Last week we had a Steyr rifle. This week we’ve got something much less common: a Steyr shotgun. Sited near the Erzberg mine in what is now the state of Upper Austria, Steyr has been an important ironworking center since the 11th century. Steyr Arms got its start in 1821, when a blacksmith named Leopold Werndl began making gun parts. His son Josef took over the business, which grew to the Österreichische Waffenfabriksgesellschaft (translation: Austrian Arms-Manufacturing Company—but it looks so much better in German) that comprised several companies, among them Steyr-Mannlicher. Much better known for its rifles, such as last week’s gun and, on the military side, the AUG bullpup rifle, Steyr has made a few shotguns during its long history as well.
From all accounts I can find, this fine quality Austrian Steyr was produced in 1903. This 16 gauge sports 28.5-inch “special luftstahl” (fluid-steel) barrels choked Full and Full and has 2 9/16-inch chambers. The semi-pistol grip stock has a horn grip cap that matches the horn buttplate. The wood appears to be French walnut, and like many continental guns, this one has sling swivels and a cheekpiece. The petite round body action with back action locks and top lever is tastefully engraved with scroll. It has a double underbite with a hidden third fastener. A Deely rotating latch secures the forend. From my best guess this gun was built/ordered to be light as possible. The barrels are struck as thin as you’ll ever see on an east European gun and it lacks a bottom rib. Wood has been hollowed from the stock to save more weight. This little guy really breaks the mold when compared to other guns of the period from this region. It is very trim, light, and lively—and it only weighs 6 pounds.
The gun came to me very recently via a local gun show. It’s not in perfect condition by any stretch, but it’s very good by antique standards. I have attempted several rounds of skeet with it and plan to use it for wild roosters this fall. It truly is a joy in the hand. They were made to shoot, after all, and it’s nice to think that at 115 years old, this gun will get out into the field this fall.