Whilst we were building the India Rifle I never put too much mind as to who would end up engraving it, too many years of gunmaking to worry about that detail. For me the project started when I bought a Webley & Scott 600NE Sidelock double rifle. The rifle was to my mind, the most perfect 600 sidelock rifle I had ever seen, it was large, the right weight and had big locks which gave it presence. The rifle was made for purpose and was masculine, just what a 600 should be, not a 577 with 600 barrels. Like everything I buy I ended up selling it, this time to one of my most avid elephant hunting clients. He in turn dropped it and broke the perfectly shaped stock. It has never looked the same since, a shame.
Prior to selling the rifle, we took all the key measurements from it, had it drawn up and the India and Africa rifles were concieved . Like most things in the gun trade this all took time, especially as it was at the time an ‘in house’ project, I was in effect the customer, and the least important one on the order book at that! Some years later however the first rifle was ready and the decision on the engraving came about. In the factory everyone knew that this was to be a big engraving commission, sort of like what we had done with the Boutet gun in the 80’s, something different, something extravagant, the rifle had to reflect the heady days of the Raj.
I had a meeting with 2 of my regular engravers about the engraving commission and they came to my office with no drawings or anything, no ideas or suggestions just a price for the work and a very large one at that. I decided immediately to decline and called Paul Lantuch in USA who was working on another rifle for us at the time and offered the commission to him. I described the project, that it must reflect the gift giving of the Raj with tiger hunting scenes, opulance, elephants and howdahs, Paul was immediately enthused and excited, firing back ideas, he said he would go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in the morning, do some research and send his sketches, which he did. Some weeks of discussion followed as the design developed before the work began. It took Paul almost a full year to complete this job, but having shown this rifle at 5 exhibitions now in UK & USA I can safely say I have never had so many generous and favourable comments on a gun in my 27 years. Some people may not like it, perhaps the design is not to their taste, but even so they all admire it for the quality and unique work that is involved.
A fellow gunmakers owner in the USA comes up to me every year and tells me with a touch of jealousy how amazed he is I allow Paul to engrave my guns saying ‘he uses a Dremel to shift the metal you realise’. Frankly I don’t care if he uses a road drill as long as the unique and creative work continues to flow!
Below you will see a short timeline with the sketches as the design for the rifle was passed back and forth across the Atlantic. These are accompanied by some new photos of the rifle which I took today and have already called Paul this evening to apologise for, they don’t do his work the justice it deserves.