column By: Ernie Foster | November, 17
You do not run into many Ludwig Borovnik firearms, but when you do, the craftsmanship is striking, and it’s clear that the family-made, handcrafted firearms are of exceptional quality.
Ludwig Borovnik I started his gunmaking business in 1848 in Ferlach, Austria, where he built high-quality rifles and shotguns. He passed his business on to his son Ludwig II in the late 1800s. In the 1930s, the business was passed on to Ludwig III. The three generations of Ludwigs made single-shot, double barrel, three-barrel, over-under rifles, drillings, combination guns and shotguns. In 1942, the family business collapsed when all members of the family were deported to Germany by German authorities.
Ludwig II died soon after the end of World War II when the family returned to Carinthia to find it in ruins. Ludwig III assumed the role of head of the family and rebuilt the business. Ludwig III also became involved in the import and sale of timber from Yugoslavia and rose to become one of Europe’s largest walnut wood traders.
Ludwig IV assumed leadership of the business in 1986. The quality of Borovnik firearms caused the King of Spain, Juan Carlos de Borbón, to visit the gun shop in Ferlach, Austria, and inspect guns that had been ordered for him. He was very pleased with the exceptional detail and precise workmanship of his personal weapons. It is also worth mentioning U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush commissioned the Ludwig Borovnik firm to make him a handcrafted rifle. Ludwig Borovnik V took over company responsibilities in 2004.
This beautiful, handcrafted, Austrian side-by-side scalloped boxlock – with 26-inch nitro-proofed ejector chopper lump barrels, chambered for 2 ¾-inch shells – is a great example of a gunmaker’s ability to achieve proper scale and proportion when crafting a perfectly balanced 5-pound, 6-ounce 20-bore for the eventual owner, be it a small man, woman or child.
The flat-sided top rib extension of the concave game rib that fits into a machined slot in the standing breech has a hole to accept a round-tapered rod hidden in the frame that, when activated by the top lever, engages the rib extension to form the third bite or lock. The left side face of the frame shows two delicately detailed engraved European hares with exceptional definition placed in a deep, chiseled woodland setting of trees and ground cover. The right side face of the frame shows a flushing pheasant and a second making ready to flush, again with very fine definition placed in a deep, chiseled upland setting of shrubs and ground cover. The underside of the frame has a finely engraved duck lifting off the water in a marsh setting placed within a vignette surrounded by a scroll of vines. The fences are deeply engraved with floral leaves that extend to the standing breech. All engraved surfaces are exceptional works of art on steel. The frame overall finish is a soft gray patina that embraces old-school artisan craftsmanship.
The blackened trigger guard is engraved with a European-style hunting estate with the name Flaig’s across the roofline. Flaig’s is also engraved on the top rib of the barrels. This shotgun was made in Ferlach, Austria, and Flaig was the importer working out of Millvale, Pennsylvania. Flaig was also a German gunsmith who made high-quality rifles in his Pennsylvania shop.
The master Borovnik stock maker has crafted an extra fancy pistol grip walnut stock, proud to the frame, with extra-fine sharp-point checkering, check piece and a length of pull of 13 7⁄8 inches to a fine contoured checkered butt plate.
The Deeley and Edge forend release and forend steel are 100 percent engraved with scroll, and the forend also has extra-fine checkering.
If purchased new, this beautiful Austrian 20-bore side-by-side that was handcrafted by one of the top European long gunmakers would cost in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, maybe more, if we knew the providence of the original owner, engraver and stock maker. Sad to say, in the used American gun market, its value is only in the $3,500 to $5,000 price range.