by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Millitia rifle
Millita air rifle.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Another find from Findlay
  • It’s a rifle
  • Description
  • Trigger
  • Sights
  • It’s been lubricated
  • What we have

Another find from Findlay

Today we start looking at an air rifle that I know very little about. I bought it from someone who walked into the Findlay airgun show, earlier this year. In the Blue Book of Airguns on page 593 it is called a Millita-style air rifle. While there are many different air riflesmade in that style, I think the one I have is the real thing!

The seller didn’t know very much about the rifle and the buyer knew even less. But the rifle seemed to be complete and sound and the price was fair, so I took the plunge. I knew I would be testing it here and probably one of you readers could tell me all about it. I will tell you what I have been able to find and you can fill in the blanks.

According to the book, “Air Rifles,
by Dennis Hiller, the Original V rifle I have was made in the 1930s. The patina of the gun certainly agrees with that.

Millitia Original V
“Original V” is engraved on the top barrel flat.

Also found on my rifle and in Hiller’s description is the circular trademark FLZ. I was familiar with that mark from articles written by Larry Hannusch years ago, so when I saw it on the rifle I felt this might be the real deal.

Millitia Original V trademark
The FLZ trademark is on the breech.

It’s a rifle

Many long guns of this era are smoothbores, but this one is definitely rifled. It was made by Fritz Langenhan in Zella Mehlis, Germany. These were very popular throughout Europe and the United Kingdom before the war.

The rifle’s serial number is repeated in part on the breech. European guns commonly put portions of the serial number on many of the major parts of the gun, just to keep things together where they belong.

Millitia Original V serial
The serial number.

Millitia Original V breech
Last part of the serial is on the breech.

Description

This rifle is a .177-caliber breakbarrel that has just a walnut buttstock and no forearm. That was a look common to the early era of spring guns. The thing that sets this one apart from all the rest is the toggle lever that allows the shooter to push the spring-loaded barrel detent back out of the way. It sticks down through the long steel cocking link that has a slot to allow movement of the lever. The profile of the Millita is unmistakeable because of this lever.

Millitia Original V detent lever
The lever sticks through the long cocking link. Push it back and the barrel opens.

What isn’t obvious in the pictures is this lever is actually a barrel lock. The breech cannot be opened unless it is pushed back. It’s a clever design that serves both as the lock and the detent. The HW35 has something similar, but other than that is has been lost with the ages.

Millitia Original V detent lever spring
Looking up in the spring tube we see the coiled spring that powers the detent lever. The detent is actually the end of the lever!

The rifle weighs 6 lbs. 4oz. and is 43-inches long. The barrel, which is octagonal at the breech and transforms abruptly to round in a few inches forward, is just over 19.125-inches long. The butt is walnut and both the buttplate and grip cap are steel plate. The butt is held to the action by a long through bolt.

The butt drops sharply down, bringing the comb up to the cheek when the rifle is shouldered. The pistol grip is checkered on both sides, and on my rifle the checkering is well worn to flat diamonds. The wood has been sanded in the past and now stands proud of the metal parts in several places.

Trigger

The trigger is adjustable. A long screw passes through the front of the triggerguard to bear on the sear. Screw it in and there is less sear contact with the trigger — a so-called direct sear. At present there is no adjustment on it and the rifle has a stout single-stage pull. It’s safe, and I will leave it where it is for now.

Millitia Original V trigger
The trigger is adjustable by controlling the amount of sear engagement.

Sights

The front sight is a post with a bead on top. The rear sight adjusts for elevation. If you need adjustment to either side, both sights are in transverse dovetails and can be moved.

When you move the disk that adjusts the rear sight notch, it gets very loose and there is no good way to tighten it. I think this is the rifler’s weakest area.

Millitia Original V rear sight
The rear sight adjusts for elevation. But when that round disk moves, the sight blade gets very loose.

It’s been lubricated

A rifle of this vintage has a leather piston and breech seal. I oiled both with Crosman Pellgunoil when I started this report. After a day of soaking-in, the rifle was shooting smartly which is not an exact velocity but I will guess it’s somewhere in the 500s.

I can see part of the mainspring through the cocking slot and there is a small amount of grease on the coils. It looks like someone has done a recent lubrication, so I assume the rifle has been apart recently, and the grease is probably something modern.

What we have

What we have is a vintage breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle. It may have been made in the ‘30s, but it resembles every spring rifle made from 1905 until the start of WW II. The technology was being invented during this time — it didn’t start to evolve until later.

This will be an interesting test, because this is an interesting air rifle. Not since I owned a 1914 BSA Standard have I had such a vintage spring rifle to test!