Wessel Rykaards Hunting Pair by MC Heunis

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Wessel Rykaards Hunting Pair by MC Heunis: As in 1880, Boers hunt with the best of British

The baboon, the monkey and the pig… this might sound like the start of a children’s story, but it’s actually a South African hunting story of an historical nature involving the famous British gun-making firm of Westley Richards.

Westley Richards was founded in Birmingham in 1812 by 22-year-old William Westley Richards who aspired “to be the maker of as good a gun as can be made” – this remains the company’s motto to this day. In 1815 he also opened a gun shop in New Bond Street, London. William soon proved himself an exceptional innovator and registered a number of gun-related patents such as a waterproof primer for percussion guns, the first flip-up sight, and his renowned capping breech-loader rifle. These he marketed in Britain and abroad.

In 1865 his son, Westley Richards, took over the company, proving to be as innovative and talented as his father. Young Westley’s many designs included the falling block rifle action and the solid drawn metallic cartridge case. In 1871 John Deeley (inventor of the revolutionary Anson & Deeley boxlock hammerless action) took over the commercial side of the business, expanding it into South Africa and India, ensuring long term global success for the company.

In South Africa the firm quickly became famous for its high quality products, in particular the capping breech-loader, dubbed the “monkey tail” due to the perceived resemblance of its breech-opening top-lever to a monkey’s tail. Westley Richards exported some 21 000 of these rifles to SA, which proved themselves during the Transvaal War of 1881, many remaining in service in the Boer republics as late as 1896. The Boers became firm believers in what many called “Wessel Rykaards” rifles, and the Transvaal government continued to import Westley Richards made Martini-Henry rifles until 1899.   

Enough history! In May 2017 we had our annual black powder re-enactment of an 1880 hunt in the Waterberg bushveld near Thabazimbi. During this week the participants recreate a typical Boer camp, and hunt as they would have in the winter of 1880. This means firearms, clothing, accommodation, supplies, hunting techniques and meat processing must resemble, as closely as possible, those of that era. The individuals involved all have extensive knowledge of local history, black powder firearms, traditional hunting, pioneering and field crafts, plus a general love for the olden ways. All hunting is done on foot and game carcasses are carried back to the camp.

Read the full article in the September 2017 issue of Magnum.

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