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”!

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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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Westley Richards Pair Of Deluxe 12g Sidelock Shotguns

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Whilst we are best known for our hand detachable lock (droplock) shotguns which are the mainstay of our shotgun production, it is always nice to see our sidelock side by side shotgun pass through the factory. At present we have several pairs of 12g, a trio of 16g, several 20g and a 28g passing through the works.

Our sidelock shotgun is built on a round body action with assisted opening, Southgate ejector work and exhibition walnut as standard. We offer both pinned and pinless locks with the majority of exhibition grade guns now moving towards pinless so that the engraving is uninterrupted.

Here we have a lovely pair of 12g guns with elaborate relief scroll, carved fences and traditional game bird scenes. The rounded lines of the guns lend themselves to a wrap around format of engraving that is certainly very elegant and keeps everything flowing. The wood is once again outstanding, another signature feature of Westley Richards best guns and rifles.

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Pair of Westley Richards 12g ‘Central Vision’ Sidelock Ejectors

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When it comes to shotgun shooting, eye dominance plays a pivotal role in the shooter’s success and can totally change the style in which you shoot or the gun you use. There are various types of eye dominance and some weird and wonderful ways to deal with them. For the lucky ones, we have absolute dominance of the eye looking down the rib, in my case right handed – right eye dominant. No action needed. For the nearly lucky ones, they have predominant dominance, meaning one eye is nearly but not quite fully dominant, this normally doesn’t cause any problems with the right amount of cast on the gun but some people need to squint the weaker eye so the other becomes fully dominant. For the not so lucky, these are the ones with true cross dominance, i.e. right handed but left eye dominant or vice versa. Actually quite common and there are a few remedies such as a squinting/closing the opposite eye, use a full cross over/eyed gun or, depending how ambidextrous you are, shoot from the other shoulder. Easier said than done! Intermittent or occasional cross dominance can be caused by poor focus or bad gun mounting and indeterminate dominance is when both eyes are fighting for control. Lastly we have central vision, where neither eye is dominant, so to combat this either put a patch on the opposite eye or shoot a central vision gun. Although every gun is different, normal cast measurements for a central vision or sometimes known as a semi cross over gun are: 1/2” at the comb, 7/8″ at the face, 3/4″ at the heel and 7/8” at the toe. The stock is often swept at the face to allow the head to move over further to create the central vision down the rib without the cast at heel being too dramatic. If you have absolute eye dominance it is certainly a bizarre sight picture when mounting a central vision gun but you have to admire the skill in the stocking and the ingenuity to overcome this, what I can only imagine, quite an annoying eye dominance to have. But I have no doubt the well-seasoned central vision shooter can shoot as good as any other eye dominance and I should imagine it would be quite fun to watch!

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Recently through the WR doors came this interesting pair of Westley Richards 12g sidelock ejectors with central vision stocks. Completed in 1962 they have 26” barrels with double trigger, Holland style hand detachable, sidelock actions engraved with a large floral scroll. The dark, well figured stocks measure 14 3/4” to the centre of the butt and are cast off 9/16″ at the comb 3/4″ at the face, 15/16″ at the heel and 15/16″ at the toe. The guns are in overall very good condition and will be on our used gun site shortly. I’m sure there is a central vision shooter out there, somewhere!

_77A5089-Edit_77A5080-EditStocker, Keith Haynes, taking detailed cast measurements.

It’s rare to have central vision or cross eyed stocks on new guns these days but it certainly was much more common place between wars and for those of you who have been to the factory, you will remember the painting we have on the stairs of Colonel H.H. Shri Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji, Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar, an esteemed cricketer who played for England and was said to be one of the best batsman of all time, standing proudly with two shot lions and a cross eyed stock double rifle. From the research done several years ago, we assume that the rifle in the painting is his Holland & Holland .240 cross eyed stock double rifle, which he ordered in 1922.

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The Great British Shooting Show 2017

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The show season continues unabated this year with our return to home soil and the British Shooting Show.  This year we will be displaying a nice collection of our new guns and rifles including the ‘India’ and the ‘Africa’ .600 sidelock double rifles, as well as the ‘Lion’ .470 sidelock double rifle.

The show goes from strength to strength each year and represents a strong cross section of what is available to the shooting public in the Uk and from further afield.  Attendance is certainly growing as the show refines, and being indoors certainly makes for a great day out mitigating the usual vagaries of the Uk weather!

We look forward to welcoming our customers old and new to our stand located in hall 2 zone 7.

The Great British Shooting Show held at Stoneleigh Park, International Centre, Nr Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8 2LG

Friday 10th – 12th February 2017. Opening hours: 8:30am – 4:30pm.

4g Guns-1853A Pair Of 20g Round Action Super Deluxe Sidelock Shotguns

Steel Plate Shots-5118-2The ‘Lion’ .470 Sidelock Double Rifle

Zebra 500-1873Deluxe Game Scene Engraved .500 Hand Detachable Lock Double Rifle

Zebra 500-1876    A Pair Of 16g Hand Detachable Lock ‘Arab Horse’ Shotguns

TS-5378The ‘India’ .600 Exhibition Grade Sidelock Double Rifle

A Stunning Pair Of Westley Richards Elaborate Scroll Droplock 12g Shotguns

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It seems at present that we are having a real glut on guns and rifles returning from the Westley Richards stable of engravers. With each new gun or rifle comes a different style of engraving and what really impresses us now is how hard the engravers are working to raise the bar on the execution and style. The engravers are now appreciating the work that goes into building each one of our guns and rifles and they are keen not to let down the gunmakers who are putting in so much effort in the first place. This combination is really paying off and continues to emphasise the high standards set by all those involved with the company.

What is becoming more evident is how truly ‘bespoke’ Westley Richards is becoming. Our aim now is to build individually and uniquely for every client and that nothing we do is of the ‘norm’. Looking back at the guns and rifles in recent weeks with the exception of this matched pair all of them have variations in the build and execution, sometimes subtle, often quite significant. Whilst from a manufacturing point of view this can be at times slow going, it is far more inspirational for the gunmakers, engravers and more importantly the clients. At the end of the day we aim to please!

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The pair of guns shown here are engraved with a beautiful floral and scroll design that was in fact inspired by a single barrel muzzle loading gun built by the company over 150 years ago. In this modern instance the engraver has re-designed the pattern to work with double barrel hammerless guns adding carved elements and gold lettering to create a very elegant coverage. Of course such work does take time, but as they say ‘you can never rush quality’.

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The 2nd Westley Richards .410 & 28g Pair Completed

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Carrying on from our story a few weeks ago concerning the 3 sets of composed .410 & 28g droplock shotguns, we are delighted to show this week the 2nd pair of guns now finished and ready to dispatch from the factory.

Once again there is a real contrast in both the engraving and wood. This pair have deluxe bold scroll with gold naming and detailing, complimented by a gold bordered game scene of Bobwhite Quail and Red Grouse respectively. The actions have been ‘brushed’ which really highlights the detail in the scroll and obviously the game scenes.

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The wood is truly exceptional and in all honesty was taken on as a bit of a gamble by the client. Both stocks came from very highly figured blanks that under normal circumstances are difficult to visualise on the finished gun. In this instance even we were surprised to see just how well the raw blanks formed into stocks and how the figuring contrasted throughout. The photos really don’t do them justice!

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