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Side-Plated Drop-Lock .500/.416

Side-plating a body-action gun is a practice almost as old as the 1875 Anson & Deeley patent. As a revolutionary concept, the aesthetic of the 'boxlock' was unlike anything the gunmaker or sportsman of the day had seen before. They were used to looking at lock plates and appreciated the graceful lines and scope for engraving they created.

To help body-action guns adopt the more commonly accepted shape of a sidelock, many makers added side-plates to the back of the action body. These could be simple 'D shaped plates held in place with a single screw or more elaborately shaped and disguised plates which, to all but the most observant, appeared to be actual sidelocks.

Westley Richards has long offered a side-plated version of the 1897 patent hand-detachable lock model and here we have a modern version of it. In the past, it was often made for Indian princes and elaborately decorated. This one is engraved with roses and scrolls and fully case hardened - 'fully' meaning that the case colours extend to parts usually blued; such as the trigger guard, top-lever, and forend catch.

This double rifle is made in a little-used but very respected chambering at Westley Richards; the .500/.416. We think it makes for a very elegant profile and a pleasant rifle to carry and shoot. The cartridge is relatively new on the scene, having originated with Krieghoff in the 1990s. It was developed to provide .416 Rigby performance from a rimmed case for use in double rifles. A typical load has a 410 grain bullet travelling at 2325 fps, which is quite sufficient for all the Big Five and a good, powerful all-rounder for Africa.

Weighing in at around 10 1/2lbs, with 25" barrels, this is a rifle that can be welded by an averagely fit and strong hunter and carried without undue fatigue, while packing considerably more punch than a .375 H&H Magnum.The flat-shooting qualities if the .416 Rigby are also transferred to the .500/.416, giving a little more confidence in the accuracy of the rifle at the edge of iron-sight ranges.

As with most of our hunting rifles, the customer bought this for use but was expectant of the finest quality. Marcus Hunt has done a beautiful job of engraving fine scrolls and banners, giving the rifle a classic look, with the very highest quality of execution. The carved fences and gold lining and lettering details lift the reserved scroll work to a greater level of splendour.

The most opulent adornment harks back to the days when we used to use enamel decoration on the rifles we built for some maharajahs in the 1920s. On this rifle, the oval sports an enamel inlaid family crest, rather than an engraved one.

 

Built to be used mostly at fairly close range as a bush-rifle, without a 'scope, it is fitted with a classic Westley Richards combination of standing, leaf and ramp sights.

The sportsman who ordered this rifle is left-handed. We have, therefore, made the front trigger fire the left barrel and the rear trigger fire the right barrel. The cheek piece on the exhibition grade walnut stock is on the right side and triggers are set for a left-handed shooter. Naturally, the lettering on barrels, sights and locks reads naturally when viewed from the perspective of a left-hander carrying the gun.

 

The side plates give the craftsmen a very different profile to work with. Rather than a flat-sided head to the stock, with drop points, the hand bends into the head in a smooth, uninterrupted flow, giving the overall impression of a sleek, slim, natural progression from wood into metal. Internally, it is exactly the same as a classic 'drop-lock', with a hinged floor-plate revealed when the forend is removed, allowing for hand-removal of the lock mechanisms.

The chambering of the .500/.416 allows for pleasingly graceful barrels, with a progressive taper from the chambers towards the muzzle. The overall effect is unusually lively-looking for a big double rifle.

Variety keeps life interesting and this is just one of many variations on the themes that form our framework of rifle actions.

It is certainly not your standard Westley Richards double rifle but it is a style some customers have loved for a century and one we are proud to continue to build.

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