Serial number 43697 is just such a build. This is the 'best' modern version of a pre-war Mauser action .318 Accelerated Express that we can make. By 'best', we don't mean 'fancy' or 'exhibition grade'. This is a hunting rifle and is made for test primary purpose. It just happens to be the best version of a hunting rifle we can construct. It may lack ostentation but it wants for nothing.
For inspiration we need look no further than our pre-Great War catalogue, which describes and illustrates a .318 Accelerated Express Magazine Rifle, declaring it; 'The world's most popular medium bore rifle invented and introduced by Westley Richards', as indeed it was.
In profile, the rifle pictured here, No.43679, is very similar to the one illustrated in the old catalogue. Back then, it was described as 'the latest development and highest type of sporting magazine rifle. The standard length of barrel is 26 inches - it can be supplied at any length.' The .318 was popular in Africa between the wars but John Taylor considered twenty-six inch barrels absurd for shooting in the bush and the twenty-four inch barrel on this rifle would be far more to his liking.
Like the original, this has standing and leaf sights, in this case regulated for fifty and one hundred yards, mounted on a Westley Richards quarter rib. Unlike the original, the action has a double square bridge to facilitate 'scope mounting. The quick-detach Westley Richards pattern mounts hold a Swarovski Z6 'scope, making it a much more precise bullet delivering system than the pre-war generation was habituated to.
Another feature that sets the modern version apart from the classic is the three-position side safety, which replaces the old Mauser flag safe system. It is neater and handier, especially with a 'scope mounted.
The stock profile is very like the original, with its ebony finial and pistol grip hand. The extended tang supports the weakest area of wood and a leather-covered butt pad, almost universally fitted today, was available in the 1910s for an extra charge of one pound, fifteen shillings.
Wood for a hunting rifle has to be selected with great care; pleasing colour and figure is demanded by modern customers but strength and durability are equally essential. The balance here is strong, with fuller figure in the butt stock and straight grain in areas prone to stress, with a nice flow of shape and hue, and a honey-amber back story. The woodwork really lights up the, otherwise under-stated, rifle aesthetically.
The .318 is an unusual cartridge for a modern hunter. It fell into obsolescence after the Second World War but Westley Richards revived it due to customer demand in recent years and we now hold stocks of specially loaded 250-grain soft-nosed bullets, made for us by Kynoch.
The 250 grain load is the heavier of the common ones (the other being 180-grain) and it is driven at 2.400 fps, delivering 3,194 ft-lbs of energy. As a medium game rifle it is very effective and in the heyday of the African safari it was employed by the likes of Bror Blixen, James Sutherland and John Taylor for everything, including elephant and rhino. It was originally available loaded with conventional soft-nose bullets, nickel jacketed 'solids' and L-T capped bullets.
The large scroll engraving is of a traditional pattern and suits the lines and shapes of the rifle. The blue-print for the engraving on this rifle was a .375 (No.43677) which we built earlier.
Gold is limited to names and numbers, including a gold 'SAFE' with arrow on the safety shroud. The maximum load of 'Five Cartridges' is engraved in the inner surface of the magazine.
A case well suited to the rifle is an important final step in the project. This one has a mid-tan lightweight leather case with deep green Alcantara lining, accessories and a compartment for the 'scope. A canvas outer is added to protect the case from damage in transit.
It is credit to the rifle-makers of Westley Richards working when Edward VII was on the throne that the format and chambering of rifle they built and recommended to their customers is still very much a pattern that appeals to our customers today.
This is classic, custom, best rifle building at its finest. Rifles like this are simply expressions of everything a hunting rifle should be without stepping outside the realms of practicality in search of embellishment. No compromise is made with regards to quality of fit, finish and functionality. Simply a best rifle for the twenty first century.
Built for a cartridge no other maker can, or will, contemplate.