Holland & Holland double rifle review
Apart from the excellent facilities for both shotgun and rifle shooting, Holland & Holland’s shooting ground is a unique repository of knowledge.
There are four full-time, professional, shooting instructors and a full-time gun and rifle regulator in Steve Cranston.
Also on the team are Roland Wild, a sporting rifle specialist, and chief instructor, Chris Bird, one of the country’s top shotgun pros and no mean rifle man either.
It was with Chris that I tested these two rifles – a .300 Holland & Holland bolt rifle and a.500 double built on the new round body action.
The stunning .500 double rifle is built on the round action body and costs £50,000 plus.
I was considering a new plains game rifle, but wanted one that might do double duty for UK stalking too.
Somewhere along the line the new .500 double was mentioned. Put the .500 double and the .300 bolt together and you have an ideal African battery.
The .300 is also well suited for the larger British deer species; red, sika and fallow, not to mention continental boar.
THE .300 BOLT ACTION
First impressions were of a beautifully finished, elegant, sporting tool, with classic, timeless, proportions, and especially good shapes to the stock.
The total weight with the scope was 9lbs 11oz and the bare weight was 8lbs 4oz.
The bolt action .300 starts at £20,250 excluding VAT.
This is just about right, not too light or too heavy for a potentially quite potent mid-calibre.
The rifle pointed well with a 24″ barrel, and mounted easily too.
Apart from the good, and subtly evolved, basic design, one notes the little things: the folding foresight protector, the barrel band for a sling swivel, as opposed to a screw-in swivel stud in the forend that might be pulled out of the wood on an extended trek through the bush, and the iron sights.
There is a standing wide V sight for 100 yards and a folding leaf for 200.
The wing-style safety works well with a scope, in this case a state of art, illuminated, Swarovski 1.7-10×42 Z6i in quick detachable mounts.
This sort of quality does not come cheap, of course.
Below .375 the base price of a Holland magazine rifle is now £20,250 exc. VAT.
The .375s and above start from £22,000.
Detachable scope mounts will cost another £3-4,000, a wood upgrade £1,300, and a super quality leather case £2,900 (or £425 for a heavy duty aluminium flight case).
But this bolt-rifle rifle, as well as looking good, does the business admirably well.
Shooting standing, supported, three pills went within almost an inch of each other. Not bad.
Recoil was noticeable with the 220 grain bullets, but significantly less than my usual .300 Win Mag with 180 grain bullets. I was impressed.
It also set my mind wondering what this rifle might perform like with lighter loads (110, 130, 150 and 165 are all bullet options too).
This is an excellent firearm, which seems to tick all the right boxes.
You would want to spend a week with it on the hill or similar and see the terminal effects on beasts to get really familiar, but it is definitely more comfortable to use than the modern magnum 300s.
Put a Swarovski scope on a Holland &Holland rifle and you are getting the very best money can buy.
The only fly in the ointment is that you might have to wait a year if you want one built to your exact specification.
Holland & Holland do, however, carry some stock standard spec rifles at Bruton Street for immediate sale.
THE .500 DOUBLE
It is always exciting to test big express rifles, even if it can be a bruising experience!
I have used .416 Rigby and .458 Lott bolt rifles in Africa.
My .458, built by Paul Roberts, saved my neck in Botswana 18 months ago stopping a charge.
My experience of doubles is more limited, though I can note from experience that big bore guns work in extremis.
The double rifle in .500 calibre is a great tool for use on African big game.
They stop or turn raging bulls when all they want to do is stomp you into the dirt.
I have never been rich enough to own a big double in a current calibre but it would be my choice if I had the money.
Their great advantage is near absolute reliability. Effectively it is two guns with a common stock.
If the right one does not work, the left one should.
The problem, as noted, though, is cost. A new Holland Royal is now over £90,000 plus VAT. The round action gun is £50,000 plus. It’s not cheap, but it is more affordable.
You could buy a top quality second-hand gun for £20-30,000, but it would not be built to your exact requirements, and you might have to compromise on calibre.
It was not without a little trepidation that I dropped the first round in the right barrel. It had already been extensively tested in Africa.
The gun is not too heavy, just under 11 pounds, and I like the feel of it with its standard, 24″ barrels.
The obvious advantage of the double rifle is that if the right barrel doesn’t do the job you can use the left!
Mechanically speaking, it is a back-action sidelock. There are well-shaped double triggers and a conventional top strap safety.
The gun is attractive too with colour case hardening over scroll.
I immediately felt at ease and comfortable with it – a very important consideration in such a weapon, and a rare quality in any gun.
Yes it did recoil, but not excessively, and, no worse than my .416. It pointed naturally and was surprisingly accurate.
Standing unsupported at just over 20 yards I kept my shots in a golf ball sized group – more than enough to do the job.
This is not a gun that is going to be used more than 50 yards from the quarry if you have any common sense. The closer you go in, the better.
It requires some bottle, but closer range, usually equals better bullet placement and no nasty excursions in to the long, thick, stuff looking for a wounded animal.
Overall, I think this is a good-looking rifle and the best double that I have yet shot.
It has noticeably less recoil than a .577 or 600 Nitro Express, and, for that matter, some of the bigger magnum bolt cartridges. Most important it is instinctive to use.
One hears a lot of stuff about frontal brain shots on dangerous game from armchair hunters (much as some people claim to shoot all their deer in the neck).
But, when all is going pear shaped and a very large, very angry, creature is coming towards you, the first thing to be done is to stop it.
Calibres like the .500 have tremendous stunning effect, even if the bullet does not go in quite the right place the first time. They can be lifesavers.