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Story of the Schuetzen rifle

At times my local Cabela’s is truly an Arms Bazaar.

This store is located outside of Reno, Nevada, less than 10 miles from the California border. When Californians need to sell their firearms, they often find Cabela’s may be the only store that will buy them.

California’s confusing gun laws and firearm sales practices seem to make it difficult for most people to sell their old firearms in that state at times. They may be illegal to transfer to another resident in the case of so-called assault weapons. Older handguns are not listed on the approved list of transferable handguns and as most shops only take pre-owned firearms on consignment, if a certain handgun sits in inventory too long, the owner may often be unable to take possession of the firearm should they wish to reclaim it.

As a result, this particular Cabela’s buys more used firearms than every other Cabela’s location combined.

I try to stop in once a week to see what new gems they have acquired and on a recent trip, I saw an old Schuetzen rifle.

schutzen1

A Schuetzen is a type of rifle used in European long-range competition. Its German root is from the word Schütze which can be translated as “shooter.” The earliest usage was to denote units of marksmen or sharpshooters back in the days of muzzleloading firearms. Some sources claim that it was once used to describe archers or more specifically crossbowmen.

These rifles are typically heavy and can weigh upwards of 15 pounds. All shooting with these rifles is done standing using a palm rest and butt stock prongs to help the shooter balance the rifle so the weight aids in stability.

schutzen-stock

The butt stock is so customized that the shooter for whom it was built is likely the only one who can fire the rifle accurately.

When Schuetzen became a competitive sport in Germany, many gun makers built these rifles to specifically fit an individual shooter. This means if you come across one in the wild, there is a good chance that it will not fit you with regard to grip, length of pull, cheek rest configuration or even how the butt plate fits your shoulder.

Front sights are typically hooded, and a large rear diopter sight is used to act as a sunshade, blinder and to aid in precision shooting. Unfortunately, this rifle lacked the rear sight.

Schuetzen Matches are shot at 200 yards with a specialized target. In some cases, the competitors go to great lengths in their quest for accuracy, such as pushing the lead bullet into the lands and grooves, for precise engagement. Then the case filled with powder and topped with a wad is loaded into the chamber behind it. Sometimes the case is primed and charged with either loose powder or premeasured paper packets that are dropped in the case mouth. The bullet is then simply inserted inside the mouth of the case prior to chambering.

Fixed ammunition can be used, but the prior methods are believed to offer greater accuracy.

Amazing engraving!

Amazing engraving!

Reloading the same case is usually performed on the bench, although many modern practitioners seem to use lots of their hand loaded ammunition these days.

This particular Schuetzen was made by Haenel Original Aydt  and is chambered in 8.15 X 46R. This rimmed oddball caliber proved popular as it was strictly a sporting round and allowed the Germans to produce these rifles, ammunition and components when they were sanctioned against producing military arms after World War I.

Like many Schuetzen rifles of the period, it sports a set of double set triggers. In this case, the rear trigger must be set to allow the front trigger to fire. Weight is best measured in ounces. I honestly believe if one were to breathe to heavy on this trigger that it would fall.

Amazing engraving!

Amazing engraving!

The engraving and metalwork on this piece is exquisite and that may be the only justification for someone to buy this rifle. The stock was custom configured for someone in the 1920s or 1930s, the rear sight is missing and there are a few chunks of wood missing from the stock.

It might look nice in one of my safes, but I try to only buy firearms that I can actually take out and shoot. The $1300 price tag is a bit much for what would end up as a “wallhanger” for me.

Still, for a student of firearms history, this represents an era that is a bit forgotten by most, yet important with regard to the development of modern marksmanship in a number of ways.

schutzen


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