One of my personal favourites in the magazine rifle calibre realm is the tried and tested Holland & Holland .30 Super or .300 H & H Belted Magnum cartridge as it is also known. A forerunner to the later .300 Winchester Magnum and .300 Weatherby Magnum, the original was a devastatingly effective rifle for long range shooting and more than capable of taking medium to large soft skinned game.
Introduced in 1925, various bullet loadings were available from 150 grain through to 220 grain. Most settled for the 180 grain load as the most generally effective, but the heavier loads were very good for tackling heavier African plains and North American big game where deeper penetration was required.
The cartridge came to fame in the USA when it won the 1000 yard Wimbledon cup in 1935. It was a great favourite with famous American gun writer Elmer Keith who shot some super North American sheep and other big game with it pre World War II. His book ‘Keith’s Rifles For Large Game’ is a great reference on the calibre in the USA and is an otherwise interesting read on big game rifles and calibre’s in general.
Whilst often overlooked today, I can vouch for its outstanding abilities having used one in both Africa and Alaska over the years. My rifles have always been slightly beat up examples like the one shown here which tend to show the rifle has been put to good use rather than consigned to a gun cabinet. In today’s world of stainless steel and synthetic stocks there is a real pleasure to be derived from using one of these vintage rifles. If ever you get a chance to hunt with one take it, you’ll be surprised by how much fun it is whilst safely reassured that it still packs a deadly punch.
The Holland & Holland quick detachable scope mount system.
Completed in 1934 this rifle has been back to Holland and Holland for upgrades over the years, adding to the character and history of the rifle.
Although the primary focus of the factory is new gun and rifle production we do have a small amount of repair and refurbishment work taking place. Mostly on used guns that we have sold that need a service, alteration of stock measurements or a general freshen up before being delivered to the successful buyer.
One such pair that has just been completed is this very beautiful pair of 20g droplock shotguns. Completed in 2000, built for an American gentleman, they were kept here in the UK and shot every season. The guns were returned to us last year to be sold and the new owner, another American gentleman, has decided to also keep them here in the UK for his annual pheasant and partridge shooting trip.
The guns are a matched pair of best quality 20g droplocks with 27” barrels, scroll back, double trigger actions with elaborate scroll coverage and stunningly figured 14 ¾” stocks. Choked ½ in all 4 barrels they are the perfect all round guns, from early grouse through to late season pheasants. The guns are perfectly balanced and are quick in the hands like a 20 should be. Cased in their leather case with canvas outer they are very presentable and attractive pair of guns.
The stocks have had all the handling marks removed and have been gently refinished with our high gloss finish. The barrels have been best re-blacked and both actions and lock work have been completely stripped, cleaned and checked over, ovals have been polished and engraved and the leather shop have made a new lightweight canvas outer with initial patch. The team have done a superb job on the refinish of the guns and they are now safely stored and awaiting the arrival of their new owner.
Sourcing pre-owned guns for sale is as varied and unpredictable as the British weather. From a vintage Boswell .303 single shot rifle to a pair of as new .470 droplock double rifles and everything in between, we are lucky enough to get them in all shapes, sizes, calibres and conditions.
One particular rifle that proves my point is this interesting Holland & Holland hammerless ejector double rifle in .577 black powder. Completed in 1895 and made for C.C. Branch Esquire, the rifle remains in excellent original condition. Built with a sidelock, Jones under lever action with full elaborate scroll coverage and clam shell engraved fences. Full pistol grip stock measuring 14 ¾” to the centre of the Silvers recoil pad with a strap over comb, cheek piece, plain gold oval and splinter forend with lever release. 26” barrels with mint bores and crisp rifling, rear express sight and ramp foresight with folding moon sight. The rifle weighs 11lbs 5oz and is an impressive thing to handle. It’s easy to admire the workmanship of this piece and one can only image the adventures that Mr. Branch had planned when he collected this rifle back in 1895.
Extract From Holland & Holland’s Ledger
The image above shows the development of the Holland action from the back action with external hammers circa 1887, to the rifle in question, through to the hammerless Royal from 1938 with a modern tang top lever. Spurred on by Beesley’s hammerless action which was bought by Purdey’s in 1879, Henry Holland began working on a hammerless action of his own. A collaboration between Henry Holland and John Robertson led to patent No. 23 on 1st January 1883, a hammerless action which became Holland’s most famous and best gun, the Royal.
Undoubtedly two of the most iconic cartridges to ever come from the British gun making trade must be Rigby’s .416 and Gibbs’ .505 Magnum. Steeped in safari legend, the mere mention of these two big bore rounds evokes images of big tuskers, old dagga boys and the larger than life characters that used them. Both cartridges have been around for well over a century, and remain two of the most popular cartridges among dangerous game hunters today. It goes without saying that the original rifles chambered for these rounds are among the most coveted rifles out there.
The first rifles chambered for these cartridges were ground breaking developments for Big Game hunters. The rifles themselves were built on the new magnum length Mauser ’98 bolt actions that were very well made, extremely reliable and far more affordable than double rifles. Secondly, these big rifles shot cartridges that matched the ballistics of cartridges like the .470 3 ¼” NE or the .500 3” NE.
This was power previously only available in a double rifle and these new big bore bolt action rifles could carry up to 4 rounds. Furthermore, the two cartridges were similarly shaped and their “big” designs offered ample case capacity that made for low chamber pressure. The cases also had long necks for tightly holding the big bullets, a benefit for the rounds in the magazine of heavy recoiling rifles. All these characteristics were, and still remain, reliable combinations for pursuing the World’s most dangerous game.
Original Gibbs .505 Magnum built in 1927.
Safe to say the British trade hasn’t made “many” of anything, but even when put into perspective, original .416 Rigby and .505 Gibbs bolt action rifles are not only some of the most desirable, they’re also some of the rarest. Less than 200 .416 Rigby rifles were produced between its introduction in 1911 and the beginning of WWII. In the case of the mighty .505 Gibbs, somewhere between 70 to 80 were only ever produced. Low production numbers by any standards and, in rifles that were very much intended for hard use, one must wonder just how many survived much less stayed original?
Being that the rifles are so rare, I’ve encountered very few in my career, and to have one of each offered for sale at the same time, is an even rarer moment still.
The J.Rigby & Co. Mauser Sporting Big Game rifle in .416 calibre shown here was shipped in 1913 and must have been among some of the first made. It is built on the original magnum length action made for John Rigby and his new .416 cartridge. The rifle has a 24” barrel with a sleeved front sight and sling swivel and Rigby’s pattern quarter rib, a cocking piece flip up peep sight, two folding leaf rear sights and the classically shaped Rigby stock. Even though the rifle is 105 years old, I am sure it feels as sturdy and sound today as it did the day it was finished.
The George Gibbs rifle chambered in .505 Magnum was made in 1927. A hulk of a rifle also built on an original magnum length Mauser action with a 26” Vickers barrel, island rear sight and banded front sight with a folding sight hood. The massive size of the action and barrel are appropriately scaled for the equally large cartridge that propels a bullet, one-half inch in diameter, at 2200 fps. This rifle was built for one purpose and it serves this purpose very well.
Original .416 Rigby built in 1913.
The long single square bridge magnum length Mauser ’98 action of the .416 Rigby.
These are two rifles that are not only an iconic representative of a bygone era but they still remain very useful tools for the pursuit of dangerous game or as a cornerstone of a fine gun collection.
Both rifles have been sold prior to the posting of this blog. These are indeed rare and desirable guns and, as it goes with items like these, they are quickly sold. Our method of selling such guns is much more discreet than most other dealers. If these are the types of investment grade firearms you might be interested in, please contact us. We would like very much to know you and add you to our list of discerning clients.
The word nice can be a pretty boring word to describe something you like but sometimes a gun arrives at the factory and the minute you open the case and first lay eyes on it, you think to yourself ‘yep, this is a nice gun’. More often than not you take it out of the case, inspect it in closer detail, spend 10 minutes pretending to shoot driven grouse with it in the showroom and the ‘nice gun’ quickly turns into a ‘damn nice gun’. When Trigger phoned me to ask about the latest preowned gun that had just arrived, before I’d even had chance to take it out of the case, handle it, or enjoy some imaginary grouse shooting, my immediate response to him was ‘this is a damn nice gun’.
That damn nice gun I’m talking about is this rare Westley Richards droplock 20g shotgun. Completed in 1906 for C.S. Somervile Esquire, it’s a fine example of a best quality shotgun, featuring our patent hand detachable locks, single selective trigger, snap lever work, Model C dolls head extension and a removable cover plate. The scroll back action has our classic Westley scroll engraving, which extends a couple of inches down the barrels and the trigger guard is engraved with a dog on point. The beautifully shaped and scaled action retains some lovely case colours and the engraving is superbly executed and crisp to the touch.
The gun was returned to us in 1988 for a full refurbishment and we rebarreled the gun with new 28” chopper lump barrels with 2 3/4” chambers, choked 1/2 in the right barrel and 5/8 in the left. The stock is stunning and has a lovely straight grain through the hand which then flows down to the toe. Rich and dark in colour the original length of 13 7/8” was extended to 14 3/4″ by a leather covered recoil pad. The splinter forend matches the stock perfectly and has the usual Deeley catch release and horn tip. The gun weighs 6lbs 4ozs and is well balanced. Weight in the barrels encourages a steady, controlled swing, which is often an issue with lightweight smaller gauges. The gun comes in a lightweight green canvas case with accessories.
The gun is really in superb condition and I can’t stress enough how rare it is to find a best quality 20g droplock, in this condition, from this era. I’m probably doing the gun an injustice by simply calling it a damn nice gun and there are numerous superlatives one could describe this gun with, but I feel this is a gun that speaks for itself and from the images, I think you’ll agree.
It is always nice to see when one of our guns or rifles returns back to the factory after many years of service in some distant place. They often come back bruised and battered with many a great story to tell.
The rifle illustrated here is not particularly old by our 200 year standard, having been completed in 1990 for a Swedish businessman who’s passion was moose hunting. His calibre of choice was the trusted .30-06, a calibre of great versatility and with the heavier 200 grain loadings a capable calibre for Europe’s heavier game.
An interesting part of this story is that the rifle was acquired by a client of ours who we recently built a .505 Gibbs bolt action rifle for. This rifle came up for sale in his native Sweden and being a Westley Richards fan he jumped at the opportunity to own it and pair it up with the .505 Gibbs. Quite a combination!
This particular rifle was engraved with a Norse theme in mind and amongst other things depicts in raised gold the former clients favourite quarry. These more unusual and very personal engravings are always nice to look at once again, even though no-one can quite remember the story behind them.
The rifle was returned to us for a gentle refurbishment of the wood, a good service and a test for accuracy with modern ammunition. We have left where possible all the original finish on the metalwork as the client (quite sensibly) wanted to maintain as much originality as possible, as much out of respect for the former owner, as for his own benefit. The wood will certainly age back nicely over time, developing its own unique patina with the odd scar to remind the client of a day (hopefully successful!) in the field.
The rifle will shortly be returning to Sweden where without question it will have the opportunity to hunt moose later in the year, a sport we are told is not for the lover of sunshine and warmth!!!!!!!
Norse theme engraving throughout the rifle.
Original wear showing on the metalwork.
Westley Richards patent combination foresight with flip over protector.
Since the 1950’s, Westley Richards has been one of the few English gun makers dealing in second hand guns and rifles by all makers. To this day the sale of used firearms remains a very important part of our daily business. With a globally recognised name, a very popular website and blog, a dedicated US Agency and an extensive sales network developed over the last 60 years, we have a diverse set of tools to market guns and rifles all over the World.
Today our on-line presence is at the core of our marketing. Using a combination of on-line tools such as a high traffic website, a blog with a devoted readership and a faithful following on social media, Westley Richards is easy to find and access from virtually anywhere in the World.
The new Westley Richards websiteis an updated and easy to navigate site that features our ‘used gun’ section prominently next to our retail site, history page and of course, information about the new guns and rifles we make. In addition to our website, our blog The Explora reaches a diverse group of buyers with different buying habits. We are also well known and easily recognised for our world class photography and, due in part to showcasing those efforts, we have a very large following on Instagram and Facebook.
In conjunction with our global reach Westley Richards also maintains an agency in our largest market, the United States. Well into its third decade the U.S. Agency is the factory’s first point of contact for our American clients and it serves as a conduit for the guns, rifles and rare ephemera we bring to market. The Agency can help move guns back and forth overseas and has a full-time manager, ‘LD’ McCaa, to acquire and sell guns in the U.S. Now located in northwest Florida, the Westley Richards Agency is more accessible than ever, with a stunning retail shop complemented by a diverse selection of fine used guns and rifles.
We believe different guns require differing marketing strategies, a sales approach that is novel when compared to the style that seems to prevail in the U.S. gun market today. It stands to reason that an inexpensive box lock will require a different sales approach compared to a rare, one of a kind gun. With our multifaceted approach, we can effectively market and sell guns and rifles of all makes and models and at all price points. Just one more example of what sets Westley Richards apart from the competition.
We are constantly looking for more high-quality inventory and would be delighted to discuss with you single and multiple firearm consignments.
Every now and then you get one of those great guns come through the door that you just have to stop and admire. This week we had the opportunity to look at a fabulously original Westley Richards 12g ‘Pigeon’ gun that retains nearly all of its original factory finish. Guns in such condition really are hard to find these days and one in this configuration even rarer still.
Completed in 1931 this Westley Richards was built as a ‘special quality’ gun intended for the live pigeon circuit, a pursuit still undertaken in hushed corners of the world. The Anson & Deeley fixed lock action has a wonderful depth and presence that genuinely and perfectly puts the weight at an impressive 8lbs 7ozs. The gun is supremely steady in the hands with a muzzle forward pointability that makes the gun swing with ease.
Vivid case colour hardening dominates the action.
The large breech ends, side clips, cross bolt and high shoulders add a real distinctive look to the gun which is only enhanced by the 30″, 3″ chambered barrels with distinctive flat top ventilated competition rib. Choked 3/4 and Full the gun packs some serious ‘out there’ capability!
The 14 3/4″ pistol grip with horn cap continues the flowing lines of a formidable gun that has wonderful engraving of pigeons, the metalwork itself retaining all of the original vivd case colour hardening and charcoal blueing of the furniture.
Here in the UK, it would make a fantastic ‘high bird’ gun capable of handling some of the more punchy cartridges favoured for this discipline. Alternatively it could just as well return to the live pigeon arena, the environment for which it was originally intended.
The name David McKay Brown should need no introduction to readers of this blog. Scotlands premier gun and rifle maker, David is still building guns at his factory in the village of Bothwell, near Glasgow, Scotland. From an early age David was always a keen gun and rifle enthusiast as well as an avid bird shooter, stalker and fisherman. After an apprenticeship with Alex Martin (Gunmakers) of Glasgow, David set out on his own producing his very first round action gun in 1974. Since then David has specialised in round action guns in both side by side and over and under configuration with an occasional and small output of double rifles over the years.
The double rifle here is one of only a handful built by David in .470 3 1/4″ nitro express calibre, built on his round action design with double triggers, auto ejectors, automatic safety, 25″ barrels, 14 3/4″ pull over an exhibition walnut stock, weighing in at 11lb 5ozs. The rifle is engraved with full traditional scroll coverage and an elephant game scene, all executed by English engraver Martin Smith. The rifle was completed in 1999 and appears pretty much as new and unfired retaining nearly all of the original case colour hardening. The barrels have a wonderful, almost stepped breech which is not uncommon on Fraser double rifles and even early small bore Rigby double rifles.
For any David McKay Brown aficionado who fancies a tussle with the big game of Africa, this would make a great addition to the armoury. Few double rifles of his come to the market, especially in such a useful African calibre.
One of the nicest features of this .470 double rifle is the revolving combination foresight bead. Speaking with David earlier this week, it appears the concept was presented to him many years ago by none other than Simon Clode, Westley Richards former Managing Director! David thought the design was a good one and for “a not insignificant sum” acquired the prototype from Simon and adopted it for his own rifles. In truth a stroke of genius as it really is a very neat design!
With the international following that Westley Richards has, most of both the new and pre-owned guns and rifles that we sell never return to the factory, having been shipped out to some far flung corners of the globe. On the odd occasion, guns that are sold slightly closer to home can sometimes end up back in our hands, generally with more character and a few more war stories to tell.
One such example in this classic William Evans .500 nitro express, boxlock ejector, double rifle. Sold to an Englishman by Trigger and Simon through our Grange Road factory 22 years ago.
Completed in 1912 for Consul General Christian Thams it was built as a plain, 2nd quality boxlock ejector double rifle with 26” barrels with a raised, engine turned top rib with ramp foresight, flip up moon sight, 100 yard standing express sight with two folding leaves regulated at 200 & 300 yards. A 14 3/8” pistol grip stock with no cheek piece, grip cap and traditional recoil pad. The fixed lock, double trigger action interestingly is fitted with an automatic game safety and is engraved with a small coverage of fine scroll. The barrels are engraved; William Evans (From Purdey’s) “500 3″ Solid Taper Case”
63 Pall Mall St. James’s London 80 Grs Cordite 500 Grs Soft Nose Nickel Bullet.
The rifle has seen a great deal of action and has been to Africa many times. It’s a true workhorse, a classic, no frills big game rifle of the African bush. It’s easy to see why the English boxlock ejector was the go to rifle for client and PH alike. It’s also testament to the strength and durability of the Webley action, the rifle performs faultlessly, the action is tight as a drum, the club head barrel extension is as strong as they come, and the rifle points with ease. On first inspections, the bores look a little frosty, but the rifling is good and as they say, the proof is in the pudding; this test target shows just how accurate the rifle still is, after all these years and many a safari.
William Evans ledger from 1912 showing rifle No. 9897
It’s hard not to admire an old rifle like this, although simple in design and engraving, it’s just a very cool, classic double that has been there, done it, got the t-shirt and after 106 years, is ready to do it all over again.