I’ve spent a few joyful hours today admiring the catalogue of Joh. Springer’s Erben 22nd Classic Auction over a cup of coffee, and while I’m not really into handguns, this 1897 Roth-Theodorovich that graces the cover of the catalogue is definitely something else. Its ugliness is so complete that it approximates beauty. But the action is not just about ugly pistols – click on “more” to see some of the beautiful and unusual rifles and combination guns that will go under hammer on April 20.
As already mentioned, I don’t really like handguns – but if someone decided to present me with this box of Colt revolvers, I couldn’t say no. Caplock, western, pocket, target and military – the whole spectrum of Colt is there, all beautifully engraved and cased.
Turning from handguns to military weapons, here’s one that someone may think have gotten there by mistake. A Sauer&Sohn drilling, with two 12-gauge barrels and one 9.3x74R rifled barrel looks like a typical hunting weapon, but it used to be adopted by the Nazi air forces as part of bomber on-board kit in North Africa. The idea was that in case of a forced landing in the wilderness, the crew would need something to defend themselves from lions and feed themselves on grounds and antelopes. It’s unknown whether any pilot ever got to use one in this emergency situation, but most Luftwaffe drillings today – including this one – are sold in as-new condition, except for the aluminium case, which is battered as hell. No Teutonic gun auction – or collection – is complete without one!
The Joh. Springer’s auction takes place at the company’s premises in Vienna, Austria – the country that used to have and, quite naturally, it offers a wide selection of Mannlicher-Schoenauers. A M-S with full-length Stuetzen stock and a set trigger may not be the best bolt-action hunting rifle, but it sure is one of the most good-looking.
“One language, one people, one land” was Hitler’s motto when the Nazis appropriated Austria, and there’s a grain of truth in this statement. Like Germany, Austria is a heaven for the lover of the combination gun – they come in a headswimming variety of shapes and forms. For example, a “Bergstutzen” is an over-and-under rifle for two different rifle cartridges, a smaller and a bigger, for hunting in the Alps. This is a sport for a wealthy aristocrat, so a Bergstutzen is usually a high-end rifle with elaborate engraving.
And in case two different barrels aren’t enough for you, you can have this – three barrels one top of one another, 9.3x74R, 5.6x50R Mag and 20×76.
To make the gun more compact, an over-under drilling (Triumphdrilling/Bockdrilling) may have the third, smallbore, barrel to the right, between the barrels. This Franz Sodia is of this type, and decorated with the image of Artemis (Diane), goddess of hunting.
Even if you didn’t know that before, it should be obvious by now that Austrians and Germans are firm believers in one shot, one kill philosophy, and the highest point of development of this way of thinking is the Kipplauf, a single shot rifle.
There are many double rifles, both European medium bores for driven hunts, and big-bores for dangerous game. In the latter category, I was immediately attracted by this plain boxlock by Holland&Holland, made way back in 1929, when such rifles were still workhorses for some. The rifle was, of course, not made in-house by Holland, but outsourced from a specialized boxlock maker such as Webley&Scott or A. A. Brown, but the regulation would be as impeccable as on the company’s most expensive Royal de Luxe.
But for me the highlight of the double rifle segment is this 9.3x74R by Purdey. Breechloading double rifles by Purdey are rare as they are, but this one has a peculiar combination of Beesley patent self-opening action – perhaps the most sophisticated of break-open acitons – with Jones underlever lockup, already outdated when Beesley’s patent came out. I’ve seen a video of a similar Purdey at obsessed-with-doubles blog, and I wonder if it’s not the same gun.
There are also many interesting shotguns at the auction, but I’ll deal with them tomorrow.