The Blackpowder Journal

The Blackpowder Journal Icon

...for the blackpowder enthusiast

Schuetzenfest at Rotorua
(New Zealand)

Jim Reed

Guten Tag! September 96

I had the good fortune to attend a Schuetzenfest at Rotorua recently. As I drove through the gate of the range and forded the flowing puddles, it looked ominous. The weather didn't disappoint us, but as the Rotorua Black Powder Club (RBPC) has under cover shooting bays, it didn't matter.

What on earth is a German shooting festival doing in New Zealand? Well you may ask, for while schuetzenfests were popular in other countries, we never had the population nor time to experience them here in the pioneering period up to the First World War. Today they are a great way for shooting enthusiasts to use turn of the century shooting styles, clothing and rifles, and still have good clean fun. Schuetzenfest shoots are offhand events shot at distances up to 200 yards over distances measured in rods.

Nearly 40 people turned up, all had some form of vintage attire, and the organizers would have been proud of the turnout. The outfits ranged from those that had been rescued from an opportunity shop, family heirlooms down to hired gear. Here are a few of the outfits. (Hope it does not sound like a fashion magazine!)

Mein hostess, Audrey had a superb old fashioned outfit, complete with hat and scarf. Audrey looked after the vittles for all concerned and she and her helpers did a great job.

Carolyn looked great in her 1880's outfit, and it was good to see her shooting along side of her dad, Bruce, who assured me he was styled after a western gunslinger.

Dave and Gary, part of the contingent from Auckland 150 miles away, came in vintage morning suits. Dave looked as if he had just come out of the Members stand at the Ascot racetrack, while Gary looked to be doing an excellent imitation of a mortician whose horse drawn hearse was parked out the back.

Peter's grandfather had provided the top hat, and he acquired the tails from his father-in-law. I always knew in laws had some use. I hate to think where the bow tie came from.

Several others had a variety of German, Austrian and Swiss outfits, including Ian shivering in his lederhosen. Klaus came as himself all the way from Whangarei, 250 miles away, and brought a few rifle barrels along to show what good modern German engineering can turn out.

If you had wanted a couple of pheasants, I am sure Frank could have helped, and Peter, resplendent in his red tunic, would have made many an old soldiers eyes water. (Sob, more like it!)

Of all those present, I reckon Norm from Auckland and Ben looked the most authentic. Norm's a pom, and with his bowler hat, tie, jacket and working trousers looked like a Victorian road worker. The only thing missing was the string around the calves of his legs. Ben on the other hand, looked like a successful business man of the period, especially with his full flowing beard. Anyway, on with the show.

The briefing began with historical review and quotations from Harry Pope "Stand on your own two feet and shoot like a man." Not totally politically correct, but we all got the message.

At 10:00 coffee was served. In pewter mugs it helped warm the hands, especially the trigger fingers, but was hard on the lips. The first event was 15 shots at a 10 rod (50 yards) collection of five targets, with no sighting shots allowed. A can of alcohol free Viennese beer was issued to each contestant and a wandering waiter serving snacks during the shoot. Maybe I was lucky, for I seemed to hit the black bits most times. Laurie cleaned up this shoot.

The rain came down, and an Eagle shoot was the next event. This was an Imperial German eagle with 12 strategically placed clay birds, located at 10 rods. Indian file to shoot at one clay until it was broken, and then on to the next. It's amazing how much lead can strike in a small area before one bullet chances a hit. Took quite some time. Most people had three or four shots at the target. While waiting for a shot, there was a continual mumble of conversation. If the beer had been real, it would have been a real roar. Norm and Doug tied in this shoot with two clays each. Pretty good going as they probably only had three shots.

Lunch mit German music. Wurst Und Onion hot dogs and the sun came out a little for photos. There were plenty of rifles to look at and think about. The two muzzle loading Schuetzens were of superb quality. For some reason, Klaus kept drooling over my little 8.5 x 41R rolling block fox rifle.

Then it was the team shoot. Shooters were divided into four equal (?) teams, each with an associated colour. The task was to snap shoot at briefly displayed coloured bunnies. You were supposed to shoot your own colour. Unlike the round ball shoot, I could actually see these, and believe I hit ours at least once. (Missed some other shots though.) Unfortunately I was not in the Blue team.

One thing with black powder you always see a few strange sights. Greg, in his gambling outfit, brought along his Lyman press to use by hand as a primer insertion tool. His .577/450 base is too big for a more portable version. Another unnamed gent was seen to be swaging his bullets in the barrel. More accuracy, I guess? I have to admit to assisting my rolling block breech to close on slightly tight cases. Duncan said I should have been using a leather mallet!

The main shoot was a one hour long, 20 rod shoot, firing a total of twenty shots. This showed the square law effect, where the distance from the bull squares as the range doubles. I guess I can blame the rain for some of the error, but the holes consistently round the black must say something, plus I gained an extra 50 cal hole!

The final shoot was a Single Shot King Shoot, where the target was hidden on the rear of the 100 yard bull, and is not necessarily centred on the bull. The winner is the person closest to the centre of the hidden target. Ed from Hunua took this one out, which goes to show you that he hasn't lost his skill, even after 15 years absence from the black powder arena.

After the final shoot, everyone paraded for a group photo. Unfortunately, I had to race away prior to the King Shoot, so never got to see the rest of the festivities once the rifles were put away.

As my first Schuetzenfest, it was an eye opening shooting event. Laurie and Dave did a great job of running the events and the other Dave did a tremendous job of getting everybody there. I guess we would get bored if they happened every month, but if next year's is as good as this, it will certainly be worth waiting for. My only regret was that Duncan didn't wear his kilt, while John did.