The most recent project completed and ready for delivery is this Best Quality Hand Detachable Lock rifle chambered in .500 3” NE. From the classic cartridge it is chambered for, to the timeless Droplock design and traditional house engraving, this is the quintessential Westley Richards double rifle in every way.
Westley Richards is credited with being the first to adapt the .500 Black Powder Express to a new smokeless propellant called Cordite, sometime around 1890. Offering a vast improvement in ballistics over the black powder loads best suited for deer or stag, the new nitro based smokeless powder load made the .500 Nitro Express a legitimate alternative to the much larger 8 and 4 bore black powder rifles historically used for animals such as elephant or buffalo.
Today’s .500 3” NE shoots a 570gr, .510” diameter bullet at a standard velocity of 2,100 fps delivering just shy of 6,000 ft lbs. of muzzle energy. However, the cartridge can be safely chambered in a rifle weighing about 11 lbs. For hunting large dangerous game, there are few rifles and cartridges that come in such a well-balanced package, combining such awesome ballistic performance in a manageable size and weight. This is the reason I believe the .500 NE remains one of the most popular double rifle cartridges ever produced.
With those new developments in propellants like Cordite, came improvements in the design and construction of rifles as well. Fast Forward over 100 years of gunmaking and we have what might be the pinnacle of double rifles, new Westley Richards rifles like this one.
Ordered as a scroll back action with Westley’s patented hand detachable locks, snap lever work and Model ‘C’ doll’s head extension, these features were invented in the 19th century and remain the foundation of Westley Richards double guns and rifles today.
In addition, the rifle’s standard features are disk set strikers, hinged front trigger, beaded trigger bow, extended guard tang, and a trap grip cap, beaded cheekpiece and drop points on a super deluxe walnut stock.
Finally, the rifle is tastefully adorned with Westley’s house engraving, an elegant small traditional scroll surrounding the Maker’s name in flowing banners on the sides of the action and, in this case, with an added pop of gold name engraving. This style of engraving, along with the geometric pattern on the cover plate, has been the firm’s signature pattern on best quality guns since before 1900.
This is a modern interpretation of what the firm has been producing for well over a one hundred years and truly is the quintessential Westley Richards double rifle. From the cartridge it is chambered for, to the action’s design and embellishments, this rifle encompasses so much of what has made Westley Richards such an enduring name in the world of gunmaking.
Well it seems that these are desperate times and so with the majority of us ‘non essentials’ on ‘lock down’ or similar, we decided to look through the Westley Richards archive and give all our followers a genuine reason to tell the wife why they are spending so much time in front of the computer!
Over the coming weeks we will publish weekly a selection of images specific to the models of guns and rifles that Westley Richards produce to remind you all that when this is all over we still have plenty to look forward to.
Our gunmakers are still in the factory as we speak, credit to them, continuing to produce the magnificent guns and rifles that the name Westley Richards has become synonymous with.
All stay safe and enjoy.
A pair of ‘Modele de Luxe’ 7 x 57R double rifles with etched back elaborate scroll, carved fences and gold naming. The rifles were fitted with Westley Richards own take on the claw mount system with custom rings and bases scaled to suit the calibre. Small calibre double rifles are far less common in modern gunmaking than their larger cousins so it is always nice to have a couple coming through production.
A beautiful single selective trigger, special lightweight double rifle in 9.3 x 62 depicting various scenes of Roe deer with deluxe scroll, raised carved steel and gold naming. This calibre is a classic for driven big game hunting in Europe as it has moderate recoil, yet still shoots a heavy bullet.
An exhibition .470 double rifle engraved by Paul Lantuch with carved game scenes, elaborate relief scroll and gold naming. All parts of the rifle were vividly case colour hardened to accentuate the engraving. Paul has since completed other masterpieces for Westley Richards which you will see in the coming weeks.
A partly engraved .470 ‘Modele de Luxe’ double rifle, the pattern for which was based on an original Westley Richards shotgun as depicted on page 12 of ‘In Pursuit of The Best Gun’ the 200 year old history of Westley Richards. This rifle was one of the ‘Millennium’ series of guns and rifles all of which were commissioned for one patron.
A superb heavy frame .500 double rifle with a subtle variation on the traditional Westley Richards ‘house’ engraving format. This rifle has carved fences and a carved buffalo on the cover plate which add a personal touch of individuality. When the commission for this rifle was given we were asked to build it on a heavier frame so that a weight of 12lb to 12lb 8ozs could be obtained.
Another very traditionally engraved double rifle in .500/.416 calibre. This rifle we scoped and regulated at 100 yards, making it a super buffalo gun for those trickier long shots.
A ‘Modele de Luxe’ .500 double rifle that has never appeared on The Explora. When originally completed we were not in a position to photograph it, but thankfully the rifle passed back to us and we able to obtain some nice images. The rifle has elaborate scroll with game scenes in both traditional and carved format, the whole rifle accented with gold detailing.
A fully carved side plated, single selective trigger .500 double rifle. Sadly one of the only images we have of this rifle which was part of a larger collection built for one client.
This mighty .500 Jeffery calibre sideplated double rifle is one of only two built by Westley Richards since the introduction of the cartridge. It is a formidable round that at one time held the status of being the most powerful magazine rifle cartridge.
A .577 double rifle expertly engraved by Vince Crowley depicting various African scenes. The cover plate design on this rifle is unique in that it shows a pair of bull elephant as seen from the air in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.
A stunningly executed .500 double rifle. The original concept for this rifle was designed by Rashid Hadi and then executed by both he and Brad Tallett. Collaborations amongst engravers has become a feature of Westley Richards guns and rifles, taking the very best of skills and moulding them into singular masterpieces.
The .600 remains along with the .577, .500 and .470 nitro expresses, the bulk of the double rifle orders going through the Westley Richards factory. Double rifles are synonymous with the name Westley Richards and have remained in constant production since the development of modern smokeless powder. This rifle combines carved scenes with elaborate scroll and gold lettering.
The only pair of .600 nitro express double rifles built by Westley Richards. Pairs of large calibre double rifles are rare by anyones standards, a pair of .600 even more so. These rifles have genuinely been used and are working tools as much as works of the gunmakers art.
A .243 Winchester and .600 nitro express double rifle original but as a consecutive pair to demonstrate the gunmakers ability to build scaled rifles at the extreme ends of the calibre range. Each rifle was fully carved and came in individual black alligator cases.
The mighty .700/.577 one of only 3 ever built by Westley Richards. The cartridge was developed by Westley Richards and shoots a 900 grain .577 bullet. Each of the three big rifles completed depicted either elephant or pre-historic creatures, as quite frankly thats all you would really hunt with one!
Two modern Westley Richards big bore rifles just arrived here at the U.S. Agency and are going up for sale on the used gun page of our website (https://www.wrusedguns.com/). These two rifles were ordered new by the customer at the turn of the 21st century and are being offered for sale for the first time.
Up first we have a Best Quality bolt action finished in 2003 and chambered for the ever popular .416 Rigby. Built on a modern magnum length, double square bridge Mauser action with a drop belly straddle floor plate, allowing four rounds down, and an inside the bow release. The action is topped with H&H style quick release mounts and 30mm rings that are properly engraved with the Maker’s name and serial number. The bolt body is jeweled or “spotted”, and the bolt knob is checkered with three panels. The bolt shroud is color hardened with “SAFE” inlaid in gold and is fitted with a Model 70 type, three-position safety.
The 24” barrel has a WR pattern quarter rib, with one standing Express sight inlaid with a gold pyramid (50 yds) and two folding leaves lined in gold (100, 150 yds). There is also a barrel band front sling swivel and Westley’s patent combination foresight with rearward folding sight hood and flip up night sight.
The Walnut stock is laid out perfectly with contrasting horizontal figure combined with vertical “fiddle back” running the length of the stock on both sides. The stock has a thin rubber pad, and a right hand English style cheekpiece, a color hardened trap grip cap and single recoil bar, traditional wrap point pattern checkering with Mullered borders and an ebony forend tip.
The rifle’s action, barrel and bottom metal retain their original black and “4. Cartridges” is engraved on the floor plate. The serial number is inlaid in gold on the trigger bow and the action screws, grip cap and recoil bar have a touch of engraving.
The rifle remains in as new condition.
The second rifle, also finished in 2003, is one of the modern Fixed Lock double rifles chambered in .470 3 ¼” NE. Westley Richards re-introduced the time tested A&D fixed lock rifle in the late 1990’s as a very high quality, English made double rifle aimed at the Professional Hunter. In its new incarnation, it was referred to as the “PH Model” and was a sort of modern day take on the White Hunter fixed lock rifles made by the firm just after WWII. Only, the new version of the A&D fixed lock rifle has always been made by the same gunmakers who build the Exhibition guns and rifles Westley Richards is so well known for. However, the fixed lock rifle comes with a minimum of standard options to keep the base price down.
The concept was promising but when one starts to add upgrades such as engraving or Westley’s patent foresight, the price quickly approached that of a Best Quality Droplock that those options are standard on. We also find that our famous Hand Detachable Lock, or Droplock, double rifle is priced very competitively compared to our counterparts in London. I am sure this also plays into the thought process for many of our clients who opt for the hand detachable lock version. As such, not many of the modern A&D action rifles have ever been made and, the few that have been produced, tend to have Gold Name engraving only.
Whatever the reason for the low production, the modern day fixed lock rifles are quite rare in any configuration, let alone with a host of luxury upgrades.
The second rifle in this gentleman’s battery is one of these very rare fixed lock rifles and it is a luxury version and best quality in every way. Chambered in the ubiquitous .470 3 ¼” NE, it has 26” chopper lump barrels with the Model “C” doll’s head extension, Westley Richards pattern quarter rib with one standing Express sight (50 yds) also inlaid with a gold pyramid and one folding leaf lined in gold (100 yds), with Westley’s patent combination front sight.
The rifle also features Westley’s snap lever work, “beetle back” non-automatic safety, disk set strikers, and two triggers. The trigger guard is rolled and has an extended tang. The action body has a slightly rounded bar that would be comfortable to carry on long marches and is finished in traditional color hardening with blacked furniture. The whole action is engraved in a luxurious bold scroll pattern that is wonderfully cut and shows up nicely on the case colored action.
The rifle is stocked in luxury walnut with a right hand English style cheekpiece, checkered side panels with drop points, a trap grip cap and a thin leather covered recoil pad. The semi-beavertail forend has Westley’s ejector box, Deeley forend latch and the traditional horn forend tip.
Finally, the rifle is complete in its original lightweight green canvas case and, for all intents and purposes, this rifle remains in as new condition as well.
These two rifles are in the U.S.A at the Westley Richards Agency in Florida.
For more information please contact: L.D. McCaa (850)677-3688 or visit the Westley Richards Used Gun web site (https://www.wrusedguns.com/).
Here at Westley Richards we are proud to be developing some of the future’s finest gun makers, engravers and leather workers in the world. None more exemplify this than the exceptionally talented Léo, who at 22 has already played an instrumental part in the creation of our new exhibition magazine rifle “The Roebuck Rifle”.
In June 2020 he will celebrate 2 years with Westley Richards and has certainly come a long way since he sent a chance letter to the company, all the way from Belgium, to enquire about an apprenticeship. It is clear that our dedication to working with young talent, giving them unique opportunities and watching them thrive is at the very heart of the Westley Richards DNA.
Léo, where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Belgian countryside, in a little village outside of Liège.
Did you always want to be a gun engraver?
Not exactly. I did always want to have an artistic job but in fact only started to think about the engraving profession a few months before my studies began in this subject. The idea first came to mind when my father took me to a hunting show where my soon-to-be teacher, Pierre Dôme, was performing a demonstration for the Léon Mignon School of Liège.
What did your education/apprenticeship entail?
At Léon Mignon School I learnt the two key areas of engraving both the handcraft and drawing. This included traditional techniques of hammer and chisel and the hand-chisel as well as technical drawings of ornament composition and game-scene sketches. Thereafter I taught myself how to use the pneumatic chisel and stereo zoom microscope, which I use today.
Who inspired you to become an engraver?
My family principally, but I do have two very special people who really inspired me to become the person I am today. My two best friends, Laëtitia Copine and Nicolas Braud. Laëtitia taught me about the world of the arts and greatly influenced how I now consider, analyse and understand art. Nicolas helped me to appreciate unexpected challenges and importantly how to remain stoic in front of them, an incredibly vital quality in the practice of engraving.
Who would you count as mentors in the field of engraving?
I am fortunate to have a few master engravers that I have had the privilege to meet and call mentors. The first are my two teachers from the Léon Mignon School, Master Lucien Gironi and Master Pierre Dôme, who I regularly keep in touch with. Others who I have had the chance to cross paths with who need no introduction, who very much like my school teachers, shared their work, ideas and knowledge with great kindness. Masters Paul Lantuch, Alain Lovenberg and Bram Ramon.
How long did it take to learn the art of engraving?
I began learning the art of engraving in September 2015, with my background in the arts and the first class education I received, I have had a rapid rise. But when you ask “How long did it take to learn the art of engraving?”, it is a difficult question as like others, I’m sure, consider that I will never stop learning (and that’s a great thing).
Indeed the continual learning is the most exciting part of the job, always amazed by the masterpieces of great engraving masters, past and present, who have work for Westley Richards. Holding their works in my own hands is always such a privilege. Spending many an hour researching I discover talents across the globe who produce such technically impressive works with skills that are out of this world. Knowing this drives me to keep experimenting and push boundaries with this historic craft.
Tell us about the ‘Roebuck Rifle’ that you recently completed for Westley Richards?
The Roebuck Rifle is my very first grand-scale project in engraving. At first, embarking on this project made me acutely aware of my level as engraver and how long still the path of apprenticeship really is. To be honest in the beginning I was very nervous about such an important artwork, but with the fantastic team around me at Westley Richards, and the nerves subsiding, I began to have fun and enjoyed the entire process.
The ornamentation was my first challenge, the client had decided upon a carved leaf design using a technique I had only used once before at my school in Liège. At that time I used the traditional hammer and chisel method, however with my new pneumatic tools this was a completely fresh experience and one I threw myself into. Fortunately the path of this level of engraving I was able to begin on the smaller elements, like the roebuck head on the safety shroud, to build confidence.
On the advice and information kindly shared by older masters I moved into the larger game scenes, for example the roe deers seen on the floorplate. When Trigger and I decided on the pair of animals we wanted to capture for the scene, from a picture where we see the male chasing the female, my next big challenge emerged. Trigger had selected an image where only the top of their bodies were visible due to high grass covering their chest, undersides and legs.
I spent many an hour studying deer anatomy and movement through reading veterinary books and watching live action video in slow motion, to finally deduce the exact musculature positioning to achieve a true to life visual. Seeing as I have rarely been near the animal in real life I relied on my colleagues to add those final touches to the end result.
A special thanks to the Westley Richards patron, who commissioned such a fabulous artwork, and to my colleagues and mentors for their critical advice and encouragement. Without them I would not have reached the new heights of technical and artistic excellence I have dreamed to achieve and will continue to strive for.
Head to our engraving section, to discover the incredible variety of engraved artworks that patrons have commissioned over the years.
As a maker of luxury firearms, we believe there is nothing more flattering than when a client places another order with us. Let’s be honest, the creation of a bespoke gun or rifle is a costly endeavor that takes a long time to come to fruition. When a client is so pleased with the process that they want to repeat it, well, that says a lot.
Long before I ever thought of working for Westley Richards, a good client of mine from my previous job was asking my opinion on some secondhand English made double rifles for sale at the time. I posed the question to him, that if he was willing to spend that kind of money on a secondhand rifle, why not consider ordering a new one?
My second comment was, “if you do decide to go that route, I would order a Westley Richards droplock”.
I then introduced my friend to Simon and Trigger and the results of those conversations produced the Modele De Luxe .500 3” NE Hand Detachable rifle Trigger wrote about in a blog from September of 2018.
Fast forward a few years later, when I was actually working for Westley Richards, I took an order from the same client for this Modele De Luxe Bolt Action chambered in the venerable .416 Rigby to pair with the double rifle.
Super deluxe walnut stock complements the engraving on the metal and is highlighted by the high gloss hand rubbed oil finish.
Built as a companion rifle to the droplock in .500 3” NE, this .416 bore bolt action was engraved by the same hand that did the incredible work on the double rifle. Covered in the same deluxe bold scroll, the bolt action also features a color hardened floor plate with a brushed game scene.
Just as on the double rifle, the game scene on the bolt action depicts a similar drama unfolding. Brushing the colors away on the game scene vignettes highlights the highly detailed engraving while still maintaining the beauty of the case colors in which the bold scroll shows up in nicely. A nice touch and one more way a bespoke rifle is tailored to the customer’s preferences.
The brushed game scene vignettes highlight the high level of detail in the engraving on both rifles.
As has become standard for Westley Richards, the rifle is stocked in a stunning piece of walnut in the modern Westley Richards shape with an ebony forend tip, traditionally shaped cheekpiece and leather covered pad.
Other features include, quick detachable scope mounts, Westley’s pattern quarter rib with one standing Express sight and two folding leaves and our patent foresight.
Quick detachable mounts and WR quarter rib with standing Express sight and two folding leaves.
Despite the embellishments on both rifles, the client certainly intends to hunt with them and we look forward to hearing the stories that these rifles will surely be a part of.
Hollands ‘.30 Super’ cartridge is without doubt one of those all time classics that spurned a modern generation of .300 magnums. Introduced in 1925 it was developed to fill the gap between Hollands .275 and .375 Magnum cartridges, at a time when the British gunmakers were competing incessantly to cater for a booming worldwide hunting market. India and Africa were the principle hunting destinations of the time where the topography and native big game species allowed for the use of these ‘modern’ long range magnum cartridges.
Interestingly the .30 Super does differ from the .300 Holland & Holland Belted Magnum so care must be taken when loading for this particular cartridge. As a cartridge the .30 Super was capable of handling 150, 180 and 220 grain bullets all of which respectively proved devastating on medium to large game. Elmer Keith the famous American gun writer, editor and hunter was a big fan of the cartridge and built several rifles up which he used to take numerous North American big game animals including several trophy class sheep.
Complete in original canvas case with accessories, the rifle has an honest pedigree.
As the .300 Holland & Holland Belted Magnum the calibre won world acclaim in 1935 when it was used to win the Wimbledon Cup at 1000 yards. Such was the success of the calibre that it led to a new generation of American magnums including the .300 Weatherby Magnum introduced in 1944 and the .300 Winchester Magnum introduced in 1963.
This particular Holland & Holland take-down rifle was built in 1928 and so can claim to be one of the early .30Super’s. In pretty much original condition, the rifle has a used look about it yet the bore is still sharp and the rifle a slick shooter. Contained in its original canvas case the rifle makes for a great usable vintage rifle.
Hollands side mounts with a period scope appear to be a later addition to the rifle.
Hollands take-down magazine rifle has always been a classic in the sporting rifle world.
Once again the team here at Westley Richards have delivered yet another stunning example of our classic hand detachable lock, nee droplock double rifle, this time in the venerable .450/.400 3″ nitro express.
The rifle is built to our ‘Modéle de Luxe’ standard with extra finish engraving, side plates, single selective trigger and exhibition grade walnut. As one of the pre-eminent English gunmakers the team here continue to deliver individual and unique guns and rifles, every one of which displays the finest English craftsmanship.
A mean old bull buffalo looks out from the left lock plate.
When the first example of a side plated droplock appeared nobody is quite sure. From our own point of view we first really encountered it on a vintage .303 double rifle built in 1913. This rifle is illustrated on page 167 of Westley Richards 200 year history ‘In Pursuit of the Best Gun’ and was built for a middle eastern potentate. One logical reason for the addition of side plates to the droplock design was to give the rifle more coverage for engraving. It seems unlikely the plates were added to make the rifle look like a true sidelock, as the company would certainly have been able to supply one should it have wished.
In more recent times the side plated droplock has become slightly more regular in our order book having been built in both double rifle and shotgun format. In fact we have just taken a commission for a pair of 28g side plated droplocks which should really be quite beautiful. Today the sideplates tend to be more rounded giving the gun or rifle a smooth flowing shape to the grip. That said we are in the throes of designing a side plated action that will have the characteristic look of a true sidelock whilst in fact being of the droplock design. This particular beast will be in the .577 nitro express calibre, so giving us a large area to work with!
A magnificent male lion holds centre stage on the right lock plate. Cats of any description are difficult to engrave, many looking notoriously ‘cartoon like’.
From an engraving stand point, the side plates really are a bonus. The rifle shown here has been engraved with elaborate bold scroll, chevron border, gold naming and three game scenes of bull buffalo, bull elephant and a male lion all looking equally impressive in their respective environs. The traditional and uninterrupted lines of the side plated droplock allow for an organic engraving design that can flow along the action sides and underneath to the cover plate.
The sleek proportions of the .450/.400 3″ rifle can be seen clearly in this photograph. The relatively small nature of this classic big game cartridge allows for a scaled action and wonderfully tapering barrels.
Now in the USA, the rifle is travelling with us on the show circuit and may be seen at Safari Club International in Reno from 5th to 8th February. We look forward to seeing you.
The rifle is complemented with a best oak & leather case covered in brown buffalo skin, fitted with a full set of horn handled tools.
Without really realising it we are a very lucky bunch here at Westley Richards. We get to spend our time building some of the worlds finest sporting guns and rifles, all in the name of work. Every single gun and rifle that we build is unique to the individual and as such genuine ‘one of a kind’ items that allow both the patron and the gunmakers here at Westley Richards to indulge themselves.
Now the level of individuality expressed in an individual gun or rifle can be either heavily influenced by the patron or more hands off, left to the spirit of the gunmaker. It was with this latter attitude in mind that one of our long standing patrons put to us ‘build the best damn .425 magazine rifle that you have ever built!’
Well here is just that rifle. What you see before you is unquestionably THE FINEST Westley Richards .425 detachable barrel magazine rifle ever built by the company, one that exemplifies the very meaning of ‘excellence’ in a modern British sporting rifle. Not only did we get to build a rifle how we wanted to see it, but what better way is there to reward someones faith than by producing something truly exceptional.
Black Rhino feature on the inset panel of the left side of the unique Westley Richards extended magazine.
The basis for this ‘special project’ started several years ago when we were approached to build a ‘Model de Grande Luxe’ detachable barrel magazine rifle in our own iconic .425 Westley Richards calibre. At the time nothing of the wood or engraving was discussed, quite simply we examined all the features that might go into making this rifle something special, a platform from which to build a rifle the likes of which we had never had the opportunity to do. We naturally began with a modern Mauser ’98 action with double square bridges, a side safe and traditional interchangeable flag safe, strap over comb, extended guard tang and a peep sight.
The action would be of our detachable barrel configuration, variants of which we have been producing since pre-War days. The detachable barrel was an important feature of this project as it would allow us later down the line to fit the rifle into a neat more ‘balanced’ case.
Almost unique to Westley Richards the action was also hand fitted with our ‘side clips’ and radius lifter which appear on many of the higher quality .425 calibre rifles built by us over the years. These combined features help with the feed of the cartridge which has a rebated rim and so needs a controlled and positive pick up and feed into the chamber.
No piece of the rifle has gone without some form of engraving ornamentation. Carving, elaborate scroll, intricate gold line work, checkering and beautiful flush gold inlays feature throughout the rifle.
Another interesting feature of this rifle which has probably not been picked up on before is the extended magazine release catch inside the trigger bow. Whilst widely used on British Mauser ’98 based rifles (and now most modern rifles) older .425 rifles tended to have the earlier lever release mechanism as seen on many original own brand Mauser ’98 rifles. Several years ago we built a classic .425 and at this point machined our own extended magazine boxes with the ability to release through the trigger bow. Whilst only a minor modification, aesthetically it makes a huge difference where a rifle is likely to be heavily engraved. Not only that, but the lines of the rifle with the big magazine look more trim.
Traditional open sights sat on our house style quarter rib, with the classic Westley Richards combination foresight, all of these features complemented on the barrel with the addition of a traditional ‘hook eye’ sling swivel base.
Cape buffalo in a savana setting sit within the inset panel of the right side of the unique Westley Richards extended magazine.
Turning to the engraving of the rifle this is where the patron of this rifle took the ultimate ‘leap of faith’. He left the decision entirely to us. At this point you know that you have to produce something really quite outstanding and in our mind was to execute something of a classic yet extravagant nature, befitting of a ‘Model de Grande Luxe’. We looked to the era of the maharajas who had a penchant for gold work, elaborate scroll and game scene engraving. Engravers of that time had only ever seen animals in books and perhaps zoos if they were lucky and so game scenes of that time were more often naive in execution. Today we have the finest photography and to a degree time. With this in mind it was decided to bring together the skills of three engravers so bringing the very best of each element to the rifle.
Stunning, stunning walnut with Westley Richards traditional ‘kidney’ cheekpiece and checkered side panels reflect the heritage of this rifle.
A stunning East Africa bull elephant strides from the base of the magazine. A bongo adorns the trigger bow and a leopard the door of the grip trap cap.
So it was that the engraving began with the most careful of fine gold border inlay. This task in its own right is a difficult one as against the bright of the steel the gold lines can look deceptively neat. It is only in the final finishing that the true straightness and sharpness of execution can really be seen. At this point the animals were decided upon and whilst the Dangerous game or ‘Big 5’ of Africa were a natural choice, warthog, bongo and waterbuck would add a little novelty. Once again these were executed in flush gold with fine detailing, the bull elephant on the base of the extended magazine looking particularly impressive. Elements of carving were then added to features of the rifle, the remaining space being filled with a beautifully delicate, yet masculine scroll. No area of the rifle went un-noticed including the swivel bases and trigger.
The lines of the rifle speak only of elegance. Even a large calibre rifle can be built to look attractive to even the untrained eye.
With such a unique rifle it was only fitting to finish the project off with a suitably matching case. So it was that a brown buffalo skin best quality oak and leather case was created, the internals fully French fitted in green goat skin. The external would be protected by our signature outer cover with patron detailing. The hand made tools, sling and pouches add a further refinement to the internal fitting, all finished off with a gold leaf impressed lid insert, all once again carried out by hand. All in all the rifle and its case has consumed hundreds and hundreds of hours, utilising the finest crafts men and women. Ultimately that is what it takes, along with a generous and visionary patron, to produce the finest .425 magazine rifle ever built, in fact one of the finest rifles ever built in our history.
This rifle will be on display with us at both the Dallas Safari Convention and Safari Club International in 2020.
There can be few greater names in the history of big game hunting than that of Captain Frederick Courtenay Selous D.S.O, soldier, explorer, big game hunter, scout and adventurer. Born in 1851 Selous’s intention from a young age was to be a naturalist and ultimately one of the finest big game hunters ever to set foot in Africa.
By the age of 19 Selous was in Africa where he was granted permission by Lobengule, King of the Matabele to hunt within his vast domains. This was still the era of the large bore muzzle loader and Selous came to typify the young, tough individuals who sought a very dangerous trade hunting elephant and other game for ivory and meat.
The coming years saw Selous hunt extensively throughout central Africa attaining many specimens for private collections and the British Natural History Museum. He was held in such high regard that in later life a bronze bust of Selous was mounted in the NHM where it can still be seen today as you walk up the grand stairway.
His knowledge of Africa led to his appointment as ‘guide’ to the British South Africa Company which was mounting an expedition into Mashonaland. He would fight in two Matabele wars during the 1890’s before his much celebrated visit with none other than President Theodore Roosevelt during his epic safari of 1909-10. The two would become great friends, as they were equally keen on conservation as they were hunting.
With the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Selous joined up to serve in East Africa as a Captain in the 25th Royal Fusiliers. Having distinguished himself in 1916 receiving the DSO for his actions, he was killed by sniper fire a year later at a place called Beho Beho in what is now the Selous Game Reserve.
Selous was unique in that he saw the use of large bore muzzle loading rifles, through black powder breech-loaders, to the ultimate in modern cordite repeating rifles.
The .425 purchased by Selous was most likely the last rifle ever acquired by him. He wrote a testimonal for Westley Richards on 4th July 1912 stating:
“I can only give your .425 Magazine Rifle the highest praise. Had I only possessed such a rifle in my old elephant hunting days I am sure that I could have killed three or four times as many Elephants as I actually laid low.”
The rifle remains in exceptional condition to this day retaining most of its original finish. How the rifle came to be in the hands of its current owner is one of those great pieces of fortune and outright luck, a story we will tell another day. In truth the rifle could not have gone to a more dedicated fan of the company or a more genuine hunter.
The ‘Selous’ rifle has been very kindly loaned to Westley Richards to display at the 2020 Safari Conventions in the USA. Please pay a visit to our stand to view one of the most iconic rifles owned by without doubt one of the greatest big game hunters of all time.
The Westley Richards Gold Name model of gun and rifle is something long synonymous with the company. Back in the pre-war era of gun and rifle manufacture, a gun or rifle was fundamentally a tool that needed to perform flawlessly either out in the covert shooting driven game or tackling dangerous game in the thick jungles of India and Africa. Tastes back then were more subtle and a gentleman did not openly display lavishness.
Engraving on guns was confined to traditional scrolls, each company designing its own unique ‘house’ pattern. Westley Richards had its own version which remains faithful to the original design to this very day. The unblemished lines of the droplock action allowed for a beautiful ‘name in rolling banner’ which formed the centerpiece of the main action body design. Thousands of guns and rifles were built with this ‘best’ scroll design, the first examples being the fixed lock guns from 1875.
The vividness of the case colour hardening can make all the difference with a ‘Gold Name’ gun or rifle. The checkered side panels is a feature from the very earliest fixed lock guns.
How and why the Gold Name model came about is certainly open to a little debate. The most obvious reasoning is the discount offered by not having the full engraving. Early literature describes the ‘Westley Richards Hammerless Ejector Gun – Plain Quailty’ at a cost of 55 Guineas, the ‘Westley Richards Best Quality Hammerless Ejector Gun’ at 70 Guineas. For the absolute purest looking for nothing but mechanical perfection the difference in cost would certainly have made a difference. Interestingly, later literature made a more positive point of having the droplock gun without all the engraving. Handled correctly and from a pure marketing point of view, Westley Richards was able to capitalise on a larger market share capturing what we might term today the ‘aspirational buyer’.
That all said, how do we really perceive the Gold Name model? Truth be told an absolute masterpiece! Whilst some may think the lack of engraving suggests a cost saving, in real terms the unadorned weapon actually requires a higher level of finish as there is nowhere to hide any imperfection.
Many, many years ago when Roy Hill (former workshop foreman and harpoon specialist) was around and paying us a visit I asked him why were the majority of British built guns fully engraved, considering we were well known for the Gold Name model? In Roy’s usual matter of fact way he responded ‘Well where do you hide a tree? In a forest. Where do you hide a scratch? Among other scratches!!!’
Not the most subtle of answers I grant you, but to this day it has stuck with me and in fairness every Gold Name gun or rifle that we have completed since, of which I seem to be the biggest advocate, has a level of critical perfection that drives the gun makers here crazy.
The original sketch for the ‘Tiger’ as executed by Paul Lantuch.
The actual ‘Tiger’ executed in the Japanese style with carved steel and inlaid gold.
Turning to the Gold Name rifle you are looking at here, this is anything but a simple rifle. When originally ordered the specification was for a pre-War configuration Westley Richards best quality hand detachable double rifle in .577 3″ Nitro Express. This specification meant extra cased hand detachable locks, Westley Richards patent single selective trigger, patent combination foresight, hinged cover plate, bolted safety, model ‘C’ dolls head fastener with patent lever work, scroll back action, extra foresight beads contained in brass tin, checkered side panels, traditional WR cheekpiece…………….The only modern(ish) twist was the extended strap over comb.
Initially the engraving was going to be a full on exhibition piece but as the years ticked by the client developed a hankering for something more pure. Hence the idea of producing a Gold Name rifle with a gentle twist came to mind and so as the rifle reached the engraving stage a few basic concepts were thrown our way with only two provisos. Firstly, what engraving there was had to be as near perfect as possible. Secondly, that master engraver Paul Lantuch had to design and execute a tiger in whatever style he saw fit for the rifle. The client would have no further involvement or decision making.
After a brief discussion, Paul came up with the idea of executing a tiger in carved inlaid gold, a style familiar to students of Japanese arms. Certainly unique in this instance, the design would act as both a centerpiece, whilst simultaneously complementing the other gold detailing found on the rifle.
Beautiful exhibition grade walnut counters the simplicity of the engraving.
Now complete, cased and ready to go, the rifle without doubt highlights the skills of many talented craftsmen and women. It has tested all those involved in putting this unique project together and confirmed that not everything simple is as easy to build as it looks. The rifle has an understated grace backed up with some considerable firepower and we would like to think that the gunmakers and hunters of 100 years ago would approve of this Gold Name ‘Tiger’ rifle.
This rifle will be on display with us at both the Dallas Safari Club Convention and Safari Club International in 2020.