Every now and then you get one of those great guns come through the door that you just have to stop and admire. This week we had the opportunity to look at a fabulously original Westley Richards 12g ‘Pigeon’ gun that retains nearly all of its original factory finish. Guns in such condition really are hard to find these days and one in this configuration even rarer still.
Completed in 1931 this Westley Richards was built as a ‘special quality’ gun intended for the live pigeon circuit, a pursuit still undertaken in hushed corners of the world. The Anson & Deeley fixed lock action has a wonderful depth and presence that genuinely and perfectly puts the weight at an impressive 8lbs 7ozs. The gun is supremely steady in the hands with a muzzle forward pointability that makes the gun swing with ease.
Vivid case colour hardening dominates the action.
The large breech ends, side clips, cross bolt and high shoulders add a real distinctive look to the gun which is only enhanced by the 30″, 3″ chambered barrels with distinctive flat top ventilated competition rib. Choked 3/4 and Full the gun packs some serious ‘out there’ capability!
The 14 3/4″ pistol grip with horn cap continues the flowing lines of a formidable gun that has wonderful engraving of pigeons, the metalwork itself retaining all of the original vivd case colour hardening and charcoal blueing of the furniture.
Here in the UK, it would make a fantastic ‘high bird’ gun capable of handling some of the more punchy cartridges favoured for this discipline. Alternatively it could just as well return to the live pigeon arena, the environment for which it was originally intended.
Fresh into stock at our UK factory are these two Westley Richards boxlock ejectors. Firstly we have a classic ‘Heronshaw’ model, built on a fixed lock, double trigger action with all the usual Westley Richards features; snap lever work, model C dolls head extension and beetle back safety catch. Ordered by Mr. A. FitzHerbet-Wright and delivered in 1926, the action is engraved with the usual Heronshaw style basket weave and retains some lovely original colour. Original 28” barrels which have recently been reproved, with 2 3/4” chambers and are choked 1/4 and 3/4. The well figured, straight hand stock measures 14 7/8″ to the centre of the butt, with drop points, silver escutcheon, horn heel plate, splinter forend with a horn tip and Deeley catch. The gun weighs 6lbs 8ozs and is offered for sale in a leather case. This is a fine example of the Heronshaw model which has proved to be popular with shooters and collectors alike.
Secondly we have a Westley Richards boxlock ejector, completed in November 1933, that was built for a Major W.H.Taylor as the No.2 gun to pair with the No.1 gun that we built for him in 1912. Built in very much the same style as the Heronshaw, it has a fixed lock, double trigger action with all Westley Richards features. The action is engraved with a bold scroll, very typical of the boxlocks we built in this era. 28” barrels with original proof, 2 1/2” chambers and choked 1/4 and 5/8. Straight hand stock, lighter in colour, measuring 15 1/4” with a horn heel plate, gold stock oval, splinter forend with horn tip and Deeley catch. Number 2 is engraved on the top rib, lever and forend iron. The gun weighs 6lbs 6½ozs and is cased in a compact green canvas case.
The boxlock gun is often overlooked but it represents fantastic value for money, is a strong and reliable action and still has all the style and handling that you’d expect from a best quality sidelock or droplock. Both guns will be on the used gun site shortly.
At Westley Richards we take real pleasure in displaying rare and unusual guns for the readers of the Explora and we certainly handle more than most gunmakers. Sadly not all of these guns are for sale and it’s more of a case of ‘you can look, but don’t touch’. Luckily though, from time to time, we do get those rare and interesting guns come through that are for sale and you can by all means look, touch, shoot, own, admire and adore.
One such gun is this very special and neat little single barrel 20g non ejector shotgun, a model we very seldom see. Completed on the 17th of December 1926, built for stock and sold through our Bennetts Hill, Birmingham city centre shop, it features a 28” ribless barrel with a 2 ½” chamber, choked 5/8 and proofed for 7/8oz loads. Built on an Anson & Deeley fixed lock action with a tang top lever, automatic safety, with name and border engraving, it retains some lovely original case colours. A highly figured, straight hand stock measures 14 ¼” to the centre of the chequered butt, complemented with a silver oval, snap forend and horn tip. The gun weighs 5lbs 10oz and is a real beauty to handle.
This gun would bring a different type of enjoyment to hunting. It’s not about how many you can shoot, or how high, it’s the simplistic, no frills, bare roots of the single barrel and action coupled with its rarity, classic looks and quaint demeanour which would make for some very special and memorable hunting.
A similar gun which featured in our pre-war catalogue was the Single Barrel Top Lever Pigeon Gun at a cost of £25.
I couldn’t think of a more fitting Christmas present for your son, daughter, wife or more likely, yourself. The gun will be advertised on our used gun site shortly.
Hammerless black powder rifles, particularly in the smaller calibres like this .400 Express are always a pleasure to look at and handle as they are so often more delicate than there nitro express cousins. Double rifles built in the period between the box lock hammerless design of 1875 and the first reliable smokeless powder cartridges of the 1890’s can be some of the most elegant rifles built, with slim action file ups and long gently tapering barrels.
Aesthetics aside, this very nice little double rifle by W.W.Greener has some wonderful game scene engraving depicting animals appropriate to European hunting fields. Retaining lots of its original finish the rifle has clearly been well looked after and was a prized rifle to its former owner. It is great to see dogs featuring in the engraving layout as they have always featured heavily in big game hunting traditions, particularly in Europe. It is easy to picture this rifle on a classic driven hunt, once the sport of Kings, nobility and heads of state.
For those eager gun enthusiasts among you the name Donald Dallas should need no introduction. He has almost single handedly written the history of many of the great names in British gun and rifle making including that of Holland & Holland, James Purdey & Sons, Boss & Co., David McKay Brown, John Dickson & Son and now with his latest publication, Alexander Henry.
Alexander Henry was unquestionably one of Scotlands finest rifle makers, posts on this blog testifying to the outstanding quality of the rifles built by him. What makes this book so special is the access Donald had to family archive via the great great grandson of Alexander Henry himself, one Richard Brown. Between the two of them they have put together the most complete history on the maker which is long overdue.
In Donald’s own words:
“It isn’t often that a gun or rifle maker is known to the general public, but Alexander Henry is with the Martini-Henry rifle. Although Henry was in business for a short time between 1852 until his death in 1894, he became a very well-known rifle maker not only in Great Britain but throughout the world. Henry was of a clever, inventive mind with his 1860 rifling and drop block action of 1865 and in addition, he was also astute in promoting this riflemaking ability. He attended all the major competitions, gave his rifles as prizes and was an early enthusiastic founder of the burgeoning Volunteer Movement.
By the 1860s Alexander Henry was the most well-known and pre-eminent rifle maker in Great Britain and the Empire. Orders flowed in from all parts of the world, with the customers in his Dimensions Books reading like a veritable Who’s Who of the period. He received Royal Warrants, unusual for a gunmaker outside London, and was on personal terms with the Prince of Wales.
Such were Henry’s achievements and fame that he featured regularly in The Scotsman and The Times newspapers in their records of shooting competitions, new inventions and military development. This contemporary documentary evidence is quite unusual for a gunmaker and was a great benefit in writing this book. He was a very public figure with not just self-interest driving his ambition, he was very patriotic and was keen to strive towards the greater good for his country.
One fortunate element in writing the Alexander Henry history is the existence of his complete records in the form of two Dimensions Books dating from 1852–1950. These books belong to John Dickson & Son and record in great detail every single firearm he constructed, making it possible to build up a very accurate account of his production.
Yet, for all his undoubted success in business and his contribution to rifle development, his personal life was marred by immense sadness and disappointment. However, he seemed to rise above this despondence and right to the end of his days strove constantly for perfection in all his works. The history of Alexander Henry is one of the most interesting histories of a gunmaker that I have encountered, an amalgam of worldwide success, yet tinged with disappointment and tragedy.”
The book contains around 200 full colour photographs, including the trade labels, patent drawings, photos of Henry’s personal shooting medals, with all 8000 guns and rifles listed by serial number. No gun library should be without a copy!
To purchase Donald’s latest book and for information on his previous publications, please visit http://donalddallas.com/
A couple of weeks back we posted images of a very nice rifle formerly belonging to the Nizam of Hyderabad. Well here is another and it is certainly one of the most unusual percussions rifles that we have seen!
Built in four barrel format, the rifle is in truth a double barrel rifle that revolves once you have discharged the first two shots. There is a very simple sliding top lever that you pull back with the locks on half cock, so allowing you to rotate the barrels and prime them in preparation for the next two shots. Each side by side configuration of barrels has its own set of open sights as well as a sling swivel attachment.
Probably the most unusual feature of the whole rifle package is the fact that it has two stocks and actions. The only discernible difference is that one has a straight hand grip and the other a conventional pistol grip, more common to a double rifle. We have never come across this double stock and action configuration before and can only wonder at the difficult and considerable cost of construction!
As with the previous rifle, this one is fully gold washed and comes complete in its case with numerous accessories in an unfired condition. It has to be said that Charles Lancaster really did build some truly outstanding and unique rifles, this one in our humble opinion being one of the finest.
Two stock configuration certainly unique!
Gold washed action parts.
Sliding top bolt to lock the rotating barrels in place.
A name we don’t see too often these days is that of E.M.Reilly & Co, of London, another of those semi forgotten names from the golden age of British gun and rifle manufacture. It is therefore a pleasant surprise when something special by the maker passes through our factory and reminds us once again that the gun industry has a long tradition of producing magnificent guns and rifles.
This fabulous combination 12 bore rifle and shotgun was built for King Alfonso XII of Spain (1857 – 1885) and displays all the fine qualities in a firearm built for a king. True to the time, the late 1800’s, the gun focuses more on wood to metal fit, graceful lines and functionality, than it does to fancy embellishment. Surprisingly it has a piece of wood that by modern standards would be considered ‘exhibition’ grade, something uncommon at the time. Engraving wise the royal coat of arms sits nicely in gold on the action tang, whereas E.M.Reillys own business name seems to dominate the rest of the gun!
The magnificent case was manufactured and fitted out in the French style with no lack of imagination where tooling was concerned! All of the handles are made from ivory with many of the pieces engraved by hand for that extra unique finish. The interior lining is in a striking blue velvet that has been gold leaf embossed with the makers name and address. Interestingly the exterior has a fantastic brass frame, fully engraved, with the central crown of the King sitting above his monogram.
Taken as a whole, this is a package in every way fit for a King……………..
Gold inlaid coat of arms for King Alfonso XII.
Presentation case in the French style fitted with full tools and accessories.
Brass framed case exterior, unusual for a British cased gun.
The .600 Nitro Express cartridge as released by W.J.Jeffery circa 1900 has always held a certain mystic for those admirers of the British big game rifle. Its formidable reputation as the largest of the original big bore calibres elevated it to a position of authority that remains to this day.
W.J.Jeffery originally built a handful of these rifles on their now famous and very distinctive snap action underlever action all but one of the actions being of fixed lock configuration. A mammoth of a rifle, they were built heavy to absorb the recoil of the 900 grain bullet as it left the muzzle at 1,850 feet per second.
Even in the heyday of British big game rifle manufacture from 1898 to the start of the Second World War, the .600 nitro express remained a rare beast indeed. Original rifles by any of the great makers of the day, built in this calibre are highly sought after and extremely valuable collector pieces. As the originator of the calibre, W.J.Jeffery rifles are certainly the most desired.
It is therefore refreshing to have in our hands today this superb new example of a W.J.Jeffery .600 nitro express, the only one in fact completed since the Second World War. In pristine and unfired condition it was reverse engineered from an original example and demonstrates all of the great features associated with the original rifle including under lever push forward snap action opening, dolls head extension, Jeffery style scroll back action, full scroll engraving, ejectors, weighing in at a sensible 14lb 8ozs with 24″ barrels.
The real beauty of this rifle is that whilst being highly collectible in its own right, it is a modern and totally useable rifle. Complete in elephant skin case it really is an impressive piece and would add greatly to any armoury. Any interested parties should contact me directly firstname.lastname@example.org
Well we just keep having to raid the vaults to find those little items of interest that keep you interested in the world of best guns and rifles. Once again we have a gem of a rifle built by another of the great Scottish gun and rifle makers, in this instance Alexander Henry.
Famous primarily as a rifleman and rifle maker Alexander Henry set up his business in Edinburgh in 1852, at 12 South St Andrew Street. As an avid competition shooter and member of the Edinburgh Rifle Volunteers he was to see the transition from muzzleloading to breechloading firearms and was responsible for many innovations of the time. His first significant patent was no. 2802 of 1860 which was for his famous ‘Henry Rifling’, this was followed by patent no. 1701 of 1865 for the first of his falling block action designs. Most famously it was the Martini action with Henry’s rifled barrel that really made his name, when it was adopted by the British Army as the standard service arm in 1870.
Alexander Henry passed away in 1894, and the business was subsequently taken over by his two sons. Sadly the business fell into decline and eventually ended up as part of the group of famous Scottish gun and rifle makers acquired by Dickson & MacNaughton.
The rifle shown here is based on patent no.1776 and built on the miniature version of the falling block action in .360 black powder. As with other Scottish makers, the quality is simply outstanding with no attention to detail passed upon, from the engraving, to the stocking, to the final casing with all of the accessories.
As a modern gunmaker we appreciate just how hard it must have been for these great gun and rifle makers of old to maintain the unbelievably high standards that they did. In an age well before modern machining and computer design they were way ahead of their time and a credit to the industry.
The gunmaking name E.J.Churchill conjures up for the majority of gun enthusiasts the ‘XXV’ (25″) barrel shotguns that the company was so famous for promoting in the pre-war years. The raised rib and short barrels made for quick gun handling and suited a very instinctive style of shooting promoted by family member Robert Churchill. Brand names such as ‘Hercules’, ‘Zenith’ and ‘Premiere’ remain synonymous with the company.
Double rifles by the maker are few and far between so this particular rifle really is a treat. Built as a ‘Hercules’ best quality model fixed lock ejector in the fantastic .470 nitro express calibre and completed circa 1940, everything about the rifle really is ‘best quality’ with wood that even by modern standards is super exhibition quality, complemented with a fabulous fleur dy lis checkering pattern. The engraving is the tight full coverage Churchill house scroll with the rifle retaining nearly all of its original case colour hardening and finish. As fixed lock double rifles go it is probably one of the best you will see.
Established in 1891 by Edwin John Churchill, the company still thrives from its base in West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, where ironically and very professionally it caters to thousands of shooters every year, a fitting tribute to both Edwin John Churchill and later Robert Churchill who were fanatical shotgun enthusiasts and instructors. For any travelling sportsman coming this season to shoot in the Uk you cannot go wrong paying the shooting grounds a visit and sharpening up your skills.