Gunsmithing has a century-long tradition across the Bulgarian lands. Evidence of: a thousand-strong Bulgarian cavalry and Tsar Simeon's (893-927) impressive preparations for the march on Constantinople and his defeat of the strongest army in those days, the Byzantines, indicates that weapons making flourished in the First and Second Bulgarian Empires.
Manufacture of arms on a large scale leads to standardization. Bulgarian master gunsmiths, however, made customized items depending on the client's taste and wealth.
Gunsmithing is an unusual craft - a male craft of pride and dignity. It incorporates decorative arts such as woodcarving, goldsmithery, carving bone, mother-of-pearl and metal.
A number of goldsmithing techniques are applied in the course of ornamentation: forging, casting, inlaying, overlaying, hligreeing, precious and semi-precious stones, gilding.
The city of Sliven, once a major gunsmithing centre, was best known for the specific Sliven sisane, a wide-barreled rifle, and originally designed long and thin rifles. A rifle on view at the local Museum of History is dec-Orated with 16,000 bits and pieces of metal, mother-of-pearl, bone and horn, testifying to the high skills of Sliven gunsmiths.
Bulgarian-made weapons sold well at the big local fairs - in Sliven, Ouzoundjovo, Plovdiv, Chirpan, as well as Persia, Kurdistan, the Caucasus and across Asia Minor where, to quote a French traveller, "French weapons were no match for them."
The craft also flourished in the towns of Gabrovo, Nikopol, Sofia, Kazanluk, Panagyurishte, Vratsa and Vidin.
The tradition has been kept alive by contemporary master gunsmiths such as Dyanko Dyankov from Apriltsi, Dimiter Petrov from Sofia, and Pavlin Pavlov and Zdravko Kostov from Pleven.