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.
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.
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.
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.
For those of us in the gun and outdoor industry, we find ourselves in the thick of the show season. My colleague, Ricky Bond, and I returned to the U.S. Agency after the Dallas Safari Club convention only to unload and re-pack for what will be a month on the road attending the Antique Arms Show and the Safari Club International Convention, both held in Las Vegas. Westley Richards has been a mainstay at both shows for many, many years and it is always a time of year that we look forward to. While Simon owned and operated one of the best gun makers in the World, he was a gun dealer at heart and he always spoke fondly of the Antique Arms show. Recalling a blog post of Simon’s where he asserted that at no other time, anywhere in the world, is there a larger gathering of fine guns under one roof, this is quite obvious as I walk the isles of the show. It is a cast of colourful characters, historic and collectible firearms and it remains one of the few, and really the best, of the true gun shows left in the U.S. Safari Club International’s convention is two weeks later and it is the largest outdoor show on U.S. soil.
For those of us who are in pursuit of the outdoor lifestyle there is really no other place where one can meet outfitters, taxidermist, gun makers and equipment companies from all over the World in one place. It truly is a spectacle to behold and the four days the show runs is barely enough time to take it all in. Prior to my employment with Westley’s I would notice how many people frequented the Westley Richards booth and I am looking forward to meeting these faithful clients as well as catching up with old friends.
One other aspect of this time of year that Ricky and I are looking forward to is the week between the shows that allows time for visiting clients. Simon and I often discussed being accessible to our customers not only in the Agency but to travel to see them as well. To that point, we schedule time to visit our clients and offer showings in the comfort and privacy of their homes or offices. This also provides an opportunity to pick up items for our used gun inventory. This is a service we offer year round and we are happy to schedule such visits at the convenience of our clients. I encourage any readers of The Explora to make it a point to visit both the Antique Arms show and the SCI convention and this year is as good a time as any. I would also encourage the readers of the blog to feel free to contact us to schedule a visit and private showing on their home turf. This is a great way to see, up close, what Westley Richards offers as well as to discuss their personal collection and how Westley Richards might be able to assist in buying and selling guns for their firearms portfolio.
Antique Arms Show: Jan 20th – 22nd, 2017
Westgate Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
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!
In the new year, we will be making our annual trip to the USA to attend the Dallas Safari Club Show from the 5th to the 8th of January, the Antique Arms Show in Las Vegas from the 20th to the 22nd of January and finally Safari Club International also in Las Vegas from the 1st to the 4th of February. We will be showcasing the full range of bespoke guns and rifles available to order as well as a large selection of used guns and rifles, together with our range of W. R. & Co. leather goods. We look forward to welcoming customers old and new and hope you are able to meet us at one of the shows. Should you be unable to make it to any of the shows, my colleagues Ricky Bond and ‘LD’ will also be available at our Florida agency from the 10th to the 13th of January and on the West Coast from the 23rd to the 28th of January where appointments can be made to view our selection of new and preowned guns and rifles.
Here at Westley Richards there’s really only one or two topics of conversation that consumes the lunch breaks or after hours chat between work mates and it’s not who is playing football at the weekend or what you’re buying your girlfriend for Christmas, it’s hunting! Where we want to go next, what’s left on the bucket list, what rifle you would take and what trophy is most desired. While having this familiar yarn several months back the discussion of driven Wild Boar shooting came up and featured highly on several of the guy’s ‘must do’ hunts. Fortunately for us, Romain Lepinois, one of our stockers here is French and kindly offered to organise three driven days for myself, Jason Morris, Sam Banner and Stuart Richards in his home region of Bourbonne Les Bannes, which is roughly 3 hours drive east of Paris.
Safety briefing before the afternoon stalk.
As we were all completely new to shooting things on the run with a rifle and having had no previous experience of Wild Boar, the first day was spent stalking the hunting area on foot to get an idea of what game there was in the area as well as identifying what we were allowed to shoot. They have a strict policy on what size boar could be taken. Only females up to a size of 50kg could be shot, to conserve the larger, prime breeding females. Although large males were fair game too, our identification skills were not good enough to be able to determine the sex of the pig as it passed you at 30mph on a woodland ride no wider than a pickup truck, so we decided to stick to shooting the smaller ones.
The hunting area was a fenced 250 acre block of mixed broadleaves, commercial spruce trees with some clearfell areas and tall grasses, with several strategically placed high seats to shoot from. We saw a good deal of pigs in the afternoon and had a few small ‘practice’ drives. A couple of the lads got some shots off but the pigs were too good for them on this occasion. The evening was feast of wild boar meats, locally produced cheeses and superb wines. The excitement was high for tomorrow and our first proper driven day.
The guns heading to their pegs.
A cold but dry day greeted us and after a hearty breakfast we drew pegs and headed out for the first drive. Around 20 people were shooting and about 6 or so beaters with dogs, split into two teams, planned to keep the game moving through the drives. Having drawn peg one I was a little anxious I wouldn’t see much as peg one, in pheasant shooting terms, tends to be the worst out of the bunch. This turned out not to be the case and fortunately for me right at the start of the drive one of the beater’s dogs marked some boar around 50 yards from my peg. A beater ran over to me, shouted something in French which I could only guess was ‘get ready’ and they flushed a group of 20 boar, 15 of which headed down the wood towards the other guns and 5 came out past me onto the clearfell. Too far away at first but not wanting to be out in the open, the boar turned and headed back towards the cover of the wood. As they headed closer to my position, I measured them up through the scope and managed to take a nice 40kg male with my 6.5×55. Two of the beaters joined me to make sure the boar was retrieved and I was duly blooded and congratulated. A fantastic experience I shall never forget. The excitement of the drive continued with a volley of shots further down the wood, hoping it was my colleagues also joining in the action. There were plenty of game around with some larger females crossing the clearfell and the odd Roe deer and occasional fox passing by too quick to get a shot off. Just as I thought the drive had nearly ended, I decided to take a seat on a tree stump, no more than 5 minutes had passed when out of the corner of my eye I spotted another 40kg pig was headed straight for me, again trying to head back into the wood, on rising to my feet and aiming the rifle it took off at a rate of knots and I luckily managed to catch it up and shoot it before it made the thick cover.
Congratulated by the beaters on taking my first wild boar.
Sadly my comrades had not had quite such good fortune, only Romain had shot one, although they had seen plenty of game, a suitable shot did not present itself. Such is hunting.Stuart Richards keeping watch from his high seat.
After another fantastic feed we set out again and Romain and I decided to join the beating to line to see the action from the other end. After a few frantic hours following the dogs and flushing boar to the waiting guns, the day came to a close, not before Romain and I shared a nice, larger male boar. We met up for the final count and to exchange stories. Luckily Stuart had been successful and managed to bag himself a brace of boar from a large wooden highseat using his over & under double rifle also in 6.5×55. Total was 11 Wild Boar and a Roe deer.
The final bag on the first day.
The next two days hunting were done in much larger blocks of unfenced mature broadleaf woodland, extending to several thousand acres, about an hour from where we hunted on the first day. Hopes were high after an amazing first day. Red deer and Sika were both present in the area and should a large stag present itself we had permission to shoot it, adding a new level of trepidation. Around 30 people in total each day joined the hunt which was made of up of French, English, Belgium and Portuguese nationalities.
The view over a clearfell from a high seat.
Although we didn’t see a huge amount of game passing our stands, by the noise of the dogs and sounds coming from the woods there certainly was a good number of boar in the drives, but like any game we hunt, they are totally unpredictable and knew all too well how to evade the hunters. Although the Westley team didn’t shoot any boar in the larger hunting areas, a few of the local French hunters managed to take a few nice pigs and we shot a few equally challenging Roe Deer. The whole experience of the hunt and hospitality shown to us by our hosts and fellow hunters was superb and it was very special to be able to share their hunting heritage.
The excitement and anticipation of each drive is something none of us had experienced before and we’re certainly hooked on driven rifle shooting, something which is pretty much absent from the UK. The lunch break chats are still full of our boar hunting tales but will soon turn to planning the next adventure.
Westley Richards gunmakers Jason Morris, Sam Banner and Stuart Richards.
My Father, a Veteran of WWII combat in the Pacific Theatre had a few sayings and was not one to suffer fools. He could best be described as a very gentle man. Four amphibious combat assaults will apparently teach one much about themselves. At thirteen, I lost him too early. It is a strange phenomenon that we continue to learn from our parents long past adulthood, and even after they have gone ahead. There seems to be to be a certain imprinting that takes place and endures.
He had many sayings, which were as a practical matter his philosophies. He lived by them without much, if any, variation or discussion. One of these sayings I often think of and find can be applied to business dealings and the contingent relationships. “When all is said and done, let more be done than said”. I never met my Grandfather, he had passed early as well, but my Father spoke of what he learned from him in tough days during the American Depression. They fed themselves and family, gardening, hunting small game, and fishing. I hope that I have those qualities in my character.
Character can exist in many things and manifest itself in many different ways. It can make up and distinguish an individual, group, or nation as to how they conduct themselves and behave; it can separate distinguishable things into categories; identify a nature. It can separate things by its essential elements or traits; it can be a set of qualities that make a place or thing different from other places or things.
A good friend of mine for some thirty five years and a knowledgeable gun lover of the highest order just recently returned from a three week tour of Scotland, Ireland, and England. He had reserved a good part of the last week of the trip to visit London Gunmakers and a few dealers he was familiar with. In our conversation I expressed to him that I would like to make that exact trip. His response was, “Don’t. Instead see the tourist things in London, the famous Gunmakers are a waste of time, and no fun. I felt like I was at my in-laws”. This statement did shock me just a bit. He went on to tell me that he went into one of the most famous makers, at a most famous location and of three employees, not one, spoke even a single word to him. He is a good sport and can find humor in almost anything, and left the subject alone after the comment, “I suppose they would have taken cash, but they didn’t ask for it”. I actually found this hard to believe yet he assured me his account was accurate. He went on to tell me about his experiences at a couple of the other famous makers and felt it was a little better, but not by much and he just did not feel welcome. He came away with the impression that because he was dressed comfortably for a full day of activity that he was somewhat disqualified at a glance. He tells me that his experience at some of the dealer shops was an altogether the opposite experience, telling me what he saw and may follow up on. This man does not have a pretentious bone in his body nor any “chip on his shoulder”. If he is right, that he was dismissed just on his casual appearance a big mistake was made. This gentleman can impact an order book in a serious way if he so chooses, and likely has time for the wait.
The magnificent facade of James Purdey & Sons.
I do feel that this is an extreme example and at least hopefully not the norm. In full disclosure I have not made the trip, so have not had this experience personally at the London locations. This was not the first time I have heard this, but this time from a most reliable source. I have experienced it in a different environment at the large shows of SCI and DSC in the United States, admittedly not so extreme. The very nature of these shows is a little more relaxed. The puzzling thing that has occurred to me on many occasions is that I have looked at a maker’s guns and walked away without having either been taught anything about their particular guns nor have they solicited any questions or business. Maybe I am just lucky to get to see their guns or need to wear a suit.! They are not doing anyone favors by letting them look at their goods. Isn’t the purpose of being at these shows, for lack of a better description, an attempted outreach to new customers? This approach is baffling to me.
This seems to me to be a relationship model, maker to customer, which is completely inverted. It is at minimum in my opinion an organizational character problem. If in the previous account of my friends experience the front line sale force will not make contact, certainly there is little hope of anything more. The periodicals that I read which are both American and English are full of very well done, slick ad copy. These ads do give you a sense of what a company can do, at least for someone! This perceived ‘stuffiness’ is I am convinced at least one of the reasons there is a healthy used or secondary market in English guns. Of course there is the favorable pricing, immediate delivery, but I am suspect that it is also to avoid this stuffiness!
There are exceptions in my experience;
Marc Newton in the Rigby Workshop.
I believe over the last three years at DSC that Mark Newton, MD of John Rigby & Co. has recognized me, if not by name, and made an effort to answer any and all questions and go as far as to sit down and take a few minutes to have a friendly visit. They set their space up in a manner that facilitates, and invites this. This seems to me to be the purpose and value of being there. From what I can see they are on to a good thing, and I for one wish them well and greatly appreciate the way that I have been approached. I believe that they, “get it”.
I do believe, and this from personal experience, that Westley Richards is the standout in all phases of service and customer care and I hear this consistently from friends of mine who are clients. They also have great advertising content, with excellent photography, but this is not the end of it. They show a diverse catalog of new and used guns, along with restoration services, traditional in-house made leather goods with custom one-off capability. There is also a comprehensive retail side of clothing, foot wear, etc. It is approaching impossible to thoroughly cover all of the in-house capability that Westley Richards currently have. Even with this large offering of goods and services this is still not the end of it.
While this is all outstanding, it goes much deeper than this. There is a transparency that you will not see anywhere else and much of it displayed on The Explora. I think Ross Seyfried said it best in a previous post, “those in the workshop understand old things and their history”. Westley Richards staff know and understand the historic legacy and standards that comes together to form the character of the company. Because the folks working there gain an understanding of the company’s history and where it came from they gain an insight into its character. Those in leadership know that this understanding is just as important as the technical and trade skill competency. Should a project’s complexity require it, advice is available to a client not only from experienced and qualified manager of a particular department but from the owner of the company. I am sure it could be found at the smaller boutique makers as well. This same advice may exist at other makers and I am just not aware of it. If so and you find this opinion offensive; my apologies. I do not think though that so much knowledge across such a broad spectrum of products, guns, and rifles exist anywhere else. Not to mention used guns and restoration capability. It goes beyond sales, yes that is an element, but it manifest itself more in the manner of consultation and a way of doing business.
Where does this come from? It comes from knowing the company’s history. It comes from a family’s investment, dedication, and toil in a company through good and bad times. It comes from Walter Clode knowing the company’s history, where it came from, all the way to the turn of the last century and beyond and spending time in the land where many of the companies guns were sold and lived, repatriating those guns to be given a new life. This knowledge and experience being passed on to Simon to steward this legacy and at the same time moving the company forward as conditions require yet not forgetting the past and acutely understanding the character of the company. This cycle of work, failure, success, adjustment, and work builds character. The character of Westley Richards is one of perseverance, doing the best work that they are capable of doing, and being in a position to consult clients in a manner that gives the customer confidence. The strength and competency of the individuals who understand the history of a company, when in a collective creates a company whose core competency as a company then becomes one of character. When the day to day work and customer contact is being conducted in the context of a constancy of purpose, “to build the best gun that we can build”. When the leadership is making decisions in a cycle of continuous improvement, not forgetting the history and hard won character of a company. All of this separates, distinguishes, and creates a window of transparency into a company. I believe that knowing who they are is the strength of Westley Richards.
I believe they are very much a company that exhibit, “when all is said and done, let more be done than said”.
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.
One of the greatest experiences in the hunting world has to be approaching dangerous game with a large calibre rifle intent on using only the open or ‘iron’ sights to aim. The need to stalk in really close, as quietly as possible, often under tough conditions really adds a physical and mental element to the hunt and certainly heightens all the senses of the hunter!
Long before man had perfected the telescopic sight the majority of big game was hunted with open sights. Long range target competitions were shot with open sights, as were nearly all military weapons. As the telescopic sight improved for sporting arms so man learnt to shoot his game more accurately and humanely, often at more extreme ranges. Where dangerous game was concerned, buffalo in particular could be shot out to longer distances.
At this point the question of ‘sport’ raises its head. Dangerous game was traditionally hunted very up close and personal. As those of you who have hunted dangerous game will know, part of the sport in this type of hunting is the element of danger associated with being in close proximity to such game and that if all goes wrong then you really may be required to shoot your way safely out of a very tight situation.
Hunting with open sights may not be for everyone, but for a growing number of keen enthusiastic hunters it is. Certainly, say when hunting one buffalo on a safari it is better to enjoy the days with stalking and chase than taking a long distance shot on the first day that doesn’t even get the adrenalin flowing. I would prefer a ‘shitty’ buffalo and an exciting hunt any day, as opposed to a long distance better quality one. If of course a monster comes out a different decision may need to be made!
Hunting with a double I have always felt puts a different perspective on the hunt, it does force you in closer where you can take a safe accurate shot, practise with the rifle being the key here. Similarly with smaller game, hunting with say a classic .318 or .275 with open sights is immense fun and I always take greater satisfaction from taking a trophy in this manner.
For any PH’s out there wincing at these words, sorry, I know it makes you have to work a little harder but even you’ll agree it makes for a far more exciting hunt. Ultimately this is one of the very reasons for a hunter coming to Africa and the reason so many return.
This is the 2nd edition of the book with a dust wrap illustrating C. Fletcher Jamieson with his Holland double .450
As a manufacturer of traditional big game rifles there are always those classic books that come up in discussion and without question one of the very best is John ‘Pondoro’ Taylors “African Rifles & Cartridges” published in 1948.
I have always found this book a great resource as it details all the great British calibre’s, specifically bullet weight and velocities. Having worked at Westley Richards for well on 13 years this has proved invaluable as we have been lucky enough to deal in so many great vintage rifles, both double and bolt action in every calibre mentioned in Taylors book. Being able to turn to this book in my early days was of real benefit when looking up the oddities that still arrived from India.
What continues to amaze me from a modern perspective is that even with the advancement in bullet technology and optics, the traditional British big game rifle of Taylor’s era has remained virtually unchanged, a testament perhaps to all round perfection in gunmaking.
Today we have in production double and bolt action rifles in .300 H & H, .318 WR, .375 H & H, .425 WR, .450/.400 3″, .404 Jeffery, .470, .500, .505 Gibbs, .577 and .600, calibres all discussed in detail in Taylor’s book.
Taylor himself spent the greater part of his life as an ivory hunter, come poacher and was lucky enough to be around at a time when big game hunting and access to the rifles of the great British manufacturers of the time were both readily available.
Whilst Taylors own exploits and life remain controversial, no-one can take away the fact that he wrote a fantastic book, one that has often been copied, but never bettered. The whole layout, photography and line drawings make for a great visual and informative book dealing principally with British big game calibres, rifles and hunting in Africa.
One of the many photos taken by the famous hunter C.Fletcher Jamieson which illustrate Taylors book
The line drawings and descriptions of the various cartridges and bullets make for a fascinating insight
The Sable has always been a top trophy and one that I have always wanted to hunt. Whilst Taylor considered this a ‘fair average’ specimen it would probably be considered very good indeed today!
A modern era Westley Richards take down bolt action rifle in .425 WR.
In my own humble opinion no serious African hunter or avid gun collector should be without a copy of this book in their library. I have owned several copies since the age of 15 and at one stage ticked off all the different calibre’s I was lucky enough to shoot here at Westley Richards and out in the field!
A brace of Holland & Holland .375 Flanged Magnum ‘Royal’ double rifles.
Taylor was always a great advocate of the .375 Holland cartridge and today it still remains the ‘all around’ cartridge and one which no hunter should be without.