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A Remarkable Westley Richards Sidelock .375 Buffalo Rifle

Of the double rifle actions historically available from Westley Richards, the most common is a treble-grip, featuring our hand-detachable locks, bolted doll's-head rib extension and patent top-lever. However, we do make a smaller number of fixed-lock Anson & Deeley rifles and some sidelocks. Here is one of the latter.

Like our other models, our sidelocks are easily recognisable as Westley Richards rifles. We fit the same combination of Purdey double under-bolt and Westley Richards bolted doll's-head that we have used since the 1880s. With the pressures that a powerful nitro express cartridge  exerts on the action, the presence of a third bite is reassuring.

"Sufficient time will always influence exceptional craftsmanship" - Trigger

The sidelock photographed here has been almost 5 years in the making. It is a stunning, bold-looking rifle in the ever-popular .375 Holland & Holland Magnum, regulated for the RWS 301 grain soft-nose loads the customer requested. This is an unusual choice but the rifle grouped extremely well when regulated; every shot landing within the boundaries of a watch face at 50 yards from the standing rear sight. The leaf sights are set for a further 100 and 150 yards.

The ideal proportions of a smaller dangerous game rifle like this are quite well-known now. We have been making them for long enough to know what works and what doesn't.

Weighing 9lbs 10oz, with 25" barrels and a rubber Silver's pad on the butt, it is very 'civilised' and allows for fast mounting, shooting and recovering, which are important factors in the field. We fitted a manual safety, rather than an automatic one. This shaves fractions of a second off the time it takes to re-load and fire a third and fourth shot and eliminates a potential risk; that of neglecting, in the heat of the moment, to disengage it.

The shotgun-like handling features are enhanced by the omission of a cheek piece on the stock.

We have, then, a classic sidelock ejector action (we use back locks to maximise strength in the bar), set-up to shoot an accurate and effective dangerous game round, with speed and instinctive handling built-in. It is crucial to get these qualities embedded into the fabric of the rifle but the special aesthetics are of equal value to the customer when he commissions a bespoke build. These details are what sets each rifle apart.

The engraving specified was for 'elaborate scroll with game scene panels on lock plates'. As the photographs illustrate, the scroll is indeed elaborate, deep-cut and dramatic in effect, the bold foliate scroll work with motifs emerging to add depth and character. The buffalo skull on the grip cap and the buffalo peering out of the undergrowth on the bottom of the bar being examples.

These scrolls provide the instant impact that the rifle displays, visible from a distance and singling it out as a product of excellence. The impression is enhanced by the choice of exhibition-grade walnut for the stock. The combination of elaborate, contrasting figure within the wood and the silver and black drama of the engraved steel is very arresting, especially so with the bold, inked scrolls extending onto to all the rifles's extremities; like guard-strap and the extended top-strap. These appear to stretch into the wood, enhancing the idea of one material growing out of the other in some organic way. It gives integrity to the rifle, leaving the impression of it being one object, rather than the mating of different parts.

Each lock-plate features a bordered panel, encapsulating a different, finely-engraved, scene of lions hunting cape buffalo. These allow for closer inspection and the rifle reveals more artistry as the distance is closed. This concept of the rifle revealing more as enhanced levels of scrutiny are applied enriches the viewer's experience of owning and using it. Merely holding it in the hand and turning one's gaze to it repeatedly uncovers new details and stimulates new reactions each time.

Gold is used minimally to highlight the name, the serial number and the triangle on the express sight. Sometimes, 'less is more', to borrow a cliche from the world of design. Where gold is used, it creates more impact in isolation.

Before being released for casing, this, like every Westley Richards rifle, must first pass a sixty-four point inspection process to ensure it is faultless and conforms fully to the order specifications.

We anticipate that No.20415 will soon be experiencing the warmth of an African sun and that the beasts depicted on the locks will be appearing in the sights, as customer, location, rifle and cartridge combine once again to make real experiences and deliver memories of adventure, where once there were only dreams.

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.

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