It all starts with Alfred Ziegenhahn, born 1875 in the town of Rotha, situated in the southern parts of the Harz mountains.In 1889 he started his career as an apprentice with Messrs. Schmidt & Habermann in Suhl, where he stayed on as a journeyman to become appointed Master Gunsmith in the same company in 1922. After work hours, Alfred made guns in a small workshop at home and worked on the realisation of ideas which could be patented.
Since 1911 he co-operated with Messrs. Heinrich Diem in Benshausen. During this period the trade mark ‘Zi-Di’ was created. As a humane killer he was honoured with a silver medal by the Cologne Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals.
Alfred’s son, Fritz (born 17 January 1903), was also apprenticed from 1917 to 1920 with Schmidt & Habermann, and successfully passed the master examination test on 29 September 1933.
On 1 January 1923 Alfred Ziegenhahn became self-employed and his son, Fritz, joined him in the business. One of their first orders was the re-conversion of Luger pistols from Calibre 7.65 to the German Ordance Calibre 9mm Luger. 30,000 pistols were converted for the German Reichswehr Army of the Weimar Republic. The next move was the .22 rimfire bolt action sporting rifle model A, B, C and D. These comprised of a patented action and ejector. Later on falling block action guns were made as well as magazine rifles, break open guns, smoothbore as well as rifled and pistols.
As the years passed by and the business flourished the workshop became too small and in 1931 they moved to larger facilities at Hofleitengasse in Suhl. Here it remained until August 1996 when it moved again into the new purpose built premises in Zella-Mehlis.During the Weimar Republic the Firearms Law was tightened and gun registration books were introduced in 1928, these books contain all guns made from 1 October 1928, starting with a rifle No. 427 and hence we can up to this date in continuity trace back what we produced.In the thirties the ‘Zi-Di’ rifle, patented by Alfred was produced jointly with Messrs. Diem of Benshausen who sold these under their name and numbers. The calibre was 5.6 x35R, magazine capacity 5 cartridges. Thanks to his son, Fritz, the workshop was modernised and mechanised so that since about 1925 self-loading pistols in calibre .32 Browning could be made. During World War II, front sights for the Carbine 98 and the Fallschirmjager (airborne troops) machine gun were manufactured.Alfred died in 1946. Fritz continued the business starting from nothing, since in 1945 all guns and ammunition had to be handed over to the American Occupation Forces. Gun making was completely forbidden in those days. To keep above water saws and sawblades were made.
Then in 1952, now in the GDR, firearms production started again with an order for .22 short rapid fire pistols. At this time Rolf, son of Fritz, born on 11 June 1937 commenced his apprenticeship as gun maker with Kurt Hollandt in Suhl. When he had successfully completed his training there, he joined the family business again. Here Fritz had started to tool up for the manufacture of the first ‘Olympia’ rapid fire pistol, calibre .22 short. Unfortunately, Fritz died on 25 march 1957 and Rolf at 19 years old had to continue with the business. He could only obtain the Master Gunsmith Degree in 1959. Beside the Rapid Fire Pistol .22 LR target pistols were produced. This model was Rolf’s first construction.
From 1961 to 1969 the change over took place to a target revolver model, ‘Pentathlon’. By constructing the Ziegenhahn standard pistol model, IV (developed 1969 – 1971) Rolf initiated a new generation of self loading target pistols which were built until 1982 when the model 5005 was introduced. Production came to an end in 1984 because wooden target grips became unavailable. All Ziegenhahn pistols are nowadays highly sought after by collectors. Now the making of long barreled guns and rifles commenced again. Rolf’s son, Jens, born 26 February 1966 was apprenticed by Master Gunmaker, Gunther Retz of Suhl – Goldlauter from 1982 – 1984 when he became a journeyman and returned to his father’s workshop. He underwent a second apprenticeship as gun stocker and passed the Master Examination Test on 10 April 1990.With this thorough training as a base, Jens laid the foundation of the Custom Gunshop where hand-made firearms are created in the new buildings in the town of Zella-Mehlis.
On 19 November 1993, father and son registered the business of Ziegenhahn and Son OHG (general partnership) which they run with equal rights. Father Rolf takes care of the whole of the technical side of the business, son Jens is responsible for the design, the stocking, quality control and the commercial sector.
The German Re-unification of 1990 had a very positive impact on the company. Better raw and auxiliary materials are available now. The technical installations were modernised. Jens striving to always better the quality is echoed within the working force.The entry into the field of African Big Game Hunting rifles means that Ziegenhahn & Son now offer a complete range of first quality hand built guns and rifles for any hunting situation anywhere in the world.
Since 2003 there is a partnership between Ziegenhahn and Krieghoff International Inc. at Ottsville Pennsylvania. Especially for the american market there is produced a Side-by Side-Sidelock named Krieghoff ESSENCIA.