The Royal revolution
Shooting Times & Country|September 09, 2020
The Royal revolution
Holland & Holland is renowned for its classically elegant Royal guns, which are much coveted and much copied, reveals Diggory Hadoke
Diggory Hadoke

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