schuetzen rifles

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An Old Time Traditon- Schuetzen Rifles and Schuetzenfest

Schuetzen rifles were highly customized and ornate rifles created for one purpose—Schuetzenfest (shooting festival). Schuetzenfest is a centuries old German tradition in which marksmen and spectators would gather for a friendly competition of skill and marksmenship. Traditionally the competitors would have to fire 100 shots at 200 yards, off hand with a heavy rifle and no breaks in between shots. Schuetzen rifles can be of any make and model, and throughout history they evolved from blackpowder muzzleloaders to single shot breachloading rifles. Schuetzen rifles could be hand made from scratch by a local master gunsmith or could be a highly customized production rifles, of which Steven’s and Matini's were very popular. Most of these rifles were highly ornate, engraved, and decorated with German folk art. Some of the most spectacular versions can bring anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000  today depending on make and craftsmenship.

By far the largest Schuetzenfest occured in Hanover and featured 5,000 marksmen, 250 hotels and inns, 5 beer tents, and a parade with 10,000 participants. As German immigrants moved to the United States they brought their traditions with them, and Schuetzenfest could be found all over America, especially in the Cleveland area.

Unfortunatly the Schuetzenfest lost popularity in both America and Germany. In American Germanophobia during World War I often saw hostility and even outright bans of Schuetzenfest activities. In Germany Schuetzenfest lost popularity due to an end to civilian rifle production in order to bolster military arms production during World War I and World War II.

Today Schuetzenfest is making a comeback on in both Germany and the United States. Re-enactors and target shooters are banding together to bring back this historic festival. If you find a Schuetzenfest near you please attend, sit back, enjoy a lager, and help bring back this centuries old tradition.