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The Guns of Ferlach
A 446-year Tradition

In 1556 Charles V abdicates and assigns the Holy Roman Empire and Austria to his brother, Ferdinand I. In 1558 Ferdinand assumes title to the Holy Roman Empire, and in that same year requested that gun makers from Holland and Belgium come to Austria to start a gun works. Two Schaschl brothers left Liege, Belgium and settled in Ferlach to start a gun factory, which was in operation until 1818. A few years later their descendants started a gun-manufacturing co-op, which is still in operation, and is owned by the fourteen master gunmakers. Over eight generations later, there are still Schaschl's who are engravers and custom gun makers in Ferlach. Some of the people work directly for an individual gun maker, while others work in the Co-op, which produces barrels and some of the other parts for the gun makers. Still others work out of their home and do engraving or other work for individual gun makers or private clients.

Around the turn of the century, there were a few Schaschlís who left Ferlach and came to the United States and operated gun making and repair businesses in the Midwest at which they were quite successful. One operated in Flint, Mich., and the other was Ferdinand Schaschl, a famous gunmaker and gunsmith in Chicago until the 1970ís. Since they have passed on, no descendants in America are carrying on the rich Ferlach tradition.

It is a three-year apprenticeship for students at the co-op school for those that wish to carry on the gun making tradition. For those who wish to become engravers, the schooling is four years. Most of the students have a father or relative who is a gun maker or engraver, and they are very proud to be able to carry on the rich tradition of their forefathers.

The size of the business of each of the master gunmakers varies greatly. Some are a father and son operation, most have around six to ten employees, with the largest having over 150 employees. Today, there are fourteen master gun makers in Ferlach, who along with their 200+ employees, produce about 500 guns a year. This is in contrast to the 16,000 military pieces produced annually in the 1750's for the government. Many of these weapons are now on display in the national armory in Graz, Austria, which has over 25,000 weapons on display along with suits of armor. The prices of a Ferlach gun start at $25,000 and go up to $500,000. Each piece of the gun is carefully and lovingly hand fit¨ted to produce a superb firearm that is often embellished with delicate engraving and inlaid with gold or silver. The average gun produced by the Ferlach gun makers cost $50,000 - $75,000 and takes six to ten months to produce. There were two very expensive guns made in Ferlach some years ago, each costing over $1,000.000.00. They would never reveal who purchased them, but after several days of persistence they advised that one went to Argentina and the other when to Iran. Seventy percent of their production now goes to Germany, which has the gun makers concerned. If the Germany economy takes a turn for the worst, what will happen to their 446 year old tradition? Only Beretta has been making guns longer than Ferlach and is still in business.

Many of their guns can be found in museums and private collections around the world, and Ferlach has an excellent museum detailing the rich history of gunmaking in their town. Royalty and presidents from many different countries are proud owners of Ferlach guns. Hunters and collectors, who desire the best, come from all over the world to the town of Ferlach to order their custom made guns. You can spend several days there and visit with each of the fourteen master gunmakers to determine who you would like to build you a drilling or vierling. They also will build you a standard bolt-action rifle or over and under or side-by-side shotgun with exactly the features you desire and any degree of engraving or inlay work. There isnít an action or feature, which they canít produce for you. Each of the master gunmakers does some things a little differently from the other and they might also offer some things, which the other gun makers do not. They tend to be a little secretive about some of their processes and methods of manufacture, even from each other. They are very proud of what they offer their clients and the tradition, which they are continuing. There is also a firm in the United States which will assist you in ordering a custom made gun without having to go to Ferlach.

This small industry brings in $8,500,000 to $10,000,000 to the town of 7,000 annually. But the hard working Buchsenmachermeister are concerned about their future. To much of their product goes to one country. Some of the owners have no sons to take over their business, and their daughters are not interested running the business. Even the employees at some of the gunmakers, who have been offered to buy the firms, are not interested in taking over the business, because they already know how much harder and longer the owners must work to keep their business profitable. Itís difficult for them to compete in a highly automated world where guns can come off an automated production line at 1/10th the cost. Others see changes in society, which will lessen the demand for their type of product. Whatever the future holds, they are determined to produce only the finest for their clients. They hope the art and tradition of fine gun making will continue for another 450 years. There have been a few German master gun-makers who have moved their operations to Ferlach because they know just by being in Ferlach, they will increase their business because of the number of people that go their to have a custom gun made.

Mountain Adventure Sports, 5045 Brennan Bend, Idaho Falls, ID 83401, 208-523-1545 is a firm in the states, which can have a custom Ferlach gun made to your specifications. The owner is a descendant of the Schaschlís who started the gun works.

If you decide to visit Ferlach to have a gun made, allow yourself a week if you havenít already picked out a gun maker. A lovely Gasthof in Ferlach with outstanding food and relaxing rooms is: Gasthof Jurkele Outschar-Ebner, Josef-Ogris-Gasse 23, A9170 Ferlach, Karten, Austria Tel 04227/3377

The following are the master gunmakers of Ferlach:

Ludwig Borovnik KG
Bahnhofstrasse 7
A9107 Ferlach, Austria
Tel (04227) 2442, 2249, Fax 4349

Fanzoj Gesellschaft m. b. H.
Griesgasse 1
A9107 Ferlach, Austria
Tel (04227) 2283, Fax 2867

Wilfried Glanzning
Werkstrasse 9
A9107 Ferlach, Austria
Tel (04227) 2639, Fax 4851

Hambrusch Jagdwaffen
Gesellschaft m. b. H.
Gartengasse 4
A9107 Ferlach, Austria
Tel (04227) 2262, Fax 4106

Karl Hauptmann
Bahnhofstrasse 5
A9107 Ferlach, Austria
Tel (04227) 2263, Fax3435

Jagdwaffen G. Juch
Inh. Mag. H. Grund
Pfarrhofgasse 2
A9107 Ferlach, Austria
Tel (04227) 2256, Fax 2256

Josef Just
Hauptplaz 18
A9107 Ferlach, Austria
Tel (04227) 2273, Fax 4284

Jakob Koschat
12 November Strasse 3
A9107 Ferlach, Austria
Tel (04227) 2390, Fax 2278

Johann Michelitsch
12 November Strasse 2
A9107 Ferlach, Austria
Tel (04227) 2391, Fax 2868

Johann Outscharís Sohn
Inh. Walter Schaschl-Outschar
Josef-Ogris-Gasse 23
A9107 Ferlach, Austria
Tel (04227) 2377, Fax 2998

Herbert Scheiring
Klagenfurter Strasse 19
A9107 Ferlach, Austria
Tel (04227) 2876, Fax 2876

Benedikt Winkler
Postgasse 1
A9107 Ferlach, Austria
Tel (04227) 2261, Fax 2969

Josef Winkler
Neubaugasse 1
A9107 Ferlach, Austria
Tel (04227) 2285

Peter Hofer Jagdwaffen
Franz-Lang-Strasse 13
A9107 Ferlach, Austria
Tel (04227) 3683, Fax 3683

Josef Schaschl *
Karawankenzeile 16
A9170 Ferlach, Austria
* Engraving, Gold and Silver inlay embellishing only

Jerry Sinkovec