Sunday, November 8, 2009

The .600 Nitro Express--Setting the Record Straight

The .600 nitro express has been a misunderstood cartridge almost since its inception. The myths abound today and are found in book(such as Dangerous Game Rifles) and magazine articles like the one I responded to below. The African Hunter (my favorite magazine) published a very poor piece earlier in 2009 and they later published a watered-down rebuttal in volume 15, issue 2. They first copied my rebuttal to the author but I did not get a reply. For you readers of my website and blog, here is the rebuttal in full. I hope it sets the record straight.

The article on the .600 nitro express in volume 14, number 6, is so damn inaccurate it is an embarrassment that it was published.

Paragraph two lists the cartridges created by Holland and Holland and the .600 as "the most talked about calibre" and of its inception in 1903. It was Jeffery that introduced the cartridge--not to infer that it was Holland's cartridge. It was designed on paper (Kynoch--January 13, 1899) and written of in one journal (The Field, I believe) in 1899 and the first rifle was sold in 1900 (number 8231 sold on April 30th for 30 pounds sterling).

The next paragraph lists the muzzle velocity as 1950 fps. This is from a 28-inch barrel only. And, Taylor owned two .600s. His favorite was a Jeffery regulated for the 100-grain charge of cordite and the other, an unnamed rifle, as the double discharger. The average weight of .600 rifles is in the 14-pound range.

Holland and Holland has built 16 .600s, not 14, from the records I received from Mr. Wilkin earlier this year. More may surface.

The Maharaja Gulab may not have used the rifle that is the subject of this article much, but his size and stature have nothing to do with that. A close friend here in Alaska has Gulab's Jeffery .600 snap action and it is well used! Gulab's also hunted with 8- and 4-bores.

.600s don't weigh 18 pounds. Boddington wrote of this weight in his Safari Rifles (page 94), but they don't. I have 204 rifles in my data base and only 2 are listed at that weight and one of those is unconfirmed.

The paragraph stating the statistics of the H&H .600 that was sold by Holts was taken directly from the Holts auction catalog and credit should have been given. The same for the beautiful photo. That photo is the copyright of Holts. Permission should have been given for its use as well as credit given.

A direct insult to Holland and Holland is in the paragraph about the last .600. Holland did build a "few" .600s "over the years" but to state that, "those   [plural] being sold with the express guarantee that it would be the last and largest H&H built" is absolutely incorrect. Only one rifle, began in 1970 and completed in 1975, number 35478, was produced as the last .600. A company of Holland and Holland's reputation to the world would never state to more than one customer their rifle would be the "last." Also, nothing was ever said about the "largest" rifle being the .600 as they produced 8- and 4-bores. (One unconfirmed story is that Holland and Holland, knowing the glory days of elephant hunting and cartridges for the rifles were coming to an end, was to build a series of three "last" rifles--.600, .577. and .500 nitro expresses. Only the .600 was produced. As to why the .577 and .500 were not produced has been lost to history--if they were planned to be made at all.)

The information on the beginnings of the .700 is basically correct, but never, repeat never, EVER has the .700 been loaded to 2600 fps. This has never been suggested by Holland and Holland nor the originator, Mr. Feldstein. To do so would most certainly destroy a double rifle.

The last paragraph is also incorrect. The owner of the last .600, which he bought 50-50 with his father (and now its sole owner since his father's passing in 1993), was not paid a "significant sum of money" to allow H&H to begin producing the .600 again. The agreement was a pair of Royal 20-bore shotguns. The pair are numbered 1 and 2 but are in individual oak and leather cases so as to be passed to two separate heirs one day. Customers are friends of Holland and Holland and the deal was between friends.

In closing, Mr. Murphy's facts are so distorted in this piece I am suspect of his past articles as to accuracy and will read his future articles (.700 nitro express) with the same skepticism. And, as to "nasty stuff that gores or stomps," "hunt the odd blue whale," or an "orthopedic surgeon [to send] his kids to a good university," well, let's leave the Capstick-isms to PHC.

Cal Pappas
Willow, Alaska
African Hunter Double Rifle Advisor

PS. I have spoken at length with Mr. Feldstein, many at Holland and Holland, and the original purchaser of the last .600, and have handled and photographed the last .600 and the pair of 20-bore shotguns.  All of the information above will be in my book on the .600. The printers have it now and delivery should be in August or September. Information can be found shortly at     "the best in double rifles and African hunting"