A Rare Westley Richards .22 LR ‘Best Quality’ Bolt Action Rifle

In all my years selling guns, I don’t think I ever met anyone who didn’t have a .22 LR of some kind. Probably one of the greatest cartridges ever invented, it can be used as a precision target round or a highly effective hunting tool. It is very inexpensive to produce and good reliable firearms, in both handguns and rifles, can be made and sold at very reasonable prices. Not surprisingly, the cartridge is one of the most widely used in the World and I would imagine most readers of this blog have at least one rifle chambered for the .22 Long Rifle.

The American firm J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co. first introduced the .22 Long Rifle (.22 LR) in 1847. It has a rimfire case (based on Louis-Nicolas Flobert’s .22 BB Cap cartridge) and shoots a 0.22” calibre 40 grain bullet at around 1,200 fps producing virtually no recoil. Being cheap, plentiful and easy to shoot, the cartridge also makes a wonderful round for teaching and practicing the fundamentals of shooting.

Due to the popularity of the cartridge, the rifles and handguns chambered for the .22 LR must be in the tens of millions. British companies such as BSA certainly contributed their fair share and even the best gun and rifle makers of England offered rifles chambered in .22 LR. I have seen .22 rifles from makers James Woodward, James Purdey, Holland & Holland, William Evans, and of course, Westley Richards. Most were single shot rook and rabbit rifles, but I have also encountered more than one Best Quality double rifle chambered for the cartridge. However, as popular as the .22 LR is, it is more often associated with a child’s gun or small game hunting. Finding any kind of .22 rifle made to the standard of a best quality big bore rifle, is something that will rarely happen.

You can imagine my surprise when I first heard of the rifle that just came through the U.S. Agency. Made in 1983 to match a customer’s big bore Westley Richards, the rifle pictured here is the only best quailty .22 LR bolt action rifle Westley Richards has ever made.

The history is fuzzy on how this rifle actually came to be but, the story goes, it started out to provide the client with a rifle to practice his shooting, in a chambering more economical and fun to shoot than his big bore rifle, yet having a similar style of sights, size and weight. The current owner had told me about this rifle but seeing it in person, it was clear this project took on a life of its own becoming much more than just a rifle to practice with.

The rifle is best quality in every way. Based on an action of Mauser design, the MAS .22 LR Training Rifle. After WWII, the Mauser factory fell into French controlled territory and during this time, the French had the factory design a .22 calibre training rifle for their military. The Mauser people drew on a previous Mauser 22 design, the KKW, and made some slight modifications. The first ones were produced in the Mauser factory but, production was moved to Manufacture d’armes de Saint-Étienne (MAS) or the Saint-Étienne Arms Manufacturer. MAS was a French state-owned manufacturing company located in the town of Saint-Étienne, where weapons have been manufactured since the Middle Ages. The rifles were assembled until the existing supply of parts were used up.

The metal is engraved in a full coverage ‘House’ pattern scroll common to Westley Richards bolt action rifles from the 1980’s. The rifle is fitted with a highly figured, full-size walnut stock complete with raised beaded cheekpiece, full pistol grip, a very fine point pattern wrap checkering and the traditional horn butt plate, pistol grip cap and forend tip. The rifle also features full size one-piece bottom metal with an inside-the-bow release straddle floor plate. The floor plate opens and reveals the 5-round detachable magazine the MAS 45 rifles were originally fitted with.

For the original MAS 45 magazines to work, the gunmakers hid the magazine under the floor plate and milled a magazine box, from a solid steel billet, to accept the magazine. This allowed the original magazines to work in a standard center fire rifle stock that is far deeper than the original training rifles.

The rifle has a 24” barrel with the same contour as a standard centerfire rifle and the muzzle’s crown is recessed ¼” with a diameter of about .330”, hiding the small .22 calibre bore and further adding to the rifle’s disguise. The barrel was also fitted with Westley Richards pattern island rear sight with one standing Express sight and three folding leaves (50, 75, 100, 150 yds) and Westley Richards patent combination foresight. The rifle was also made to accept a scope and has handmade grooved mounts that replace the original receiver sight the MAS 45 rifles were fitted with. The bases are engraved to match the rest of the rifle and accept American scope rings intended for .22 rifles with ¾” grooved receivers.

As with any best quality gun or rifle, the devil is always in the details. This rifle is certainly not short on any details. I also imagine the rifle comes with plenty of heartache, frustration and disdain from the men who had to make it. While it is hard enough to build a gun or rifle to best quality standards on a model of gun the makers are familiar with, applying that same standard to something the makers have never built brings a new host of challenges to its manufacture. Being that the factory had never made a .22 bolt action before, there were no plans, notes or examples to reverse engineer, so the project started with a blank sheet of paper. Add all of this with an overarching theme to deceive the viewer into thinking it is a larger calibre rifle than it is, I can only imagine the turmoil this little rifle’s creation caused.

Its rarity notwithstanding, the amount of thought, ingenuity and attention to detail that went into this project is quite astounding and, I guess, that is part of what makes this rifle so alluring.

 

Happy 4th July To All Our Good Friends & Customers In The USA.

Happy Independence Day to all our good friends and customers there in the USA. 243 years ago you pushed through your own version of Brexit with a lot more success than we seem to be achieving today!

As a company well supported by the USA we thought it only proper to post a good old piece of American gun history with a little English twist. Winchester is without doubt one of the most iconic rifle names in the world and so it was just this weekend that we persuaded a gun collecting friend of ours to lend us this little gem of a rifle.

This Model ’95 lever action was the first model offered with a box magazine by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and as such allowed for the use of pointed bullets in a Winchester rifle. The design was made famous by Theodore Roosevelt who used one in .405 Winchester calibre on his epic safari of 1909 an account of which is detailed in his subsequent book African Game Trails.

Previous Winchester models had the famous tubular magazine which due to the in-line nature of the cartridge in the magazine, meant that for safety reasons only blunt nosed bullets could be utilised. The Model ’95 changed all that.

This particular rifle is chambered in that great American cartridge the .30-06 Springfield, to this day one of the finest cartridges around. The rifle was offered in this calibre from 1908 to 1926. The rifle features the interrupted thread take-down system and is unbelievably quick and easy to assemble.

Retailed through the London Armoury Company Limited, London, the rifle comes in a very typical English format canvas and leather trim case. Even to the trained eye you would be forgiven for thinking that this case held a small bore shotgun or some other weapon of British origin. The fact it holds a wonderful Winchester take-down rifle is all the more surprising and in truth pleasing.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westley Richards ‘The Explora’ Journal – In From The Printers!!!!

Hot off the press and looking magnificent is The Explora journal by Westley Richards. This last week we received the first 10 copies for approval and we all have to say that it surpasses even our demanding standards!

Having taken 2 1/2 years to bring to fruition it was with great excitement, trepidation and relief that we got to handle the first copies fresh in from the printers. This project was a true labor of love for the team here at Westley Richards, so it was finally great to see the fruits of all that hard work.

The front cover features Westley Richards stunning and as yet unseen ‘Forest Rifle’, a magnificent .600 droplock double rifle specially commissioned to reflect the Central African forest environment. Fully carved in exceptional detail with the flora and fauna of the forest floor, the story of this rifle unfolds in the stunning photography The Explora fans have come to expect from Westley Richards.

Other articles, specially commissioned, focus on engraving, gunmaking, historical weapons, shooting and gun fit, topics we hope will be close to the heart of many an avid sporting man and woman.

Presented in a beautifully-designed luxury format with a combination of high quality uncoated and gloss coated paper stock and an outer cover finished with a scratch resistant matt lamination with spot gloss varnish and gold foil embossed logo. The 180-page journal, epitomises the exceptional standards and painstaking attention to detail synonymous with Westley Richards.

With a limited print run of only 1000 copies, never to be re-printed, The Explora journal is set to become a collectors item that no self respecting Westley Richards afficiando should be without.

The first copies to clients will be coming out in the next few weeks so for those of you yet to place your order now is the time!!!!!

To order your copy of The Explora journal click here

Or

Telephone:  UK 0121 333 1900   USA +1 850 677 3688

Email: retail@westleyrichards.co.uk

 

 

 

A Small Westley Richards Find

Every now and then one of those nice little finds gets passed our way here at Westley Richards. And so it is that this 10 round .22 rimfire stock magazine came our way recently and has been added to the archive here at the factory.

Discovered in the back of an old shop as literally ‘dead stock’ it must have been there from before the First World War and once again highlights that you never know what might be lurking, tucked away in some dark corner. One day I hope to find that elusive Westley Richards howdah pistol, complete with case and accessories in pristine unfired condition…………..

Rigby Refurbishment

Although repairs and refurbishments have always been a part of the Westley Richards repertoire, in recent years, following record numbers of new gun and rifle orders, we have sadly had to reduce the amount we take on. Repairs can be disruptive to the steady flow of new gun manufacture and often, on vintage guns of various makes, can be time consuming when machining and fitting new parts. Even the small amount we now do results in our production manager pulling his hair out trying to work out quite how he’s going to fit it in his extremely busy new gun and rifle schedule and without wishing the poor chap to be bald before his time, we have to be selective on what we take in. On the odd occasion I do manage to sneak a few into the workshops and one such rifle we have recently completed is this superb Rigby .450 Nitro Express Farquharson rifle. I thought the readers of the Explora would enjoy a few before and after photos of this stunning rifle.

In summary, our initial task was to re-regulate the sight work and sort the issue of faulty extraction. The rifle was shooting high and struggling to extract the spent cartridge. Once the rifle was back into working order it could be stripped down and we could then begin the cosmetic works. The wood work was put into the stock finishing shop and the many coats of oil were carefully applied to build the finish up to our normal best quality, high gloss finish. The action was annealed and we then recut and picked up all the engraving, bringing back to life the elaborate scroll work, Rigby name, double line border and sight work. Any pins that were tired or chewed were replaced and engraved. Once done it could be polished and prepped for hardening. The barrel was then polished and best quality re-blacked, topped and tailed, ready to be reassembled. The action, lever, safety button, grip cap and forend diamond were re-colour hardened, the trigger and pins were blued, sight worked and sling stud were blacked. The rifle was then freed up and fully reassembled before the final checks and finishing coats of oil on the stock were applied, ready for final inspection.

I think you’ll agree the rifle has turned out quite superbly and we are proud to have restored this wonderful rifle back to its former glory.

An Interesting ‘Exhibition’ Find At Westley Richards

It is still interesting what turns up here at Westley Richards that we never quite knew about. In the last couple of weeks we sent the old directors desk in for a subtle refurbishment and height increase. Clearly the directors of old were short fellows and rather than confine their old desk to some dusty corner it seemed worthwhile carrying out the described works.

Anyway, it was whilst at the refurbishers that the attached exhibition medal was discovered stuck in the base of one of the drawer pedestals. Now how long this medal has been stuck in the back of the drawers is anybodies guess as none of the old timers here seem familiar with it and I myself have never seen this medal before.

The exhibition medal itself was awarded at the ‘South African Industrial And Arts Exihibition’ held in Grahamstown, South Africa from 1898-1899 and is inscribed ‘Westley Richards & Co. Ltd. Gold Medal For Revolver Convertible To Carbine’. Looking through the archive here at Westley Richards we can only find references to ‘small arms’ improvements all lodged by the renowned Leslie B Taylor for the periods 1897 and 1899. Obviously one of these must relate to this medal.

Two other things make this medal interesting. Firstly it states that this is a ‘Gold Medal’ but clearly it is Bronze. Another medal awarded to Westley Richards from the same exhibition is gilded bronze.The second significant fact from a historical point of view is that 1899 is the same year that the second Boer War (1899-1902) began and this appears to be the last exhibition attended by the company in South Africa.

Vintage Westley Richards .425 Magnum Express At The U.S. Agency

I relish in offering up second hand guns and rifles that are fresh to the market. With the Westley Richards & Co. name and reputation, we are in a very good position to find these gems that have stayed put away and haven’t languished for sale on-line with some other dealer or been tossed around the various auction houses. A few recent examples are the Holland & Holland ‘Royal’.410 and Westley Richards A&D 8g, both exceedingly rare and unique guns, sold here at the U.S. Agency. As luck would have it (and a lot of hard work) I have come across another very interesting rifle, in all original and near new condition, acquired from the original owner’s family.

Solid wall Mauser based action.

The rifle is a Westley Richards .425 Magnum Express Best Quality Mauser bolt action built circa 1955. The rifle is still paired in its original maker’s case with the original accoutrements still wrapped in their tissue paper. During the 1950’s, Westley’s was supplying a rifle of a similar format, albeit with much less finish, to Game Scouts in Kenya and Rhodesia. However, this rifle was bought by a sportsman, is engraved and has a Monte Carlo cheekpiece, a stock shape that rose to prominence in America after World War II. Many of the top tier English makers adopted this stock shape to cater to the U.S. market that was now the largest sporting gun market in the world. This was also the time period when rifles were increasingly fitted with telescopic sights, especially those built for American clients. It is unusual that the rifle was never drilled and tapped and quite remarkable that it has remained unaltered for all these years.

Lever release floorplate with elegant house scroll engraving.

Westley Richards classic and distinctive combination foresight with patent flip over protector.

As if the lovely condition of the rifle isn’t enough, there is another interesting part of this rifle’s story. In the early 1970’s, the original owner used the rifle to successfully take an elephant that body size eclipsed the world record at the time. The gentleman’s record can be found in various record books of the period and you can still see his name, written in pen, on the boxes of ammo. One box includes a few empty brass cases; 6 to be exact. It would stand to reason these are the same 6 rounds Mr. Nielsen mentions in his retelling of the fateful trip. Remarkably, the rifle shows little to no signs of its travels and remains in top form, making it a very viable candidate for anyone’s next dangerous game hunt.

Contained in its original case the rifle is one of those wonderful finds.

A Stunning Original Westley Richards 8 Bore Wildfowl Gun

I am always looking for good second-hand guns to sell and every now and then I find a rose among the thorns.

That idiomatic expression is a bit deceiving though, as the most recent gun I’ve found is nowhere near as delicate or dainty as a rose. Quite simply, it’s a magnificent beast of a gun from an era that has long since passed.

In Westley Richards’ landmark 1912 Centenary catalogue, there is a section devoted to Wildfowl Guns stating:

“The term Wildfowl Gun is very comprehensive. With regard to portable guns fired from the shoulder it includes the 12 bores taking the long cartridge, the 10 bores, 8 bores, and 4 bores…the three larger calibres here mentioned may be particularly regarded as suitable for killing the largest wildfowl, for these guns discharge considerably increased charges of both powder and shot, and so with large shot, the wild geese, ducks, etc. may be killed at the most extended ranges possible.”

Original load data accompany’s this amazing wildfowl gun.

To that measure, that is exactly what I have recently come across. This Westley Richards 8g A&D Fixed Lock was finished in 1909 and, just as the 1912 catalogue states, this gun is a “Double Hammerless Wildfowl Gun, in an 8 bore with a plain finish and anti-recoil heelplate” and these models were built on special order, to the customer’s specifications.

Accompanying the gun are three pages, clipped together, of beautifully handwritten notes showing the guns serial number, gauge, load data and pattern results at different size circles and distances for three different shot sizes. No doubt factory notes recorded when the barrels were regulated. Looking back at the ledgers, the gun was “sold to” one F.W. Lanchester who would, no doubt, have to be one Frederick W. Lanchester (Oct. 23, 1868 – March 8, 1946) who was an English automotive engineer and founder of Lanchester Engine Company and The Lanchester Motor Company in Birmingham, England. Certainly, the type that would be obsessive with data from test results.

Condition is king and this gun has it all. One of the finest 8 bore guns we have ever seen.

Along with the paperwork the gun is complete in its original lightweight canvas case, with the original oil pot, two-piece rosewood cleaning rod (that is massive) and original mop, jag and brush

Weighing in at just under 14 pounds with 34” barrels and “extreme choke” in each barrel, this is a long range shotgun of note. A true Westley in every sense built on the venerable Anson & Deeley Fixed Lock action and fitted with the patent Model “C” doll’s head bolting and snap lever work and an automatic “beetle” back safety. The gun was offered with ejectors, however, this is a non-ejector with two triggers. The gun stock has a Silver’s type pad, a capped pistol grip with a full-length trigger guard and a splinter forend with a Deeley latch and horn forend tip. The gun displays almost all its original, and very vivid, color hardening, blacking, and stock finish down to the original anti-recoil heel plate.

The rarity of this gun is off the charts (Trigger and I know of only three other 8g WR guns) but the completeness of the package and the super high, original condition is something not often if ever, encountered in a vintage gun of any sort. But to consider that a gun like this was intended to be exposed to the harsh environments where waterfowl are hunted, it is nothing short of a miracle that this gun has remained, all these years, in such phenomenal shape. While the gun does show a few tell-tell signs of being 110 years old, don’t we all wish we could age this gracefully?

Set next to a .410 droplock the 8 bore is an impressive beast!

Bror Blixen’s ‘Loan’ Rifle

In the history of African safari there are the names of individual hunters that should need no real introduction, F.C.Selous, Captain James Sutherland, W.D.M.Bell and J.A.Hunter to name but a few. Whilst some hunted professionally for ivory, others hunted as professional guides taking the emerging elite of the world on lavish safaris into the heart of East Africa.

Amongst this elite group of Professional Hunters can be counted one Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke (1886-1946), Swedish aristocrat, serial womaniser and husband of famed writer Karen Blixen who wrote one of the greatest books ‘Out of Africa’, so immortalising what many consider the golden age of safari hunting.

The J.Purdey & Sons sidelock underlever double rifle in .500/.465 calibre.

Now Blixen was not your usual run of the mill professional hunter. His reputation for securing huge elephant trophies and for ensnaring beautiful women came in equal measure, only surpassed by his legendary drinking skills! That all said and done, he was without question one of the toughest, ethical and courageous big game hunters who ever lived who had a client list booked many years in advance to hunt with him.

As with all professional hunters of the time, Blixen had at his disposal an assortment of both bolt action and double rifles with which to tackle the multitude of game that inhabited the vastness of the African continent.

Whilst he clearly owned several rifles of his own, legend has it that he also borrowed the occasional rifle including the rifle shown here. This particular Purdey double rifle in .500/.465 calibre was originally built in November 1908 for the Earl of Landisborough, before finding its way into the hands of a Swedish businessman who regularly took to hunting in East Africa. It is said that rather than travel back and forth from Africa with the rifle that it was left in the capable hands of Blixen ‘on permanent loan’.

Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke on safari.

The rifle certainly seems to have seen some ‘bush use’ judging by the many subtle knocks and scrapes that it displays, all suggesting that it was used, not abused. The rifle has fantastic crisp rifling and appears as tight today as the day it was made. Interestingly the rifle features a bold scroll engraving pattern as opposed to the more traditional house rose and scroll engraving design found on the large majority of Purdey guns and rifles. The ‘bolted’ safety was a common feature of Purdey rifles, a double safety mechanism to stop the accidental discharge of a rifle should the safety button be innocently pushed off.

The rifle undeniably makes for an interesting piece of history and Africana, we only wish that it could tell a story or two!

The ‘bolted’ safety system as used on the majority of vintage Purdey nitro express double rifles.

‘African Hunter’ by Bror von Blixen-Finecke published in 1937.

Another Surprising .318 Westley Richards Magazine Rifle Unearthed

It never ceases to amaze us of the depth and variation shown by our predecessors here at Westley Richards. In fairness, with over 200 years of history there are always going to be new finds and something interesting to arouse the collectors or hunters eye.

Take for instance this Westley Richards .318 magazine rifle completed in 1909. It has all the best features of a Westley Richards bolt action of the time including horn tipped bolt handle, wooden side panels, edged cheek-piece and bold scroll engraving. However, of far more interest is the full length engine turned rib which is finished at the muzzle with Westley Richards patent flip over combination foresight that actually recesses into the rib!

The amount of work required to do this would have been considerable and the attention to detail shown by some long lost gun maker is all that we have come to expect of historical Westley Richards.

The story does not end there. Attached to the cocking piece is a Rigby style peep sight which allows for a clear view all the way along the top rib as the actual express sight consists of totally flush fitting leafs regulated out to 500 yards! The peep sight itself has been regulated to match perfectly with these leafs.

The rifle retains most of its original finish including take down cleaning rod in the butt plate and spare foresight beads in the grip trap. To find a rifle in this condition, in this configuration really is a rarity and it always reminds us that you have never seen it all and never know what might just be out there!

Lovely traditional bold scroll coverage.

Horn tipped bolt handle. A classic Westley Richards feature.

Scooped top rib to accommodate Westley Richards flip over foresight protector.

The full length engine turned rib is an unusual feature of this rifle. 

Stunning walnut stock with wooden side panels.