We interviewed Daniela Fanzoj- Vice-President at Johann Fanzoj fine gun and rifles firm in Austria.
1. Can you describe the process you take to craft an exclusive piece for a customer?
Johann Fanzoj is a Manufacturer. This means that we have the machinery and technical skills for making all the components in house. Each and every product is designed and built within our workshop by a team of highly skilled and enthusiastic craftsmen, who combine centuries-old knowledge of traditional techniques with state-of-the-art manufacturing technology. Our in-house production allows complete control over every step of the Gun making process, which guarantees our clients the highest quality, innovative power and discreteness in the elaboration of their special wishes.
The attitude towards precision is a state of mind. At Fanzoj it is a lifestyle. Precision starts in the planning process where state-of-the-art technology is used to generate accurate 3D modeling design drafts. This creates the framework for the material preparation and processing, which then seamlessly blends into the manual skills of centuries old craftsmanship executed on the highest level. A Fanzoj gun or rifle is planned and built one at the time – we are not a volume producer. Skilled manual craftsmanship makes up 80-percent of the total work involved, with hundreds, and sometimes thousands of hours involved in a single project. With so much room for individualization, the Fanzoj workshop plans each item individually – at times even from scratch so that the final product is completely unique.
Metalwork – a complex universe of experiences, governed by manual skills where certain steps can not be rushed and everything is done as well instead of as fast as possible. On one side, the barrels. On the other side, the actions. In the middle: hundreds of years of knowledge and skills from master gunmakers. Barrel making, jointing, crafting locks, trigger mechanisms, safeties. A series of key technical processes – unique to each weapon – lead to the assembly of the gun, and eventually the shaping of the profile of the action, where steel is sculpted artfully with fine chisels into sharp lines and graceful arcs that lend individual character to each single piece. Being a gunmaker, consequently, is more vocation than only profession today. The ultra-customization and diversity of our product range require a highly qualified team with broad skills and long year training in the traditional gunmaking techniques – “old knowledge” – that we carefully preserve and foster within our company.
There is an unmistakable smell, a warmth, and a quality to walnut wood, displayed in seemingly infinite variations of color, contrast and pattern. People are fascinated when they enter the “Treasure Chamber” – our wood room – to choose their personal stock blank together with the gunmaker. We craft our gun stocks from first-class Circassian walnut burl, the strongest and most beautiful wood in the world, stored for decades to bring the natural humidity down to below 10-percent. Each stock is carved by hand and custom-fitted to the client’s personal measurements, to produce a perfectly balanced hunting firearm that responds naturally and fluidly to the shooter’s eyes and hands. Time consuming filing and sanding techniques are combined with a secret recipe of traditional oils laboriously applied over many months, to bring life to the wood’s complex color and grain, producing an extraordinary mirror-like finish, which is not only beautiful but simultaneously protects the wood even from rugged use.
The engraving – an ancient and exquisite art, highlight of aesthetic perception and class. We master the full range of techniques and styles, from classy, understated scroll ornament to magnificent relief engravings, to the finest Boulino (burin), that give each hunting weapon its unmistakable uniqueness. We always encourage our clients to join in the process with their personal ideas, to become a protagonist in the process of building their personal fine guns. Some of our projects take years to execute, beginning with extensive research about a particular idea on to countless sketches and brainstorming sessions. A step-by-step process of total creativity, down to the final result: a one of a kind, one piece only gun or rifle for the most discerning customer. All our engravings are executed by hand, without exceptions, by top-of-the-line master engravers. The human element inherent in a hand-cut is as unique a feature as the distinctive lines left from the bristles of Michelangelo’s brush. We are privileged to work with and commission some of the finest Master engravers in the world, some of them exclusively.
Johann Fanzoj rifles are technical masterpieces, as complex as a mechanical Swiss watch, but also required to withstand highest gas pressures of thousands of joules. They must, at the same time, work smoothly and reliably under varying and sometimes adverse environmental conditions. The “regulating” of a completed rifle is crucial. The mechanical functions of all internal parts are carefully inspected – trigger pulls, striking, opening, ejecting, and closing, with the goal of making an utterly safe gun whose components work in harmony with one another. It takes an experienced gunsmith to achieve the elegant sounds that a finely regulated mechanical object makes when it is operated – the perfect crisp trigger pull, for example, or the soft click of a safety as it is pushed. This is what brings satisfaction to the maker and to the customer alike.
Fanzoj products are known for their mechanical quality, safety and for their durability. Because a Fanzoj rifle or shotgun must not just be beautiful: it must be perfect, in all respects. Every Fanzoj creation results from a structured quality-controlled process, and before leaving our premises, it undergoes a thorough testing procedure during which the hunting suitability – its “fitness” – is checked until all criteria are met. The greatest reward for us is in the joy and recognition of the client, in him or her understanding what has been attempted in our work.
2.What is the difference between good and great hunting weapon?
Both, obviously, should perform well in the field. The difference is in the philosophy, style, taste, certainly financial means and which emphasis people appoint to the appearance of their material environment. Our items reflect technical sophistication, strive for perfection, creativity and high sense of aesthetics. We prefer to see a Fanzoj gun-beyond its actual field use. an object of cultural value, An original, a collectible. A demonstration of craftsmanship skills and artistic talent. A statement also of our company’s dedication and passion for the craft.So making a great hunting weapon means continuing at the point where everybody else stops.“Striving for perfection” in one’s field is a state of mind, a lifestyle, which like a circle, has no beginning and no end. In gun making it starts in the planning process, the wish to go beyond the already existing, explore further, understand-on the way towards execution high-quality materials are sourced and processed into perfect fits. Finally, in the “regulating” process, the satisfying “the sucking and clicking sounds” of a nicely regulated mechanical object, the perfect dry, crisp trigger pull, the flawless smooth stock surface, the natural balance when the gun is flung to the shoulder…. is what brings satisfaction to the maker, and the customer alike.
3.What are the benefits of maintaining a family business?
Obviously this is not something you choose yourself (smile). In our particular case the craft was passed on for eight generations. I am managing the firm with my sister, and our father is still of great help. We are the first generation, actually, who consciously decided to follow the tradition, and in fact understand ourselves as “bridge builders” between tradition and modern times. A challenge. As a major benefit, furthermore, I would name the long term thinking and planning, the continuity, literally, that forms the basis for any decision. This builds trust to the outside world. Our company exists already 220 years. Very important also is the spirit of absolute trust and a great mutual vision, that goes beyond differences between.
4.Where do you source the materials to craft these guns?
Apart from the traditional high quality materials that go into our guns, such as Circasion walnut wood from the roots, best quality steels for barrel, action, and inside parts We are quite open-minded towards new material technology. I myself, being the technician and driving innovation force in our company am going ways to search and explore and compare our requirements with that in other industries. We cultivate an active exchange with institutes, university and the world renowned Higher Technical school of Weapon Engineering in our home town Ferlach. We have found inspiration also in other fields as in Formula One when searching the optimum durable surface treatment and friction in our world wide unique Titanium carbine rifles. Most of the technical solutions and mechanisms in classic hunting gun making were invented in the 19th century, and we are still today drawing from the innovative spirits of this industrialization period. The challenge and the opportunity today lies in the combination: remember our roots, know the tradition–and combine it with the opportunities of modern highly exact technical engineering! In fact, where I personally see a large playground to improve and explore, is new material technology and surface treatments–and combine it with traditional gun making techniques. For instance, we have started to work with Carbon fiber recently which we combine with crocodile leather–an incredibly unexpected luxury experience. Always keeping the explicit goal in mind to build safe, high-quality, durable weapons that satisfy clients high sense of aesthetics and wish for individual expression.
5.How do you maintain the balance between tradition and innovation?
As many examples in the gun world have shown, it is tempting to introduce machinery and start thinking in terms of “quantity”. Which is inapplicable to our vision and philosophy. We have consciously chosen to NOT grow in quantity, but in quality, and remain dedicated to further building only a limited number of guns & rifles per year,supported by best modern technology to being able to adequately prepare the raw material, but with emphasis on handwork, as the work process evolves. In fact, while the whole world is “outsourcing”, we have succeeded in the past years to unite all work steps INSIDE the company, and can proudly call ourselves a“manufacture”. We plan, design and build every single part in-house. We train our young people carefully in the philosophy of classic gunmaking. We emphasize on a very broad understanding and skills–and only then have them specialize in a particular task. Otherwise you loose the old skills. This is what has widely happened and in fact, this is one of the major challenges our branch is facing worldwide today. Training people is very time-intense!
6. How much time and work goes into creating a single gun?
Many, many hours of manual skilled labor Since we are talking about“handwork” it is impossible even to calculate or anticipate exactly how much time a single gun will take to finish. We have been following two directions in fact: Our company is known for building sophisticated, high-class weapons with high aesthetics, highly functional–with a certain technical edge. A unique positioning within our branch of “classic gunmaking”. The artistic direction. We represent nowadays the EXTREME in our field when it comes to the creation of one-of-a-kind items, well-thought-of rifle theme concepts,that tell a story and fascinate worldwide.
7. Who have been some of your most illustrious customers?
It is in the nature of things that we are privileged to meet very interesting, high profile people worldwide. Beautifully enriching encounters sometimes. Interestingly, there our customers seem to be somehow united by a mutual spirit, passionflower hunting and the outdoors. A very well known name in our history was certainly Kaiser Franz Joseph I, the last emperor of Austria.
8. How much time and work goes into creating a single gun?
Many, many hours of manual skilled labor Since we are talking about “handwork” it is impossible even to calculate or anticipate exactly how much time a single gun will take to finish. We have been following two directions in fact: Our company is known for building sophisticated, high-class weapons with high aesthetics, highly functional–with a certain technical edge. A unique positioning within our branch of “classic gunmaking” The artistic direction. We represent nowadays the EXTREME in our field when it comes to the creation of one-of-a-kind items, well-thought-of rifle theme concepts, that tell a story and fascinate worldwide.
9. Who have been some of your most illustrious customers?
It is in the nature of things that we are privileged to meet very interesting, high profile people worldwide. Beautifully enriching encounters sometimes. Interestingly, there our customers seem to be some how united by a mutual spirit, a passion for hunting and the outdoors. A very well known name in our history was certainly Kaiser Franz Joseph I, the last emperor of Austria.
10. What is your customer base in the GCC countries like?
A very interesting, high-profile clientele. Discretion is an important part of our worldwide reputation.
11. What is the best way to learn about hunting weaponry?
Literature and Meet people who own our rifles. Please be welcome to come visit our company and tell others what you saw. Live, hunt and enjoy!
The LIONFIRE, A Fanzoj double rifle, cal. .470NE
LIONFIRE is a unique–a true original Its creation is the result of dedicated teamwork between world best artisans–Fanzojs gunsmiths, stock maker, saddler, tool and case maker-and the creative crew. Collectors’ items of such quality take an incredibly long time to complete and require great personal commitment on the part of the firm. This is why they are rare, sought after and have and always will endure as desirable objects of lasting value.
The World of the Bespoke
Artistically decorated weapons as an expression of people’s material and spiritual lives have been in existence for many centuries. They have a highly symbolic meaning and served not only as everyday objects, but also as diplomatic gifts or even a demonstration of local craftsmen’s skills. Fanzoj is one of the few gunmaking firms worldwide still capable of designing and building such collectors’ items–amazing works of technical engineering, objects of beauty and cultural value–that have propelled the firm into the worldwide elite of specialty and boutique firms. Representing tradition at its most dynamic, company Fanzoj fascinates with ultimate artisan, specialty and bespoke objects, and pushes the boundaries of gunmaking a step further back with each extraordinary project.