Westley Richards & Co. is one of the oldest surviving traditional handmade gun and rifle makers in England. Established in 1812 in the heart of Birmingham – and now the last remaining large-scale manufacturer near to the world’s original Gun Quarter – the company is behind some of the greatest designs in both military and sporting firearm history. Today, it has a reputation, not just for producing the highest quality guns and being at the forefront of firearm development, but for unparalleled levels of artistry. These range from elaborate engraving and decoration to the distinctive oak and leather cases, all produced at its Aston factory. Also made in-house is a collection of high-end artisanal leather goods, like travel bags, cartridge bags and accessories, which sit alongside luxury outdoor and safari clothing for men and women, made using the finest materials and with a signature fit.
Despite being a challenging period for international travel and outdoor pursuits, the retail business has grown by more than 40 per cent year on year. Contributing to this achievement is an expansion of the clothing range to meet the needs of style conscious adventurers, an increased capacity for making exceptional leather travel goods and bespoke gun cases, and a record level of high-art gun and rifle engraving projects. All leather products are made to last three generations and although not often required, the company has always offered a repair service to its customers. This year it has made clients more aware of that service, adding greater value to their overall experience.
The company has a four-year order book for bespoke guns and rifles and so in 2021, much like in 2020, there was uninterrupted gun making onsite. Developed on the back of its popular online journal The Explora, which is a haven for field sports enthusiasts and admirers of the finest guns, rifles, leather goods and sporting attire, Westley Richards launched the new digital The Explora Club. This rapidly growing initiative offers member exclusives, promotions, behind-the-scenes access and the very latest from the Westley Richards blog.
For the last 15 years, Westley Richards has continued investing substantially in the future of the industry with its apprenticeship scheme. Once taken on, apprentices spend five years learning the fundamental skills required to build the best guns and understand the need for quality and all-round excellence. Marrying new technology with traditional skills, gunmakers take anywhere between 400 to 650 hours to complete an individual gun or rifle, so training and apprenticeships are ever more essential to gun making’s future. In addition, as part of its commitment to making a positive social impact, the company is one of the sponsors of the Country Food Trust, a charitable organisation that acquires game meat to create free nutritious meals for those living in poverty.
Ultimately, fine gun making is the pursuit of perfection and Westley Richards takes great pride in ensuring that nothing leaves the factory workshops until it exceeds all expectations. As founder William Westley Richards was once heard remarking, he wanted to produce ‘as good a gun as can be made’, and this statement, long ago adopted as the company’s motto, still applies today.