A Brace Of Interesting Hunting Knives

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As loyal followers of the Explora blog you will have seen there is a diverse amount of hunting related items that surface from the most unlikely places. Knives are always a favourite of ours and generally the bigger the better. Take for example the two knives which a client of ours recently acquired from a house clearance in the north of England.

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The first is one of the nicest hunting knives that we have seen in a long time, produced by a cutler named W.Thornhill & Co., Kensington, London. The company can be traced back to 1734 and had a very illustrious history particularly under the later leadership of Walther Thornhill whose company name is stamped upon the blade. During the golden age of empire under Queen Victoria the company offered silverware, writing boxes, dressing cases and other luxury goods, exhibiting at the Great Exhibition of 1851, Paris Exposition of 1855, International Exhibition of 1862 and Paris Exposition of 1878.  In 1885 the company was awarded the Royal Warrant of Queen Victoria.

This particular drop point knife, the ‘Graham’ is still in fabulous condition with all the original accoutrements, including scissors, boot hook, corkscrew, scalpel, tweezers and pick. The quality of workmanship is really superb when you look at the detail on the spine of the blade which can almost be described as scallop back. The knife comes in a pigskin sheath with beautifully made silver fittings. Sadly the business of W.Thornhill & Co. ceased trading in 1912 which is a genuine shame considering the quality of the work.

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Our second knife is a very large folder made by Holtzapffel & Co, of Haymarket, London.  With its 6″ blade it very clearly was not intended as your casual pocket knife but certainly the knife of a serious hunter. The quality once again is superb and the address would date it at between 1907 – 1930. The nickel silver pivoting guard which is pinned through the rear of the blade is a really nice touch as are the ivory grips and carved bolsters.

Regrettably no history of the original owner could be found which is a real shame as we are sure there would be some great stories to tell!

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Westley Richards Pair 16g Hand Detachable Lock Shotguns

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Whilst the shooting season may well be behind us now it is always nice to be finishing guns with a view to the coming season which for many is only 6 months away!  The pair of guns shown here will certainly be one of the first pairs put to good use when the grouse season starts.

These 16g guns are built with 30″ barrels on our hand detachable lock action with traditional full scroll engraving, case colour hardening, double trigger and Prince of Wales grips.  The slim beaver-tail forends are an unusual choice on a pair of guns for the British shooting scene, such forends found more commonly on guns built for the US market.  That said the new owner shoots big days and is a big man so the extra surface area of the beaver-tail should make for comfortable grip on a hot peg!

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Presented in our dark tan lightweight leather case with tools and gold leaf leather label, they make for a wonderful package which the new owner will have years of fun using. Hopefully the grouse numbers this year will be kind to him!

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Westley Richards Pair Of Deluxe 12g Sidelock Shotguns

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Whilst we are best known for our hand detachable lock (droplock) shotguns which are the mainstay of our shotgun production, it is always nice to see our sidelock side by side shotgun pass through the factory. At present we have several pairs of 12g, a trio of 16g, several 20g and a 28g passing through the works.

Our sidelock shotgun is built on a round body action with assisted opening, Southgate ejector work and exhibition walnut as standard. We offer both pinned and pinless locks with the majority of exhibition grade guns now moving towards pinless so that the engraving is uninterrupted.

Here we have a lovely pair of 12g guns with elaborate relief scroll, carved fences and traditional game bird scenes. The rounded lines of the guns lend themselves to a wrap around format of engraving that is certainly very elegant and keeps everything flowing. The wood is once again outstanding, another signature feature of Westley Richards best guns and rifles.

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Pair of Westley Richards 12g ‘Central Vision’ Sidelock Ejectors

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When it comes to shotgun shooting, eye dominance plays a pivotal role in the shooter’s success and can totally change the style in which you shoot or the gun you use. There are various types of eye dominance and some weird and wonderful ways to deal with them. For the lucky ones, we have absolute dominance of the eye looking down the rib, in my case right handed – right eye dominant. No action needed. For the nearly lucky ones, they have predominant dominance, meaning one eye is nearly but not quite fully dominant, this normally doesn’t cause any problems with the right amount of cast on the gun but some people need to squint the weaker eye so the other becomes fully dominant. For the not so lucky, these are the ones with true cross dominance, i.e. right handed but left eye dominant or vice versa. Actually quite common and there are a few remedies such as a squinting/closing the opposite eye, use a full cross over/eyed gun or, depending how ambidextrous you are, shoot from the other shoulder. Easier said than done! Intermittent or occasional cross dominance can be caused by poor focus or bad gun mounting and indeterminate dominance is when both eyes are fighting for control. Lastly we have central vision, where neither eye is dominant, so to combat this either put a patch on the opposite eye or shoot a central vision gun. Although every gun is different, normal cast measurements for a central vision or sometimes known as a semi cross over gun are: 1/2” at the comb, 7/8″ at the face, 3/4″ at the heel and 7/8” at the toe. The stock is often swept at the face to allow the head to move over further to create the central vision down the rib without the cast at heel being too dramatic. If you have absolute eye dominance it is certainly a bizarre sight picture when mounting a central vision gun but you have to admire the skill in the stocking and the ingenuity to overcome this, what I can only imagine, quite an annoying eye dominance to have. But I have no doubt the well-seasoned central vision shooter can shoot as good as any other eye dominance and I should imagine it would be quite fun to watch!

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Recently through the WR doors came this interesting pair of Westley Richards 12g sidelock ejectors with central vision stocks. Completed in 1962 they have 26” barrels with double trigger, Holland style hand detachable, sidelock actions engraved with a large floral scroll. The dark, well figured stocks measure 14 3/4” to the centre of the butt and are cast off 9/16″ at the comb 3/4″ at the face, 15/16″ at the heel and 15/16″ at the toe. The guns are in overall very good condition and will be on our used gun site shortly. I’m sure there is a central vision shooter out there, somewhere!

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It’s rare to have central vision or cross eyed stocks on new guns these days but it certainly was much more common place between wars and for those of you who have been to the factory, you will remember the painting we have on the stairs of Colonel H.H. Shri Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji, Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar, an esteemed cricketer who played for England and was said to be one of the best batsman of all time, standing proudly with two shot lions and a cross eyed stock double rifle. From the research done several years ago, we assume that the rifle in the painting is his Holland & Holland .240 cross eyed stock double rifle, which he ordered in 1922.

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Westley Richards .500 Double Rifle Back From Engraving

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New in this week from engraving is another of our traditional hand detachable lock double rifles in .500 3″ NE. This particular rifle has been built on a heavyweight frame as the client requested that the rifle weigh close to 12lb 8ozs on completion. Aesthetically the additional size at the breach ends makes for a nice sweep in the barrels which will become more evident once the rifle is finished.

Engraving wise we have another variation on our traditional ‘house’ scroll. In this instance the fences have been carved with a design that complements the scroll very well. The game scene of a mean old looking buffalo combines carving with fine detailing, as opposed to the more rounded carving of animals you get to see, which often lacks lifelike details. There is a nice perception of distance with the scene that should be highlighted more when the cover plate is blacked in the traditional manner.

We are looking forward to getting this one completed and out to the hunting field this year where with a bit of luck it will take a big buffalo or two!

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Indian Daggers – Objects Of Beauty

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The Princely rulers of India were noted for the opulence and extravagance with which they led their lives. The possession of beautiful objects made from the most precious of materials was a display of both wealth and power. Images abound of these rulers draped with the finest pearls, diamonds, emeralds and rubies assembled into some of the finest jewellery the world has ever seen.

Naturally this extravagance extended to the personal weapons carried by these individuals and here we have a selection of some of the finest Indian edged weapons that we have seen in a long time. Primarily jade handled, the curve bladed daggers or ‘Khanjar’ as they are known in India, are set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds, the stones in fact set in place with fine gold.  One dagger has very fine pearls set into the blade which is most unusual and each of the blades is decorated with fine gold damascene work.

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One all steel dagger or ‘Kard’ is fully damascene embellished including the hilt which forms the shape of a bird with rubies for eyes.  The quality of craftsmanship is superb as you would expect from the very finest workers of the day, engaged by the great families of India. You can now appreciate where some of the creative influence for the ‘India’ rifle came from and why we chose to inlay precious stones.

Small Selection Of Used Guns

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Here we have a small selection of used guns that have recently come up for sale at our UK factory.

The first offering is a slightly unusual Westley Richards 12g, fixed lock ejector, assisted opener. Built in 1955, on a Webley scroll back action with two triggers, tang top lever and automatic beetle back game safe. It retains some original case colour and is engraved with large scroll and the Westley name in a block format. It has 26” barrels with 2 ¾” chamber, choked ¼ & ⅝. The straight hand stock measures 14 ⅝ to centre and a splinter forend with Anson push rod release. It’s slightly unusual to have made a fixed lock action with assisted opening and it’s not a gun we would have made many of. It’s a very lively gun in the hands and points very quickly weighing only 6lbs 3oz, it would make the ideal walk up gun and the assisted opener works flawlessly meaning you really can get your next two shots off much quicker. The gun would benefit from a light refurbishment but is sold as is and personally I would just take this gun out and shoot it and enjoy it for what it is, a solid, usable quick shooting boxlock.

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Next we have a superb Marcel Thys sidelock double rifle in 7x75R Vom Hofe calibre. Bolstered sidelock action with two triggers, the front of which is chequered and articulated, engraved with large floral scroll and retaining all original case colour hardening. 24 ½” chopper lump barrels with a single folding leaf sight regulated to 100 yards and ramp foresight. Semi beavertail forend and a full pistol grip stock measuring 14 ⅛” to centre with carved drop points, strap over comb, grip cap with trap and black rubber recoil pad.  The wood is exhibition quality and absolutely stunning. Weighing 9lbs 2oz this is a high quality rifle from a very respected Belgium maker.

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In bolt actions we have a Holland & Holland .275 H&H Magnum take down rifle. Built on a Mauser ’98 action with a 26” threaded take down barrel held in place by a locking pin and keeper pin, it has a rear island base with one fixed sight regulated to 200 yards and two folding leaves at 350 and 500 yards. The stock measures 14” to centre with a cheek piece, horn heel plate, case colour hardened grip cap with trap and horn forend tip. Weighing 7lbs 14oz this is an opportunity to own a really very nice Holland take down rifle in their propriety cartridge.

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We also have a Gastinne Renette of Paris bolt action rifle in .300 H&H. Built on an DWM Mauser action it has a 25” barrel with a rear island base with one fixed and 3 folding leaf express sight and ramp foresight. Full pistol stock measuring 13 ½” to centre with a rubber recoil pad, strap over comb and grip cap with trap. The rifle comes with a Zeiss Diavari 1.5-6×42 on quick detachable claw mounts. A well-made bolt action in a popular plains game calibre. Weighing 7lbs 14oz with the scope, a nice practical package.

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Last but not least we have a J.Rigby .275 which has been re-barrelled by Paul Roberts of J.Roberts & Son. 22″ barrel with a mint bore, hinged floor plate, 13 7/8″ semi pistol stock with a slim Silvers pad and sling studs. Weighing 7lb 5ozs the rifle comes with 1″ mounts and is an affordable and usable English rifle in a popular, smooth shooting calibre.

All the guns and rifles will be on our used gun site shortly but for any initial enquires, please email me at ricky@westleyrichards.co.uk or call +44 121 333 1918.

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Westley Richards .577 ‘Elephant’ Rifle

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We are lucky enough here at the factory to hold quite a diverse collection of guns and rifles both old and new.  Amongst these is this very nice .577 ‘Elephant’ rifle that we completed a few years ago.  The rifle had never in fact been photographed properly and so we have just taken the opportunity to take a few shots.

The rifle is built on our square back hand detachable lock action in the classic .577 3″ magnum load.  This round had a formidable reputation as a real ‘elephant’ calibre and so we decided to engrave the rifle with semi carved elephants entwined in an elaborate scroll design.

You would not know it, but the rifle has in fact been on safari which is always good to know as so many people assume that such rifles are only built for display.  We have always looked at the guns and rifles we build from the purist eye of the gunmaker, functionality and aesthetics first, embellishment second.  Ultimately, if you combine these elements well, then the final product can be an outstanding example of craftsmanship.

You will probably notice that the action is more square overall in the actual file up compared to the more recent roundedness that we have been doing.  We actually offer both options to clients as some do prefer the more classic ‘box’ shape of the pre-war rifles.  Beauty they say is in the eye of the beholder!

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Vintage ‘Compact’ Cartridge Magazine

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The British Shooting Show has a habit of delivering interesting items for the discerning eye.  This year we were lucky enough to come across this very nice leather compact 12 bore cartridge magazine that appears to be of French manufacture.

Such aged items are always a pleasure to find as they remind us of a period of great ingenuity and quality when even the most simple items were made to the very best standard.  The attention to detail is outstanding from the lovely brass latches to the quality of stitching found throughout the item.  Someone clearly cared about making this item.

With a capacity capable of holding 28 cartridges, split 14 either end, this magazine was clearly never intended for big days, but rather the ‘walk up’ shooter, perhaps woodcock hunter who might only fire a handful of cartridges in a day.

Hopefully next years show will throw up another little gem!

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Holland & Holland .500/.465 ‘Dominion’ Double Rifle

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The Holland & Holland ‘Dominion’ model in both shotgun and double rifle format was introduced in the 1930’s as an affordable option to the best ‘Royal’ model guns and rifles offered by the company. Named in reference to the British Dominions which included countries such as Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Newfoundland, they targeted a broader clientele consisting mainly of administrators, officers and sportsmen.

This particular double rifle is in Hollands proprietary .500/.465 calibre which was introduced in 1907 after the British ban on all .450 calibre rifles. Firing a 480 grain bullet at 2150 feet per second the calibre was a very suitable replacement for the .450 and competed evenly with the .470, .475 and .476 calibres.

These rifles have always had a certain appeal and are very distinctive in style. With the swept back, slightly dipped, back action locks they are very robust and a real work horse of a rifle. You regularly see Dominion shotguns in the field today which is certainly a testament to the strength of the design.

Recently sold by us, this rifle has considerable original finish and is the No.2 grade with a half covering of engraving which adds a delicate touch to an otherwise simple rifle. The build quality goes without question and hopefully its new owner will soon get the opportunity to use it once again in Africa.

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