In a world exclusive, The Field is introduced to the Holland & Holland Noble, the new London-made shotgun from this most eminent gunmaker
Whether it was the hammergun or breechloader, the round action or sidelock, innovation has always been at the heart of the gun trade. And when London best heritage and modern technology meet, it marks an exciting moment in the gunmaking world. Enter the Holland & Holland Noble.
WORLD EXCLUSIVE REVIEW OF THE HOLLAND & HOLLAND NOBLE
Holland & Holland (H&H) is no exception; throughout its 188 years of trading it has been one of London’s most inventive gunmakers, with more than 50 patents still in use. These include the first ‘belted rimless’ cartridge case, a design still used by ammunition manufacturers to this day; the iconic .375 H&H magnum rifle cartridge, cemented as the ‘industry standard’ for large game hunting; and finally the much-imitated self-opening side-by-side shotgun.
It is more than two years since H&H was acquired by Beretta Holdings, a moment at which many in the shooting world held their breath and wondered in what direction the new guardians would take this venerable name. “The Beretta Group has fully supported H&H with a light touch. This allows the team to continue its focus on making best-quality guns utilising the skilled, artisan craftsmen and women in our London- based factory,” says Nigel Stuart, chief operating officer at H&H, underlining that the input from Beretta Holdings has been instrumental but not intrusive, with H&H maintaining an independent gunmaking operation. “Focus has been restored toward making H&H an iconic brand within the fieldsports world,” he adds.
With this support has also come renewed inspiration for the next generation of gunmaking: a new, wholly London-made shotgun that arrives with a disruptive and much-anticipated bang. “For more than a century, H&H has been synonymous with premium-grade guns. Our fully bespoke, best-grade sidelocks are still considered by many to be the pinnacle of a best London gun. However, the company has always been more than the much-admired and coveted Royal,” explains Luke Davison, sales manager for H&H. “Throughout its history, the company has recognised the needs of the wider gun market with models such as the Dominion, Badminton, Northwood and Cavalier – guns readily available alongside the Royal. Our new iteration, the Noble, follows this long line of top-quality guns.
“Within the business there was a simple desire to produce a versatile, innovative but less costly high-performance shotgun for the modern shot, including machined components, while retaining the ability to modify the model to suit an individual’s needs.” Crucially, waiting times for a Noble are expected to be far shorter than those for a fully bespoke gun.
“While the brief for the Noble was simple enough, creating such a gun was the next step,” says Davison. “We were determined that, first and foremost, this was going to be a London-made gun: manufactured completely by H&H, calling on the knowledge of its skilled team in its Kensal Green factory. As a supporting model in the H&H portfolio, the Noble has been built with simpler mechanics than the Royal while still maintaining performance. Finally, being a configurable gun, the Noble has been manufactured utilising modern technologies as well as traditional skills: a fusion of heritage and innovation.”
Steel shot proof as standard, the Noble can handle all cartridges and shot material, and robust enough to take excessive use in its stride. As such, it is suitable for any type of sporting day you’d like to take it on, as well as holding its own on the clay ground. “The Noble is a gun that supports its fully bespoke sibling, the Royal, while still flying the H&H flag and representing all the innovation and heritage that it represents,” Davison adds.
The H&H Noble’s heart, its V-spring trigger-plate action body, has been machined from a single billet of high-grade steel. It has an entirely integral action frame, facilitating no joins or any other non-integral structural components. In keeping with the elegance of other H&H guns, the action body clearly shows its lineage with elegant bolsters for reinforcement as much as aesthetics. The breech face features deepened recesses to accommodate barrel lump extensions that are held fast by a laterally moving body bolt with twin grips. Like previous H&H over-and-unders, the barrels are supported by replaceable machined trunnions (hinge discs) as well as replaceable angled draws that fit the H&H-style breech lumps once the barrels and bolt have been engaged. “Although this sounds rather technical, H&H sought an incredibly secure lock-up, ensuring reliability and limiting servicing complications for the future, with toleranced replaceable components,” notes Davison.
In a similar vein, the trigger chassis is also machined from a separate highgrade solid-steel billet and includes an integral trigger bow. Like the action body, the chassis features no separate stress-bearing elements. All the internal trigger mechanism components are pinned with high-tolerance-fit, captive pins. Once fixed in place, the trigger assembly is constantly supported by the steel framework of the action body, guaranteeing a secure fit while simultaneously allowing no space for components to come loose. “Made as a single selective trigger gun only, the Noble is designed to function with anything from the lightest of clay loads to high-performance steel shot,” explains Davison. “The safety assembly can be configured as an auto or manual safe gun, purely on personal preference, as well as housing the barrel selector assembly.”
According to Keith Stockdale, production manager at the London factory, “It is in barrel technology that the Noble makes the greatest leap: a London gun made as a high-performance gun as standard. All Nobles feature three-inch magnum, steel-shot-proof chambers and are fitted with Teague multi-chokes, allowing the Noble to be a versatile gun with all shot materials. In order to keep the correct feel and balance of a London-made gun, this barrel technology took over three years to perfect.”
Still constructed as best-quality chopper- lump barrels, the Noble’s tubes have been made from newly developed steel, completely different to previous H&H iterations but with the correct properties needed when shooting with high-performance steel loads. “The profile and barrel contours have similarly been adjusted to not only accommodate modern nontoxic materials but to optimise their performance,” says Davison. Rigorous and exacting barrel research was completed with early prototypes, going so far as to deliberately double discharge a Noble at the London Proof House with magnum steel-proof loads. The barrels and actions survived unscathed.
Although the Noble utilises modern precision-machined components, it is still a gun produced and configured to an individual’s exact fit and required stock dimensions. As with other H&H models before it, the Noble will have the option to feature ‘best’ or ‘deluxe’ wood, using a selection of specific stock shapes and profiles. Fitted with a new stock bolt design and a secure snap-catch-styled fore-end, these further aid the ease of maintenance and servicing.
The Noble game gun is available with three traditional game grips and a slim, slightly fluted fore-end. With a nod to the maker’s heritage, the stock shapes – a full pistol grip with a grip cap, a half (rounded) pistol grip and a sleek Prince of Wales – have all been designed to incorporate the iconic H&H ‘diamond grip’ through the hand. “The diamond grip has always been a feature of H&H Royal side-by-sides,” says Davison, “with a ridged profile running through the hand of the stock, as opposed to being fully oval. Indexing into the palm of the hand of the shooter, the subtle profile of the diamond grip gives the Noble enhanced control and a further level of comfort when in use.”
Aesthetically, the Noble is still completed as any H&H should be: made and finished within the H&H factory. “Its hand-struck tubes ensure a deep, lustrous set of blacked barrels with the maker’s name proudly in situ. The gun is completed with set scroll and game scene engraving, and buyers can choose either a brush-bright or colour-case-hardened finish,” adds Davison.
The result is a gun that is versatile and, the maker claims, suitable for any shotgun- related fieldsport the globe can offer. Without doubt, the creators of this new iteration of H&H have made the most of modern innovation to produce a gun that can be used regularly and as thoroughly as any modern sportsman or woman would wish. Owing to the fact that it can be used with any and all shot types, the gun is distinctly future-proof.
“Like all great projects, the Noble was a collective effort, with every major department of H&H contributing, capitalising on the varied and skilled craftsmen and women within its London factory, input from its experienced shooting instructors and feedback from its sales team,” says Nigel Stuart.
Going back to the maker’s roots, Harris Holland’s reputation as a competitive shot was such that other sportsmen were said to seek his guidance on guns and coveted his dedicated specifications. His original entries in H&H’s ledgers dating from the early and mid-19th century list ‘Pigeon Guns to be made for Mr H Holland’ and to his exacting specifications, the quality of which had to be two-fold: aesthetics and function. With the Noble, H&H has continued this legacy of gunmaking with a gun fit for the 21st century.