In the history of African safari there are the names of individual hunters that should need no real introduction, F.C.Selous, Captain James Sutherland, W.D.M.Bell and J.A.Hunter to name but a few. Whilst some hunted professionally for ivory, others hunted as professional guides taking the emerging elite of the world on lavish safaris into the heart of East Africa.
Amongst this elite group of Professional Hunters can be counted one Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke (1886-1946), Swedish aristocrat, serial womaniser and husband of famed writer Karen Blixen who wrote one of the greatest books ‘Out of Africa’, so immortalising what many consider the golden age of safari hunting.
The J.Purdey & Sons sidelock underlever double rifle in .500/.465 calibre.
Now Blixen was not your usual run of the mill professional hunter. His reputation for securing huge elephant trophies and for ensnaring beautiful women came in equal measure, only surpassed by his legendary drinking skills! That all said and done, he was without question one of the toughest, ethical and courageous big game hunters who ever lived who had a client list booked many years in advance to hunt with him.
As with all professional hunters of the time, Blixen had at his disposal an assortment of both bolt action and double rifles with which to tackle the multitude of game that inhabited the vastness of the African continent.
Whilst he clearly owned several rifles of his own, legend has it that he also borrowed the occasional rifle including the rifle shown here. This particular Purdey double rifle in .500/.465 calibre was originally built in November 1908 for the Earl of Landisborough, before finding its way into the hands of a Swedish businessman who regularly took to hunting in East Africa. It is said that rather than travel back and forth from Africa with the rifle that it was left in the capable hands of Blixen ‘on permanent loan’.
Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke on safari.
The rifle certainly seems to have seen some ‘bush use’ judging by the many subtle knocks and scrapes that it displays, all suggesting that it was used, not abused. The rifle has fantastic crisp rifling and appears as tight today as the day it was made. Interestingly the rifle features a bold scroll engraving pattern as opposed to the more traditional house rose and scroll engraving design found on the large majority of Purdey guns and rifles. The ‘bolted’ safety was a common feature of Purdey rifles, a double safety mechanism to stop the accidental discharge of a rifle should the safety button be innocently pushed off.
The rifle undeniably makes for an interesting piece of history and Africana, we only wish that it could tell a story or two!
The ‘bolted’ safety system as used on the majority of vintage Purdey nitro express double rifles.
‘African Hunter’ by Bror von Blixen-Finecke published in 1937.
With the African hunting season well under way and members of our own team here having recently returned from their own adventures, it is great to have completed yet another droplock double rifle destined for some action in the bush.
One of the true stories behind the rifles and for that matter guns we build is the fact that they do actually get used! People often assume that these rifles end up in some private collection never to see the dust of Africa, but the reality is quite different.
Whilst recent years has seen a proliferation of fancy rifles, Westley Richards heritage is based on building rifles that do the business when the chips are down. This particular rifle has a game scene that perhaps harks back to yesteryear, yet is as relevant today in rifles such as this .500 3″ nitro express.
Super vivid case colour hardening adds greatly to the deluxe relief scroll.
Many a story filters back to the factory of how a charge was stopped or a serious incident averted by the swift handling and serious firepower packed in the twin barrels of a Westley Richards double rifle. The double rifle is considered by many the ultimate weapon of choice for the hunting of dangerous game and has stood the test of time since the first heavy breech loading black-powder bore rifles of the late 1800’s.
We very much hope that this rifle begins its own series of tales over the coming years and that we remember why such rifles are considered the pinnacle of gun making.
For some hunters a nightmare, for others the day they dreamed of!!!!!
Full case colour hardening of all the metal components lends a touch of uniqueness to the finish of this rifle.
Stunning walnut as always!
Cased extra hand detachable locks – a typical addition with droplock double rifles.
Once again the team here at the factory have put together a super two rifle battery of magazine rifles destined in this instance for Africa. In .375 H & H Magnum and .500 Jeffery, these two rifles are capable of handling all that Africa has to throw at them from its diminutive plains game right through to the heaviest dangerous game.
Both calibres have formidable reputations and really should need no introduction. The .375 has been regulated to shoot 300 grain loads, whilst the .500 shoots its classic 535 grain bullet, in this instance Woodleigh Weldcore’s, from modern Kynoch ammunition.
As is becoming the norm with our ‘Modéle de Luxe’ guns and rifles, only the very best walnut has been used as this makes such a statement when viewed by even the most casual of observers. We take great care in sourcing only the very best and like to think that the clients expectations will be more than surpassed.
Full deluxe scroll, gold lettering and game scenes complemented by deep black, case colour hardening and light blue finish.
Engraving wise the client had asked for our deluxe scroll with gold naming throughout and the addition of a Cape Buffalo game scene on the .375 and a Bull Elephant on the .500. With our classic combination of blacking, case colour hardening and light blue finish the overall look of the rifles is subtle and classic.
Heading south of the equator shortly, these rifles will be sure to get a lot of use, with the team here at the factory keen to see the results of all the hard work. It is one thing to build beautiful rifles, but as the saying goes ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’ or in this case the shooting!
Spectacular matching wood for the rifles.
Cape Buffalo and Bull Elephant adorn the floor plates of the two rifles.
It never ceases to amaze us of the depth and variation shown by our predecessors here at Westley Richards. In fairness, with over 200 years of history there are always going to be new finds and something interesting to arouse the collectors or hunters eye.
Take for instance this Westley Richards .318 magazine rifle completed in 1909. It has all the best features of a Westley Richards bolt action of the time including horn tipped bolt handle, wooden side panels, edged cheek-piece and bold scroll engraving. However, of far more interest is the full length engine turned rib which is finished at the muzzle with Westley Richards patent flip over combination foresight that actually recesses into the rib!
The amount of work required to do this would have been considerable and the attention to detail shown by some long lost gun maker is all that we have come to expect of historical Westley Richards.
The story does not end there. Attached to the cocking piece is a Rigby style peep sight which allows for a clear view all the way along the top rib as the actual express sight consists of totally flush fitting leafs regulated out to 500 yards! The peep sight itself has been regulated to match perfectly with these leafs.
The rifle retains most of its original finish including take down cleaning rod in the butt plate and spare foresight beads in the grip trap. To find a rifle in this condition, in this configuration really is a rarity and it always reminds us that you have never seen it all and never know what might just be out there!
Lovely traditional bold scroll coverage.
Horn tipped bolt handle. A classic Westley Richards feature.
Scooped top rib to accommodate Westley Richards flip over foresight protector.
The full length engine turned rib is an unusual feature of this rifle.
Once again the team of craftsman here at the Westley Richards factory have completed yet another stunning droplock double rifle, in this instance in the tried and tested .470 3 1⁄4” nitro express.
Whilst it might take upwards of three years to build a rifle of this quality, we appear on the surface to be one of the few British gun and rifle makers consistently delivering new double rifles to a worldwide clientele. Our current order book has 7 x 57R, .375 H&H Belted Magnum, .375 Flanged Magnum, .450/.400 3″, .470, .500, .577 and .600 nitro express double rifles in production with the orders for such remaining strong. It would appear that the double rifle is the pinnacle of gunmaking excellence and regardless of whether a client is actually ever going to hunt with one, they certainly feel the need to own one!
The wood on this particular rifle, even by our standards has finished beautifully, merely enhancing the quality of craftsmanship carried out here in Birmingham. Long may the traditions of building the double rifle continue to thrive.
Buffalo game scene cameo on cover plate.
Vivid case colour hardening executed by the St.Ledger brothers.
Stunning exhibition grade walnut finished by hand to a high gloss sheen.
I recently had the pleasure of hosting one Tyler Sharp, a journalist and photographer from the USA. I first met Tyler earlier this year at the Safari Club International convention when he casually and rather shyly wandered onto our stand holding a copy of some new publication. My initial thoughts were of some mildly eccentric character, better placed in a Western movie than the floor of the worlds largest hunting show.
Waiting for some lame sales pitch and preparing to savage all that he might say, I took the volume from his hand and began to flick through the pages. First impressions were of a beautifully produced publication, the like of which I had yet to see in the hunting world. This was no throw away magazine, this was something different and as the Texan boy told me his story I knew that this was someone with real passion for what he was doing and that we had a common interest in the future of our sporting heritage.
Since that first meeting I have found Tyler to be a uniquely honest and immensely passionate individual with genuine enthusiasm for the outdoors and the wider hunting world. This month we spent a couple of days here at the Westley Richards factory before heading off on a fabulous hunt for Roe Buck in the heart of the Wiltshire Downs.
I would encourage you, perhaps even urge you to subscribe to this great publication, or at the very least obtain a copy. You’ll be surprised at just how good it is and how the future of the sport we enjoy so much is going to rely on a refreshing new perspective. The world is a fast changing place and we face many new challenges as outdoor sports men and women.
I’ll now leave it to Tyler to give an insight into his mission and that of the ‘Modern Huntsman’.
Greetings Westley Richards readers, I just wanted to introduce myself, as I’ll likely be contributing some ongoing stories from the field. My name is Tyler Sharp, and I’m a photographer and writer based out of Dallas, Texas. I’ve spent the majority of my career documenting hunts, adventures, and conservation efforts all around the world, which has all led to my recent charge as Editor in Chief of a new publication called Modern Huntsman.
It was this that led me to the Westley Richards team, and we quickly realized commonality in virtue, ethical hunting pursuits, and creative storytelling. I’ve recently returned from a trip to visit the factory in Birmingham, England, which we’ll further detail in a future installment, but for now wanted to give you a bit more background on Modern Huntsman.
For those of you who don’t already know, Modern Huntsman is a biannual publication for like-minded conservationists, creatives, and outdoor enthusiasts. Born out of frustration with the way hunting is often misrepresented today, this publication is told from the perspective of hunting purists and philosophers, unaltered by the skews of mainstream media, corporate interests, or misinformed emotional rants. In short, we’re returning to the root traditions, in hopes of improving the perception of hunting in modern society.
For many of us, hunting is a way of life, a tradition passed down by our grandfathers, fathers, and brave mothers. It’s a way of staying connected to the land, harvesting wild food to sustain our families, our souls, and is a shared passion and pursuit in many countries the world over. Hunting also plays a majority role in conservation, which ensures that expanses of land stay untamed, and that wildlife populations thrive — something we’ll be prominently focusing on as we move forward with the publication.
But this isn’t just for hunters, and while we know that there will be opposition, we believe that through our collective stories, photographs, and films, we’ll be able to educate some folks about overlooked realities, and win the minds and hearts of those who still have them open. Through presenting stories based in virtue, ethics, personal growth, and statistical merit, our aim is to inspire, educate, challenge, and set the record straight in some cases.
We’ve assembled some of the best photographers and writers in the outdoor world, many of which you might already know. These are folks who’ve spent their years living off the land, enduring extreme conditions, and have sometimes risked their lives to ensure that wildlife thrives, and the traditions of hunting survive the modern age.
From the mountains of the American west to the fields of south Texas, the savannahs of East Africa to the governmental councils on regulation, Volume One covers a diverse range of topics, all unified by common ethics. Printed on thick matte stock, and bound into a substantial book of over 200 pages, it is more of an art portfolio than a publication, and a fitting showcase for the breathtaking work everyone has produced. We have no advertisements in the first issue, and as we move forward we’ll begin to integrate select brands and organizations to partner on stories of hunting history, conservation success, and notable characters, outfitters, chefs, and artists in the community. These will be collaborative, integrated stories instead of intrusive and heavy-handed ads, which will help us keep the message pure, and the conversations constructive.
We’ve sold through our first print run of 5,000 copies in three months, and have just re-ordered another 5,000 to continue sharing our mission with both hunters and non-hunters alike. Volume Two is scheduled to release in the fall of 2018, and will be centered around a theme of public lands, which is a hot topic in the United States to be sure. Apart from the political applications, we’ll also be exploring the realities of land access in other parts of the world, and how that affects land use, wildlife management, and hunting access. We’ll also be focusing on how these issues can bring folks together under common cause to protect what’s important, rather than squabble over something potentially insignificant.
This is just the first step in a long, important journey for Modern Huntsman, and we’d be honored to have you join us. To conclude, I’d like to leave you some parting words, which is the epilogue in the last few pages of Modern Huntsman Volume One, as a sort of call to action in what has become such an emotionally charged debate:
For hunters, we ask that you carefully consider the effect that your actions can have on not only your environment, but on the perception of this tradition. Whether through deed, word, or photograph, we feel that care should be taken, and respect given, for how quickly news can be spread in today’s world for good or ill. Therefore, choose your steps wisely, and wherever possible, see that they aim in a direction of positive progress and accurate representation, instead of confrontational detriment and further divisiveness.
For non-hunters, we appreciate your open-mindedness, and willingness to hear what we feel is a different, yet very important side of the hunting narrative. While we can’t speak for everyone, it is our aim to give voice to the overwhelming amount of like-minded hunters and conservationists who often lead quiet lives, in hopes of connecting with more folks like yourself, and finding common ground. We’d ask that as situations arise, you recall the beauty and honesty on these pages, as compared to the message that the mainstream media presents, and let respectful passion and conservation statistics win out over the often skewed biases and violent emotions.
And while some of you may never pick up a bow or a shotgun to harvest your own food, know that should the day come when you decide to, this community would jump at the opportunity to show you the ropes. Where you may have once felt opposition, you’d now find comradery, and a sense of belonging in one of the oldest traditions known to humankind. In short, we’d love to take you hunting.
Whether in the field, or in metaphor,
For more information, to order a copy, or subscribe to Modern Huntsman, you can visit one of the links below.
Undoubtedly two of the most iconic cartridges to ever come from the British gun making trade must be Rigby’s .416 and Gibbs’ .505 Magnum. Steeped in safari legend, the mere mention of these two big bore rounds evokes images of big tuskers, old dagga boys and the larger than life characters that used them. Both cartridges have been around for well over a century, and remain two of the most popular cartridges among dangerous game hunters today. It goes without saying that the original rifles chambered for these rounds are among the most coveted rifles out there.
The first rifles chambered for these cartridges were ground breaking developments for Big Game hunters. The rifles themselves were built on the new magnum length Mauser ’98 bolt actions that were very well made, extremely reliable and far more affordable than double rifles. Secondly, these big rifles shot cartridges that matched the ballistics of cartridges like the .470 3 ¼” NE or the .500 3” NE.
This was power previously only available in a double rifle and these new big bore bolt action rifles could carry up to 4 rounds. Furthermore, the two cartridges were similarly shaped and their “big” designs offered ample case capacity that made for low chamber pressure. The cases also had long necks for tightly holding the big bullets, a benefit for the rounds in the magazine of heavy recoiling rifles. All these characteristics were, and still remain, reliable combinations for pursuing the World’s most dangerous game.
Original Gibbs .505 Magnum built in 1927.
Safe to say the British trade hasn’t made “many” of anything, but even when put into perspective, original .416 Rigby and .505 Gibbs bolt action rifles are not only some of the most desirable, they’re also some of the rarest. Less than 200 .416 Rigby rifles were produced between its introduction in 1911 and the beginning of WWII. In the case of the mighty .505 Gibbs, somewhere between 70 to 80 were only ever produced. Low production numbers by any standards and, in rifles that were very much intended for hard use, one must wonder just how many survived much less stayed original?
Being that the rifles are so rare, I’ve encountered very few in my career, and to have one of each offered for sale at the same time, is an even rarer moment still.
The J.Rigby & Co. Mauser Sporting Big Game rifle in .416 calibre shown here was shipped in 1913 and must have been among some of the first made. It is built on the original magnum length action made for John Rigby and his new .416 cartridge. The rifle has a 24” barrel with a sleeved front sight and sling swivel and Rigby’s pattern quarter rib, a cocking piece flip up peep sight, two folding leaf rear sights and the classically shaped Rigby stock. Even though the rifle is 105 years old, I am sure it feels as sturdy and sound today as it did the day it was finished.
The George Gibbs rifle chambered in .505 Magnum was made in 1927. A hulk of a rifle also built on an original magnum length Mauser action with a 26” Vickers barrel, island rear sight and banded front sight with a folding sight hood. The massive size of the action and barrel are appropriately scaled for the equally large cartridge that propels a bullet, one-half inch in diameter, at 2200 fps. This rifle was built for one purpose and it serves this purpose very well.
Original .416 Rigby built in 1913.
The long single square bridge magnum length Mauser ’98 action of the .416 Rigby.
These are two rifles that are not only an iconic representative of a bygone era but they still remain very useful tools for the pursuit of dangerous game or as a cornerstone of a fine gun collection.
Both rifles have been sold prior to the posting of this blog. These are indeed rare and desirable guns and, as it goes with items like these, they are quickly sold. Our method of selling such guns is much more discreet than most other dealers. If these are the types of investment grade firearms you might be interested in, please contact us. We would like very much to know you and add you to our list of discerning clients.
Fresh back from engraving is this super .500 droplock double rifle with bold scroll engraving, gold naming and a game scene of a hunter being charged by a bull elephant.
The game scene is an interesting and not unusual concept which always poses the question ‘What happened next?’ For anyone who has ever been in such a situation there is nothing more exciting! A large bull elephant with ears spread wide, kicking up dust is a truly intimidating sight, one that makes even the largest of double rifles seem small in the hands of the hunter.
More often than not the tension is relieved by the mutual backing off of both parties, each content to go their separate way. Then again, should it all go wrong…………………..!!!!!
Although by no means prolific, it is always great to see a new bolt action rifle in Westley Richards signature .318 calibre reach completion here at the factory. Once the medium bore calibre by which all others were judged, like so many of the great British calibre’s, including .333 Jeffery and .350 Rigby, it slipped into semi obscurity after the Second World War.
In truth the .318 Westley Richards cartridge shooting a 250 grain bullet at 2250 feet per second is still a great and fun cartridge to use for general plains game hunting and even driven boar in Europe. The long torpedo bullet has phenomenal sectional density and with its moderate velocity (by modern standards) proves a deep penetrating round, at one time capable of tackling every type of big and dangerous game on the planet.
Peep sight located on the cocking piece.
The rifle you see here was built to a very traditional lightweight format with the addition of Westley Richards take-down system. The client had requested the rifle to be built primarily for open sight use, hence the sleek lines of the rifle. Westley Richards signature patent combination foresight was a given as no true Westley Richards magazine rifle is complete without one. It was then decided to fit a very traditional island rear sight base with one standing plus three leaf express sight regulated to 200 yards. A peep sight fitted to the cocking piece was also utilised so creating a very classic style of rifle.
As with all our guns and rifles a super piece of Turkish walnut was selected with which to stock the rifle. We came to the conclusion some time back that with the comparatively small number of guns and rifles that we build each year, we may as well use the very nicest wood that we can obtain.
Certainly destined for Africa, we are looking forward to hearing how this classic round performs in this new rifle.
Beautiful Turkish walnut stock.
The new rifle compared to a vintage example. Either rifle would be fun to use today in Africa.
Page from Westley Richards ‘Centenary’ catalogue detailing the .318 Westley Richards.
An interesting rifle completed this week, is this lovely scroll back droplock double rifle in .500/.416 calibre. The round so it goes was developed to replicate the power of the legendary .416 Rigby, but in a flanged case that could be used successfully in double rifles. Developed by Kriegoff in the mid 1990’s, the round was based on the tried and tested .500 nitro express case in 3 1/4″ format. In Norma ammunition, the cartridge propels a 410 grain Woodleigh bullet at a very respectable 2325 feet per second so generating 4922 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. All round a great cartridge for general African use, from the larger plains game all the way up to the largest of the most dangerous game.
Only the second rifle in this calibre to be built by us, we have to say that the lines of the rifle are only enhanced by the profile of the barrels which have a very nice and gentle sweep tapering down to the muzzle. The rifle weighs in at 10lb 6ozs which makes it extremely comfortable to shoot. The rifle has been regulated at 100 yards, hence the fitting of a scope, the whole package complete in a dark green canvas and leather trimmed lightweight case.
Vivid case colour hardening complements the traditional house scroll engraving and gold details.
The rifle comes complete in a dark green canvas and dark tan leather trimmed case.