Holland & Holland Sporter
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- Last updated: 13/12/2016
I have the greatest respect for Holland & Holland and count a number of its staff as friends. H&H still maintains a proper gun-making factory in London. Not only are artisan methods and traditional skills maintained there, but there is a constant effort to use new technology to improve the company’s guns. Holland & Holland also run one of the best gun-shops in the world, with branches not only in the West End, but also in Paris and New York. They also maintain one of the finest shooting grounds in the country at Ducks Hill near Ruislip. All these establishments are centres of excellence. The sport of shooting would be much poorer without them.
Holland & Holland today make something around 80 guns a year – not many, but
everyone would delight any keen shooter. The Royal over-and-under and Royal side-by-side models are at the top of the range. The Royal OU will set you back £63,000 less VAT and any extras that you might want, the side by side something in the region of £50,000. They are both wonderful guns. If I had that sort of money to spend, I would not hesitate in adding both to my collection. They are the best of their respective types. Perfection must have a price.
H&H also make a less expensive Round Action model side-by-side based on a back-action design. This sells for something in the region of 38K excluding VAT. It is also an excellent gun and shoots superbly. I have a very positive experience of shooting most modern Hollands - I don't think that this is any accident - they seem to have a house formula for making guns that really work well.
The Test Gun
The subject of our test is the Sporting model over and under. This sells for similar money to the Round Action depending on specification. It is a most interesting piece of kit too – arguably the most technically interesting in the formidable Holland range. Introduced almost 20 years ago, it’s an upmarket side-plated gun with a detachable trigger lock not unlike a Perazzi. The styling is very English, however, and the craftsmanship and finish impeccable.
The gun has evolved somewhat since it first came out. I remember when they were launched. It was in the days when CNC and Computer Aided Design was not the norm in the British gun trade. The Sporting model, which is predominantly machine made but hand fitted and finished to the highest London standards, caused quite a stir. I remember thinking then, that H&H were really trying hard to bring British gunmaking into a new age. I am of the same opinion now, Holland & Holland (and James Purdey and Sons) have done an enormous amount to develop British gunmaking in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
But, as ever, I am veering off the point. First impressions of the test gun are very positive. It has the look of a London gun. Standards of fit and finish are as high as you will find. The wood is beautiful, the barrels are well struck up and deeply blacked, the bolstered, scroll engraved, and colour case hardened action looks smart but not OTT. Bringing the gun up to face and shoulder, it feels familiar – not unlike a more pedestrian mass-made over under – but more refined. There is for example, less weight forward in the barrels, though these tubes incorporate Briley interchangeable chokes (fitted at the H&H factory).
The 28” barrels of the test gun bear London proof marks for 2 ¾” (70mm) shells. They are not monobloc but demi-lump (the over and under equivalent of chopper-lump construction). Bores are 15.6mm (the equivalent of 615”), forcing cones are of medium length, and a subtle taper rib with traditional metal bead has been fitted. I tried to
fault the barrels and couldn’t. They are as good as any I have tested.
The action of the Sporting model is visually attractive and fitted with side plates as noted (which put a little more weight between the hands and provide a greater surface for engraving if it is required). The gun has split hinge pins in the manner of a Beretta (or Woodward). The action locks up much like a Boss. Workmanship is excellent. To remove the lock mechanism one activates a lever cleverly hidden in the back of the trigger guard. It then pops into the hand with minimal effort. Leaf springs power the works. Notably, the H&H mechanism allows for a barrel selector to be incorporated with a removable lock design. The selector for this is combined with the safety on the top strap. Trigger pulls are especially good. The single trigger mechanism - which was an aspect of the design which took considerable effort to perfect - proved perfectly reliable in use.
The stock of the test gun is of apparently traditional form. The grip is of open radius pistol pattern. The length is 14 ½”, there is some cast, and the drop dimensions are 1 3/8” and 2 1/8”. All this is immaterial, though. These guns are custom built, you may have any style of stock you want and any measurements. The list of no cost options is extensive. Grips can be straight, half or full pistol. You can even have a palm swell if it floats your boat (it sinks mine). You can even have a Prince of Wales grip as on the test gun. You can also upgrade the wood.
It does not end there. Barrels may be specified between 25”-32”. You can have any rib you want. You can specify a finished weight (within reason), you can have fixed choke or Briley multis and the action may be brush polished or colour case hardened. Whatever you fancy – such are the joys of wealth.
How Does It Shoot?
I took the gun out with Chris Bird, the Chief Instructor at Holland and Holland (and a man who I would rate as one of the best instructors in Britain today). The gun shot extremely well, perceived recoil was low, handling qualities were very good. The gun had life, but it was not wild. It was by any standard an excellent sporting gun. But, there is more to it than that. It is the best of British combining the old and new worlds. It is a modern gun, but it is also a very traditional one. If you had the money, you would want one, not just because it is a clever, innovative and efficient design, but because you could have it exactly as you wished. The sporting model is a fabulous piece of kit as well, and, an important part of modern British gunmaking history.
My warm thanks to the staff of the Holland and Holland Shooting Grounds and especially to Chris Bird and Pat Murphy (manager of the Holland & Holland gunroom in London).
PRICE: £38,000 approx. depending on specification