Quebec Papal Zouave’s Ceremonial Gewehr 71/84

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Here’s a rifle with an interesting twisting history…

This began life as a German military Gewehr 71/84, made in 1888. It was issued to a unit, but eventually replaced by the Gewehr 1888. It was sold to the Francis Bannerman company at some point around 1900, as part of a big batch of surplus weapons (Bannerman was a massive international dealer in arms and military equipment). Moving ahead a few years, World War One breaks out and prompts the organization of a couple Canadian “Home Guard” organizations. The Montreal Home Guard has some money, and buys a batch of Savage Model 99 lever action rifles (in .303 Savage, interestingly). The Quebec Home Guard isn’t quite so well heeled, so they go to Bannerman to see what they can afford. Bannerman sells them a batch of Gewehr 71/84 tube-magazine repeating rifles, in the same configuration as when they were sold off by the German military.

Incidentally, I believe these become the only Mauser rifles formally purchased and issued by the Canadian government, when they are acquired by the Home Guard. At any rate, after the war ends, a subset of those old rifles are given to the Quebec Papal Zouaves – a ceremonial vestige of the Quebecois military volunteers who went to Italy in the 1860s to help defend the Papacy during Italian unification. By this time, the Zouaves are basically just action as guards in parades, and they crudes cut down the 71/84s, remove their magazines, and fit them with cut-down British Snider bayonets for use as single-shot, blank-firing arms.

Quite the journey, right? And also a reminder that sometimes what looks like sporterized junk is actually something with distinct historical provenance…

Many thanks to Mike Carrick of Arms Heritage Magazine for providing me access to film this example!

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