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Subtle Brutality: a Westley Richards .470NE and .500NE Pair

The performance and characteristics of the .470 NE and the .500 NE do not greatly differ. It can be hard to choose which one is exactly right for your physique and hunting situation. The customer ordering these rifles chose wisely, opting for an identical pair; one in each chambering!

The .470 is certainly one of the great African cartridges. Created in 1907 to replace, but largely replicate, the .450NE, which was the standard big-game cartridge of the day, when it was banned in several British dominions for reasons of security.

The .470 proved both popular and effective. It is based on the case of the old .500 (3 1/2"), which was necked-down and shortened to hold a bullet of .475" diameter and up to 500 grains. Muzzle velocity is 2,150fps and energy 5,133 ft/lbs.

"Calibre composed pairs of rifles make a real statement of intent" - Trigger

The smaller of this twin set of double rifles has been built at the classic weight for the cartridge; 10lbs 8oz, with 25" barrels and 14 7/8" stock. The butt is fitted with a slim Silver's pad to lessen the effect of recoil on a shoulder lightly dressed in a bush shirt.

The .500 (3"), though apparently only fractionally larger than the .470, is a significantly more powerful cartridge. Woodleigh 570 grain bullets make 2,150fps and achieve close to 6,000 ft/lbs of muzzle energy from specially-loaded Kynoch batches delivered expressly for these projects.

This means the .500 NE rifle has to be built on a slightly up-scaled action. In finished form that makes it a pound heavier than the .470 NE, at 11lbs 8oz, with exactly the same barrel and stock lengths.

Apart from the fact that the two rifles are cleverly and subtly scaled to suit their cartridges, they are identical. Made as a pair, they even have the calibre inlaid on each part to avoid any accidental attempt to fit the wrong barrels or forend to an action.

Although they differ in size, weight and chambering, the two rifles are intended for the same job. Both the .470 and the .500 are serious, proven, buffalo and elephant killers. I very much doubt that any experienced hunter would feel under-gunned in any situation with a .470 and the comparatively lighter weight makes it more attractive as something to carry on long treks in the hot sun.

The specifications of both rifles are identical. Both are built on our famous, Taylor-patent, hand detachable lock (with extra locks provided). These can be field-stripped without tools and the entire locks replaced in seconds, should the necessity arise.

The chopper-lump barrels have been fitted with the elegant Westley Richards quarter-rib with leaf sights and a ramp, giving fast selection of ranges from 50 to 150 yards, though these big doubles are mostly employed at ranges of fifty yards or under. The elongated losenge-shaped hole in the rib is there to receive the mount of a red-dot sight, when required.

The scroll and banner engraving chosen to adorn the actions is timeless; a modern interpretation (rather than a copy) of the engraving on Westley Richards double rifles of the 1920s and earlier. While the pattern and layout is the same, we think that close inspection will confirm that the neatness and quality of today's engravers is even better than that of their forebears. We do, however, allow them a little more time than was once the case!

The top-lever is unique to Westley Richards, with its sliding bolt providing a third bite and the doll's head giving greater security and lateral stability. Such niceties are more valuable when big double rifle cartridges are being fired with regularity.


Gold is used sparingly, providing highlights on the sights and the serial number inlay, as well as the calibre indication on the barrels, action and forend.

The actions, forend irons, Deeley catches and trigger blades are case hardened, showing those traditional petrol-blue and straw hues that look so classy and age so well. Elsewhere, deep traditional blacking glowers like a panther in moonlight.

These comparative photographs illustrate how well chosen the walnut blanks were; they glow like embers in a fireplace and the traditional hand-rubbed finish (which can total over two hundred coats of oil) is like nothing else.

The customer chose matching leather motor cases, which provide stylish security and are easy to carry and stow in the boot of a car. Both cases were custom crafted to suit the rifles. The canvas outer cover provides further protection to the hide exterior. Even the cases are works of art and deserve protection.

Snap-caps, turn-screws and extra locks complete the package. The green Alcantara lining and Westley Richards, black leather and gold-embossed, trade label add finishing touches of class.

These beautiful rifles truly look like a pair. It takes a very close look to uncover the truth about their differences.

What they provide is exactly the right choice on any given day in the bush. A little extra weight from the .500 and the confidence that only a really big bullet provides, or a pound less to carry and the proven effectiveness of the .470; perhaps the favourite big-game stopper of the twentieth century. Take your pick.

When building best rifles, you can add gimmicks, you can add 'bling', you can specify all sorts of extras. Or, like this customer, you can simply ask for the perfect manifestation of the kind of double rifle our great grandfathers ordered when safari-bound. These should be to everybody's taste and they will never look dated.

Whatever you choose, come the time, .500 or .470, these rifles will deliver, while looking effortlessly stylish.

The rest is up to you.

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.


  • neil mcveigh on December 21, 2023 at 5:08 am

    The usual standard we have come to expect from the boys at WR-simply magnificent!
    I wish the new owner the very best of luck and enjoy using them.
    I admire your taste.

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