The Feuerschützen


In modern times the organization known as the Honorable Society of Riflemen, AKA the Feuerschützen is becoming something of a rarity.  The Feuerschützen, located in the City of Basel, Switzerland, is an organization of Gentleman Marksmen.  The club is over 550 years old, yet it still meets weekly to shoot, drink, dine and socialize. It's members are all of the professional class, Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, etc.,  as is its tradition.  The Feuerschützen is dedicate to the development of both pistol and rifle markmanship skills, as well as preserving both the traditions and artifacts of the past, and passing those same skills, traditions and artifacts on to future generations.

The Feuerschützen, of Basel may well be the oldest shooting club of it's kind in the world.  The first mention of the Feuerschützen appears in documents dating back to 1466.  The Feuerschützen was organized from the various professional organization of Basel for the purpose of promoting marksmanship to protect the city.   

During their earliest years, the City of Basel provided them with shooting facilities at the city's "Stadtgraben."   However, those facilities soon proved to be inadequate and they were moved to the Schützenmatte.  In 1498, the Feuerschützen built their first Schützenhaus.    

The Schützenhaus in Basel

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However, 60 years later, the City of Basel decided to dedicate a new house to the Feuerschützen , which would be more representative of their status.  Between the years of 1561 and 1564, a new Schützenhaus was constructed.   This building still exists today and is perhaps the most historical building in the city of Basel.   The Schützenhaus, today, serves as a restaurant as well as a meeting place for the Feuerschützen.  A new addition to building also houses the private Feuerschützen Museum.

The Meeting Room in the Feuerschützen Museum

In addition to the recent Feuerschützen Museum, the Schützenhaus also maintains one of the largest private collections of Stained glass in the world.  The collection consists of 43 panes. 13 panes were donated by the various Cantons of the Swiss Confederation and 30 panes were donated by private donors, mostly important families of Basel.  The panes depict historical, biblical, mythological and classical scenes. The windows can still be seen at their original location, in the large banquet room on the second floor of the Schützenhaus.  

An example of the Schützenhaus Stained Glass Collection

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The Schützenhaus remained the Feuerschützen's shooting range until 1898, when they were forced to move due to expansion of the city.   By 1889, the Feuerschützen had opened up a new range at the Allschwilerweiher.  And they continue to have their weekly shoots there even today.

The Feuerschützen Range House at the Allschwilerweiher

Today the Feuerschützen boasts around 400 members.  They hold informal meeting every Thursday at the Schützenhaus.  During the months of April through September, many members take part in a weekly shooting competition at the Allschwilerweiher, before retiring to the Schützenhaus.   See my essay Shooting in Switzerland for details on the weekly matches.   In addition to the regular meetings, they hold several special events, throughout the course of  year.   These events include the Ausmarsch during the summer, the final shooting competition of the year in September, the family get together in October, and a Christmas "Game Shoot" and feast.  The actual high point of the year is the traditional gathering of representatives of  Shooting Societies from all over Switzerland and representatives of the Swiss Army.

Feuerschützen members also participate in other shooting events.  Such events include shooting in the Canton and Federal Schuetzenfestss and  historical shooting events at the Rütli and Morgartenfahrt.  High scoring individuals are honored with small stain glass windows which adorn the Türmli (mini-tower) at the Allschwilerweiher.

It was a genuine honor and privilege to shoot and dine with the Feuerschützen.   They truly are the Honorable Society of Riflemen.  My thanks to Jürg Boss and Hans-Peter Tschui and the rest of the Feuerschützen for their hospitality.

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