December 2004

Downrange 12/04: Thief Steals SIG's "Thunder"

In this space, I usually stick with discussions of politics or gun ownership that apply to broad audiences. This month is a departure from that formula, because of the unique nature of a stolen gun that’s just come to light. That this priceless gun is one of a kind isn’t so newsworthy; expensive firearms are stolen from individuals every day, here and abroad. No, this gun was stolen from a manufacturer, which itself is curious. And that the thief cherry-picked this specific item from among thousands is confounding as well. Here’s the full story:

SIGARMS Inc. is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the individuals responsible for the theft and the ultimate return of its finest show gun — a custom-engraved Blaser R93 named “Okavango Thunder.” The rifle, along with a matching custom engraved Damascus steel knife named “Okavango Lightning,” was reported stolen when company officials discovered it missing during booth set-up at the 2004 SHOT Show in Las Vegas on February 11.

“When we realized the rifle was stolen, we immediately notified SHOT Show security and contacted the Las Vegas Police Department. We then contacted the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which owns the SHOT Show and asked for their assistance in contacting the ATF personnel on-hand at SHOT. The rest of the evening was spent assisting the police and ATF in establishing their investigation,” explained Mark Kresser, vice president of commercial sales for SIGARMS.

The stolen items were among the many SIGARMS exhibited during the Safari Club International (SCI) Show in Reno. When that show closed on January 24, company officials cataloged, repacked and secured under lock and key the show guns for exhibit at the SHOT Show just three weeks later in Las Vegas. The show guns were then stored in Nevada between the two shows.

SIGARMS officials discovered both “Thunder” and “Lightning” had gone missing when the entire contents of the SCI Show firearms container were unpacked. SIGARMS estimates the value of the rifle to be in excess of $60,000.

“Someone knew exactly what they were looking for,” said Kresser, “they took exactly one case — but it was one of our crown jewels. That is why we are offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the individuals responsible for the theft and the ultimate return of “Okavango Thunder and Lightning” in their original condition.”

This rifle, the “Okavango Thunder,” is one of a kind and features Bullino on-steel engraving, ivory and scrimshaw detail work and other features, including an ivory bolt knob and intricate detail work. The accompanying “Okavango Lightning” was an equally ornate Damascus steel knife in the same motif, right down to its ivory handle.

Engraver Richard Maier, better known under the artist name “Ritchi” for his animal and live wild motifs, called “Okavango Thunder” one of his finest works in the Bullino engraving. This engraving technique is performed with fine engraving needles and magnifying glass. The resulting effect resembles photo-realism. Maier further enhanced the effect by carefully dyeing the ivory and scrimshaw work.

“Okavango Lightning” was produced by Egon Trompeter, the renowned knife maker. In lavish preparation and concept he designed this knife to the set of “Okavango Lightning.”

Together “Okavango Thunder and Lightning” represent one of the finest custom rifle and knife sets ever made, and their theft is a great loss not only for SIGARMS and Blaser, but all those who appreciate the fine craftsmanship of these two great artisans.


-Todd Woodard