Uniquely, we have not just one of these unusual rifles but, in the form of serial number 4298, we have what in the world of shotguns we might term a 'composed pair'. While the two do not carry sequential serial numbers, they are practically identical in style and dimension; each housed in its Holland & Holland best leather case, with fitted interior, accessories and canvas outer.
There is no international uniformity in gun serial numbers. Besides a widespread numerical base, they may contain letters and other typographical symbols, or may consist entirely of a character string; positioning and form of such identifiers is idiosyncratic.
The legal requirement for affixing a serial number to firearms is a relatively recent requirement, and usually applies to firearms manufactured domestically or which are imported. Gun serial numbers are used in gun registration and are usually linked to an owner who is usually required to hold a firearms license. In the US, federal law requires registered gun dealers to maintain records of gun serial numbers and then to report them when they are sold but federal law also prohibits creation of a national register. Another form of serial number is microstamping, where the firing pin and breach face are engraved to create unique markings on the ejected cartridge; this is a legal requirement for handguns in the state of California. It should also be noted that microstamping technology does not exist at this time, making it impossible to use on handguns.
Firearms without a serial number are commonly called unmarked firearms. Firearms with removed serial numbers are generally illegal. There are forensic techniques for recovering serial numbers after they have been removed.
Most individual manufacturers habitually put serial numbers on the weapons they produce. Such numbers can be used to ascertain the name of the manufacture, place and date of manufacture. At least for some manufacturers, a serial number can unlock myriad details about the weapon. An example is the Winchester Repeating Arms Company; their records may not be complete. As they note:
There is probably some kernel of truth to all of them. But the fact remains; there is no original, single, totally accurate database of serial numbers from 1866 forward that we are aware of. But perhaps these pages can help you somewhat in your research.
The basic point of such legislation is that the weapon will plainly have a unique identifier. Thus, for example, an importer is expressly forbidden from recycling numbers. "Factory-produced firearms bear serial numbers." So factory producers and federally licensed gun dealers are required by U.S. law to maintain records for their inventory of serial numbers of all firearms and to report both the guns' serial numbers and the purchasers' names.
Serial no. 17987, .500/.450 nitro express caliber, 26-inch side-by-side barrels withmatted quarter rib, express sights dovetailed onto rib, with two folding leaves, graduatedfor 200 and 300 yards; solid blade rear graduated for 100 yards. Dual front sightdovetailed insert at front of ramp, with tiny ivory bead on blade, and with larger ivorybead inset onto copper mount (manually pivots up into position as needed). Doubletriggers, checkered front; plain rear; extractors; gold inlaid cocking indicators;automatic safety. Blued, with case-hardened locks, breech and fore-end mounts. Rightbarrel inscribed at breech: HOLLAND & HOLLAND, 38 NEW BOND STREET, LONDON. Left barrelinscribed at breech: WINNERS OF ALL THE "FIELD" RIFLE TRIALS, LONDON. Bottom ofbarrels at breech with matching serial number 17987. Bottom of each barrel lug withvarious proof and maker markings, including: "450EX", "CORDITE 70 - 480MAX", crown over GP, crown over V, and crested NP. Water table of frame marked withserial number, and crown over V proof marking. Each sidelock engraved: HOLLAND &HOLLAND. Bottom of frame engraved within decorative cartouche: CHARGE/70 GRAINSCORDITE/.500/.450/CASE 3 1/4 INCHES. Gold oval escutcheon plaque inlaid on bottom ofbuttstock, with engraved initials: A.S.M. Gold inlaid SAFE on upper tang. Matching serialno. marked on inside surface of fore-end mount and engraved on triggerguard tang.Profusely scroll and border engraved, with elegant strapwork motif; coverage on sidelocks,recoil shields, pistol grip cap and compartment lid, frame, triggerguard, and fore-endmounts. Twist style fore-end latch. Oil-stained select walnut checkered pistolgrip stocks;crescent cheekpiece on left side of butt; sling swivels; rubber Silver's recoil pad; slingswivels. Four small numbers stamped on bottom of buttstock, behind pistolgrip cap.Pistolgrip compartment includes two extra firing pins and ivory blade front sight. Weightof approximately 11 lbs. With brassbound leather covered case, in which the rifle isenclosed assembled; green felt lining; cleaning rod. Top of case with tooled inscription:"A.S. Mather". Overall length 50-inches, 4 1/2-inches deep. Accompanied by twoleather and cloth cartridge pouches, containing nine solid .500/.450 cartriches in one andfive soft-nose cartridges in the other; pouches designed to fit onto the hunter's belt foreasy access.
Established by James Purdey the Elder in 1816, Purdey built best-quality guns, rifles and pistols to the highest standards. James Purdey the Younger took over the running of the firm in 1858 and was responsible for developing the Express rifle to its pinnacle. In 1863 in the early breechloading period, he invented the most famous closing action of all time, the Purdey bolt. He was quick to see the advantages of the hammerless gun and was astute in purchasing and developing the Beesley hammerless action of 1880. He created guns of great style and elegance and established the form of the hammerless ejector for all others to follow. Athol Purdey guided the firm through the difficult World War I period and Tom Purdey and Jim Purdey took over during the 1930's depression and kept the firm on course during World War II and the post-war years. Purdey serial numbers are listed for the years 1816-2000 to assist with dating guns, production figures are given to show the rarity of certain weapons, all the Purdey patents are described, and of particular interest are the Purdey gunmakers, names to help identify initials stamped on the various parts of Purdey guns.
Holland and Holland .295 rook rifle, the rifled octagonal barrel fitted with folding leaf sight and stamped 'Winner of all the Field Rifle Trials' .295 Semi Smooth Bore' as well as bearing the London address, figured chequered stock with cheekpiece and pistol grip, colour case hardened action with fine scroll engraving and horn end cap, serial number 18124.
By looking at the numbers and markings on the rifle we can see that it was manufactured in 1943 at the B.S.A. Shirley factory. It has a low serial number and early production date for the rifle, but it has the Mk III scope on it, which was introduced in October of 1944, toward the later half of (T) production. It was the 641st MkIII scope built. The rifle itself has the all important TR stamp which means it was converted to a Telescopic Rifle and the very clearly marked T after the designation on the left hand side of the action. These clearly indicate it is a real No 4 Mk 1 (T) rifle. Many of these rifles were later converted to Mk 1/2 (T) standards, but this one was not.
Kikumura was indicted for unlawful possession (by an illegal alien) and transportation of explosives with intent to destroy property and harm individuals, unlawful possession of explosives which were unregistered and without serial numbers and violations of the passport and visa laws.
He put the shells on the counter, and when I handed him the rifle, the little red and yellow price tag fluttering from the trigger guard, he wiped it down with an oiled square of tan chamois and racked it butt first. As he reached to replace it, the cuff rode up on his left sleeve, and I could see a little blue tattoo on the underside of his forearm. It looked like some numbers.
Session 46. May 19, 1961. Alexander Arnon talks about wearing the Star of David badge. He is interrupted by the Prosecution, and asked about the forced payment of 100,000,000 Denars, with 60 Denars equal to an American Dollar at the time. Following that, legislation that required wearing the Jewish Star was put into effect. The court decides that photographing the badge he holds up will suffice for evidence. He was given the task of supplying the Jews of Zagreb with the badges, as ordered by the Gestapo officer Mueller.00:10:46 Session 53. May 25, 1961. Margit Reich testifies. A translator reads a postcard from her husband that describes the deportation and the trip. She describes that the postcard was thrown from the train and sent by a passerby. The translator reads another postcard describing conditions in the train and her father's goodbye to the family, though he hoped to survive.00:17:33 Tape jumps. Dr. Martin (Marcel) Foeldi testifes about the postcards they were forced to write in Auschwitz, as dictated by the Kapos. He was forced to write about being put to work and that he was fine. He says that it was very reassuring to receive postcards from the previous transports, making them feel better about the situation.00:21:51 Tape jumps. Ze'ev Sapir testifies about Adolf Eichmann's visit to the ghetto Sapir was in, and how it was cleaned to welcome him. He has difficulty expressing the story.00:26:43 Tape jumps. Ze'ev Sapir is still testifying. He says that after three hours in the train, he saw furnaces and smelled a horrible odor at Auschwitz. He asked other inmates what it was, and they said burning rags. He understood his fate when a prisoner who forgot his prayer shawl in the coach was told he wasn't going to need it by another prisoner who unloaded the train. Sapir is asked about his family, and he describes them, and says that all of them died.00:30:02 Session 62. June 1, 1961. Leslie Gordon testifies that he was searching for food for his family in Bucharest when he was captured. He was told to dig ditches, and they believed that they were anti-tank ditches. This was controlled by the SD. He describes that people were told to remove their clothes, and were executed by Germans, some sober, some drunk. Not all of them were killed, but only injured, and buried alive. He says that those executed were those able to resist, all of them Jews.00:43:02 Session 64. June 5, 1961. Ya'akov Friedman testifying. He describes inmates committing suicide by running at the electric fences in Majdanek. He says that the guards tried to stop them, not because they cared, but because it was a lot of work for them.00:44:09 Session 68. June 7, 1961. Joseph Zalman Kleinman testifying. He describes the call for everyone to run to the football field, which he believes was there for the Roma. He says that Dr. Mengele rode up on his bike and he began the selection. He asked a young sunburned blonde boy, and asked this 15 year old how old he was. He lied, saying he was 18. Mengele was furious, demanding a plank with a hammer and nails. He created a measuring device, demanding that everyone must walk under, and those not tall enough would be sent to their death. Though it was not said, they knew what the purpose of this was. He put rocks in his shoes, painfully elevating himself, forcing himself to stand at attention with that. He survived, though 1000 out of 2000 did not. The tape jumps before he can elaborate.00:53:03 Session 71. June 8, 1961. Nachum Hoch testifying. He was forced into a room with serial numbers and hooks and told to undress. One of the Sonderkommando told them in Yiddish not to show their fear, but to sing. He believes Hoess then came to the hallway and grabbed the first boy in the line, asking him to prove physical fitness. The kid talked back to Hoess, and he was sent back to the chamber. Hoch was forced to do knee bends and then to run to the wall and back before being sent with the first boy. 50 were selected in this fashion. 2b1af7f3a8