Spreading the Word About Teague Precision Chokes
JOHN IAN GREGSON
Forgive me, dear reader, but I need to start this simple story about Westley Richards acquiring Teague Precision Chokes with something of a preamble explaining why I am so excited by what, on the surface, appears to be just another business acquisition.
To begin, some might not be terribly familiar with Teague Precision Chokes, although you may have heard of Westley Richards. Teague was established by Nigel Teague in 1980—at the beginning of the choke-tube revolution. By trade, Nigel Teague was a time-served engineer for Rolls-Royce’s aerospace division and latterly in charge of quality control for that company. He also loved shooting and helped established the Lady’s Wood Shooting School, in the west of England.
It was no surprise then that when Teague turned his attention to the precision-choke market, the results were something special.
It is the sheer quality of Teague’s thin-wall choke tubes that has seen “best” gunmakers offer them on their new guns. And we’re talking about big names like Purdey, Boss, McKay Brown and Westley Richards, to name a few. Since the company was established, its chokes have been fitted to around 27,000 guns, so they are well proven.
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Teague’s product was the first commercially available aftermarket choke-tube system fitted to best fixed-choke guns, including over/unders and side by sides—even those with Damascus barrels—without affecting the handling qualities of the guns. There are no nose-heavy horrors with Teague chokes, and the tubes fit flush with the ends of the barrels, requiring close inspection to notice them. In addition, there are no external indications of the fitted chokes, with the barrels’ lines remaining unchanged. The icing on the cake is that all of the work is done to the highest manufacturing standards, every gun is proof tested to comply with regulations, each gun has its bores lapped and muzzles polished, and individual tubes are laser marked with the serial number of the gun to which they belong. The latter helps the shooter avoid confusion and makes it a cinch to buy more aftermarket tubes for a particular gun, as Teague keeps a register of the dimensions of all of the guns it works on.
As for the science behind the product, all of Teague’s chokes are made of high-tensile stainless steel and manufactured on state-of-the-art CNC machinery. They incorporate Teague’s Tapered Technology, which means that the taper leading to the specified constriction extends the entire length of the tube (versus the more common design of a tapered section being followed by a parallel section). According to the company, the shot is therefore smoothly constricted over a longer period, with benefits being reduced recoil, fewer deformed pellets, greater pattern consistency and better-maintained velocity.
This is all positive, indeed, but what really floats my boat is that the purchase of Teague by Westley’s represents a meeting of two fantastic, practical shooting brands.
These days there is an awful lot of marketing baloney out there regarding authenticity—especially in the world of fieldsports. I would suggest that true authenticity depends on a great deal more than how many barrels your gun has, how those barrels are oriented, or whether your business began life before the invention of the internal-combustion engine. In my mind, to be authentic, what you sell must be relevant. I don’t care if shooters in Queen Victoria’s time thought something was the bee’s knees; if that product is overpriced or overly complex for the men and women who go afield today, then it is simply an expensive curio. Period.
So truly authentic brands must build on their original visions to remain relevant in modern markets. Two names that really leap out as having done just that are Westley Richards and Teague Precision Chokes—businesses that have clearly defined visions of their customers, how they are going to serve them and, importantly, how they are going to keep them coming back through the door.
Westley Richards has a long and honorable record as a gunmaker, but although its products are steeped in history, they remain the best tools for the job. Take the venerable Westley detachable-lock shotgun. If I were going somewhere remote and needed a sporting gun that could be worked on easily in the field, it is the “droplock” that I would turn to. The design is bombproof, but by simply carrying a spare set of locks, you have a great example of that modern concept of built-in redundancy in an emergency.
Westley’s rifles, too, remain the beloved tools of dedicated African hunters and many of the PHs who look after them. These rifles not only look great, but they also go bang when needed. Authenticity, relevance, quality and reliability.
Teague may have been founded (far) more recently, but it shares Westley Richards’ drive for authenticity. If there is something that Nigel Teague learned in his 20 years with Rolls-Royce Aerospace, it was the importance of quality and reliability. Reliability at 35,000 feet is as important as it is a few steps in front of a Cape buffalo.
And now these two modern businesses have been working together since Nigel Teague and Westley Richards Managing Director Simon Clode penned their deal last year. And it’s a good fit, too, because Westley’s parent company, Westley Engineering, has a long and well-respected history in the precision aerospace business—something that really appealed to Teague when he set out to sell his company.
Says Teague: “In my last seven years at Rolls-Royce I set up the quality auditing process, so an appreciation of the importance of quality was something I was looking for in a potential purchaser for the choke business. Westley’s really was the only potential buyer that ticked all the boxes.”
Clode heard that Teague Chokes was for sale through his bank manager, who had been at a business-networking event not far from Teague’s workshop. According to Simon: “He phoned me up and said Teague was for sale and asked me if I was interested. Nigel wanted the company to go into good hands and to make sure that his workforce was safe. I already knew Teague was a great product from our own dealings with them on our guns, and I was very interested. I went down to see Nigel and liked the business and the setup they had, and we did the deal.
“We had already offered Teague as an option on our guns for a long time, as had more and more of the best British makers. It’s becoming accepted that if Teague has worked on the barrels, it actually enhances the value of the guns rather than diminishes it.
“New guns are expensive now, and people expect the guns they take afield to be versatile. They might be shooting high birds one day and walked-up the next, and so people are obsessed with chokes, probably more than they’ve ever been before. The majority of Westley’s customers are over 40, and there is definitely a move toward tubes rather than extra barrels. We used to make a lot of guns with extra sets of barrels—sometimes three sets with different chokes—and while it’s a lovely option, the cost is now prohibitive. Also, I don’t really believe that extra barrels deliver enough value on the used market to justify the cost today. If you compare the cost—around £30,000 for three sets of barrels compared with £700 for a set of Teague chokes—you can see Teague is an attractive value option.”
The Teague business won’t be brought into the Westley’s factory but will remain close to its current Wiltshire home. “We needed a suitable location not on an industrial estate, because we needed a place where we could test the guns,” Clode said. “We have just completed a deal that will give us a new 4,000-square-foot facility at Pinkney Park, near Malmsbury, still in commutable distance for the existing workforce, which was a key consideration. We are now looking to increase the production of aftermarket chokes and perhaps develop other things.” Currently, in addition to its hand-fitted thin-wall chokes, Teague offers a complete range of aftermarket chokes to fit most major brands of shotguns. Other services include lengthening and polishing forcing cones, chamber sleeving, bore and chamber polishing, barrel patterning and regulation, porting, gunsmithing and gunfitting.
A number of years ago Teague began its barrel-lining business, with the aim of offering a viable alternative to traditional sleeving (see my two-part article “Teague: A ‘Silver Lining’ for Old Barrels,” Jan/Feb & March/April ’07). The process allowed original-but-worn Damascus barrels to be brought back into service safely and retain their beauty—something not possible under the sleever’s saw. Although Teague currently is not offering this service, it is one of the product lines that Westley’s definitely has its eye on for the future.
Clode said he also would like to develop the Teague business in terms of gunmaking engineering—the manufacturing of the core components that go into a gun. As Clode explained: “Currently I make the parts for my guns in the Westley Engineering business. I can see me moving the machinery to the Teague factory and producing them there. So the Teague operation becomes a wider center of excellence for gunmaking engineering. If you do all the gun work in one area, it brings a synergy to the business. Westley Engineering could then focus on the market it knows best while Westley Richards could focus on all aspects of gunmaking, right from a billet of raw steel. I think it’s really important to get gunmakers and the passion they bring as close as you can to the engineering process. We do that well now, but I think we have an opportunity to do it even better.”
Other things that Clode would like to do are to begin marketing and selling Teague’s aftermarket chokes in the US and to make the installation of custom thin-wall chokes more accessible to American gun owners. As reported by Vic Venters in his announcement of Westley Richards purchasing Teague (Sept/Oct ’14), Clode plans to do the latter through a consolidated shipping service from Westley’s shop in Bozeman, Montana. “We can spread the airfreight [to and from England] over a quantity of guns and keep the charge as low as possible,” Clode said. “All paperwork will be handled by us, so it will just be a matter of getting the gun to us in the USA, and we will take care of the rest. This will be of special interest to those who want a high-quality job with the added peace of mind of having proof certification.”
It’s thanks to vision and attention to detail like this that Teague and Westley Richards are in the positions that they are today: successful brands poised for future growth. The beneficiaries will be shooters worldwide.
Author’s Note: For more information, visit the websites of Teague Precision Chokes (www.teaguechokes.com) or Westley Richards (www.westleyrichards.com). The Teague site has an especially helpful FAQ page.
John Gregson is an Editor at Large for Shooting Sportsman.