― 450 years of Gunmaking in Ferlach ―

Ferlach – small town in the south of Austria, embedded in the “valley of roses”, at the foot of the steeply rising Karawanken mountain massif, in the Triangle between Austria, Italy and Slovenia.

The art of gunmaking in Ferlach dates back to the early 16th century.

Thanks to the nearby natural resources of iron and timber, water from rivers cascading down the mountains and an already well-established workforce of skilled iron- and metalworkers, a weapon industry evolved that would soon become world famous.

For more than nine generations the Fanzoj family has played a significant role in shaping this proud tradition.

1558

Emperor Ferdinand assigns 100 gunsmiths from the Habsburg Netherlands to Ferlach for the purpose of producing arms, Fanzoj’s ancestors are among the first to come.

During the 30-Year-War (1618 – 1648) arms production in Ferlach goes through its first boom and capacity is expanded. Weapons from Ferlach are already renowned throughout Europe.

1628

Archduke Leopold V commissions his famous parade rifle in Ferlach. It is considered the most important document of Austrian gun craft.

Weapon production was organized as an “house industry”. The manufacturing process was divided strictly into several different tasks. Every master gunsmith had a specialized skill and a weapon went through many a master gunsmith’s hands before it was offered for sale. Master gunsmiths learned the trade from their fathers, and passed the knowledge on to their own sons.

1740-80

During the reign of Empress Maria-Theresia, Ferlach becomes the center of the arms industry of the Habsburg Empire. A time of economic prosperity for Ferlach.

1750

Empress Maria Theresia creates the first set of guild rules for the gunsmiths of Ferlach.

The name “Fanzoj” appears in the chronicles for the first time as a local gunsmith.

1793

An exclusive trade mark is granted to the Guild of Ferlach Gunsmiths to protect the “authenticity and quality of the arms from Ferlach”

1876

The “Association of Master Gunsmiths” is founded. Representatives are elected, their duties include procurement of parts and distribution of profits. In 1781 a census counts 203 master gunsmiths. By 1845, the number had grown to 308, but in 1934 only 80 master gunsmiths remained.

1878

The “Imperial Professional School for the Arms Industry” is founded. Today it is still regarded as one of the world’s premier schools for gunsmiths and weapon experts.

With the patent on the “Wendl lock” in 1880, the Austrian arms industry is transferred to Steyr, bringing on the decline of the Ferlach gun industry. Ferlach soon shifts its focus and specializes in hunting rifles.

1906

The firm Fanzoj steps out of the anonymity of history and is established as purveyor to the Imperial court of Franz Joseph I for their famous “Ischler Stutzen”, a hammer take–down rifle with full stock.

Fanzoj exports their weapons throughout the Habsburg Empire to Bohemia, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Italy.

Another interesting chapter to the company’s history unfolds at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century in Carlsbad (Bohemia), magnificent Nobelkurort of the Imperial Austria-Hungaria.

Albert Fanzoj establishes himself as a purveyor of artistically decorated sports weapons to the Carlsbad Shooter´s Corps. The name Fanzoj is mentioned in the chronicle of the “Imperial and Royal privileged Shooter´s Corps of Carlsbad” – the Emperor´s private protective guard – as main purveyor of artfully crafted sports weapons, so-called Scheibenstutzen, that were enjoyed by an illustrious audience at magnificent state banquets and festivities to aim at artistically painted wooden targets.

World War I and II hit the Fanzoj family hard economically, some family members even emigrated to the United States of America during the Depression Era between the Wars. But the Fanzojs hold onto their roots and tradition of handcrafting of weapons and are able to pull through the hard times.

After a short period of stagnation in 1945, demand for hunting weapons set in again. In the peak years from 1965 to 1980, Fanzoj produces up to 200 weapons per year. The crisis of the U.S. dollar in the 1980’s, as well as the growing international competition who increasingly move into serial mass production of their weapons, push Ferlach into a slump.

In 1946 there are still 56 gunsmith companies in Ferlach, but the numbers drop continuously. Today, only a handful of highly specialized family-firms continue to build hand-crafted hunting weapons in Ferlach.

During those difficult times Johann Fanzoj, Senior Manager, succeeds in expanding the company to world-wide recognition and opens new areas of business and trade. An avid hunter and world traveller himself, Johann Fanzoj sen. is the first Ferlach gunsmith to go on a safari to Africa in 1969 – and initiates the era of large caliber double rifles in Ferlach; highly esteemed working tools among professional hunters in Africa.
His good relations to high-profile personalities such as Marshall Tito (the legendary post-War leader of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) leads to Fanzoj hunting weapons becoming treasured gifts presented by and to heads of state.

Johann Fanzoj is a highly-regarded member of international hunting associations and ethical commissions, and served many years as the Prior of Carinthia for the International Order of St. Hubertus.

Due to his untiring dedication and commercial talents the company is expanding worldwide and can invest in the production as a result. Under the management of daughter Daniela Fanzoj, who´s been heading the company since 1998, joined by her younger brother Patrick Fanzoj who takes over the technical management in 2005, and then in 2016 becomes general director, this enthusiasm for a unique craft lives on. Together they form a dedicated team and follow a consistent niche policy with a commitment to top-notch craftsmanship and design excellence.

― Fanzoj becomes a Manufaktur ―

In 2008 the family council makes a far-reaching decision and decides to invest in a new production facility with state-of-the-art manufactoring technology to integrate all work steps from planning to production in-house. A commitment to quality, innovative power and a strong signal to the increasingly demanding and high-profile clientele.

This decision proves to be right, and the firm succeeds, with high awareness and respect of its own roots, in building the bridge into modernity. The Fanzoj firm has received numerous acknowledgements for quality, creativity and innovative power, in addition to registering several technical patents.

Today, the name Fanzoj stands for one of the world´s premier gunmakers. Johann Fanzoj’s firearms are mechanical masterpieces as well as ‘objects of eternity´ – a perfect blend of cutting-edge technology with centuries-old craftsmanship.