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.
Late last year we completed the first for many a year ‘Gold Name’ droplock double rifle in .577 3″ light. The simplicity of the ‘gold name’ engraving highlighted the elegance and beauty of a modern big bore double rifle where gunmaking could be seen in its purest form.
Well for those non-rifle fans amongst you here is the latest ‘Gold Name’ to leave our factory and it happens to be a small gauge shotgun, a 20g droplock. One of the keys to building a great unembellished gun is to stock it with fabulous wood and once again we managed to dig into the depths of our reserves and find a super piece of Turkish exhibition grade walnut. More importantly the actual craftsmanship must be second to none, as such a gun leaves nothing to be hidden.
Another nice attribute of this gun is the case which we put together as a lightweight leather in dark tan cowhide, with double locks and then French fitted inside with green goatskin to add a more classy finish.
It goes without saying that the hard work of all those involved in the manufacture of this gun and case made something that looks so simple, look so damn nice. It required far more work than the photos here can ever tell, but therein lies the secret.
Well, finally we made it! Here at last are the final composed pair of guns in .410 and 28g. They say “all good things come to those who wait” and this last pair really are quite exquisite with there most unusual engraving and fabulous motor case to complement the whole package.
At least now the owners of all three pairs can sit together and compare their respective tastes!
Shotguns depicting Buffalo and Elephant game scenes have made for an interesting variation
The wood has once again turned out stunning and it must be said that all three pairs of guns really are a credit to all those involved in making them. A fabulous project that has been a pleasure to undertake and complete. May all the new owners enjoy many years of fun and sport.
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.
Houston’s Cyril Adams is one of the most influential figures in the revival of interest in British guns—particularly hammer guns and those with Damascus barrels—that swept America in the 1980s and ‘90s. During the period he owned London’s Atkin Grant & Lang (1984-1999), Adams resuscitated the once-great maker and aided by the expert tutelage of Ron Solari produced some of the finest sporting shotguns made in Britain during that time. In 1996, along with co-author Robert Braden, Adams published Lock, Stock & Barrel, which remains one of the best single-volume primers on the principles and methods of best quality British gunmaking.
Newly out is his magnum opus: Live Pigeon Trap Shooting, the first book written in the English language on the subject in more than 120 years, and by far the most comprehensive ever published. Clearly written throughout its 275 pages, and complemented with hundreds of rare photographs and illustrations, it is encyclopedic in its detail of the sport past and present.
Pigeon shooting was also popular in America, as shown in this 1891 illustration from Harper’s Weekly.
Today live pigeon trap shooting is arcane and little known but in its heyday in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was not only enormously popular internationally—drawing large crowds of spectators—but also critically important in the development of modern wingshooting, shotguns, ammunition, and the target-shooting sports such as trap and Helice that are its direct descendants. In 1886, English shooting writer A.J Stuart-Wortley wrote of the sport: “Here every modern improvement in guns, powder, or cartridges has been brought to the test, and there can be no doubt that the practical proofs supplied by pigeon shooting have been of great service to the science of modern gunnery.”
Monte Carlo was the epicenter of international pigeon shooting, and its most prestigious venue. This photo likely dates from the early 1920s.
Italians have been many of the sport’s most successful shooters. The stylish Duke of Abruzzi in northern Italy in 1929.
As Adams explains in his overview introduction: “In the pigeon ring, new ideas for improvements to guns and ammunition could be tried against each other under consistent conditions with repeatable results. This is not possible in the field, but useful improvements developed and then proven by pigeon shooters were quickly incorporated into field guns and ammunition.” This was particularly true in the British gun trade, where pigeon shooting remained popular until the end of the 19th Century. Successful pigeon shots were often a gunmaker’s best source of advertising and publicity.
1930 World Championship program.
The action and excitement of a columbarie shoot in south Texas.
Westley Richards was just one of many gunmakers that used the success of pigeon shooters to promote its guns.
The Westley Richards “Ovundo” was offered in trap configurations and one was used by Henry Quersin to take several championships in Belgium in the 1920s.
Adams—an engineer by training with a specialty in low-temperature physics—has competed in pigeon and Helice rings around the world for half a century, and is a uniquely qualified author. The book comprises seven chapters: 1) History; 2) Bird and Traps; 3) Guns; 4) Ammunition; 5) Notable Shots; 6) Descendants; 7) How to Do It. A bibliography and an appendix of pigeon and Helice championship results and the rules governing the sport round the work out—and given its quality it is the most important book on wingshooting and fine guns to be published in 2017.
Cyril S. Adams, at home, in the ring, with his 34-inch-barreled Stephen Grant hammer gun — aka “Supergun.”
Live Pigeon Trap Shooting is available in the UK and internationally from the publisher, The Sporting Library, an imprint of BPG Media, which publishes Fieldsports: www.thesportinglibrary.co.uk. It is available to Americans purchasers directly from the author: firstname.lastname@example.org
It was back in June 2014 on the Explora that we were singing the merits of fine vintage bags and how they influence the leather goods we develop here in our leather shop. Our latest reproduction of a vintage bag is a classic game bag which previously featured in our 1912 catalogue.
By examining the details on the vintage bag, our leather department has been able to recreate a new version of the bag with the same look, feel and function. Faithful to the original bag, the materials used are our house waxed cotton, our classic brass fittings; and hand-woven hemp netting from the fishing town of Bridport in Dorset.
A classic and versatile bag, which would be at home on a variety of different hunts. May many a pheasant, grouse, quail or bottle of whiskey grace its pocket. This is now available to purchase on our website here.
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.
I think this is a nice and fitting conclusion to the story of the pair of Damascus Barrel guns, which both I and new owner Gary Duffy have both posted about, to show that they have made their way through the restoration and on to a new life in the field doing what they do best!
Somewhere, in USA I believe, lies the 3rd matching gun of this set of three Joseph Lang 8g guns. These were purportedly built for 3 wild fowling friends to the exact same specification and on consecutive serial numbers in 1911. The only noticeable difference you will spot is the case label initials, every other detail is that of a paired guns, minor stock measures aside, which are hardly noticeable!
These, once again, like the Lancaster guns and Howdah pistols I showed recently are in remarkable condition and show no sign of use. It is always exciting to find guns in this condition now, a condition which is seemingly so scarce now and guns and rifles found of this quality easily form cornerstones of a collection. These are the types of guns which I have always considered ‘bullet proof’ when it comes to future values, they are guns which no dealer can ever pick fault with in an attempt to realise a (lower) value!
J.Lang 8g Sidelock Underlever side by side shotgun #15061. 34″ chopper lump barrels bored .840 in both with extra full choke. 3 1/4″ chamber. Concave game rib with single bead foresight. Sidelock non ejector action with dolls head third fastener, double triggers and manual safety. Full fine scroll engraving with 95% plus colour remaining. Rounded pistol grip stock with horn extension and engraved oval. English splinter forend with push rod release. Weight 13lb 1oz. Complete in best oak & leather case with velvet lining and compliment of tools. Stock measures 13 1/2″ pull, 1 13/16″ x 3 1/8″ drop, cast off 1/4″ at heel and 5/16″ at toe.
J.Lang 8g Sidelock Underlever side by side shotgun #15062. 34″ chopper lump barrels bored .840 in both with extra full choke. 3 1/4″ chamber. Concave game rib with single bead foresight. Re-proofed in 1980 but only logical reason is that this gun was originally proofed as a 9/2 bore. Sidelock non ejector action with dolls head third fastener, double triggers and manual safety. Full fine scroll engraving with 95% plus colour remaining. Rounded pistol grip stock with horn extension and engraved oval. English splinter forend with push rod release. Weight 13lb 1/4oz. Complete in best oak & leather case with velvet lining and compliment of tools. Stock measures 13 1/2″ pull, 1 13/16″ x 2 13/16″ drop, cast off 1/4″ at heel and 1/4″ at toe.