Westley Richards

WESTLEY RICHARDS & CO. has been making unique and especially good shotguns and rifles for over 200 years. Today we are proud to offer the most comprehensive range of bespoke shotguns and rifles by any single English maker, each and every one of which is built in our workshops by a team of highly skilled and enthusiastic craftsmen. A team dedicated to following the famous stated aim of the founder of the company, namely "to be the maker of as good a gun as can be made".

Historically it has been the role of the gun maker to provide for their customers sporting requirements, to ensure that they not only have the finest sporting guns but also accessories and equipment that have been tested and proven fit for purpose for their hunts. We take great pride in this role, from making leather accessories that will endure like our guns, to seeking out exclusive, original and serviceable equipment to offer our customers from our shop. At Westley Richards a team of approachable, enthusiastic sportsmen will go to any length to help make their clients adventure in the field a memorable one. A team that offers impartial advice based on wide experience of everything from guns and ammunition to the best hunting destinations around the world.

To us the gun is just the start of a journey with our customer; one that we hope will last for many years and cover many continents.

Westley Richards


William Westley Richards was born in 1789. He was given a good education and founded his gun making factory in 1812 when he was only 22. He took out an extensive list of patents, nine in all, the first in1821 for improvements to gun and pistol locks. Some of these derived from his own practical experience as a shot and his observation of the requirements of the sportsman who used his guns. His famous motto was always: "to be the maker of as good a gun as can be made", which remains the motto of the company today.


William Westley Richards had the foresight to appoint a London agent, William Bishop, known colloquially as "The Bishop of Bond Street". He was a master salesman who became a legendary Regency sporting character and he managed the shop at 170 New Bond Street for over fifty years.


Time and time again, throughout its history, the quality of the company's guns has been officially recognised, not only in the medals awarded at international exhibitions, but also when, in 1840, it was given a royal warrant by HRH Prince Albert, the Prince Consort (HM Queen Victoria also later granted them a warrant). Between 1881 and 1911 Westley Richards received a further six Royal Warrants including one from the Shah of Persia and his family in 1903.


The most significant of the many innovations by Westley Richards, the eldest son of the founder, was the breech and muzzle-loading carbine, which became known as the 'Monkey Tail' owing to the profile of the long lever which operated the breechlock.


Westley Richards patented a new type of single sliding snap bolt, known as a 'doll's head' extension, an inspired technical improvement which became a defining element of the Westley Richards and most other sporting guns.


When William Westley Richards died in 1865, the firm was taken over by his eldest son, known only as Westley Richards, who had worked under his father for many years. Westley Richards left his mark upon every branch of the industry, and did more for the practical advancement of gunnery than any man of his time. His name is rightly legend in British gun making circles.


Westley Richards developed a hinged falling- block breech-loader. When the falling- block Martini rifle was adopted in 1868 as the standard British infantry rifle, it was found to have infringed Westley Richards' patents (1931 of 1868) in "the principle of construction". The British government was obliged to pay £43,000 in royalties.


The Company played a critical role in developing the solid drawn brass cartridge (patent 1572 of 1871) which allowed guns to move from single shot to repeating or automatic. Metal case cartridges were not unknown but Westley Richards developed a longer, stronger case suitable for higher velocity cartridges for use in both military and sporting weapons.


The most important innovation to be patented in the years immediately after the retirement of Westley Richards was for a new rifle with a breech mechanism of the sliding block type. Known as the Deeley-Edge Rifle it was named after John Deeley the Elder, who in 1871 became the sole commercial manager of Westley Richards & Co. and James Edge who was foreman of the company's Sporting and Military Rifle Department.


The first really successful hammerless gun was developed by Westley Richards & Co. using the Anson and Deeley patent action. Employing a top lever opener the new system introduced the principle of using the 'fall' of the drop-down barrel in place of the need for a manual effort on an external hammer to cock the locks of a shotgun. Simple, efficient and safe, this considerably reduced the number of parts required in the action and removed the need for unsightly and dangerous external hammers. The Anson and Deeley 'boxlock' action marked the transition to the modern hammerless shotgun which is still in use today.


One of the most important contributions made by Westley Richards & Co. to the advancement of the sporting gun and rifle was the development of the ejector mechanism. Under John Deeley the Younger the 'fore-end ejector mechanism' was invented and patented, a brilliantly simple system whereby the spent cartridge could be automatically expelled on opening the gun.


In 1889 the Lee-Metford bolt-action magazine rifle was adopted as the British service rifle. The actual bolt head of the bolt action was found to break down under the pressures of use in the field, so John Deeley the Elder solved this problem by designing a new form of bolt head and bolt.


Having outgrown its premises off the High Street, Westley Richards & Co. relocated to a purpose built new factory in Bournbrook. It was designed by C.E.Bateman, a local Birmingham architect, associated with the Arts and Crafts movement and the Birmingham Guild of Handicraft. Planned with "a window to every man", the elegant gabled, brick building had, before its demolition in 2009, more the air of an art school than a factory.


Westley Richards & Co. was an important pioneer in the field of the one-trigger mechanism, by which a single trigger, adapted to a double pull could be employed to discharge both barrels of a double-barrelled shotgun, independently of the recoil, which could vary and thus affect the accuracy of the shot.


If the name of Westley Richards is associated with one thing amongst collectors and sportsmen today, it is for that most distinctive of the patents of the early twentieth century: the hand detachable lock (an ingenious variant on the Anson and Deeley action) first patented in 1897 and known in the USA as a 'droplock'.


Leslie Taylor succeeded John Deeley the Elder as managing director of Westley Richards & Co. in 1899, seeing the company through the First World War and through the 1920's. He won renown for the Westley Richards hallmark feature, the hand detachable gun lock, as well as new designs of bullets for the sporting gun. A ballistician of national reputation he was perhaps best known in sporting circles for the development of the 12 bore 'Explora' shot and ball gun, the 20 bore and 28 bore version were referred to as the 'Fauneta'.


Legendary elephant hunter James Sutherland wrote the following about his Westley Richards .577 double rifle: "After experimenting with and using all kinds of rifles, i find the most effective to be the double .577 with a 750 grains bullet and a charge in the Axite powder equivalent to a hundred grains of cordite. when using the double- barrelled rifles against big and dangerous game it is of supreme importance to have a thoroughly reliable ejecting mechanism, and I find that a single trigger is a vast improvement on the old double trigger"


Westley Richards & Co. maintained a high profile during the 1920s for its sporting guns and rifles. Many of the finest were commissioned by the wealthy Indian princes and the two most important clients during this period were the Maharaja of Patiala and the Maharaja of Alwar who owned large numbers of Westley Richards guns, especially sporting rifles associated with tiger shooting. This was also one of the boom periods for African safaris.


George Eastman, the wealthy founder of Eastman Kodak, owned two Westley Richards rifles and a shotgun which he took on his two East African safaris in 1926 and 1928. He referred directly to them in his published account, Chronicles of an African Trip (1927): "They are beautiful specimens of British workmanship - British workman have no rivals in gun-making by hand".


Ernest Hemingway the journalist, author and adventurer was a proud possesser of a Westley Richards .577 which he used on safari in Africa in 1953 - shortly after the publication of his novel The Old Man and the Sea and just before he received the Nobel Prize for literature. Hemingway was an enthusiastic huntsman and helped create the image of the courageous big game hunter in the popular imagination. He has also been credited with introducing the Swahili word 'safari' into wide usage in the English language.


After a difficult period for the British gun industry following the Second World War, Westley Richards & Co. was lucky to find a buyer with the interest and imagination of Walter Clode. Mr Clode became one of the leading dealers in historic guns made and supplied to the Indian princes and his dealing in antique guns helped create the revolving finance needed to keep the company going. He also continued to develop the associated tool making business. Walter Clode is regarded as one of 'the grand old boys' of the British gun trade and he ran the company for 37 years before handing over the reins to his son Simon in 1994.


As interest in commissioning new guns grew Walter Clode initiated the largest single commission for an engraving of a new gun in Britain for decades, a 12 gauge sidelock known as the 'Boutet' gun, engraved by A.M. & J.P. Brown.


Simon Clode joined Westley Richards & Co. in 1987 and in 1994 he became managing director, focusing the company on making the very best guns and rifles for which Westley Richards was so well known. By using the skills and machinery available from the engineering business together with those of the skilled gun makers he started to reintroduce the company's classic guns. Simon Clode's remarkable sense of energy and focus is today recognised and admired around the whole shooting world.


The nineteenth century former enamelling factory was converted to become Westley Richards new base in 2008 with the help of architect Edward Nash. Now located near Birmingham's old gun quarter, Westley Richards is the only one of the famous historic Birmingham gun makers founded in the nineteenth century which still operates here with a full complement of highly trained craftsmen and a team of lively young apprentices.


In 2012 Westley Richards celebrated it's bicentenary by publishing a lavishly illustrated book. The two hundred year history of this remarkable gun making company is full of incident and achievement, of invention and innovation, of entrepreneurs and gun makers dealing with the challenges of changing markets and a changing world. Today the company continues to flourish and build 'as good a gun as can be made'.