Making a shotgun with Holland and Holland
There’s something incredibly satisfying about watching something come together from raw materials. In this video, we watch the process of Holland and Holland making a shotgun in their workshop. Whether it’s the music or setting the video has an aura of calmness. If it isn’t the music it’s the impressive levels of calmness displayed by all the craftsmen adding their touch to the finished piece. What’s surprising is the lack of automated processes in place and each part looks to be built just as it was when they opened in 1836.
A brief history of Holland and Holland
It’s difficult to understand why Holland and Holland work so hard to hand make parts without understanding their history. Founded in 1836 and remaining in London ever since they’re one of the oldest shotgun manufactures in the world. They were at the forefront of bespoke rifles and began developing their shotguns in the late 19th century.
In 1908 they patented their detachable box locks for their sidelock shotguns and later their assisted opening mechanism in 1922. This would become their self opening Royal Side by Side which is still a production model today. Equally, they’ve been at the forefront of developing rifle cartridges for big game and deer hunting.
In the present day, Holland and Holland guns command a serious premium while their waiting list is now over 3 years. They’ve also gone international with outlets with their first non-london outlet opening in Dallas after a brief stint in New York. Most recently, Beretta Holdings acquired Holland and Holland from their long standing owners Chanel.
Making a Shotgun
Making a Shotgun has been done in many different ways over the course of time. As we moved from blackpowder, Holland and Holland were instrumental to the development of modern shotguns. The Boxlock and Sidelock shotguns are the most common ones that you’d find now but it has taken significant trial and error to get there.
Typically, guns are manufactured en mass by machines to replicate the same look time and time again. This isn’t inherently bad but by no means are mass produced guns unique. In contrast, there are those who still produce guns by hand from start to finish. This includes the manufacturing of parts that are unique to every gun. These brands take incredible amounts of time to ensure perfection and precision. These are the guns that go on to become family heirlooms designed to outlast their owner.
Few brands demonstrate elegance and perfection as well as Holland and Holland. If you’ve ever seen one you’ll notice that all of the seams are virtually invisible and line up perfectly. Engraving transcends over the seamlines to give a completely undisrupted appearance. Each piece is purpose built to work together in perfect unison. The end result is a gun that flows from muzzle to stock with perfect proportions.
We have to be grateful that brands like Holland and Holland are still utilising these skills. There must have been many points in their history where they considered moving to automated processes. Thankfully they didn’t and each week their craftsmen continue to practice these intricate skills. Making a shotgun has never been easier yet Holland and Holland endeavour to do it the right way rather than the easy way.
While their acquisition from beretta might see some more affordable models come to market we hope they don’t compromise on their values. While we expect laser chequering and some simplified actions we hope the fit and finish remains. It’s going to be an interesting transition from their history but its certainly exciting. This video should hopefully provide great insight into what makes Holland and Holland and handmade English guns so special.