Mark Sullivan works quietly at his bench, producing the heart of many bespoke gun building projects. An actioner by trade, he used to work at Holland & Holland. Now he works for the wider trade, happy to let someone else put their name to his work while he remains quietly anonymous to 99% of the shooting public.
Mark has little interest in guns or gun talk; he doesn’t shoot. When he puts his tools down, he leaves the job in the workshop. However, if you want to build a Best-quality bespoke shotgun, Mark Sullivan is your man and the Holland & Holland ‘Royal’ is the action he will make for you, like he has for me, for William Evans, for William & Son, Westley Richards and numerous others over the years.
Of course, ‘Royal’ is a trademark. Holland & Holland began using the term to describe its Best sidelock in the early 1880s. It does not designate a mechanism, more a reference to the highest quality offered by the firm.
Three hammerless guns have carried the Royal badge of honour (not including double rifles). The first model with dipped-edge lock-plates was designed by John Robertson — later proprietor of Boss. It was replaced in the 1890s with a second model, more conventional looking with smooth bar-locks and stocked to the fences in what became known as the ‘London pattern’.
This, in turn, was surpassed by the addition of the 1922 patent selfopening mechanism, powered by a coil spring under the fore-end. That system has endured to this day and is the modern Royal. Of course, Holland & Holland has always built the ‘Royal’ to be ‘Best’ quality. Lesser-grade iterations of the same gun were generally badged ‘Badminton’.
What is it that appeals to the wider trade that is embodied in the Holland & Holland? In a word, efficiency. Unlike many other ingenious mechanisms produced by British gunmakers over the years, the Holland & Holland is very simple. Simple is good. Consider the Anson & Deeley; the parts are few, the parts are robust and the connections between parts are direct.
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September 09, 2020