Favorite Firearms: A Holland & Holland on a Deer Hunt

posted on March 15, 2021

My favorite firearm finally came into my possession more than 30 years after I first encountered it. As a city boy from the Bronx, I accompanied my dad and my scoutmaster on a deer hunting trip to upstate New York. I was 16 years old at the time, and my scoutmaster had introduced me to Robert Ruark and his African books, Something of Value, Uhuru and Horn of the Hunter.

During our hunt, my dad and I carried Winchester 94s, but my scoutmaster had a Holland & Holland bolt-action rifle chambered in .400/375 Nitro Express—the world’s first belted cartridge. According to him, the gun had once been owned by farmers in Kenya, but had eventually made its way to an upscale gun store in Manhattan where he purchased it. My dad and I kidded him about bringing an elephant gun on a deer hunt, but my scoutmaster had just finished reading Ruark’s Use Enough Gun, and he strongly defended his choice.

I acquired the rifle from my scoutmaster’s widow when he passed, about 35 years after that hunting trip. It is fitted with leaf sights, and it came with a Bond Street of London fitted canvas and leather case and 120 rounds of 270-gr. cordite ammunition. Over the years, I’ve saved articles pertaining to this obsolete cartridge. I’ve also purchased reloading dies for it, and have researched the use of modern smokeless powder instead of cordite in order to reload for it—as the original, almost 100-year-old rounds do still fire but today are collector’s items themselves.

At 71 years of age, I don’t think I’ll ever get to hunt in Africa with this rifle. Even so, it’s still my favorite firearm.

William Tabacinski, Wyoming


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