.425 Westley Richards, the "Poor Man's Magnum"

By Chuck Hawks

.425 WR
.425 Westley Richards. Illustration courtesy of Wikipedia.

This obsolescent proprietary cartridge was designed in 1909 and intended for use in Mauser type bolt action rifles (a Westley Richards of Birmingham, England specialty) with standard bolt faces intended for the 7x57mm series cartridges with .473" diameter rims. To accomplish this miracle, yet retain the case capacity required for a big bore CXP4 game cartridge, the designers at Westley Richards used a rebated rim.

Visually, the .425 WR is a standard length, bottleneck cartridge with minimal body taper and a long neck. The nominal rim diameter is .467" and the case head diameter is .543", so the rim of this cartridge is really rebated. Other key dimensions include a shoulder diameter of .540", neck OD .456" and case length of 2.64". The bullet diameter is .435", .425 is the bore diameter, and the cartridge overall length is 3.30" (about like the .30-06).

The old Westley Richards/Kynoch proprietary load used about 65 grains of some unspecified smokeless powder, which was a compressed charge. The Maximum Average Pressure for the .425 is specified (in British terms) as 18.5 tons per square inch, which is between the .375 H&H (19.5 tons/sq. in.) and the .450 NE (17 tons/sq. in.).

The .425's ballistics are right up there with the other Asian and African heavy game cartridges. The standard factory load uses a 410 grain bullet (SD .310) at a nominal muzzle velocity (MV) of 2350 fps for muzzle energy (ME) of 5010 ft. lbs. (measured in a 32" barrel). At 100 yards, the velocity is 2112 fps and the remaining energy is 4059 ft. lbs.

The trajectory of typical factory loads using a .410 grain bullet (BC .336) looks something like this: -1.5" at muzzle, +0.1" at 50 yards, 0 at 100 yards, -2.1" at 150 yards, -6.3" at 200 yards.

The .425 was quite successful in its day and secured a good reputation for use on dangerous Asian and African game. Ammunition is still factory loaded by Kynoch (UK) and Stars & Stripes (US). Woodleigh (Australia) and A-Square (US) offer bullets for reloaders. The latter includes 410 grain FMJ and Weldcore soft nose types, as well as a 350 grain Weldcore soft nose.

Modern reloading data for the .425 Westley Richards is hard to come by. None of the reloading manuals in my considerable collection include the cartridge and, as far as I know, the brass is unique and cannot be formed from any, more common, case. Reloaders would be well advised to forego the .425 in favor of one of the more easily available .416's.

Practically speaking, the .425 WR is functionally equivalent to the popular .416 caliber Rigby, Ruger and Remington elephant cartridges and has largely been superseded by them. Nevertheless, anyone with a .425 rifle and a supply of ammunition is well equipped to hunt the largest and most dangerous African game.

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Copyright 2009, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.