Bruce MacKay Highman Take-Down by Phillip Hayes

  • Friday, 08 March 2019 08:22
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Bruce MacKay Highman Take-Down by Phillip Hayes: Rifle perfection from a master craftsman

In Trail Talk (March 2019) I wrote about firearm collector Chris Kleynhans surprising me at the shooting range with his leather-cased piece of history, a rare Bruce Highman take-down rifle combination. I wasted no time in following up and learning more of this unique set.   

Chris has been a collector for some time, concentrating mainly on what he refers to as “the three Ms”: Mannlicher, Mauser and Martini. Among other firearms, he currently owns 22 Mannlicher Schönauers, various Mausers, some rare Martinis, a ‘Red 9’Broomhandle Mauser pistol in 9mm (this variant of the C96 was named the‘Red 9’for its large number ‘9’burned and painted in red into the grip panels, to warn the users not to load it with 7.63mm ammunition by mistake). He owns a George Gibbs falling-block action No 953 (972 were made). This falling block pre-dates the Farquharson. And then there are the Pre-64 Winchesters in .22 Hornet and .220 Swift, and three rifles that were owned by Gary Player; the list goes on…  

The Bruce Highman take-down set crossed his path some years ago, when the late PB de Villiers’s rifle collection came up for sale. De Villiers’s stepson, Arno Welman, inherited the Highman set and Chris was able to finalise the purchase in 2016, ending a five-year wait. In the end, he was able to buy 15 rifles from the De Villiers collection.

The Highman take-down is in .375H&H (barrel licensed as OB 375260) with an additional barrel in .300H&H (No 36). The set was originally licensed in Bruce Highman’s name and he gave a letter to De Villiers authorizing him to keep the rifles in his possession (see the accompanying photograph). The rifle came in a handmade oak-and-leather case with brass corners and red baize lining. The case itself is made to perfection; even the drive slots of the screw heads (in this case for a flat-blade screwdriver) are all aligned in the same direction. The rifle was made to fit De Villiers and it is said that he went to the Cape on several occasions to ensure this.

Inside the case is an old Kynoch box of .375 ammo, two handmade screwdrivers with ivory handles, a stainless steel oil-bottle, a take-down cleaning rod (brass-threaded with ivory handle) and two ivory bottles, one with a replacement front sight element for the .375, the other containing the sight for the .300H&H. The bottles are made entirely of ivory, even the thread for the screw tops was cut into the ivory.

The rifle is built in the traditional English style, but with less drop-at-the-comb than that of a rifle made solely for use with open sights. The .375 is fitted with a single standing (fixed) leaf rear sight with a wide V. The words HOLLAND AND HOLLAND 375 MAGNUM appear on the barrel between the front sight and action. The .300’s rear express sight has a fixed standing leaf and two folding leaves for use at extended ranges. This barrel is marked HOLLAND AND HOLLAND .300 MAGNUM. Both barrels are also inscribed BRUCE MACKAY HIGHMAN * CAPE TOWN. The front sights on both barrels are the bead-atop-blade type, have flip-up tunnel sight protectors and flip-up extra-large low-light beads. Both barrels’crowns are recessed for protection.

Read the full article in the April issue of Magnum.

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