Special Guns Episode 13 H&H Q&A

Special Guns with Roger Rule

Episode 13 –  Holland & Holland Modele Deluxe .375


PART 1  {Virginia and Roger sitting behind table}

VIRGINIA: My name is Virginia Hall and I’m here today to introduce you to Roger Rule, author of The Rifleman’s Rifle, and host of this series of episodes, Special Guns with Roger Rule.

ROGER: Thank you, Virginia, and welcome, …and welcome viewers to my 13th Episode of Special Guns with Roger Rule.

VIRGINIA: What do we have today?

ROGER:   In the last few episodes, we have been featuring mostly shotguns. Today, I have a real treat for rifle aficionados.  This is a Holland & Holland Modele Deluxe Mauser bolt action rifle, chambered in .375 H&H Magnum.

VIRGINIA:  Is this a new rifle?

ROGER: No, this is what Holland & Holland calls a pre-owned bespoke gun.  It was built for a customer in 1970. But as you can see, it shows little or no wear and for all practical purposes, is basically a new gun.

Holland & Holland is one of the premier gun makers in the world.  From S.P.Fjestad’s (FEE-stads) Blue Book of Gun Values:  (and I quote)

“Holland & Holland over the years has justly earned the reputation of producing some of the finest firearms ever manufactured, exhibiting outstanding quality and superior craftsmanship.  Most of these fine arms were made to order for the famous, wealthy, or royalty of their day.” (close quote)

That quote, in a nutshell, describes Holland & Holland.   Their enduring reputation, because of the integrity of their long-standing craftsmanship, commands very high prices.

VIRGINIA: Are they still in business?

ROGER: Yes, very much so. Their London-based company’s roots go back to 1835 when Harris Holland set up his gunmaking business at 9 King Street, Holborn.  Right from the beginning, the firm Harris Holland founded, soon developed a world-wide reputation for both fine sporting shotguns and for rifles used in pursuit of big and dangerous game.

PART 2: {Audio-only}*************************************************

In 1860, Harris Holland’s nephew, Henry Holland, became a bound apprentice to his uncle and the business moved to 98 New Bond Street, London, in the fashionable district of Mayfair. After Henry’s apprenticeship, he became a partner in the business in 1867 but it wasn’t until 1876 that the firm changed its name to Holland & Holland.

While they already had a strong reputation for building fine rifles, the company gambled in 1883 and took part in the London rifle trials. They concentrated on rifle making and they entered every class and took every prize from rook rifle to the mammoth 4-bore rifle. Their gamble paid off and was well worth it since they had more to lose by reputation than those less-known entrants. In 1899, the firm’s name became Holland & Holland Ltd.

By this time, the company had reached the pinnacle of gunmakers for building rifles for hunters of the big and dangerous game.  In 1912 they developed their most famous cartridge ever devised, the .375 Belted Rimless Magnum, known mostly today simply as the .375 H&H Magnum. The .375 offered very flat trajectory, adequate bullet weight, and outstanding performance in a handy bolt-action rifle of top quality.  And, it was the first belted case.

According to Frank C. Barnes, in his Cartridges of the World, and I quote:

“This cartridge has been very successful and hence very popular in Africa, India, and of course, Alaska.  Nearly every manufacturer in the world makes or has made rifles in the belted version of this cartridge.” (close quote)

Geoffrey Boothroyd, in his fine book, Sidelocks and Boxlocks, wrote also, and I quote:

“.375 H&H Belted rimless Magnum Nitro Express …was to become one of the all-around ‘greats’ and could claim to have a greater degree of all-around worldwide acceptance than any other cartridge, particularly for African game.  Today, the .375 H&H Magnum still holds its own and over 25 different cartridges employ the belted rimless case.” (close quote)

In 1960, after residing at 98 New Bond Street for 100 years, the firm moved to 13 Bruton Street, and soon thereafter moved again to their present address of 33 Bruton Street, London.

PART 3 {Virginia and Roger sitting at table}***********************************

ROGER:  It was in the early ‘90s when I visited them at 33 Bruton Street.  At the time I owned a nice cased Holland & Holland double rifle in 450/400 caliber. I was in London on business and took the serial number of my rifle with me and went to Holland & Holland’s address on Bruton Street.  Like the other gunmakers I had visited, their doors were locked and there was an intercom button to press.  When I explained my purpose for being there, they buzzed me in.

Immediately upon entry, I found the place more customer-friendly than any of the other gunmakers’ establishments; possibly I should exclude William Evans from that statement.  Anyway, when I entered, I was surrounded by exquisite H & H products, not guns. These were set up in very classy displays.

I was met by Peter Chismon, who gave me his card.  After he learned who I am and that I was looking for the records for my double rifle, he was very helpful and either because I had come in person or because I purchased an ebony handled screw driver (they call turn-screw), I wasn’t charged the fee you hear about for doing the research. And the research was surprisingly quick. They made a photo copy of the page from the ledger that had my gun’s record by serial number.  The record showed that it had been sold originally in 1897 to Lord Manners, whoever he was. It was listed as a hammerless back-action in 450/400 x 2 3/8 Nitro proofed.

As it turned out, Peter thought they had a copy of my book, The Rifleman’s Rifle, in their downstairs gun library.  He asked me if I would sign it and when I consented; he then very diplomatically and politely asked if he could see my passport, ha!

VIRGINIA: Do you still have that rifle?

ROGER: Sad to say, no, I no longer have that double rifle.  However, even if I did, it would not meet our purpose today for this episode, which is to show a Holland & Holland Mauser chambered in their world-renowned .375 H&H Magnum cartridge.  This is a combination that has become a classic icon in the world of all guns.

And, we have here today just such a rifle, and it is not merely their sporting version called the “bolt action magazine rifle”, it is the upgrade Modele Deluxe Takedown.  And H&H spells that model name with the French spelling, 3 words, MODELE  DE  LUXE.

This one has a 24 ½” tapered barrel.

Let’s relocate to the sideboard and examine the rifle broken down into its major components in its case.

PART 4 {Disassembled gun in case, Roger speaking off camera}************

                        Here we have this Modele De Luxe takedown rifle disassembled in its finely-crafted leather case with all the accessories.  The case is lined with burgundy-colored English wool and compartmentalized for the various components: the barreled action, the stock with bottom metal, the scope, and accessories.  One compartment has a lid with brass knob.

Accessories include a two-piece brass cleaning rod and a pouch with miscellaneous brushes.  The case has two labels. One is on the inside of the lid, a black label with gold writing; and the second one is on the outside top of the trunk, a brass label with black writing.  Both labels read:  “Holland & Holland, 13 Bruton Street, London,” W1.  The inner label also reads, “Established 1835.”

It is important to note that Holland & Holland resided at 13 Bruton Street for only a short time, and that both labels and the inscription on the rifle identify that address, not their current address at 33 Bruton Street, nor their long-time former address 98 New Bond Street.

Now, let’s look at the disassembled components individually.

{Pick up the barreled action}

The action is a commercial Oberndorf Mauser action with a special Holland & Holland bolt handle.  The receiver still has the loading port cut-out on the left side.

Although the H&H front scope block is halfway covering an inscription, we can make out, ERDORF, telling us that the inscription is Oberndorf for Oberndorf Mauser. It has the typical Mauser bolt release housing, which requires pulling out the front end of the spring-loaded latch to remove the bolt.  Looking at the inside of the action behind the bolt release, we see the ejector.

When it’s an English rifle made with a Mauser action, you usually find two serial numbers, both Mauser’s and in this case, Holland & Holland’s. And we do, on the left side of the front receiver ring is Mauser’s number, 106484; and on the underside of the receiver in the flat under the chamber, we see H&H’s serial number, 3585.

A closer look at the Mauser serial number reveals three proof marks: the German proof mark Crown G since 1950, the London proof mark since 1637, and one other, a Crown B that I could not identify.

Now, looking at the bottom of the receiver again, notice the threaded hole in the recoil block for the take-down screw.  You might remember from my first episode, Winchester improved the Mauser action for their Model 70 and one of the ways was that this recoil block was left undrilled.  They moved the threaded hole to the receiver flat behind the recoil block discovering that it improved accuracy.

On the right side of the receiver and barrel, we see no markings, only the word “England” stamped on the trigger housing.  While looking at the trigger housing, we can see the single-stage trigger is adjustable with a set screw and we can see the thumb safety assembly, which is a second safety on this rifle.

Back to our barreled action here, we see the H&H serial number again on underside of the chamber of the barrel, along with some other numbers and initials that I am assuming have to do with the tradesmen and inspectors. These are not proof marks.  The proof marks are shown on the left side of the barrel chamber where we see the “arm and saber” over NP, which is the definitive London proof mark since 1904. Beside it, are the proof numbers which read .375, 2.85”, and 19 Tons, representing the standard proof load for the .375 H&H Magnum.  The magazine holds 4 rounds.

The receiver is fitted with two scope blocks that are Holland & Holland’s proprietary system for a quick detachable scope mounting system.  We’ll look at how this functions when we assemble the rifle and scope.

As to attached parts here, the barrel has an integral swell or boss, for the mounting of the rear sight, which is a popular Express sight with two leaves, one fixed regulated for their proprietary ammo with a 270 grain bullet, marked 270, and one folding regulated for their ammo with a 360 grain bullet and so marked.  Both are set for 100 yards.  Also halfway down the barrel is a barrel band or collar for the front sling swivel and then lastly, at the muzzle, is another band or collar supporting the front sight mounted on a ramp with a hood or cover that can be laid down out of the sight picture or raised up for protection. It’s controlled by pressing a spring loaded button.  The hood locks into place in either position.

Now I will set down the barreled action and take up the bolt assembly.

{Set down the barreled action, pick up the bolt assembly}

The first thing I notice is that it has the old Mauser-style bolt sleeve with the old military style safety.  This safety is a good one but hard to manipulate with a scope which explains why we have a second thumb safety mounted on the receiver.  The bolt handle has a nice contour cut-away to provide clearance for the scope.  We see the familiar long 98 Mauser extractor which is the basic design element that makes the Mauser 98 a controlled-feed mechanism. Also, there are the familiar Mauser locking lugs, two at front of the bolt handle, with a third safety lug located at the rear, just forward of the bolt handle.  The bolt also has the Mauser guiding lug for aligning with the channel in the top of the rear receiver bridge.  Across from the extractor, we see the cutout in the locking lug for the ejector to fit through. On the bolt face, you can see the firing pin hole and on the underside, two gas escape holes. The exposed part of the firing pin behind the bolt sleeve is in the white as is the extractor.  All the other parts are blued.

{Set down the bolt assembly and pick up the stock}

Now let’s look at the other part of this takedown rifle: the stock and bottom metal.  Looking inside the barrel channel, we clearly see the fiddleback grain of the English walnut which carries through the entire length of the stock.  Inscribed in the barrel channel is the serial number again, 3585.  Also sticking out of the stock is the magazine follower and the magazine spring that have to be aligned into the action’s magazine well of the barreled action when re-assembled.

Notice that there is a metal piece at the wear point for the upper tang. This part of the upper tang of the action actually clips over a matching piece of the tang on the action for this rifle’s takedown feature.

The front action screw has a metal sleeve and while we have the stock off, we can see a case-colored cross bolt going through the stock to reinforce the wood during recoil.

Next, let’s look at the shape of the stock. This is not a classic comb; this is a Monte Carlo comb intended to be used with telescopic sights which had become commonplace by 1970 when this rifle was built.   And for that same reason, the FN style sliding thumb safety, as a second safety, was added for telescopic sight use.  Holland & Holland’s version of a Monte Carlo comb is one of the more handsome Monte Carlos.   There are some ugly ones out there.  On this one, the heel of the Monte Carlo curves down and around a very-well-proportioned cheekpiece that has a very tasteful sculptured shadowline. The comb is not fluted but carved to a smooth point yet not too fragile. The pistol grip curve is proportionally correct for this stock and because of the size of the magazine, the stock is dropped down for the magazine but even this is carved nicely tying into the pistol grip shape.

On the left side of the stock, there are two receiver notches: one for the bolt release housing and one as a finger channel matching to the loading port cut into the receiver’s left side.

On the right side of the stock, there are three carved notches corresponding to the action: one for the slide safety, one for the bolt handle, and a third one for loading access to the magazine well.

PART 5 {Virginia and Roger at table, Roger stands up – screw driver ready}

Here we have the major components of this takedown rifle disassembled on the table in front me.

{Roger stands up, demonstrate assembling the rifle including the scope}

Notice how the tang of the barreled action now fits into the small piece that is stationary with the stock.  Fit that in first and then while aligning the magazine follower and spring with the magazine well, let the barreled action down and it falls into place. Then screw in the big action screw and turn the slot until it is indexed with the trigger guard screw. If it has a high edge, then it needs to be turned another 180 degrees.  Next, insert the bolt assembly; make sure the extractor is aligned with the right front locking lug.  Then just slide the bolt forward into place and the bolt release will automatically open and close and allow the bolt to pass.

To assemble the scope, first make sure the little lever with knob on the front base is aimed toward the rear of the gun, then hold the scope at 45 degrees to the back base, insert the back foot of the back ring into the back base receptacle, then lower the front base into the front ring block and once both feet of the rings are tightly on the bases, turn the swivel lever lock so that the little knob is forward…

Viola!…everything is assembled!

{Place the rifle back on the holders still facing right to the viewers, Roger sits down}

Now, let’s look at the exterior of the stock, first the wood.

The color and figure of the wood give away that this rifle is an upgrade, the Modele De Luxe as was named in 1970.  Today, it is listed in H&H’s promotional materials as a “Best Quality Magazine Rifle.” This is English walnut from one of the finest blanks, with near-exhibition figure.  This figure shows both dark streaks and fiddleback grain that runs the full length of the stock, on both side profiles, and on the underside.

The forend tip features genuine horn and this one identifies its material better than most with the natural white streaks in the right side.  I really like that, solid black tips are usually ebony on high-end rifles and more often bakelite or some other manmade imitation of ebony on many lesser quality rifles.  Such is the case of the old Winchester Model 70 Super Grade and most of the Ruger M77s. And solid black horn often looks the same as ebony or the faux ebony look-alikes. But there is no doubt what this material is.  With its white streaks, it gives away the fact that it is genuine horn and, to me, it looks stunning left in its natural state.

Looking at the inlays, there is a gold oval (vacant here) in the toe line ready for the owner’s initials. The pistol grip has a case-colored cap that opens and is usually called a trapdoor grip cap.  The original purpose of this is for carrying an extra front sight.  Just behind the forend checkering pattern, is a case-colored crossbolt, needed to absorb recoil and prevent stock splitting for this caliber. About 2” from the toe, on the toe line, the rear sling swivel is mounted.

A comment about the sling swivels:  While we see the common practice of installing swivel eyes on most English guns, Holland & Holland here has mounted true high grade sling swivels. They are made with stops: the front one won’t clink into the surrounding metal at the barrel and the rear one won’t dig into the stock. However, they are set up for the European sling, which is only 7/8” wide, not the typical 1” wide sling we usually see in this country.

Finally, the butt is fitted with a ¾” leather-covered recoil pad, dyed dark brown which goes perfectly with the overall color of the stock. With the pad, the length of pull is 13 5/8” (about 1/8” longer than Winchester Pre-64 Model 70 in .375) and the weight of this rifle with scope is 9 lb., 4 oz.

Now, looking at the hand-checkering:  On the grip there are two panels of point pattern checkering, and these have the reverse curve made famous by Holland & Holland.  The two panels come together over the wrist at a point.    On the forend, the checkering is a four point pattern starting from the receiver and runs forward to, and abuts the horn forend tip, with a complete wrap-around and very generous pattern. It’s 22 lines per inch and executed with a combination of one and two lines of border in the classic style.  The checkering itself is extremely well executed.  The stock is finished with Holland & Holland’s hand-polished French oil.

VIRGINIA: This is one beautiful rifle!

ROGER:  I couldn’t agree with you more.  Now let’s look at the metal engraving, which adds even more to the rifle’s beauty and artistry. The steel floorplate and trigger guard have full coverage arabesque engraving which includes a special scrolled banner in the middle of the floorplate, with the three French words: Modele De Luxe, describing the name of the model. The serial number 3585 is on the bottom of the trigger guard surrounded with scroll engraving. Both action screws are engraved and indexed. The color-cased-hardened pistol grip cap is fully engraved.

The receiver has scroll engraving on the side of the right rear bridge, on both sides of the front ring up to the matted top panel, on the left and the top of the rear receiver ring as viewed from the left, and on the left sides of both scope ring bases.  The top of the rear scope ring is engraved Holland & Holland over a stylized sunset, and under that, the serial number of the gun again here, 3585.  There is one more inscription on the barrel:  Holland & Holland, 13 Bruton Street, London.

The scope is an Austrian-made Karl Kahles 2-7×36 variable with Kahles lens covers and of course, the scope mounts and rings are the Holland & Holland proprietary quick detachable system.

So looking at the gun overall, we can easily see that this model is the best quality model, because of several noticeable features: The rich figure of the wood, the horn tip, and the heavy coverage of the engraving.  Something I didn’t point out, notice the bolt handle is straight down instead of slanted back.  This is the Mauser fashion preferred by professional hunters.  Overall, this rifle, to me, is the classiest of all Mausers.

I rarely cover values and prices in these episodes, but since Holland & Holland is still alive and well, I called my friend David Cruz at Holland & Holland in the New York Gunroom.  This was in the summer of 2015.  Here’s the way the pricing stacked up if a buyer purchased a bespoke H&H Best Quality Magazine Rifle at that time.

For the base price of a Best Quality Magazine rifle>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>   29,500 pounds

For .375 H&H caliber, add…………………………………………..1,750

For deluxe wood, add ………………………………………….…….1,250

For takedown, add………………………………………….…………2,700

For H&H scope rings…………………………………………..……….750

For scope……………………………………………………………..1,500

For Deluxe Model full coverage engraving (like this gun)>>..………5,000


42,450 pounds


Convert that to US dollars and it was a whopping  $ 65,627.00  in 2015.

VIRGINIA:  You’re kidding! That costs more than my car.

ROGER:  But, since the UK has pulled out of the European Union now, I’m not sure where that number is today and I have a sense if I were to look it up, it would change before this episode airs anyway.

That’s it for today, thank you Virginia, and thank you viewers for watching, and if you enjoyed this episode, I invite you to subscribe to my YouTube channel and share with others.  And, I hope you join us next week for another episode of Special Guns with Roger Rule.  We will be looking at what many believe, is the best boxlock over and under shotgun of all time.