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As Good As it Gets. A 20-bore Drop-lock.

If you do something often enough you should get quite good at it. Here at Westley Richards, we make a lot of 20-bore game guns on the 'drop-lock' action and we like to think we do it very well indeed.

If you take the view that a 12-bore is the default setting for most shogun designs, smaller versions must be scaled down to suit the cartridge, while maintaining proportions that still feel good and operate effectively in the hands of an adult. This is a process we have perfected over the years and the demand for our exquisite 20-bores is as strong as ever. In fact, orders for these outweigh those for 12-bores.


To get a finished gun to look amazing, it is important to get the basics right. Best chopper-lump barrels, actions machined to the finest tolerances from the best steel available and a stunning walnut blank, chosen for its figure, colour, grain-profile and seasoning.

Unless every one of those starting points is in place, the finished work will never be quite what it needs to be.

Tried and tested mechanics then add the security that this gun will work and keep on working. Our customers buy guns to use and they have to perform through thousands of cartridges and decades of ownership, whatever the climate.

Our hand-detachable locks are perfectly suited to prolonged use and they are easy to inspect, clean and replace, all without the use of any tools at all. The design was patented in 1897, by our Managing Director Leslie B. Taylor and has been our signature action ever since.

Our ejectors are similarly time-assured. They date from Deeley's 1884 patent and remain reliable, simple and understood by gunsmiths the world over.

Likewise, our patent top-lever with bolted doll's-head rib extension, which provides a 'third bite' that secures barrels to action and minimises wear on the hinge pin, is as useful today as it was in 1863, when we introduced it.

With those material and mechanical building blocks in place, the other essential ingredients are skill and time. Our gun makers have spent years perfecting their craft. They know these proportions and mechanisms inside out and have the expertise to make every part look right and function perfectly.

It is hard to define what is 'right' but looking at a finished gun, the practiced eye can spot what is 'wrong'; should an angle be not quite correct, a space or sweep or curve a little out of sync, a surface not exactly profiled or polished to perfection. The devil is indeed in the detail. That is where quality-control makes its mark.

Nothing gets past the discerning eyes trained and experienced in spotting any flaw, however trivial, and sending it back to be rectified before the next stage can be started

Westley Richards 20-bore No.20473 (these numbers actually reflect what we have built - this represents the twenty thousand, four hundred and seventy third hand-made sporting gun that has left the factory since 1812) is a beautiful example of our modern 'best' 20-bore game gun.

It has 29" barrels, weighs a clean six pounds and is engraved with our traditional house scroll. The straight-hand stock is 15 1/4" to the centre of its chequered butt.

Completed in September 2023, it is traditional in every outward respect, with fine scroll engraving, colour case hardening and deeply blacked furniture and barrels.

The gold-inlaid serial numbers, gold 'safe' and a rolled-edge trigger guard are embellishments more often seen on today's guns than those of the pre-war years but there are other touches that we believe make our 21st century guns even better than the old-time masterpieces.

The degree of finishing we employ today is incredible. Even inner surfaces are jewelled, polished, engraved and blued. Things the sportsman will never see are given the same attention to detail as the most prominent outer surfaces. Even under high-resolution macro photography, blemishes are not visible.

There are no gaps where there should not be gaps, there are no chips where wood meets metal, there are no file marks in hidden places nor paper scratches on out-of the way surfaces. If it isn't perfect, it does not get passed. Before it was signed off, this gun had to pass a fifty-three point checklist as well as 'snagging' process of unlimited scope.

Compare the chequer borders of this gun stock with other 'best' guns you may encounter. There is not a single over-run, not a line out of place, too deep or too shallow, too rough or unfinished. Every line, every tiny diamond is perfect and symmetrical.

The lines of a gun tell you a lot. This profile scrolls 'pointability' and the sharpness and precision of the angles from toe to guard, from heel to top-strap, from trigger-plate to forend finial, onward to the muzzles, look business-like in the way a thoroughbred racehorse looks born to run.

Consider that this is a 20-bore, a scaled-down action, yet nothing looks compromised. It is proportioned for a full-sized adult male, yet every part is perfectly proportionate to every other part.

The overall beauty of the gun, inherent in its lines, is enhanced by the perfectly colour-hardened action, the honey-glow of the stunning walnut with its hand-rubbed oil finish and the flawless gloss black of the barrels and furniture.

In a nod to modern shooting practices, the 2 3/4" (70mm) chambered, 29", chopper-lump, barrels are fitted with Teague multi-chokes. A spare pair of hand-detachable locks are provided with the gun in a beautiful alligator-grained leather case.

The case itself is of traditional London Tan with green Alcantara lining and Westley Richards trade label, snap-caps, cleaning rods, oil bottle and jag pouch.

Guns like this have been leaving the factory for a hundred and twenty years and serving game shooters with distinction. If past performance is any measure, this one may well still be in use in 2123, if reasonably well cared for and used as intended.

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.


  • vance daigle on November 28, 2023 at 8:32 am

    Good Day to all of the artist that work at Westley. I have to say this is a good story about just what it takes to build a Westley and the finished results. Cheers


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