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An Elegant Westley Richards Small Bore For Texas Quail And Dove

In Britain, the small bore shotgun was predominantly the sporting gun of the boy, the lady or the elderly gentleman for most of its history.

Westley Richards has always taken orders for small bores, even in the days of the muzzle-loader. Famously, we delivered one, in the late 1850s, to the greatest sporting king of the modern age, when we built a 28-bore single barreled gun for Prince Albert Edward.

"Small bore shotguns are the epitome of best gunmaking, representing the ultimate in attention to detail. " - Trigger

He would later become King Edward VII and was the driving force behind the popularizing of driven game bird shooting, and the accompanying house parties and social framework, which characterized it as a sport for the elite.

‘Bertie’ learned to shoot with his little Westley Richards 28-bore and, though never one of the Great Shots, like Lords Walsingham and Ripon, he was capable and held his own in the shooting line.

Today, Westley Richards continues to build best quality small bores but they are no longer ordered for eight year-old boys in search of starlings and grey partridges. Rather, the guns are now double-barreled and ordered by Southern gentlemen, whose quarry is the quail.

By ‘Southern’, we do of course mean inhabitants of the American States to the south of the Mason Dickson Line, not Englishmen from Kent or Surrey, and by quail, we should really mention that in Texas there are four types of the little brown bird: namely, the Northern Bobwhite Quail, the Gambel’s Quail, the Scaled Quail and the Montezuma Quail (which is not on the huntable species list).

The gun you see in these photographs is indeed headed for Texas and once there, it will be put into service by an avid hunter of this iconic species. Like the English partridge, the quail has been in serious decline in recent years, especially so since the 1980s.

Habitat decline, land clearance for agriculture, the use of pesticides, herbicides and human encroachment all took their toll and only through well-researched and avid conservation schemes, funded in large part and driven by the interests of hunters, has a population with a shootable surplus been maintained at all.

In some places, hunting ranches employ a method of releasing captive-bred birds on the day of the hunt. To hunt wild quail, daily bag limits (typically 15 birds) apply.

So, what is the ideal quail gun? Well, it needs to be light and pleasant to carry all day in the Texas sun. It needs to come easily to the shoulder and be instinctive to fire at a quickly departing, small target that may be visible only for a moment.

We built all these qualities into gun number 20456. It is a 28-bore with our patent hand-detachable locks. The ten-inch-long forend is a slimmed version of the beavertail, which allows greater control and eliminates the effects of a hot barrel on the leading hand.

It is retained by the Deeley & Edge catch we patented in 1883 and, of course, is perfectly profiled to the contours of the 28” chopper-lump steel barrels. They are proof tested for 70mm cartridges and have a narrow, concave rib, which seamlessly extends through the breech into our distinctive ‘doll’s head’.

This fits into the top of the action, where it is secured by our bolted top-lever, forming that reassuring third bite that secures the barrels to the breech at the most efficient point, as far from the hinge as possible. Primary bolting is by the standard Purdey-patent double under-bolt. This has been our standard best gun since the 1890s.

The action has what the Birmingham trade always called a ‘fancy back’, of which ours has a profile like an undrawn compound bow, softening the abrupt meeting of wood and steel. Unusually, it also has flat panels and drop-points, rather than the smoothly rounded sides of most of our drop-lock guns.

The straight hand stock is finely chequered and tastefully figured with a dark, wavy stripe fading from hand to toe. The engraved steel heel and toe plates add both protection and style to the butt sole.

The gun is finished bright, rather than with case colours, to better show off the work of engraver Marcus Hunt, whose fine roses and scrolls frame vignettes of quail on the bottom plate and of that other Texas hunting staple; the dove on either side of the action.

Gold inlay is reserved for the serial number on the guard strap and the word SAFE on the top strap. These highlights complement the gold oval, inlet into the walnut stock with the owner’s initials neatly engraved.

The chiseled fences contrast nicely with the finer work to balance the gun visually; the background cross-hatching providing depth and darkness that combines well with the deep-blued trigger blades and the black of the doll’s head.

This is not a gun of ostentation, it is politely refined, capable and tasteful; evocative of an evening on the porch of a Southern plantation house, mint julep in hand and cigar smoke gently rising into the warm, still air after an afternoon walking up those little brown birds.

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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