Special Guns Episode 5 Q&A Drilling

Special Guns with Roger Rule

Episode 5 –  Franz Sodia Drilling 12×12 x.308Win.


PART 1 {Virginia and Roger sitting at the table}

VIRGINIA: My name is Virginia Hall and I’m here today to introduce you to Roger Rule, author of The Rifleman’s Rifle, and host of this series of episodes, Special Guns with Roger Rule.

ROGER: Thank you, Virginia, welcome and welcome viewers to my 5th Episode of Special Guns with Roger Rule.

VIRGINIA: Roger, let me ask you first, what is your definition for Special Guns?

ROGER: For this series, special guns are simply guns that a gun enthusiast may have heard of, but never encountered. And for my selection, I narrow my focus down to arms that hold an evolutionary or revolutionary place in the world of modern sporting arms over the last two centuries and have since become classic guns in some way because of it.

VIRGINIA: What do you have for us today?

ROGER: The gun I want to show you today is a very unusual gun and although I have had several of this type spanning some thirty years, I still encounter the average gun lover that has never even heard of them.  I’m talking about a drilling.

VIRGINIA: What’s a drilling?

ROGER: A drilling is not a brand, it is a type of gun with three barrels.  Any gun with three barrels can be called a drilling.  Drilling comes from the German word “drei” for “three” which has been Englishized. Any gun with four barrels are called vierlings, a derivation again from the German word for four which is “vier”.  The four-barrel versions, Vierlings, are quite rare.

VIRGINIA:  Are these rifle barrels or shotgun barrels?

ROGER: Drillings can be a gun with three shotgun barrels or three rifle barrels or any combination.   The most common drilling has two shotgun barrels and one rifle barrel. And because that is the most common configuration, when some collectors run into a gun with the rarer combination of two rifle barrels with one shotgun barrel, they often call it a double rifle drilling.

VIRGINIA:  Are they just made in Germany?

ROGER: Drillings are commonly made in Austria as well as Germany, but they have been made in England, Sweden, France, Italy and many other countries.  Most of them that we encounter have been made in Germany and Austria.

VIRGINIA: What are they used for?

ROGER: Hunting. They date back to early days of cartridge firearms and are guns used almost exclusively for hunting.  The advantage of having a single firearm that can fire both rifle and shotgun cartridges is that a single gun can be used to hunt a very wide variety of game, from deer-sized game to game birds, and the hunter can select the barrel appropriate for the target in seconds.

Drillings are also popular with gamekeepers who often need the flexibility of the combination gun during their normal duties.

VIRGINIA: If you can get by with just one gun for all those purposes, wouldn’t it be cheaper than buying two guns?

ROGER: Taking the place of two guns, you might think there is some cost savings advantage for having a drilling, but most drillings cost as much or more than the two guns they would replace. Drillings, vierlings and two-barreled versions with one rifle barrel and one shotgun barrel, called combination guns in America, have been made by some of the best makers in both Germany and Austria.  From Germany, the pantheon of the best gunmakers were in the city of Suhl before World War II, and from the city of Ferlach in Austria before the war and still today.

VIRGINIA: Don’t they have particular hunting seasons in Germany and Austria?

ROGER: Yes, and in both Germany and Austria, there are times when the seasons overlap for roe deer, wild boar, Fellow deer, chamois, red deer, geese, pigeon, mallords, pheasant, partridge, capercaillie and blackcock.  A drilling is the perfect choice of arm for anyone that might be hunting a variety of game with overlapping seasons, especially when that variety includes both winged and four-legged animals.

Virginia, my guess is, at your age, you probably have not been to Austria?

VIRGINIA: No, I haven’t.

ROGER: It is a beautiful country.  I didn’t go there because of the gunmakers that time. My wife and I went to Innsbruck for a snow skiing vacation, but while there, we took in all the sites in that area, Tyrolia and Bavaria, New Schwanstein Castle, the Black Forest, etc. I will admit, while in the center of town, I tried to find out if there were any gunmakers in that area and I didn’t find any, although since, I have learned Innsbruck was the home of Johann Peterlongo, a gunmaker in the 19th Century.  No guns, but while I was there, we were caught up in the Festival and it reminded me of Marti Gras in New Orleans with everyone in colorful and fantasy-type costumes parading through the town.

But the countryside was absolutely stunning, and being a builder, I took in the styles of the old and new homes.  Most bewildering to me was the age of the commercial area.  Every time we went to dinner, when I found out the ages of the buildings we were in, I was amazed at how old they were. It became my standard MO to find out when the restaurant was built, and I was always shocked to learn its age.

The last night we were there, however, we were in what they call the new town and I did not expect to hear that any building was old, compared to those in the old town.  When I asked the restaurant manager, what year this building was built, he said, “This is one of the newest ones, it was built two years before Columbus discovered America!”

VIRGINIA: You’re kidding!

ROGER: No, dead serious, but let’s get back to the gun of the day.

The drilling I want to show you is from a famous gunmaker Franz Sodia located in Ferlach Austria.  For just a little about the gunmaker, Franz Sodia was the grandson of Anton Sodia, a great gunsmith, known for his skilled metal work, who started his own business in 1870 in Unterferlach.

PART 2 {Audio-only}

His son, Franz, after completing his apprenticeship with his father, moved to Ferlach in 1910 and set up a business with workshops and eventually a company headquarters at Schulhausgasse 14, Ferlach where he produced hunting rifles using semi-finished products from several outsources.  By 1929, he was making guns totally in house from start to finish.  In 1935, Franz died and his son, Franz II took over the company.

During WWII, Franz II lost the company taken over by Slovenian partisans, but resumed ownership when Ferlach was liberated by the British.  Because the local British commander was an enthusiastic hunter, he allowed the company to continue making shotguns when other arms’ manufacturers were closed down.

By 1951, production approval was again granted for all guns and two large machine plants were set up, equipped with a large number of specialist equipment.

In January 1974, Franz Sodia III took over the Ferlach operation.  In 1981, the company hosted a great celebration for its 110-year anniversary with national celebrities, and famous economic and political personalities taking part.  Then, in August that same year, the Austrian Minister of Trade personally awarded the company the national honor allowing the company to use the Austrian Coat of Arms in advertising and business, recognizing their products as being produced with national best-quality craftsmanship.   This is similar to the British Royalty awarding the Royal Warrant for best quality and allowing those enterprises so awarded to use it in advertising.

PART 3A {Virginia and Roger sitting at the table, camera adjusted for standing}

ROGER:So after that much introduction about this grand sporting arm, Virginia, are you ready to look at the gun?

VIRGINIA: Let’s go for it!

ROGER: It is described as a Franz Sodia Drilling, Best quality, 12x12x .308 Win. with a leather fitted case, which we will see in a moment. It is configured with its two shotgun barrels side by side and one rifle barrel underneath, centered between them. The 12×12 designation, in this case, means that both the side by side barrels are 12 gauge smooth bores or shotgun barrels.  The rifle barrel underneath is chambered in .308 Winchester.

VIRGINIA: When was this gun made?

ROGER: It was built in 1971 and is factory original, which makes it unusual, as most drillings encountered have their rifle barrel chambered in popular European cartridges, not American cartridges.  Yet, most of those are made much earlier than this one.  The 1971 date of manufacture places it in with other drillings that have been chambered in popular American cartridges.  Besides our .308Win. here today, other American cartridges  I have seen them in, include 30-06, 270 Win.,  257 Roberts, 243 Win., 22 Hornet, 222 Remington, and the near-worldwide popular 7mm Mauser.  And that’s just to name a few.

Because these guns have break-open actions, it is much easier to make them with rimmed cartridges, although the best makers now have no trouble with rimless cartridges, like this .308 Winchester being reviewed today.

PART 3B {Roger standing holding the gun, Virginia sitting behind table}

Before we get into the features of this drilling, let me demonstrate the intricate mechanics of this complicated action.

First we check to see that the safety is on.  The safety is located on the left side of the grip (often called a Greener safety made famous by the English maker,WW Greener). In the rear position the safety is on, slide it forward and it’s ready to fire.  Seeing it on safe, I now open the action to check for live rounds.

{open it}

You’ll see there are three snap caps in it, but I always pull them out a ways and check just to make sure they are not live rounds.

Now when I close it,…

{Close action, put in shotgun mode, make sure it COCKS}

…we know with the snap caps in it, no harm will come to the gun if I dry-fire it (dry-firing simply means pulling the trigger without live ammo in it).

Also, when I close the action, the position of the safety did not change during this process. I cannot dry fire it without sliding the safety off, moving it forward.

VIRGINIA: With three barrels and two triggers, how does that work?

ROGER: To answer that, there is a sliding switch on the top of the upper tang in the same position most of us are used to finding the safety.  But this is not a safety, it is a barrel selector and it changes the battery ready from shotguns to rifle and vice versa.  And it cannot be changed by accident as there is a small lock button in the center of the selector.  The button has to be depressed before the switch will slide.  In the rear position, the two shotgun barrels are ready and an inscription is visible above the selector, which is SCH, a German abbreviation for shotgun.

In the forward position, the rifle barrel is ready, and now the SCH is covered up and another abbreviation is visible below the selector, which is K, German for rifle.

{Then slide barrel selector back}

VIRGINIA: The shooter has to remember that?

ROGER: Too complicated to remember unless you speak German?  The function of the system takes care of it. Look what happens when I slide the barrel selector forward for the rifle.

{slide it forward and point to the rear sight}

                        The rear sight stands up.  This means not only that the sight is ready to use for the rifle but also it tells us that the rear trigger has switched over to the rifle barrel.  And notice for the reverse, if I slide the barrel selector back, the rear sight lies back down and tells us the gun is now ready to shoot the two shotgun barrels.

{slide the selector to the rear}

                        So just looking at the position of the rear sight tells us which mode its in.

Now, I’m ready to demonstrate the dry-fire process.  I need to move the safety forward to the fire position, so that I can pull the triggers. With the rifle sight down, I know this is the shotgun mode.

{pull one trigger}

I have just shot the right barrel pulling the front trigger.  Now, when I re-open the action, notice the snap caps are not kicked out over my head, but just set up to be plucked out with my fingers.  These are called extractors as opposed to automatic ejectors.  For guns not intended for dangerous game, these work fine.   Extractors are, in fact, preferred by those who wish to reload their ammo or for those who don’t wish to leave empty cases scattered around the environment.

Now when I close the action again and slide the barrel selector forward…

{do it}  …the rear sight comes up and I know it is ready to dry fire the rifle barrel.  So I will pull the rear trigger

{pull rear trigger} Now when I open the action you can see the rifle cartridge extracted.

{show the extracted rifle cartridge}.

Now I will close the action and put the safety back on.

{Also slide selector back to shotgun mode}

VIRGINIA: It’s amazing they can make it that way.

ROGER: Yep, that’s exactly the way I felt when I saw my first drilling.

And, in this demonstration, you’ll notice I haven’t said anything about the scope. That’s because I needed to explain the mechanics without it first. The scope is an Austrian made Karl Kahles model Helia Super with a variable magnification from 2.3 to 7 power.  It has the German #5 reticle which is a typical crosshair with lines at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock in bold or heavy, like a duplex reticle with only 3 bold posts.

But the most important feature about the scope, is that it is superbly mounted in the German claw mounts that I explained in our last episode.  These are pricey mounts and more pricey to get a master gunsmith to install them.  But, they are well worth it for this type of gun when you find out how well they work.

{Pull off the scope, and slide it in shotgun mode}

            See how easy that was.  If you are out in the field to shoot this gun as a shotgun, you would most likely have this scope off, stashed in a pocket, backpack or a scope case…

{show scope case} … like this one.

And notice the rifle sight is down, so it is shotgun ready.

If a roe deer comes along that you want to take instead of the partridge that you’re after, switch the barrel selector to rifle and use either the small rifle leaf sight or re-attach the scope.

{Put the scope back on}

Notice how easy that was – and quick. But more importantly this system holds its zero, as we discussed in Episode 4.

VIRGINIA: That does look easy.

ROGER: It is, and as a personal note, I can vouch for this system working as designed, because I have had this drilling at the range, and after sighting it in at a bench, I then put up a new target and shot one round at 50 yards with the scope on.  I then stood up, removed and then reattached the scope, set back down at the bench and fired one more round.

{Pick up the target and show to camera – target says 100 yds but this was at 50}

I was so impressed with this gun (and MYSELF with my eyes today). And, of course as usual, there were NO WITNESSES!  But after those results, my thinking was at the time, I would never sell this gun!  Needless to say I was very happy with its performance, and the way the claw mount system works. REALLY WORKS.

Now, let’s get back to the gun and its features.  I have demonstrated the mechanics, so let’s look at the rest of the metal work first.

The action is a side-plated blitz action; it is not a sidelock action (something we will cover in detail in a later episode).

{Open action}

It has what is referred to in the industry as Purdey–style double bite underlugs and a Greener cross-bolt top lock.  The action balls have Purdey side clips.

{Close action}           The receiver and upper tang are case-hardened coin finished which contrasts nicely with the rust blued parts. The blued components consist of the barrels, the trigger guard, the barrel selector, and top lever.  The action is elaborately engraved in the best Austrian style on the top, underside and both sideplates – rivaling anything coming out of Europe.  It is described as full, deep relief engraving with the finest Teutonic leaves and scroll with game animals.

Virginia, just look at this engraving since you can see it up close.

VIRGINIA:  The animals look so real!

ROGER:  {Point first to the left} On the left, those are two roe deer and a red stag.

On the right, there is a stalking fox after a partridge and three game birds.

On the underside of the action, where one underlug protrudes, it is inscribed with the maker’s address. The scroll engraving continues over the top of the receiver and on all the attached parts.

The barrels are 24 ¾” Boehler Blitz Stahl, special steel barrels for lighter weight.  The non-ejector barrels are choked Modified and Full and chambered for 2 ¾” shells.  In addition to the flip-up leaf rear sight, there is a bead front sight.  On the top rib between the claw mount bases, the gun has a gold-filled inscription: Franz Sodia – Ferlach Austria.  You will be able to see that in a close-up.

Also, the triggers are GOLD.

The intricately engraved blued steel trigger guard carries the serial number, 17816, and is part of the lower tang which extends to a point meticulously inlaid in the pistol grip area of the stock – which brings us to the wood.

The stock has unusually plush figure for a drilling; and as far as that goes, for any German/Austrian made gun.  The French walnut color is rich and lively in warm brown with dark stump figure. Its comb has a slight convex curve and is described as a Roman comb, sometimes a Bavarian comb, and it has a small European cheekpiece with a narrow but tastefully done shadowline.

The stock furniture includes an engraved bullet trap in the toe line of the stock with a mechanical latch.

{open it, show cartridges}

VIRGINIA: I’ve never seen anything like that on a gun before.

ROGER: The intended purpose was for those hunters who use this gun primarily for bird hunting, who might be out in the field when suddenly, a roe deer pops up in their sights, and having only brought shotgun shells for their bird hunt, the in-the-stock bullet trap provides an emergency supply of cartridges for this type of situation.

Back to the other adornments, they include a horn pistol grip cap with an engraved screw head, a rear sling eye on the toe line of the stock, and the front sling eye mounted on the underside of the rifle barrel.

The elegant forearm matches the stock color well and is executed with wrap-around checkering, finely hand-cut.  The diamonds are still sharp to the touch with perfectly executed double borders.  It is inlaid with an engraved Anson and Deeley forearm release, finished to match the case-hardened action finish. The release is inlaid into the wood with tight points at both ends.

This entire gun is a true work of the gunmaker’s art and easily rivals what the English call a Best Gun.

Now, let’s disassemble the gun into its 3 major components.  First, we remove the snap caps.  Then, remove the scope, followed by removing the forearm by pulling up the Anson & Deeley lever release, to free it. Next, we open the action by holding the top lever to the right with the right hand, lifting the barrels out of the action with the left.  Now, let’s go to the sideboard to examine these individual components closer up.

PART 4 { BREAK, go to table where it is disassembled in the case- take snap caps out}

Here we are with the Franz Sodia Drilling disassembled into its main components. Its leather case is custom fit and with the accessories, presents the disassembled gun very well with all the parts, including the scope, nicely displayed in custom fitted compartments with the maker’s label.

{Pick up the stock and action}

Let’s look at the stock and action half first.  On the breech face, we can see that not only are the strikers bushed, but the bushings have set screws – we only see this on Best guns.  Notice the side-clips on the receiver.  These fit around matching bevels on the barrels. As I move the top lever right, looking down inside the action, we can see the locking bolt move back and forth through the two bottom cut outs where the barrels’ locking-lugs fit into. At the front of the action is the hinge pin.  There are some markings: On the top of the left receiver wall, we see the serial number, 17816.  On the top of the right receiver wall, we see two proof marks, and the numbers 963-71, which is a code that this was the 963rd gun proofed in 1971. The proof marks are NPF for Nitro Proofed in Ferlach. Incidentally, there is a fairly comprehensive list of proof marks by country in the Blue Book of Gun Values.

{Set the action/stock down, pick up the barrels}

Now, looking at the barrel assembly, we see a metal extension sticking out from the chambers that has a hole through it for the locking top bolt, originally designed by WW Greener and so usually called a Greener crossbolt.  Under that are the extractors.  As I’ve said, these are not automatic ejectors; spent cases must be removed by hand. And on the bottom of this assembly, actually on the bottom rifle barrel, are the two lugs, usually called chopper lumps or underlugs.  The back sides of both of these have square cuts-outs or bites for the locking bolt. The front on the first one has the familiar semi-circle cutout to go around the hinge pin of the action. Notice the front one is blued and engraved as it protrudes the bottom of the receiver and is visible when the gun is closed.  This is sometimes called a platform lump.

Forward of the two underlugs about 3 inches is the forearm locking lug. Looking at the markings, on the bottom of all three barrels, it reads Bohler Superblitz for the type of steel. The two shotgun barrels are marked 12/70, meaning 12 for the gauge and 70 for 70 mm for the chambers which are equal 2 ¾”.  The rifle barrel is marked “308 WINCH” on the left side, forward of the chamber, for the caliber and carries a Ferlach proof mark.  The barrel flats behind the shotgun barrels are stamped with Ferlach proof marks.

{Put down the barrels, pick up the forearm}

Looking inside the forearm, we can see the serial number on the forearm iron.

PART 5 {Virginia and Roger sitting at table}

Finally, this type of sporting arm is very difficult to make and made only by hand by a handful of masterful gunsmiths, usually small makers, that put an extraordinary amount of time into building them, resulting in a complete work of art.

For new guns, these makers have to charge very high prices because they are made to order for a customer and require so much time, ingenuity, skill and artistry.

VIRGINIA: So drillings like this one must be expensive.

ROGER: Compared to most guns, yes, but I have always been amazed at how low their resale prices are in America, especially compared to the resale values of fine double barreled shotguns.  Since these guns are more complicated and harder to make, there is real intrinsic value.  It seems to me that when the public catches on, the demand will increase, and these guns should move up the ladder in value with all others in the category of Best Guns. Drillings certainly seem worth it to me.

That’s it for today, thank you Virginia, and thank you viewers for watching, and if you enjoyed this episode, I invite you to subscribe to my YouTube channel and share with others.  And, I hope you join us next week for another episode of Special Guns with Roger Rule.  We will be looking at a great double barrel shotgun.