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.
To all great rifle enthusiasts the name of Daniel Fraser should need no introduction. Established in 1878 in the city of Edinburgh, Fraser would become one of the pre-eminent Scottish gun and rifle makers, with particularly emphasis placed on rifle manufacture. Anyone who owns or has ever handled one of Frasers original rifles can only be impressed by the level of workmanship and quality that went into its manufacture.
Take for example the double rifle illustrated here. Built in .475 3 1/4″ nitro express calibre, the rifle has the distinctive crescent shaped action, carved fences and wonderful fine rose and scroll engraving familiar to all of Frasers best quality double rifles. Interestingly the rifle is fitted with scope mount bases, the scope itself sadly missing from the case. This same scope mount can be found on Frasers wonderful single shot rifles which seems to indicate that he was a great advocate of the riflescope and its aid to accuracy. How the scope performed under the recoil from such a rifle is anyones guess and perhaps explains its absence!
Fraser’s business was relatively short lived, as the cost of producing such high grade rifles, coupled with competition from the vast Birmingham manufacturers, sadly led to his closing of the business in the early 1900’s. Various family members continued in the gun trade, but the name of Daniel Fraser & Co. vanished until the 1980’s when it saw a re-birth and later amalgamation into the Dickson & MacNaughton group, based once again in Edinburgh. Regrettably this year the Edinburgh premises of Dickson & MacNaughton was closed sliding this once great name back into exile.
Here are a selection of pre-owned guns which have recently arrived in the gunroom. They are due to go on the used gun site shortly.
Firstly we have a stunning Westley Richards 12g Heronshaw completed in 1934. In total original condition, the 25” barrels have original proofs, good wall thickness with 2 1/2″ chambers and are choked 1/4 and extra full. The double trigger Anson & Deeley action features Westley snap lever work, automatic game safe and is fully engraved with bold scroll and retains a good amount of case colour. The straight hand stock measures 14 1/4″ to centre with a slim heel plate and silver escutcheon. The splinter forend has an ebony tip and Deeley catch. The gun weighs 6lbs 3oz and is in superb original condition and comes in its lightweight leather case with accessories. A lovely, fast shooting gun that has seen almost no use for the last 30 years.
If short barrels aren’t your thing, then this 30” barreled Westley Richards boxlock ejector with a 15 3/4″ length of pull might be more up your street! Built for Sir F. Menzies and completed in December of 1939, the fixed lock, Anson & Deeley action features two triggers, Westley snap lever work, automatic beetle back safety, scroll engraving and retains some nice case colours. The 30” barrels feature our model ‘C’ dolls head extension, has 2 1/2″ chambers and is choked improved cylinder and 1/2. The gun was reproofed in London in 1982. The handsome, straight hand stock measures 15 3/4″ to centre which includes a 1 3/8” wooden extension and gold oval. The splinter forend features a horn tip and Deeley catch. Weighing 6lbs 9oz this is an ideal ‘high bird’ gun ready for the fast approaching season.
The third gun we have to offer is a Westley Richards 12g ‘Centenary Model’ boxlock ejector. This gun is due to go through the workshops to have some barrel improvements and a reproof test. The centenary model was a fixed lock action with a tang top lever, patent one trigger and deluxe scroll engraving. It was offered as an affordable gun for people who wanted our one trigger but couldn’t justify the expense of a best quality droplock gun. This boxlock has 28” barrels with 2 1/2” chambers, choked improved cylinder and 1/2. The straight hand stock measures 13 3/4” to centre and has chequered side panels with fleur-de-lis drop points, the forend features the Anson push rod rather than the Deeley catch. The gun weighs 6lbs 8oz and comes in a leather case.
Something aside from the boxlock shotguns are these great percussion pocket pistols made by John T. Cook of New Street, Birmingham. Beautifully made with 1 7/8” octagonal screw off barrels, elaborate scroll engraving, clam shell panels, dolphin head hammers, folding triggers, thumb safety and chequered handles with grip caps with traps. They are neatly presented in the original box with their powder flask, turnscrew, barrel key, oil bottle, shot mold and it even includes some percussion caps and lead shot. They are neat pair of 19th century pistols that would complement anyone’s gunroom, office or home.
Westley Richards are and always have been very active dealers in the pre-owned gun market and we take great pride in selling fine sporting guns and rifles to hunters and collectors all around the world. We happily welcome expressions of interest whether you’re looking to buy or sell a quality used gun or rifle. For UK enquiries, please email email@example.com or if in the USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Now we are going to have to be honest here and say that whilst we are great fans of the fabulous revolvers designed and manufactured by Samuel Colt, we are in no way experts on the various models or variations thereof. That said, what we do know about the three shown here is that they are all rare and interesting either historically or aesthetically and would take pride of place in any collection.
This fabulous .44 Colt ‘Dragoon’ is by all accounts special as it is a fully engraved or ‘Presentation’ model. Three models of dragoon were manufactured between the period 1848 and 1860 all with subtle variations. Numbers manufactured between all models was fairly low by modern production standards, which makes any of them highly collectible today. This revolver has the serial number 20.
The wonderful ‘English’ style engraving on the ‘Dragoon’ revolver
This .36 Navy Colt revolver was manufactured at Colt’s factory in London between 1853-1856 and was later used in the siege of Delhi in 1857. The British navy and army ordered a combined 18,000 of these pistols but the British never adopted the revolver as the official sidearm of the military establishment. This accounts for the short term manufacture of these pistols in London, as Samuel Colt closed the factory and shipped all the manufacturing machinery back to the USA. Clearly British interests were at stake and needed protecting!
This final .36 Navy Colt really is unique as with this revolver Major Henry Tombs (later Major General Sir Henry Tombs) was awarded Britain and the Commonwealths highest award for gallantry, the ‘Victoria Cross’. It was during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, on 9th July at the siege of Delhi, that Tombs twice came to the aid of Lieutenant James Hill saving his life with this very revolver. Interestingly this was the same year that the Victoria Cross was officially introduced and awarded. The revolver comes in a fabulous Manton & Co, Calcutta case and really is a great piece of British military history.
The ‘Victoria Cross’ – Britain and the Commonwealths highest award for gallantry
While there are many factors that come into play when evaluating a gun for purchase, one of the main criteria I look for is that the gun is in a configuration that is relevant and desirable to today’s shooter. These same features also usually measure up for the collector and when present on a gun make it that much more desirable. Guns and rifles made by the best and most well-known makers with features that are hallmarks of that maker, are often times the most appealing types to me.
Currently for sale at the Westley Richards U.S. Agency is a J. Purdey & Sons Beesley Patent Self Opening Sidelock Ejector Double Rifle chambered in .375 H&H Rimless Magnum. Completed in the early 2000’s, this relatively rare London Best double rifle is in both a practical configuration for a hunter as well as having all the hallmark Purdey features collectors look for.
The Beesley Patent Self Opener is the heart and soul of Purdey’s side by side shotguns and double rifles. The closing of the barrels compresses a set of “lifters” that protrude from the action’s water table, thus compressing the main springs of the actions and cocking the tumblers. Upon opening, the pressure from the main springs pushes on the barrel flats and the barrels spring open. My personal experience is that the heavy, large bore rifles such as .500 NE or the .577 NE can be quite cumbersome to close on the self-opening design. However, this .375 caliber rifle closes effortlessly, yet opens smoothly with very positive ejection and quicker reload; the same benefits to a big game hunter as it is a for a wing shooter in a shotgun. This rifle handles more like a small bore shotgun than a heavy express rifle, yet the 10 lbs. 9 oz. weight handles recoil well when the rifle is shot from shooting sticks or a rest.
Proofed in 2002, and coincidentally featured in Donald Dallas’ “Purdey Gun & Rifle Makers The Definitive History” (2000 Quiller & Sons Ltd.) this rifle includes Purdey’s easily recognizable bolstered frame, incorporates Purdey’s third grip rib extension and has sideclips, all classic reinforcements found on Purdey rifles. In addition, one finds all the features to be expected on a Best quality gun such as a bolted safety and gold lined cocking indicators, rolled trigger guard and hinged front trigger, a trap grip cap, an extended bottom tang and a strap over the comb. The stock has a right hand cheekpiece, full pistol grip, and is finished in a leather pad and the forend, Purdey’s very distinctly shaped beavertail, has a push rod forend latch. Finally, the action is brushed and the clean finish showcases the house Rose & Scroll engraving nicely.
The 23” chopper lump barrels have a quarter rib with two folding leaf sights regulated for 100 yds and 200 yds respectively and factory installed claw mounts and a Schmidt & Bender scope which is complemented with a ramp front sight with a flip up moon bead and Purdey’s unmistakable “clam shell” front sight protector.
Complete in the maker’s leather case, this rifle is in the classic Purdey double rifle configuration and combines a quick release scope and the versatile .375 H&H with the added benefits and attributes of a double rifle. A rifle that incorporates all the hallmarks of this great maker in a gun that is relevant and desirable to today’s hunter.
When picking a dangerous game rifle, there is the ever present discussion of bolt action versus double rifle. While I think I can make a strong argument in favour of either platform, at the end of the day, it comes down to which style you as a hunter are most comfortable with. Safari season is in full swing and as our friends and clients are in pursuit of some of the World’s largest and most dangerous game, two rifles in our inventory come to mind.
The bolt action is chambered in Rigby’s venerable .416 Bore and built using an original, near mythical, Rigby pre-war magnum length single square bridge Mauser action. These actions were made by Mauser to Rigby specs and represent some of the finest bolt action receivers to ever be manufactured. The gun had a new stock and barrel by Rigby around the early 1990’s (1994 London Proofs). While the .416 Rigby won its popularity from Ruark’s writing as much as anything, the cartridge certainly had the performance to back up that popularity, which it still enjoys today among dangerous game hunters as well as collectors. Besides being in what I would argue was Rigby’s most famous cartridge, there are a few reasons I like this particular rifle; being based on an original single square bridge action but being stocked and barrelled to new is a great combination. It has also always been my experience that guns made under Paul Robert’s tenure at Rigby, as this rifle was, always function with great reliability and shoot equally as well, this rifle keeps with that tradition.
The double rifle I have in mind is another classic from Rigby’s; a best quality sidelock ejector in .470 3 ¼” NE. This rifle was made circa 1911 and incorporates Rigby’s patented third grip or club head rib extension. Interestingly, production of this rib extension overlapped with that of the much talked about Bissell Rising bite. Certainly one cannot argue with the strength of a screw grip type action and Rigby must have thought the same. Additionally, the rifle is chambered in .470 NE. John Rigby was a noted expert on firearms and ballistics of the day and this is the cartridge we see many of these best quality rifles chambered for. Additional classic features of this Rigby best quality rifle are the dipped-edge locks, the carved fences and the original and near perfect 28” barrels.
As I said before, I think I could argue just as convincingly for one type of rifle as the other. A double rifle’s near instant second shot versus 4 rounds in a bolt action that, with some practice, can shoot two shots as fast as a gun with a second barrel. It’s an age-old argument that will rage around fires in hunting camps for many more hunting seasons. No doubt the best way to solve the debate it is to simply have one of each!
Game scene rifles of the pre war era have always seemed thin on the ground and outside of the great Mahrajah’s and the occasional ostentatious aristocrat, the majority of double rifles tended to be of the traditional house scroll engraved format. An Englishman was far more reserved and refined in his tastes!
This pretty little Rigby in .256 rimmed is one of those exceptional little rifles that you would like to own just because the engraving takes you back to the golden age of big game hunting when the continents of India and Africa competed for the attentions of the avid big game hunter. Beautifully engraved with game scenes of Indian big game including tiger, leopard, black buck, sambar and cheetal deer, all credit must be paid to the engraver who most likely had never viewed any of these game animals live and most certainly not from some download off the internet.
The small calibre of the rifle, single trigger and stepped breach only add to the delicate nature of both the rifle and game scenes. Completed in 1907 for H.H Maharana of Udaipur it has obviously been well used without being over-abused and surely if it could speak would have many an exciting story to tell!
The Bissell or Rigby ‘rising bite’ third fastener.
Wonderfully detailed Indian big game scenes throughout.
Stepped breach, dipped edge lock plate and single trigger.
As a once keen wildfowler it is always nice to see one of the vintage big bore guns built by Westley Richards. In this instance we have a lovely 10g, 3″ chambered, 32″ barrelled Anson & Deeley fixed lock shotgun that was completed in 1886 for J.Palmer O’Neil & Co. of Pittsburgh, USA. This company clearly acted as an agent for Westley Richards and retailed guns, rifles, revolvers, ammunition, fishing tackle and other sportsmens goods. A gun almost identical to this illustrates the front cover of one of their early catalogues.
The lines of the gun considering its size are very elegant and it points superbly. The round pistol grip has a gentle sweep that makes the gun comfortable to handle. Weighing 10lb 10 3/4ozs it is great to swing and with ‘extreme choke’ as defined in the ledger entry, it would certainly have worked well on high Mallard, Pintail and Geese. Interestingly the rib states ‘Highest Quality’ and we have to admit that it is probably one of the finest fixed lock guns that we have seen here at the factory. The damascus is of the typical high quality found on all of the Westley Richards guns built up until around 1910 and the wood is as good as anything we would use today.
The gun has the single model ‘c’ dolls head extension and classic lever work, no underbolt, which is a testament to the strength of the design and quality of the workmanship when jointing the gun. It remains as tight on the face as the day it was made and if it was mine there is no question that it would see a goose blind this autumn!
You may have found us a bit quieter than usual of late. Well, that is because we have been hard at work on an exciting new project. After considerable time and effort, we at Westley Richards are proud to announce the launch of our brand new website.
Featuring the finest imagery and design, and industry-leading technology, it showcases the world of Westley Richards like never before. Designed and developed especially for those with a passion for fine guns, hunting, bespoke leather goods and the very best shooting clothing and products, the new site is a reflection of what we do here at Westley Richards in our relentless pursuit of perfection. We hope you enjoy it and we look forward to welcoming you all into our world.