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Special Projects Engraving ‘The Forest Rifle’

A gun or rifle is a canvas for something truly unique for a visionary group of collectors. Individuality is what sets them apart, and for a select few, that extends to commissioning a Westley Richards ‘special project’. 

Westley Richards has a long history of producing super high-grade guns and rifles, with ‘Modèle de Luxe’ and ‘Modèle de Grande Luxe’ gracing our early 20th-century catalogues. Production of such masterpieces reached their peak in the 1930s, the heyday of the Maharajas, whose commissions set the standard in gunmaking quality at a time when British manufacturing was at its very zenith.

The late 1980s was to see the resurgence of such quality with Westley Richards’ very own ‘Gorilla Gun’ and later ‘Rhino Rifle’ signaling the beginning of a new age of highly-embellished pieces, as collectors from the USA embraced the unparalleled quality of craftsmanship offered by British gun and rifle makers. 

‘The Forest Rifle’ came about as the result of a client experiencing a particularly memorable safari in the Central African Republic, where he hunted a variety of forest game, including the elusive and enigmatic Western Bongo, Dwarf Buffalo, Giant Forest Hog and various members of the Duiker family. Inspired by the beauty and diversity of the forest environment in which he hunted, the idea came about that a rifle depicting the secretive forest world would be commissioned as a modern ‘Modèle de Grande Luxe’ special project. 

On return from case colour hardening the vivid colours of the heat treatment only contributed to the overall 'forest' effect and begged the question 'Do we leave as is or coin finish as originally intended?'

With so much to incorporate in the design, a large canvas was required, and so the decision was made to utilise Westley Richards’ signature hand detachable lock – or droplock – action with scroll back, in the formidable .600 nitro express.  

From an engraving perspective, there are only a handful of engravers capable of both designing and executing work to such a high standard. In this instance, the choice was the dynamic and enthusiastic Bradley Tallett, son of the famous Dave Tallett, who has previously worked on high-grade projects for Westley Richards. 

Before drafting the design, various discussions took place to determine how the canvas of the rifle could best depict the forest environment. With so much fauna and flora to choose from, one of the key design elements was the ability to look back into the depths of the forest, peeling back layers of foliage and discovering another animal. Instead of large areas of scroll, forest foliage would act as the predominant infill, far more appropriate in a design such as this. To attain the perception of depth it was agreed that the whole rifle should be carved. 

Original .600 nitro express ammunition with its 900 grain solid bullet. A formidable calibre and one suited to the scale of 'The Forest Rifle' project.

Next was the choice of fauna, which, in the forest environment, is truly vast. Without question, there needed to be a mixture of some of the most iconic game species, as well as those that represent the mystique of the forest. Western Bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus), Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), Forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Giant Forest Hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni), Dwarf Forest Buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus), Angolan Colobus Monkey (Colobus angolensis), Zebra Duiker (Cephalophus zebra), Yellow-Back Duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor), Pygmy Hippo (Choeropsis liberiensis), Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica), Congo Peacock (Afropavo congensis) and the exceptionally rare and hardly seen Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), were all decided upon. 

As a tribute to the indigenous people of the forest, a Baka Pygmy is proudly displayed on the trigger bow, as masters of the forest environment and exceptional hunters in their own right, they have guided many a modern-day hunter to his prized trophy.

Work on the whole project began in 2013, the engraving alone taking no less than twelve months to execute. On completion in 2018  the rifle was presented in a  specially-commissioned black alligator skin case with full complement of tools and accessories. 

As Westley Richards special projects go, we hope you will agree that ‘The Forest Rifle’ respectfully pays tribute to one of the last great wildernesses left on earth, the primordial forests of Central Africa.

5 Comments

  • neil mcveigh on June 26, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    Another beauty from the gunmakers!Best of luck to the new owner, use it and cherish it.

  • David D. Hammond on July 1, 2020 at 4:12 am

    There is nothing left out that could possibly be desired. Truly a most beautiful rifle and the decision to build it as a .600 NE which created more engraving space was an excellent move and then there is just the fact that it is a .600 NE. I have a Westley Richards .450/400 3" that is no where close to the level of "The Forest Rifle" but yet, a rifle that gives me great enjoyment. I am including a written description that L.D. supplied to me when I acquired the rifle from him describing the somewhat hard life the rifle had experienced before being shipped to Westley Richards to have new life given to it, see the following description of the rifle. Westley Richards Hand Detachable "Droplock" Double Rifle in .450/.400 3" NE (ca. 1926) fully restored in our Birmingham factory in 2004.
    Original 25 ½” barrels with perfect bores and engraved quarter rib with maker’s name in gold. Hand detachable action with side clips, removable strikers and Westley's patent snap lever work. Traditional scroll engraved action, cover plate and trigger bow with the serial number and maker’s name in gold. 1 standing/1 folding Express sights w/ factory claw mounts installed during restoration, rings are properly engraved and serial number in gold to the rifle. Stock has right hand cheek piece, trap grip cap, extended trigger tang and a Silvers recoil pad. This rifle is in as new condition save for a few handling/safe marks.
    In response to your inquiry about the history of the Westley Richards Hand Detachable Droplock in .450/.400 3” you recently bought from me, here is what the factory ledgers reflect and also what the “story” from the seller is:
    According to the Westley Richards ledgers, serial number: T4758 was completed March 29th, 1920 and entered in the ledgers as
    A&D action with detachable locks, two triggers, snap lever work, side clips and panels. Made for Lyon & Lyon, Calcutta.
    The seller I got the gun from is a long time Westley Richards client and collector and found the gun about 2000. According to him, the gun had been stored in an armory in Sri Lanka, the island country off of India’s southern tip. The rifle was found with the original stock and outside metal in poor shape, but had been packed full of cosmeline, and fortunately, the lock work and bores were near perfect. The client had the gun exported to England and the rifle underwent a full restoration at our Bournbrook factory and was completed in 2002. The rifle had claw mounts installed, was restocked, refinished and re-regulated in its upgrade.
    L.D. McCaa

    I always enjoy seeing a new issue of "Explora"
    My Best Regards David D. Hammond

  • Jehangir Devitre on July 3, 2020 at 8:27 am

    Superb concept and exemplary engineering and craftmanship. Truly inspiring.

  • JORGE DIEUZEIDE Y BRAÑA on October 17, 2020 at 1:23 am

    WESTLEY RICHARDS ES HAUTE QUALITÉ.
    MADE IN ENGLAND
    VICOMTE DE MONBADON

  • JORGE DIEUZEIDE Y BRAÑA on October 17, 2020 at 1:26 am

    LES ARMES WESTLEY RICHARDS ES QUALITÉ
    PAR CONAISSEURS.
    JORGE DIEUZEIDE Y BRAÑA
    VICOMTE DE MONBADON

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