New Westley Richards Website Launch

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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.

Click here to visit the new homepage.

Henry ‘Harry’ Albert Kell 1880 – 1958

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Many names spring to mind when one thinks of the most famous, important or influential engravers to have worked in the English gun trade over the years and you could reel off a list as long as your arm, but one name which should always be near the top of that list, if not the top, is Henry ‘Harry’ Kell. He was a pioneer in game scene and animal engraving and pushed the boundaries of artistic, unusual and life like styles of engraving. For three quarters of a century the name Harry Kell, both father and son, was associated with the very best London gun making.

Considered to be possibly the most famous work Harry Kell did was three miniature guns that were presented to George V on his silver jubilee and of course the pair of Purdey guns he engraved for Queen Mary’s Doll House. He engraved for all the best London gun makers but most of his work was unsigned. His work inspired a new generation of engravers, most famously Ken Hunt, who was apprentice to Harry and was taken on by Purdey’s in 1950.

Harry Kell, born Henry Albert Kell in 1880 into a family of engravers served an apprenticeship under his father, Henry John Kell (1860 – 1929), also known as Harry. Henry learnt his trade under Thomas Sanders and worked for his engraving business, Thomas Sanders & Son, which he joined around 1875. Thomas Sanders employed a small team of engravers doing work for much of the London trade and established his engraving workshops, which were based in Soho at 13 Dean Street, in 1862, moving to 6 Greek Street in 1866 and just before the outbreak of the First World War, he moved to 142 Wardour Street where he remained until the business closed in 1919.

In 1919 Henry Kell, who was already a partner in the business, took it over and named it Henry Kell & Son. Henry kept the business at 142 Wardour Street for a few years until moving it to 38a Broad Street in 1921. The business remained there until 1937 when it was moved to 45 Broadwick Street (Broad Street renamed) where it saw out the Second World War and remained until 1957.

Harry Kell was apprenticed to his father around 1894 and took over the company when his father died in 1929. Harry changed the name of the business in 1952 to Henry Kell, but remained at 45 Broadwick Street until 1957 when failing eye sight and health forced him to move into the Purdey factory, he died a year later in 1958.

The latest used gun to pass through our hands is a Purdey 12g sidelock engraved by the great man himself. Completed in 1932 as the No. 2 of a pair it was made as a lightweight gun weighing only 6lbs 3oz, with 28” barrels made for M.M. Johnson Esquire. Beautifully engraved game scenes with pheasants flushing from a wood, surrounded by intricate rose and scroll on the left lock, partridges in a woodland scene, again surrounded by rose and scroll on the right and a retrieving spaniel on the bottom of the action with more rose and scroll. The gun retains some lovely case colour and is a truly superb example of what between the wars engraving had become and what lead the way for future engravers, pioneered by the likes of Harry Kell.

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Farewell Simon – A Salute To ‘The Explora’

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It was a fine winter day, in the duck season. I had my pickup loaded with all things for an afternoon hunt. My Labrador, Miss Feather (Miss Duckhill Sheba’s Bournebrook Feathershower) had already occupied her place in the passenger’s seat for several hours as she always did on these days. I had worked through the never-easy task of selecting the gun and this one was well beyond ordinary. It was a Scott Premier 10 bore, with Damascus barrels. It was all done up in ducks as they often were, but this one was decorated with several odd and unusual species of sea ducks. I was almost out the door for the 1 ½ hour drive when I received word that Simon had gone to the other side.

My first reaction was not to go hunting, but then realized that was a very foolish notion, one that would disappoint him deeply. Instead, the day and the GUN would be a tribute. The Scott was befitting almost any occasion, but today it had to be a Westley and not just any Westley, but the finest one I knew. One only has to witness the title of these pages to know Simon valued Exploras and I value them as well. In fact I see them as the most complete and sophisticated firearms ever made. The gun today would be “The Queen of Birmingham” a Deluxe Explora and the most wonderful Explora and Westley I have ever met.

It came to me in a rather unusual way; out of an auction. I saw the gun, held it and crushing-love at first sight would be an understatement. It was glorious and essentially new… and I knew I could not afford it. A mutual friend liked the gun equally, but he had something I did not, an invincible purse. He told me simply to bid and buy the gun. If in the end I could afford the hammer price I could have it, if not I was to continue and buy it for him. I wrote a number, my very last number, down before the bidding began. The hammer fell on that number.

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With it I began to perfect Explora ammunition, ammunition that would be ballistically identical to that which the great Leslie B Taylor had created. I used a ballistic technique similar to the originals to get 735 grains (1 ¾ ounces) to go 1250 fps at normal shot gun pressure. Then I developed bullets that would fly like the L.T. Capped originals. In the end I had a cartridge driving bullets that would fly exactly to those glorious sights, each and every one of them, all the way to 300 yards; and be deadly when they arrived.

The Queen performed wonderfully as a shot gun; taking valley quail, rare mountain quail, and ducks with perfection. Its crowning moment came late one autumn afternoon in the Sheep Creek Valley. The great yellow 6 x 6 bull elk walked out of the thick young timber into a room-sized open meadow and stood broad side. I was sitting with The Queen on my knees and made my best estimate of 250 yards and turned up that leaf. I looked at those massive shoulders over the sights, sights that were strangely rock solid and crystal clear. My son was beside me and I whispered, “250 yards????”… “Yes, very close”, was his reply. I pressed the front trigger. The big bullet arced across the valley and landed with a mighty “wok” as the bull lurch into the black timber. We listened, for there was nothing to see and suddenly there was a huge fir-rending crash in the timber, followed seconds later by another when the big bull slid out into a little clearing. The bullet struck the top of the front sight with laser precision, dead center and completely through both of his shoulders. She is a very, very special Westley.

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I thought back on these things as we watched the sky over the pretty little pond. It was a still cold, a day without ducks. And then he came, the loan magnificent mallard drake with the most brilliant orange feet I have ever seen. He circled twice and levelled across the far side of the decoys; at 40 yards… almost too far for an Explora barrel. The same right barrel spoke and he folded; the only duck we saw that day. Feather broke ice to retrieve him. To me there was a perfection about it all.

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It may seem odd that I waited so long to write this, but it took me time to heal and find the courage to fully address the loss of this wonderful man. While he was a bastion of the trade and a truly passionate gun person I think I miss that dry humour and wit most of all. Some time ago I addressed my Selvyt Pad and Tin for preserving the Westley Detachable locks in these pages. When he received this he feigned being stricken and stunned. He thought he had the only tin and I had poached in this sacred space. But then in virtually his last notes to me, he won the day as always, “Well only real Westley men have a tin”!

He does not know this yet, but a Hundred Pounder is making those tracks he is following.IMG_23315

 

Pair of Westley Richards 12g ‘Central Vision’ Sidelock Ejectors

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When it comes to shotgun shooting, eye dominance plays a pivotal role in the shooter’s success and can totally change the style in which you shoot or the gun you use. There are various types of eye dominance and some weird and wonderful ways to deal with them. For the lucky ones, we have absolute dominance of the eye looking down the rib, in my case right handed – right eye dominant. No action needed. For the nearly lucky ones, they have predominant dominance, meaning one eye is nearly but not quite fully dominant, this normally doesn’t cause any problems with the right amount of cast on the gun but some people need to squint the weaker eye so the other becomes fully dominant. For the not so lucky, these are the ones with true cross dominance, i.e. right handed but left eye dominant or vice versa. Actually quite common and there are a few remedies such as a squinting/closing the opposite eye, use a full cross over/eyed gun or, depending how ambidextrous you are, shoot from the other shoulder. Easier said than done! Intermittent or occasional cross dominance can be caused by poor focus or bad gun mounting and indeterminate dominance is when both eyes are fighting for control. Lastly we have central vision, where neither eye is dominant, so to combat this either put a patch on the opposite eye or shoot a central vision gun. Although every gun is different, normal cast measurements for a central vision or sometimes known as a semi cross over gun are: 1/2” at the comb, 7/8″ at the face, 3/4″ at the heel and 7/8” at the toe. The stock is often swept at the face to allow the head to move over further to create the central vision down the rib without the cast at heel being too dramatic. If you have absolute eye dominance it is certainly a bizarre sight picture when mounting a central vision gun but you have to admire the skill in the stocking and the ingenuity to overcome this, what I can only imagine, quite an annoying eye dominance to have. But I have no doubt the well-seasoned central vision shooter can shoot as good as any other eye dominance and I should imagine it would be quite fun to watch!

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Recently through the WR doors came this interesting pair of Westley Richards 12g sidelock ejectors with central vision stocks. Completed in 1962 they have 26” barrels with double trigger, Holland style hand detachable, sidelock actions engraved with a large floral scroll. The dark, well figured stocks measure 14 3/4” to the centre of the butt and are cast off 9/16″ at the comb 3/4″ at the face, 15/16″ at the heel and 15/16″ at the toe. The guns are in overall very good condition and will be on our used gun site shortly. I’m sure there is a central vision shooter out there, somewhere!

_77A5089-Edit_77A5080-EditStocker, Keith Haynes, taking detailed cast measurements.

It’s rare to have central vision or cross eyed stocks on new guns these days but it certainly was much more common place between wars and for those of you who have been to the factory, you will remember the painting we have on the stairs of Colonel H.H. Shri Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji, Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar, an esteemed cricketer who played for England and was said to be one of the best batsman of all time, standing proudly with two shot lions and a cross eyed stock double rifle. From the research done several years ago, we assume that the rifle in the painting is his Holland & Holland .240 cross eyed stock double rifle, which he ordered in 1922.

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Simon D Clode – Funeral & Memorial Service 2017

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Firstly, a kind heartfelt thank you for all of your kind blog posts, letters, emails and phone calls following the passing of Simon D Clode.  The Clode family and all of us at Westley Richards are extremely grateful for the kind words.  It is clear that Simon was held in high regard by many people around the globe.  He will be greatly missed by us all.

There have been requests for the funeral and memorial arrangements, so the family would like to confirm as follows:

Thursday 5th January 2017.  The family will hold a small private funeral at Parish Church of St Peter, Chelmarsh, Shropshire at 12 noon. 

Friday 17th February 2017.  There will be a Memorial Service held at Birmingham Cathedral, Colmore Row, Birmingham B3 2QB at 2.00 pm.  Simon’s family and all of us at Westley Richards look forward to welcoming as many people as possible.  Further details will be provided in due course, but please let Kerry MacDonald at kerry@westleyrichards.co.uk know if you intend to attend so suitable catering arrangements can be made. 

The family has requested no flowers and for those who would like to do so, please instead make a donation to the ‘Gunmakers Company Charitable Trust’. The necessity to keep gunmaking skills alive was integral to Simon Clodes’ own long term vision for the gunmaking industry. The GCCT awards bursaries to further encourage this, so all donations are most welcome.  Details below:

The Secretary to the Trustees
The Gunmakers’ Company Charitable Trust
The Proof House
48-50 Commercial Road
London E1 1LP

Simon Dominic Clode – Chairman & Managing Director – 1956-2016

Simon D. Clode - Managing Director Westley Richards

It is with great sadness that we must report the untimely passing of Simon Dominic Clode, Chairman & Managing Director of Westley Richards & Co.  The following Obituary has very kindly been written by John Gregson former editor of Shooting Times.

‘The talented businessman and entrepreneur who took his taste for adventure and used it to turn a 200 year old business into a globally recognised icon.’

It takes a certain lightness of touch and nimbleness of mind to turn an arcane 200 year old business into a global adventure and hunting outfitter that is known across the world. That Simon Clode achieved this is testament to the man who harnessed his own sense of adventure and used it to build a business that was a first port of call for those whose sporting passions took them to the wildest places.

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Simon, who passed away in December after a courageous scrap with cancer, is an enormous loss to the world of best English gunmaking, and a huge loss to his many friends and customers who will miss his dry sense of humour and his interrogating nature. On first meeting, Simon could be brusque in the extreme. In the early 1990s, one English magazine editor asked him for an interview about Westley Richards and the company’s plans for the future only to be told, rather directly, that Simon didn’t think the readership of that particular ‘rag’ was the sort who would appreciate what Westley Richards did. Despite this, years later that editor came to count Simon as a friend and agreed that his appraisal of the qualities of the magazine he edited were pretty accurate even if they weren’t appreciated at the time. Simon knew what was right for his business.

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Brought up in Worcestershire, Simon trained in California as a commercial diver in the oil industry, spending time risking his neck in Africa, Saudi Arabia, and the Caribbean. Westley Richards was, at that time, owned by his father Walter Clode, and it is difficult to know whether the young Simon’s sense of adventure came from his association with the business that had built heavy rifles for Sutherland, Ernest Hemingway and Stewart Granger amongst others, or found its source somewhere else.

In 1987 Walter turned 60 and was eyeing retirement. As Simon recalls in the book Westley Richards, in Pursuit of the best gun: “He (Walter) unexpectedly asked us if we would like to join the company; so I did.

“I was then being paid very well in the oil industry but diving is a young man’s job and quite dangerous. I had a young family and these jobs could take you away for months at a time. I joined the company in August 1987. The oil business taught me how to work hard and I was ready for a new challenge.”

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After joining the business, Simon realised that if Westley Richards was to remain as a going concern, he had to arrest the loss of skills across the best gunmaking industry and begin rebuilding the momentum of the sector.

“My Father had kept the company going via his dealings with India, and one cannot underestimate how difficult the 1960s, 70s and early 80s were for gunmaking in Britain with inflation and other factors. The market for the antique guns from India had been very important for us, but I knew it couldn’t go on forever.”

The way forward for the business seemed obvious to Simon – Westley Richards would again focus on making the very best guns and rifles, by using the skills available not only with the in house gunmaking team, but harnessing resource from sister company Westley Engineering. The latter specialised in precision components for the automotive and aerospace industries.

WR .410 & 28g Droplock Shotguns

Beginning with a dozen .410 detachable lock shotguns –the design that made Westley’s name – Simon discovered that the appetite for new Westley Richards sporting guns was as strong as ever. The first .410 guns quickly sold out and the company introduced other gauges to the line-up, followed by more of the famous models through which Westley Richards had built its reputation. In 1995 the company reintroduced the new model Anson & Deeley double rifle and in 2004 the famous Ovundo over and under shotgun was brought to an appreciative market. So successful was this strategy that Westley Richards can today legitimately claim to have the widest portfolio of sporting guns and rifles of any bespoke maker. Production is now a 50/50 balance of sporting shotguns and rifles, built to best quality only but with varying levels of engraving and ornamentation.

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But Simon didn’t just rebuild the gunmaking side of Westley Richards, he completed a whole makeover of the gunmaking brand and its sister engineering division. In 2007/08 the old Westley Richards premises in Birmingham was sold to make way for the redevelopment of part of the city. Instead of downsizing the company, Simon used the opportunity to build a stunning factory and retail space in disused industrial buildings on the outskirts of the city. He then housed Westley engineering on the adjoining site, bringing real integration to his business model.

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And the Westley Richards building is an honest to God site of pilgrimage for the sportsman and fine gun lover. The retail space is stunning and the working environment for the gunmakers is the best in the business. The building is topped off by the penthouse apartment that Simon built so that he could ‘live over the shop’.

To complement the retail shop, Simon built a thriving online shop and also brought in house a leather workshop to build beautiful cases, slips, magazines and luggage right in the heart of the factory.

But many who have never met Simon will be familiar with his voice through his blog The Explora. He used it to speak frankly and honestly about the gun trade in a way that no one ever had before. He debunked myths and pricked inflated egos, much to the amusement of his readers, if not the entire gun trade. But he also showcased stunning guns – of his make and others – brought into glorious focus by his own skills honed with his beloved Leica cameras.

But why was Simon such a force of regeneration in an industry that could have disappeared without trace, its products being dismissed as relics of a bygone age?

It is simple; he lived the sport and adventure with the same fierce passion as his customers. He knew the safari guides and knew the same miles of sun bleached bush and veldt that they did. He relished the history of sporting shooting and safari in particular and understood its conservation benefits. Like all great hunters, Simon loved the animals he pursued. But, of equal importance is the fact that he was always a good businessman and marketer, understanding that his clients belonged to a very special club; that small group of international adventurers who hunt game in wild places not simply to shoot, but as an affirmation of life and to experience the sheer exuberance that can be found off the beaten track and away from the noise and clatter of everyday life. Simon once said that he ‘loved expensive people’. By this he was not referring to wealth per se, but to those people who pursue their dreams often against all odds.

Let’s leave the last word to Simon himself: “I am fortunate to live the sport. I love the practical side of it and where the gun leads to – safari is one of the most interesting ways to travel. I enjoy sharing my love of the sport with clients from all around the world.”

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Simon leaves four daughters: Karena, Natasha, Sophie and Francesca. His wife Lucy predeceased him in 2005.

 

 

Westley Richards and The Great War.

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For those of you who are unfamiliar with Birmingham, the city is currently undergoing quite the transformation. The skyline is changing at a rapid pace and from the factory floor window I can count half a dozen cranes building new offices, multi story car parks and old Victorian factories being converted in to luxury apartments. HSBC are in the process of moving their retail division from London to Birmingham and big firms like Deloitte and Deutsche Bank are already present. With high speed rail coming to town in the next 10 or so years it will change beyond all recognition.

It is therefore, in these modern times, easy to forget what this city of ours once was, what it produced and what it stood for. And I’m sure it’s not unfair to say that it’s my generation and younger that are guilty of not knowing the routes of the city and in particular its gun making history. There’s no doubt a large proportion of society that would like disassociate guns with Birmingham and not so long ago a petition very nearly saw the name of our historic Gun Quarter changed and resigned to the history books. Luckily it was successfully fended off and common sense prevailed, a rarity in these times.

For me the gun making history of Birmingham is hugely important and something that should be remembered, not just in sporting gunnery but military as well and never more so than when our great nation faced the unimaginable prospect of World War One.

WR LESLIE TAYLORLeslie B. Taylor – Westley Richards Managing Director 1899 – 1930

In the years running up to war we were busy inventing and perfecting our sporting guns, under the expert guidance of Leslie Taylor who became managing director in 1899 and saw Westley Richards through the First World War. It was a busy time supplying the domestic market as well as the far reaching empire with guns and rifles and the Anson & Deeley action, the Droplock, the Explora and Fauneta guns were all in production by this point and the company was certainly in a state of advancement and success. Not long after we celebrated our centenary in 1912, Europe was at war and not only did the company see huge changes but the city and country as a whole.

Orders for sporting guns were generally suspended although some orders were taken through our London agency, which at the time was run by Arthur Gale, and the sole focus concentrated on the war effort. This was a time for carrying out government orders and taking up military contracts which while they would have put a huge level of intensification and stress on the company and to quote Mr. Taylor the work was ‘exacting and tedious’, there certainly would have been money to be made from the contracts and under Mr. Taylor’s famously logistical brain and management skills the company geared up for war.

WR Record of war   A small pamphlet issued after The Great War to explain the work that had been carried out by the company during that time and to apologise for not completing orders that had been placed.

In 1914 we received an urgent order from the government to convert 10,000 service rifles to a ‘modern type’ for use of our army. The government ordered the employment of all of our highly skilled labour and early and late working for the rifles were badly needed. We were also involved in what was known as the Peddled Rifle Scheme which was basically a collaboration of various manufacturers to make a complete rifle, each factory would produce what it was they were most proficient at. We made complete rifle barrels with the blade front sight and complete rear sights which was closely monitored by the government inspection team that was set up in the factory over see our work.

Leslie Taylor also set up a Rifle Repair Department for reconditioning used guns which had been broken, damaged or had parts missing whilst used on the battlefield. Over the course of the war Westley Richards was responsible for repairing or converting over 200,000 rifles. We, of course, were one of many factories and gun works that produced or repaired weaponry or munitions for the war but perhaps the most famous of all was the Birmingham Small Arms company situated in Small Heath. They produced, amongst many other arms, the short magazine Lee Enfield .303 infantry service rifle and the Lewis machine gun, also in .303 and were producing around 10,000 rifles a week. There would have been several subsidiaries of the BSA and many back street workshops producing component parts to supply the bigger industrial factories. Many Ministry of Munitions employees were on ‘piece work’ and would have been paid for every part, round or task completed. People with, what was known as ‘reserved occupations’ such as engineers, were spared being sent to the front line as their skill set was deemed more valuable to kept back in England. So many people like tool makers were drafted to work in the gun making factories as their skills were transferable. However even with the drafting of men from other sectors, Westley Richards had to employ many unskilled men and boys to carry out delicate and detailed gun making such was the shortage of workers. At the peak of the war our work force had quadrupled in size and the factory ran day and night with our week starting at 7 o’clock on Sunday evening and the machines running without stopping until 5 o’clock the following Saturday afternoon.

WR 1812 catalogue images  A page from the centenary catalogue of 1912 showing the various departments at the Grange Road factory.

While many men would have joined up to fight right away, Leslie Taylor lobbied very hard to keep key workers from being called up while the factory was on munitions work. Some of our unskilled workers from our London agency were called to fight however Mr. Gale in fact wrote to the War Office to keep one particular man from being drafted.

WR war letter   A letter from the Ministry of Munitions of War in reply to Leslie Taylor and Arthur Gale’s request to keep workers from being called to fight.

While the government contracts took up most of the production, the London shop did take some sporting gun orders, with delivery postponed until after the war. Several men from the London shop were sent up to Birmingham to help out in the factory. We also took several private orders for rifles suitable for training and arming territorial personnel. In 1915, Sir Henry Bunbury of Manor House, Mildenhall ordered twelve .303 Martini rifles with bayonets, for a ‘Training Corps’. Ipswich Volunteers ordered eighty Westley Richards .303 Martini rifles. The Lincolnshire Territorial Army also placed an order for four Mark 1 Star Lee-Metford magazine .303 bore rifles with telescopic scopes and the Regent Street Polytechnic placed an order for one hundred .303 Westley Richards Martini Long Infantry Rifles for the Polytechnic’s Volunteer Training Corps.

WR RIFLEMENThe assembled gunmakers of Westley Richards photographed just prior to The First World War.

The war contracts actually continued up to 1920 but by then the sporting gun production had been restarted. Sadly as the government contracts finished there was an inevitable slump for most British industry. In 1920 the management of Westley Richards, which at the time was Leslie Taylor the managing director, the chairman – George Dawson Deeley the son of John Deeley the Elder and Charles Gardener was the export manager, had to reduce the workforce from 300 to 100 as well as a reduction in wages for the 100 who remained. Not much of a reward after the strains of the war!

The first world war had changed Westley Richards and Birmingham forever and gun making played a pivotal role in the industrialisation of Birmingham. The numerous factories all over the city making guns and munitions were so successful that sewing machine, bicycle and later car manufacturing all took inspiration in terms of manufacturing techniques and mass production from how Birmingham made guns.

Birmingham was always known as the city of a thousand trades and gun making has always been a proud part of its history. As the city changes its appearance and a new age of people take up residence I feel it important and necessary to acknowledge our gun making predecessors and the city and what they both achieved in our country’s time of need over 100 years ago.

USA New Year Show Itinerary 2017

In the new year, we will be making our annual trip to the USA to attend the Dallas Safari Club Show from the 5th to the 8th of January, the Antique Arms Show in Las Vegas from the 20th to the 22nd of January and finally Safari Club International also in Las Vegas from the 1st to the 4th of February. We will be showcasing the full range of bespoke guns and rifles available to order as well as a large selection of used guns and rifles, together with our range of W. R. & Co. leather goods. We look forward to welcoming customers old and new and hope you are able to meet us at one of the shows. Should you be unable to make it to any of the shows, my colleagues Ricky Bond and ‘LD’ will also be available at our Florida agency from the 10th to the 13th of January and on the West Coast from the 23rd to the 28th of January where appointments can be made to view our selection of new and preowned guns and rifles.

L.D. McCaa Cell: (850) 324 1150   Email: ld@westleyrichards.com

Ricky Bond Cell: 0044 7811 965 165   Email: ricky@westleyrichards.co.uk

Westley Richards Agency: (850) 677 3688   Email: info@westleyrichards.com

Screen Shot 2016-12-06 at 09.54.09 Trigger - Dallas SCIDallas Safari Club – 5th-8th January 2016 – Booth number – 4621

header-bg Antique Arms ShowAntique Arms – 20th -22nd January 2016 

logo Safari club internationalSafari Club International – 1st-4th February 2016 – Booth number – 4359

 

A Weekend Wild Boar Hunting in France.

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Here at Westley Richards there’s really only one or two topics of conversation that consumes the lunch breaks or after hours chat between work mates and it’s not who is playing football at the weekend or what you’re buying your girlfriend for Christmas, it’s hunting! Where we want to go next, what’s left on the bucket list, what rifle you would take and what trophy is most desired. While having this familiar yarn several months back the discussion of driven Wild Boar shooting came up and featured highly on several of the guy’s ‘must do’ hunts. Fortunately for us, Romain Lepinois, one of our stockers here is French and kindly offered to organise three driven days for myself, Jason Morris, Sam Banner and Stuart Richards in his home region of Bourbonne Les Bannes, which is roughly 3 hours drive east of Paris.

IMG_7827Safety briefing before the afternoon stalk.

As we were all completely new to shooting things on the run with a rifle and having had no previous experience of Wild Boar, the first day was spent stalking the hunting area on foot to get an idea of what game there was in the area as well as identifying what we were allowed to shoot. They have a strict policy on what size boar could be taken. Only females up to a size of 50kg could be shot, to conserve the larger, prime breeding females. Although large males were fair game too, our identification skills were not good enough to be able to determine the sex of the pig as it passed you at 30mph on a woodland ride no wider than a pickup truck, so we decided to stick to shooting the smaller ones.

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The hunting area was a fenced 250 acre block of mixed broadleaves, commercial spruce trees with some clearfell areas and tall grasses, with several strategically placed high seats to shoot from. We saw a good deal of pigs in the afternoon and had a few small ‘practice’ drives. A couple of the lads got some shots off but the pigs were too good for them on this occasion. The evening was feast of wild boar meats, locally produced cheeses and superb wines. The excitement was high for tomorrow and our first proper driven day.

IMG_7842The guns heading to their pegs.

A cold but dry day greeted us and after a hearty breakfast we drew pegs and headed out for the first drive. Around 20 people were shooting and about 6 or so beaters with dogs, split into two teams, planned to keep the game moving through the drives. Having drawn peg one I was a little anxious I wouldn’t see much as peg one, in pheasant shooting terms, tends to be the worst out of the bunch. This turned out not to be the case and fortunately for me right at the start of the drive one of the beater’s dogs marked some boar around 50 yards from my peg. A beater ran over to me, shouted something in French which I could only guess was ‘get ready’ and they flushed a group of 20 boar, 15 of which headed down the wood towards the other guns and 5 came out past me onto the clearfell. Too far away at first but not wanting to be out in the open, the boar turned and headed back towards the cover of the wood. As they headed closer to my position, I measured them up through the scope and managed to take a nice 40kg male with my 6.5×55. Two of the beaters joined me to make sure the boar was retrieved and I was duly blooded and congratulated. A fantastic experience I shall never forget. The excitement of the drive continued with a volley of shots further down the wood, hoping it was my colleagues also joining in the action. There were plenty of game around with some larger females crossing the clearfell and the odd Roe deer and occasional fox passing by too quick to get a shot off. Just as I thought the drive had nearly ended, I decided to take a seat on a tree stump, no more than 5 minutes had passed when out of the corner of my eye I spotted another 40kg pig was headed straight for me, again trying to head back into the wood, on rising to my feet and aiming the rifle it took off at a rate of knots and I luckily managed to catch it up and shoot it before it made the thick cover.

IMG_7873Congratulated by the beaters on taking my first wild boar.

Sadly my comrades had not had quite such good fortune, only Romain had shot one, although they had seen plenty of game, a suitable shot did not present itself. Such is hunting.IMG_7845Stuart Richards keeping watch from his high seat.

After another fantastic feed we set out again and Romain and I decided to join the beating to line to see the action from the other end. After a few frantic hours following the dogs and flushing boar to the waiting guns, the day came to a close, not before Romain and I shared a nice, larger male boar. We met up for the final count and to exchange stories. Luckily Stuart had been successful and managed to bag himself a brace of boar from a large wooden highseat using his over & under double rifle also in 6.5×55. Total was 11 Wild Boar and a Roe deer.

IMG_7864The final bag on the first day.

The next two days hunting were done in much larger blocks of unfenced mature broadleaf woodland, extending to several thousand acres, about an hour from where we hunted on the first day. Hopes were high after an amazing first day. Red deer and Sika were both present in the area and should a large stag present itself we had permission to shoot it, adding a new level of trepidation. Around 30 people in total each day joined the hunt which was made of up of French, English, Belgium and Portuguese nationalities.

IMG_7912The view over a clearfell from a high seat.

Although we didn’t see a huge amount of game passing our stands, by the noise of the dogs and sounds coming from the woods there certainly was a good number of boar in the drives, but like any game we hunt, they are totally unpredictable and knew all too well how to evade the hunters. Although the Westley team didn’t shoot any boar in the larger hunting areas, a few of the local French hunters managed to take a few nice pigs and we shot a few equally challenging Roe Deer. The whole experience of the hunt and hospitality shown to us by our hosts and fellow hunters was superb and it was very special to be able to share their hunting heritage.

The excitement and anticipation of each drive is something none of us had experienced before and we’re certainly hooked on driven rifle shooting, something which is pretty much absent from the UK. The lunch break chats are still full of our boar hunting tales but will soon turn to planning the next adventure.

IMG_7880 Westley Richards gunmakers Jason Morris, Sam Banner and Stuart Richards.

The Damascus Droplock Pair have a first day in the Field.

Damascus Pair in Field (1 of 1)

I think this is a nice and fitting conclusion to the story of the pair of Damascus Barrel guns, which both I and new owner Gary Duffy have both posted about, to show that they have made their way through the restoration and on to a new life in the field doing what they do best!

Westley Richards Pair 12g Damascus-8

 A Needle in a Haystack. by Gary Duffy.