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The Highest Development Of The Westley Richards Sporting Gun

Break action sporting breech-loaders as we know them today fall into three main categories: side-locks (which are essentially hammer guns with internal hammers), trigger-plate guns, and body-action guns (in which the locks are mounted inside the body of the action itself).

To most, the body-action gun is synonymous with the 1875 Anson & Deeley ‘boxlock’. That is an error since there are numerous derivatives quite different internally, though they may look very similar internally.

For evidence of this dis-assemble a Greener ‘Monarch’ or ‘Empire’ model or indeed a Beesley patent spring-opener. They all look like the Anson & Deeley from the outside but are quite different internally.

Many of these inventions were made in significant numbers but few have continued into the modern era. Here at Westley Richards, we still make ‘boxlock’ Anson & Deeley rifles, but our premier grade model is what we consider to be the highest development of the body action gun, the 'droplock'.

More properly termed a ‘hand-detachable lock’, the former term has become so widespread it seems churlish to argue the point. It was patented over a hundred and twenty five years ago and emerged from here in Birmingham, when Westley Richards was housed in the Bourneville factory.

Patent No.17731 was lodged with the authorities in London on 28th July 1897 but not accepted until 28th May 1898. The patentees were John Deeley of 82 High Street Birmingham and Leslie Bown Taylor of 129 Pershore Road, Birmingham. Both are listed as ‘Gun Maker’. Both men, at the time, were employed by Westley Richards.

The text explains the idea as being for improvements to the specifications of Anson & Deeley patent No. 1756 of 11th May 1875 (the original boxlock) and the amendments to it added in 1883 (patent No.1833). The improvements being to; ‘facilitate the removal of the lock mechanisms of said guns for cleaning or repair’.

The patent drawings comprise eleven separate illustrations, each showing a section from a different angle or highlighting the dimensions of a particular component.

The essentials of the currents system are mostly there, in the original patent. However, the bottom plate is yet to develop its hinge and catch for tool-less removal; being secured by a single pin.

This patent revolutionized the Anson & Deeley concept, as it allowed for the easy removal of the entire lock in one unit. When removing the pins on which the Anson & Deeley pivots, the lock-work is then removed in pieces. The Deeley & Taylor patent allowed it to be removed, as a side-lock can be; all together and attached to a plate.

This design was of enormous practical and aesthetic significance. It removed the unsightly pins from the body of the action, allowing for uninterrupted engraving, and made lock removal, replacement or repair entirely straightforward. This was especially important for those hunting and shooting in far flung corners of the planet, where a resident gunsmith was an unlikely proposition. The Deeley & Taylor patent could be fully maintained by the owner.

The lock consists of: lock-plate, hammer, sear, main spring, sear spring and cocking-dog. It is simple and utterly brilliant.

We consider this to be the highest development of the sporting gun. It combines the strength of limb and low number of parts of the Anson & Deeley box lock design, with the ease of dis-assembly and cleaning of a detachable sidelock. Perhaps better still, it reduces the risk of wood damage often seen with detachable sidelocks, as the Deeley & Taylor design sees the locks contained within the main body of the gun.

There is nothing more reliable, more long–lived, nor more pleasing to behold, in our opinion. A design that has stood the test of time in the toughest of conditions and remains Westley Richards signature model to this day.

The Explora Blog is the world’s premier online journal for field sports enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, conservationists and admirers of bespoke gunmaking, fine leather goods and timeless safari clothes. Each month Westley Richards publishes up to 8 blog posts on a range of topics with an avid readership totalling 500,000+ page views per year.

Blog post topics include: Finished custom rifles and bespoke guns leaving the Westley Richards factory; examples of heritage firearms with unique designs and celebrated owners like James Sutherland and Frederick Courtenay Selous; the latest from the company pre-owned guns and rifles collection; interviews with the makers from the gun and leather factory; new season safari wear and country clothing; recent additions to our luxury travel bags and sporting leather goodsrange; time well spent out in the field; latest news in the sporting world; and key international conservation stories.

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