Quebec Papal Zouave’s Ceremonial Gewehr 71/84

Here’s a rifle with an interesting twisting history…

This began life as a German military Gewehr 71/84, made in 1888. It was issued to a unit, but eventually replaced by the Gewehr 1888. It was sold to the Francis Bannerman company at some point around 1900, as part of a big batch of surplus weapons (Bannerman was a massive international dealer in arms and military equipment). Moving ahead a few years, World War One breaks out and prompts the organization of a couple Canadian “Home Guard” organizations. The Montreal Home Guard has some money, and buys a batch of Savage Model 99 lever action rifles (in .303 Savage, interestingly). The Quebec Home Guard isn’t quite so well heeled, so they go to Bannerman to see what they can afford. Bannerman sells them a batch of Gewehr 71/84 tube-magazine repeating rifles, in the same configuration as when they were sold off by the German military.

Incidentally, I believe these become the only Mauser rifles formally purchased and issued by the Canadian government, when they are acquired by the Home Guard. At any rate, after the war ends, a subset of those old rifles are given to the Quebec Papal Zouaves – a ceremonial vestige of the Quebecois military volunteers who went to Italy in the 1860s to help defend the Papacy during Italian unification. By this time, the Zouaves are basically just action as guards in parades, and they crudes cut down the 71/84s, remove their magazines, and fit them with cut-down British Snider bayonets for use as single-shot, blank-firing arms.

Quite the journey, right? And also a reminder that sometimes what looks like sporterized junk is actually something with distinct historical provenance…

Many thanks to Mike Carrick of Arms Heritage Magazine for making this example available for filming!


  1. Granddad was in the State Guard in the Great War (as a railroad machinist, he was exempt from the draft and a bunch of railroaders were discharged from the Army after they enlisted as they were needed to fight “The Battle of Transportation”) His unit was issued Model 1873 Trap Door Springfields with ammunition dating back to the Indian Wars. “We figured at least the bayonets would work”

    When I was stationed at the US Military Academy at West Point, I was only a few miles down river from Bannerman’s Castle, which burned in a spectacular fire in the Sixties (you can go on guided tours of the ruins). Bannerman wsa a shady character, both in terms of the quality of what he sold (you took your life in your hands if you shot some of his mongrel “bargain” guns composed of parts from different arms) and how a ship would dock at night at Bannerman’s Island and a month later there would be a revolution in Latin America.

    BTW, Ian, how about going over the various models of trapdoor rifles and carbines? Or, for that matter, Bannerman?

  2. Agree with the Colonel. Bannerman was indeed an interesting character. Wonder what influence if any his establishment had on a young Sam Cummings?

  3. For some instant gratification, I believe he has done a few episodes that touch upon Bannerman (pump shotgun lawsuit most recently and shooting a Bannerman 30-06 Mosin Nagant as well as a few others if I remember right). He has also done a bunch on trapdoors over the years but I don’t think any were like the comprehensive series he does for other rifles. I agree, an in depth take on both topics would be really interesting

  4. The various Canadian Home Guards of WWI were not a government sponsored organizations but were private civilian clubs made up of patriotic citizens.
    The Defence Dept had enough on its hands dealing with the existing Militia and hundreds of new CEF units. It did not need a third army to administer.

  5. In regards to you Patreon video not posted here. I would never support anyone on Patreon. Patreon doesn’t know their place and doesn’t adhere to their own TOS. If it’s not in their TOS or against the law then they should learn to stay the fk out of peoples business.

  6. A sad fate for a fine rifle: clown carbine! The 11mm Mauser (if properly loaded) is a great, albeit short-ranged, hunting round for Canadian big game. The Mauser was probably a better bear stopper than the .30-30.

    • Be glad that it wasn’t chopped down in order to frame someone for “making gangster guns.” I’m pretty sure the US government actually tried something like that, only to fail when the judge questioned whether the chopped-up “gangster guns” could actually work. Here’s a clue: the prosecutor couldn’t get any of the weapons to chamber a round and fire, as they were all mangled muzzle-loaders.

    • “…The Mauser was probably a better bear stopper than the .30-30…”(C)

      No “probably”. This is the case.
      After replacing the Berdan rifles with Mosin rifles, it immediately became clear that no tricks with the design of the 7.62 bullet help even to come close to the stopping effect of the 10.7 bullet on black powder.

      • This rifle is a fairly rational choice for a “ceremonial gun”.
        Short and quick-witted. With effective bayonet and rhinoceros stopping action.
        And in the event of an attack on the pontiff by a fanatic from the crowd, there simply will be no time for a second shot.

  7. Been meaning to mention this for a bit, there are quite a few times when you need to show the inside of something, but can’t get an angle. I know things can be tight, but the price of endoscopes has fallen considerably over the years. Just a thought, great find, from service rifle to cut up ceremonial prop, kinda cool

    • Great idea! I bought an endoscope as a toy, more or less, connects to my phone, easy to use, and it saved a friend hundreds of dollars poking around the innards of a bulldozer.

    • Those Swiss Guards are serious soldiers. The Pope is always going on about how bad walls are, but his are well protected.

    • “Taylor Knock Out Factor”(C)

      There is only one thing left to understand.
      What does the deafening effect of a bullet hit in the skull bone have to do with the “stopping action”? 😉

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