Sunday, April 11, 2010

600 Nitro Express rifles in my new book.

Good day all. Many of your have purchased my book on the .600 double rifles and every comment on the book has been positive. To interest the rest of you with the hope you will buy the book on this the largest and most rare of the elephant hunting cartridges, here are the descriptions of most of the vintage rifles in the book. The paragraphs are above each set of high quality photos of these fine rifles. There is a lot more to the book and you can see a few pictures of the rifles on the double rifles page of my website as well as some information on the book's contents from the navigation bar on the left of the home page. So, for now, enjoy the descriptions of the world finest rifles: the mighty .600 NITRO EXPRESS!

Army and Navy
The first Army and Navy .600 is courtesy of George Hoyem and is pictured in his book, The History and Development of Small Arms Ammunition, volume three, British Sporting Rifle Cartridges. No serial number is available for this rifle that was made by J. & W. Tolley. (In 1911 Tolley was purchased by Holloway & Naughton). The rifle sports a three leaf express rear sight, Jones under lever, exposed hammers, and 24-inch barrels. The weight is a heavy 18 pounds and four ounces! A doll’s head is present as are sling eyes. This .600 is a plain finished rifle, sold as a stock item, for moderate cost.

The next Army and Navy, number 46,940, dates to 1906 and weighs 15 pounds and 8 ounces. The stock has a pull of 14 1/4 inches to a Silvers pad, no cheek piece, and is equipped with sling swivels. The barrels are chopper-lump, 26 inches long with a full rib that supports a three leaf rear sight. The front sight is hooded. This Army and Navy .600 is proofed for the 100-grain charge of cordite and is in near mint condition--inside and out--and rests in its original case. From the collection of Lester Dyke. Photo credit: Corbin B. Shell (top photo) and Lewis Drake and Associates.

E.J. Churchill
I have only one Churchill to share with you. Number 2696 is a hammerless double rifle proofed for the 110-grain charge of cordite and the 900-grain bullet. It is a non-ejector, double trigger, boxlock with border engraving--a workingman's rifle. The walnut stock has a 15-inch pull and is sans cheek piece. The pistol grip cap is engraved but has no trap and the recoil pad is the original. The barrels are 26 inches long with a quarter rib and doll's head extension. The rear sight has one standing and two folding leaves and the front sight has a protective hood. The safety is non-automatic with SAFE inlayed in gold. There is a sling eye on the barrel but, interestingly, none on the stock and the weight is 13 1/2 pounds. The action's colors are faded completely due to age and use but the barrel blue is excellent. The stock sports a refinish and the bores are excellent. From the collection of Don Wenger. Photo credit: Bob Huber

William Evans
Evans number 9891 is a boxlock non-ejector with 26-inch barrels and weighs a hefty 16 pounds and 4 ounces. This .600 was sold to Captain, The Hon. J.R.D. Prittie in 1910. Prittie was the Assistant Commissioner of the Uganda Boundary Commission from 1910 to 1914 and was killed in action on December 29, 1914. A former owner purchased this rifle in Uganda in 1967. Additional specifications are a regulation of 100 grains of cordite, an automatic safety, a full-length rib with doll's head extension and a disappearing moon sight. From the collection of Hollis Perkins.

W.W. Greener
Graham Greener looked up the details about the gun in the archives; it was recorded as being a Presentation grade .600 Express, double rifle with 22 inch barrels. One pair of barrels was constructed with the normal dovetail lumps but, unusually, the other pair was made with chopper lumps. The gun had been ordered by Marius Maxwell, a big game photographer, who had written several books which included many photographs, taken by himself, of big game in Africa. Work on the gun started on the 28th of October 1920 and the weapon was finished on the 24th August 1921. However, Marius had ordered the second pair of barrels a few weeks after his initial request for Greener to build him a gun. The extra barrels were started on the 9th of November 1920 but this delayed completion to 17th May 1922. The 14 3/8 inch stock had a full pistol hand and cheek piece. Like the engraving on the famous St. George shotgun Harry Tomlinson was engaged to produce similar carved engraving of elephants and big game. He took six weeks to engrave the gun with the first pair of barrels and a further week to engrave the second set of barrels. The gun was designed to fire a load of 100 grains cordite with a 900 grains bullet.

Holland and Holland
To see a side lock Holland and Holland is a sight to behold and to see two of them left me speechless! But, before the pair from the Wenger collection (followed by two additional), Russell Wilkin of Holland and Holland emailed me some information on the first .600 by that firm. Number 19285 from 1909 was built with 26-inch barrels and an exposed hammer rifle with ejectors. Quite a rarity.

The first Holland before you is a postwar rifle, number 35290. Built as a Royal Deluxe with 25-inch barrels with a standing sight leaf for 50 yards and a folding leaf sighted for 100. The front sight is a large platinum-tipped bead with a fold over ivory night, or moon, sight. The back action side lock has two triggers with the front trigger being hinged, and has automatic ejectors. The walnut stock is finished to a pull of 15 1/2 inches to a pigskin-covered recoil pad. The stock sports a cheek piece. Each individual internal part of the action is plated in gold and the external action has full coverage of the traditional Royal Deluxe engraving pattern. The rifle rests in its original case with all accessories. According to a letter from the current owner, this is the fourth .600 made by Holland and the frame is larger than the frames used on numbers five and six. From the collection of Don Wenger. Photo credit: Bob Huber.

The second .600 Holland shown here is perhaps one of the most famous and well- known rifles of all time and Holland considers it to be their finest rifle. Number 35478 was begun in 1970 and completed in 1975. This was to be Holland and Holland's last rifle in .600: to signify the end of the era of elephant hunting. With Kynoch ending the production of many of the nitro express cartridges this, too, seemed to be the end of the big double rifles. This magnificent rifle was offered to Joe Wenger who was a friend and customer of Holland and Holland. His son, Don, went in 50-50 with his father so, “I would be sure to have this rifle someday in my collection.” (Many years later, Holland and Holland reached an agreement with Don to again begin production of the .600 caliber).

The “Last .600” is a back action sidelock with two triggers. The front trigger is hinged. The barrels are 24 inches long with a 50 yard back sight and a platinum-tipped bead front sight with a fold over protective hood and a 1/4 carat diamond moon sight. The rifle weighs only 12 1/2 pounds with a 15 1/2 inch stock of the finest walnut with a cheek piece and a pigskin covered recoil pad. The rifle is fully engraved by Ken Hunt in the most elaborate array of design and figures. The case is oak and elephant hide and all accessories have ivory handles. Extras in the case include a spare fore sight, back sight, lock pins, main springs and ejector springs. A matching cartridge magazine holds 100 rounds of Kynoch ammunition. The rifle remains unfired to this day and is in 100 percent mint condition. Photo credit: Bob Huber.

This Holland and Holland, number 30374, is courtesy of Holt’s Auctioneers and sold by them in December 2008. Their description is as follows, “26in. nitro chopperlump barrels with matt sight rib, open sights and leaf sights for 100, 150 and 200 yards, ramp-mounted bead foresight with flip-up moonsight, the moonsight a gold-encased diamond, the sunken rib gold-inlaid 'H.H. MAHARAJA GULAB SINGH JI. BAHADUR OF REWA. 1921.', giant treble-grip action with removable striker discs, carved shell fences, automatic safety with gold-inlaid 'SAFE' detail, Holland & Holland patent hand-detachable lockplates, patent no. 11319 of 25th May, 1908, gold-inlaid cocking-indicators, chequered articulated front trigger, the action, lockplates and furniture deeply carved with best bold Royal scroll engraving, interspersed with floral bouquets and with beaded and feathered borders, the underside engraved 'ROYAL HAMMERLESS EJECTOR' within an elaborate ribbon cartouche, retaining traces of original colour-hardening and finish, 15 1/8in. highly-figured pistol grip stock with cheekpiece, engraved and colour-hardened pistol grip-cap (with trap), sling swivels and including 7/8in. leather covered recoil pad, weight 16lb. 2oz., in its brass-cornered oak and leather case with accessories, the lid exterior with 'H.H. MAHARAJA of REWA' , '600 H&H.', 'No. 30374'. and with some Hindu script. The makers have kindly confirmed that the rifle was completed in 1921 for the Maharaja of Rewa.” Credit: Andrew J. Orr of Holt’s Auctioneers. (For additional information on the Maharaja, see Jeffery number 22370).

This last Holland and Holland, 35144, is a 1948 vintage royal ejector with 26-inch barrels and a weight of 16 pounds. The lock work is gold plated and she is proofed for 110 grains of cordite. This Holland has hunted in the Central African Republic and Zambia where she has taken buffalo and elephant. Formerly in the collection of Leroy Fortner.

W.J. Jeffery

This rifle, and number 22152, were made as a pair. As taken from the Jeffery records for 22152: .600 bore under snap action hammerless A&D, Baker ejector, 24” Gusstahl barrels, doll’s head, standard + 3 spring leafs backsight to 300 yards, ivory bead foresight, Anson forepart, scroll engraved, pistol grip, 14 1/4 pounds. Made by Leonard, September 21, 1911. Cost price was 27 pounds 15. Selling price was 50-60 pounds. The next number, 22153, as taken from the Jeffery records: .600 bore double to pair with above, recoil pads and trigger set for left shoulder in both cases, scroll engraved, 14 1/4 pounds. Made by Leonard, September 21, 1911. Cost price was 27 pounds 15. Selling price was 50-60 pounds. Formerly in the collection of Leroy Fortner.

This beauty is the fourth Jeffery produced and is in near mint condition. As taken from the Jeffery records: .600 bore under lever snap action hammerless double Baker ejector rifle. 24 3/4" Krupp steel barrels, standing and 3 leaf to 300 yards, bead foresight, lever forepart, pistol grip, recoil pad, highly scroll engraved, 15 pounds 10 ounces. Made by Saunders--June 6, 2003. Cost price was 28 pounds + 3.15 for the tubes and sold for 65 pounds. In addition, the Urdu script on the rifle tells us of its Indian history. From the collection of Lester Dyke. Photo credit: Morris Hallowell.

As taken from the Jeffery records: .600 cordite under lever snap action, Baker ejector, A&D action, 24” Krupp steel barrels, doll’s head, sunk rib, stand and 3 leaves, lever forepart, pistol grip, engraved with animals. 14 pounds 3 ounces. Made by Leonard, April 30, 1904. Cost price was 28 pounds + 3.15 for the tubes and sold for 35 pounds. Additional details are: 100 grains of cordite for the regulation, JW engraved on the gold stock oval, automatic ejectors recoil pad, double trigger, eyes for sling, one standing and three folding sight leaves. Three elephants, a tiger, lion, buffalo, bushbuck, another elephant are engraved on the action and a leopard and scroll on the lever. This rifle was in Kenya where it was restocked and sent to London for finishing and for sale to Joe Wenger in 1967. From the collection of Don Wenger. Photo Credit: Bob Huber.

13933. As taken from the Jeffery records: .600 bore double under lever snap action. E.L. rib, 24” Krupp barrels, stand and 3 leaves to 300 yards, ivory bead, pistol grip, bison engraved, lever forepart, doll’s head, eyes for sling. 14 pounds. Made by Leonard July 5, 1905. Cost price was 22 pounds + 2 pounds for the tubes and sold for 35 pounds. this rifle has been shot extensively by the present and former owners an both attest to the impressive accuracy out to 200 yards. From the collection of Corbin B. Shell.

As taken from the Jeffery records: .600 bore under snap action A&D hammerless, doll’s head, 24” Gusstahl barrels, standard 50 and 3 leafs 300, ivory foresight, Anson forepart, 1/2 pistol grip, scroll engraved, recoil pad, weight 14lbs 5oz. made by Leonard. Cost price was 23 pounds 15 + 2 pounds 5 for the barrels for a total cost of 16 pounds. Selling price was 35 pounds. Additional details are: 100 grains of cordite for the regulation, non-ejector, concave matted rib, marked “Made expressly for Lyon & Lyon Calcutta.” This rifle was sold at auction in September of 2007. Photo credit: Rock Island Auction Company.

22370. The first of three consecutive numbered .600 doubles. This rifle was sold to Lyon and Lyon for the Maharaja or Rewa (of .577 Rewa fame) and so engraved on the rib in gold. As taken from the Jeffery records: .600 bore hammerless non-ejector A&D under snap action. 24" Gusstahl barrels, doll's head, standard and 3 leaves to 500 yards, ivory bead foresight, pistol grip, Anson forepart, recoil pad, scroll engraved. 14 1/4 pounds. Made by H. Leonard July 31, 1913. Cost price 25.1 pounds and sold for 35 pounds. This rifle is cased in the original oak and leather case with accessories. The ledger states “scroll engraved” but does not do justice to the outstanding engraving. The quality of the wood is outstanding. From the collection of Davis Peterson, MD.

Two Maharajas of Rewa were known to the English gun trade. Raja Venkat Raman Singh (B. 18--) ruled from 1880 to 1918. His province was 13,000 square miles and the second largest in central India. The tiger population in the jungles was extremely high and hunting with the finest English firearms was his pastime. His son, Maharaja Sir Gulab Singh (owner of this rifle) was known to have killed 500 plus tigers--some of which in a most unusual manner. He would sit in a tree stand with a book and a monkey. Whilst reading, if a tiger came to bait, the monkey would stir and the Maharaja would take up his rifle. His province was acceded to the dominion of India in 1947.

One of six consecutive numbered falling block single shot rifles. As taken from the Jeffery records: .600 bore falling block, 26" steel barrel, 3 flush leaf backsight to 300 yards, platinum bead foresight, short forepart, pistol grip, eyes for sling. Made by H. Leonard March 29, 1916. Cost price was 7.18 pounds + 5 pounds for the barrel and sold for 25 pounds. From the collection of Hank Wilson.

Charles Lancaster
No question about it, this .600 is the most unique, rare, and one of a kind .600 ever made. Lancaster number 13870 has a 33 inch octagon barrel with Lancaster's patented oval bore rifling. It is a side lock under lever hammerless single shot and, I believe, was built on a 4 bore frame. The rifle's weight of 21 pounds and 12 ounces bears this out. The cordite regulation is for the 110-grain charge and the velocity is 2100 fps due to the long barrel. The rifle's weight, however, soaks up much of the recoil and is quite pleasant to shoot--explaining the plain metal butt plate. The walnut stock may not be original to the rifle but has a beautiful figure and a cheek piece. Also unique to this .600 is the double set trigger.

Joseph Lang
Joseph Lang is one of my favorite makers as my .450 No2 best quality is a Lang. This .600 is numbered 14843 and is a pre-WWI rifle. It has 26 inch barrels and is proofed for the 110-grain charge of cordite. The action is French gray and the engraving may be a latter addition as it looks of a modern European style. The walnut stock has a cheek piece, a silver oval, pistol grip, and a red recoil pad. The action has double triggers and automatic ejectors. The full-length rib has a doll's head extension and the rear sight is a standing leaf with one folding leaf for 200 yards. The front sight has the fold-down, large moon sight bead. The weight of this Lang is a hefty 16 3/4 pounds so she is comfortable to shoot. The safety is automatic, sling eyes are present, and the rifle is in its original case with accessories including spare sights, spare ejectors, and strikers. From the collection of Don Wenger. Photo credit: Bob Huber.

The .600 MacNaughton is a unique rifle times four! It is the only vintage .600 I have found from Scotland. Secondly, this 1904 Edinburgh rifle was made with, perhaps, a one of a kind ribless design. The space between the quarter rib and the front sight is open--no rib! This may have been done to facilitate barrel cooling. Number 2726 sports barrels 27 inches in length and the action is a rare round action (number 3 in rarity) with partial scroll engraving. Further features are a double trigger, pistol grip stock, and the pull is 14 3/8" to a leather pad. This rifle has two safety catches and weighs 13 pounds and 13 ounces The rear sight is a single standing leaf and the elevation adjustment is done via the front sight (number 4 in rarity)! Of additional interest is this rifle took an elephant in Ethiopia in 1989 when owned by Bill Feldstein (originator of the .700 nitro express). The tusks weighed 100 and 104 pounds! Photo credit: Bonhams and Butterfield.

Charles Osborne
Osborne number 60846 may be the only .600 by this maker. This rifle was discovered in South Africa and made its way to the United States where it changed hands a number of times. The rifle's light weight was the reason, I'm sure. At 13 pounds and 2 ounces it is quite a kicker for the 100-grain charge of cordite it is proofed for. Being a top lever with exposed hammers it is indeed a rare gem. A former owner told me that he took a 48 inch cape buffalo with this rifle! Originally made with 28-inch barrels they were shortened to 24 inches by a second prior owner and some engraving has been added. The rifle rests in its original case with some accessories. The rifle dates to 1911 and a former owner has a .470 Osborne that is identical to this .600. Photo credit: David Powell.

James Purdey
What a treat for the senses! A consecutive pair of .600s, made as a pair and numbered 1 and 2. Purdey 25749 and 25750 are at home in their original oak and leather trunk case by Purdey as are all the accessories and tools.

Both rifles feature 26-inch barrels and regulated for the 100-grain charge of cordite. The actions are highly scroll engraved side locks of the finest London quality. The pistol grips have an engraved grip cap and the stocks sport thin recoil pads. The actions are self opening, double trigger design, with automatic ejectors. A short rib supports a two-leaf rear sight and the front sight has a sight protector. The automatic safety also has a bolted safety with all lettering in gold. Both rifles weigh 15 1/4 pounds and have 'D' sling swivels. The top strap extends to the comb of the stock.

This Purdey is number 24705. Completed in May of 1934 for the Bombay Armoury, this fine double rifle has automatic ejectors, a self opening action, 26-inch barrels, and weighs 15 pounds and 10 ounces.

R.B. Rodda
Of the rifles I have seen, handled, and shot whilst developing this work this Rodda stands as among the finest rifles--equal to the last Holland and Holland and the Greener owned by the photographer M. Maxwell. This outstanding sidelock, number 11456, has 26-inch barrels and weighs 13 pounds, 14 ounces. Equipped with ejectors and sighted to 500 yards, she is regulated for the 110-grain charge of cordite

St. Entienne, France
The 1909-vintage .600 double from France, number 18432, is only one of three rifles in .600 produced in this center of firearms manufacturing. As in Ferlach, Austria, St. Entienne had many specialists who made the barrels, stocks, locks, etc., therefore no maker’s name is on this rifle. It is a “guild” rifle. While the English (usually) kept detailed records, not so with the French--almost no original information on this rifle exists. The current owner states this rifle has chopper-lump barrels 27 3/4 inches in length. The weight is a light 13 pounds even and the hammers are non-rebounding. The top strap continues over the comb and the bottom strap continues beyond the grip--a most unusual feature. The front trigger is articulated and the four sight leaves are sighted to 50-100-200-300 yards. The original Silvers recoil pad has been replaced and that is the only modification to this fantastic rifle. From the collection of Robert Donalson.

Webley and Scott
Webley and Scott number 11307 is a double barrel hammer rifle, Jones under lever, and sighted to 300 yards with one standing and two folding leaves. Rebounding back locks, percussion fences, border engraving, sling swivels, and a matted sight rib are features of this outstanding rifle. The action is a treble-grip with chopper lump-barrels, 26 inches in length. The front sight is a bead with a folding moon sight. This rifle was owned and used in Ceylon and remained there until sold at auction. The weight is 16 pounds and 1 ounce. Photo Credit: Christies Auctioneers.

Westley Richards
The first three Westley Richards rifles shown here cover a full spectrum of .600s: a a plain-grade boxlock, a single shot of the finest quality, and a best quality boxlock. After seeing the quality of the Westley Richards’ best rifles, I believe that firm takes second place to no other company. Their rifles are works of art. In addition are two consecutive numbered single shots courtesy of Wal Winfer.

Number D8656 is a workingman's double rifle regulated for 100 grains of cordite. She is equipped with double triggers, automatic ejectors, 26-inch barrels and a full rib with a doll's head extension. The top lever is the Westley C-type, the action has no engraving, and the weight is an even 16 pounds. The bottom of the action is engraved with “P. ORR & SONS. Premier Gunsmiths, Rangoon” so we know she spent some of her years in India. The safety is automatic with a bolting lever and the sights are one standing and two folding leaves to 300 yards. This .600 has sling swivels and a rubber anti-recoil pad. The mechanical condition is excellent. From the collection of Don Wenger. Photo credit: Bob Huber.

This next Westley is a deluxe single shot sighted to an optimistic 700 yards! 36026 is regulated for the one-of-a-kind charge of 105 grains of cordite. The action is fully engraved with scroll and game scenes, has a tang safety and is an ejector rifle. The barrel is 25 inches long and the weight is an even 13 pounds. A recoil pad is present as is a cheek piece and sling swivels. Weight has been added to the stock to reduce the felt recoil and the greater than normal drop to the stock makes the shooter feel the bite upon discharge. This rifle was once owned by Mr. Hale of Parker-Hale and is now in the collection of Don Wenger. Photo credit: Bob Huber.

The third Westley Richards, number 17354, dates from 1912. This .600 is as deluxe as a rifle can get! Proofed for 100 grains of cordite, this double trigger automatic ejector rifle has barrels 26 inches long and a doll's head extension. The engraving is a combination of scroll and game scenes including an elephant and rhino. One standing and two folding leaves comprise the rear sight and the front sight rests on an engraved ramp and includes a folding moon sight. A recoil pad, engraved and hinged grip cap, cheek piece, sling swivels, bolted and automatic safety are additional features. The gold oval has “HB” engraved. This magnificent rifle rests in its original oak and leather case with the name Colonel H. G. Burrows on the lid. The condition is excellent, inside and out, and all original. A true gem! From the collection of Don Wenger. Photo credit: Bob Huber.

John Wilkes

Wilkes 5466 is a very light .600 at 12 1/2 pounds with 24 inch barrels. The frame size suggests this light weight .600 was made on a .500 frame. She is regulated for the 110 grains of cordite and is a non-ejector. The action engraving is nearly the same as number 8083, English scroll with an Indian elephant among the tall grass on left and a gaur on the right. The action also has side clips. The stock has a pull of 14 1/2 inches to a red rubber recoil pad. There is no cheek piece. The rib sports the traditional standing leaf for 100 yards and two folding leaves for 200 and 300 yards. This rifle, made in 1910, has sling eyes, an automatic safety, with SAFE inlaid in gold. The bores are excellent. The Wilkes company told the present owner, during a 1985 visit to London, that number 5467 was in Spain or Italy, weighed 11 pounds and 15 ounces, and was in “mint” condition. The company was trying to purchase the rifle. London proof. From the collection of Don Wenger. Photo credit: Bob Huber.

Number 8083, is much the same as number 5466 as to sights, engraving style (elephant and Indian rhino), side clips, stock dimensions, and rear sight. The barrels are 26 inches, the front sight has a folding large bead night sight and SAFE is inlaid in silver. This rifle was made in April of 1914 and is an extractor rifle, has the doll's head extension, recoil pad, and a push button fore end release. The weight is 15 1/2 pounds--a good weight for a .600. London proof. From the collection of the author, Cal Pappas.

A rare .600 from an excellent maker! This Wilkinson, number 55086, was owned by a collector in Texas who purchased it in 1966 in South Africa. The gun's then owner also had a .577 Holland and Holland Royal he was selling. He needed the money to pay for a large ammunition purchase he was making and, in 1966, there was little interest in the big rifles due to problems in obtaining the correct ammunition. This rifle is proofed for the 100-grain charge of cordite, has a three-leaf rear sight for 100, 200, and 300 yards, and 26-inch barrels. The stock sports a cheek piece and a recoil pad. The weight is approximately 13 pounds.