By Craig L Barry
Feb/March 2011 Civil War News- The Watchdog

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WINCHESTER, Va. — Euroarms of America, the distributor for the oldest maker of Civil War reproduction muskets, is closing according to Jan. 14 notice sent to customers.

We were unable to get a comment from Euroarms or the Davide Pedersoli company of Italy, which is said to have purchased the manufacturer, Euroarms Italia.

Euroarms of America imported reproduction firearms made by Euroarms Italia and Armi San Paolo, including U.S. Civil War-era black powder revolvers and rifles.

The Italians have been making reproduction revolvers since the late 1950s and muskets since the mid-1970s. There were three primary manufacturers: Euroarms (Armi San Paolo), Armi Sport (Armi-Chiappa) and Davide Pedersoli.

The Italians have an excellent national proof house that tests all black powder barrels coming in to Italy as well as those produced there for export.

Hence, it is very easy to determine if a reproduction Civil War musket came from Italy and when it was manufactured based on the proof marks and a two-letter date code next to the marks.

Armi San Paolo was the original name for the factory near Brescia, Italy, where Euroarms products were made. Euroarms d/b/a Armi San Paolo has been in the firearm business for just over 50 years. The company initially produced small arms and shotguns.

According to Blue Book Publications, a valuation service for black powder arms, the company that became Euroarms began when two American black powder enthusiasts traveled to Italy to find a gun maker willing to reproduce the famous 1851 Colt Navy revolver.

Val Forgett Sr., who later founded Navy Arms, and William B. Edwards, the technical editor of Guns magazine, were in Europe as part of an international gun tour in 1957.

At that time, one of the few English-speaking employees at Beretta was Luciano Amadi. The story goes that during dinner with Forgett and Edwards, Amadi agreed to take on the Colt 1851 revolver as a start-up project.

It took him several months to locate and import an original revolver, and even more time to find an Italian factory. He made a $500 deposit to start the tooling process.

The growing demand from black powder shooters, U.S. Civil War Centennial reenactors and the Sergio Leone “spaghetti Westerns” made the venture an immediate success.

The factory officially changed its name from Armi San Paolo to Euroarms Italia on Dec. 31, 2001. Euroarms of America was established in 1970 and located in Winchester, Va.

In 1972 Parker-Hale of Birmingham, England, introduced a line of reproduction Enfield rifles. Euroarms soon began making copies of P-53 and P-58 Parker-Hale reproduction Enfields, even copying the same deviations from the original patterns.

If you remove the lock assembly from any Euroarms reproduction Enfield you can see the initials “P-H” (for Parker-Hale) still stamped on the bridle.

There were differences, too. The Euroarms barrels and gunstocks were much heavier than the Parker-Hales. The thicker Euroarms .58 barrels weigh in at about one pound more than the Parker-Hale .577 barrel.

The Euroarms gun stock is quite a bit thicker to accommodate the oversized barrel. It is produced from European walnut, which is 30 percent denser and heavier than other walnut. As a result the Euroarms reproduction Enfield rifle-musket weighs about a pound and a half more than the Parker-Hales.

Civil War reenactors were drawn by the affordability of the Euroarms version and their popularity grew along with the reenacting hobby.

When Parker-Hale halted production of its black powder line in the 1990s, it sold the naming rights and Euroarms continued manufacture of Enfield rifles and rifle-muskets stamped Parker-Hale. These were essentially Euroarms locks and gun stocks with a Birmingham-made Parker-Hale .577 barrel.

Euroarms offered Civil War-era black powder firearms designed around three core products with cosmetic variations.

The first were Enfield-based models which included a carbine (musketoon), rifle, rifle-musket, a Cook & Brother Confederate variation, along with the Whitworth and Volunteer target rifles.

The next were the U.S. 1841-based models that include a Mississippi rifle in .54 and .58 and the anachronistic, as far as Civil War use, Remington contract rifle of 1862-3, plus a J.P. Murray carbine.

Lastly, models based on the U.S. 1861 rifle-muskets, which included the U.S. 1855, C.S. Richmond, U.S. 1861 and U.S. 1863 types I and II.

Other black powder products include a U.S. 1803 “Lewis and Clark” flintlock rifle, a Remington 1858 Army revolver and a nice reproduction of the somewhat rare Rogers & Spencer revolver.

There was little competition until the late 1980s when two Euroarms of America employees left to start Taylor’s & Company, also in Winchester. It became an importer for Armi-Chiappa (Armi Sport), which was Euroarms’ main competitor in Civil War reproduction firearms.

Davide Pedersoli both competed with and maintained a business relationship with Euroarms, including selling a Pedersoli U.S. 1861 Springfield reproduction made from parts produced by Euroarms.

Ironically, Davide Pedersoli started production of muzzle-loading reproductions when Luciano Amadi presented him with a single shot pistol to copy in 1961.

Pedersoli offers premium-priced 18th and 19th century flintlocks and other European rifles and muskets in its black powder line. While no early model .69 U.S. or European-type smoothbore muskets were available from Euroarms, Pedersoli offers both a U.S. Model 1816 smoothbore musket in flintlock and a percussion version with the “cone in drum” bolster conversion.

While it remains to be seen what the future holds as far as the acquisition of Euroarms, Pedersoli immediately acquires a Civil War-era product line of revolvers, rifles and muskets in time for the cycle of 150th anniversary events.