E.J.Churchill Best Quality Vintage .470 Double Rifle

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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.

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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.

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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.

www.ejchurchill.com

Charles Boswell .303 Single Shot Rifle

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Above is the portrait of Mr. Charles Boswell (1850-1924) and no doubt his name will be familiar to readers of the Explora. From relatively humble beginnings and a love of shooting his entry into the gun trade, age 14, was through an apprenticeship to Mr. Thomas Gooch and two years at the Royal Small arms factory at Enfield as a sight filer. In 1872 he started his own gun making business, initially carrying out repairs and general gunsmithing. A much admired gun maker, he was popular with the ladies and a talented live pigeon shot, frequenting Hornsey Wood and Westley Richards’ very own Hendon shooting ground, North London, where his skills were noticed by the trap shooters of the time. Boswell would impress and schmooze these shooters, converting them into clients which was common practice for gun makers of the time, James Lang and Harris Holland to name a couple.

16-8The Westley Richards shooting school at Hendon, North London.

Considered to be no great inventor, he preferred to use other makers’ patents under licence but made a of variety guns including large bore fowling pieces, hammer and hammerless actions, muzzleloaders and pistols. Live pigeon guns proved to be Boswell’s specialty and took up a good deal of his production until the prohibition of live pigeon shooting in the UK came about in the early 1920’s. His 126 Strand address in the West End of London is his most famous and the majority of his guns in existence today bear that name.

An active member of the gun trade, in 1906 and 1907 he was elected Chairman of the Gunmakers Association and served it for many years. Around 1914 Boswell changed from having his guns proofed in London and instead moving them to the Birmingham Proof House. One train of thought is he was buying barreled actions in from the Birmingham trade, or another reason is he or his son, who was involved in the business, fell out with the London Proof Master. Hence why it is not uncommon to see his guns with Birmingham proof marks.

One such rifle built by Boswell, which is evidence of his skills as a gun maker, is this fabulous little .303 single shot rifle we currently have at the factory. Completed around 1905, it has the most superb and rare engraving, not commonly found on a rifle such as this. Featuring a selection of African plains game such as Eland, Bluewildebeest and Impala surrounded by intricate scroll work. The name C. Boswell gently rolls around the hinge pin on both sides of the action, the raised panel fences with their bold scroll fold round to the top of the action where I can only guess it to be a 1905 gun engraver’s idea of a Duiker, which stands alert on the top of the tang top lever. The engraving is though, beautifully executed and the three Eland on the right hand side of the action are very accurate and have to be my personal favourite.

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The rifle features a 28″ octagonal barrel with matted rib, ramp foresight, one fixed 100 yard express sight and six folding leaves regulated to 700 yards with the 126 Strand address engraved at the breech. A 14 1/4″ pistol grip stock with grip cap, cheekpiece, oval and Silvers recoil pad. The rifle weighs 7lbs 5oz and we think it’s a very cool little rifle and a great example of early 1900’s craftsmanship, imagination and flair.

Wonderful Daniel Fraser & Co. .475 Boxlock Ejector Double Rifle

Dan'L Fraser & Co .475 #3502 (1 of 4)

To all great rifle enthusiasts the name of Daniel Fraser should need no introduction. Established in 1878 in the city of Edinburgh, Fraser would become one of the pre-eminent Scottish gun and rifle makers, with particularly emphasis placed on rifle manufacture. Anyone who owns or has ever handled one of Frasers original rifles can only be impressed by the level of workmanship and quality that went into its manufacture.

Take for example the double rifle illustrated here. Built in .475 3 1/4″ nitro express calibre, the rifle has the distinctive crescent shaped action, carved fences and wonderful fine rose and scroll engraving familiar to all of Frasers best quality double rifles. Interestingly the rifle is fitted with scope mount bases, the scope itself sadly missing from the case. This same scope mount can be found on Frasers wonderful single shot rifles which seems to indicate that he was a great advocate of the riflescope and its aid to accuracy. How the scope performed under the recoil from such a rifle is anyones guess and perhaps explains its absence!

Dan'L Fraser & Co .475 #3502 (2 of 4)

Fraser’s business was relatively short lived, as the cost of producing such high grade rifles, coupled with competition from the vast Birmingham manufacturers, sadly led to his closing of the business in the early 1900’s. Various family members continued in the gun trade, but the name of Daniel Fraser & Co. vanished until the 1980’s when it saw a re-birth and later amalgamation into the Dickson & MacNaughton group, based once again in Edinburgh. Regrettably this year the Edinburgh premises of Dickson & MacNaughton was closed sliding this once great name back into exile.

Dan'L Fraser & Co .475 #3502 (3 of 4) Dan'L Fraser & Co .475 #3502 (4 of 4)

The Latest Offerings From The Gunroom

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Here are a selection of pre-owned guns which have recently arrived in the gunroom. They are due to go on the used gun site shortly.

Firstly we have a stunning Westley Richards 12g Heronshaw completed in 1934. In total original condition, the 25” barrels have original proofs, good wall thickness with 2 1/2″ chambers and are choked 1/4 and extra full. The double trigger Anson & Deeley action features Westley snap lever work, automatic game safe and is fully engraved with bold scroll and retains a good amount of case colour. The straight hand stock measures 14 1/4″ to centre with a slim heel plate and silver escutcheon. The splinter forend has an ebony tip and Deeley catch. The gun weighs 6lbs 3oz and is in superb original condition and comes in its lightweight leather case with accessories. A lovely, fast shooting gun that has seen almost no use for the last 30 years.

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If short barrels aren’t your thing, then this 30” barreled Westley Richards boxlock ejector with a 15 3/4″ length of pull might be more up your street! Built for Sir F. Menzies and completed in December of 1939, the fixed lock, Anson & Deeley action features two triggers, Westley snap lever work, automatic beetle back safety, scroll engraving and retains some nice case colours. The 30” barrels feature our model ‘C’ dolls head extension, has 2 1/2″ chambers and is choked improved cylinder and 1/2. The gun was reproofed in London in 1982. The handsome, straight hand stock measures 15 3/4″ to centre which includes a 1 3/8” wooden extension and gold oval. The splinter forend features a horn tip and Deeley catch. Weighing 6lbs 9oz this is an ideal ‘high bird’ gun ready for the fast approaching season.

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The third gun we have to offer is a Westley Richards 12g ‘Centenary Model’ boxlock ejector. This gun is due to go through the workshops to have some barrel improvements and a reproof test. The centenary model was a fixed lock action with a tang top lever, patent one trigger and deluxe scroll engraving. It was offered as an affordable gun for people who wanted our one trigger but couldn’t justify the expense of a best quality droplock gun. This boxlock has 28” barrels with 2 1/2” chambers, choked improved cylinder and 1/2. The straight hand stock measures 13 3/4” to centre and has chequered side panels with fleur-de-lis drop points, the forend features the Anson push rod rather than the Deeley catch. The gun weighs 6lbs 8oz and comes in a leather case.

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Something aside from the boxlock shotguns are these great percussion pocket pistols made by John T. Cook of New Street, Birmingham. Beautifully made with 1 7/8” octagonal screw off barrels, elaborate scroll engraving, clam shell panels, dolphin head hammers, folding triggers, thumb safety and chequered handles with grip caps with traps. They are neatly presented in the original box with their powder flask, turnscrew, barrel key, oil bottle, shot mold and it even includes some percussion caps and lead shot. They are neat pair of 19th century pistols that would complement anyone’s gunroom, office or home.

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Westley Richards are and always have been very active dealers in the pre-owned gun market and we take great pride in selling fine sporting guns and rifles to hunters and collectors all around the world. We happily welcome expressions of interest whether you’re looking to buy or sell a quality used gun or rifle. For UK enquiries, please email guns@westleyrichards.co.uk or if in the USA, guns@westleyrichards.com

A Trio Of Rare Colt Revolvers

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Now we are going to have to be honest here and say that whilst we are great fans of the fabulous revolvers designed and manufactured by Samuel Colt, we are in no way experts on the various models or variations thereof. That said, what we do know about the three shown here is that they are all rare and interesting either historically or aesthetically and would take pride of place in any collection.

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This fabulous .44 Colt ‘Dragoon’ is by all accounts special as it is a fully engraved or ‘Presentation’ model. Three models of dragoon were manufactured between the period 1848 and 1860 all with subtle variations. Numbers manufactured between all models was fairly low by modern production standards, which makes any of them highly collectible today. This revolver has the serial number 20.

Colt Revolvers-4937-Edit Colt Revolvers-4990-EditThe wonderful ‘English’ style engraving on the ‘Dragoon’ revolver

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This .36 Navy Colt revolver was manufactured at Colt’s factory in London between 1853-1856 and was later used in the siege of Delhi in 1857. The British navy and army ordered a combined 18,000 of these pistols but the British never adopted the revolver as the official sidearm of the military establishment. This accounts for the short term manufacture of these pistols in London, as Samuel Colt closed the factory and shipped all the manufacturing machinery back to the USA. Clearly British interests were at stake and needed protecting!

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This final .36 Navy Colt really is unique as with this revolver Major Henry Tombs (later Major General Sir Henry Tombs) was awarded Britain and the Commonwealths highest award for gallantry, the ‘Victoria Cross’. It was during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, on 9th July at the siege of Delhi, that Tombs twice came to the aid of Lieutenant James Hill saving his life with this very revolver. Interestingly this was the same year that the Victoria Cross was officially introduced and awarded. The revolver comes in a fabulous Manton & Co, Calcutta case and really is a great piece of British military history.

Colt Revolvers-4944-Edit Colt Revolvers-5004-Editvictoria crossThe ‘Victoria Cross’ – Britain and the Commonwealths highest award for gallantry

Thomas Horsley Percussion ‘Howdah Rifle’

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Thomas Horsley Gunmaker, was originally founded in 1832 in Doncaster, England moving within only a couple of years to the City of York where the rifle shown here was manufactured circa 1840. This particular .450 percussion rifle retains much of its original finish and patina, but is particularly interesting in that a damascus telescopic sight has been added at some stage, presumably by the maker. This is the only muzzleloading double rifle that we have seen fitted with a quick detachable telescopic sight and there certainly cannot be too many around as it would undoubtedly have been a very new invention for the time.

Going back to the business, Thomas Horsley the elder passed the company onto his son Thomas who continued the operation from Coney Street, York. On his death, circa 1915, the business passed on once again to his son, another Thomas (!) who ran it with his brothers from Blossom Street, York and later Micklegate, York, which was to be the company’s last address when it ceased trading in the late 1950’s.

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Another interesting feature of this rifle is its compact size. Whilst we cannot confirm it, we have always rather romantically referred to this rifle as a ‘Howdah Rifle’ as its compact nature befits the tight space likely encountered from the howdah on the back of an Indian elephant. It would certainly be very handy to use and the telescopic sight might just help pick an animal out from amongst the tall grass. The wonderfully naive engraving on the lock plates of tiger and deer adds greatly to this hypothesis!

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A Vintage Game Scene Small Bore Rigby Rifle

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Game scene rifles of the pre war era have always seemed thin on the ground and outside of the great Mahrajah’s and the occasional ostentatious aristocrat, the majority of double rifles tended to be of the traditional house scroll engraved format.  An Englishman was far more reserved and refined in his tastes!

This pretty little Rigby in .256 rimmed is one of those exceptional little rifles that you would like to own just because the engraving takes you back to the golden age of big game hunting when the continents of India and Africa competed for the attentions of the avid big game hunter.  Beautifully engraved with game scenes of Indian big game including tiger, leopard, black buck, sambar and cheetal deer, all credit must be paid to the engraver who most likely had never viewed any of these game animals live and most certainly not from some download off the internet.

The small calibre of the rifle, single trigger and stepped breach only add to the delicate nature of both the rifle and game scenes.  Completed in 1907 for H.H Maharana of Udaipur it has obviously been well used without being over-abused and surely if it could speak would have many an exciting story to tell!

J. Rigby Rifle #17394-3763-Edit J. Rigby Rifle #17394-3730-Edit The Bissell or Rigby ‘rising bite’ third fastener.

J. Rigby Rifle #17394-3731-EditJ. Rigby Rifle #17394-3747-EditWonderfully detailed Indian big game scenes throughout.

J. Rigby Rifle #17394-3742-EditStepped breach, dipped edge lock plate and single trigger.

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!

WR 10g #14022 (4 of 4) WR 10g #14022 (1 of 4)

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.

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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