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The 'Arab Horse' Guns

Horses are not commonly a subject for gun engraving. However, if you are fortunate to have the means to commission  guns on a regular basis, you soon run short of new themes, once the traditional ones have been exhausted.

When this point is reached, clients often explore their other passions and begin to integrate these themes into their gun embellishment.

The Middle East is well known for its love of the 'sport of kings' and it should, therefore, be no surprise to see horses find their way onto gun locks.

This pair of exhibition grade sidelocks features Arab horses and contrasting carved detail in the most exquisite way. They are unusual for Westley Richards but these projects are not as uncommon the the company's history as many might think.

Westley Richards may be best known for its 'body-action' guns, in fixed lock and hand-detachable lock form, however, sidelocks have been featured in the catalogue for a very long time;' in the 1930s our best sidelock cost a hundred and twenty pounds (ten pounds extra for a single trigger). However, in those days the sidelocks were of conventional type without any 'self-opening' mechanism.

Times have changed and today, if so instructed, we can, and do, build self-opening sidelocks to order. This pair of 12-bores was ordered by a prominent Middle-Eastern Sheikh and they reflect his love of all things equine.

Of course, the starting point for every gun build, regardless of the intended destination, be it muddy field or museum show case, is the same. A best quality, fully functional, no attention to detail spared, sporting gun.

The 30" chopper-lump barrels are proof tested in Birmingham for 70mm standard nitro proof and fitted to the perfectly-jointed sidelock action. In this instance it is of the Holland & Holland, 1922 patent type, with the coil-spring-powered device located under the forend.

The furniture (top-lever,  guard etc), bar , fences and top strap are very intricately engraved with stylised foliage, scrolls, flora and arches, inter-twined, with a dark cross-hatched background, contrasted with gold inlay. The lock plates have relief-carved, prancing horses in a desert of gold, with clear sky contrast, leaving an unusual mount of plain, polished steel, the whole scene is bordered by a raised gold line with intermittent scrolling.

The metal parts have been case colour hardened and the colours have been brushed back to reveal the engraving but leaving subtle case colours on the underside of the guard and on the action flats.

The stocks are, of course, of exhibition grade and of elongated pistol-grip form, with a chequered butt featuring engraved and gold-inlaid heel and toe plates.

To appreciate the detail in the engraving, close inspection is necessary, with tiny areas of additional gold inlay in pins and screw heads, encircling the trigger plate border as it blends seamlessly into the bar, on the guard strap and even on the top lever. The engraving alone took Vincent Crowley over a year.

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