Holland & Holland is one the UKs oldest and most famous gunmakers. In this video by TGS Outdoors, Simon Reinhold, Holts Head of Operations, talks about the maker and goes over some guns that came up in Holts 2021 auction.
This shotgun is just plain strange. It’s a 12 gauge Boss & Co. side-by-side built on a Purdey/Beesley self-opening action, and it’s coming up in Holt’s Fine Modern & Antique Guns auction on Thursday 16th March 2017.
Purdey patented the Beesley hammerless self-opening action in 1880. By the time this Boss was built (1908), that patent had expired. So Boss was free to build this gun without paying Purdey s single cent in licensing fees. But that doesn’t mean Boss went ahead and did it.
The Beesley action is difficult to make and nothing like the action Boss uses on its side-by-sides. So rather than manufacture this gun themselves, I think Boss had Purdey (Purdey’s outworkers) do it for them. Here’s why:
- While the action is filed up like a Boss, the fences look like they belong on a Purdey
- The toplever, tail of the topstrap, and safety looks more Purdey than Boss
- The screws securing the locks to the action are a hybrid of Purdey & Boss styles
- The action features striker discs and firing-pin retaining screws. Boss didn’t add these to SxSs they made until the late ’20s
- It looks like it has Purdey ejectors
A RARE BOSS &CO 12-BORE ‘PURDEY-ACTION’ SELF-OPENING SIDELOCK EJECTOR, serial no. 5633, with extra barrels: Original Whitworth-steel 30in. nitro chopperlump barrels, rib engraved ‘BOSS & CO. 73 ST. JAMES’S STREET. LONDON.’ and gold-inlaid ‘1’ at the breech end, tubes engraved ‘SIR JOSEPH WHITWORTH’S PRESSED FLUID STEEL’, 2 1/2in. chambers, bored approx. true cyl. in both, rib slightly loose, right wall at 18; extra 28in. unsigned nitro barrels (by another), 2 1/2in. chambers, bored approx. imp. cyl. and 1/2 choke; self-opening action with removable striker discs, toplever gold-inlaid ‘1’, gold-inlaid cocking-indicators, best fine acanthus scroll engraving with floral bouquets, retaining traces of original colour-hardening, 14 3/8in. figured stock, weight 6lb. 7oz. (original barrels) and 6lb. 9oz. (extra barrels), in a brass-cornered oak and leather case with provision for the 30in. barrels only, the extra 28in. barrels in a canvas leg of mutton slip. Estimate £7,000-9,000
Provenance: The makers have kindly confirmed that the gun was completed on the 26th August 1908 as No.1 of a pair of ‘Purdey Action’ guns for an Edward Bunbury.
For a while now, some of the finest British shotguns in the world have been built by two German gunmakers. Hartmann & Weiss is located in Hamburg, and their guns are on par with, and maybe better than, the finest side-by-sides and over-unders being built in the UK today.
Gerhard Harmann & Otto Weiss learned gunmaking in Germany: In the ’50s, Otto trained in Suhl and Gerhard trained in Hamburg. Otto Weiss furthered his education in Switzerland and England (with James Purdey & Sons), and Gerhard Hartmann went to work in Austria. In ’65 they joined together to build firearms. Today, their company builds a range of rifles as well as side-by-side and over-under shotguns.
Their over-unders are built on Boss-style actions, and their side-by-sides are built on Boss , Holland & Holland and Purdey/Beesley systems. The one you see here is one of the very few self-opening, Boss-style Round Body side-by-sides Hartmann & Weiss built. It unfired, and it’s coming up in next month in Holt’s December 2015 Fine Modern & Antique Guns Auction.
Boss & Co introduced their Round-Body style actions in 1893, and so far they’ve built around 300 of them all together. The self-opening feature was introduced in 1932 and used on a small number of SxSs up to WW2 and then phased out after in the ’50s. Finding both these features on a real Boss is tough to do, its not impossible: Here’s a real 12g Boss & Co. Round Action Self Opener.
(BTW: Vic Venters published an excellent piece about Boss & Co. self openers in the Nov/Dec, 2o15, edition of Shooting Sportsman magazine. To find out more about these super rare guns, check it out.)
HARTMANN & WEISS: AN EXCEPTIONAL 12-BORE GULLERT-ENGRAVED BOSS-TYPE SINGLE-TRIGGER ROUNDED BAR SELF-OPENING SIDELOCK EJECTOR, serial no. 2403. 29in. nitro chopperlump barrels with finely matted rib with fine acanthus scroll detailing at the breech end, the tubes engraved ‘HARTMANN & WEISS. HAMBURG’, 2 3/4in. choke, bored approx. 1/4 and 3/4 choke, rounded bar action with Boss patent self-opening system, removable striker discs, manual safety with gold-inlaid ‘SAFE’ detail, gold-inlaid cocking-indicators, non-selective single trigger, rolled-edge triggerguard, best fine floral bouquet and acanthus scroll engraving, the triggerguard signed ‘F. GULLERT’, retaining virtually full original colour-hardening and finish, 14 3/4in. highly-figured stock, weight 6lb. 10oz., in its lightweight leather case with accessories. Estimate: £40,000 – 60,000.
Here’s a jaw dropper. This stunning black-powder double rifle was by John Dickson & Son for eccentric collector Charles Gordon.
28in. black powder only fine damascus barrels with dolls-head extension, raised matted rib with open sights and two folding leaf sights with white metal inlaid sight lines and marked for 100, 200 and 300 yards, bead fore-sight, tubes engraved ‘JOHN DICKSON & SON. 63 PRINCES STREET. EDINBURGH’, Jones patent rotary-underlever, finely carved percussion fences, non-rebounding back-action locks with front bolted hammers, fine border and acanthus scroll engraving, retaining much original colour-hardening and finish, 14 5/8in. well-figured pistolgrip stock with cheekpiece, floral engraved sling eyes, engraved and colour-hardened steel pistolgrip-cap, chequered steel buttplate with ribbon and scroll engraving retaining much original blued finish, fore-end with large grip-catch release lever, weight 9lb. 5oz., in its brass-mounted oak case, fitted internally in the French style with green baize lining, with some original accessories and with its original leather outer cover with later brass name plaque engraved ‘A MATHESON’
Provenance: The makers have kindly confirmed this to be a ‘Gordon Gun’ and that it was completed for him on 5th February 1886 as a ‘.500 hammer double C.F. Express rifle, underlever’.
Of the 229 recorded guns and rifles ordered from John Dickson & Son by Charles Gordon, just 25 were centrefire hammer rifles.
In the 1908 auction of Charles Gordon’s Collection by Dowell’s of George Street, just one centrefire rifle by Dickson’s was offered for sale, Lot 319. Described simply as ‘Breech-loading rifle, under lever action, by John Dickson, Edinburgh, and waterproof cover’. It sold for 21/-.
It is possible that this is when the rifle came into the possession of the current Vendor’s family.
A W.W. Greener with a straight grip and a top safety is one of the double-barrel shotguns on my current want list. Nice Greeners are pretty easy to find. Greener made tons of guns, and many of them were imported into the US. Right now, there are at least a half dozen nice ones on the market, including these this one and this one.
But almost all of Greener’s guns have side safeties. I HATE side safeties. They’re ugly and difficult to use, and I think they were more gimmick than innovation. Fortunately, down through the years many people have agreed with me. They ordered Greeners with top safeties and a few of these double-barrel shotguns hit the market each year.
This one at Holt’s 10/22 auction looked like a real nice example and possible addition. Here’s the it’s full description from the auctioneer:
W. W. GREENER: A 12-BORE ‘GRADE FH50’ FACILE PRINCEPS EJECTOR. 28in. nitro barrels, rib engraved ‘W. W. GREENER. MAKER. 40 PALL MALL. LONDON. S.W. WORKS. ST. MARY’S SQUARE. BIRMINGHAM’, 2 1/2in. chambers, bored approx. 1/4 and 3/4 choke, treble-grip action with slim side bolsters, top tang automatic safety with gold-inlaid ‘SAFE’ detail, fine acanthus scroll engraving, retaining some original colour-hardening and finish, 14 3/4in. well-figured stock including 1 1/8in. rubber recoil pad, weight 6lb. 7oz., in its lightweight green velvet-lined leather case with gold-tooled label and with large Greener oil bottle. Estimate £2,500-3,500
So far, so good. From what I could see, the gun looked nice: Twenty-eight inch barrels, nice long stock, decent weight, nitro proofed and in proof, in its original case. As I read all this, I was pretty sure my want list was going to get shorter. But buying out of the UK is a pain in the ass, especially at an auction, and I wanted to 175% sure that this Greener was worth the extra $$ and effort it would take to get it.
So I sent off these questions to the auctioneer:
-How original is this gun?
-What are the bore measurements?
-Are the barrels their original length?
-What are the barrel wall measurements?
-Are there any dents, ding, or bulges in the barrels?
-Is there any pitting in the barrels?
-Any rivelling in the bbls or other problems?
-Are there any repairs to the barrels?
-Are the barrels tight and on the face?
-Have the bbls been reblacked?
-Has anything on the gun been refinished, reblacked, recolored or reblued?
-Are there any cracks, splits, or repairs in the wood?
-Do all the serial #s match – action, triggerguard, forend, bbls?
-Does everything work properly – triggers, ejectors, top lever, safety, forend release, hammers, cocking, etc?
-Does it have a long triggerguard (like a straight-gripped gun should)?
I know it’s a lot, but I’ve learned to ask too many questions. This helps prevent surprises and expensive mistakes. Here are the answers I received back (I bolded the problem areas):
-The gun all appears to be original, possible later recoil pad
-The bore measurements are .735+ .735+ 23 21+
-The barrels appear to be the original length
-Some minor scratches to the bores, slight signs of minor rivelling
-The gun does not appear to have been refinished
-No visible cracks to the woodwork
-All matching serial numbers
-All mechanisms appear to function correctly with the use of snap-caps
-The triggerguard is long, as it should be.
It’s interesting to see what the auctioneer did and didn’t say. I’m not sure what to make of discrepancies like his failure to mention if there are any dents, dings, or bulges in the barrels, or to tell me if the gun is tight and on the face.
I do know that this dream gun turns out to have mediocre barrels. Judging by so-so walls. enlarged bores and rivelling, I would say someone honed the tubes a bit. That’s sucks, and it makes the gun a pass for me.
The hunt for the perfect Greener continues.
Time magazine ran an interesting article on Wednesday about investing in fine double barrel shotguns:
“When the final hammer came down at the end of the December auction at Holt’s Auctioneers — which specializes in the sale of classic English shotguns — total sales had hit a record $2.72 million. Among the hot sellers: a pair of Purdey shotguns had sold for $131,200, while two guns made by Holland & Holland went for $128,000. “Those are impressive and reassuring figures,” says Roland Elworthy, a valuer at Holt’s…”
I have my doubts about the 3%-4% annual return quoted in the article. The info comes from an auctioneer, a person with an interest in furthering the idea that guns are sound investments. Personally, I don’t see guns as “investments.” I think they’re speculations, and a tough way to make money. It can be done, but it’s hard to do with the 15% – 20% most auctioneers tack on to the hammer price.