Finally – The Explora Makes It To Print!!!!!!!

After nearly 2 1/2 years in the making Westley Richards is pleased to announce the first printed edition of The Explora journal.

Since the introduction of Westley Richards blog The Explora in July 2013 much discussion has centred around the exceptional photography and unique insight that the blog has given to the world of fine guns and the shooting community at large. We were often asked by our followers whether a printed edition of The Explora would ever see the light of day and that it seemed such a shame that the great imagery associated with the blog would never become available in a printed hard copy. With so much else going on at the factory and the constant quest to build better and finer guns a priority, the idea of bringing The Explora to print seemed but a distant thought.

With the passing of former Chairman and Managing Director Simon D Clode in 2016, we thought it only fitting to pay tribute to him by bringing to print the vision he had started in 2013. And so began the seriously hard work of putting together something that was not only visually stunning but also of genuine interest. A true labour of love this journal has taken almost as long to put together as one of our fine guns and as with all things Westley Richards the final product is second to none.

So what can you really expect from The Explora journal? Well it goes without saying that the journal is lavishly illustrated throughout with superb colour and monochrome imagery, 90% of which has never been seen before as it was specially commissioned for the journal. Sumptuous photo essays from the Westley Richards factory accompany detailed articles that delve into aspects of the gun and shooting world, topics we are sure you will find as equally interesting as we do. Guns and rifles naturally grace the pages as do the gunmakers that build such works of art. All of this capped off with in the field imagery and of course wonderful touches of ephemera and nostalgia.

Presented in a beautifully-designed luxury format with a combination of high quality uncoated and gloss coated paper stock and an outer cover finished with soft coat laminate and gold foil embossed logo. The 180-page, advertisement free journal, epitomises the exceptional standards and painstaking attention to detail synonymous with Westley Richards and is certain not to disappoint the avid sportsman and gun enthusiast.

With a strictly limited edition print run The Explora journal is certain to become a collectors item so you would be wise to place your order sooner rather than later. There will be no reprint once we sell out. For all those loyal followers of this blog whom we have kept entertained for years, you can now finally get to hold something of The Explora truly in your hands!

To advance order your copy of The Explora journal click here

Or

Telephone:  UK 0121 333 1900   USA +1 850 677 3688

Email: retail@westleyrichards.co.uk

 

A Visit From Master Engraver Paul Lantuch

Recently we were privileged to have a two-week visit from master engraver Paul Lantuch as he completes the finishing on a pair of ornate guns that had just returned from case colour hardening. As those of you may already know, Paul is the mind behind the elaborate ‘India’ and ‘Africa’ .600 sidelock double rifles that were completed in recent years. These were some of the largest engraving commissions undertaking here at Westley Richards and Paul continues to execute on our behalf projects of outstanding quality, creativity and technicality.

During his visit, we took many photos that we thought would be worth sharing with you as they show part of the process involved in the careful removal of the case colour hardening and subsequent re-working of the gold inlay as executed on this pair of shotguns. It goes without saying that the work was both time consuming and delicate. We will share the final results with you when the entire project is complete.

The component parts as returned from case colour hardening.

Re-detailing the top lever and sharpening the edges of the carving.

Re-matting (or stippling) the goldwork was a labour of love.

The gold edges needed careful blending.

One side of the action as yet untouched.

The horsemen now gently brushed back and the sculpting highlighted.

New Gunmaking Apprenticeships At Westley Richards – 2019

It seems the appetite for new guns and rifles being built at Westley Richards continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. Orders for double rifles, shotguns and bolt action rifles is the best we have seen for a decade, as collectors and sportsman from around the world continue to invest in the best that we have to offer.

Westley Richards remains the largest gunmaking house in the City of Birmingham and has a proud heritage which the company is keen to maintain, develop and promote into the coming decades.

A feature of this long-term plan is our recruitment every year of the next generation of gunmaker. As one of the few privately owned gunmaking houses we run a comprehensive 5-year apprenticeship programme that leads to a qualification in one of the traditional gunmaking trades. The emphasis of the apprenticeship is on absolute quality and building the ‘very best gun that can be built’.

The ‘Gunmakers Certificate’ awarded after the 5-year apprenticeship has been completed.

As we enter a new year we now have a further 2 positions to be filled in our apprenticeship program and invite applications for these positions. We are looking for young, enthusiastic individuals with a keen interest in guns, rifles and sporting shooting. You will be joining a team of talented and determined craftsmen whose aim is to build simply better and better guns, so upholding the great traditions of Westley Richards.

For full details please send a CV and cover letter stating your interest to apprentice@westleyrichards.co.uk

David Mayer – Wildlife Sculptor

For those sportsmen and women with a genuine passion for the outdoors and the pursuit of fish, fowl or game, no home or office is complete without some object of art. A great piece of artwork whether on canvas, board, paper or sculptured, pick your medium, brings back fond memories of a frequently pursued species and often transports us to a place where we wish we could be or may shortly be going.

The art bug can be very addictive turning many a sane person into an avid collector. Some chose a particular style of art, certain species, perhaps are patrons to a particular artist, or in my own case a collector of several artists, each representing in their art a particular period in my life when I pursued one family of bird or species of animal.

And so it is that I first came across the sculptures of David Mayer a year or so back when I was looking for an artist whose work accurately portrayed the two animals that have featured so much in my own experiences, namely the African Elephant and the diminutive European Roe Deer.

The real beauty of David’s work is that it captures the animals anatomically correct and for those of us who have been lucky enough to regularly be in the vicinity of both species, you will certainly see this. Not only that, but there is a real genuine movement in David’s work, the swift-moving away of the startled elephant and the hesitant steps of the Roe buck are all too familiar.

Based in Herefordshire, England, David himself, he is a very normal, humble, unpretentious individual. I have met many a great talker in the sporting art world but those with real talent don’t have to say too much, they let their art do the talking. He works predominantly in bronze and is currently undertaking full-size commissions and projects that he feels need exploring. He has been surrounded his whole life by wildlife which shows through in his work and he has an unbelievable passion for the outdoors and the animals he sculpts. If you get a moment look him up, you’ll not be disappointed by what you find.

Anatomically David’s Roe Buck is beautifully proportioned. Each set of antlers is unique to each casting, a wonderful touch.

Further details of David and his work can be found at:

http://www.davidmayersculpture.com

Westley Richards Hand Made Silk Ties

Think of a tie and the image of a gentleman in his finest business suit springs to mind. There is something about a perfectly knotted tie that gives you the confidence to take on whatever obstacles the day might throw in your way. In years gone by it would have been unheard of for any self-respecting gentleman whether president or postman to turn up to his place of business without a properly knotted tie around his neck.

Whilst not all of us here at Westley Richards can confess to being daily tie wearers and gone are the days where the gunmakers donned a tie in the undertaking of their duties, we do find ourselves drawn by the idea of wearing a tie on a more frequent basis. Now comes the problem. Whilst there are still a few remaining fine tie makers in England, their focus seems to be on paisley, blocks, stripes and dots, and whilst this is all well and good for the masses it does lack personality and individuality. Those ties that do reflect our hobbies, such as shooting, either appear dated in their motifs or are made poorly from a material that is stretching itself to be called silk!

So here at Westley Richards we set about making the finest ties we could, pulling together designers, manufacturers, printers and a whole raft of clothing to ensure the colours would work for shoot days or office days. First, we commissioned four distinctive designs of Grouse, Pheasant, Partridge and Mallard with the aim that they should be easily recognisable up-close and abstract at a distance.

We then took these designs to one of England’s premier tiemakers who put us in touch with one of the few remaining silk screen printers in England. Printing each design by hand on heavyweight 36 ounce silk and incorporating the W.R & Co. Ltd logo into the design, we selected a broad range of colours to suit (no pun intended!) the tastes of both the city and country man.

Once printed the silk was passed over to the tie maker to undergo the 9 stage process involved in creating a luxury 5 fold tie, a process that is only possible by hand and uses 50% more fabric than a standard tie, giving it a thick luxurious feel, ensuring a perfect knot every time.

The end result is a truly unique series of ties made to the very highest standards here in England. Available in a host of colourways there should be no excuse now turning up in the shooting field, or for that matter the office, without looking the distinguished gentleman!

Shop the entire collection here.

 

In the Wilds of Scotland

Wilderness – noun – definition – an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region.
On our small island that we call home, there are few, if any places you can truly call a wilderness. The cities and towns are forever expanding into the countryside with the government’s relentless obsession of building thousands of houses on productive farmland, the dog walkers who see the woodlands as an extension of their garden for their beloved pooch to run riot wherever it so chooses and not forgetting the ramblers who exercise their ‘right to roam’ as if their lives depended on it. For the game, and those of us who chose to pursue it, we’re coming into contact with other people more than ever.

However in saying that, the Scottish Highlands is, in my opinion, our last true wilderness and one that befits its definition. Uncultivated – definitely, uninhabited – mostly, inhospitable – more often than not. An area and landscape that should need no introduction, it still offers a truly wild hunting experience for those who wish to escape the crowd, be surrounded by utter beauty and work hard for their trophy.

My latest hunt took me to a remote and central part of the highlands where my friend from college is the head stalker on a 20,000 acre hunting estate. The vast open hills, lochs, rivers and forests make up this sporting paradise where the Red Stag is king, or monarch of the glen as he’s more famously known. The enchanting hills are steeped in Scottish history and folklore, once home to hardy and violent clans such as the Robertsons, Macdonalds and Campbells, they have in recent history been made famous by the location for films such as Harry Potter and was the setting for the dramatic finale to the James Bond film, Skyfall.

The stalk is a hard one, the terrain is difficult to traverse, the hills are steep and the weather is often miserable, but that’s what I love about it. You have to put in the hard yards and be willing to graft for your game. The sodden ground is energy sapping and the peat hags that crisscross the moor are an obstacle course in themselves.  The deer, however, can cover the ground like it’s not even there. They lie up on knowles which provide great vantage points, meaning the final approach to your chosen stag is more often than not a long and wet crawl through the soaking moss, mud and peat.

The 8 wheeled Argocat, which handles the hills like no other machine, is probably the most unpleasant vehicle to ride in but you’re certainly glad of it after a full day on your feet. It is also the means by which the game is extracted from the hill. Ponies were always traditionally the method used to get stags back to the larder but they are time consuming and often extremely stubborn. There are many stories of pony boys who have hiked miles to retrieve a stag, only for the pony to slip its lead and bolt all the way back to the stable, closely followed by a cursing, irate pony boy.

We spent the first 5 hours stalking and glassing the wide expanse, only to come across several small groups of hinds and young stags. The south west side of the glen was facing a strong and bitter wind, so we hiked over the ridge and dropped down into the sheltered corrie looking for a shootable stag.  After a further hour of bumping hinds we spotted a good stag which was bedded down on a knowle, surveying his land. The wind was right but his view spanned nearly every direction, so it took a further hour and a half of stalking and maneuvering the edge of the loch to get into a good spot from which to take the shot. The rut has just started and a few stags were jostling for dominance, sorting out who was the boss amongst them. My stag was still bedded down when a younger and better stag approached him for a challenge, upon getting to his feet, the shot presented itself and the .270 cleanly dispatched him. The stag, which was roughly 8/9 years old, was past his prime and was certainly going back, the right beast to take and a good representative of a Scottish hill stag. No match in terms of size compared with their lowland cousins due to the hard life and poor diet but every bit the worthy trophy.

For me it’s hugely important to explore, hunt and experience these wild lands. To reconnect with what it is that we enjoy and treasure about the sport. To refresh your enthusiasm for adventure and savour in the solitude of such a place that will hopefully, always remain, a wilderness.

 

A Droplock Masterpiece From Engraver Vince Crowley

This last week Vincent Crowley payed us a visit to deliver back one of his more recent masterpieces. Vince and I have known each other from our earliest days in the ‘gun trade’ having both started out with Westley Richards. It has been a pleasure working with him for over 20 years now, on some of the finest guns and rifles to leave the Westley Richards factory.

Vince has always been one of those lucky talents and I remember with envy some of the exceptional pieces he created as little more than a kid. Both of us have matured (supposedly!) since those early days and through the kind patronage of some fantastic clients, have been privileged to put together some genuine masterpieces of the gun-maker and engravers art.

Gold feathers add beautiful detail to the lock plates.

The gun shown here is one of our classic hand detachable or ‘droplock’ shotguns in 28 bore. With this particular gun Vince has used a process where raised steel scenes are actually carved onto the main action body and cover plate, rather than being of a relief carved style. This gives the scenes unparalleled dimension and it is almost as though the birds are flying out of the backgrounds and streaming past you. For interests sake, the gun is adorned with Bobwhite Quail, Chukar and Pheasant, with a Black Labrador on the trigger guard bow.

As we have come to expect with Vince, the rest of the gun has a wonderful combination of super fine rose bouquets and scroll, carved fences, pierced lever work and super delicate gold work. All of us are very much looking forward to seeing the finished article, as there are a few other nice touches to complete the final package.

Pheasant adorn the cover plate, whilst a Black Labrador retrieves a bird.

Bobwhite quail stream down the right side of the action.

New ‘Modéle de Luxe’ Westley Richards 20g Droplock

A few months ago we posted images of this gun fresh back from engraving and now here it finally is all complete and ready to head out to the USA. The transformation from ‘in the white’ parts to a finished gun really is quite distinctive and the gun as a whole becomes an object of both gunmaking art and functionality.

One of the more subtle features of the gun is the actual colouration of the steel after it has been case colour hardened and subsequently brushed. All of our double guns and rifles go through the case colour hardening process as carried out by the St.Ledger brothers here in the old Birmingham gun quarter.

Before CCH the steel has a certain silver quality about it that is in basic terms raw and bright. The actual CCH process creates a surface hardness which allows the steel to flex under stress yet provides a protective outer shell or ‘case’. When the fine surface layer of colour is actually removed the steel maintains a slightly more greyed tone which adds a real subtlety to parts that might otherwise look like a shined coin!

In direct sunlight it is often possible to see the very finest traces of colour which can be used effectively to enhance the engraving of the gun. Some engravers will insist on finishing their own work for this very reason. With Westley Richards, no matter who is finishing the gun or rifle, we always try to leave CCH on the triggers, action flats, action face, forend iron and inside the trigger bow. This always adds a tasteful touch, particularly when the gun is disassembled for travel. It also seems such a waste to remove them all!

The gold flush game scenes must be carefully cleaned and highlighted after the case colour hardening process.

The finished article in its lightweight leather case, complete and ready to go.

Westley Richards .22 Rook Rifle

How nice is this?! The latest treasure to arrive at the factory is this simply stunning little Westley Richards .22 rook rifle. Originally built in 300 calibre, it has been Parker rifled to .22LR, as were so many rook rifles over the years and comes complete with an Aldis Bros Ltd scope on Parker Hale rings. The 25” octagonal barrel with matted top is fitted with a standing 50 yard express sight and two folding leavings regulated at 100 & 150 yards.

The action has our classic semi bold scroll coverage, snap lever work, beetle back safety and retains lots of original case colour. The pistol grip stock, which has been pinned at the head, is beautifully figured and has an extended tang, grip cap, silver stock oval and vulcanite stock extension to 14 ½”. The snap forend has the traditional horn tip.

A quaint and very rare little rifle, it weighs 6lbs 13.5oz with the scope on and the rifle comes in the original case with some interesting accoutrements. Completed on the 22ndMarch 1907 for ‘Twyford’, it was, for many years, the property of Major Ernest & Mrs. Vivian Ambler, of Branton Court, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.  Major Ambler of the West Yorkshire Regiment passed away in 1958 and Mrs. Ambler, who lived to be 94, passed away in 2002, which was when this rook rifle was acquired by its latest  owner, another passionate collector. Their house was said to be a treasure trove of fantastic art work, antiques and arms. And clearly this little rook rifle had spent many years in a fine gun collection being well looked after.

 

The last time a rifle like this arrived back at the factory was in 2002 and was fortunately caught on camera. For those who don’t know, Clarissa & The Countryman was series of TV programmes in the UK which followed TV chef Clarissa Dickson-Wright and her friend Johnny Scott, involved in hunting and all things country pursuits related, a show which now would be the thing of nightmares for mainstream media bosses.

The TV crew paid Simon a visit at the Bournbrook factory and below is a short video of Simon inspecting a very similar rook rifle and an interview with barrel filer Roy Hall and mater engraver Rashid El Hadi (with a small clip from the proof house half way through).

Pre-Season Preparation

As I sit and write this latest blog the UK is currently in the grip of a heatwave and the mercury is due to hit 88°F here in Birmingham today, which is hot for England! With weather like this, thoughts of last winter’s sport are a distant memory and it’s hard to image that in just over 6 weeks’ time we will be putting back on our tweeds, dusting off our shooting kit and heading north for the start of the grouse shooting season.

While most people are thinking about the beach rather than the shooting season at this time of year, estates all over the UK have been busy preparing for this coming season’s sport from the moment the final horn blew on the last drive back in February. Relying on purely wild numbers only, moorland keepers are taking stock of what grouse they have on the ground from their spring and summer counts and are planning drives and days accordingly. Lowland keepers are beginning to welcome this year’s birds to the woods and over the next few months will be feeding them into the various drives of the shoot. Equally as important will be the job of pushing back straying birds from the boundaries with their dedicated team of dogs.

We’ve been busy preparing guns for the coming season. We have recently completed an engraving job on a pair of droplocks for an American client who asked us to polish out the old scroll engraving and re-engrave a Cock Pheasant and Hen Pheasant motifs on the cover plates. Beautifully executed by Bradley Tallett, the iris of each bird is gold inlaid along with a gold ring border. The surrounding space is tastefully engraved with scroll work to match the rest of the action. Next step is to case colour harden the plates and brush and ink the motifs.

The client and his team are regular visitors to our shores to hunt driven pheasant and partridge and these guns are now a fitting homage to their chosen quarry.

Wishing all of our American readers a happy Fourth of July!