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
This month we’re extremely pleased to be on the front cover of Shooting Sportsman, the leading wingshooting and fine guns publication in the US today. Do pick up a copy because inside you’ll find our collaborative article with the legendary Vic Venters, wonderfully discussing the unique bespoke journey and finer points of ordering a new best-quality English gun.
He eloquently takes the reader through seven key areas that each Westley Richards patron will usually experience on their path to receiving their very own prized best gun. From the gun’s purpose, selecting the right gunmaker, the process and relationship, letting the gunmaker lead, heritage & house style, the eventual waiting game, and how handmade delivers a gun of such rare beauty and handle that it is truly one of a kind.
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
With the US dove hunting season now underway and quail season only around the corner it is always great to see another of our .410 droplocks head Stateside to indulge in a touch of some fine sport. This particular little example has been engraved by Vince Crowley with delicate fine scroll, carved fences and a beautifully etched game scene of a Woodcock flighting through the timber.
Unusually with this gun the client asked for a ‘staggered ribbon’ gold name border on the sides of the action which lends itself tastefully to the execution of the engraving, allowing a different interpretation of the centre panel. It just goes to show that you can never rest on your laurels, but must continually strive to improve, often in the most subtle of ways.
The ‘staggered ribbon’ gold name adds a subtle variation to the engraving.
A stunning etched scene of a Woodcock in the timber.
Looking down onto the action, the vivid case colour hardening adds a touch of flare to the delicate engraving.
Westley Richards has a very International reputation for building best quality guns and rifles. So much so in fact that 90% of our order book will head overseas a year, leaving very little to be seen here in the Uk shooting field.
In fairness Westley Richards is very much a niche brand here in the Uk, staying under the radar building great guns and rifles for true entusiasts who get what we are about and appreciate superb quality and attention to detail.
So it was, rather ironically, that at the SCI Convention in 2016 we took an order for a 28 bore droplock from an Englishman who was attending the show to book a couple of hunts.
Now to the US market a 28 bore does not appear too unusual, but here in the Uk they appeal to either the experienced shot or the eccentric, take your pick. You see over here most game shooting involves shooting high driven birds which require the firepower of the 12 bore or for the more ambitious a choked up 20 bore. 28 bores are used by very few, although in truth (and the right hands) they can be deadly.
Should you wish to make things even tougher on yourself, decide (as engraved on this gun) to tackle the Common Snipe with your gun. Now this tiny dart of a bird is hard to shoot in most instances, as they either spring away zig-zagging in front of you, or if driven, appear but a mere speck in the sky, often resembling a mosquito in size. Both targets are equally difficult to shoot, the shots to hits ratio rapidly spiralling out of control. It genuinely requires a seasoned shot to tackle such game and thankfully this is exactly who this gun is going to. We are looking forward to a few fabled stories about this gun as the shooting season here in the Uk gets into full swing.
The clients favourite game bird the Common Snipe adorns the cover plate.
A tight and highly figured piece of walnut suits the diminutive nature of this ‘English’ droplock.
With Red Grouse shooting now officially underway, the game season in the Uk can now be looked forward to with real vigor and excitement! The anticipation of a busy season will see shots progress from grouse, to partridge, to pheasant as the season works on through the autumn and winter.
Double gunning, perhaps the pinnacle of driven game shooting will feature throughout the season on many of the larger estates and so it is no surprise to see a spike in the demand for pairs of guns. With this in mind it could not have been a better time to have gotten the most recent addition to the second-hand gun inventory here at the Westley Richards U.S. Agency.
This pair of Holland & Holland 12g ‘Royal’Model game guns are in excellent, original condition and one of the finest pairs of Holland & Holland guns to come to market in some time.
Signature hand detachable sidelocks.
Finished in 1953 this pair of guns represents, in my mind, one of Holland’s finest periods. I know the guns made prior to the World Wars and between the Wars, are often thought of as the bench mark for overall quality in a gun, but lay this pair of post war guns by a comparable Holland, of any era, and I think you will be surprised. The bold Royal engraving is wonderfully cut and well executed, the fit and finish of the guns is superb and remains in high original condition. The barrels were expertly struck and bored. The guns showcase all the hallmark features that made Holland & Holland such a notable name in gunmaking.
The guns are built on the H&H patented Royalmodel bar-action sidelock ejector with hand detachable locks and treble grip action bodies. The guns have two triggers, the front ones hinged, and rolled trigger bows. The guns also have automatic safeties with “SAFE” inlaid in gold as well as gold lined cocking indicators. The square bar actions have beautifully shaped beads and fences and the actions are engraved in the classic house or Royalengraving pattern of bold foliate scroll surrounding the Maker’s name. The bottom of the action is engraved “Royal Model” and each gun is appropriately numbered in gold “1” or “2” on the top lever, top rib and forend iron.
Superb original condition is a highlight of these guns.
The guns have their original 28” chopper lump barrels with Holland’s hidden third fasteners and raised matted game ribs. The barrels have original 2 ¾” chambers (1 1/4 oz proof) and carry Holland’s patent self-opening assembly. The barrels are engraved with the maker’s name and the “98 New Bond St.” address (ca. 1858-1960). The bottom rib is engraved “Made in England” and “Royal”.
The straight grip walnut stocks have Holland’s classic diamond shaped hand. The stocks have a dark contrasting figure and match nicely, both having 14 3/4″ length of pulls over checkered butts. The splinter forends have Anson push rods and Holland’s patent ejectors. Stocks and forends are checkered in a very well-cut point pattern checkering with borders and traditional drop points. Each gold stock oval has the previous owner’s initials D.J.M.
The guns come complete in the maker’s two-gun motor case with its canvas cover and the original owner’s name and hometown on the initial patch.
These guns remain in near new condition as they were used very little and were well cared for. It is hard to imagine a pair of vintage guns in a more relevant configuration for today’s shooting. The bonus is they are from wonderful period in this venerable maker’s history. This is a very special pair of guns.
A typed letter to the original owner of this pair of guns was found inside the gun’s case. The letter quotes a few days shooting on the grouse moors of Scotland and is dated 1960.