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.
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!
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!
The Bissell or Rigby ‘rising bite’ third fastener.
Wonderfully detailed Indian big game scenes throughout.
Stepped breach, dipped edge lock plate and single trigger.
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.
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!
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.
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’
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whilst we often associate the sporting gun with the British sportsmen and the great shooting that this country has to offer, it is always worth remembering that the sport of shooting is a truly worldwide affair.
The USA was and still is one of the largest markets in the world for shooting and hunting related products. At one time meat on the table was often through the efficient use of a favoured gun or rifle and the ‘market gunners’ of old kept a very healthy and expanding population fed with what many saw as an endless supply of game birds and animals.
Obviously where there was the need for shotguns and punt guns to take quarry so there was the need for powder and shot to take them. It is therefore nice to see vintage items like the one illustrated here turn up from this now bygone era.
Clearly a salesman travelling companion this very neat case outside inscribed ‘Tathams American Standard’ is a wonderful fold over case that contains inside 20 samples of American shot sizes ranging from the very finest ‘Dust’ to ‘FF’. The quality of workmanship in the whole piece is superb and once again it goes to show the detail that companies once went into with everything they made. The shot itself is perfectly round and was obviously made from a ‘drop’ tower so that the lead shot formed perfectly.
On the edge of the case you can clearly read Patented June 19 1874 which dates the whole thing very nicely. Tatham Brothers was a lead pipe, sheet lead and shot supplier based in 82 Beekman Street, New York. In existence from the 1840’s they appear to have patented many improvements in both the manufacture of shot, bullets and other projectiles, and were heavily involved in supplying the Union Army during the American Civil War of 1861 to 1865. It would appear that the manufacture of lead shot with the company ceased prior to 1907 when their own ‘shot tower’ was demolished. The rest as they say is history.
The British Shooting Show has a habit of delivering interesting items for the discerning eye. This year we were lucky enough to come across this very nice leather compact 12 bore cartridge magazine that appears to be of French manufacture.
Such aged items are always a pleasure to find as they remind us of a period of great ingenuity and quality when even the most simple items were made to the very best standard. The attention to detail is outstanding from the lovely brass latches to the quality of stitching found throughout the item. Someone clearly cared about making this item.
With a capacity capable of holding 28 cartridges, split 14 either end, this magazine was clearly never intended for big days, but rather the ‘walk up’ shooter, perhaps woodcock hunter who might only fire a handful of cartridges in a day.
Hopefully next years show will throw up another little gem!
We are always amazed by the diversity of products that seem to have left the Westley Richards factory in the last 200 years. Take for instance this rather unusual .410 over and under pistol.
Completed circa 1935 the pistol is based on a design that was originally patented to Charles Lancaster who used the design for their Howdah and Officer pistols. It was available from them in various pistol calibres up to .577 and came in both 4 and 2 barrel versions all operated with a single trigger. The single trigger could also be extended and when cocked act as a set trigger which was handy for precision shooting.
This Westley Richards version is proofed for the .410 2 1/2″ cartridge shooting a 7/16 ounce load which suggests that it could really only have been intended for use either as a vermin control pistol, or more interestingly a specimen collectors pistol. The idea of facing a wounded tiger with it or some hostile native seems definitely out of the question!
Amazingly it comes presented in a lightweight leather case with cleaning rod and brushes all certainly made at the time it was supplied. Seeing such a case always fills us with anticipation and yet again we were not disappointed. A nice fun item to see bearing the Westley Richards name, one we may even use as a template for a new ‘compact’ .410 over and under quail gun!
My father has been a gun dealer for as long as I can remember. In turn, I sold my first gun when I was only 11 and by the time I was out of high school I had made the gun business my career choice as well. As my career moved on and I was buying, selling and trading guns, I became enamoured with Best English guns, in particular those made by Wesley Richards. Through a mutual friend I met Simon Clode and I was happy to help him with his logistics during the Safari Club show season, help he was glad to accept. More and more I bought and sold fine guns and more and more I found myself calling on Simon for advice. What started as some friendly help became a mentorship that eventually evolved into a job offer, and really the only offer that could lure me away from the family business.
When Simon broke the news of my new position of manager of the Westley Richards Agency back in July, I was somewhere between Bozeman, MT and Gulf Breeze, FL as I was moving shops. Simon had wanted to keep the move quiet and seamless and announced the move only when we were packed out of Bozeman and on the way south.
The drive was a precursor to the long days ahead as we started to remodel our new space in Gulf Breeze and my training would start on how things get done the Westley Richards way. While new gun making has always been the hallmark of the firms two hundred year history and remains the core focus of the business, the buying and selling of rare and fine guns has also always played an extremely important role in the company’s success. Westley Richards offers a quiet, discreet and personal service for its clients offering a unique ability to acquire and sell fine and rare guns based on many years experience and many ‘little black books’ recording what guns are where.
There are two chapters from our company’s history book “In Pursuit of the Best Gun”, that are most interesting to me, they cover Walter Clode’s and Malcolm Lyell’s tenures with Westley Richards. Each of these chapters highlight their contributions, not only to the English gun trade, but to the American gun market as well, by dealing in high quality firearms, widely from India, to the American gun collector. Today that same tradition is carried on by Simon Clode, who has been quietly selling the World’s finest guns for 30 years.
Here at the Westley Richards Agency, I will be doing what I feel I do best, and that is finding and selling fine guns. I will be available to assist in making new gun orders and answering questions as well as help with receiving orders that are imported from the U.K. But one aspect I am most excited about is the handling of the select and very high quality second hand guns that come through the agency.
The dealing of used guns is an important part of Westley Richards’ history and I’m looking forward to carrying on that tradition to the very high standards set.
Today, I am very pleased to introduce a very nice, small collection of guns and rifles which we have recently received these are new to the market and will be available on our used guns site during the coming week. These guns and rifles are all based here in USA and I would welcome any calls of interest.
James Purdey & Sons .375 H&H Magnum Express Rifle.
James Purdey & Sons. 12g Over and Under 2 barrel set.
Holland & Holland Royal .500 3″ Double Rifle.
Holland & Holland Royal 500/450 Double Rifle.
Holland & Holland Royal .375 Flanged Magnum double rifle.
James Purdey & Sons. A Pair of 20g 28″ game guns as new.
James Purdey & Sons. 12g Over and Under two barrel set as new.
John Rigby & Co. .470 double rifle. (Not Rising Bite)
Holland & Holland Royal .500 Double Rifle, cased and unfired.
Westley Richards Hand Detachable Lock ‘droplock’ .470 Double Rifle.
Holland & Holland Royal .500/450 double rifle.
Holland & Holland Royal .375 Flanged Magnum Double Rifle.
James Purdey & Sons. A .375 H&H Magnum Express Double Rifle.
James Purdey & Sons. A Vintage .369 Purdey Express Double Rifle.
Holland & Holland. A Pair of 12g ‘Sporter’ Over and Under guns.
Pair of E. J. Churchill 12g sidelock game guns.
Westley Richards .300 WSM bolt action rifle built in Kurtz action.
Asprey, London. A 300 Win Mag Carbine rifle.
Fabbri 12g Over Under.
Fabbri 12g Over Under
Fabbri 12g Over Under Shotgun
Holland & Holland .375 H&H Magnum Bolt Action.
John Rigby .416 Bolt Action rifle on Magnum Mauser.
Westley Richards .375 Bolt Action rifle built on original Oberndorf Magnum Mauser.
My thanks to Emma who came over from England to take the photographs and teach me some more tricks with the camera.