Hunting rifle produced for the 1939 Water Exhibition
Throughout the 30s, the use of hunting rifles with superimposed barrels became more common. In Belgium in 1926, just before his death, the American inventor John M. Browning created the first weapon of this type to be produced industrially. This “superimposed” Browning and its derivatives have since been produced by the Herstal National Factory and its associated Group.
Between 20 May and 31 August 1939, as the Albert Canal, which linked Liège to the port of Anvers, was being inaugurated, a major international exhibition dedicated to water techniques and the industry in general took place in the “Ardent City”: the “Water Exhibition”. It brought together nearly 2,500 exhibitors, spread over more than 50 palaces, and was located downstream from Liège on both sides of the Meuse. Unfortunately, it was cut short and only lasted three months, due to the outbreak of the Second World War.
To demonstrate its arms production, the National Factory exhibited this exceptional rifle, which was deliberately modernist and influenced by the “Art Deco” movement that was popular at the time. The metal parts are made of polished steel. The rocker, which is equipped with false gun locks, is framed by an engraving of ducks, pheasants and peacocks, with a decoration of parallel ribbons composed of stylised flowers and wreaths. The safety button and the opening lever are faceted. The handle and the hand guard are embellished with twisted grooves.
In 1926, the master engraver, Félix Funken, was the founder and head of the workshop that engraved weapons for the National Factory; Richard Gérard assembled the wood. The originality of this rifle is particularly evident in the harmony of its general composition, which combines sculpture and engraving, and in its modernist style, as, at the time (and even afterwards), the decoration of hunting and sport weapons was generally inspired by the trends of the 19th century.