If you had asked the Indian Maharajah's if they were ever going to sell their guns and rifles I am sure they would have said 'no, never, we love our sport and our guns, we will never sell them'. However it came to be that they did, and in vast numbers. When that time came, we, Westley Richards in the shape of my father were there in India, and we purchased a great deal of them. A frequent question we asked was 'is it cased or are they cased?" It is a question that I am sure you yourself always ask as a gun buyer, I certainly ask it when I buy and people ask it of me when buying from me, we all actually want a case, when there is a case we will pay more for the gun or it will be the case that just tips the balance when looking at 2 similar guns, one cased the other not.
The Indians often (much like the modern auction house I regret to say) felt that the value achieved of their cased guns was more if they separate the items and so would sell the guns in one deal, the case, possibly to another person, in another deal, finally the tools in yet another deal. I recall very well a fabulous pair of Dixon ML guns we found one year in India, we bought one gun of a pair in 1992 and were then sold the case for the pair in 1993. In 1994 we were offered the tools (for those who know Dixon cases will know the tooling was extensive) Finally in 1995 they then showed us the No2 gun which they had previously denied having, which unfortunately, having been separated from its pair and case during the past few years, had fallen over in their store and the stock was broken. They ended up with about a quarter of the amount they could have got selling the cased pair as a whole!
I have over the years opened a huge amount of gun cases and I tend to buy guns on the first emotion, I open a case, always hoping for a magnificent mint condition find, and they will either just say buy me or perhaps don't buy me! There is nothing like a great gun or rifle in its original casing. You come to recognise types of cases and you know that should be a Boss, or that should be a pair of Purdey's, Westley Richards had a very distinct looking case so were easily spotted.
When I started at Westley Richards I always found it very hard to get a great quality case made, there were few makers around and I must say that the situation hasn't changed much in 30 years. Mr Brady was making cases in Birmingham as was Bryant in London but they were both soon to cease. All the tooling came from Mike Marsh and to this day still does, we are grateful that Mike will still make our tooling, we buy as "much as he can make" knowing one day he will have had enough and turn off his lathe.
I established an in-house case maker quite soon, I think in about 1995 taking on Roland Lane's case making business, Roland worked for some years on his own in our workshops making our cases and was then joined by Martin & Tracy Jones who were with Brady up until the time they closed. Martin and Tracy continue to work here and together with Witold & Joanna produce all our leather goods in house. It is a part of the business I am very proud of and one I insist that the products always compliments the quality of the guns we make.
Westley Richards leather department offer many sorts of cases, all are made for the individual gun and can be from a lightweight canvas case to oak and leather covered with alligator and anything in-between, we make flat cases and motor cases. We also hold quite a good stock of old cases which can be refitted to suit a vintage gun if needed.
So, should you case a new gun? Yes, I believe you should, It will one day come to market and you or one of your family will certainly get better value. The case will keep all the parts together and protect it over the years, the case will help the gun retain condition. It is I think a very important part of the gun, I appreciate it is expensive but I feel it is almost actually essential.
Above is a selection of cases made in the Westley Richards leather workshops over the years.
Vance Daigle on April 11, 2015 at 9:44 am
I completely agree with that Sir. There are but a few things as exciting as the opening of a gun case to see what is inside. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling when someone walks in with a case, especially one that shows its years of service. Only to find a gun inside that is in wonderful unaltered condition. In 50 years or so who will know where the 10k-15k went...but the case...Priceless!!!!
Peter Martinsson on April 14, 2015 at 10:31 am
A few months ago I became proud owner of a used Westley bolt action rifle.
The rifle came with a case very similar to the red/orange case in Picture 5 and 6.
The rifle is built around 1990 and if I understand correct the case is not made inhouse, and is slightly different to the newer cases I have seen.
Just putting the rifle in the case gives me a warm feeling, and I would never order a bespoke gun without a case.
Simon Clode on April 14, 2015 at 11:49 am
The case would have been made by Brady who made our cases in the early 90's and who I mentioned in the text. When old man Mr Brady died, the business was sold and the new owners never continued with the cases, hence my employing their old case makers!
Paul Draghi on May 10, 2015 at 1:16 pm
Thank you for this splendid post, Simon.
I recall the moment when I, aged ten, first saw a Wesley Richards double rifle in its case, and confess that the sight of the case and its accoutrements impressed me nearly as much as the sight of the rifle itself. As the rifle had detachable locks, however, it was certainly the focus of attention!
I am often told by dealers and some collectors that it is the mark of a superficial mind to pay too much mind to a gun or rifle's fitted case. While I do not deny the accusation of superficiality, I do take your posting on this subject as no small vindication, and have forwarded it widely.
Paul Draghi on May 11, 2015 at 8:54 am
An afterthought has occurred to me on which I would value your opinion.
Some time ago, I had the privilege of attending a large, regional gun show in the company of a third-generation English gunsmith, who soon became the center of attention for both his knowledge, which was limitless, and his outspokenness. When a dealer showed us a cased Purdey with three turnscrews and several other tools, he replied that "the most dangerous thing in a guncase is the damn tooling, not the gun," and that many fine guns had been marred by the inexpert, and to his mind almost always unnecessary, application of a tool to a screw. The vehemence of his outburst rendered everyone speechless for a moment, and fortunately I thought to say something to the effect that I had never seen a fine British gun or rifle with a loose screw, and this calmed him down enough to move on to the next table, after he commented that I was "damn right" in my observation.
Since then I have thought turnscrews in a guncase to be purely decorative, though I appreciate the utility of oil pots, cleaning rods and the like.
My friend's final word was that there are temptations enough in the world without adding fine turnscrews to a guncase.
Your opinion on this matter?
Simon Clode on May 11, 2015 at 3:07 pm
I am in no doubt that more guns have been ruined by incompetent gunsmiths than have ever been damaged by owners trying out their turnscrews! I have of course seen guns which have been damaged by the turnscrews or another screwdriver being used, mostly these were in India when we were buying and they could always be repaired.
I think it fair to say that the turnscrews are now primarily for decoration but that said, I think essential decoration. There has always been the practical type case and then the presentation type case. For the latter there was always a large array of tooling, certainly in the percussion days. Flasks, powder measures, moulds etc. plenty of bits and pieces to fill the case and make it look attractive. If we were to drop the turnscrews the presentation type cases would start looking very empty. The objective is really to fill all the awkward spaces between the parts of the gun and make for an impressive 'first look' when the case is opened. Without bits and pieces in the case much of the drama is lost, there is quite a lot of space to fill!
High quality tools are very hard to get now, so my policy is use them whilst we have them available!
Many Thanks for your comments.
Teresa harries on September 8, 2016 at 11:07 am
I have a very old looking box,it says rifle on the lid,inside the lid is directions for wrapping bullets and filling cases for Wesley richards& co patent single falling block rifle,,the hinges on the box are very poorly made,I'm just curious how old it is,thank you ,T,Harries
Simon Clode on September 8, 2016 at 11:15 am
Thank you, I would have to see a photo which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and then I am able to tell you perhaps.