The Holland & Holland double enigma
Can you help gunmaking historian Donald Dallas solve a double rifle mystery?
“It is a very elegant little double rifle, its lines further enhanced by its rounded bar action.”
Ireceived an email with a photograph attached of a Holland & Holland double rifle the other day, asking for my opinion on a very distinctive addition to the it. I puzzled and puzzled over the odd addition and all I could do was simply offer an opinion, as this little Holland rifle was a bit of an enigma. I would be interested in readers views about it.
Holland & Holland .360 double hammerless rifle No.16117 was certainly a puzzle and in discussion with several knowledgeable colleagues we all agreed on one thing – we didn’t have a definitive answer but we all came to the same informed guess.
No.16117 is a very beautiful Holland & Holland Miniature black powder Express .360 sidelock non-ejector double rifle. It utilises the .360 black powder Express 2 ¼in round so favoured on these diminutive rifles around the turn of the 19th century. It was completed in 1894, most probably for a European client.
It is a very elegant tiny little double rifle in comparison to its far bigger .500 and .577 cousins and its lines are further enhanced by its
rounded bar action, quite unusual on a rifle of this period. It is sighted from 100 to 300 yards and is a No.2 Royal of the highest quality. It weighs 7lbs 10oz and must be one of the most attractive double rifles Holland & Holland has ever built due to its small size and graceful lines. On a cartouche on the base of the action is engraved ‘Charge 47 grains, Case 2 ¼ Inches’.
But what of the enigma? On the top of the action above each breech are two small protuberances about ¼in high. They are rounded and engraved and appear to serve no useful purpose whatsoever. It was these two protuberances that caused so much comment. One expert described them as “raised ears”, a description that fits perfectly. But what are they and what is their purpose? I have never seen such additions before and they certainly created a lot of interest. Unfortunately the Holland & Holland records mention nothing about these unusual additions.
I took the rifle along to the Game Fair at Ragley Hall and here the little rifle elicited much comment, with most visitors coming to the same conclusion
about the raised ears as we did. The small protuberances, we think, were a sighting aid, jutting out above the top of each breech. Since the rifle was sold on the Continent it was most probably used for running boar and the raised ears were employed as a quick sighting aid in this fastmoving sport where there might not be time for the conventional sight.
The date of the rifle, 1894, gives a further clue. Hammerless guns had only come into general use about 15 years before and sportsmen had always been used to the spurs of the hammers aiding the sighting of a rifle or gun.
Sportsmen like Lord Ripon, Lord Walsingham and King George V continued to use hammer guns long after they had become obsolete on account of the hammers aiding the line of sight. The original customer of this rifle might have been used to hammers and asked Holland & Holland to incorporate the raised ears as a sighting aid that he was familiar with.
Contained in its original case, this .360 Miniature Express rifle is a beautiful little Holland & Holland double rifle and of course it has the addition of the raised ears that makes it that little bit quirky and that little bit more desirable. What do you think?
.360 (2¼in) rounded bar sidelock non-ejector double rifle No.16117 of 1894 by Holland & Holland. Note the unusual addition of the two raised “ears” on top of the breeches.