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Unusual And Unique Pair Of Droplock .500 3" NE Double Rifles

When we are commissioned to build a pair, it is usually because the customer is in the fortunate position of having regular opportunities to enjoy double-gunning on a Scottish grouse moor or a Devon pheasant shoot.

Those orders tend to be for pairs of 12-bore or 20-bore shotguns. Yet, here we have a pair of .500 3" NE double rifles, built for a customer in Africa.

Sometimes, an order needs no more explanation than it embodies the very peak, in that that particular customer's imagination, of what the perfect example of its type would be. In this case, it is a pair of Modèle de Grande Luxe .500 NE hand-detachable-lock double rifles.

The .500 NE is considered by many professional hunters to be the perfect practical stopping rifle. At around 11lbs, it is more forgiving to carry and shoulder than a .577 NE and it packs the necessary punch and penetration to stop the charge, or retreat, of the most adrenaline-fuelled elephant.

It is a fact easy to overlook, when confronted by a pair of such stunningly beautiful rifles, that Westley Richards sees every build project as an uncompromising mission to make the best, most effective, reliable and straight-shooting rifle of its type.

These are intended to function flawlessly in use and, decoration aside, they are rifles that would serve a professional hunter for decades in Africa, were they called upon to do so.

The build specification is classic Westley Richards. The rifles are made to mirror one another in every way but engraving, which, as we shall see, is subtly different from one rifle to the other.

The barrels are a handy 24" long, with Westley Richards quarter-rib, express and leaf rear sights, set to 50,100 and 150 yards, and a bead foresight with additional pop-up moon sight.

The double triggers are set to 5lbs front and 5 1/2lbs back. We always set back triggers heavier, as the pull geometry changes when pulling that one.

Both rifles have been regulated for Norma 570-grain solid and soft-nose rounds.

Silver's anti-recoil pads and sling eyes add to the practicality of the build, mitigating recoil and allowing for a Westley Richards canvas sling to be fitted, with QD, 1" sling swivels.

As close-range stopping rifles, no telescopic sight is required and no 'scope mounts were included in the build, giving these rifles very clean lines and a clarity of purpose. With the fitting of iron sights only, the stocks are more classically shaped, with comb profile and height set accordingly.

The pistol-grip stocks, with check piece, and the forends, are cut from the most spectacular walnut blanks and match perfectly.

The honey-glow background, with its contrasting black swirls, complements the blues, greens and straw colours in the St. Ledger case hardening on the grip-caps and actions.

Gold is used to highlight, notably on the bands around the breech end of the barrels, the express sight, the 'SAFE' indicator and the ovals, engraved with the customer's initials.

Despite the excellence of every feature so far noted, the inescapable fact is that the remarkable engraving on this pair of rifles is what will make them memorable to most appraisers.

The engraving , with its relief background and carved highlights was designed by Brad Tallett and carried out by Wes Tallett. The theme of the No.1 rifle is Demons & Gargoyles, while the No.2 is Angels & Cherubs.

It has been done with such skill that at first glance, the rifles appear identical. Only with closer inspection do the different themes emerge.

For detail, we have a demon's mask on the grip cap of No.1 and cherubs on No.2.

The bottom plate of No.1 has a full body portrait of a demon, No.2 of an angel.

There are cherubs on the fences of No.2 and skulls on No.1. All scenes are enveloped by deep foliate scrolls. The motifs on the top levers and trigger guards follow the same themes, making each gun harmonious with, but quite distinct from, the other.

This has to be so for the pair to really look and feel like a pair, not just two different rifles.

Like most of our orders for hand-detachable lock rifles, these each come with a spare pair of locks presented in their own leather case, the design of which mirrors cases supplied before the First World War.

The case for the pair is best oak and leather in buff brown, with a green Alcantara lining. Within it we have fitted turn screws, snap caps, strikers in pouch, vaseline and a Selvyt cloth.

The outer case-protector is in hunter green canvas, with buff trim and the owner's initials inlaid in gold on a large 'peanut'.

Is this a pair of rifles that will see action in Africa, with the hunter carrying the No.1 rifle, with its demons, and the professional hunter invoking the cherubic and angelic nature of the No.2 to intervene when necessary?

We cannot be sure, but we are sure that, were it to be the case, these beautiful rifles would serve well and anyone heading into the bush clutching one would find the experience enhanced significantly by their presence.

Owning and using a pair of rifles of this type and unique character would be the pinnacle of many a hunter's ambition. They combine breathtaking beauty with deadly purpose and faultless functionality. They truly are heirlooms for the next four or five generations of hunter.

We are sure that the new owner will be as proud to shoulder them as we were to build them.


Whether for the discerning collector or the avid sportsman, Westley Richards firearms represent the epitome of excellence in the world of bespoke gunmaking. Known for the droplock shotgun, over and under shotgundouble barrel rifle and bolt action rifle, the company has achieved an illustrious 200 year history of innovation, craftmanship and artistry. As part of our best gun build, clients can choose from three levels of gun engraving: the house scroll; signature game scenes; and exhibition grade masterpieces. All Westley Richards sporting arms are built at their factory in Birmingham, England. Discover more about the gunmaking journey at our custom rifles and bespoke guns pages.

1 Comments

  • pablo nogues on June 23, 2024 at 9:44 pm

    Sincere congratulations to all involved in this utstanding project

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