Krieghoff’s Gun of the Year series—a tradition launched in the late 1990s—has produced a diverse and unique set of one-of-a kind, theme-based guns. Such historically significant subjects as Abraham Lincoln, Buffalo Bill Cody, Leonardo da Vinci, the Galapagos Islands and the Spartan warrior have artfully graced the metal surfaces of these guns in years past. The list goes deeper, including the Australia gun, the Alamo Gun and a favorite, the Freedom Gun, which depicted the signing of the Declaration of Independence and other American imagery. Once a theme is chosen, the exact identity of each year’s gun is kept under wraps until the finished gun’s public unveiling at the annual IWA (Internationale Waffen Ausstellung) trade fair each spring in Nuremberg, Germany.
Many hundreds of hours of intricately carved engraving graces each gun, with receivers fully covered with beautifully chiseled artwork, along with complementary inlays. Trigger guards, top latch and tang areas are all blank canvases on which the master engraver places his or her intricately placed artistry. Past Krieghoff Guns of the Year have been engraved by such experts as German master Hendrik Frühauf, and the Italian engraving house, Creative Arts, of Gardone Val Trompia. Not surprisingly, the guns command six-figure price tags and due to their value, the end buyers’ identities are generally not made public.
Krieghoff’s flagship 12-gauge model, the K-80, is often the platform from which these masterpieces are crafted. Oftentimes, the guns are already spoken for before reaching the general public. End buyers have the option of barrel length, rib height, stock dimensions and other wood personalization. If you can afford one of these unique guns, then you get to choose the final configuration. It’s no wonder that these exclusive pieces rarely actually hit the public marketplace. Let’s take a look at some memorable Krieghoff Gun of the Year shotguns from years past.
A FEW HIGHLIGHTS OF YEARS PAST
William “Buffalo Bill” Cody was the subject of the 2017 Gun of the Year, a K-80 engraved by German master Hendrik Frühauf. One side of the receiver features a horseback Cody doffing his hat from a scene depicting Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with an American flag waving in the wind. The scene on the other side is from his days spent as meat hunter for the Kansas Pacific Railroad, showing Cody giving chase to a herd of buffalo with a steam train, its smokestack billowing in the background. On the top latch is a striking likeness of the Medal of Honor awarded to Cody for his work as a civilian scout during the Civil War. Indian head buffalo nickels are engraved on the hinge pins, representing the Native Americans who worked in Cody’s Wild West Show. The dates “1846-1917” are etched on the trigger guard depicting Cody’s 71-year lifespan.
The artistic genius Leonardo da Vinci was celebrated on the 2018 Krieghoff Gun of the Year. Engraved by the Italian engraving studio Creative Art, this K-80 Parcour model is a stunning, one-of-a-kind tribute to the Italian polymath whose life spanned parts of the 15th and 16th centuries. Of the High Renaissance era, DaVinci’s lifework included that of a painter, architect, sculptor, engineer, inventor and scientist. Highlighted with gold inlays, the surfaces are adorned with a montage of iconic da Vinci images, including the Mona Lisa, Study of Horses, Lady with an Ermine, the quintessential image associated with his study of human anatomy called the Vitruvian Man, along with a likeness of a bearded da Vinci himself. Leonardo da Vinci’s timeless images will forever be etched in the annals of history, and the da Vinci gun is a fitting tribute to this great Italian master.
Guns of the Year have taken on seminal American-themed subjects, such as the Abraham Lincoln gun in the year 2019. Born of the inspiration of Barry Rich and Terry Hetrick of Double Guns of Nashville, Tenn., they refined the final concept with Krieghoff International President and Chief Executive Officer, Alex Diehl, before presenting the idea to the Krieghoff factory in Germany. After approval, master engraver Hendrik Frühauf was again called upon to perform the engraving—a monumental task that included over 350 hours of bench time. The result was a marvelously executed piece of gunmaking artistry, illustrating various significant episodes in the Abraham Lincoln story.
On the left side of the Lincoln gun’s K-80’s receiver is a deep relief scene of the president delivering his eloquent November 19, 1863, Gettysburg Address while dedicating the Soldier’s National Cemetery, at Gettysburg, Pa. The American populace was still reeling from the barbarity of the Civil War. A scant four-and-a-half months earlier, roughly 50,000 Americans were killed during the three-day battle of Gettysburg—the bloodiest battle in American history. Lincoln’s words that day provided solace and hope for a nation scarred by the violence of a nation divided: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal … .” The charismatic leader’s words will forever be remembered as an emotional and heartfelt proclamation, buoying the hearts of the weary men and women of our great nation who had recently lived through the unimaginable horrors of the Civil War.
The right side, based on the famous painting, depicts the fatal shooting of the president by John Wilkes Booth inside Lincoln’s private box at Ford’s Theatre, in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865. The Lincoln Memorial is captured on the receiver bottom, and the inscription “A. Lincoln 1809-1865” is inlayed in gold on the trigger guard. Other areas are tastefully filled out with engraved oak leaves, scrollwork and gold inlays.
The Galapagos Islands was the theme of the 2020 Krieghoff Gun of the Year. Engraved by Austrian Chantal Schaschl on a K-80/S (side-plated model), the Galapagos Gun is a celebration of the natural wonders found on this group of islands off the Ecuadorian Pacific coast, showing the unique marine life, birds, reptiles, plants and mammals of this historically and ecologically significant archipelago. The additional area of the side-plated model allows ample space for an interwoven, deep relief mosaic of the natural wonders found there, chronicled by the 19th century British naturalist Charles Darwin in his 1859 book and seminal tome On the Origin of Species. Gold inlays accent many of the flowers and reptiles, giving the scenes a realistic and three-dimensional quality.
The Krieghoff 2021 Gun of the Year was aptly named the Spartan Gun. This K-80 Parcour model is deep relief engraved by Creative Art, with scenes depicting helmeted Spartan warriors bearing shields, swords and spears, engaging in heated hand-to-hand combat. In the words of Krieghoff, the Spartan Gun “immortalizes the Spartans’ sacrifice for the freedom and the future of Europe.” The phrase, MOΛΩN ΛABE, an ancient proclamation of defiance that translates to “Come and take them,” is on the top latch, along with a background of spears and shields. The top lever is shaped in the likeness of a Spartan helmet and the trigger guard bears a Spartan warrior in battle regalia with “2500 Years” beneath. With its battle scenes depicted against a darkened background, this is a strikingly masculine melding of artwork and gunmaking.
2022 KRIEGHOFF GUN OF THE YEAR
This brings us to the 2022 Krieghoff Gun of the Year. The gun, titled Naresuan the Great, was described by Phil Krieghoff as an engraving “honoring one of the most revered rulers in Thai history.” The 2022 Gun of the Year takes the observer into the rich history of Thailand (formerly the Kingdom of Ayutthaya). “Creative Art’s engravers meticulously capture notable events during the reign of 16th-century King Naresuan, nicknamed ‘The Great’ for his success and popularity,” Krieghoff said.
On the left side, a gold highlighted scene depicting Naresuan’s famous duel with the Burmese crown prince Mingyi Swa is depicted in deep relief. The two rulers are facing off with spears, atop long-tusked elephants while their battle-ready armies standby. The Battle of the Satong River is engraved on the opposite side of the receiver, showing King Naresuan making his legendary rifle shot that allowed his army to rout enemy troops, thus gaining independence of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. The bottom shows Naresuan in ceremonial finery pouring holy water, symbolically declaring the independence of Ayutthaya from Burma. Additional Thai-styled ornamentation against a darkened background bonds the various scenes together into a cohesive display of historically themed artwork that must be seen to be fully appreciated.
Thus concludes our brief recap of recent Krieghoff Guns of the Year. As for the subject of the 2023 gun, only those within the closest of the Krieghoff circle know for sure, and they’re not talking. What is for certain, is that whatever the subject matter, it is sure to be another masterful blending of imagination, art and gunmaking excellence befitting this long-running tradition. A gallery of past Krieghoff Guns of the Year is available online at krieghoff.com.