The Classicist: The $800,000 Rifle Fit for a King
Swedish gun and rifle maker VO Vapen, founded in 1977 by master gunsmith Viggo Olsson, constructs the world's most exclusive handmade hunting rifles. The production of VO rifles is limited to a small number of examples each year. The company holds a royal appointment to H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, and has recently found great success with ultra-exclusive rifles made for the Middle Eastern market. H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi's Royal Family is another VO enthusiast.
In addition to completely bespoke orders, VO makes several limited edition collections and special editions. The foremost of these is the one-of-a-kind H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque Rifle, designed as "a tribute to the most magnificent building we have ever seen" in Abu Dhabi and to the man who created it, priced at $825,000. This masterpiece includes a grip cap with engraving, gold inlays and 36 multicolored diamonds mimicking the design of the mosque's amazing chandelier (see the gallery).
The Royal Collection United Arab Emirates Edition (above), is designed to be nothing short of the world's most exclusive rifles and limited to only 100 pieces. Specific models have been dedicated to members of Abu Dhabi's Royal Family and bear their engraved portraits, and are priced at $525,000. Other collections include the Big Five, designed as a tribute to five big game animals (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant) and Ernest Hemingway, "the passionate hunter who brought safari hunt to the public attention," nicknamed the "Big Papa," limited to six pieces at $375,000 each; the Viking Collection, inspired by Viking mythology and featuring engravings of Norse gods and 24-carat gold inlay at $275,000 apiece; and the Royal TD Collection, initially created for H.R.H. Prince Carl Philip Bernadotte of Sweden, at $125,000 each.
Gallery: VO Vapen Guns
All VO rifles are based on their patented takedown system, allowing the owner to use several different calibers on the same rifle. In addition to precious engraving and inlaying, the stocks are made of the finest European walnut root, hand-selected by Olsson. When the humidity is at the correct level, the roots are washed and the bark is shaved off, then the roots are cut into planks on a homemade saw. Throughout the next three years, the planks must be stored in different facilities where the moisture is gradually drawn out of them.
The moisture is checked and when it has the right balance, the plank is cut into one or several stock blocks. Clients can also choose their own walnut root plank and have it tailor made to their own measurements. Next comes the oil treatment of the stock, which takes about five weeks. The result is a silky finish that gives life and depth to the natural beauty of the walnut root. VO reminds us however that, "No matter how beautiful a rifle is, at the end of the day it will always be judged by accuracy. And one thing we can assure you – you can not blame your VO rifle if you do not hit the target."