Swiss K31 Snipers (Video)

The Swiss experimented with scoped sniper rifles during World War II, and the results were the K31/42 and the K31/43. Only a couple thousand were made between the two models, and they were not considered particularly successful. Ultimately they were replaced by the ZfK-55 (a much better rifle for the purpose) a decade after the war. The two earlier versions are pretty interesting to see though – I had the chance to look at examples of both types at Simpson Ltd in Galesburg, Illinois. Here’s the video I put together on them:


  1. Extremely interesting, Ian. I’d been aware of the K31/42 and K31/43 but never knew exactly how their optics worked.

    The BDC slide is interesting. And looks like one that would be pretty “soldier-proof” in conditions of extreme cold, such as mountain operations in a European winter. Which makes perfect sense for Switzerland.

    With the low set scope line allowing an instant switch to the iron sights in event of a target popping up right in front of the shooter, and the fast action of the straight-pull bolt, if they were just a little shorter they could be excellent rifles for brush hunting.

    The debate about the type and magnification of optics for sniping goes back to the Crimean War. Most military sniping scopes tended to be low power, like the 2 1/2 power Lyman scopes used on many M1903A3 snipers during WW2.

    View area probably counts for more than sheer magnification. For a military sniper’s purpose, hitting the target anywhere on the torso within the “sniper’s triangle” is generally good enough. The trick is being able to track a moving target before he gets out of the field of view, especially if he’s moving across it and from cover to cover.

    A lot like deer hunting, as a matter of fact.



  2. SMLE WW1 snipers had offset scopes, which were similarly inline with the height of the original sight, with more conventional scopes though.

  3. How unusual! I never even had a hint of those.

    A 3-power scope with such a tiny tube must have had an absurdly small visual field at closer ranges.

  4. Haemmerli also set up about 200 ZFK 31/50 originally for Colombia, but the deal fell through, and the rifles were partly (or wholly) taken up by Israel, in 7,5 Swiss Calibre. I have one, Minus scope, with Israeli Hebrew property Markings. Serials on these rifles are “ZK” prefixed, 001 to around 200.

    Any idea where I can get an original Scope and Mount ( the Lugs are still on the receiver (Round Pins)?

    Doc AV
    Down Under.

  5. “A lot like deer hunting, as a matter of fact.” As an old farm boy in whitetail country, I can only say “Yep”.

  6. Straight-pull lock may increase the rate of fire, and accruacy – IF EVERYTHING WORKS ALLRIGHT. I read thet the Canadian Ross rilfes, with the straight-pull lock, were very likely to jam udner adverse conditioons (and what elese doyou get in teh trenches?), especially mud.
    Regards, Andrzej

  7. The Ross rifle suffered from the fault of being precisely manufactured, and the conditions in the trenches caused most of the “jams” due to dirt, mud, corroded/poor ammunition. While this rifle didn’t work out in trench warfare, they are accurate, and very well made. Poor/corroded ammunition made feeding rounds, adn extracting fired cases problematical in the filthy conditions of the trenches, just as the original M-16 rifles had a problem in Viet Nam. While an SMLE rifle, with its generous chamber, and loose tolerances in regards to bolt fitment, would digest dirty/corroded ammunition, and still extract and feed reliably, the Ross M10 would not. While not due to poor design, this fault made the rifle a liability to soldiers, who would pick up an SMLE, and toss their Ross, given the chance. I must wonder how the SR rifles would perform in similar conditions, well made, to tight tolerances, this fine rifle may well have been a nightmare in the filthy conditions of the trenches, that made keeping ammunition clean a real chore, and the wet/mud making the problem of corroded ammunition, common.

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