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Turner Rifle attributed to Christian Zettler

Turner Rifle attributed to Christian Zettler

SKU: FA-17-0008

       This is a wonderful example of a Turner, or "Turnverein" Rifle attributed to the New York gunsmith Christian Zettler.

       The Turner movement in the United States got its start in the late 1840s after larger numbers of immigrants came to America following the series of unsuccessful revolutions across the various Germanic states in 1848; the first American Turnverein being founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in that same year. The name "Turner" is derived from the German "Turnverein" which translates to "gymnast" or "athlete". The Turner societies provided a cultural and social outlet for many new German immigrants, and by 1861 90 Turnvereins across the United States boasted some 10,000 members. The Turner societies promoted exercise, sports, and fellowship, and eventually expanded to involve women and children as well. In addition to the athletic events that the Turner's held, the organizations were also involved in recreational target shooting and military drill. Although most civilian arms of the period do not show military features such as bayonet lugs or sling swivels, the quasi-militia nature of the Turners necessitated these features, and many, if not most Turner rifles show both. Although the Turner Societies provided an ethnic and cultural club, their members were generally fiercely patriotic and loyal to their adoptive homeland. After the call to arms in 1861 thousands of German Turners would flock to enlist. Turner Societies formed the majority of various Federal regiments including the 9th Ohio Infantry, 17th Missouri Infantry, and 20th New York Infantry.

       The rifle offered here is nearly identical to a rifle shown on page 84 of "Rifles and Blades of the German-American Militia in the Civil War". That particular rifle is marked Zettler atop the breech, and is a .44 caliber half stock back action rifle with brass furniture. Our rifle is completely unmarked, save for a L4 engraved on the top side of the bayonet lug.

       The Zettler attribution, should it be correct for this rifle, refers to Christian Zettler of New York. Zettler operated a gun shop at 62 Essex Street in Manhattan from at least 1853. In 1862 he enlisted in the 11th New York State Militia (3 months), at the conclusion of his service in September of 1862 he returned home to New York. He would die of consumption on August 5, 1865 at the age of 32.


       In any event, the rifle offered here is a very fine example of a Turner Society target/militia rifle. It features a barrel length of 32 7/8 inches, and a .578 caliber bore, which has been worn nearly smooth. An obstruction is located about half way down the barrel, which has proved impossible to remove. The rifle is more decorative than many other Turner rifles, and is equipped with a large pierced brass patchbox, brass trigger guard, ramrod pipes, and forearm piece. There are several German silver inlays on the rifle, including a blank name plate on the left side of the wrist, and two large eagle inlays on the left side of the butt. The butt also features and raised slanted cheek rest. The rifle is equipped with a single set trigger.

       This rifle has been the subject of a very attractive and historically accurate restoration by Mr. Steve Krolick of Novelty Ordnance. When I first acquired this rifle is was in dire need of repairs and was missing several components. The repairs Mr. Krolick performed include: manufacturing and installing a new German silver nose cap, fabricating a new rear sight, restoration of the sliver blade front sight, fabrictaing a new ramrod complete with turned German silver fittings on eithe rend, extracting and replacing the broken percussion cone, replacement of the forward sling swivel, restoration of wood loss on either side of the barrel channels, straitening the hammer, resetting several of the stock inlays, and manufacture of a replacement middle ramrod pipe. A complete detailing of the restoration work will accompany this rifle.


       Overall, this is very nice and affordable example of great German-American target/militia rifle. As noted, this example is much more decorative than most, and will display wonderfully despite the restoration work. If ever you wanted a nice Turner rifle on a budget, this is the gun for you.

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