The Holland & Holland ‘Dominion’ model in both shotgun and double rifle format was introduced in the 1930’s as an affordable option to the best ‘Royal’ model guns and rifles offered by the company. Named in reference to the British Dominions which included countries such as Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Newfoundland, they targeted a broader clientele consisting mainly of administrators, officers and sportsmen.
This particular double rifle is in Hollands proprietary .500/.465 calibre which was introduced in 1907 after the British ban on all .450 calibre rifles. Firing a 480 grain bullet at 2150 feet per second the calibre was a very suitable replacement for the .450 and competed evenly with the .470, .475 and .476 calibres.
These rifles have always had a certain appeal and are very distinctive in style. With the swept back, slightly dipped, back action locks they are very robust and a real work horse of a rifle. You regularly see Dominion shotguns in the field today which is certainly a testament to the strength of the design.
Recently sold by us, this rifle has considerable original finish and is the No.2 grade with a half covering of engraving which adds a delicate touch to an otherwise simple rifle. The build quality goes without question and hopefully its new owner will soon get the opportunity to use it once again in Africa.
On our travels we are always on the look out for any interesting ephemera, photos and journals that may have a link to either the history of Westley Richards or the sport of hunting itself.
Last week in the US we picked up several vintage postcards that certainly make for fascinating viewing. Published in 1910 they depict various hunting scenes from the epic safari of Theodore Roosevelt’s which was conducted from 1909-10. At the time this was the largest safari ever conducted in Africa and involved some of the greatest hunters of the day including F.C.Selous and R.J.Cunninghame.
Over 500 animals and birds were collected by the former US President and his son Kermit, all of which were carefully skinned, prepared and shipped to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington. This huge safari set the standard for the luxury safaris that were to follow and clearly put East Africa on the map for the dedicated US hunter.
Today Africa remains a magical safari destination where sportsmen from around the world can still participate in one of the last great adventures. Whether or not you would be able to send postcards such as these today is another matter altogether!
One of the great enjoyments of traditional gunmaking from my perspective is the clients wish to have something built exactly how they want it. I like to feel that everything we do is special and that we go that extra mile to make the whole package and experience an enjoyable and unique one.
Take for instance the rifle rifle shown here. This is not your usual run of the mill .577 nitro rifle. The client came to us with the request for a ‘lightweight’ .577 droplock double rifle that he could carry all day sensibly buffalo hunting, but would not have the fierce recoil of a full blown .577 3″ 750 grain magnum load rifle. Such rifles used to be built under the guise of ‘Tiger’ rifles and they were aimed primarily at the Indian market. They were built 1 to 1 1/2 lbs lighter than the magnum version rifles and fired a 650 grain bullet. As far as we could tell no such rifle had been built by us since before the second world war and so this was certainly going to be an interesting project.
The rifle we knew from years of experience we could lighten whilst still retaining the correct proportions and balance, the hard part was developing the ammunition for the rifle. Various versions of the .577 lightweight load were known to have been loaded. All used the 650 grain bullet, but the case length varied from 2 3/4″ to 3″ to 3 1/4″. We decided on the 3″ case as the rifle would be proofed for the full magnum load and so in a pinch 750 grain loaded ammunition could be used in the field. Working closely with the Birmingham Proof House we were able to develop here at our factory a load developing 1,950 feet per second which is perfect for this bullet and weight of rifle.
The rifle itself is in our opinion finished off very nicely in ‘Gold Name’ format which was a classic Westley Richards brand with vivid case colour hardening and lovely dark walnut woodwork. The 25″ barrels give the rifle a nice profile and hark back to the days when such rifles were common place in the jungles of India. The rifle comes complete in one of our traditional lightweight leather cases and is supplied with 200 rounds of ammunition. This is a real hunters package and one of those great rifles that we know will get used as much as admired.
In the shooting and hunting world the necessity for a ‘pair’ of guns is really only ever associated with the driven game shooting scene as practised primarily in the UK and Europe. It is therefore of great fun and interest to actually build a pair of double rifles and if you are going to do it then you may as well go big!
In this case we are proud to present our very first pair of .600 droplock double rifles! You really don’t get much bigger. When we first embarked on this project a few years ago, my client a young and enthusiastic hunter of big and dangerous game came to me with the request for a new .600 droplock double rifle. Nothing out of the ordinary really until I suggested ‘why don’t we do a pair?’
I am sure many of you, just like my client did at the time are asking ‘why do a pair?’ the reason was really quite simple, because we could! The client thought it a great idea and this is not somebody who wants them just to look at. We have hunted before with single .505’s, .577’s and .600’s, this new pair of rifles are going to get used and that was really in many ways the stimulus for the project in the first place.
Now to the rifles themselves. A matched pair of deluxe .600 droplock double rifles with 24″ barrels, extra hand detachable locks, deluxe scroll engraving with full case colour hardening, complete in a buffalo skin oak & leather case with full complement of horn handled tools. Matching grained leather slips made to measure for transporting the rifles in the hunting truck. Overall a lovely package and unquestionably a very unique one!
The .300 Winchester Magnum, first introduced in 1963 is certainly proving to be a continued favourite in the rifle world and here we have two recently completed at the Westley Richards factory.
The first is a true left handed rifle built on a double square bridge Mauser ’98 left hand action. The client in this case was very specific about a heavier than normal barrel contour with a recessed muzzle crown as he wants to eke every last bit of accuracy out of the 25″ barrel. The second is on a right handed double square bridge Mauser ’98 action and has our traditional barrel profile with our patent combination foresight and quarter rib. Both have quick detachable scope mounts that integrate very nicely with the square bridges.
One of the nicest things about these rifle and one that we always discuss with a client, is how high grade wood can really make all the difference on a bolt action rifle, particularly if the engraving is being kept to a minimum. Both rifles have stunning exhibition pieces of Turkish Walnut that the finishers here in the factory have spent hours hand oiling to the very highest gloss finish. We think it speaks for itself.
Both rifles have our elegant ‘name and border’ engraving, with little touches on the recoil bar, pins, sights and square bridges, all executed to the highest standard. This is a point often missed by other makers who see such engraving as a cheap option. We use our very best engravers to execute this work and it is always worth the extra time and expense.
May the new owners enjoy many years of use and hopefully perform as well as the rifles do!
It was some months ago now that I posted the first photographs of this .470 rifle, just after it had been case colour hardened. I posed the question about leaving the colour on, or brushing the colour off, the post attracted numerous opinions. (Previous Article).
Here, at last, we see the finished rifle together with the final choice of the client, the case colour left on, the rifle ready for the bush and the natural wear that will occur over time.
In my opinion the correct choice, I always liked the big carved R.B.Rodda rifles with their case colours and I believe this rifle continues in that vein. In the opinion of Paul Lantuch the engraver, the incorrect choice as I know he wanted to see the rifle showing off the engraving at its best!
Either way this engraving work is spectacular and the rifle has, and I am sure will continue to receive many favourable comments from people who have seen it. Not a bad slab of timber also!
A Westley Richards .470 Hand Detachable Lock double rifle. Engraving by Paul Lantuch. Cased by Westley Richards leather shop in a traditional lightweight green canvas Safari style case.
It is always nice to find rifles with good provenance and the Potocki family certainly bring that. This .318 carbine rifle is very nice in a few ways, we don’t see many surviving Westley Richards rifles in this original carbine format, rarely when we do will they have the original telescope and pouch. To have it in its original case and with provenance is the icing on the cake in this instance. This rifle was built for the 3rd Count Alfred Potocki who inherited the family estates during the first world war and who was reputed to be the wealthiest man in Europe. Descendent of William the Conqueror, godson to Kaiser Wilhelm II, this final Count Alfred was related to virtually all the royalty of Europe. Though land and legal reforms in the 1920s stripped him of some of his inherited properties and noble priviledges, Count Alfred was believed by some to be the wealthiest man in pre-Second World War Europe. Educated at Oxford and Vienna, Alfred traveled the world visiting royalty, hunting on safari, collecting impressive works of art to add to his palace collection and tending to his many properties throughout the continent. In the years before World War II, royalty and the super-wealthy dined, hunted and vacationed at Count Potocki’s palace and his several impressive lodge houses throughout the area.
Another famous member of the family Count Józef Potocki (1862-1922) inherited his mother’s estate in Antoniny, while his elder brother Roman was master of Łańcut. A man of remarkable talent and energy, he turned the 55,000 ha property into a very profitable entreprise. His gains financed the expansion of a stud via acquisitions of new stock in Egypt, India and the Middle East, which brought him in contact with Anne & Wilfred Blunt. His true passion however was hunting. Józef organized several remarkable expeditions in the 1890s to India, Ceylon, Somaliland and later to the Sudan, recounted in beautifully bound and illustrated books. One of them was translated in English under the title “Sport in Somaliland” and this book remains one of the most expensive and collectable books in the big game hunting department, often commanding prices in excess of £6000, a copy of which I have never ‘manned up’ enough and bought!
The Classic .425 Westley Richards rifle has become a scarcer and scarcer item to locate. The distinctive style and performance make it a desirable rifle for both collectors and hunters alike. The rifle has a totally distinct look which is, like the hand detachable locks, unique to our company. The .425 round is a match for the .416 Rigby, Rigby would say their round is more powerful and we would of course claim our is. Both use a .410gr bullet. The .425 is certainly more comfortable to shoot and being built on the standard size Mauser action is also faster to feed and load. The drop magazine was designed to take ‘at speed’ the contents of the 5 round clips of ammunition by which it was sold.
Finding a .425 rifle like this in its original specification and without having been through poor restoration or repairs is a very welcome surprise these days, it is a rifle I would like to be able to sell frequently but rarely get the chance. This particular rifle has been ‘sleeping’ in South Africa ‘has done a little work’ and is now home here at the factory and will be up on our used gun site shortly.
The rifle was built in 1937 and has the original 28″ barrel ( 27 3/8″ from front ring of which many of which have been shortened to 25-6″) stock length of 14 3/8″ and weighs 9lbs 15oz. The rifle is not cased and the accessories shown are from my collection of bits and do not come with the rifle. We do make in our leather shop a replica of the sling with hooks and also the belt and ammo holder.
I am afraid this will be a general, visual post rather than a technical one, I took these photos just before I left the factory on Friday and I didn’t note down any of the details of the pair of pistols, the main and obvious question being the bore size. I was slightly (actually very) overwhelmed by the quality and condition of the whole package and the details seemed irrelevant at the time.
The Howdah pistol was the ‘last line of defence’ for a hunter high on top of an elephant whilst hunting tiger. If a Tiger was to charge the elephant and climb up to attack the people occupying the Howdah there was little room in which to defend oneself at the last moment, it was likely that the muzzle loading long arm had been discharged by this time.. Hence the Howdah pistol the short barrel, large bore firearm that could be drawn and manoeuvred in tight space, providing a killing blow, or in the case of this pair 4 barrels, 4 killing blows.
I have always liked very much the whole concept of the Howdah pistol and it was always something that I wanted to make a current version of, a large bore rifle cased together with a matching double barrel Howdah pistol. Our laws on barrel length and pistols has prevented that project from ever happening which is a shame.
Whilst I have seen a small amount of Howdah pistols in my years dealing, they are certainly not common and they have normally been single and quite plain models. I had a pair of Holland & Holland .577 Howdah pistols many years ago at Las Vegas and I remember them selling in a flash.
This pair is quite unique and the condition is remarkable, all the accessories down to spare springs numbered for each lock. One of the oil bottles even has the seal unbroken and contains the very oil filled with 150 years ago, quite remarkable!
This sculpture is at the Royal Armoury in Leeds where the National Collection of Firearms is held. It depicts very well the drama of the tiger hunt and the moments leading up to where a Howdah pistol would be useful if the shot he has held is a miss!
I am sat here at the weekend contemplating hunting as perhaps ‘the last great adventure’. In this modern world of super communication and internet many of the worlds once wild places have become easily accessible and where once there was great adventure getting to them, most have become easy to get to and ‘no great wonder’.
As hunters we are the very lucky few who really get to see some of the last remaining wild places on earth. They are often very difficult to get to which requires a determination I have really only seen in sportsmen. By way of example two very good friends who also happen to be clients of mine have just returned from a memorable trip in British Columbia where they both managed to achieve through true hard work 2 magnificent trophy Stone Sheep and 2 great Mountain Goats. What I found most interesting in listening to their story is that the valley they actually took their trophies in had not been hunted for 18 years! The whole area was remote and still very much untouched by man.
In the last year I myself was lucky enough to hunt in South Africa, Tanzania, Alaska and the USA, whilst also visiting India. All were adventures in their own way, but Tanzania and Alaska stand out as truly wild places.
As another good friend and client heads out to Mozambique with his fine collection of vintage rifles we should count ourselves lucky that we have the interest, passion and will to pursue game in the wildest of places. It is in our interest to share the stories of our adventures with the next generation so that they might pursue game in these places, for to remain remote and wild they need to be appreciated and more often than not real passion only comes from the sportsman.
Images from one of our Safari’s in remote Mozambique by Mark Hall.