x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Rifle worth more than Dh1 million on sale at Adihex

Building a handcrafted rifle takes time and finesse, but the return is worth it for a Swedish company that sells weapons for Dh1 million and more, and is a mainstay of Abu Dhabi's exhibition for hunters and horsemen. Jonatan Jacobson reports from Fjälkinge in Sweden

The oil treatment of the stock takes about five weeks. Viggo Olsson demonstrates the procedure in Fjälkinge in Sweden.
The oil treatment of the stock takes about five weeks. Viggo Olsson demonstrates the procedure in Fjälkinge in Sweden.

A large pile of wooden boxes, each clearly labelled "Abu Dhabi", stands outside a family-run workshop in a small town in southern Sweden.

Inside the building is a room filled with precise tools, machines, pieces of walnut wood and engineers working with intense concentration.

When their work is complete, after several months, they will have produced something as expensive as it is beautiful and rare.

This is the home of VO Gun & Rifle Maker Sweden, of Fjälkinge, a company founded in 1977 as a conventional maker of rifles of any calibre. Today, it is recognised as one of the finest manufacturers in the world.

And the UAE ranks among its most important markets.

VO made a name for itself in the Emirates when it attended, for the first time, the Abu Dhabi Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (Adihex) in 2005. This year's exhibition begins tomorrow.

Jonas Althén, the company's marketing director, said: "Adihex became a stepping stone for our launch in the UAE and the entire Gulf region. It has provided us with valuable contacts and it was also the start of the rest of our international exports."

During the annual showcase, the company launched the VO Big Five Edition rifle, one of which sold for €215,000 (Dh1.07 million). But it has taken decades to develop such a reputation.

Viggo Olsson, the master gunsmith who founded the company, said: "My interest in weapons goes back to my dad, who was a weapon technician.

"In those days, we did not have a television. Instead, I learnt to disassemble and reassemble dad's guns and rifles."

Mr Olsson's first handmade rifle was a standard hunting weapon. But the craftsmanship became more refined. About 1990, he sold his first engraved rifles.

Mr Olsson's son, Ulf, joined the company in 1992, after which VO began to concentrate on craftsmanship.

During the late 1990s, the company made a hunting rifle for the Swedish Prince Carl Philip, and VO was awarded a royal warrant.

After Adihex 2005, the company was eager to produce an even more impressive collection for 2006.

As a show of gratitude to the UAE, the company decided to launch the VO Royal Collection United Arab Emirates Edition. The first weapon in the series honours the founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed.

Mr Olsson said: "It caused great interest. Visitors drove for hours just to kiss the rifle.

"At that moment, we began to understand what we had done."

The company returned for Adihex 2006 with the Royal Collection, selling three rifles for €415,000 each.

Then, in 2009, the company set a record for the most expensive hunting rifle, inspired by the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. A visit to the mosque led gunmakers to incorporate details in its engravings on the rifle, which sold for €650,000.

"The leaders and the people of the UAE appreciate real craftsmanship," Mr Olsson said.