Johann Fanzoj Rifles: Dangerous Hunts
The region of Ferlach in Austria is rich in iron ore, timber and water power, which was essential for the birth of metalworking, that is, organized gun production. As the military guns were the first to be massively produced, in the 16th century, the region was a breeding ground for expert gunsmiths, some of whom even relocated from what is today’s Netherlands. Over the years, the center of military industry has moved to Steyr, while the experienced gunsmiths turned to producing expensive and quality hunting weapons. They founded the gunsmiths’ guild, but also the prestigious gunsmith academy, which is today one of the most prized in the world.
In 1790, a gunsmith called Johann Fanzoj founded a workshop, which has remained the family business for generations. In the time of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, who was a passionate hunter, Johann designed the Ischler – a short, lightweight, single-shot rifle with the external striker, which he dedicated to the Emperor. Since then, the Ischler never left the Emperor’s side and his gunsmith often accompanied him during the hunts. The most powerful European ruler between the 19th and the 20th century used to hunt with a single-shot, while today there are hunters who can’t go without upgrading their autoloaders with 10-round magazines! If we don’t start praising the chivalric hunt, over the years, the big game may disappear from our hunting grounds, and we will become animal slayers, instead of true hunters and nature lovers.
Today, the mainstay of Ferlach-based “Johann Fanzoj” company are father Johann, the CEO, his daughter Daniella and his son Patrick, an engineer in charge of the manufacturing process. The business is booming and they make outstanding and expensive rifles.
The SxS double rifle
This model is designed for dangerous African hunts. Having survived all the modern designs, these heavy double rifles have been faithful companions of great hunters, explorers and adventurers since the 19th century. The discussion on which one is better for hunting dangerous game – a double or bolt-action rifle, lasts more than a century. The winner is the bolt-action, not because it delivers a quicker second shot, or because it’s more reliable, but because it is more available. As the double rifles were getting more and more expensive, the bolt-actions were gaining more and more popularity. And so, the double rifles have become a status symbol, instead of a utility weapon.
Johann Fanzoj double rifles utilize both firing mechanisms which are based on internal, hidden strikers – hammerless. The powerful African model .460 Nitro Express features the Anson-Deeley firing mechanism. Since 1875, when the British company Westley Richards produced the first hammerless SxS shotgun, this system has been the most popular. This mechanism has self-cocking hammers, which are actuated by the break-open action of the barrels. All the parts of the mechanism are housed inside the receiver, protected from the elements, but also hard to reach. The Fanzoj rifle uses a pair of expensive V leaf springs which are also difficult to manufacture. They are characterized by the lightning fast response, which combined with the short hammer travel, makes for the quickest shot possible. The Fanzoj rifle also has reliable interceptors, which prevent accidental discharge when the weapon is dropped, but also prevent unwanted discharge of both barrels at once. The receiver is forged from Beller steel, and the barrels as well – by using the expensive demi-block method. This configuration excludes the frontal mono-block – instead, the barrels are forged as a whole.
The barrels are locked into the receiver by an unusually complex and rugged mechanism, which combines several existing solutions. The first two lower Purdey locks are secured by the lower plate. Then, there is a profiled indent in the receiver, which houses the key from the middle of the barrels, which is called the “dolls head“. A lot of rifle manufacturers tend to avoid this lock, because it is unbelievably complicated and difficult to machine. The Fanzojs have made a step forward and added an additional grove on the dolls head, which is the fourth lock on this rifle. This is the reason why this double rifle can withstand all possible calibers, ranging from the tiny .22 Hornet to powerful African .600 Nitro Express. The weapon is equipped with automatic casing ejectors, as well as the outstanding trigger and hammer lock. The Anson-Deeley double rifles are known for their heavy triggers, around 3.5 daN. That isn’t the case with this rifle. The front trigger (the right barrel) engages by the force of 1.8 daN, while the back trigger is always “heavier“, and it takes 2.2 daN.
The barrels house the adjustable V-notch rear sight and the visible bead front sight. The wide range of telescopic sights may be fitted as well. Let’s just mention that these heavy rifles for hunting the big five or, more recently, the big six (the elephant, rhino, Cape buffalo, lion, leopard, and the last, but not the least, the hippo, which is the most dangerous of all) usually don’t have the scopes. These animals are huge, easy to hit, and are shot at close distance. The only thing that matters is the quickest second shot possible. This rifle has the stock crafted from the Caucasus walnut root, which has the beautiful natural grain. The receiver has the silvery finish, and is decorated with unobtrusive flowery engraving. The caliber and the safety positions are typed in gilded letters. This powerful firearm is zeroed so that both barrels hit a single spot at 75 m. The producer gives an option for customization of the caliber, barrel length, ergonomics, engraving, the stock angle, sights, etc. A truly beautiful rifle, and not only by its looks.
The Classier Twin
Similar to the African model, but way into the upper league is the Fanzoy Deer Hunter. This double rifle also has hammerless mechanism, but also the mechanism housed on the removable side plates (H&H system). The most common caliber of these beauties is .375 H&H Magnum. The engraving on this model is exquisite, made by artist Ritchi Maier. Before we start with the in-depth description of the engraving let’s mention that on this rifle’s H&H mechanism, there are no visible bolts of the firing mechanism except the main axle of the internal striker which serves as the cocking indicator. This is the final stage in the development of the H&H mechanism, so the engineers in Fanzoj company proudly state it is the Fanzoj mechanism, and not the H&H. They are by all means right! Original H&H mechanisms have visible axles of the rotating parts, and they are much easier and cheaper to produce.
The mechanism side plates were the painting canvass for Ritchi Maier. The work he has done is magnificent. The concept was to present the largest game of the northern hemisphere – the bear, the deer, and their common enemy, the wolf, which is the king of predators in those parts. So, the ”deer hunter” theme integrates the bear, the roaring red deer against the backdrop of the prowling wolf’s head. This masterpiece of art is, however, a powerful killing tool, forged out of Boller steel, with 61 cm long barrels, the reliable ejectors and safety. The standard scope is Swarovski Z6i 1-6×24, which is zeroed at 75 m, where both barrels hit the same spot. The craftsmanship and the materials are the best there are. And, let’s not mention the price.
The Timeless Mauzer 98
For the end, we have saved two bolt-action rifles. The first one is the Titanium T-1. The receiver and all essential parts are machined out of titanium alloy, which is ultra-light, anti-corrosive, unbelievably tough, but also painstakingly difficult for machining. Whoever has mastered the technology of producing connected and sliding parts out of titanium, they keep it as the biggest secret of the trade. And why would anyone make a titanium firearm? The powerful Fanzoj T-1 in 8x68S, whose muzzle is 17 mm in diameter, weighs only 3 kg. The same rifle, in the weaker .308 Win weighs only 2.5 kg. Any hunter who has ever climbed the steep slope will know the difference. The Fanzoj T-1 has the titanium receiver, bolt, the plate with the trigger guard and the safety. The safety has three positions, with all aspects of the Mauser 98 design. The scope mounts are integral part of the rifle.
Because of the lightweight material, the center of mass is moved towards the barrel, which contributes to the excellent balance and increased precision. By using the titanium alloy, the rifle is made lighter, with no need of thinning the barrel walls, which always has the negative effect on the precision. Patrick Fanzoj, the technical director, is maintaining a century old tradition that gunsmiths and avid hunters take out trophy ibex at great distances using the T-1.
The Crocodile Style
Another amazing rifle based on Mauzer 98 system is the ”crocodile rifle” in .375 H&H Magnum. If you thought the Deer Hunter is pure art, you’ve seen nothing yet. On this rifle, all available metal parts are covered with crocodile details. The bolt handle is a crocodile leg, with five rubies for claws. The front sight grows out of a crocodile in ambush, and even the scope rings are covered with crocodile skin engraving. The luxurious carrying case is made of genuine crocodile leather. This rifle is sure to be a real eye opener, even in the most elite African hunts.