Holland & Holland Sporter
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- Last updated: 16/12/2016
Holland & Holland are one of the grand old names of British gunmaking. I have always enjoyed their shooting ground near Ruislip and a visit to the Holland & Holland shop in Bruton Street is always a treat to be savoured too. I admire the way they conduct their business, they have huge pride in their product and are one of the very few firms who still test and regulate everything they make at their own shooting ground. The company is full of world class experts – a centre of excellence. They have experts on making shotguns, experts on making rifles, and experts on how to shoot. The firm (now owned by Channel) is a national treasure in my book and long may they prosper!
The Test Gun
Most of us, sadly, will never be able to afford a Holland gun, a Royal side by side – my lottery gun – is about 78K including the Treasury’s 20%, a bolt rifle well over 20K (and I would love a .375 H&H). The most affordable shotgun is the test gun, a sideplated Sporting model with a VAT inclusive price of £54,000. It’s a lot of wonga, but you are not only paying for a name but the huge effort that goes into creating the gun. Truthfully, if you are concerned about price, then like me you can’t afford one, but it still makes me happy that Holland & Holland continue to make guns combining the very best of new world high tech with peerless bench craftsmanship.
The Sporting model has developed considerably since its launch some 20 odd years ago. I can remember when it came on the scene and all the discussion about the production methods using techniques such as Computer Aided Design and CNC which have since become the norm for many other British gunmakers (following the Italian example set by men like Ivo Fabbri). The H&H Sporting model makes no secret of the fact that it is predominantly a machine made gun (like the H&H Round Action side by side which is priced at £47,500 plus VAT) but it is built to extraordinary standards with finish and regulation carried out the old fashioned way. The action may be machined to micron tolerances, but there is still a large smoke lamp and hand fitting element to the gun.
When the gun was launched H&H were breaking new ground, now other famous makers have followed suit as noted. One cannot help but regret some of what has happened – the passing of the old world and its way – but it must also be said that today’s guns are made to higher tolerances and of better materials than any which appeared previously. If well treated they should last indefinitely as a result (so you are buying an heirloom).
The test gun has a distinct character combined with the first class finish that one associates with the firm. This does not just apply to the basics, the blacking, the well oiled and chequered stock, the perfect wood to metal fit. Look down the demi-lump (not monobloc) barrels and you will see two flawlessly straight tubes that have been beautifully struck up externally (by hand). The taper rib on this gun is a near ideal design. H&H barrel work is always impeccable in my experience.
The scroll engraving is attractive too, and the walnut of the butt and forend are well figured. The unusual action, which has twin cocking bars and a detachable trigger lock when you explore it, looks smart. There are sideplates as is evident from the pictures and bolsters to the top of the action walls. Mount the gun and you will note good handling too, it feels, as it should at the price, more refined than the average mass-made over under. There is, in particular, less frontal weight because of the effort that has gone into striking up the barrels (long one of a London’s gun most important qualities). There are, however, Briley interchangeable chokes fitted (H&H are licensed by Briley in this respect and have Briley specialist equipment at their factory).
The test Holland has 28” barrels – though you can have anything you want from 25-32” – and these have London marks for 2 ¾” (70mm) cartridges. The bore diameters are both 18.5mm, and the forcing cones are a little longer than the average. The sighting rib is solid, has a taper to it as noted, and there is a metal bead at the muzzles in character with the gun. I tried to fault the barrels and couldn’t.
The action is beautifully made too. The aesthetics are fine, but some of the more recent guns I have seen have been colour case hardened – which was always an option – and this looks beautiful (the test gun it might be added is an older specimen used as a demonstrator at the H&H shooting school). I would quite like to see a Sporting model made without side-plates, possibly with a rounded action bar too, but the side-plates do put weight between the hands where it is needed.
The Sporting model has trunnion hinging like a Beretta or Perazzi (or indeed a Woodward who inspired all of them in this regard). The detachable lock is inspired by Perazzi but different mechanically with a lot of development effort going into the single trigger mechanism. To take out the beautifully finished lock one lifts a little lever disguised in the rear of the trigger guard. It is removed more easily than just about any other and looks as if a clock maker built it. V springs power the hammers, and, notably, there is a barrel selector on the top strap safety – an unusual feature in a detachable lock over and under gun.
The stock is classically shaped with an open radius pistol grip. The forend is of a hand filling and ergonomically efficient rounded style. The stock measurements are academic as you can have what you want (including a variety of grip options including a palm swell). Wood quality is excellent, but you can upgrade it if you desire too. You can also have any rib you fancy, specify a finished weight, and choose between fixed chokes or Briley multi-chokes. The action may be silver finished or bone meal colour case hardened – my preference as mentioned.
I shot the Sporting model with my friend Chris Bird, the Chief Instructor at the H&H shooting school and one of the best pros in the business. Chris and I often discuss theoretical matters of technique and it is always a pleasure to shoot with him. The gun, meantime, performed very well, although the dimensions did not quite suit me. The perceived recoil was low and the trigger extremely crisp. It was lively, but not wild. The Sporting model is an evolved design now and forgiving to shoot – one of my biggest compliments in a gun’s design and specification. We did not miss much between us! I might end this by noting that should your lotto numbers come up, I can think of no better person than Chris to fit your gun to you.
My thanks to Chris Bird, Steve Denny and the rest of the staff at the Holland and Holland Shooting Grounds and shop. GM
PRICE: From £45,000 plus VAT (according to customer’s specifications)