Single shot rifles have always held a fascination with rifle shooters. From earliest times they were the benchmark for accurate shooting and held sway for decades as the rifle of choice for serious competitive shooting. Most of the major British sporting arms manufacturers have at one time supplied single shot rifles from flintlock through to the centre-fire breechloading era.
When I first arrived at Westley Richards, one of the areas that really impressed me was the quality and depth of photography the company had produced over the years. This in large part began with Simon Clode, the former Chairman & Managing Director of the company, who as a young man developed a keen interested in the medium while studying art at the British Institute in Florence. It was during this time of experimentation with cameras, darkrooms and composition that Simon established his uncompromising eye for fine detail and appreciation of aesthetics.
A gun or rifle is a canvas for something truly unique for a visionary group of collectors. Individuality is what sets them apart, and for a select few, that extends to commissioning a Westley Richards ‘special project’.
Westley Richards has a long history of producing super high-grade guns and rifles, with ‘Modèle de Luxe’ and ‘Modèle de Grande Luxe’ gracing our early 20th-century catalogues. Production of such masterpieces reached their peak in the 1930s, the heyday of the Maharajas, whose commissions set the standard in gunmaking quality at a time when British manufacturing was at its very zenith.
The late 1980s was to see the resurgence of such quality with Westley Richards’ very own ‘Gorilla Gun’ and later ‘Rhino Rifle’ signaling the beginning of a new age of highly-embellished pieces, as collectors from the USA embraced the unparalleled quality of craftsmanship offered by British gun and rifle makers.
As another busy week draws to a close, we’ve brought you a selection of photos from the Westley Richards factory floor. Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, in accordance with government guidelines and strict social distancing measures, the gunmakers have not stopped working and the factory has been running full bore! A steady flow of new guns have reached completion and we are very grateful to our gunmakers and outworkers who have kept the wheels turning through such a difficult time. Fingers crossed we are through the worst of this virus and we are pleased to say the showroom is now open and the majority of WR is business as usual. So please feel free to drop us a line to discuss anything gun, clothing or hunting related!
The traditional gun making skills, which are unchanged for the last 100 years, are still very much common place in the factory. A smoke lamp is used by each gunmaker on a daily basis to identify the bearing parts of two adjacent surfaces.
Yet another first calibre wise for us recently was the completion of this heavy barrel plains game rifle in .270 Winchester Short Magnum. The .270 WSM is one of those cartridges born of the ‘magnum’ craze and was introduced in 2002 by Winchester. Based on the .300 WSM (introduced in 2001) it has the same case necked down to accept .277″ bullets in the 110 to 150 grain range. Compared to the original .270 Winchester the long time favourite of gun writer Jack O’Connor, the more modern magnum version of the .270 unquestionably has greater velocity and a flatter trajectory.
This particular rifle is intended for shooting plains game out to longer ranges and has been built with a heavier barrel contour and recessed muzzle crown to assist with both stability of the rifle, whilst eking out every last ounce of accuracy.
One of the most popular leather sporting accessories that we make at Westley Richards is our Ammunition Wallet. Though a simple addition to one’s packing list, to hunting enthusiasts this item can be as vital as the ammunition it holds. Handmade to hold up to 10 rounds at a time, the most popular is designed to fit safely to your belt and within easy reach for that crucial moment.
Being synonymous with rifles, Westley Richards has always offered the most comprehensive range amongst the heritage gunmakers. Designed to match both the hunter’s preference – open, closed or in pocket – and cartridge size, our ammunition wallets deliver a striking combination of luxury, durability and gentlemanly style, that can be found in all our leather goods. Continue Reading
Danny with his trusty Watson Bros..450 No.2 Double Rifle. Originally built in 1907 at a cost of £21 this rifle has certainly proved worth every penny! This photo was taken by Diggory Haddoke whilst we were all on safari in Tanzania in 2015.
Anyone who is anyone who has ever wanted to hunt in Africa or has hunted in Africa should certainly have heard of Professional Hunter, Danny McCallum. Now that might sound like a dramatic introduction, but truth be told Danny is one of the legends of African hunting having been a fully licensed PH there for 53 years.
Born in Arusha, Tanzania in August 1947, Danny is from a family of Professional Hunters (his father and grandfathers were all PH’s) and after qualifying with his full ‘Unrestricted’ licence in 1967 has led a successful career as one of Africa’s most sought after PH’s. Danny is one of those PH’s who has been lucky enough to hunt in Kenya, Tanzania, Zaire, the Sudan, the CAR, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and more recently Uganda. His experiences are almost unparalleled today, especially where Africa’s dangerous game is concerned.
And so to the last of the ‘new’ production weapons produced by Westley Richards, the ‘Fixed Lock’ double rifle. For those of you who have spent any time studying sporting firearms, you cannot have read anything with realising that Westley Richards is famous for the introduction of the Anson and Deeley gun design of 1875, the ‘Fixed Lock’ or ‘Boxlock’ action. This design was absolutely revolutionary in that it transferred external hammers to the inside of the action body, whilst allowing the fall (or drop) of the barrels to cock the internally fitted hammers.
To this day the design remains the most copied, and has been produced in some way by every major manufacturer who produces side by side guns and rifles.
In 1995, former Managing Director ,Simon Clode decided it was time to re-introduce the fixed lock action in a double rifle. At the time the big hunting world was seeing a serious revival and whilst pre-owned rifles sold easily, there appeared a niche in the market to produce a sensibly priced fixed lock double rifle that appealed to Professional Hunters and clients alike. So the new fixed lock was released and whilst never produced in the same quantities as ‘droplock’ double rifles, they have always appeared in our order books.
Just as important as “location” is to the value of real estate, so is “condition” to the value of a gun. The common rule is, the closer the gun remains to its original factory condition, the more desirable it is among collectors.
Another important factor to a gun’s value can be its rarity. Guns can fall into the “rare” category if they are found in a configuration seldom produced by a maker. Another reason a gun could be considered “rare” is if it remains in high original condition despite its age or intended purpose. If you look long enough and have a lot of good luck, you might even encounter a gun in a rare configuration that is also in high original condition.
After a long time of looking and more than my share of good luck, an exceedingly rare and extremely well preserved Westley Richards 562 Grade Hammerless Combination Shotgun and Rifle chambered in 12g and .500 Black Powder Express recently landed at the U.S. Agency. This is the type of gun collectors can spend a lifetime looking for.
A first just completed by us is this detachable barrel Westley Richards magazine rifle in .450 Rigby. Over the years we have built magazine rifles in all manner of cartridge, but this is the first to be built in .450 Rigby.
The cartridge has an interesting history as it is one of very few ‘new’ cartridges introduced by any of the British rifle makers over the last three decades. The concept for the cartridge came from Paul Roberts former owner of J.Rigby & Co back in the 1990’s. Paul is acknowledged as one of the most experienced big game hunters in the UK and still continues to build rifles for a small and loyal clientele under the Roberts name in the south of England.