Fresh from engraving is another of our ever popular .410 droplock shotguns. Over the years we have worked on scaling every detail on these fine little guns to such an extent that the engraving has now become an important and final element of this process.
Westley Richards traditional house scroll can trace its ancestry back to the earliest guns produced by the company. Guns of the muzzle loading era were ruled by the larger 12, 14 and 16 bore hence engraving designs were bolder with large scrolls to provide more coverage and suit the tastes of the time. With the advent of the Anson & Deeley boxlock gun design of 1875 Westley Richards ‘house’ engravers had the final canvas on which to perfect the companies own scroll design, one that remains the standard for the guns and rifles built today.
Interestingly, small bore guns built on scaled action frames were often the tool for boys and consequently lacked any real engraving, more often the only form of engraving was the Westley Richards name simply adorning the action sides.
Fast forward to the re-introduction of the droplock .410 in 1989 and you’ll note that one of the first guns produced from the original batch of six was engraved by the renowned Brown brothers (Paul & Alan) with a beautiful bouquet (rose) and fine scroll design. Whilst game scenes also featured on this gun, the small scroll design really lifted this little gun into a new light.
Over the last couple of years, several of these modern droplock incarnations have been handed around various engravers each of whom has given their own unique twist on this beautiful design. The images which illustrate this blog shows one of the latest which you really must see in the hand to truly appreciate. Whilst it is a given that the gun is small, the delicate nature of the scroll design really does complete the refined scale of this gun.
The Westley Richards patent top lever makes a great canvas for the delicate scroll.
The ‘scroll back’ of the action creates a natural starting point from which the scroll can emerge and flow.
The application of gold on traditional sporting arms—and especially on British examples—is a very easy thing to get wrong. Recall that the aesthetics of Britain’s classic designs, their shapes, their lines, their engraving, evolved during an age and in an empire where ostentatious decoration on firearms was generally frowned upon.
In English Guns & Rifles, J.N. George’s fine 1947 treatise on the evolution of British sporting arms, the author noted a trend evident by the late 18th Century—“a marked tendency toward greater simplicity of form, combined with the abolition of all kinds of ornament which might impair either its utilitarian value or its appearance of neatness and smooth finish, began to be apparent in all forms of the sporting gun.”
Broadly speaking these strictures dominated British gunmaking, and British gun engraving, throughout the 19th Century and well in to the 20th. Lavishly embellished outliers, with some exceptions, are most notably the guns and rifles made for the princes of India and the royalty of the East, to whom Westley Richards was a favourite gun and rifle maker.
By its nature, gold—in all its flashy, sometimes heavy opulence— can readily overwhelm the spare elegance and quiet lines of a traditional English firearm, and often does when applied—unless the applicator has not only hands of great technical virtuosity but also the eyes of an artist and an aesthetic taste congruous with the object to be engraved.
As his gold inlays and the bejewelled engravings on the India Rifle (2013) and the Africa Rifle (2016) illustrate, Lithuanian-born and America-based Paul Lantuch possesses each of these talents. This spring, after 6 1/2 years in the making, Lantuch completed the ‘Arab Warrior Guns’, a pair of sidelocks, the third and fourth examples of the largest, most expensive, and the most elaborate commissions that Westley Richards has placed with an engraver since the Boutet Gun of the 1980s, engraved by Alan and Paul Brown.
The pair, 12-bore rounded-body sidelocks, feature panoply of carved Arab warriors with interwoven Arabesque ornamental motifs against a full background of inlayed, stippled gold. Built for a member of Qatar’s royal family, there is more precious metal on display on these guns than at Fort Knox, but … but—and I say this as a conservative rose & scroll purist—the effect is sumptuous, certainly regal, but not gaudy, nor garish. That is because Lantuch’s design effectively integrates the figures and ornaments in with the gold in a manner so that no one element visually dominates another, nor does the gold crush the fine lines of the canvas—which is, after all, a traditional British shotgun.
Lantuch is first and foremost an artist; he studied at Lithuania’s Vilnius Institute of Arts, and is accomplished in many mediums—drawing, painting, printmaking, and creating jewellery of elaborate and innovative design. The late Simon Clode, in his 2013 introduction to Lantuch on The Explora, wrote: “Gun engravers who can draw and design are scarce, engravers who can conceive, draw, design and execute to the standard of Paul are even scarcer.” Clode—not only a connoisseur of engraving but a champion of the art and a sponsor of talented young engravers—recognised something special after Anthony Alborough-Tregear brought Lantuch’s work to his attention upon seeing it at the American Custom Gunmakers Guild Exhibition, in 2011 in Reno.
The process of embellishing the Arab Warrior Guns began in 2016, beginning with discussions between Lantuch and Clode about depictions of mounted warriors struck in fighting poses. The concept called for the figures and ornaments to be carved and depicted in relief against a stippled golden background, as if they were set on shimmering sands in the sunlit deserts of Arabia. “The balance of figures to the gold surfaces had to be carefully calculated,” emphasised Lantuch. In his final design this balance, to my mind, is the key to the success of the composition.
Lantuch and the team at Westley Richards exchanged notes and photos of evolving designs over two-and-half months until the right concept crystallised. The physical process of engraving started, Lantuch explained, with him transferring the drawings on to the steel surfaces with a needle, then cutting contour lines. Lantuch shaped and carved the warriors with a variety of chisels.
“The figures are actually based on 19th Century Orientalist European art, rather than real Islamic iconography,” Lantuch explained. “The ornamental work is florid in style, with geometric inclusions; this is called Arabesque, a kind of European interpretation of Islamic art.”
With flat chisels Lantuch removed steel for the background down to a depth of 1.5mm, and he then punched thousands of dots into the recesses before crisscrossing them with a sharp flat chisel. This creates a gripping surface for the gold inlay. Then, using pure 24-karat gold wire—and a lot of it, 1.8 ounces for the two guns—Lantuch hammered and inlayed the gold with a flat punch, then textured the background with special tools that he made himself.
After the guns were returned to England and had been traditionally pack-hardened nearby in the premises of Birmingham’s famed Richard and Bob St. Ledger, Lantuch flew to England to begin the two-week-long finishing process.
The correct finishing of any carved gun is critical to the quality of its final appearance, and it is a delicate, painstaking multi-step process. First, the case colours must be removed, but not all of them, so to account for and to accentuate shadows and highlights, and the figures and ornamental motifs re-detailed and their lines sharpened where necessary. In some places the background needed re-matting and, beautifully, the gold seams between the action and lockplates were hammered and joined as if each action was one unit. “Paul essentially sealed the guns’ actions to mate up all the goldwork,” said Alborough-Tregear. “It gives the guns a svelte, almost organic quality.”
Though best known for its hand-detachable droplocks, Westley Richards still builds sidelocks, and the mechanics of the Arab Warrior Guns conform to the firm’s preferred modern-day configuration for its sidelock shotguns: Boss-type bar-action locks, rounded actions, Southgate-type ejectors, with H&H-type assisted openers, and single non-selective triggers. The 29-inch barrels are fitted with gold and ruby foresight beads.
Despite the carvings and gold, the guns appear as fleet as the long-limbed Arabian stallions portrayed on them. They are even lightweight—6-pounds, 8-ounces each. “Regrettably, many London guns are now getting heavier and heavier, with loggish, long barrels made to fire heavy cartridges—really missing the point of a fine gun,” said Alborough-Tregear. “The Westley Richards round-body guns are so elegant you could easily mistake our 12s for 16s.”
The pair is housed in an oak-and-leather case appropriate to the guns: outwardly clad in best black alligator hide, French-fitted, goat-skin lined, all metalwork gold plated, tools made with horn handles, and geometric marquetry in the frame, the owner’s name hand-embossed in traditional gold leaf. It is a showcase in the most literal sense of the word and befitting of display in any museum of the arts.
Vic Venters is a journalist and author of The Best of British: A Celebration of British Gunmaking, as well as Gun Craft: Fine Guns and Gunmakers in the 21st Century. He has covered the British and European fine gun trade since the early 1990s and is the Senior Editor of America’s Shooting Sportsman magazine.
After a two-year hiatus, the Scottish Sporting Journal is back, injecting a modern design into a much-loved 40-year-old title; the same passion for Scotland, captured and documented in a new, exciting way. Evolving from the Gazette to the Journal, this 180-page bi-annual magazine is a visual and written journey through Scotland’s wild places, capturing the passion, craft and pursuits within them.
The ethos behind the publication is that Scotland represents a way of life that is long lost to much of the modern world; a way of life in which the people, wildlife and landscape are all intrinsically linked. The aim of its content is to share this emotion and experience, offering true escapism to their readers. From chasing brown trout in small spate rivers to stalking stags in the Highlands to spending time with faraway island communities, Scottish Sporting Journal puts the focus on visual storytelling, capturing the essence of what makes Scotland such a unique country.
Volume II, Issue I highlights include:
– The Arab Warrior Guns from Westley Richards A unique pair of museum-quality featuring the most prolific gold inlay coverage of any guns they have built in their 207-year history
– Hunting with golden eagles We head high into the Cairngorms National Park to witness golden eagles hunting mountains hares in their natural habitat
– Hidden Scotland with Jim Richardson Renowned National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson shares some of his favourite images from his adventures around Scotland
– The new spirit of Scotland With Scottish gin reportedly set to usurp whisky in the next 12 months, we visit the Isle of Harris distillery to see it first hand
– Exploring the Isle of Arran Known as Scotland in Miniature, we explore the many sporting opportunities and way of life on the Isle of Arran
– Spearfishing in remote seas Spearfishing guide Will Beeslaar heads into the cold waters in pursuit of Pollock, with bespoke underwater photography
– Salmon fishing on the Spey A morning with ghillie Roddy Stronach, who has lived and worked on the Spey for 15 years, to understand how the role of a ghillie is changing
Happy Independence Day to all our good friends and customers there in the USA. 243 years ago you pushed through your own version of Brexit with a lot more success than we seem to be achieving today!
As a company well supported by the USA we thought it only proper to post a good old piece of American gun history with a little English twist. Winchester is without doubt one of the most iconic rifle names in the world and so it was just this weekend that we persuaded a gun collecting friend of ours to lend us this little gem of a rifle.
This Model ’95 lever action was the first model offered with a box magazine by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and as such allowed for the use of pointed bullets in a Winchester rifle. The design was made famous by Theodore Roosevelt who used one in .405 Winchester calibre on his epic safari of 1909 an account of which is detailed in his subsequent book African Game Trails.
Previous Winchester models had the famous tubular magazine which due to the in-line nature of the cartridge in the magazine, meant that for safety reasons only blunt nosed bullets could be utilised. The Model ’95 changed all that.
This particular rifle is chambered in that great American cartridge the .30-06 Springfield, to this day one of the finest cartridges around. The rifle was offered in this calibre from 1908 to 1926. The rifle features the interrupted thread take-down system and is unbelievably quick and easy to assemble.
Retailed through the London Armoury Company Limited, London, the rifle comes in a very typical English format canvas and leather trim case. Even to the trained eye you would be forgiven for thinking that this case held a small bore shotgun or some other weapon of British origin. The fact it holds a wonderful Winchester take-down rifle is all the more surprising and in truth pleasing.
Hot off the press and looking magnificent is TheExplora journal by Westley Richards. This last week we received the first 10 copies for approval and we all have to say that it surpasses even our demanding standards!
Having taken 2 1/2 years to bring to fruition it was with great excitement, trepidation and relief that we got to handle the first copies fresh in from the printers. This project was a true labor of love for the team here at Westley Richards, so it was finally great to see the fruits of all that hard work.
The front cover features Westley Richards stunning and as yet unseen ‘Forest Rifle’, a magnificent .600 droplock double rifle specially commissioned to reflect the Central African forest environment. Fully carved in exceptional detail with the flora and fauna of the forest floor, the story of this rifle unfolds in the stunning photography The Explora fans have come to expect from Westley Richards.
Other articles, specially commissioned, focus on engraving, gunmaking, historical weapons, shooting and gun fit, topics we hope will be close to the heart of many an avid sporting man and woman.
Presented in a beautifully-designed luxury format with a combination of high quality uncoated and gloss coated paper stock and an outer cover finished with a scratch resistant matt lamination with spot gloss varnish and gold foil embossed logo. The 180-page journal, epitomises the exceptional standards and painstaking attention to detail synonymous with Westley Richards.
With a limited print run of only 1000 copies, never to be re-printed, The Explora journal is set to become a collectors item that no self respecting Westley Richards afficiando should be without.
The first copies to clients will be coming out in the next few weeks so for those of you yet to place your order now is the time!!!!!
To order your copy of The Explora journal click here
Every now and then one of those nice little finds gets passed our way here at Westley Richards. And so it is that this 10 round .22 rimfire stock magazine came our way recently and has been added to the archive here at the factory.
Discovered in the back of an old shop as literally ‘dead stock’ it must have been there from before the First World War and once again highlights that you never know what might be lurking, tucked away in some dark corner. One day I hope to find that elusive Westley Richards howdah pistol, complete with case and accessories in pristine unfired condition…………..
Westley Richards is a name synonymous with rifles; double, magazine and single shot. Over the years the reputation of the company has been founded on large calibre rifles that have proved effective on all the worlds big game. The list of big game calibres built by the company reads like a who’s who of the very best the British gun and rifle makers could produce, ever since the introduction in 1898 of the first .450 3 1/4″ nitro express metallic cartridge.
With such a reputation for large calibre rifles it is a genuine pleasure to get to build the first and probably only .22-250 Remington calibre take down magazine rifle in the history of the company. This fine little calibre can trace its ancestry back to the 1930’s and the boom in wildcatting that our good friends in the USA were running with. In essence the .22-250 is the .250 Savage case necked down to take the .224 bullet. It was officially adopted by Remington in 1965 and has been chambered in production rifles by most of the major rifle manufacturers ever since.
Principally a varmint (sorry ‘vermin’ for us Brits!) calibre it is also a devasting Roe deer calibre north of the border here in Britain. Unusually and much to our gratification, this rifle is intended for use here in the Uk which makes this an extra special build for the factory as most of the guns and rifles we build head overseas.
A Swarovski 1″ Z3 scope in old school claw mounts sits well on the rifle making use of the original rear square bridge.
When building a rifle of this scale in British terms the key to the build is in the action. You need something small and being a British riflemaker that traditionally has to be a Mauser ’98. Now modern small ‘Kurz’ (short) actions are available, but with a project this unique you really need to look for something special. So it was that we pulled from the depths of the factory an original Mauser Oberndorf Kurz action with a rear single square bridge still retaining its original factory fittings for a quick detachable scope system.
Taking things a step further it was decided to build the rifle as a takedown, the smallest of which we have built. This in itself was an interesting excercise as we opted to review the takedown release catch traditionally found on the right side of the forend, to use a revised underside catch fashioned in the shape of our famous Deeley forend catch so giving the rifle that classic Westley Richards touch.
Case colour hardening predominates tthe finish of this rifle enhancing the unusual ‘Byzantine’ design.
Engraving wise the client requested a design based around ‘Byzantine’ motifs. The Byzantium period in history is said to span over 1000 years so clearly there was a lot to chose from so with the aid of the client, a geometric border (found commonly on gold jewellery of the period), combined with a floral motif was used as the basis for the engraving with the family crest set in the centre of the floorplate surrounded by a design that was taken from an architectural feature. To cap it all of the clients initials for both the stock and case disk were engraved from the Uncial alphabet!
Looking down on the rifle the elegant lines are enhanced by the rich black, electric blue and vivid case colours of the final finish.
In its finished state with the addition of a case colour hardened floorplate and magazine box the rifle is a wonderful mixture of the old and the new. The original Mauser ’98 Kurz action was without doubt the right way to go with such a project and we trust that complete in its traditional lightweight canvas case this unique little rifle will give its owner decades of fun and pleasure.
A close figured exhibition grade piece of walnut furnished with heel and toe plates sets the rifle off.
For me, as I am sure it is for many of our readers, the British gunmakers have always set the standard by which all other sporting guns and rifles are measured. One American rifle maker that certainly measured up to its British counterparts was Griffin & Howe.
In 1923 famed shooter, outdoorsman and writer, Colonel Townsend Whelen helped bring together a cabinet maker turned stock maker named Seymour R. Griffin and a tool maker turned gunsmith named James V. Howe, to form a company to make high quality custom rifles. Today Griffin & Howe remains one of America’s premier purveyors of fine firearms.
G&H always offered a wide range of gunsmithing services throughout their history. The company started out refining surplus Springfield Model 1903 bolt action rifles as well as building single shot target rifles. The company also gained a reputation for building very high-quality custom rifles and specializing in large bore rifles built on Magnum Mauser actions. In 1927 G&H introduced their iconic scope mount; a version of this mount being supplied to the U.S. Army during WWII and, following the war, was one of the most popular ways to mount a scope on a sporting rifle. I have also seen everything from a re-barreled Savage 1899 Lever Action to a full custom rifle in .505 Gibbs built using a Magnum Mauser action.
So, when a Griffin & Howe single shot rifle built on a Farquharson action came through the U.S. Agency, I was not necessarily surprised, but it is the first one I have ever seen.
Originally patented in 1872 by John Farquharson, the Farquharson single shot falling block action was solely produced by the gunmaker George Gibbs until the patent ran out in 1889. Soon after the patent expired, other British makers started producing rifles using Farquharson actions made by August Francotte of Belgium. These actions were stamped “PD”, which stood for “public domain”, to note there was no infringement on the patent. Today the original Gibbs and Francotte actions remain highly desirable, either on finished rifles or as actions for a future project.
The Griffin & Howe rifle pictured here was built in the 1950’s using a “PD” marked Farquharson action. The rifle is chambered in .375 Flanged Magnum, Holland’s rimmed .375 cartridge intended for breech loading rifles. The rifle’s barrel and action have the original blue finish, color hardening on the lever and butt plate and original oil finish on the stock. On the sides of the action, there is arabesque scroll engraving in a diamond pattern done by Josef Fugger, G&H’s in-house engraver at the time.
The rifle also features Griffin & Howe’s pattern quarter rib and banded ramp front sight with a removable sight hood, both engraved to match the action. The quarter rib is grooved for quick detachable lever lock G&H rings mounting a period correct J. Unertl 4X “Hawk” telescopic sight. In the absence of a fixed rear sight, there is a small peep sight that fits on the quarter rib when the scope is removed. The 26” barrel is marked, as usual, with the Maker’s serial number and name, “2288 Griffin & Howe Inc. New York”.
The two piece stock has an ebony forend tip and a full pistol grip checkered in the classic G&H point pattern with G&H’s distinctive beaded cheekpiece. The butt stock has a case colored and engraved steel strap butt plate where the removable peep sight is stored while the telescopic sight is in use.
Overall, the rifle is in excellent original condition and is a very good, and very rare, example of an American made best quality rifle.
Although repairs and refurbishments have always been a part of the Westley Richards repertoire, in recent years, following record numbers of new gun and rifle orders, we have sadly had to reduce the amount we take on. Repairs can be disruptive to the steady flow of new gun manufacture and often, on vintage guns of various makes, can be time consuming when machining and fitting new parts. Even the small amount we now do results in our production manager pulling his hair out trying to work out quite how he’s going to fit it in his extremely busy new gun and rifle schedule and without wishing the poor chap to be bald before his time, we have to be selective on what we take in. On the odd occasion I do manage to sneak a few into the workshops and one such rifle we have recently completed is this superb Rigby .450 Nitro Express Farquharson rifle. I thought the readers of the Explora would enjoy a few before and after photos of this stunning rifle.
In summary, our initial task was to re-regulate the sight work and sort the issue of faulty extraction. The rifle was shooting high and struggling to extract the spent cartridge. Once the rifle was back into working order it could be stripped down and we could then begin the cosmetic works. The wood work was put into the stock finishing shop and the many coats of oil were carefully applied to build the finish up to our normal best quality, high gloss finish. The action was annealed and we then recut and picked up all the engraving, bringing back to life the elaborate scroll work, Rigby name, double line border and sight work. Any pins that were tired or chewed were replaced and engraved. Once done it could be polished and prepped for hardening. The barrel was then polished and best quality re-blacked, topped and tailed, ready to be reassembled. The action, lever, safety button, grip cap and forend diamond were re-colour hardened, the trigger and pins were blued, sight worked and sling stud were blacked. The rifle was then freed up and fully reassembled before the final checks and finishing coats of oil on the stock were applied, ready for final inspection.
I think you’ll agree the rifle has turned out quite superbly and we are proud to have restored this wonderful rifle back to its former glory.
I am just returning from a trip in which I visited one of America’s oldest and most historic cities. A fitting place to find this pair of cased Westley Richards 16g Percussion Holster Pistols made in the first half of the 19th Century.
Originally ordered for stock, this pair of pistols was shipped, in their ‘box”, on May 16, 1839 to the London Agency at 170 New Bond St. Now, 180 years later, these pistols are being offered for sale by this firm. Only this time, at Westley Richards’ U.S. Agency.
A “boxed” or cased set of pistols like this were a sign of status and they were finished to a very high standard. The locks, hammers, trigger guards and breach blocks are decorated with a traditional acanthus scroll engraving and the maker’s name is engraved on each lock plate.
The small sized, bar action hammer locks have flat plates and are fitted with flat faced serpentine hammers with stylized dolphin heads and back sliding safeties.
Each pistol has 8” twist octagon barrels that are engraved with the maker’s name on the top flats. They have V-notch rear sights on the breach irons and small brass beads at the muzzles. The barrels are fitted with bridled steel ramrods that still operate flawlessly.
Lightly figured European walnut stocks have “bag” shaped grips and forends that extend to within 5/8” of the muzzle. The stocks have very nice flat top checkering, are iron mounted and have rectangular crest plates engraved with a “rising eagle”.
Overall the pair’s condition is excellent and the guns remain completely original. The locks and hammers display strong amounts of their color hardening and most of the original brown is left on the barrels that have excellent bores. The stocks are also sound, crack free and in superb original shape retaining almost all their original oil finish. The forearm wedges and triggers still show a vivid charcoal blue and almost all the original black remains on the trigger bows.
The pistols are paired in the original mahogany case that is also in very nice original condition still retaining the original trade label and well preserved green baize.
This pair of pistols is another great example of the high-quality arms Westley Richards has produced and sold for over two hundred years.