First season reflections with a little Westley Richards .410

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An update from a great Westley Richards enthusiast in the USA

Now, with a fair number of rounds on targets both circular and winged I’m perhaps in a position to look back on the shooting season just past and understand a bit better what a remarkable thing a really good Westley Richards .410 bore gun can be.

I’ve shot something over 4,000 targets with it both on the skeet field and from a three trap trailer which we position along a river while we stand beyond and above the traps on an old pumping station over the river. The wobble targets here are all crossing shots, some level, some climbing and some well below. The latter being about as sporty as any I want to try. At any rate, they all are a real learning experience with a .410 and I’ve never run a 25 straight.

David Brown .410 (2 of 4)

In the “winged” department, a fair number of doves fell out of the sky. Good conditions and picked shots required. We were fortunate enough to be invited back to King Ranch once again. Bobwhites and more bobwhites. Wonderful dog work and wonderful people. South Texas in the winter time is my favorite place on this earth.

Winchester’s  3″ AA load of 3/4 ounce of #8 1/2 shot at only 1,100 fps will kill quail and doves with no foolin’ about it. Teague insert chokes at .10″ constriction seems to be the ticket in this particular gun on game. On the skeet field 1/2 ounce of 9’s again in AA’s work the best. Probably all in my head but the Winchester loads give me better scores than the same loads from Federal. Go figure.

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To sum up, a heck of a lot of clay targets, quite a few doves, I’m not telling anybody how many bobwhites, one armadillo and, two weeks past, a small, by Texas standards, diamondback rattlesnake have been accounted for with this little gun. Varied bag in any company.

Point being, I’ve shot this gun enough to where, with a good night’s sleep and proper alignment of the stars, things just work. Never has the gun failed to go bang, eject and the triggers are as crisp as on day one. The wood has a few small dings now which bother me not at all. What a wonderful thing it would be to shoot it long enough and often enough to wear the checkering off. I think in the end shooting is about memories and that’s the real gift of a gun like this.

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Lovely Vintage Westley Richards 10g Shotgun

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As a once keen wildfowler it is always nice to see one of the vintage big bore guns built by Westley Richards.  In this instance we have a lovely 10g, 3″ chambered, 32″ barrelled Anson & Deeley fixed lock shotgun that was completed in 1886 for J.Palmer O’Neil & Co. of Pittsburgh, USA.  This company clearly acted as an agent for Westley Richards and retailed guns, rifles, revolvers, ammunition, fishing tackle and other sportsmens goods.  A gun almost identical to this illustrates the front cover of one of their early catalogues.

WR 10g #14022 (1 of 2)

The lines of the gun considering its size are very elegant and it points superbly.  The round pistol grip has a gentle sweep that makes the gun comfortable to handle.  Weighing 10lb 10 3/4ozs it is great to swing and with ‘extreme choke’ as defined in the ledger entry, it would certainly have worked well on high Mallard, Pintail and Geese.  Interestingly the rib states ‘Highest Quality’ and we have to admit that it is probably one of the finest fixed lock guns that we have seen here at the factory.  The damascus is of the typical high quality found on all of the Westley Richards guns built up until around 1910 and the wood is as good as anything we would use today.

The gun has the single model ‘c’ dolls head extension and classic lever work, no underbolt, which is a testament to the strength of the design and quality of the workmanship when jointing the gun.  It remains as tight on the face as the day it was made and if it was mine there is no question that it would see a goose blind this autumn!

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Stunning 28g Droplock Back From Engraving

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Another masterpiece has returned recently from one of our top engravers and we have to say that it is certainly one of the prettiest small bore guns that we have seen anywhere in a while.

The actual engraving is a choice made from several designs that were put forward, aimed specifically at the small bore guns that we build, in this case a 28g droplock. The client was looking for an intricate design that would look both complex and clean on the delicate frame of the gun. The etched background only adding to the overall effect of the design.

As with all elaborate scroll engraving, the actual ‘flow’ of the scrolls is very important and this particular execution seems to capture that very well. The little carved touches add considerably to the whole design and once case colour hardened, inked and brushed the gun should look spectacular. We look forward to sharing the end result with you.

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New Westley Richards Website Launch

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You may have found us a bit quieter than usual of late. Well, that is because we have been hard at work on an exciting new project. After considerable time and effort, we at Westley Richards are proud to announce the launch of our brand new website.

Featuring the finest imagery and design, and industry-leading technology, it showcases the world of Westley Richards like never before. Designed and developed especially for those with a passion for fine guns, hunting, bespoke leather goods and the very best shooting clothing and products, the new site is a reflection of what we do here at Westley Richards in our relentless pursuit of perfection. We hope you enjoy it and we look forward to welcoming you all into our world.

Click here to visit the new homepage.

Live Pigeon Trap Shooting By C.S. Adams.

Pigeon Trap Shooting - Book Cover-3816-EditHouston’s Cyril Adams is one of the most influential figures in the revival of interest in British guns—particularly hammer guns and those with Damascus barrels—that swept America in the 1980s and ‘90s. During the period he owned London’s Atkin Grant & Lang (1984-1999), Adams resuscitated the once-great maker and aided by the expert tutelage of Ron Solari produced some of the finest sporting shotguns made in Britain during that time. In 1996, along with co-author Robert Braden, Adams published Lock, Stock & Barrel, which remains one of the best single-volume primers on the principles and methods of best quality British gunmaking.

Newly out is his magnum opus: Live Pigeon Trap Shooting, the first book written in the English language on the subject in more than 120 years, and by far the most comprehensive ever published. Clearly written throughout its 275 pages, and complemented with hundreds of rare photographs and illustrations, it is encyclopedic in its detail of the sport past and present.

CA_D91      Pigeon shooting was also popular in America, as shown in this 1891 illustration from Harper’s Weekly.

Today live pigeon trap shooting is arcane and little known but in its heyday in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was not only enormously popular internationally—drawing large crowds of spectators—but also critically important in the development of modern wingshooting, shotguns, ammunition, and the target-shooting sports such as trap and Helice that are its direct descendants. In 1886, English shooting writer A.J Stuart-Wortley wrote of the sport: “Here every modern improvement in guns, powder, or cartridges has been brought to the test, and there can be no doubt that the practical proofs supplied by pigeon shooting have been of great service to the science of modern gunnery.”

CA-D20Monte Carlo was the epicenter of international pigeon shooting, and its most prestigious venue. This photo likely dates from the early 1920s.

CA-D51  Italians have been many of the sport’s most successful shooters. The stylish Duke of Abruzzi in northern Italy in 1929.

As Adams explains in his overview introduction: “In the pigeon ring, new ideas for improvements to guns and ammunition could be tried against each other under consistent conditions with repeatable results. This is not possible in the field, but useful improvements developed and then proven by pigeon shooters were quickly incorporated into field guns and ammunition.” This was particularly true in the British gun trade, where pigeon shooting remained popular until the end of the 19th Century. Successful pigeon shots were often a gunmaker’s best source of advertising and publicity.

CA-D53     1930 World Championship program.

CA-DES-29AThe action and excitement of a columbarie shoot in south Texas.

CA-G6Westley Richards was just one of many gunmakers that used the success of pigeon shooters to promote its guns.

CA-G30    The Westley Richards “Ovundo” was offered in trap configurations and one was used by Henry Quersin to take several championships in Belgium in the 1920s.

Adams—an engineer by training with a specialty in low-temperature physics—has competed in pigeon and Helice rings around the world for half a century, and is a uniquely qualified author. The book comprises seven chapters: 1) History; 2) Bird and Traps; 3) Guns; 4) Ammunition; 5) Notable Shots; 6) Descendants; 7) How to Do It. A bibliography and an appendix of pigeon and Helice championship results and the rules governing the sport round the work out—and given its quality it is the most important book on wingshooting and fine guns to be published in 2017.

Cyril-Adams-dust-jacketCyril S. Adams, at home, in the ring, with his 34-inch-barreled Stephen Grant hammer gun — aka “Supergun.”

Live Pigeon Trap Shooting is available in the UK and internationally from the publisher, The Sporting Library, an imprint of BPG Media, which publishes Fieldsports: www.thesportinglibrary.co.uk. It is available to Americans purchasers directly from the author: cyriladams38@gmail.com

The Sporting Library, 2017, 275 pp. £80 sterling; $100

Magnificent John Dickson & Son 8 Bore Percussion Gun

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The name Charles Gordon (1853-1918) will be very familiar to those of you with a genuine passion for vintage sporting arms of the hammer gun variety.  Born in Peebles, Scotland, he was the product of a privileged if somewhat sad upbringing.  By the age of 14 his mother and both adoptive parents had died leaving him with a large fortune and considerable property in Edinburgh.  His great passions had always been shooting and fishing, but with the inheritance of such great wealth he decided to indulge himself in collecting, amongst other things new pistols, guns and rifles from various noted gun and rifle makers. His favourite would be John Dickson & Son of Edinburgh where from 1868 when he placed his first new order to 1906 when he was practically bankrupt and made his last purchase he had acquired no less than 229 pistols, guns and rifles!

What really stood this eccentric, often mad Scottish gentleman out from all the rest was his insatiable appetite for ordering new weapons built on old designs, over 50% of the pistols, guns and rifles being muzzleloaders at a time when the hammerless breech loader was unquestionably at the fore.

To pick any one of the magnificent guns that he had built is always going to be tricky, but illustrated here is one of the five 8 bore double percussion shotguns that he had built.  This particular example was ordered on 25th October 1883 and is still in unfired condition complete in its case with all the accessories.  The quality of work is simply outstanding and pays tribute to the skill of the gunmakers at the time.  You need to put in perspective that in 1875 Westley Richards had patented the first hammerless breechloading gun, yet here 8 years later John Dicksons were building a hammer percussion 8 bore with detachable hammer noses!  The proportions of this gun are wonderful and even from a modern gunmaking point of view the whole cased package is inspiring.

Charles Gordon would end his days in lonely seclusion, mentally unsound in 1918.  Whilst his extravagant spending and at times illogical purchasing almost bankrupted the man, he left one of the greatest legacies in fine gunmaking that has ever been seen. The guns he commissioned still bring huge enjoyment to a diverse group of collectors today and the fact that so many are in pristine unfired condition only adds to the desire to own one.

For the complete history of John Dickson & Son see Donald Dallas book ‘John Dickson & Son – The Round Action Gunmaker’

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The 4 Bore ‘Model de Luxe’ Bicentennial Complete

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Finally this week we completed the 4 bore ‘Model de Luxe’ that completes the set of seven already delivered to celebrate our bicentenary back in 2012.  We suppose in  gunmaking terms 5 years after the event for such a one off beast cannot be too bad!  In truth it was ordered after the original set were delivered, as up until then we had not designed let alone built a 4 bore double shotgun in hand detachable lock format.

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The final result with full case colour hardening by the St.Ledger brothers is a seriously nice job and we have to give credit to all those involved in the building of this magnificent gun.  The 4 bore really is in a league of its own and for those of you who have never handled one they truly are a gargantuan gun!

The ‘Swan’ carved game scenes really do complement this gun very well, especially when combined with the carved fences, traditional scroll and gold borders.  All of us here at Westley Richards would like to thank the very patient owner whose commission made this gun and the earlier set of seven guns a reality.  They are a unique and very special set of guns in the history of Westley Richards.

WR 4bore droplock shotgun5WR 4bore droplock shotgun6WR 4bore #20118-1616-Edit-Edit     The 4 bore next to a dimunutive 28 bore!

Farewell Simon – A Salute To ‘The Explora’

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It was a fine winter day, in the duck season. I had my pickup loaded with all things for an afternoon hunt. My Labrador, Miss Feather (Miss Duckhill Sheba’s Bournebrook Feathershower) had already occupied her place in the passenger’s seat for several hours as she always did on these days. I had worked through the never-easy task of selecting the gun and this one was well beyond ordinary. It was a Scott Premier 10 bore, with Damascus barrels. It was all done up in ducks as they often were, but this one was decorated with several odd and unusual species of sea ducks. I was almost out the door for the 1 ½ hour drive when I received word that Simon had gone to the other side.

My first reaction was not to go hunting, but then realized that was a very foolish notion, one that would disappoint him deeply. Instead, the day and the GUN would be a tribute. The Scott was befitting almost any occasion, but today it had to be a Westley and not just any Westley, but the finest one I knew. One only has to witness the title of these pages to know Simon valued Exploras and I value them as well. In fact I see them as the most complete and sophisticated firearms ever made. The gun today would be “The Queen of Birmingham” a Deluxe Explora and the most wonderful Explora and Westley I have ever met.

It came to me in a rather unusual way; out of an auction. I saw the gun, held it and crushing-love at first sight would be an understatement. It was glorious and essentially new… and I knew I could not afford it. A mutual friend liked the gun equally, but he had something I did not, an invincible purse. He told me simply to bid and buy the gun. If in the end I could afford the hammer price I could have it, if not I was to continue and buy it for him. I wrote a number, my very last number, down before the bidding began. The hammer fell on that number.

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With it I began to perfect Explora ammunition, ammunition that would be ballistically identical to that which the great Leslie B Taylor had created. I used a ballistic technique similar to the originals to get 735 grains (1 ¾ ounces) to go 1250 fps at normal shot gun pressure. Then I developed bullets that would fly like the L.T. Capped originals. In the end I had a cartridge driving bullets that would fly exactly to those glorious sights, each and every one of them, all the way to 300 yards; and be deadly when they arrived.

The Queen performed wonderfully as a shot gun; taking valley quail, rare mountain quail, and ducks with perfection. Its crowning moment came late one autumn afternoon in the Sheep Creek Valley. The great yellow 6 x 6 bull elk walked out of the thick young timber into a room-sized open meadow and stood broad side. I was sitting with The Queen on my knees and made my best estimate of 250 yards and turned up that leaf. I looked at those massive shoulders over the sights, sights that were strangely rock solid and crystal clear. My son was beside me and I whispered, “250 yards????”… “Yes, very close”, was his reply. I pressed the front trigger. The big bullet arced across the valley and landed with a mighty “wok” as the bull lurch into the black timber. We listened, for there was nothing to see and suddenly there was a huge fir-rending crash in the timber, followed seconds later by another when the big bull slid out into a little clearing. The bullet struck the top of the front sight with laser precision, dead center and completely through both of his shoulders. She is a very, very special Westley.

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I thought back on these things as we watched the sky over the pretty little pond. It was a still cold, a day without ducks. And then he came, the loan magnificent mallard drake with the most brilliant orange feet I have ever seen. He circled twice and levelled across the far side of the decoys; at 40 yards… almost too far for an Explora barrel. The same right barrel spoke and he folded; the only duck we saw that day. Feather broke ice to retrieve him. To me there was a perfection about it all.

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It may seem odd that I waited so long to write this, but it took me time to heal and find the courage to fully address the loss of this wonderful man. While he was a bastion of the trade and a truly passionate gun person I think I miss that dry humour and wit most of all. Some time ago I addressed my Selvyt Pad and Tin for preserving the Westley Detachable locks in these pages. When he received this he feigned being stricken and stunned. He thought he had the only tin and I had poached in this sacred space. But then in virtually his last notes to me, he won the day as always, “Well only real Westley men have a tin”!

He does not know this yet, but a Hundred Pounder is making those tracks he is following.IMG_23315

 

A Pair Of Vintage 12g ‘Royal Brevis’ Holland & Holland Shotguns

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Finding real quality in vintage guns is certainly getting harder and harder these days. Much of what is coming to the market is clearly tired or in many cases now of recent manufacture. It is therefore nice to see a pair of guns like these lovely Holland & Holland ‘Royal Brevis’ guns from the 1930’s.

Hardly used the guns retain practically all of their original case colour hardening and it has to be said they are in fantastic condition. The original ‘Brevis’ name came about in the 1930’s in response to the success that E.J.Churchill were having with their short 25″ barrel guns. The word Brevis is taken from the latin meaning ‘short’ and the Holland guns were originally built with 26 1/2″ barrels primarily aimed at the grouse and partridge shooting market. In 1932 the name was changed to ‘Royal Brevis’ as the guns were of Holland’s best quality.

With the short barrels and Holland self opener, these guns really are very handy and quick to shoot and quite honestly there is no reason why they would not be relevant today on a good grouse moor or for shooting partridges in Norfolk.

Holland & Holland #33363-4  (3 of 6) The guns are fitted with Hollands detachable locks.

Holland & Holland #33363-4  (5 of 6)The engraving on the bottom of the actions clearly highlights the self opening patent of 1922.

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Westley Richards Pair 16g Hand Detachable Lock Shotguns

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Whilst the shooting season may well be behind us now it is always nice to be finishing guns with a view to the coming season which for many is only 6 months away!  The pair of guns shown here will certainly be one of the first pairs put to good use when the grouse season starts.

These 16g guns are built with 30″ barrels on our hand detachable lock action with traditional full scroll engraving, case colour hardening, double trigger and Prince of Wales grips.  The slim beaver-tail forends are an unusual choice on a pair of guns for the British shooting scene, such forends found more commonly on guns built for the US market.  That said the new owner shoots big days and is a big man so the extra surface area of the beaver-tail should make for comfortable grip on a hot peg!

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Presented in our dark tan lightweight leather case with tools and gold leaf leather label, they make for a wonderful package which the new owner will have years of fun using. Hopefully the grouse numbers this year will be kind to him!

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