I’m not sure we all imagined 2020 would be the year of the staycation, but that has been the world we’ve been thrust into. As we emerge positively from lockdown, everybody is in pursuit of making the most of the summer in their home or host nation – and I’m sure like myself, discovering some hidden gems along the way.
Here in the UK we are blessed with a unique and spectacular countryside, especially in the summer months, offering surprises at every turn. Whether you’re an explorer, adventurer, culture vulture, gastronome, antiquarian, naturalist or fieldsports enthusiast, there is literally something for everyone.
It’s morning frost on the hood of a land cruiser that crystallises a complex layer of thorn scratches, lacerations and claw marks from decades of exploration; a cool breeze on your face as you drive around for hours in the hunting rig, blissfully daydreaming until you’re ripped from the reverie by cat-claw thorns tearing through two shirt layers and drawing blood.
It’s the smell of parched topsoil getting its first drink of rain as the monsoons precipitate their arrival; the taste of a hand-rolled cigarette after lunch, lit by the same match that sets an early-season management fire, which in turn brings a chaotic hurricane of birds to devour the winged insects fleeing from the climbing flames. Or it’s a midday nap under the shade of an acacia tree with pant legs tucked into your socks to prevent soldier ants from biting ankles tender from tracking buffalo, only to be woken by a lion’s call a few hundred yards away, then not being able to fall back asleep because it might’ve been closer.
There are some things in this world that defy conventional description, where language can fall short of communicating these experiences or the complex meanings behind them. In the same way that an inspiring dream or revelation can evade articulation, I’ve always found it difficult to describe my love for Africa to someone who has never been. However, that has never stopped me from trying to understand the root of this passion that has inspired so many artists, writers, adventurers, hunters and conservationists over the centuries.
In my experience there is little sentimental middle ground; one either can’t endure the harsh elements, relentless insects, and logistical chaos, or one absolutely loves it and the charms sink deep into one’s bones, never to leave. Africa becomes a calling that must be answered and many have pursued it relentlessly even to their demise. But what is it exactly that we love so much? Ask anyone who’s spent an extended amount of time in the bush and they’ll probably tell you that it’s small observations of the senses that provide the vibrant source of what we know Africa to be. These are things you often don’t realise until later, having to reflect on the source of mild melancholy that creeps in once you return home.
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 commissioninga 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.
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.
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.
The elegant lines of the Westley Richards magazine rifle in .450 Rigby calibre.
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.