As I sit and write this latest blog the UK is currently in the grip of a heatwave and the mercury is due to hit 88°F here in Birmingham today, which is hot for England! With weather like this, thoughts of last winter’s sport are a distant memory and it’s hard to image that in just over 6 weeks’ time we will be putting back on our tweeds, dusting off our shooting kit and heading north for the start of the grouse shooting season.
While most people are thinking about the beach rather than the shooting season at this time of year, estates all over the UK have been busy preparing for this coming season’s sport from the moment the final horn blew on the last drive back in February. Relying on purely wild numbers only, moorland keepers are taking stock of what grouse they have on the ground from their spring and summer counts and are planning drives and days accordingly. Lowland keepers are beginning to welcome this year’s birds to the woods and over the next few months will be feeding them into the various drives of the shoot. Equally as important will be the job of pushing back straying birds from the boundaries with their dedicated team of dogs.
We’ve been busy preparing guns for the coming season. We have recently completed an engraving job on a pair of droplocks for an American client who asked us to polish out the old scroll engraving and re-engrave a Cock Pheasant and Hen Pheasant motifs on the cover plates. Beautifully executed by Bradley Tallett, the iris of each bird is gold inlaid along with a gold ring border. The surrounding space is tastefully engraved with scroll work to match the rest of the action. Next step is to case colour harden the plates and brush and ink the motifs.
The client and his team are regular visitors to our shores to hunt driven pheasant and partridge and these guns are now a fitting homage to their chosen quarry.
Wishing all of our American readers a happy Fourth of July!
I recently had the pleasure of hosting one Tyler Sharp, a journalist and photographer from the USA. I first met Tyler earlier this year at the Safari Club International convention when he casually and rather shyly wandered onto our stand holding a copy of some new publication. My initial thoughts were of some mildly eccentric character, better placed in a Western movie than the floor of the worlds largest hunting show.
Waiting for some lame sales pitch and preparing to savage all that he might say, I took the volume from his hand and began to flick through the pages. First impressions were of a beautifully produced publication, the like of which I had yet to see in the hunting world. This was no throw away magazine, this was something different and as the Texan boy told me his story I knew that this was someone with real passion for what he was doing and that we had a common interest in the future of our sporting heritage.
Since that first meeting I have found Tyler to be a uniquely honest and immensely passionate individual with genuine enthusiasm for the outdoors and the wider hunting world. This month we spent a couple of days here at the Westley Richards factory before heading off on a fabulous hunt for Roe Buck in the heart of the Wiltshire Downs.
I would encourage you, perhaps even urge you to subscribe to this great publication, or at the very least obtain a copy. You’ll be surprised at just how good it is and how the future of the sport we enjoy so much is going to rely on a refreshing new perspective. The world is a fast changing place and we face many new challenges as outdoor sports men and women.
I’ll now leave it to Tyler to give an insight into his mission and that of the ‘Modern Huntsman’.
Greetings Westley Richards readers, I just wanted to introduce myself, as I’ll likely be contributing some ongoing stories from the field. My name is Tyler Sharp, and I’m a photographer and writer based out of Dallas, Texas. I’ve spent the majority of my career documenting hunts, adventures, and conservation efforts all around the world, which has all led to my recent charge as Editor in Chief of a new publication called Modern Huntsman.
It was this that led me to the Westley Richards team, and we quickly realized commonality in virtue, ethical hunting pursuits, and creative storytelling. I’ve recently returned from a trip to visit the factory in Birmingham, England, which we’ll further detail in a future installment, but for now wanted to give you a bit more background on Modern Huntsman.
For those of you who don’t already know, Modern Huntsman is a biannual publication for like-minded conservationists, creatives, and outdoor enthusiasts. Born out of frustration with the way hunting is often misrepresented today, this publication is told from the perspective of hunting purists and philosophers, unaltered by the skews of mainstream media, corporate interests, or misinformed emotional rants. In short, we’re returning to the root traditions, in hopes of improving the perception of hunting in modern society.
For many of us, hunting is a way of life, a tradition passed down by our grandfathers, fathers, and brave mothers. It’s a way of staying connected to the land, harvesting wild food to sustain our families, our souls, and is a shared passion and pursuit in many countries the world over. Hunting also plays a majority role in conservation, which ensures that expanses of land stay untamed, and that wildlife populations thrive — something we’ll be prominently focusing on as we move forward with the publication.
But this isn’t just for hunters, and while we know that there will be opposition, we believe that through our collective stories, photographs, and films, we’ll be able to educate some folks about overlooked realities, and win the minds and hearts of those who still have them open. Through presenting stories based in virtue, ethics, personal growth, and statistical merit, our aim is to inspire, educate, challenge, and set the record straight in some cases.
We’ve assembled some of the best photographers and writers in the outdoor world, many of which you might already know. These are folks who’ve spent their years living off the land, enduring extreme conditions, and have sometimes risked their lives to ensure that wildlife thrives, and the traditions of hunting survive the modern age.
From the mountains of the American west to the fields of south Texas, the savannahs of East Africa to the governmental councils on regulation, Volume One covers a diverse range of topics, all unified by common ethics. Printed on thick matte stock, and bound into a substantial book of over 200 pages, it is more of an art portfolio than a publication, and a fitting showcase for the breathtaking work everyone has produced. We have no advertisements in the first issue, and as we move forward we’ll begin to integrate select brands and organizations to partner on stories of hunting history, conservation success, and notable characters, outfitters, chefs, and artists in the community. These will be collaborative, integrated stories instead of intrusive and heavy-handed ads, which will help us keep the message pure, and the conversations constructive.
We’ve sold through our first print run of 5,000 copies in three months, and have just re-ordered another 5,000 to continue sharing our mission with both hunters and non-hunters alike. Volume Two is scheduled to release in the fall of 2018, and will be centered around a theme of public lands, which is a hot topic in the United States to be sure. Apart from the political applications, we’ll also be exploring the realities of land access in other parts of the world, and how that affects land use, wildlife management, and hunting access. We’ll also be focusing on how these issues can bring folks together under common cause to protect what’s important, rather than squabble over something potentially insignificant.
This is just the first step in a long, important journey for Modern Huntsman, and we’d be honored to have you join us. To conclude, I’d like to leave you some parting words, which is the epilogue in the last few pages of Modern Huntsman Volume One, as a sort of call to action in what has become such an emotionally charged debate:
For hunters, we ask that you carefully consider the effect that your actions can have on not only your environment, but on the perception of this tradition. Whether through deed, word, or photograph, we feel that care should be taken, and respect given, for how quickly news can be spread in today’s world for good or ill. Therefore, choose your steps wisely, and wherever possible, see that they aim in a direction of positive progress and accurate representation, instead of confrontational detriment and further divisiveness.
For non-hunters, we appreciate your open-mindedness, and willingness to hear what we feel is a different, yet very important side of the hunting narrative. While we can’t speak for everyone, it is our aim to give voice to the overwhelming amount of like-minded hunters and conservationists who often lead quiet lives, in hopes of connecting with more folks like yourself, and finding common ground. We’d ask that as situations arise, you recall the beauty and honesty on these pages, as compared to the message that the mainstream media presents, and let respectful passion and conservation statistics win out over the often skewed biases and violent emotions.
And while some of you may never pick up a bow or a shotgun to harvest your own food, know that should the day come when you decide to, this community would jump at the opportunity to show you the ropes. Where you may have once felt opposition, you’d now find comradery, and a sense of belonging in one of the oldest traditions known to humankind. In short, we’d love to take you hunting.
Whether in the field, or in metaphor,
For more information, to order a copy, or subscribe to Modern Huntsman, you can visit one of the links below.
Although the primary focus of the factory is new gun and rifle production we do have a small amount of repair and refurbishment work taking place. Mostly on used guns that we have sold that need a service, alteration of stock measurements or a general freshen up before being delivered to the successful buyer.
One such pair that has just been completed is this very beautiful pair of 20g droplock shotguns. Completed in 2000, built for an American gentleman, they were kept here in the UK and shot every season. The guns were returned to us last year to be sold and the new owner, another American gentleman, has decided to also keep them here in the UK for his annual pheasant and partridge shooting trip.
The guns are a matched pair of best quality 20g droplocks with 27” barrels, scroll back, double trigger actions with elaborate scroll coverage and stunningly figured 14 ¾” stocks. Choked ½ in all 4 barrels they are the perfect all round guns, from early grouse through to late season pheasants. The guns are perfectly balanced and are quick in the hands like a 20 should be. Cased in their leather case with canvas outer they are very presentable and attractive pair of guns.
The stocks have had all the handling marks removed and have been gently refinished with our high gloss finish. The barrels have been best re-blacked and both actions and lock work have been completely stripped, cleaned and checked over, ovals have been polished and engraved and the leather shop have made a new lightweight canvas outer with initial patch. The team have done a superb job on the refinish of the guns and they are now safely stored and awaiting the arrival of their new owner.
Destined once again for a good client of ours in the USA is this sweet 20g droplock shotgun. As the client is based in Texas it was only natural to engrave the gun with some nice scenes of dove and Bobwhite quail set amongst some of the cactus brush country familiar to his own ranch.
The scroll is a slightly finer version than we usually use on the larger frame guns and rifles, but we feel that everything should be scaled and in proportion with the frame size. You’ll also notice some rose bouquets which we think add a tasteful look and break to the overall engraving design.
One final feature that always works well with these small bore guns are the carved fences which always add a touch of masculinity to an otherwise delicate gun.
Flushing Bobwhite quail in Texas brush country.
Carved fences always add a nice touch to our delicate bird guns.
Classic dove game scene on the right side of the action.
The word nice can be a pretty boring word to describe something you like but sometimes a gun arrives at the factory and the minute you open the case and first lay eyes on it, you think to yourself ‘yep, this is a nice gun’. More often than not you take it out of the case, inspect it in closer detail, spend 10 minutes pretending to shoot driven grouse with it in the showroom and the ‘nice gun’ quickly turns into a ‘damn nice gun’. When Trigger phoned me to ask about the latest preowned gun that had just arrived, before I’d even had chance to take it out of the case, handle it, or enjoy some imaginary grouse shooting, my immediate response to him was ‘this is a damn nice gun’.
That damn nice gun I’m talking about is this rare Westley Richards droplock 20g shotgun. Completed in 1906 for C.S. Somervile Esquire, it’s a fine example of a best quality shotgun, featuring our patent hand detachable locks, single selective trigger, snap lever work, Model C dolls head extension and a removable cover plate. The scroll back action has our classic Westley scroll engraving, which extends a couple of inches down the barrels and the trigger guard is engraved with a dog on point. The beautifully shaped and scaled action retains some lovely case colours and the engraving is superbly executed and crisp to the touch.
The gun was returned to us in 1988 for a full refurbishment and we rebarreled the gun with new 28” chopper lump barrels with 2 3/4” chambers, choked 1/2 in the right barrel and 5/8 in the left. The stock is stunning and has a lovely straight grain through the hand which then flows down to the toe. Rich and dark in colour the original length of 13 7/8” was extended to 14 3/4″ by a leather covered recoil pad. The splinter forend matches the stock perfectly and has the usual Deeley catch release and horn tip. The gun weighs 6lbs 4ozs and is well balanced. Weight in the barrels encourages a steady, controlled swing, which is often an issue with lightweight smaller gauges. The gun comes in a lightweight green canvas case with accessories.
The gun is really in superb condition and I can’t stress enough how rare it is to find a best quality 20g droplock, in this condition, from this era. I’m probably doing the gun an injustice by simply calling it a damn nice gun and there are numerous superlatives one could describe this gun with, but I feel this is a gun that speaks for itself and from the images, I think you’ll agree.
Every now and then you get one of those great guns come through the door that you just have to stop and admire. This week we had the opportunity to look at a fabulously original Westley Richards 12g ‘Pigeon’ gun that retains nearly all of its original factory finish. Guns in such condition really are hard to find these days and one in this configuration even rarer still.
Completed in 1931 this Westley Richards was built as a ‘special quality’ gun intended for the live pigeon circuit, a pursuit still undertaken in hushed corners of the world. The Anson & Deeley fixed lock action has a wonderful depth and presence that genuinely and perfectly puts the weight at an impressive 8lbs 7ozs. The gun is supremely steady in the hands with a muzzle forward pointability that makes the gun swing with ease.
Vivid case colour hardening dominates the action.
The large breech ends, side clips, cross bolt and high shoulders add a real distinctive look to the gun which is only enhanced by the 30″, 3″ chambered barrels with distinctive flat top ventilated competition rib. Choked 3/4 and Full the gun packs some serious ‘out there’ capability!
The 14 3/4″ pistol grip with horn cap continues the flowing lines of a formidable gun that has wonderful engraving of pigeons, the metalwork itself retaining all of the original vivd case colour hardening and charcoal blueing of the furniture.
Here in the UK, it would make a fantastic ‘high bird’ gun capable of handling some of the more punchy cartridges favoured for this discipline. Alternatively it could just as well return to the live pigeon arena, the environment for which it was originally intended.
Happy New Year to you all! What better way to start the new year off than with this exquisite little .410 droplock that was completed just before the Christmas break.
Beautifully engraved with Bobwhite Quail scenes, the gun was fully case colour hardened and then the two game scenes carefully brushed off to highlight the detail. The elaborate scroll with gold bordering is not something we have done for the best part of 25 years now and this updated version reminded us just how good it can look on a small frame scroll back action.
Once again the gun is stocked with a fabulous piece of Turkish walnut which has stunning figure and depth of colour, unquestionably complementing the full case colour hardening.
We are now about to hit the show circuit in the USA and very much look forward to meeting with our clients both old and new, perhaps discussing that special little gun that you are sure is missing from your armoury!
Delicate Bobwhite Quail game scenes decorate the action sides.
Stunning Turkish walnut complements the case colour hardening.
Just completed and in time for Christmas delivery is this exquisite little 28g droplock shotgun. Built as a modern version of our ‘Modele de Luxe’ grade gun, it features a specially commissioned elaborate scroll design incorporating beautiful shell motifs on the fences and top lever.
The gun is a special project commissioned by a father for his son and it is always a pleasure for the team here at the factory to bring such a project to fruition, especially for the gift of a life time. As a ‘Modele de Luxe’ gun it features Westley Richards model ‘C’ dolls head fastener, single selective trigger, drop locks, scroll back, exhibition wood, heel/toe plates with a slim horn centre, and a hand painted enamel oval with family crest. Teague multi chokes were fitted from the guns inception to give it real versatility in the field, for a lifetime of use.
Exquisite elaborate scroll design with carved shell features.
Teague multi chokes contained in a hand made pocket case.
The whole package could only be complete with a super bespoke made case, covered in black antique finish alligator skin. The interior has been tastefully lined in blue alcantara, with inset case label and an assortment of functional tooling. The extra drop locks have been French fitted into one of the compartment lids under which sits a hand made choke box.
Merry Christmas from us all here to one very lucky new owner!
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.