Every now and then a maker needs to deviate a little from the norm and so it is with this .404 Jeffery calibre take down bolt action rifle that we had the opportunity to lay down our own interpretation of best ‘rose & scroll’ engraving.
Fine ‘rose & scroll’, or ‘bouquet & scroll’ as it is also known, is a pattern of engraving that can trace its ancestry back to the mid 1800’s. Developed in the London gunmaking houses, it still features on best guns and rifles there, Boss & Co. being the most notable.
Even today, vintage guns engraved meticulously by hand set the standard by which modern guns and rifles are judged. Subtle nuances in the execution and layout were the difference between ‘best’ and ‘also ran’. Names such as Harry Kell and Jack Sumner were famous for their exceptional standards and today pre-war guns engraved by these masters still hold a premium.
With all this in mind we decided it was time to take one of our own rifles and execute under the careful hand and skilled eye of Brad Tallett, our take on this classic pattern. The results are unquestionably elegant with wonderful pockets of detail utilising all the design attributes you might expect on a double gun. The cut of the engraving is absolutely vital as it needs to catch the light just right, hence traditional hand engraving is a must.
In preparation now for final finish we cannot wait to see how the case colour hardening, black, and light blue, highlight the engraving on the various surfaces of the rifle.
The classic Westley Richards combination foresight is wonderfully detailed.
Pockets of fine scroll interspersed with elegant rose bouquets and geometric patterns adorn the surfaces of the rifle.
An elephants rear foot print is carved into the grip trap door.
All lettering and numbering is executed in platinum.
Just arrived at the U.S. Agency is one spectacular Holland & Holland .470 NE Model de Luxe double rifle. According to the factory ledgers, the rifle was completed in 1964 for a renowned hunter, firearms aficionado and very influential patron of the gun making trade, Mr. Donald S. Hopkins.
In one of my favorite books, White Hunters: The Golden Age of African Safaris by Brian Herne (John Macrae/Henry Holt & Co., 1999), which is a history of the safari tradition and influential hunters on the African continent, Mr. Hopkins is mentioned and best summed up. According to the passage, “Donald S. Hopkins of Spokane, WA…was a very wealthy man and co-developer on several different rifle cartridges known as the O.K.H. (e.g. the .333 O.K.H. Invented by Charles O’Neil, Elmer Keith and Don Hopkins). The first Hopkins safari was three months…hunts often lasted six months…he made a record eleven safaris averaging nine months apiece in search of an elephant (thought to be mythical by his hunters) with tusks weighing 150 pounds each.”.
Not only was Mr. Hopkins a passionate hunter but, judging by this rifle, he was also a very serious patron of the English gun making trade. The bespoke rifles he commissioned pop up from time to time and this must be one of the finest I have ever encountered.
Obviously, Mr. Hopkins pushed the makers to deliver the best that could be had, as this rifle features engraved game scenes of a quality and realism far beyond the norm for this vintage. Each game scene on this rifle is highly detailed and of excellent quality, even by today’s standards, but certainly when compared to the somewhat naïve engraving still prevalent at the time the rifle was made. As noted in the factory ledgers, this rifle was engraved by none other than Ken Hunt.
I have read that Mr. Hunt started his apprenticeship at Purdey’s in 1950, studying under the great Harry Kell, Jim Jones (formerly of Sumner’s workshop) and Bill Smith. Each man was a master of his respective type of engraving. For instance, Mr. Jones had been engraving small scroll and floral patterns since he was 13 years old and Mr. Smith was equally experienced and specialized in large scroll. Finally, there was Mr. Kell who specialized in-game scenes and carving and, in the view of many, is one of the father’s of modern engraving.
After World War II, there was a growing trend of fine guns and rifles becoming the canvas for high art engraving. Mr. Hunt learned his trade from these masters and, in turn, perfected the skills required to execute not only the standard house pattern scrolls developed around the turn of the 20th century but also the ability to engrave and carve steel with breathtaking realism.
Today, Mr. Hunt is widely viewed as one of the World’s finest engravers and he remains one of the last links between the old-world, standard “house” engraving and the modern role of engraving as an art form in and of itself.
A rifle that is not short on details, the color hardened lock plates are pinless, meaning the pins that hold the action’s parts to the plates do not show on the outside leaving the surface uncluttered for engraving. A fitting touch for such wonderful engraving. The highly detailed game scenes show running black rhino on the right side, a bull elephant bluffing a charge on the left and, in my opinion, what would become one of Ken Hunt’s signatures, the head of a lion with piercing eyes on the bottom of the action. The Maker’s name is engraved along the action bolsters and the balance of the receiver is engraved in a very well executed bold foliate scroll pattern true to Holland’s Model de Luxe motif of the pre-war era. Rounding out the engraving, the fences are carved in a vine and leaf pattern and each game scene vignette is signed “K.C. Hunt”.
The 25” chopper lump barrels have Holland’s hidden Treble Grip third fastener, and hand filed pattern quarter rib and front sight. There is a factory original pop-up “ghost ring” sight behind single folding leaf regulated at 100 yds along with a folding moon-sight on the front.
The highly figured walnut stock has a thin leather covered pad, right-hand beaded cheekpiece, traditional drop points, and a full pistol grip with a trap grip cap. The original owner’s initials are inlaid in the bottom of the stock in gold block letters. Again, another special feature noted in the ledgers is the rifle was sent to the U.S. to be checkered by Monty Kennedy who literally wrote the book on the subject, Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks (The Stackpole Co., 1952). Both the stock and semi-beavertail forearm are checkered in an exceedingly well-cut, and very fine point pattern.
The rifle is housed in its original Oak & Leather case and canvas and leather outer cover. Included in the case are the original gilded spare strikers and replacement pin for the detachable lock lever, all housed in a jar made of ebony. The interior of the case retains its original red baize lining, serial numbered charge card and a very rare trade label that Holland’s used for only 3 years (ca. 1960 – 1963). The outer cover’s initial patch reads: “Donald S. Hopkins Spokane, WA”.
The rifle remains in wonderful condition holding nearly all of its original stock finish, color hardening and barrel black.
Clearly, a man passionate about firearms and hunting, this rifle reflects the unrelenting standards and influence Mr. Hopkins had. It also illustrates part of the allure collectors feel to guns and rifles ordered by people of fame, influence and stature. It was customers like these who, more times than not, demanded and received very special care and this rifle is a prime example of what that could produce.
In all my years selling guns, I don’t think I ever met anyone who didn’t have a .22 LR of some kind. Probably one of the greatest cartridges ever invented, it can be used as a precision target round or a highly effective hunting tool. It is very inexpensive to produce and good reliable firearms, in both handguns and rifles, can be made and sold at very reasonable prices. Not surprisingly, the cartridge is one of the most widely used in the World and I would imagine most readers of this blog have at least one rifle chambered for the .22 Long Rifle.
The American firm J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co. firstintroduced the .22 Long Rifle (.22 LR) in 1847. It has a rimfire case (based on Louis-Nicolas Flobert’s .22 BB Cap cartridge) and shoots a 0.22” calibre 40 grain bullet at around 1,200 fps producing virtually no recoil. Being cheap, plentiful and easy to shoot, the cartridge also makes a wonderful round for teaching and practicing the fundamentals of shooting.
Due to the popularity of the cartridge, the rifles and handguns chambered for the .22 LR must be in the tens of millions. British companies such as BSA certainly contributed their fair share and even the best gun and rifle makers of England offered rifles chambered in .22 LR. I have seen .22 rifles from makers James Woodward, James Purdey, Holland & Holland, William Evans, and of course, Westley Richards. Most were single shot rook and rabbit rifles, but I have also encountered more than one Best Quality double rifle chambered for the cartridge. However, as popular as the .22 LR is, it is more often associated with a child’s gun or small game hunting. Finding any kind of .22 rifle made to the standard of a best quality big bore rifle, is something that will rarely happen.
You can imagine my surprise when I first heard of the rifle that just came through the U.S. Agency. Made in 1983 to match a customer’s big bore Westley Richards, the rifle pictured here is the only best quailty .22 LR bolt action rifle Westley Richards has ever made.
The history is fuzzy on how this rifle actually came to be but, the story goes, it started out to provide the client with a rifle to practice his shooting, in a chambering more economical and fun to shoot than his big bore rifle, yet having a similar style of sights, size and weight. The current owner had told me about this rifle but seeing it in person, it was clear this project took on a life of its own becoming much more than just a rifle to practice with.
The rifle is best quality in every way. Based on an action of Mauser design, the MAS .22 LR Training Rifle. After WWII, the Mauser factory fell into French controlled territory and during this time, the French had the factory design a .22 calibre training rifle for their military. The Mauser people drew on a previous Mauser 22 design, the KKW, and made some slight modifications. The first ones were produced in the Mauser factory but, production was moved to Manufacture d’armes de Saint-Étienne (MAS) or the Saint-Étienne Arms Manufacturer. MAS was a French state-owned manufacturing company located in the town of Saint-Étienne, where weapons have been manufactured since the Middle Ages. The rifles were assembled until the existing supply of parts were used up.
The metal is engraved in a full coverage ‘House’ pattern scroll common to Westley Richards bolt action rifles from the 1980’s. The rifle is fitted with a highly figured, full-size walnut stock complete with raised beaded cheekpiece, full pistol grip, a very fine point pattern wrap checkering and the traditional horn butt plate, pistol grip cap and forend tip. The rifle also features full size one-piece bottom metal with an inside-the-bow release straddle floor plate. The floor plate opens and reveals the 5-round detachable magazine the MAS 45 rifles were originally fitted with.
For the original MAS 45 magazines to work, the gunmakers hid the magazine under the floor plate and milled a magazine box, from a solid steel billet, to accept the magazine. This allowed the original magazines to work in a standard center fire rifle stock that is far deeper than the original training rifles.
The rifle has a 24” barrel with the same contour as a standard centerfire rifle and the muzzle’s crown is recessed ¼” with a diameter of about .330”, hiding the small .22 calibre bore and further adding to the rifle’s disguise. The barrel was also fitted with Westley Richards pattern island rear sight with one standing Express sight and three folding leaves (50, 75, 100, 150 yds) and Westley Richards patent combination foresight. The rifle was also made to accept a scope and has handmade grooved mounts that replace the original receiver sight the MAS 45 rifles were fitted with. The bases are engraved to match the rest of the rifle and accept American scope rings intended for .22 rifles with ¾” grooved receivers.
As with any bestquality gun or rifle, the devil is always in the details. This rifle is certainly not short on any details. I also imagine the rifle comes with plenty of heartache, frustration and disdain from the men who had to make it. While it is hard enough to build a gun or rifle to bestquality standards on a model of gun the makers are familiar with, applying that same standard to something the makers have never built brings a new host of challenges to its manufacture. Being that the factory had never made a .22 bolt action before, there were no plans, notes or examples to reverse engineer, so the project started with a blank sheet of paper. Add all of this with an overarching theme to deceive the viewer into thinking it is a larger calibre rifle than it is, I can only imagine the turmoil this little rifle’s creation caused.
Its rarity notwithstanding, the amount of thought, ingenuity and attention to detail that went into this project is quite astounding and, I guess, that is part of what makes this rifle so alluring.
After a two-year hiatus, the Scottish Sporting Journal is back, injecting a modern design into a much-loved 40-year-old title; the same passion for Scotland, captured and documented in a new, exciting way. Evolving from the Gazette to the Journal, this 180-page bi-annual magazine is a visual and written journey through Scotland’s wild places, capturing the passion, craft and pursuits within them.
The ethos behind the publication is that Scotland represents a way of life that is long lost to much of the modern world; a way of life in which the people, wildlife and landscape are all intrinsically linked. The aim of its content is to share this emotion and experience, offering true escapism to their readers. From chasing brown trout in small spate rivers to stalking stags in the Highlands to spending time with faraway island communities, Scottish Sporting Journal puts the focus on visual storytelling, capturing the essence of what makes Scotland such a unique country.
Volume II, Issue I highlights include:
– The Arab Warrior Guns from Westley Richards A unique pair of museum-quality featuring the most prolific gold inlay coverage of any guns they have built in their 207-year history
– Hunting with golden eagles We head high into the Cairngorms National Park to witness golden eagles hunting mountains hares in their natural habitat
– Hidden Scotland with Jim Richardson Renowned National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson shares some of his favourite images from his adventures around Scotland
– The new spirit of Scotland With Scottish gin reportedly set to usurp whisky in the next 12 months, we visit the Isle of Harris distillery to see it first hand
– Exploring the Isle of Arran Known as Scotland in Miniature, we explore the many sporting opportunities and way of life on the Isle of Arran
– Spearfishing in remote seas Spearfishing guide Will Beeslaar heads into the cold waters in pursuit of Pollock, with bespoke underwater photography
– Salmon fishing on the Spey A morning with ghillie Roddy Stronach, who has lived and worked on the Spey for 15 years, to understand how the role of a ghillie is changing
Happy Independence Day to all our good friends and customers there in the USA. 243 years ago you pushed through your own version of Brexit with a lot more success than we seem to be achieving today!
As a company well supported by the USA we thought it only proper to post a good old piece of American gun history with a little English twist. Winchester is without doubt one of the most iconic rifle names in the world and so it was just this weekend that we persuaded a gun collecting friend of ours to lend us this little gem of a rifle.
This Model ’95 lever action was the first model offered with a box magazine by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and as such allowed for the use of pointed bullets in a Winchester rifle. The design was made famous by Theodore Roosevelt who used one in .405 Winchester calibre on his epic safari of 1909 an account of which is detailed in his subsequent book African Game Trails.
Previous Winchester models had the famous tubular magazine which due to the in-line nature of the cartridge in the magazine, meant that for safety reasons only blunt nosed bullets could be utilised. The Model ’95 changed all that.
This particular rifle is chambered in that great American cartridge the .30-06 Springfield, to this day one of the finest cartridges around. The rifle was offered in this calibre from 1908 to 1926. The rifle features the interrupted thread take-down system and is unbelievably quick and easy to assemble.
Retailed through the London Armoury Company Limited, London, the rifle comes in a very typical English format canvas and leather trim case. Even to the trained eye you would be forgiven for thinking that this case held a small bore shotgun or some other weapon of British origin. The fact it holds a wonderful Winchester take-down rifle is all the more surprising and in truth pleasing.
Hot off the press and looking magnificent is TheExplora journal by Westley Richards. This last week we received the first 10 copies for approval and we all have to say that it surpasses even our demanding standards!
Having taken 2 1/2 years to bring to fruition it was with great excitement, trepidation and relief that we got to handle the first copies fresh in from the printers. This project was a true labor of love for the team here at Westley Richards, so it was finally great to see the fruits of all that hard work.
The front cover features Westley Richards stunning and as yet unseen ‘Forest Rifle’, a magnificent .600 droplock double rifle specially commissioned to reflect the Central African forest environment. Fully carved in exceptional detail with the flora and fauna of the forest floor, the story of this rifle unfolds in the stunning photography The Explora fans have come to expect from Westley Richards.
Other articles, specially commissioned, focus on engraving, gunmaking, historical weapons, shooting and gun fit, topics we hope will be close to the heart of many an avid sporting man and woman.
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 a scratch resistant matt lamination with spot gloss varnish and gold foil embossed logo. The 180-page journal, epitomises the exceptional standards and painstaking attention to detail synonymous with Westley Richards.
With a limited print run of only 1000 copies, never to be re-printed, The Explora journal is set to become a collectors item that no self respecting Westley Richards afficiando should be without.
The first copies to clients will be coming out in the next few weeks so for those of you yet to place your order now is the time!!!!!
To order your copy of The Explora journal click here
Every now and then one of those nice little finds gets passed our way here at Westley Richards. And so it is that this 10 round .22 rimfire stock magazine came our way recently and has been added to the archive here at the factory.
Discovered in the back of an old shop as literally ‘dead stock’ it must have been there from before the First World War and once again highlights that you never know what might be lurking, tucked away in some dark corner. One day I hope to find that elusive Westley Richards howdah pistol, complete with case and accessories in pristine unfired condition…………..
Westley Richards is a name synonymous with rifles; double, magazine and single shot. Over the years the reputation of the company has been founded on large calibre rifles that have proved effective on all the worlds big game. The list of big game calibres built by the company reads like a who’s who of the very best the British gun and rifle makers could produce, ever since the introduction in 1898 of the first .450 3 1/4″ nitro express metallic cartridge.
With such a reputation for large calibre rifles it is a genuine pleasure to get to build the first and probably only .22-250 Remington calibre take down magazine rifle in the history of the company. This fine little calibre can trace its ancestry back to the 1930’s and the boom in wildcatting that our good friends in the USA were running with. In essence the .22-250 is the .250 Savage case necked down to take the .224 bullet. It was officially adopted by Remington in 1965 and has been chambered in production rifles by most of the major rifle manufacturers ever since.
Principally a varmint (sorry ‘vermin’ for us Brits!) calibre it is also a devasting Roe deer calibre north of the border here in Britain. Unusually and much to our gratification, this rifle is intended for use here in the Uk which makes this an extra special build for the factory as most of the guns and rifles we build head overseas.
A Swarovski 1″ Z3 scope in old school claw mounts sits well on the rifle making use of the original rear square bridge.
When building a rifle of this scale in British terms the key to the build is in the action. You need something small and being a British riflemaker that traditionally has to be a Mauser ’98. Now modern small ‘Kurz’ (short) actions are available, but with a project this unique you really need to look for something special. So it was that we pulled from the depths of the factory an original Mauser Oberndorf Kurz action with a rear single square bridge still retaining its original factory fittings for a quick detachable scope system.
Taking things a step further it was decided to build the rifle as a takedown, the smallest of which we have built. This in itself was an interesting excercise as we opted to review the takedown release catch traditionally found on the right side of the forend, to use a revised underside catch fashioned in the shape of our famous Deeley forend catch so giving the rifle that classic Westley Richards touch.
Case colour hardening predominates tthe finish of this rifle enhancing the unusual ‘Byzantine’ design.
Engraving wise the client requested a design based around ‘Byzantine’ motifs. The Byzantium period in history is said to span over 1000 years so clearly there was a lot to chose from so with the aid of the client, a geometric border (found commonly on gold jewellery of the period), combined with a floral motif was used as the basis for the engraving with the family crest set in the centre of the floorplate surrounded by a design that was taken from an architectural feature. To cap it all of the clients initials for both the stock and case disk were engraved from the Uncial alphabet!
Looking down on the rifle the elegant lines are enhanced by the rich black, electric blue and vivid case colours of the final finish.
In its finished state with the addition of a case colour hardened floorplate and magazine box the rifle is a wonderful mixture of the old and the new. The original Mauser ’98 Kurz action was without doubt the right way to go with such a project and we trust that complete in its traditional lightweight canvas case this unique little rifle will give its owner decades of fun and pleasure.
A close figured exhibition grade piece of walnut furnished with heel and toe plates sets the rifle off.
Part of Westley Richards fame can without question be attributed to the Anson & Deeley fixed lock gun design of 1875. It was this design that overnight revolutionised the modern sporting gun and rifle world.
Today the construction of a fixed lock rifle here in the factory has been largely superseded by the hand detachable (droplock) design. That makes each fixed lock rather special as we get to complete one every couple of years. This particular rifle is in the fabulous .500 3″ nitro express calibre which has proved itself a great tackler of thick skinned dangerous game.
As with every gun and rifle built here at the factory, this rifle caters to the new owners particular tastes which in this instance include a fine dotted border around all the metal parts. Combined with the gold naming and vivid case colour hardening this adds a subtle touch to a simple and beautiful rifle. May its new owner enjoy many years of hunting success.
The original patent drawing for the 1875 fixed lock design. This design revolutionised the gun world.
Vivid case colour hardening by the St.Ledger brothers is a real feature of this rifle.
The beaded border pattern adds a geometric element to the rifle, something a little more than the classic ‘Gold Name’.Complete in its lightweight leather case with traditional complement of tools the rifle is ready to set foot in Africa.
I relish in offering up second hand guns and rifles that are fresh to the market. With the Westley Richards & Co. name and reputation, we are in a very good position to find these gems that have stayed put away and haven’t languished for sale on-line with some other dealer or been tossed around the various auction houses. A few recent examples are the Holland & Holland ‘Royal’.410 and Westley Richards A&D 8g, both exceedingly rare and unique guns, sold here at the U.S. Agency. As luck would have it (and a lot of hard work) I have come across another very interesting rifle, in all original and near new condition, acquired from the original owner’s family.
Solid wall Mauser based action.
The rifle is a Westley Richards .425 Magnum Express Best Quality Mauser bolt action built circa 1955. The rifle is still paired in its original maker’s case with the original accoutrements still wrapped in their tissue paper. During the 1950’s, Westley’s was supplying a rifle of a similar format, albeit with much less finish, to Game Scouts in Kenya and Rhodesia. However, this rifle was bought by a sportsman, is engraved and has a Monte Carlo cheekpiece, a stock shape that rose to prominence in America after World War II. Many of the top tier English makers adopted this stock shape to cater to the U.S. market that was now the largest sporting gun market in the world. This was also the time period when rifles were increasingly fitted with telescopic sights, especially those built for American clients. It is unusual that the rifle was never drilled and tapped and quite remarkable that it has remained unaltered for all these years.
Lever release floorplate with elegant house scroll engraving.
Westley Richards classic and distinctive combination foresight with patent flip over protector.
As if the lovely condition of the rifle isn’t enough, there is another interesting part of this rifle’s story. In the early 1970’s, the original owner used the rifle to successfully take an elephant that body size eclipsed the world record at the time. The gentleman’s record can be found in various record books of the period and you can still see his name, written in pen, on the boxes of ammo. One box includes a few empty brass cases; 6 to be exact. It would stand to reason these are the same 6 rounds Mr. Nielsen mentions in his retelling of the fateful trip. Remarkably, the rifle shows little to no signs of its travels and remains in top form, making it a very viable candidate for anyone’s next dangerous game hunt.
Contained in its original case the rifle is one of those wonderful finds.