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- Ancient Firearms
- The Road to American Liberty
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- Innovation, Oddities and Competition
- Theodore Roosevelt, Elegant Arms
- World War I and Firearms Innovation
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Westley Richards Monkeytail Percussion Carbine
This single-shot breechloading carbine incorporates Whitworth pattern hexagonal rifling to stabilize the long length .45 caliber projectiles it fires. It was dubbed the Monkeytail by South African and Portugese troops that were issued it based on the shape of loading lever for the breech. SN 2602
Westley Richards is one of the oldest firearms manufacturers in
England. Founded in Birmingham in 1812, the firm opened a shop in
London two years later. Westley Richards is credited with being the
first gunmaker to use a toplever fastening system for its
breechloading sporting arms, having adopted this system as early as
1860. In 1875, William Anson and John Deeley, the firm's foreman
and its managing director, patented a boxlock action of their
design. This action was strong, reliable, and simple, and it was
also less expensive to produce than were sidelock actions.
Since its development, the Anson & Deeley action has been used worldwide by producers of hammerless side-by-side guns, and a few firms including Westley Richards also use this action on over-and-under guns. The Anson & Deeley action was improved in 1897 to permit easy removal of the locks. These "drop locks" have become a feature commonly associated with Westley Richards firearms, and were available on both shotguns and double rifles.
Other innovations from this gunmaker include a selective single trigger that is well-known for its reliability. This mechanism is extremely complicated, but nonetheless has established a reputation for its flawless performance. The Westley Richards single trigger has even been featured on double rifles, something which other manufacturers have generally not done. In 1884, John Deeley's son patented an improved ejector based on the Anson & Deeley action. This ejector is still fitted to the company's best guns.
Westley Richards also developed proprietary big-game cartridges such as their .450 Nitro caliber, the .476 NE, the .318 Rimless Nitro Express, and the rimless .425 Westley Richards Magnum. The company's patented extractor made it possible to use these rimless cartridges in its double rifles as well as in bolt-action models. Westley Richards was one of many British firms that produced military arms during the Second World War, but the post-war years brought a collapse in the market for fine sporting arms. In 1946, the firm was purchased by E. D. Barclay, who turned to toolmaking in his efforts to keep Westley Richards afloat.
The company changed hands again in 1957, when current chairman Walter Clode bought the proud old firm. Clode has exhibited a hands-on management style, and his leadership brought not only new blood but new ideas to the old firm. Clode maintained the toolmaking business, but with an eye to the future. He invested in sophisticated new equipment, a business practice that continues to the present day, and the adoption of the latest technology has found a place in both tool- and gunmaking.
In producing its current line of sporting arms, Westley Richards makes use of both old tried-and-true handwork performed by master craftsmen, coupled with the latest computerized machinery. At present, the firm manufactures about thirty guns per year on a special order basis, with some taking up to one thousand man-hours to complete. Waiting periods for these guns may be as long as eighteen months. Customers have a choice of gauges and calibers, and, as with earlier models, various features such as custom engraving and custom fitting are also available. Fine guns deserve equally fine cases, and Westley Richards builds handmade oak and leather cases for its products. The firm also produces leather accessories for use by sportsmen.
In addition, ammunition for many formerly obsolete big game-caliber rifles is also marketed under the Westley Richards name. Clode also focused on the firm's history and its place in the modern marketplace. While examining old company records, he noticed that in better times, Westley Richards had made many sales to the princes of India. Turning his sights in that direction, Clode began making regular trips to buy some of the fine old rifles and shotguns that had found their way to the former British colony. Along with newer models, these are now offered for sale in the company's showrooms in England and the United States.