The Klett family name has been associated with gunsmithing since the 16th century. Records from 1578 attest to the skilled craftsmanship of Suhl weaponsmiths Stephan and Valentin Klett. Throughout the Thirty Years' War, Wallenstein was a patron of the Suhl gunsmiths Georg and Balthasar Klett in Thuringia.


Iron production in the southern valleys of the Thuringian Forest dates back to the 13th century, driven by the availability of ore deposits, water power, and charcoal. The earliest record of an iron hammer on the Lauter River is from 1437. Utilizing water power, this iron hammer and pipe forge transformed raw steel into armor and weapons.

In the 16th century, the city of Suhl, located along the River Hasel, evolved into a hub for gunsmiths, garnering global acclaim for German gunmakers. Around 1563, Georg Fürst von Henneberg bestowed guild rights upon the gunsmiths, locksmiths, spur makers, and winch makers of Suhl. Stringent standards were enforced on weapon production to maintain high-quality craftsmanship and uphold their reputation both at home and abroad.

Gunsmiths from Suhl distributed their wares to various destinations, including Switzerland, Spain, France, Hungary, Poland, Denmark, and Prussia. Notably, in 1597, the Suhl gunsmith Klaus Klett was remunerated by the city of Zurich, as evidenced by the armory's billing records. Furthermore, in 1600, Denmark purchased 6000 rifle barrels, each adorned with the royal coat of arms. 

During the Turkish Wars, Emperor Rudolf II commissioned thousands of muskets, which were shipped from Regensburg to Vienna along the Danube and supplied by the gunsmith Simon Stöhr. Wallenstein acquired weapons from Suhl merchants such as Georg Klett, Hans Heyelmann, Valentin Cronenberger, Hans Stöhr, Baltasar Klett, and Anton Frey Aldenhoven.

During that period, the inhabitants of Suhl attained significant wealth and prestige. With this prosperity, a taste for luxury emerged in the 16th century, fueling a heightened demand for exquisite weapons and consequently boosting their ornate production.

Other works by him and Cornelius Klett are displayed in the Badisches Landesmuseum and the Metropolitan Museum of New York. Additionally, Sotheby's auction catalog from June 1991 features an extremely rare four-barreled percussion revolving pair by Paul Klett, dated 1680, listed at 20,000 pounds.


The manufacture of these weapons was contingent not just on the quality of the individual components, but also on the accuracy of their assembly. This necessitated relentless dedication from the gunsmiths towards technical enhancements. During the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), the craft experienced a temporary cessation when, in 1634, Croatian forces led by Commander Count Isolani set ablaze the town of Suhl. The conflagration resulted in the destruction of over 800 buildings and the death or abduction of many inhabitants. Eighty-four houses were spared, including the iron hammer, the pipe forge, and the drilling and grinding mill of the Klett family. There, some work could be resumed. The perseverance of certain craftsmen, coupled with the renewed high demand for Suhl weapons—given that the war was far from over—led to a resurgence.


In the past, many gunsmiths and their families left the city to seek opportunities abroad. Johann-Paul Klett the Elder relocated to Ebenau near Salzburg, assumed control of the Episcopal Pipe Forge in 1636, and pioneered the introduction of the first flintlock rifles in Austria. Subsequently, he returned to Suhl. Cornelius, Sigmund, and Johann-Paul the Younger, sons of a renowned designer, gained fame beyond Austria's borders. They were instrumental in developing detachable barrels, magazine rifles, and revolving four-barreled rifles.


At that time, the demand for weapons was high, yet this came at the cost of quality. Not only gunsmiths but also tailors, shoemakers, and butchers were making weapons. This resulted in a prolonged dispute and the establishment of a trade regulation in 1663, which was, however, not adhered to.


It was only after a decree post-1710, permitting the production and trade of firearms exclusively to members of the barrelsmiths, gunsmiths, and gunstock makers guilds, that the reputation of Suhl's gunsmiths was restored.

During the Nordic War (1700-1721), Swedish Colonel Görtz, leading an invasion of Suhl with 4,000 cavalrymen, seized several thousand weapons as war booty. This led to lean years with scant orders. It was not until the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) that demand resurged. The Bavarians placed orders for rifles, as did King Frederick II, also known as the Great. The fire of 1753 marked a significant setback, yet the gunsmiths promptly reconstructed their forges and grinding mills.


During the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), the inhabitants of Suhl produced 25,000 rifles in just the first four years. The conflict also resulted in widespread plundering, inflicting considerable financial losses on the Suhl residents. By the end of the war, the decline in orders left many unemployed, leading numerous craftsmen to emigrate to Austria and Prussia. The crisis persisted until 1778, when the looming threat of war necessitated that the Saxons acquire weapons. Consequently, Denmark placed orders for smoothbore guns—rifles lacking bayonets—for the slave trade in Guinea.

In the 19th century, Suhl's gunsmiths mainly provided rifles to Bavaria and Prussia. However, following the Napoleonic Wars, Suhl emerged as an important hub for the manufacture of hunting weapons.


Helmut Klett, the final descendant of the Suhler lineage, honed his craft at the Adamy company in Suhl starting in 1939. Post-war, he relocated to West Germany, settled in Borken, and founded his own gunsmith shop. Son Eberhard Klett succeeded his father, Helmut Klett, who passed away in 1990. After an apprenticeship in the family business, Eberhard expanded his expertise at W Gehmann/Karlsruhe, owned by the company vom Hofe, and has been a master craftsman since 1986. Eberhard Klett has been managing the company since 1988, and in 2011, the company expanded into larger premises, featuring one of Germany's most modern indoor shooting ranges, operating under the name WAFFEN KLETT - Gun- and Riflemaker since 1578.



The German Hunting Museum in Munich continues to display a wheellock rifle made by Valentin Klett. Furthermore, various European museums showcase historic firearms from the Klett family, including the Windsor Collection, which holds the oldest known rifle with a detachable barrel, created by Sigmund Klett in 1652.