Westley Richards is one of our oldest gunmakers, founded by William Westley Richards in 1812. The firm has made a great contribution to the mechanical perfection of the modern shotgun, not least the development of the self-cocking, hammerless “boxlock” (which its employees, Messrs Anson and Deeley, patented in the early 1870s). For nearly 200 years Westley Richards has maintained a reputation for mechanical innovation and excellence in both shotguns and rifles.
The test shotgun is a hand-detachable lock boxlock – the quintessential “best” boxlock. First impressions are good. Indeed, this gun is a wonderful example of the modern gunmaker’s art. It has bold engraving, chiselled fences and scallops to the rear of the action. On the mechanical front, there is a single-selective trigger (Westley’s own patent), a distinctive hinged Westley top lever and a no less characteristic Westley “Model C” top extension (a feature for which I have an eccentric preference). The fore-end latch is of Deeley pattern and the gun also has classic Westley ejector work which utilises tiny, boxed V-springs.
This Westley is heavily decorated but very stylish. It is rather reminiscent of some of the Greener exhibition guns. The straighthand stock is well conceived and made from pleasantly figured wood. If I were to make a slight criticism it would be that the finish looks a little dull (which may just be down to the fact that the gun has been used as a demonstration piece and might need re-oiling after much handling).
I liked the stock’s form, though, and especially its straighthand grip. The inletting and chequering were carried out to the highest standard. The measurements were not really suited to Mr Average – a point of no particular importance as a Westley will be built to your requirements. The stock had a length of pull of only 14in with an unusually high comb. Nevertheless, I found the gun comfortable and controllable to mount. Weighing only 6lb 3oz, it was, moreover, unusually light for a modern 12. It seemed steadier than it should be at that figure, which I can only put down to its sound design.
Casting a really critical eye over the gun, I could find nothing but evidence of the most careful workmanship. Wood-to-metal and metal-to-metal fit were of a standard which one used to expect in best-quality guns but which can no longer be taken for granted. The fit and finish of the metal parts really shone out. The top lever and the barrel extension were little works of art in themselves. The deep engraving to the action was elaborate, striking and in good taste (and I am not usually one for the gaudy on guns).