Its not often these days that we get to see a really great hammer gun by Westley Richards pass through our hands. There are clearly notable collectors of hammer guns out there and there must be some wonderful pieces tucked away, but truth is we just don’t see them.
Last week at the factory a simple stunning and elegant 12 bore black powder proof centre-fire hammer gun came in. Not just any hammer gun, but the one used in our 200 year history ‘In Pursuit of the Best Gun’. This gun has remained tucked away in a private collection for many years and we have always coveted it. This gun is about as good as it can get from Westley Richards, especially when you consider that it was built as late as 1885, 10 years after the invention of our famous Anson & Deeley hammerless gun!
Single shot rifles have always held a fascination with rifle shooters. From earliest times they were the benchmark for accurate shooting and held sway for decades as the rifle of choice for serious competitive shooting. Most of the major British sporting arms manufacturers have at one time supplied single shot rifles from flintlock through to the centre-fire breechloading era.
Westley Richards referred to its rifle as a ‘sliding block’ rifle whilst other makers and modern literature refer to it as a ‘falling block’ action.
It is hard to believe that we completed these guns 20 years ago when the only serious pandemic of that time was the fear of the ‘millennium bug’, a software technicality that was going to bring the electronic world to a crashing end. Thankfully nothing happened and we all started the new millennium with renewed excitement.
The Millennium was for many gunmakers a golden opportunity to produce some unique and in many instances one off guns. Holland & Holland, James Purdey and Westley Richards were just some of those lucky enough to have the patronage of some very serious collectors who lavished orders for many individual and often extravagant sets of guns.
Wonderful scenes of English partridge adorn the sides of the actions. Built for an English gentleman it is hard to believe that these guns were built 20 years ago!
Recently through our hands were this lovely pair of Westley Richards 12 bore Ovundo shotguns. Completed in 1937 the guns have until now remained in the same family and retain great mechanical and aesthetic condition. Whilst single Ovundo are not particularly uncommon, pairs of Ovundo really are. We have only ourselves seen three pairs, two of which were droplocks, which makes these fixed locks quite unusual. They were clearly built for British game shooting and quite amazingly for such big looking guns they weigh a very respectable 6lbs 10ozs with 27″ barrels and 14 3/4″ stocks.
The guns are one of the several variants made available by Westley Richards in the Ovundo model, these being of fixed lock, side plated, single selective trigger configuration. First patented in 1914, fixed locks followed by droplocks were offered with square back, scroll back and side plated action options. Side opening ports came on the highest grade droplock sideplated versions with Westley Richards famous single selective trigger an obvious choice for the ‘modern’ over and under sporting gun. The unique Westley Richards top lever and safety thumb piece were a distinctive feature that were incorporated into the Ovundo from the very start.
The distinctive bold ‘house’ engraving pattern with the Celtic rope border featuring on the barrel bars.
These particular guns exhibit wonderful bold acanthus scroll engraving with a fabulous ‘Celtic’ motif along the barrel bar. This elaborate design really complements the surface area of the sideplated gun and gives a real presence to the large size of the action. Even as potentially fixed lock working guns, they were clearly of ‘best’ finish.
This post was originally put up by Simon Clode back in 2013 and it seems more relevant now that we all have more time on our hands!!!! A few newer titles have been released by the modern hunting book suppliers including Kai-Uwe Denkers ‘About The Spirit Of The African Wilderness’ available from Trophy Room Books, and Robin Hurts ‘A Hunter’s Hunter’ available from Safari Press. Both of these books are destined to become hunting classics and if nothing else they should get us in the spirit for our next safari adventure!
Now to Simon’s original posting.
There are literally 1000’s of books on the market which touch on our sport, in one way or another. Be they on guns, rifles, wing-shooting or big game hunting the choice is far and wide. Here at Westley Richards many of us have collected books on our sport since an early age and are often showing off to each other the ‘rare book’ we have just managed to acquire. It seemed appropriate to ask a few other well known book collectors, writers and sellers what their 10 best books were, the ones they feel every sportsman should read and have in their library. I hope it proves informative and helpful.
Anthony Alborough-Tregear “Trigger” runs the gunroom and production at Westley Richards and has been collecting books on guns and hunting since the age of 15. His list is biased towards Africa and the hunting of Elephants to which he has now progressed after many years obsessively stalking Roe deer.
African Rifles & Cartridges – John ‘Pondoro’ Taylor
Modern Sporting Gunnery – Henry Sharp
The End Of The Game – Peter Beard
African Hunter – James Mellon
The Maneaters Of Kumoan – Jim Corbett
The Wanderings Of An Elephant Hunter – W.D.M.Bell
The Adventures Of An Elephant Hunter – James Sutherland
Travel And Adventure In South East Africa – F.C.Selous
White Hunters – Brian Herne
Elephant Hunters – Men Of Legend – Tony Sanchez Arino
There can be few greater names in the history of big game hunting than that of Captain Frederick Courtenay Selous D.S.O, soldier, explorer, big game hunter, scout and adventurer. Born in 1851 Selous’s intention from a young age was to be a naturalist and ultimately one of the finest big game hunters ever to set foot in Africa.
By the age of 19 Selous was in Africa where he was granted permission by Lobengule, King of the Matabele to hunt within his vast domains. This was still the era of the large bore muzzle loader and Selous came to typify the young, tough individuals who sought a very dangerous trade hunting elephant and other game for ivory and meat.
The coming years saw Selous hunt extensively throughout central Africa attaining many specimens for private collections and the British Natural History Museum. He was held in such high regard that in later life a bronze bust of Selous was mounted in the NHM where it can still be seen today as you walk up the grand stairway.
His knowledge of Africa led to his appointment as ‘guide’ to the British South Africa Company which was mounting an expedition into Mashonaland. He would fight in two Matabele wars during the 1890’s before his much celebrated visit with none other than President Theodore Roosevelt during his epic safari of 1909-10. The two would become great friends, as they were equally keen on conservation as they were hunting.
With the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Selous joined up to serve in East Africa as a Captain in the 25th Royal Fusiliers. Having distinguished himself in 1916 receiving the DSO for his actions, he was killed by sniper fire a year later at a place called Beho Beho in what is now the Selous Game Reserve.
Selous was unique in that he saw the use of large bore muzzle loading rifles, through black powder breech-loaders, to the ultimate in modern cordite repeating rifles.
The .425 purchased by Selous was most likely the last rifle ever acquired by him. He wrote a testimonal for Westley Richards on 4th July 1912 stating:
“I can only give your .425 Magazine Rifle the highest praise. Had I only possessed such a rifle in my old elephant hunting days I am sure that I could have killed three or four times as many Elephants as I actually laid low.”
The rifle remains in exceptional condition to this day retaining most of its original finish. How the rifle came to be in the hands of its current owner is one of those great pieces of fortune and outright luck, a story we will tell another day. In truth the rifle could not have gone to a more dedicated fan of the company or a more genuine hunter.
The ‘Selous’ rifle has been very kindly loaned to Westley Richards to display at the 2020 Safari Conventions in the USA. Please pay a visit to our stand to view one of the most iconic rifles owned by without doubt one of the greatest big game hunters of all time.
We are often tasked with finding a good quality English side by side ejector, in tidy condition, by our clients for the upcoming season. Something to use on smaller days when double guns are not required or as a more traditional alternative to the modern over and under, a gun they may shoot well with, but lacks the passion and character of a proper English side by side. Finding an English side by side is easy, I hear you say, but not, as our discerning clients would expect, in superb original condition, ready for the season.
The latest used gun to arrive at WR UK is exactly that. A superb W.J. Jeffery No. 3 Model, 12g sidelock ejector in, what can only be described as, first class condition. Completed around 1930, the gun is built on a 7 pin, square body, sidelock action beautifully engraved with two bouquets of roses on each lock plate, both fences, forend iron and a single large bouquet on the bottom of the action, all surrounded by a fine scroll coverage. The action retains nearly all its original case colours and the file up and shape is of real quality. The 28” barrels feature 2 1/2” chambers and are choked 1/4 in the right and 3/4 in the left. The bores read almost as proofed and the wall thickness is .025″ at the thinnest point.
The stock measures 14 5/8” to the centre of the leather covered recoil pad and has a bend of 1 1/2” at the comb and 2 1/8” at the heel. The cast measures 1/4” off at the heel and 3/8” at the toe. The splinter forend has the Anson push rod release, forend diamond and engraved tail pipe. Weighing 6lbs 7.4oz the gun comes to the shoulder with ease and is as delightful to handle as it is to look at. Cased in a lightweight, compact, leather case with a set of cleaning rods, snap caps and cleaning accessories. A very beautiful but perfectly usable sidelock for a variety of game shooting.
The trade label reads 9, Golden Square, Regent Street, London W1, which matches the engraving on the rib. William Jackman Jeffery died in 1909 and the company was taken over by his brother Charles. His nephew F. Jeffery Pearce took over the company in 1920 when Charles died and saw it through till 1957 when the company was sold to Malcolm Lyell who at that time, also owned the Westley Richards London agency and fishing tackle specialist, Farlows.
The No. 3 model sits between the No. 1 and No. 4 sidelocks that were offered by Jeffery’s at the time. Costing £52 for a single gun and £105 for a pair and came in 12, 16 or 20g.
While we would normally associate the name W.J. Jeffery more with rifles, their shotguns, and sidelocks in particular, were of superb quality and this gun would rightfully hold its own against the other London makers of the time. To quote the Jeffery catalogue of the 1930’s:
“The excellence of our Guns and Rifles is known all over the world, and we claim that for accuracy, soundness of workmanship, durability, and style of finish, goods of our manufacture are unequalled. We make every effort to keep the price of our weapons down to the lowest possible limit consistent with sound workmanship. We can confidently invite a comparison of our prices with any other firm doing the same class of business, feeling sure that this comparison will result in our favour”.
The gun will be on our used gun site shortly. Please contact me direct for any initial inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org
Through the works and looking quite stunning this month is one of our Westley Richards 20 bore ‘Ovundo’ shotguns. As previously mentioned this gun is one of the original 13, a project that was originally commissioned in 2004. Even by modern gunmaking standards the renewed ‘Ovundo’ project has been a long affair!
Historically speaking, the first ‘Ovundo’ patents were registered in 1914 as the scramble among British gunmakers for something new and exciting in the world of guns, took Westley Richards, Boss, Woodward, Edwinson Green and others in the direction of the over and under shotgun. The concept itself of the over and under was not a particularly new one as British makers had been making over and under pistols and rifles since the flintlock era.
During the next two decades the Westley Richards over and under was driven to its own level of perfection with models based around the two key actions associated with the company, namely the ‘boxlock’ and ‘hand detachable lock’. Looking to the under hook barrel design for the rotation of the barrels on the action Westley Richards ‘ovundo’ was unquestionably a deep actioned gun compared to the Boss design of 1909. However the depth of the action allowed for the fitting of components based around the boxlock and hand detachable lock design and it has to be noted that making the ‘ovundo’ a hand detachable lock really took some doing. The gun really is a mechanical masterpiece.
Variants on these two actions included double and single triggers, non-ejector and ejector, scroll back, side plated and availability in both shotgun and rifle calibres as well as the ‘Faunetta’ and ‘Explora’ rifle choked formats. These variations make the ‘ovundo’ genuinely collectable as you never quite know what might turn up in the market.
Vivid case colour hardening adds impact to the bold etched scroll design. The gold lettering stands out crisply against the colours. The ‘ovundo’ features Westley Richards signature top lever shape and safety button.
Vintage Westley Richards promotional material showing the exact format of gun as built today. Whilst the ‘ovundo’ project has been a long one it highlights the level of skill required to build a gun that has unique features in the over and under market.
The side opening ports on the dummy lock plates are a unique feature of the ‘Ovundo’. Simple maintenance of the single trigger was achieved through these ports, whilst also adding a little novelty to the design. Westley Richards has always had a knack of outdoing itself!!!!
The etched background to the elaborate ‘acanthus’ engraving design adds a sharpness to the engraved coverage.
A beautiful green goat skin lined lightweight leather case complements this modern ‘ovundo’.
Four very nice Holland & Holland shotguns have come into the Westley Richards U.S. Agency and are just going up on the secondhand gun site (https://www.wrusedguns.com/view/all-listings/). We have been fortunate to have some very fine Hollands this year and this new group of guns is no exception.
Holland’s is famous for many innovations in gun making, but none more so than the Royal model hammerless sidelock. While the Royal needs no introduction to most readers of this blog, this most recent group of guns features some of the more obscure models offered by the storied firm.
The first two guns are 12g and 20g Northwood models. After WWII, Holland & Holland offered a boxlock ejector that was made in the Birmingham trade then finished, shot and regulated by Holland’s in London. This gun was known as a Northwood. Sometime in the 1980’s, Holland’s made moves to produce their own boxlock. The project lead to the company purchasing the venerable Birmingham gunmaker W. & C. Scott and offering two models, the new Cavalierand the Northwood, the latter being the less adorned of the two.
Both models were based on the proven Anson & Deeley fixed lock or “boxlock” action. Available in 12g and 20g and built on dedicated frame sizes with scroll backs and Scott’s spindle top lever. All the parts were made in Birmingham at the W&C Scott factory and the guns were stocked, engraved and finished in London at Holland’s factory. According to Donald Dallas’ book Holland & Holland, The Royal Gunmakers, Complete History (Quiller Press, 2003), the project ran about a decade ending sometime in the 1990’s and Holland’s only made about 200 of the very high-quality guns.
The two Northwood models here at the Agency have traditional scroll engraving, color case hardened finishes and 2 ¾” chambers with 1989 Birmingham proof marks. They are nicely stocked with straight hand grips, auto-safeties, two triggers, and rolled trigger bows. The 12g weighs just over 6 lbs. with 28” barrels and the 20g weighs just under 6 lbs. and is fitted with 27” barrels. Both of these guns are in superb condition and in their own lightweight canvas case.
The ‘Northwood’ Model
The ‘Riviera’ Model
Another gun in the group is a factory two-barrel set 12g called the Riviera Model. In Dallas’ book, he says the Riviera Model was offered for more than 30 years, from 1933 to 1967. Despite being available for over three decades, it is a rarely encountered model.
I have seen the Riviera model featured in Holland catalogs from before and after WWII and described as:
“…12 bore Hammerless Ejector Gun with two pairs of interchangeable 28 inch barrels, treble grip action, two triggers-front hinged, hand-detachable locks, selected French walnut, chambered for the 2 ¾-inch case, weight about 7 lbs. 4 oz. to 7 lbs. 6 oz…introduced particularly for sportsmen desirous of a using one gun only, for either game or trap shooting. One pair of barrels bored full choke, while the second pair throw more open patterns for game shooting”
The Riviera was built on a Badminton hammerless ejector sidelock action with Holland’s patent hand detachable locks and Treble Grip action that accepted their hidden third bite. Another obscure name from Holland’s, Badminton was used for a plainer sidelock that employed the same action as the Royal model but without the famous Royal pattern house engraving. This was originally known as a No. 2 but donned a new name after WWI and named for Holland’s Badminton shooting school.
This Riviera was built in 1937 and ordered with very specific details by the customer. As specified on the factory build sheet, the first set of barrels are choked at .004” and .010” and listed on the build sheet as “field” barrels. The second set of barrels are choked .029” and .040” and described as “pigeon” barrels. Each set of barrels have original 2 ¾” chambers and the same wall thickness as specified on the factory build sheet (.024” in the field barrels and .026” in the pigeon barrels). The barrels are numbered, in gold, “1” and “2” respectively and also marked with the “98 New Bond St.” address and “Riviera” is engraved on each top rib.
The action of the Riviera model is engraved in a bold floral pattern with the Maker’s name on each lock plate in flowing banners with gold lined cocking indicators and fire blued pins, and the word “SAFE” inlaid in gold. On the bottom of the action it is engraved “Badminton Ejector”. The gun comes complete in its original two-barrel “VC” case.
Last and certainly not least, is a Holland & Holland 20g Royal Brevis. The ‘Royal Brevis’ Model
The word Brevis is Latin for “short” and is the name Holland’s uses for any Royal gun made with barrels shorter than 28”. Introduced in 1931, the Royal Brevis was conceived to keep up with the trend of shooting with shorter gun barrels made popular by Robert Churchill. Referring again to Mr. Dallas’ book, The Royal Brevis name was not used in any Holland catalogs after WWII, but he says it remained available. In my own experience, I have encountered many post-war Holland’s with barrels shorter than 28” but not marked Brevis; no doubt this is a very rare gun to find made in modern times.
I know barrels shorter than 28” are often frowned upon by some. But let’s be honest, most upland hunting in North America is for walked up birds that flush in different directions, with little to no warning, and often in tight cover. This type of shooting is simply better served by shorter barrels. While I fully understand the benefits to long barrels for pass shooting doves or high driven pheasants, the fact is so called “short” barrels are handier in tight cover and easier to change their direction when shooting birds who flush or fly erratically. Lightweight guns like this Brevis are fast handling and easy to carry making them tailored made for the kind of hunting we Americans enjoy.
Finished in 1992, this gun is made in the traditional Brevis configuration with 26 1⁄2″ barrels but specially ordered as a lightweight, weighing only 5 1⁄4 lbs. The gun has a an exceptionally dainty action body and beautifully struck lightweight barrels. The gun also employs all the same best quality features of the Royal such as hand detachable locks, Holland’s self-opening mechanism on the barrels and Royal engraving. This gun has a brushed or “coin” finish, gold lined cocking indicators, two triggers with the front one being articulated and a rolled trigger bow and the serial number and the word “SAFE” are inlayed in gold.
All in all, this group of guns offers a nice selection of Holland & Holland guns, all at different price points, and are more examples of why vintage Hollands remain so desirable.
For further information on any of these guns please contact:
As previously discussed on this blog, the Westley Richards lightweight game gun is a rarity. There are only a few pairs that we know of and only one or two single guns have come back to us in recent years. One could argue things that are rare, are rare for a good reason. They are not the ‘best’, the ‘most efficient’ or the deemed popular by the masses and hence not many were required. And this maybe true of the lightweight gun. If you plan on shooting 40 days a season at 70 yard towering pheasants with 36 gram No. 4 shot, these guns are definitely not for you. But there are places where these guns are not just capable, but are exactly the type of gun you need. This theory was confirmed to me on a recent trip to the grouse moors in the Yorkshire Dales. The grouse, a bird that definitely does not need any assistance in flying fast, were very kindly helped along by a 40mph tail wind, which made the already high speed bird almost supersonic. As horizontal rain hammered the side of my face and I was still a little dusty from the night before, it very quickly dawned on me that the 32″ barreled 8lbs 10oz gun I had chosen to bring, was indeed, the wrong choice. By the time I realised the pack of grouse were on me and I attempted to raise my gun to my shoulder and single out a target, they effortlessly zoomed over my head like tiny F-16 fighter jets and were already 50 yards down the moor by the time I turned around and got my first shot off. It’s at times like these when you can see why the lightweight side by side was made and how this fast handling, super lively gun is really in a class of its own.
I did take some lovely long crossers with my gun but on a truly wild moor, when you may have only 20 yards vision in front of you and the grouse are coming straight down your throat, as they should do, with the speed that you are able to mount the gun and connect with your target, the lightweight side by side will always reign supreme, it’s also a faster gun to exchange with your loader and for him to reload. I’m sure I would have taken many more birds out front than I did with my own gun, which of course is the true skill of grouse shooting. Even if grouse shooting is not your game, these guns fit perfectly for proper classic partridge shooting with hedge hopping coveys that flare over the line of guns, or are equally at home with walked up woodcock or quail hunting where speed is of the essence. Instinctive, quick mounting, snap shooting is often the most rewarding, and I would say, the purest form of shotgun shooting.
This fine pair of lightweight guns were built for a local family and have spent their entire life no more than 12 miles from the factory where they were made. The first gun was built in 1948 and was sold through our Bennetts Hill, Birmingham shop. Built on a scroll back action with our patent hand detachable locks, two triggers and all the usual WR features it remain in superb original condition. The 28” barrels have 2 ½” chambers and are choked ¼ in the right and full in the left. The highly figured stock measures 13 ¾” to the centre of the horn heel plate and is cast off for the right shoulder. The gun weighs 6lbs ½oz and is cased in the original case with our Bennetts Hill stamp.
Top: 1st gun Bottom: 2nd gun
Top: 1st gun Bottom: 2nd gun
The second gun was completed in 1965 as a 21st birthday present for the current owner. The action and barrels were made to match the first gun, only the stock length is longer at 14 7/8” which makes this gun a few ounces heavier at 6lbs 3oz. Both guns have the same classic Westley scroll engraving with game birds on the trigger guards and equally retain some vivid case colours. The ribs are engraved ‘WESTLEY RICHARDS 23 CONDUIT STREET LONDON. GUNMAKERS BY APPOINTMENT TO THE LATE KING GEORGE V’. Rather than gold numbered 1 & 2, in order to instantly tell them apart, the second gun has a three point gold star on the lever, rib and Deeley catch to match the owner’s Mercedes badge!
Top: 1st gun Bottom: 2nd gun
Top: 1st gun Bottom: 2nd gun
Right: 1st gun Left: 2nd gun
Both guns really are in fantastic condition for their age it’s testament to the current owner’s care and attention these guns have had. The guns are well in proof and have excellent wall thickness with plenty of life left in the barrels. The stocks have the usual handling marks but they are free from any structural damage. The time has come for the guns to find new homes and they can bought as a pair or split as they are cased individually and have different measurements. They would really make a great father and son pair of guns as they were built to be. They will be on the used gun site shortly but for any initial enquires please email me at email@example.com