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Tack Driving Target Rifles of Uncle Al Freeland

After talking with Brady the other night about buying a few of his guns, we got talking about one of the guns he owns, an Al Freeland BSA Martini. This gun isn’t just one sold by Freeland to Brady, it was one of Al’s personal guns. To make a long story short, Brady had sent in 1000 dollars to buy one of the BSA Martini’s after seeing them in various publications. After a year passed and Brady had no gun in his hand he called up AL and mentioned he was getting a little worried when he had nothing in hand after sending off 1K back a year ago. Brady said Al responded by telling him what the hold up was and promised to send him one of his guns and Brady could keep it for 3 days for inspection, if he didn’t like it send it back and Al would refund his money or he could keep it. Brady got the gun and was beyond pleased. It was a much better gun than the one he originally ordered. The Freeland personal gun having an Eric Johnson barrel. Hopefully I can get a few pictures of it for you when I go over there in a few days. Brady told me he found a website with photo’s of Al’s personal rifles and in one of those photos is the gun that now belongs to Brady. I been trying to find it but I’m having trouble locating the website. If memory serves Brady has an autographed copy of Al’s book shown below.


Anyway. Here is a RIAC Blog post about Uncle Al’s wonderful rifles. by Joel R Kolander

When it comes to competitive target shooting, a name that one finds frequently is Al Freeland. He was known as an accomplished rifleman, but also as a respected major supplier for others who strove to be as serious about their competitive shooting as “Uncle Al” was. How serious was he? He won numerous small bore championships and set several world records. Furthermore, he custom designed many of the rifles he used.  Beginning with BSA Martini actions, he would assemble custom rifles capable of surgical precision.

Freeland made his own barrels, modified receivers, made and bedded his own forends (hand-checkered of course), and used his trademark 3-position aluminum buttstock which would become a standard feature on later BSA Martini target rifles. Seemingly never satisfied, he even designed and sold many of his own accessories including a rifle case that became a standard for many a target shooter in the 1950s – 1980s. It was exactly this type of serious involvement and expertise that had BSA engineers reaching out to Uncle Al to personally discuss his recommendations and ideas. In return, they gave him sole importer rights until his passing in the early 1980s.

Al Freeland world record rifle
With this rifle Al Freeland set several world records and won numerous world championships in small bore shooting.
Al Freeland ad

The name of Albin Freeland is one that deserves to be remembered among firearms enthusiasts. He was passionate about shooting, firearms, and quality.  Equipment made decades ago still serves its purpose today. For a more complete look at the man’s life and his contributions to the shooting world, the biography Uncle Al: The Life and Times of Inventor/Marksman Albin Freeland is highly recommended.

Rock Island Auction Company is pleased to have several items that were the property of the late Uncle Al in our May Premier Auction. Those with an affinity for winning target shooting matches or had a love and respect for our shooting heritage should certainly take notice.

Al Freeland’s Prototype BSA Martini

Al Freeland BSA prototype rifle
Lot 3544: Super Rare One of a Kind Al Freeland BSA Martini Prototype Single Shot Rifle with Eric Johnson 8 Star Barrel

First on the list is this prototype crafted in part by Freeland himself. It comes only one buyer removed from the Freeland estate and is believed to be the basis of the “Mark Series” by BSA. The list of custom features and modifications is extensive. Of significant note is the “8 star” Eric Johnson barrel, who was one of the premier target rifle makers throughout the 1940s-1960s. 8-star represents his highest level of quality and is almost never seen.  Prototype components and a barrel as rare as moon rocks all combine to make this a supremely rare and historic BSA Martini single shot rifle.

Al Freeland’s Custom Hand Built Martini “Super Rifle” – One of 21 Ever Made

Al Freeland hand made super rifle
Lot 3545: Very Rare Early Custom Al Freeland’s Martini Type “Super Rifle” Serial Number 019

Before the BSA Martini “Mark Series” of rifles was developed, Freeland was making his own designs off their modified actions and marking them “Super Rifles” – a remarkably appropriate name. 21 such rifles were produced by Uncle Al, and this one bears the serial number 019. Like the previous gun listed it also bears an Eric Johnson barrel and was purchased directly from Freeland’s estate. This beautiful, hand-checkered custom rifle can be found on pages 129-130 of his biography and remains in excellent condition.

Al Freeland’s Personal World-Record Breaking, Championship Winning Rifle, “Mariah #2”

Al Freeland championship rifle
Lot 3546: Super Rare Original “Al Freeland’s” Personal Mariah #2 BSA Martini Single Shot Target Rifle

This is Al Freeland’s personal target rifle that he used for over 25 years to win most of his small bore championships and set world records from the mid-1950s through the 1970s. Built on the BSA MkII target rifle action, the remainder of the rifle is hand built and earned the nickname “Mariah #2.” The cool factor is through the roof on this piece of firearms history. But be forewarned, if you can’t bust a 10-ring with this rifle, you will be left with zero excuses.

Al Freeland BSA Martini Mk II Target Rifle, “Mariah #5”

Al Freeland BSA Martini rifle
Lot 3547: Scarce Original Al Freeland Family BSA Martini MKII Target Rifle with Custom Forend “Mariah #5”

You’ve already met Mariah #2, so now meet Mariah #5. Also discussed in his biography, this is a mostly standard BSA MkII with the exception of two things: a custom, deluxe wood foreend installed by Al and a small paper tag still attached to the rifle that reads, “Not for Sale, personal Property of Ted Freeland Mark II.” Ted was Al’s eldest son. It’s in great condition and links directly back to the Freeland family.

Custom Winchester Model 52B Target Rifle with A. W. Peterson Barrel

Al Freeland custom Winchester 52B target rifle
Lot 3548: Al Freeland Custom Winchester Model 52B Target Rifle with an A. W. Peterson Barrel

Now for something completely different.  Well, not completely, but is the only non-BSA Martini rifle of the Freeland items being offered in this sale. Shown here is a Winchester 52B target rifle that been given a custom stock, handmade by Freeland, as well as an original, custom barrel by A.W. Peterson of Denver, CO. Peterson. Peterson is also a well-known name in his own right, learning his trade from a line of highly respected barrel markers – namely George Schoyen, who in turn learned from the famous Carlos Gove. That’s a lot of clout in one Winchester.

Late Production BSA Martini MK III 22 LR Target Rifle

Late Production BSA Martini MK III 22 LR Target Rifle
Lot 3549: Late Production BSA Martini MK III 22 LR Target Rifle

If you want all the innovation that Freeland provided, but at a price that doesn’t involve his direct provenance, this lot is for you. It’s a BSA Martini Mk III in excellent condition with the fully adjustable trigger and over travel. This is the exact style of rifle that has been used by top smallbore match shooters at Camp Perry and other notable competitions across the country. It’s a tack driver just waiting to hit the range again.

Five 22 LR (BSA and Remington) Target Rifle Barrels and Uncle Al Freeland’s Autobiography Book

Five 22 LR Target Rifle Barrels and Al Freeland's Autograph Book
Lot 3551: One Lot of Five 22 LR (BSA and Remington) Target Rifle Barrels and Uncle Al Freeland’s Autobiography Book

Looking to begin your own target rifle build? Our May Premier even has a lot with five BSA & Remington target barrels in 22 LR that were originally obtained when Freeland’s Gun Shop closed in the early 1980’s. If they were carried in his shop, you can be sure they’re of a quality that Al wouldn’t have been afraid to use himself, and that’s as gleaming an endorsement as any. In case you need additional inspiration for your own target rifle build there’s even a copy of Uncle Al’s biography thrown in for good measure.

While I knew that Uncle Al was based in Rock Island, Illinois, a fun fact I discovered while writing this article is that the location he used to hold shop was less than half a mile from where I attended college. I had ordered pizza from across the street and eaten breakfast at the greasy spoon across the intersection, yet had no idea the firearms heritage that was in my very midst. It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder what else is out there and deserves our respect.

Uncle Al storefront
Freeland’s storefront located at 3737 14th Avenue in Rock Island, IL. A humble front for the nationally respected business within.

There is no shortage of target rifles in our May Premier Auction, but few come with the prestige, provenance, and proven excellence rightly associated with Uncle Al Freeland. All the rifles and items shown here will be offered this Sunday, so there is still time to place a bid on these high precision machines and their proud heritage.

4 thoughts on “Tack Driving Target Rifles of Uncle Al Freeland”

  1. Many US-based readers will likely have little to now knowledge of the BSA Martini action match rifles, nor have an appreciation of the outsized role that Al Freeland played in the development of these rifles as record-holding tack-drivers.

    First, “BSA” stands for “Birmingham Small Arms.” This conglomeration of factories in Birmingham was staffed by people who called themselves “Brummies” and who churned out a huge amount of manufactured goods, including small arms, for the UK. The BSA Martini International was their ultimate (and basically swan song) target rifle.

    Here’s a UK-based series of web pages that give background on the BSA Martini’s, Mk I, II and III:

    https://www.rifleman.org.uk/BSA_Martini_International_Mks.I_and_II.html

    You can see Al Freeland mentioned quite a bit in this UK appreciation of their pinnacle of target rifle.

    As someone who owns and shoots a Anschuetz target rifle, but who has access to a couple of Mk III’s in a fellow shooter’s inventory, here’s my estimation:

    The BSA action has a slightly slower trigger lock time than the Annie’s do. We’re talking mere milliseconds. The Annie trigger lock time is very fast.

    But the BSA Martini trigger is adjustable in so many ways, without having to stone it. It’s wonderfully adjustable, and it is a very nice trigger. The entire lockwork of these rifles can be taken out as a cassette-type unit – you unscrew that fat knob-like thumbscrew on the side of the action and the whole lockwork pulls out the bottom. This is very nice for cleaning and inspection without having to do a detailed strip/reassembly of a whole bunch of screws and pins.

    These rifles are heavy – the barrel on these rifles alone goes about 6+ lbs, depending on the length/profile. I’ve seen a Mk III that, all the accessories on the gun for standing/offhand shooting, adds up to more than 10 lbs. When you pull the trigger on a 40 grain .22 LR round, you don’t hear a “bang” so much as a “pop” and the gun barely shudders.

    IMO, the variant of the rifle to have if you’re interested in shooting with a sling in the way that we Americans use a 1907 sling is the Mk III “International” – this has a better forearm hanger than will withstand the force of pulling down/in on a sling better than the Mk I or Mk III. They’re all good rifles, it is just that the Mk III deals with that forearm hanger issue better.

    With most people equating “match” rifles with bolt actions, it is good and useful to remember that not all “match” rifles are bolt guns. This is an example of a rifle that could throw down gnat’s-ass groups without being a bolt gun – and, in fact, using an action that dates from nearly 100 years ago.

    Reply
    • You just ruined a major article I was working on about the history of BSA and Martini Henry rifles I planned to post in the next few days. thank you for that pal. lol

      Reply

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