The Hol­land & Hol­land dou­ble enigma

Can you help gun­mak­ing his­to­rian Don­ald Dal­las solve a dou­ble ri­fle mys­tery?

Shooting Gazette - - Great Guns -

“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.

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