The Unique Westley Richards Top Lever.

Westley Richards, Top Lever, Shotguns

When I walk around a gun show, or visit a gun shop, there are two things that I am always subconsciously looking out for, the Westley Richards pattern guncase and the Westley Richards Top Lever. Those two unique features will always identify a Westley Richards gun from a distance. Yes, there are other things such as the scroll back and the single selective trigger but these are perhaps a little less obvious whilst walking the aisles.

The Westley Richards top lever is unique in its shape, one which was reached in a period of development from 1859 -1871. The photograph above shows this development of our top lever and how it arrived at the current shape. The gun on the left was the first gun we sold with a ‘top lever’, our first breech opening gun, delivered to a customer in 1862. I am guessing, when I say that the length of the lever was probably made as it is, so that the hand wrapped over it, and was therefore comfortable. No doubt after a bit of use it was realised it was rather unwieldily and could be shortened to the next gun over which was also made in 1862. Both of these guns use the same principle of locking down on top of the extension but you can see that the shape of the extension has become more round like it is today. ( This gun has also been converted to centre fire from pinfire )

The next development in 1863 was the pull back top lever, which also saw further improvement to the shape of the actual extension and the movement of the bite to the centre of the extension from the top as it was in the two previous guns. Finally the gun on the right is a little jump in time to 1876 showing a hammerless gun with the pivoting top lever the direct forbear to the lever we use today. This pivoting lever is to be found on hammer guns and can be seen below in the 3rd gun down which was made in 1865.

Development of the Westley Richards Top Lever.

The Westley Richards Model C Top LeverThe Westley Richards Model C Dolls Head and Top Lever on current production .577 

3 thoughts on “The Unique Westley Richards Top Lever.

  1. Dear Sir,

    I own a Charles {Chas.} Osbourne & Co. BLNE 12 bore with best damascus 30inch barrels. The chokes are 1/2 in Right barrel and Extra Full in left barrel. I do not know the chamber length as I have only recently owned the gun. The action has best scroll engraving with makers name on either side with gold inlaid SAFE.
    What attracted me to the gun was the Westley Richards type top lever. I have looked
    at several box lock guns over many years, and have never seen this type of W R top lever on other Box locks.

    The Chas. Osbourne & Co. has Birmingham proof marks on the underside barrels which tells me the gun was proofed between 1875 and 1887. These proof marks are for black powder proof. The top rib reads Chas. Osbourne & Co. Birmingham. There are no markings on the barrel flats, although there are 2 cross sword proof marks on the action flats water table.

    My one big regret is that the gun is a non-ejector, as I would of loved the gun to of been an ejector The gun is stocked in figured walnut, straight hand stock with original horn butt plate and silver oval with no initials. The forend is of the Hackett type with shaped horn tip. The bottom plate is set back and short, unusual which I like. Overall a quality BLNE with superb Westley Richards type top lever.

    Yours faithfully

    Michael C Pink { England }

  2. Dear Simon,

    Thank you for your reply. What I forgot to say about my Chas. Osbourne & Co. BLNE is that on the action water table is stamped Anson & Deeleys 5513 Patent. Also the serial number is only on the bottom of the right barrel 1532.
    The horn butt plate has a pointed top. The gun has the dolls head extention which locks into the top lever mechanism.

    Michael C Pink

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