Article & Photos by: Tim Murphy
Arguably, the finest shotguns in the world are made in England. And one can also argue that Holland & Holland stands alone in this arena. These “bespoke” guns are made in the same fashion as they were originally when the company was founded in 1835-one at a time. These are not just weapons, they are a form of functional art collected and coveted by buyers who often hand them down through generations. And with a price tag in excess of $100K, inheritance is meaningful.
Every step of the unmaking process involves a master craftsman each of whom has their own specialty. Barrels are forged and fitted to receivers. Stocks are selected from brilliant burled walnut, cut, fitted, finished with checkering cut by hand. Engravers spend weeks etching receivers with elegant scrolling, articulate scenes and gold in-lay. In some cases, the cost of engraving can exceed the cost of the gun depending on the level of time and detail involved. After being crafted for over a year, the parts all come into final form with a luster and high-tolerance fit that only hundreds of hours of meticulous crafting by hand can produce. The weapons are finally sent to the small handful of showrooms located in London, Moscow, New York City and Dallas.
Recently, David Cruz from the New York Gunroom and English born Keith Lupton flew to Montana for the final phase of the highly customized process; the fitting. Once purchased, each gun is precisely fitted to the shooter. This process is generally performed by Keith Lupton whom is one of the best shooting instructors in the world. A private sporting clays course was arranged, and Keith went to work on our small group checking eye dominance, length of pull, stock cast and other fundamentals before going into live fire on the clay birds. Our small group consisted of veteran and novice shooters and after two half-day sessions, and sound advice from Keith, our groups proficientsy leveled off and the clay birds were breaking with greater consistency. Keith’s mastery continued as he was able to stand next to a shooter with a hand on the barrel controlling the swing of the gun and allowing the shooter to break on troubled shots. A feat that could only be mastered by shooting tens if not hundreds of thousands of rounds. Truly amazing.
An array of guns were provided by Holland & Holland for our shoot and it was an incredible privilege to have been allowed to handle and shoot the worlds finest shotguns.