During his military service, Mr. McGrew moved up through the ranks from lowest ranking man on the A-Team to the Commander of the A-Team (Operational Detachment-A). He served 30 months as Operations Officer of a Special Forces line company. Ultimately, he finished his military career as Force Modernization Officer for US Special Forces Command where, among other duties, he was designated the headquarters scout for emerging technologies.
Today, Mr. McGrew has parlayed his extensive expertise in things that go bang, along with a long-abiding passion for the Holland & Holland Paradox gun, into a business that provides the sporting shotgun community with premium ammunition. Nearly three years ago, he obtained the rights to import Holland & Holland shotshells and Paradox ammunition through his company, Classic Shooting Company in Centralia, Washington.
The venture was sparked by Mr. McGrew’s enthusiasm for the Holland & Holland Paradox. If you are unfamiliar with Paradox guns, the Paradox moniker alludes to the gun’s ability to shoot both shotgun cartridges and special slug-like bullets via the rifling on the last 2½ to 4 inches of the smooth bore barrels. The Paradoxes from British best-gun makers originally served hunters in India and Africa who wanted a single firearm that interchangeably accommodated both shotshells for birds and either hollow-point or solid bullets on larger quarry.
For Mr. McGrew, his Holland & Holland Royal Paradox has become the go-to gun for 90 percent of his bird and clays shooting.
Recently, he started selling Holland & Holland ammunition on his web site – complementing his elite network of outlets that made it available to their clients. Whereas the dealers may stock only select inventory, the Classic Shooting Company Internet store carries the entire line.
He currently sells Holland & Holland’s 12-gauge Royal Game, 12-gauge Light Loads, 12-gauge Paper Hulls, 16-gauge Royal Game, 20-gauge Royal Game, 28-gauge Royal Game and of course the Nitro Paradox Cartridges.
The ammunition is manufactured by the prestigious Hull Cartridge Co. Ltd. in Hull, England to a formula developed by Holland & Holland.
As befitting the Holland & Holland ideology, the shotshells utilize fiber wads. Ounce for ounce, fiber wads may not fully match the performance of their plastic counterparts. But fiber wads burn cleaner, eliminating plastic build-up in the barrels, and contribute to a shooting experience that harks back to the Golden Age of Best Guns in Britain. Notably, fire a Holland & Holland shell and the noise is more like the percussion section in the symphony than the backfire of grandpa’s jalopy. Performance aside, Holland & Holland’s shells should certainly appeal to purists.
The Holland & Holland selection of shells covers the gamut.
The Royal Game loads feature extra-hard lead shot for prolonged pattern integrity. They are offered in 1-ounce, 1-1/16-ounce, and 1⅛-ounce shells 2½-inches in length. Shot sizes are 5, 6, 7½ and 8.
The other Holland & Holland 12-gauge loads, and the 16-gauge shells, are packed with 15/16 ounce of lead shot. Their 20-gauge shells are available in either the standard 7/8-ounce payload or a 1-ounce version. The 28 gauge comes with a 13/16-ounce load that packs slightly more stopping power than the typical ¾ ounce from most manufacturers.
Holland & Holland doesn’t specify velocities for their shotshells, but the 12 gauge Light Load is rated at moderate velocity with low recoil and is recommended for vintage shotguns, 16-yard trap and pheasants, chukars as well as small game and birds in woods and thickets such as forest grouse, quail and squirrel.
The Royal Game ammunition is rated at moderate velocity and recoil. The extra-hard shot makes it suitable for older shotguns in good condition and all-around clays use. The 28-gauge Royal Game load, however, is described as low velocity with low recoil. Equipped with extra hard shot, it’s recommended for general clays shooting and close birds in woods and thickets including ruffed grouse, quail and woodcock. Holland & Holland says the 28-gauge Royal Game is also suitable for low-flying doves.
Meanwhile, Holland & Holland's Nitro Paradox Ammunition carries a 740-grain Fosberry solid bullet with a diameter of 0.735", muzzle velocity of 1,050 fps in a 2.50-inch plastic shell.
In regards to the Holland & Holland shotshells we can say they made short work of hearty driven pheasants in October 2009 at the Lazy Triple Creek Ranch just outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Lars Magnusson had secured the hunting rights to parts of the 2,200-acre property through his company, Blixt, and embarked on a mission to introduce authentic English driven shoots to the Great American West. A perfectionist, Mr. Magnusson was not merely content to release pen-raised birds ahead of a raucous line of beaters who would drive the pheasants from the fields over a precipice to a waiting line of shooters below. Along with his gamekeeper, Matt Whindle of England, the men insisted on raising near-wild, plump birds that flew extremely strong and fast in an exhilarating and challenging day of shooting.
Mr. Magnusson’s shells of choice were Holland & Holland. At the end of the day, the seven guns at Lazy Triple Creek Ranch bagged 181 pheasants and 10 partridge. With 929 shots fired, that gave us a shot ratio of five to one.
I had also relied on the Holland & Holland shells in January 2010, when presented with the irresistible invitation to bird hunt with a Holland & Holland Royal 20-gauge over/under. That particular shotgun had been the prototype of the Royal over/under line introduced in 1992. Now a demo gun, if purchased today, the four-pin sidelock would cost $104,000.
Phil Dietrich, the Hunt and Field Director at the Prospect Hall Shooting Club in Kearneysville, West Virginia, had set out chukars that morning for hunting over dogs. The ammo at hand was Holland & Holland Royal Game shells packed with 7/8 ounces of 7½ shot.
By lunch time, I had brought down seven chukars and a pheasant. Many of the birds dropped with a single shot, indicating that the Holland & Holland shells patterned well. The low recoil let me recover quickly for the second shot when required.
Recently, another opportunity arose to try the Holland & Holland shells, but this time under entirely different circumstances for another qualitative spin with the brand.
I met up with life-long bird hunter, Nelson Freeman, to evaluate the Holland & Holland shells on sporting clays. Mr. Freeman is the media liaison for Safari Club International. Raised in a Virginia bird-hunting family, he exclusively shoots a 20-gauge, Belgian-made DeFourney side by side with double triggers. We convened at the Prince Georges County Trap & Skeet Center in Glen Dale, Maryland, near Washington DC. The facility also features a wooded, 21-station sporting-clays course that would be ideal for our purposes.
While Mr. Freeman shot the DeFourney, I brought along a 12-gauge Beretta Silverhawk. Made in 1960, it’s a wonderful walk-up gun with 26-inch barrels and a single trigger. The Silverhawk usually sits in the safe, and so our sporting clays outing provided a rare opportunity to shoot it during the off-season.
Mr. Freeman used two varieties of the Holland & Holland 20-gauge Royal Game with plastic cases: the 7/8-ounce shell with 7½ shot and the 1-ounce load also bearing 7½ shot.
I used the 12-gauge Royal Game shell of 1⅛-ounces and 7½ shot, the Royal Game load in 1 ounce,7½ shot and as well as the Light Load of 15/16 ounces of 8 shot. These loads were also in plastic cases.
Working our way through the sporting clays course, we formed some distinct impressions about the Holland & Holland ammunition.
The 12-gauge, 1⅛-ounce shot certainly produced some felt recoil, but not in the traditional sense. Comparable 12-gauge loads bought in big-box hunting stores would have hammered my teeth when discharged from the Silverhawk. By comparison, 1⅛-ounce Holland & Holland shells resulted in more of a shove than a punch. Certainly not uncomfortable for walk-up shooting, firing them round after round in sporting clays with a side by side could prove wearing – especially if your standard sporting clays shotgun is a semi-auto.
Once you shoot the 1-ounce, 7½ Royal Game there will be no comparison to its heavier sibling. Obviously, the 1-ounce shell is a satisfactory compromise between the 1⅛-ounce Royal Game and the 15/16 Light Load. Still, unto itself, the 1-ounce Royal Game was extremely smooth, consistent and comfortable. The 1-ounce 7½ shell became my favorite. I didn’t observe any significant degradation in performance against the 1⅛-ounce load, while at the same time the 1-ounce Royal Game proved a dreamy shell to shoot. It smashed targets with authority. In the vernacular of the British gentry, you could think of it as the dependable butler who got the job done unobtrusively.
For Mr. Freeman, Holland & Holland’s 20-gauge ammunition generally “felt snappy. It felt really crisp – unlike mass-manufactured shells.” After a few stations, Mr. Freeman remarked that “I like the concept of Holland & Holland shells. It’s like playing with a Titleist ProV1 golf ball.”
Likewise, the commensurate quality of the Holland & Holland shells enabled Mr. Freeman to “psych myself up, that the shell would do the work for me and I could concentrate better on the target itself. I think that when you’re in a hunting situation you want to have shells that you have 100-percent confidence in and I’d buy these shells.”
In closing, Mr. Freeman duly noted the overlooked coolness factor. “It’s really slick to shoot a shell that says Holland & Holland on it.”
Useful resources:The Prince Georges Trap & Skeet web site