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Holland & Holland Round Body S/S 20bore

Holland & Holland Round Body S/S 20bore

The test gun is Holland & Holland 20 bore, round bar, side by side. It shows the very different sort of guns that Holland & Holland still make today. H&H only produce something around 80 guns a year – not many, but every one would delight any keen shooter. They also still make double and bolt action rifles, but our primary interest here is shotguns.
H&H continue to make Royal model guns in both over and under and side by side form. They make a Sporting Model over and under, and they make a back-actioned, ‘Round Action Sidelock’ side by side which is the feature of our test (back actions were used in the old Dominion model, but, they are commonly utilised in double rifles where strength is paramount - less material needs to be machined out of the action body as the springs are positioned rearwards).

Harris Holland 

Holland and Holland was founded in 1835 by Harris Holland (1806-96). The records are not complete, but it is thought that his father made organs, Harris himself became a wholesale tobacconist, but he had a passion for pigeon shooting. He was a successful self-made man and was seen at all the fashionable London pigeon clubs and was also a keen game shot who leased his own moor.
His interest in guns led him to consider the gun-making business. He had some guns built for pigeon shooting initially and put his own name on them (and you would be a happy collector if you found a gun with H.Holland on it). In the midde of the 19th century Harris started building his own guns and his firm went from strength to strength, developing expertise both in building shotguns and, in later years, rifles.
Holland Holland themselves note: “This start makes him [Harris] very unusual among the London Best makers, as others such as Purdey, Boss, Lang and Lancaster had apprenticed with Joseph Manton, while others such as Beesley, Grant and Atkin apprenticed with Purdey or Boss. Having no children of his own, he took on his nephew Henry Holland as an apprentice in 1861. In 1867 Henry became a partner and in 1876 the name changed to Holland & Holland. Although Henry was a full partner, Harris kept strict control and was the only one who could sign a cheque until he died in 1896.”

story continues below...

First Impressions
The test gun is a smart, but not gaudy, little sidelock 20 bore gun. One immediately notices the good wood and pleasantly scroll engraved sidelock action. A little further inspection reveals this is not the more common bar-action sidelock with the springs forward, rather, a back-action gun in which the main springs face rearwards (the tell tale for this is the absence of a pin/peg at the front of the lockplate). The chopper lump barrels are 28” long and fitted with a swept, game-style, rib. There are double triggers of elegant form, the stock is of classic straight-hand shape to match. Overall weight was a delightful 5lbs 12 oz.  
This was the spec of the test gun but I should add that this is a bespoke product with a price tag of £40,500 plus VAT. It is available in 12 or 20 bore form. The stock will be made to measure from selected walnut, polished and oiled finished in the traditional English manner. One may specify a plain wood butt or have a recoil pad or heelplate. A gold oval is fitted and engraved with your initials or crest. Normal engraving is scrolls and border work with the Holland & Holland ‘gold name’ inlay.
The chopper-lump barrels can be from 25” to 30” (64cm to 76cm), with 2 ¾” (70mm) chambers and a swept game rib. One may also specify colour-hardened or bright finish (my preference would always be the former) and a weight preference; a 20 bore with 28” barrels would normally come in just under 6lbs., and 12 bores of the same barrel length would weigh around 6lbs. 10oz.

Testing Under Pressure
Well, this is an unusual gun test in that Holland & Holland, bless ‘em (and Pat Murphy and Steve Denny in particular) lent me the test gun to shoot with in the British Side by Side Championship at Broomhills. I was also shooting a Webley 700 Pigeon gun, and my faithfull H&H 16 bore hammer gun. The less said about the result with the Webley the better, but I managed a reasonable score with the Holland hammer gun, not as good as last year – it was a tougher course – but a good few birds ahead of the opposition and I won that class. I also shot the 20 bore test gun well.
The course was very demanding as just noted, there were a couple of really difficult rangy stands, frankly unsuited to side by sides, and many people were turning in ones and twos if not blanks. It became an 80 bird competition. Nil Desperandum! I buckled down and focussed. After a very poor first half – twenty odd birds away – which included the two really bad stands, I dug deep. I missed very few in the second half and managed several straights. I was ten birds ahead of the opposition when it was all over and thought I had cracked the 20 bore class.
Alas, it is never over until the fat lady sings. Chris Baker, an exceptional side by side shot, and, like me, former British Champion overall in this competition, put in the same score with one of the last cards of the day. We had to shoot off. The first pairs were ‘straighted’ on report by both of us. Then we went to simultaneous on a difficult overhead stand. We both dropped one. Then on to sudden death. Chris won – and with it the 20 bore championship – and it was well deserved. I have to say though, that the Holland 20 bore did not miss a beat.

I Want One (or more) – I Just Need To Win The Lottery
It was a crisp gun to use and, though light, delightful to handle as well. If I win the lottery, Holland and Holland will be making me four or five shotguns – a pair of Royal Twelve bore side by sides, and a pair of Royal over and under 20 bores, I would probably have one of these round action guns as well; another model that really appeals is the Paradox based on the same action.
My thanks to Pat Murphy, Steve Denny, Roland Wild and Chris Bird of Holland & Holland

PRICE: £40,500 plus VAT

  • Holland & Holland Round Body S/S 20bore - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Holland & Holland Round Body S/S 20bore - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Holland & Holland Round Body S/S 20bore - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Holland & Holland Round Body S/S 20bore - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Holland & Holland Round Body S/S 20bore - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Holland & Holland Round Body S/S 20bore - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Holland & Holland Round Body S/S 20bore - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Holland & Holland Round Body S/S 20bore - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge


  • Make: Holland & Holland
  • Model: Round Action Sidelock
  • Action: Rounded back-action
  • Barrels: 28” (25-30” options)
  • Chambers: 2 ¾” (70mm)
  • Chokes: fixed (quarter and half)
  • Weight: 5lbs 12oz.


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  • HI Mr Demetriou,

    There is a game gun collecter called Mike Kirby who is looking to purchase Holland and Holland 12 bores if you still wish to sell yours then you can contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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    22 Jun 2010 at 05:17 PM
  • You could try a specialist auction house in the UK, such as Bonhams (Sporting Guns) or Holts - you can find both these and others online. This would obviously mean getting the gun to the UK, or you could try finding a closer auction house in Europe.

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    Pat Farey
    10 Jun 2010 at 02:55 PM
  • Very interesting articles and a very nice web site. I am not a specilist in guns but I have a Royal Holland and Holland manufacture in 1897, is a side by side, ejector, 12 bore,No1 of a pair I suppose. I am trying to sell this gun ( I have no choice ), but find it very difficult here in Cyprus. Can you advise me please? Thank you for your attention.

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    Pambosn Demetriou
    08 Jun 2010 at 08:13 PM