Merkel Shotgun Types:
Meisterstück side-by-side shotguns are light and wonderfully elegant hunting guns; fine representatives of the good old days. The side-by-side arrangement of the barrels is a classical design principle of hunting guns – this principle has been applied in Suhl since the early days. Even if the Merkel brothers were more committed to the over-and-under gun at the start, the Merkel philosophy was soon devolved to the traditional side-by-side gun. An example of this is the aesthetic line of the slim soldered barrels – a trademark of Merkel Meisterstücks.
Whether with Anson & Deeley locks or sidelocks, the Suhl shotguns soon developed their own style and cleverly improvised on the existing systems and solutions.
Besides the classical barrel hook, Suhl soon adopted the cross bolt developed by William Greener – which represented gunmaking at its finest.
Merkel maintains the elegance and optical lightness of these shotguns by consistent adherence to traditions. The individually adapted receivers also play a role. Three different receivers are manufactured for the three calibres on offer – calibre-adapted. This keeps the receivers slim and the guns light and responsive. With the shotguns too, steel is interlocked against steel and the Merkel top-down principle is applied. Thus the receiver of a side-by-side shotgun is constructed in such a way that it can withstand the same gas pressure as a Safari rifle.
The triumphal procession of Merkel over-and-under guns started with the 200 series in the 1920s. A gun with a long tradition – but free from preciousness. The 200 series was re-engineered in 1995 and then – in homage to the outgoing millennium – renamed the 2000 series.
From an historical viewpoint, this was the first time that Merkel combined handwork with industrial processes, gunmaking culture with series precision in one class of gun. The individual parts for this series have always been manufactured in the Merkel high-precision parts department. The gunmaker comes into his own when fitting and refining the parts: the free forms of these Meisterstücks can only be perfected with painstaking handwork.
The main difference to the 303 series is that 2000 series over-and-under guns are made with a boxlock. Only the flagship of the series traditionally has sidelocks. The Merkel lock is a Suhl modification of the Anson & Deeley boxlock of 1875, with compression spring ejectors. This classic lock is highly functional and offers maximum reliability. This derives from the puristic simplicity of the design. All the functional parts are accommodated in the receiver, and no compromises are made where aesthetics are concerned. At Merkel each calibre has its own dimensioned steel receiver, which makes for perfect optical harmony from the barrel to the action (calibre-adapted receiver).
And the slim line can be perfectly rounded off by selecting the matching three-piece forearm – distinguishable by its finely engraved screws. A stock mounted in three parts enables more elegant forearm forms than a onepiece, which has to fit over the lower barrel.
Similarities with the 303 series: in terms of individualisation the 2000 series does not fall short of its fine sister. Every finishing stage is offered by Merkel – through to the individual engraving of long side plates.
The over-and-under combination guns and over-and-under rifles of the 2000 series are equipped with the Merkel Duo manual cocking system. This allows the two locks to be cocked immediately before the shots are fired using the manual cocking system, or alternatively cocking via the barrels, and thus rapid following shots.
The muzzle adjustment (horizontal and vertical) of the over-and-under double rifle is technical treat.
This unique and complex Merkel system functions via a thread-adjustable slot wedges. This enables the gunmaker to finely adjust the barrels – without stressing the hard and soft solder joints.
OVER-AND-UNDER SHOTGUN 2000C – GAME SHOTGUNS: COMPLETELY FITTED OUT
The over-and-under shotgun 2000 series has a long hunting tradition and has achieved a great deal of sporting success. Besides the dominant 12 calibre, Merkel also makes lightweight shotguns in the 2000 series. The 20 caliber is characterised by its light weight, excellent responsiveness and comfortable recoil. The “C” in the in type designation signifies the complete fitting out of the gun: C stands for “Complete”. From a technical point of view, complete fitting out means: steel-shot capability and interchangeable chokes, selective single trigger, adjustable in the length. A convenient detail: the shotguns are equipped with disconnectable ejectors as standard. Optically, the 2000C gleams with rich arabesque engraving.
OVER-AND-UNDER SHOTGUN 2001C – GAME SCENE ENGRAVING AS STANDARD
The C version of the 2001 is characterised by high-grade wood and extensive game scene engraving with arabesque trimming on the steel receiver assembly. Even the forearm catch, trigger and locking lever are richly decorated with Merkel engraving.
OVER-AND-UNDER SHOTGUN 2002C – SIDE PLATES – ROOM FOR DECORATION
The long side plates are a traditional feature of fine hunting guns. They offer room for decorative engraving and optically extend the receiver. Merkel has produced the 2002C for lovers of these guns. The prismatically inset side plates make an impression with their perfectly handcrafted workmanship. A stock of class 5 walnut, a “Jagd” (game scene) engraving and the three-piece forearm with engraved screws bring the 2002C to “complete” perfection.
OVER-AND-UNDER SHOTGUN 2003C – WITH FINE SIDELOCKS
The 2003C version is the flagship of the 2000 series – it relates to a forerunner from the pervious century, the 203, which was the link between the 200 and 303 series. Like its predecessor, the 2003C makes an impression with its special Merkel sidelocks. The precision engineered parts draw their energy from powerful compression springs, which combine optimised shot development time and excellent trigger pull, with extreme robustness for everyday use. A functional gun for the hunt – and also for the fireplace room, because the sidelocks are removable.
During the course of its existence, Merkel has been traded under a variety of names, including E.A. Merkel, Merco, Abesser & Merkel, B. Merkel, and Gebrüder Merkel. Most of these names were used by descendants of the family patriarch, Friedrich Ernst Ferdinand Merkel.
At the end of WWII, the Merkel company was initially taken over by American troops, but then after approx. 3 months, it was turned over to the Russians for the duration of their occupation. Once the communist German government was established, the factory was owned by the government until Germany was reunited. The East German economy, like that of most former Soviet bloc countries, suffered due to lack of capitalization and from very restrictive gun laws.
Merkel was first managed by the “Treuhand”, the government trustee that tried to find new owners for all East German commerce and industry. Among the applicants who had an interest in taking over the remaining Suhl gun industry was Sturm, Ruger & Co., together with members of the Simson family, who owned the biggest gun factory in Suhl before the Nazis came to power. Their offer was rejected in favor of a group of investors who enriched themselves, and went out of business after only one year.
The Austrian Steyr-Mannlicher Company circa 2001. A few years later, H&K took over the company and expanded it. They had 126 employees in 2003, and are now at 171 employees. Because of H&K’s engineering and marketing, Merkel became profitable again and expanded into the Eastern Europe and US marketplaces. The company went back to the original name Merkel, and bought the business and facilities of GSI, located in Trussville, AL. During 2007, Merkel was sold to Caracal International LLC, located in the United Arab Emirates.
For many years Merkel shotguns were unfairly disadvantaged in this country because of the politics of importing firearms from communist bloc countries (goods were subject to a 65% non-favored nation tax). With the reunification of Germany in 1991, this trademark became more competitive domestically. Merkel continues to manufacture high quality guns in Suhl, Germany.
Beginning in 1995, Merkel serialization employed an alphanumeric date code for year of manufacture, making it difficult to determine year of manufacture by serial number. Higher grade models (including the 300 Series) continue to be manufactured one at a time by hand, with less than 30 being mfg. annually.
Many Merkel collectors are now categorizing older production guns into three different categories. The first is guns made before 1962, when the Berlin Wall was created. The second is the GDR guns (German Democratic Republic). The last is after the Berlin wall came down (post-1991). Premiums are paid on pre-WWII manufacture and some GDR guns. All pre-war guns may have different actions such as square, half round, and square reinforced, etc. These older production models should be appraised by a knowledgeable person, since there are a lot of things to consider when evaluating these earlier Merkels. Some guns made up for the Nürnberg and Leipzig trade shows have top quality workmanship, especially the engraving.
The engraver’s signature will appear on all factory engraved Merkels manufactured since 1992.