Swiss ZfK-55 Sniper (Video)

At the Rock Island Auction last month, there were several Swiss ZfK-55 sniper rifles up for sale. The rifle is basically a K31 action, with a bunch of modifications to convert it into a very nice marksman’s rifle. The more obvious changes are the muzzle brake (very reminiscent of the second model FG-42, which makes sense as the Swiss experimented with those rifles quite a bit after the war), pistol grip stock, bipod, and 3.5x optical scope. In addition, the barrel is significantly heavier than a standard K31 barrel and the whole action has been rotated about 15 degrees to allow clip loading and ejection without interference form the scope. A clever and quite Swiss solution to that problem! Most other countries either simply abandoned the ability to use stripper clips in their sniper rifles (like most Mausers) or offset the scope on the side of the receiver (like the M1 Garand and Arisaka). Rotating the action allows the best of both, with easy loading and a center-mounter scope, at the cost of simply being more expensive to make.

Anyway, I took some video of the rifle, which will hopefully help folks get a better feel for them. I am really looking forward to being able to shoot one of these some day!


  1. what is the part under the front sight that looks like a rotable ring around the barrel captured by the muzzle break?

  2. Let’s see… This is accurate by design lineage and by some necessary (and aesthetically pleasing) modifications, quick to load by stripper clip (clips are cheaper than detachable magazines), and very user friendly. I would hate to invade Switzerland on foot.

    And forget paratrooper invasion of Switzerland. The Swiss make a ton of great anti-air systems, and their small air force is not easy to defeat. I think Hermann Goering once ordered the Luftwaffe to bombard and decimate the Swiss fliegertruppe during the Battle of France, pretending that the bombers had made a navigational error. The Swiss pilots (flying imported Bf-109s and license-built Morane-Saulnier MS.406s) and Flak gunners treated themselves to a turkey shoot, killing at least eleven Luftwaffe planes.

  3. Lovely rifle, BUT: I keep wondering why the finish on this one as much as on K31s is so much prone to damage (more or less) due to natural scuffing, which happens so easy. If they were left dull and just varnished, would it not arrive to better and more purposeful final effect? This is a military as opposed to civilian use arm.

    • Hi Denny,
      I read somewhere that Swiss made martini action target rifle receivers were finished as bright steel – as bluing would imply that the owner was too lazy to keep it properly cleaned and oiled.

      I gather Calvin spent some time in Geneva, and that the Swiss were receptive to his ideas; If I remember correctly, these included universal damnation – except for a select elite.

      Labour as a virtue

      and that excelling in labour might just be evidence of being one of the elite.

      Unfortunately Adam Smith, the Scottish economist, was raised in a Calvinist environment, which is a possible reason for his favouring a “labour theory of value” instead of the subjective utility favoured by the late scholastics and the likes of J B Say.

      Without Smith’s labour theory of value, we wouldn’t have had Marx’ rather confused ramblings, and all that followed from them…

      Regardless of its impracticality in the field, I’m always impressed by the standard of finish of Swiss guns.

      I guess my personal preference for phosphate, marks me out as one of Calvin’s universally damned.

      • My greetings to you Keith!

        I was referring primarily to woodwork part of it, the metal parts look nearly impeccable. As a sample of good military style buttstock finish I’d point out H.M. rifle SMLE, Enfield .303, any version; they were just right in that respect. Swiss rifles furniture may have looked nice and shiny when new, but it did not last.

        As far as Calvinist’s view of Value of Labour, I’ll have to look it up. My own view, which may have not much of consequence these days, is that the Value of Labour is truly the only value (in material sense) there is. I do recognise that it may be in conflict with general perception, which is based on speculative rather than true value.

  4. Although it looks like a K31, there are only 3 parts that are interchangeable. The Swiss sniper rifles are designed and built as sniper rifles, you cannot make one from standard issue rifles such as most of the sniper rifles like the MN, Enfield, Mauser etc. In short thay cannot be faked. I’ve been collecting snipers for over 20 years, most sniper rifles are fake! especially the Russian stuff. Expect to pay $5k for the SwissZFK

    • Hi Victor

      could you elaborate a bit on those as you put it ‘fakes’? As I ma aware, there were different criteria in different times of history of military rifles which qualify a “sniper rifle”. Do you have a universal rule how to sort this out? Thanks.

      • Hypothesis for the process of creating a “fake” World War II sniper rifle from a vintage rifle:

        Take a bolt-action rifle, any bolt-action rifle (it doesn’t matter which country) used in service during World War II. If there is no scope rail, modify the receiver or rear-sight for one. Turn down the bolt handle if it gets in the way. Add a convincing scope and sell item to a sucker.

        To create a “jungle carbine” from a Lee-Enfield Rifle No. 4, cut down the stock and barrel, add flash hider to muzzle, create relatively convincing markings if possible, and sell to a sucker. By the way, the real Rifle No. 5 Mk 1 “jungle carbine” has “Rifle No 5 Mk I” electrostencilled on the left side of the receiver.

        • Oh I see; you mean ‘adopted’ rather than specifically built from start. I recall reading that is the way it was done of both sides during WWII (and probably WWI as well) – better shooting rifles were hand picked and dressed up. I am not sure they deserve label “fake” though. They were ‘sourced’ for lack of other word.

          Of course the other, say ‘more proper way’ is to get thicker barrel, better action and bed them into selected special stock. This is the way it had been done until recently and I must admit was once involved with something like that. Now we are approaching times of supper-specials made just for this purpose. Very, very expensive and probably finicky.

          • I think what Victor meant was trying to buy authentic military sniper rifles today, as a collector. Because of the premium value associated with them, it has become common for people to build reproduction ones and pass them off as authentic. Lots of folks don’t know enough detail about the actual issued sniper rifles to identify a newly-made reproduction, especially in the case of countries like England that used a variety of commercial scopes and mounts on some of their snipers. M91/30 Mosins are also notorious for this, with reproduction PU scopes and mounts being cheap and readily available.

            Designs like the ZfK-55, on the other hand, are substantially different from this infantry rifle counterparts and not practical to reproduce or counterfeit.

          • Denny, I know some service rifles were accessorized during their service because of their accuracy on the firing range, but I was addressing a different version of the process. When someone who is not part of the arms industry makes a “fake” sniper rifle based on a regular infantry rifle, he will not care whether or not the rifle is precise or accurate enough for the task of shooting with a scope attached. That’s what I was trying to say by “any bolt-action rifle.”

          • Ah, now I understand. See, I would not have thought that someone would try to make a bargain, in collector’s business, when doing this. That’s dirt, isn’t it? Well, there are entrepreneuring folks everywhere, apparently.

  5. The rotating nut in the muzzle brake allows for its removal. If you check Google images for “zfk-55” there are pictures of it removed, and various other scopes on the rifle

  6. The standard-issue K31 was ( and still is ) an incredibly durable and accurate rifle by any standard. The zfk-55 is even more of the same — Swiss craftsmanship and functional practicality at its best.

    @ The Ultimate Answer To Kings :

    While I am an aficionado of the 7.62 x 51 NATO and .308″ Winchester cartridges myself, and can therefore easily understand your preferences, I have to say that the Swiss GP11 7.5mm x 55 round is an absolute gem. It has an extremely good ballistic coefficient and aerodynamic efficiency, and its overall accuracy, ballistic performance and energy retention, especially at longer ranges, are outstanding. While there may be concerns among civilian shooters about the lack of variety in projectile types as compared to the .308, more manufacturers such as Prvi Partizan and Hornady have gradually come to realize the potential of this cartridge and now offer a wider range of options. Personally, I really prefer the surplus Mil-Spec GP11 ball ammunition, but that’s just my individual take on it. Although I’ve heard complaints that GP11 ammunition is difficult to find, at least in the U.S., I have found that it is easily available from a number of sources, and usually at a reasonable price. You may have to sometimes wait awhile until it becomes available ( the same applies to 7.62mm x 51 NATO and .308″ Winchester in the current political climate anyway ), but not for too long.

    • not really, Switzerland’s arsenal is quite an interesting example of two principles at once;
      the first is that because they haven’t fought in any modern protracted engagements of attrition they have never been had to produce arms in volume instead of quality and so their arsenal is of high quality, complex arms
      at the same time, their arsenal of very advanced, high quality arms are one reason they haven’t been drawn into a large scale war, they will have an immediate advantage over an aggressor in quality of arms.

      • The Swiss approach was probably “scare everyone into not attacking us.” It worked very well… in the event of an invasion, the Swiss will probably kill the invaders as quickly as possible to avoid attrition and loot the corpses for weapons and ammo (in WWII, the Swiss captured several planes from the Luftwaffe and pressed them into service repainted in Swiss colors). By the way, there is likely a rifle and sufficient ammunition in every house in Switzerland. Declaring war on this country is even more suicidal because the rest of Europe would kill you first, their money probably being backed by Swiss banks!

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