Chris - Congratulations on 40 years at Holland & Holland! What was it that first sparked your interest in shooting and how did you come to work for the company?
My lifelong interest in the countryside began before I fired a shot. I was fortunate to spend time with the Gamekeeper, on the family shoot, during the school holidays and standing with my Uncle on the peg, in the hide or blind and up the high seat for Roe. All these experiences became engrained fond memories, as well as an education.
At school I shot in the CCF team at Bisley with the trusty .303 Lee Enfield Mk4’s. On leaving school with a deep interest in country pursuits I decided, as well as being able to cast a fly, a necessary life skill was to learn to shoot a shotgun correctly.
At the time I was fortunate to live in Northwood, close to the best shooting school there is! So, a year after the then Trade and Industry Secretary suggested, I got on my bike and went to ask for a job, any job. ‘No vacancies, come back in a month’, was the friendly answer. After another four visits there was a vacancy for the position of ‘trapper’. Thank you, Mr.Tebbit.
It was then decided that a youthful ‘trainee instructor’ was needed. I jumped at it and eventually was offered the position. The first few weeks of my training was with Rex Gage. Soon after, he retired, and Ken Davies was promoted to Chief Instructor. I was very fortunate that Ken was my mentor as he is without doubt one of the best classic Instructors there is.
Given your vast experience, what would be your ultimate Holland & Holland Gun of choice?
Having been totally immersed in Holland & Holland for 40 years I know that it is one of the best guns money can buy.
If I were to have a choice, the Holland & Holland Royal 20 bore, over & under, 30” steel proofed barrels, single trigger with a semi pistol grip is simply perfect. However, my heart says a 12 bore Royal side by side. Steel proofed 30” barrels, Teague multi chokes, with a flat file cut rib. Double trigger, semi pistol grip including the subtle H&H diamond. Semi Beavertail forend. Perfectly balanced on the cross pin with an overall weight of 7 1/4lbs.
What are the biggest changes you have seen in the shooting industry over the last 40 years?
During my career to date I’ve seen many changes. One of the changes we are most proud of instigating was introducing more Ladies to actively participating in game shooting. Nearly thirty years ago the Holland & Holland shooting school began the first shooting course specifically designed for Ladies. With the benefit of our gun fitting experience, we altered a significant number of guns, which were to prove very popular as our Green & Silver Feather ladies discovered that they did not have to suffer recoil. The Feathers course still runs to this day.
We have also seen the development of auto clay traps from manual. Today we have 145 auto traps throughout the shooting grounds allowing us to offer unparalleled variety.
Over the last 40 years there has been a reversal in the side by side vs over & under proportions as more people enjoy clay pigeons as their quarry. I believe there is room for both clay & game during a sportsman’s year and absolutely believe that clay practice under the watchful eye of a trusted Instructor is the fast track to improvement.
In the last few years, I’ve seen signs of increased interest in the perceived traditional side by side shotgun. I do hope the current steel shot situation doesn’t reverse that. A discussion for another day.