YOU CAN’T HAVE true romance without a little danger, and no objects embody this truth better than British dangerous-game guns. They are both beautiful and horrible, brutal and graceful, refined and tough as nails. Why do English guns capture the very idea of hunting scary animals in exotic places? Because the Brits practically invented dangerous-game gunning. At the height of the British Empire, their influence stretched to almost every inch of the globe, including places like Bombay (now Mumbai) and Nairobi, which were jumping-off points for safaris in those days. As a result, the era’s top U.K. gunmakers raced to create guns that fired big, powerful cartridges in ever more efficient ways.
Makers like Rigby, Westley Richards, Holland & Holland, W.J. Jeffery & Co., and Purdey may not be on the cutting edge today, but they were the Gunwerks, G.A. Precision, and Christensen Arms of their time. Each scrambled to gain an edge, developing rifles that were both aesthetically and technologically refined. They did this work by hand, with chisels, files, and a level of craftsmanship that has all but vanished in the age of CNC machines.
While these rifles and the adventures they’re built for seem like things of the past, you can still hunt with them today. However, as only a handful of them are built every year, it isn’t often that many are in the same room together. That’s why we called L.D. McCaa of Westley Richards & Co.’s U.S. Agency to put together a battery of vintage British dangerous-game guns. McCaa is an authority on English sporting arms and has traded some of the greatest examples of these guns on Earth. From magazine rifles built on Mauser actions to luxurious doubles and single-shots, each of the following guns was optimized to shoot bone-splitting cartridges with unfailing reliability. They may look like expensive safe queens, but each of them has seen death-defying hunts and adventures that most of us can only dream about.
This photo essay originally ran in the Danger Issue of Field & Stream. Read more F&S+ stories.
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