A Sneaky Swiss Sniper for Israel: the ZK-31

In 1949, Israel was still fighting its was of independence, and purchasing arms internationally was difficult to do. The recently-formalized IDF wanted sniper rifles, and looked to Hammerli in Switzerland for a variant of the K-31 straight-pull bolt action action. Two different models were purchased; 100 of the ZK-31 with 4x Kahles scopes, and 100 of the FK-31 with target diopter sights. The Swiss could not legally ship them directly to Israel, and so the order was placed for Nicaragua instead. Mysteriously, the freighter carrying the rifles somehow sank off the coast of Egypt, and the guns ended up in Israeli hands. They were taken into IDF service, and saw use in the early days of Israeli independence.

The style of optics mount on these rifles is also pretty interesting aside from the history of the guns…


    • Not really. In 1946-50, Liberty ships and etc. no longer needed by the Allied forces were sitting in ports around the Med and elsewhere basically abandoned. They could be had for scrap value, and in some cases if you promised the port authorities to get this damn thing out of our way they’d practically give them to you for free with a complimentary load of Diesel fuel.

      It’s a fair guess that the cargo of rifles cost the nascent IDF more than the ship itself did.



        • The IDF was under a ban by the British Attlee government, who were backing Egypt so as to keep control of the Suez Canal. The events of 1956 show how wrong-headed that decision was.

          Other than the USAAF, the major user of the P-51 in all its iterations was..the Royal Air Force.

          Attlee wasn’t about to sell Mustangs to Israel, or let anybody else do it. The ones they did get mainly came from U.S. aircraft boneyards as far away as Okinawa. After changing hands three or four times each through “jobbers” and “false fronts”.

          In the process, that $4000/ea. figure went up, and up, and up. The Avia S.199 ended up being a better “investment”, because that $180K included everything, including what we would now call “tech support”, while a “stripped” P-51D would cost them $140K on average.

          It ended abruptly in 1951, when the Russians decided to support Egypt and Syria in the hope of controlling Suez and getting a warm-water port on the Med. They “prevailed” upon Czechoslovakia to be a good member of the Warsaw Pact and stop supporting the American “puppet state” named Israel.

          See The Pledge by Leonard Slater.

          clear ether


  1. Now that one looks like a good shooter. The K31 sniper is a bit annoying. Sights just don’t feel right. Little lame. Cheek weld is funky.

    Those sights look better.

  2. Trust the Swiss and the Israelis to come up with a way to get around the legalities of getting arms to the IDF and provide an effective tool for prosecuting the cause of Israeli independence. Did any of these rifles ever show up in Nicaragua?

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