Unlike most of the dangerous-game cartridges of the era, Holland & Holland’s .375 H&H Magnum was designed for bolt-action rifles. This was 1912, still pre-World War I, when the United Kingdom and Germany were on amicable terms. Paul Mauser’s turnbolt was being hailed as the greatest development in sporting and military rifle technology, and H&H chose to use K98s modified to accept and function with the long magnum cartridge.
The rifle featured in this column was built with double-set triggers and a drop-box magazine that holds four cartridges. An express-type rear sight offers a standing leaf marked “50/200” and three folding leafs marked from 300 to 500 yards. The front sight is classic Holland & Holland and features a fine brass bead, a large folding ivory bead for low-light use, and a folding hood.
Well-figured walnut, petite lines, and fine checkering define the stock. The only non-original part I’ve found is the Pachmayr “Old English” rubber recoil pad. A metal cap with a trapdoor is fitted to the grip, and generous sling loops are fixed to the toe of the stock and around the barrel a few inches in front of the fore-end tip.
A lovely old fixed-power Swarovski scope is mounted in a robust quick-detach side mount. Interestingly, the side scope mount consists of three main elements plus rings. The base is actually two pieces. One is screwed to the front left side of the action just aft of the front receiver ring; the other is both dovetailed and screwed into the rear receiver ring. The scope is secured in rings fixed to a one-piece platform that mates into the two-piece base by hooking in a deep slot in the front, then dropping into a rear slot where a cam lever rotates and secures the lot.
Holland & Holland’s modified Mausers function just like any other K98-based design, so rather than spending space on the basics, I’ll detail a few of the unique characteristics of this rifle.
First, this rifle is a takedown and requires nothing to take it apart aside from a coin. Unlike many takedown designs, the action and barrel do not separate. Rather, the rear action tang is curtailed and formed into a hook-type element, and it seats beneath a metal tang-shaped housing set into the rear of the action mortise. To assemble, hook the action tang in place, gently swivel the barreled action down until it seats in the stock, and screw the front action bolt home with a coin, torqueing it as firmly as possible.
A unique sear arrangement is fitted to the action in lieu of a trigger assembly and interfaces with the double-set triggers that are inletted with the bottom metal. To use the triggers, simply press the rear trigger firmly until it clicks; then touch the front trigger to fire. It trips with just 9 ounces of pull. Using the front trigger alone, without first setting the rear, results in a fairly stiff pull of 5 pounds, 6 ounces.
This rifle belongs to renowned wildlife artist Michael Coleman, and he obtained it several years ago through George Caswell, owner of Champlin Firearms in Enid, Oklahoma. Close examination indicates the metal parts may have been reblued at some point.
Once, en route to Arusha, Tanzania, the rifle got broken clean through at the wrist. Understandably agitated at the airline, Coleman sent it back to Caswell, who reinforced the wrist with a steel rod and knit the break so perfectly that unless you know where to look, it’s invisible.
Back in Africa in pursuit of a big leopard, Coleman struck out. However, Botswana awarded him a consolation price by offering up a tremendous kudu. The .375 Holland & Holland spoke its piece, and Coleman brought home a 64.5-inch bull. To put that in perspective, a 60-inch kudu is the Holy Grail of the species—the equivalent of a 200-inch whitetail buck.
Over the years, Coleman has used the fine old rifle on African plains game as well as elk.
The rifle and the original case designate 300-grain bullets, so I selected a few good loads and fired two, three-shot groups at 100 yards with each. Even though the bare rifle weighs only 8 pounds, 3 ounces, recoil was mild, and the rifle shot incredibly well, averaging 1.22 inches with all ammo types. Its favorite load was Federal’s 300-grain Partition, and it produced three-shot clusters with all three bullet holes touching.
With the scope removed, I tried a few fast shots with the iron sights. The stock is superbly engineered for the sights, and the rifle shoulders, points, and balances almost as well as a British side-by-side shotgun.
Holland & Holland’s Takedown Magazine rifle is the perfect marriage of a versatile cartridge, an action that changed the world, and a craftsmanship that is unmatched. It’s no wonder rifles such as it became the standard by which all others are judged.