The design makes the actions exceptionally robust yet slim, trim and a delight to handle. The graceful shape of the action is complemented by a pinless surface with hidden detachment levers making them an uninterrupted canvas for the World class engraving the Italians are famous for.

Two wonderful examples of the SO10 have recently walked into the U.S. Agency. A true pair of 20g SO10 EELL, Beretta’s highest grade guns. The pair is beautifully engraved by Maestro Dario Cortini in unbelievably realistic bulino engraving of English partridge, woodcock and pheasants complemented by a decorative Italian scroll. The 30” barrels, solid top and side ribs, with great stock dimensions make these guns a practical choice for the driven bird hunter.

English partridge and woodcock grace the opposing locks on each gun.

For further information please contact: ld@westleyrichards.com

Bror Blixen’s ‘Loan’ Rifle

In the history of African safari there are the names of individual hunters that should need no real introduction, F.C.Selous, Captain James Sutherland, W.D.M.Bell and J.A.Hunter to name but a few. Whilst some hunted professionally for ivory, others hunted as professional guides taking the emerging elite of the world on lavish safaris into the heart of East Africa.

Amongst this elite group of Professional Hunters can be counted one Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke (1886-1946), Swedish aristocrat, serial womaniser and husband of famed writer Karen Blixen who wrote one of the greatest books ‘Out of Africa’, so immortalising what many consider the golden age of safari hunting.

The J.Purdey & Sons sidelock underlever double rifle in .500/.465 calibre.

Now Blixen was not your usual run of the mill professional hunter. His reputation for securing huge elephant trophies and for ensnaring beautiful women came in equal measure, only surpassed by his legendary drinking skills! That all said and done, he was without question one of the toughest, ethical and courageous big game hunters who ever lived who had a client list booked many years in advance to hunt with him.

As with all professional hunters of the time, Blixen had at his disposal an assortment of both bolt action and double rifles with which to tackle the multitude of game that inhabited the vastness of the African continent.

Whilst he clearly owned several rifles of his own, legend has it that he also borrowed the occasional rifle including the rifle shown here. This particular Purdey double rifle in .500/.465 calibre was originally built in November 1908 for the Earl of Landisborough, before finding its way into the hands of a Swedish businessman who regularly took to hunting in East Africa. It is said that rather than travel back and forth from Africa with the rifle that it was left in the capable hands of Blixen ‘on permanent loan’.

Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke on safari.

The rifle certainly seems to have seen some ‘bush use’ judging by the many subtle knocks and scrapes that it displays, all suggesting that it was used, not abused. The rifle has fantastic crisp rifling and appears as tight today as the day it was made. Interestingly the rifle features a bold scroll engraving pattern as opposed to the more traditional house rose and scroll engraving design found on the large majority of Purdey guns and rifles. The ‘bolted’ safety was a common feature of Purdey rifles, a double safety mechanism to stop the accidental discharge of a rifle should the safety button be innocently pushed off.

The rifle undeniably makes for an interesting piece of history and Africana, we only wish that it could tell a story or two!

The ‘bolted’ safety system as used on the majority of vintage Purdey nitro express double rifles.

‘African Hunter’ by Bror von Blixen-Finecke published in 1937.