Swiss K31 7.5x55mm at Samco Global
The Swiss are know for two things, neutrality and precision. There is a lot more going on over there than just those two things, but if you look at history, the Swiss are known for being a neutral country during both World Wars, and for their meticulous precision in things like watches. Swiss neutrality, in fact, could not have been achieved without the precision of the Swiss rifle, called the Schmidt Rubin. There is a famous question: “Why was Switzerland never invaded by the Germans?” The answer is simple. In 1912, the German Kaiser asked a Swiss soldier what Switzerland would do if Germany invaded with 500,000 troops, while the Swiss could only muster 250,000. The soldier answered: “Shoot twice and go home.”
He could never have said that without complete faith in the Swiss rifle. The Schmidt Rubin is a straight pull, bolt action rifle, and it is known to be the most accurate battle rifle ever made. Swiss rifles have their own shooting events, and you can even win actual Swiss medals. There are collector associations and discussion boards, all dedicated exclusively to Swiss rifles. Until recently the supply of any Swiss rifles had dwindled to those already in collections. Like myself, most collectors and accumulators don’t like to give up their Schmidt Rubin style rifles, because there is no comparison to the meticulous precision in a wooden stocked bolt action battle rifle. Fortunately a final shipment has recently come into a company that obviously has a passion for these rifles, because they seem to be the only reliable importer since the early 2000s. Samco Global has the last every shipment from Switzerland of these great guns, and you can even get one in nearly perfect, unissued condition.
The rifle under review here is called the K31, and it is not truly a Schmidt Rubin because Schmidt by 1931 had passed away. You don’t lift the bolt and pull back on these guns. The entire pull is literally straight, and the bolt rotates inside the action, not unlike the AR-15, which is an indirect descendent of the Schmidt Rubin. As the Swiss straight pull rifle most common in circulation, most people, including those who sell them, tend to call the K31 a Schmidt Rubin. This is a World War II battle rifle that never saw battle. Every male over the age of 20 was issued one at the time (and that Swiss custom continues to this day for the most part), but Switzerland was never invaded. Nearly every household in Switzerland has a Sig semi-automatic rifle in the closet today. So most likely Switzerland will not get invaded in the next World War either.
I bought my first K31 back in 2005 at a gunshop when I first moved to Miami. I paid roughly $250, and it was explained to me at the time that most of these guns have very rough buttstocks, because the Swiss used a very soft beechwood. In further research it appears that they only did this up through WWII, and they were walnut after that. My original gun is this rough beechwood, but I never begrudged it the bad looks because oh my goodness did it shoot well. My eyes have gone drastically downhill in the last five years as age takes its course, but back then I could repeatedly shoot groups that you could cover with a nickel. Not just 3 and 5 shot groups either. The gun shot into a ragged hole, period, the end. Today, shooting to compare to the new guns from Samco, I was able to keep most shots into 1.5″ at 100 yards, with most of them within an inch. For a full stocked wood and steel battle rifle that is still pretty awesome.
As you can see from the pictures, I bought one the unissued condition beech stocked rifles for $599.95, and one of the walnut stocked guns in special select condition for $299.95. As of this writing they are both still available at Samco, though this may be one of those cases where our early readers win out. The guns were as gorgeous as I had hoped, and all the numbers match. You probably already know that the most crucial part of a rifle’s accuracy is the crown, at the end of the barrel. A perfectly machined and recessed crown is absolutely required for good accuracy, and the beech rifle from Samco actual came with a muzzle cap. The Swiss don’t mess around.
The ammo for the K31 is 7.5x55mm, or 7.5 Swiss. There are a number of manufacturers making this caliber today, but I prefer to shoot the original Swiss match ammo. It comes in ten round boxes and usually has dates on it from the 1970s. Our test ammo had a 1978 date on it, and I found some 1982 date rounds at Cheaper Than Dirt for $28 per block of six ten round boxes. I grabbed a bunch, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot left of it in the US these days so grab some if you plan to shoot your rifle. It is still perfect because the bullets are sealed with a wax coating. For most people these are not reloadable since they are berdan primed cases. There is such a thing as a berdan priming tool, that punches through the two small offset holes, but most people don’t reload berdan primed brass. Other manufacturers make boxer primed reloadable rounds, available at many gunshops and online.
What I found most surprising was that I could not get either of the new guns to shoot as well as my old rough beech rifle from ’05. What I’ve read, Googling around, is that the guns that are coming into the country now are all civilian owned rifles, which of course weren’t shot that much after the owner qualified with it. I think maybe they just haven’t settled in as well as the old gun has, and that is why I tend to get more fliers, outside of the 1-1.5″ range. The beech gun may actually be unissued judging by its condition. There are handling and bang in to each other marks, but the metal is perfect.
The K31 is different from most other battle rifles because there is such an enthusiast group behind it. If you search Ebay for K31, you’ll find all kinds of clamp on diopter sights and accuracy tools that you just don’t see for really any other rifle of its kind (not that there really is a rifle of its kind). If you want to get into these cool and unique rifles, also check out http://www.swissproductsllc.com/. Brownells actually sells their stuff, so don’t think that the K31 craze is a few old guys congratulating themselves on MOA groups. The K31 is not a well kept secret, and you’ll be lucky if you can pry one out of someone’s hands if Samco runs out. On GunsAmerica we only get a handful of them a year for sale, even though there have to be tens of thousands in the country.
I did also ask the Samco people if this is really the last of the K31s from Switzerland and they said yes, this is it. I don’t know if that means that they are gone, or if the UN has gotten the Swiss to agree not to sell anymore to the US. Suffice to say that you won’t have to wonder if you’ll get your money back out of a K31 that you buy today. Even the $599 guns will double after a couple years once word gets around that they are all gone. I doubt you’ll be able to even get the ones with the rough old beechwood stocks for under $500. Don’t count on wanting to sell yours though. They are really sweet guns.