Unusual Westley Richards Single Barrel 20 Gauge

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.

Pretty W.W.Greener Double Rifle

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.

‘Alexander Henry – Rifle Maker’ By Donald Dallas

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/

Charles Lancaster ‘Nizam’ Rifles – Part Two

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.

E.M.Reilly & Co. Royal Presentation Combination Gun

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.

New And Unique W.J.Jeffery .600 Double Rifle

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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.

Jeffery

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.

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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 anthony@westleyrichards.co.uk

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Alexander Henry .360 Miniature Rifle

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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)