This Holland and Holland Sporting Deluxe 20-bore over-and-under is as pricy as one would expect but, as Michael Yardley discovers, it’s a thoroughbred
The Holland and Holland Sporting Deluxe proves itself a thoroughbred in every department. Michael Yardley’s first impressions are of a long, elegant gun but shooting it proves this stunning example of the 32in 20-bore concept warrants a hefty price tag.
If you have less cash to splash, read about the MK60 Miroku 20-bores, a bargain in today’s market.
HOLLAND AND HOLLAND SPORTING DELUXE
This month’s test gun is a Holland and Holland Sporting Deluxe 20-bore over-and-under with 32in, 23⁄4in-chambered barrels and detachable trigger lock. It’s Briley multi-choked and has full- coverage acanthus leaf engraving by Allan Portsmouth and exhibition wood. It weighs 6lb 14oz and carries the hefty price tag of £70,550 excluding VAT (the base price is £50,000 but add £17,000 of extra engraving, £1,700 for upgraded wood and a similar amount for an automatic safety – not standard).
First impressions of the Holland and Holland Sporting Deluxe are of a long, elegant gun. The general form is exceptionally graceful. The metalwork is beautifully presented and wood-to-metal fit is impeccable. The gun has character combined with best London finish. The barrel blacking is lustrous, the wood is expertly chequered by hand and traditionally oiled. Exploring the action machining or looking down the demi-lump barrels will not disappoint, either. In the latter case, you will see two straight tubes that have been expertly struck-up externally and are blemish-free inside and out.
The decoration of the Holland and Holland Sporting Deluxe is close to my ideal, and the general form and specification hard to fault. If I were looking for a way to criticise it would be that the lines of the sideplated action are a little square but improved by bolsters.
Although hand-finished and carrying extra engraving, the Holland and Holland Sporting Deluxe was originally designed for CNC manufacture following the example set by Italian firms such as Fabbri and Perazzi.
The Sporting Model broke new ground. I attended its launch at Holland shooting ground in the early Nineties. A predominantly machine-made 12-bore intended primarily for clays, it shot well with good handling qualities, English stock shapes, low felt recoil, multi-chokes and crisp trigger pulls. With its machined action and sparse engraving it looked a bit plain in basic form. The gun caught the attention of the shooting public, nevertheless, and a 20-bore version followed a couple of years later. This was a little more svelte; 20-bores are often visually more attractive than 12-bores for no other reason than their scaling.
Holland and Holland has done a lot of work developing the modern British over-and-under. It made 26 guns of this configuration before the Second World War. The mechanics were improved in the Fifties but production of the old Royal over-and-under ceased circa 1960. It restarted with a new design in the Nineties. The Sporting model was introduced to be a little more attainable; its base price is roughly half that of the Royal. It had a few teething troubles with its single trigger but these have long since been sorted. It is made in two action sizes only: 12 and 20. The former can accommodate 16-bore barrels and the latter 28s (whereas the Royal is available with dedicated .410-, 28-, 20-, 16- and 12-bore actions).
The test gun is intended to fill a specific niche market for a longer-barrelled small-bore. Pat Murphy veteran of the H&H Gun Room, who conceived the project, notes. “Having made a couple of 32in 12-bores, and noting more driven shooters going for smaller bores even for higher birds, we proceeded with the new gun… many have gone over to long-barrelled 20s recently, they seem especially pointable and offer a more controlled swing. A little weight is added in this one with a full pistol stock and larger fore-end, which also balances the larger grip aesthetically.”
HOLLAND AND HOLLAND SPORTING DELUXE: TECHNICAL DATA
The Sporting Model is built on a plan influenced by modern Continental gunmaking as well as our own. Barrels pivot on split hinge pins; barrel lumps are bifurcated. The lock-up looks Perazzi- or Boss-inspired. Wedges on the inside of the action walls mate with recesses in the sides of the barrel bloc. The main bolting has square section pieces emerging from the action face and mating with bites either side of the chamber mouths. Twin cocking bars are located in a central channel in the action bar. These share ejection and cocking functions as in many Italian guns. The action body is made from one piece of steel. A stock bolt attaches the butt to the gun rather than the traditional breech pin seen in the Royal. The trigger mechanics are contained in a removable chassis as in a Perazzi MX8; there is a cleverly disguised lever in the rear of the trigger-guard bow to facilitate removal. The single-trigger mechanism is inertia operated and selective.
HOLLAND AND HOLLAND SPORTING DELUXE: SHOOTING IMPRESSIONS
The Holland and Holland Sporting Deluxe inspired confidence from the start. Weighing just under 7lb and with great trigger pulls and a slim, ventilated sighting rib, it seemed ideally specified. Handled dry, it felt refined and pointable. I started with a bias in its favour as a regular user of a 32in 20-bore. Shooting it only confirmed that the 32in 20-bore concept works, and that this is a particularly stunning example. The stock had a length of pull just over 15in and drop at 11⁄4in and 17⁄8in (resulting in an unusually high comb). Felt recoil was low. The gun was easy to swing and precise to point. Balance – about 1⁄2in forward of the hinge pin – seemed just right. The quarter and half Briley chokes fitted produced decisive “kills”. This Holland & Holland gun may be pricy but it is a thoroughbred in all departments.
HOLLAND AND HOLLAND SPORTING DELUXE
Price: from £50,000 + VAT
From: Holland & Holland, 33 Bruton Street, London W1
Tel 020 7499 4411