Upcoming Match with a Swiss Gewehr 1911

This coming weekend, I’ll be taking a brief trip into western Texas to compete in the annual Pecos Run and Gun in the Sun. It’s a run-n-gun match, as the name implies, using rifle and pistol and covering between 6 and 7 miles. There are six shooting stages along the course, requiring use of either rifle or pistol, or both – and the rifle shooting goes out to a maximum of 400 yards. I’ve been training for this match with practice runs of increasing length and weight for the last few months, and now go-time is just around the corner. I did one last full-length run with all my gear on Sunday, and took the opportunity to also get some video of the practice:

The toughest decision in preparation was deciding which rifle to use…there are so many possibilities to choose from! I know the targets are going to be relatively difficult, so I needed something that is conducive to good shooting – good sights and a good trigger in particular. I considered using optics, but I actually only have two scoped rifles: a scout-scoped tanker M1 Garand and a Yugoslav M76. The tanker M1 is a great gun, but not really appropriate to my interest in historical arms. The M76 is better in that regard, but has some magazine issues and a mediocre trigger. And it’s pretty heavy to run with for mile on mile.

Kitted up and ready to go!
Yeah, I’m gonna lose to the scoped ARs…but at least I’ll do it in style.

Looking at my iron-sighted options, I realized that there was one group of rifles that were clearly the best suited for this (from my collection): the Swiss ones. The Swiss have a long tradition of marksmanship and designed their guns with that in mind. I have plenty of stripper clips to run a match like this with them, and the surplus ammo I have is of extremely high quality (of course; it’s Swiss). The K31 carbine is an obvious initial choice, but those are a bit common, aren’t they? Yeah, I’ll admit to a touch of gun-hipster. I’d rather use something a bit more esoteric. So sticking with the carbines (which are lighter), I moved to the K11. It meets the “less common” checkbox, and it has the longer bolt of the true Schmidt-Rubin actions – which I find to be smoother to operate than the K31. After a few trip to the range, though, I realized that I just wasn’t shooting well enough with it. This was partly because the sights weren’t quite regulated for my ammo (which seems odd, but the windage was both significantly off and the front sight was staked in place) and partly, I think, because of the short carbine sight radius.

The final decision was to use a Gewehr 1911, the full-length sister of the K11. It’s a flagpole of a rifle, but has an almost 31″ barrel and a correspondingly excellent 25.5″ sight radius to minimize sight picture error. The trigger is excellent (as they are on every Swiss rifle I have), and the G11 also has a bottom-mounted leather sling that I can wrap up as a “hasty sling” for shooting support – the K11 sling mounts to the side of the weapon and is much less conducive to this use). It is a bit heavy, coming in at 10.2 pounds unloaded according to my bathroom scale, but I can deal with that. Some of the other features the Swiss put into these rifles include a very sharp, square front sight to give the best sight picture, a nice deep crown to protect the muzzle, a semi-pistol grip for better handling than many contemporary arms, and a clip design that is extremely smooth and easy to use (better than any other stripper clip design I’ve used, and far better than some of them). It holds six rounds of 7.5x55mm ammunition, firing a 174 grain projectile at 2560fps (11g @ 780m/s). The surplus GP11 ammo is non-corrosive, and the combination of it and the G11 rifle are significantly more accurate than I am capable of. This will be my weapon of choice for the match.

Once I had reached that conclusion, I started to look for ways to carry ammunition. The downside of the Swiss chargers is that they are easily bent (they are made of waxed cardboard) and because they hold six rounds instead of five, they do not fit the gear designed for virtually any other rifles. The solution I found was a neat-looking Swiss bandolier originally issued to mounted troops (both horse and motorcycle). It has three pockets on the front and three on the back, each with space for two clips. Total capacity 72 rounds – about double the minimum number of rounds required for the rifle portion of the match. When the bandolier arrived from Liberty Tree Collectors, I was pretty impressed. It’s very sturdily constructed, the pockets are stiff enough to protect the clips inside from damage, and the flaps are easy enough to open but won’t come loose on their own. It can be worn either right- or left-handed, depending on which shoulder you want to have unobstructed for rifle shooting, and the bottom end loops securely around your belt (which will help prevent my pistol from bouncing around when I’m running). The one question I have been unable to find an answer to is why there are pockets on the back of the bandolier – they are basically impossible to reach – to access those I will need to undo the belt connection and pull the bandolier around so the back pouches are on my chest. That’s doable, though – I expect I will be doing so to move ammo to the front pockets while moving between shooting stations.

The rest of my gear is less interesting – a USGI 2-quart water bottle that will anchor to my belt and be supporter by a strap over the shoulder, my trusty Ballester-Molina sidearm and  kydex OWB holster, and some spare 1911 magazines. Total with the rifle, it all comes to 28 pounds. Some might ask why I would decide to actually pay money to run for a couple hours in the Texas sun with all this junk (there is no prize for winning)…and that’s a reasonable question.

First off, if is a progression of activities I’ve been doing for a while now, and enjoying. I’ve been shooting a bunch of the 2-Gun Action Challenge Matches, and this is in the same vein. Simpler shooting stages, but much more strenuous overall. I’ve also done some local 5k terrain/mud runs, and enjoyed them as well. I like pushing myself a little farther each time, to see what I can achieve.

Secondly, I think that I learn more about weapons handling in the real world by doing this sort of thing than almost anything else I could do (short of enlisting in a military force and going to war). Shooting under stress is something you just can’t replicate from the shaded bench of a formal shooting range. I want to develop shooting skills that are universally applicable, and I believe that requires stress from a clock, competition, and physical exertion. I will be very curious to see how I perform in this event, and what new things I learn from it. Wish me luck!


  1. It’s very brave of you, using old if not ye olde equipment and weapons… And clearly your fit enough, but these competitions can probably be quite competitive, folks utilising carbon fibre and whatnot perhaps. The targets, I would imagine are probably Army type – half torso ones representing marauding dwarfs riding wolverines, say.

    That full size rifle didn’t seem so great at 400yrds, maybe a smaller calibre, 5.56mm might be better, it was good but at 400yrds it’s not that far and, it is quite big to carry.

    Modern chest rig, shoulder holster, camelbak, AR perhaps would be more competitive, you might end up 117th etc these days.

    • Hi, pdb :

      You have made some very good points, but I will add that if many of the competitors are using scoped AR’s as anticipated, their set-ups will weigh almost, or about as much, as Ian’s iron sights-only Gewehr 11 anyway. I think Ian’s choices of “old-fashioned” gear are quite appropriate — he is simply trying to demonstrate the fact that the old-style gear is often still surprisingly efficient even when competing directly against modern kit when used correctly and within its limitations. Besides, he is also doing this both in the spirit of an interesting historical context and as a personal milestone rather than simply going all-out to win for the sake of winning, which I think is far more relevant and important than merely winning in itself.

    • Per my previous reply, I should have added that while 400 yards is easily well within the accurate effective range of the 5.56mm x 45 round typical of most AR’s, the 7.5mm x 55 Swiss cartridge is far superior ballistically, especially when there are intervening environmental conditions such as high temperatures and gusty cross winds involved.

  2. Ian, you may not end up being fastest or most accurate but you will DEFINITELY be the coolest competitor. Good luck and good shooting.

  3. Those targets (approx 15″ x 24″) at 400 yards mean one needs to shoot within (very roughly) 4 minutes of angle, which is pretty darn good if you can do it especially quickly and under stress.

    For those of you playing along at home: Try hitting a 4″ circle at 100 yards 4 times out of 4 shots. How quickly can you do that? At a bench? kneeling? prone?

    • I’ve shot 300yrd targets repeatedly with an Sa80 open sights, 400+ with a scope, conked out at six, 800yrds with the Lsw prone bipod easily, maybe the lack of kick helps, I don’t know, I was quite a good shot.

      • Mind you ours fell over, must be electronic, I do remember patching the targets up thinking some of these chaps will perhaps be ok if they are patched up, which was nice.

      • Firearm accuracy is often described in terms of “minutes of angle.”

        A “minute of angle” is a unit of angular measurement. It’s 1/60th of a 1 degree, and at 100 yards is 1.047″, and at 400 yards is 4.188″

        So, hitting a 4″ diameter circle at 100 yards is approximately the same as hitting a 16″ diameter circle at 400 yards, except of course the longer range is actually harder because of the increased effect of wind, heat mirages, etc.

        If you want to practice at close range, for example, you might try hitting a 1″ target at 25 yards.

  4. In a lot of ways, you’ll be duplicating the missions carried out by both U.S. Army and Apache scouts in that area over 140 years ago. And Texas and Mexican Army scouts thirty-odd years before that.

    But you’ll be better armed than any of them were, while still shooting over iron sights.

    Have fun, stay safe, don’t get too hot, and good luck!



  5. “Yeah, I’m gonna lose to the scoped ARs…but at least I’ll do it in style”
    Points are awarded independently to rifle action (semi-auto/ not semi-auto)?

  6. Aye drink lot’s of water, it looks hot.

    I once did 10 miles in 1.40hrs with my mate full cft burden Long valley I think, Aldershit, who was like the dog with me tagging along.

    Might aswell, as been you now, it’s like speaking about someone else.

  7. This is big commitment given circumstances. I have seen something similar in distant past while in military service. We had to run part of it with gas masks on – wish no one to do that.

    You have southern sun to your disadvantage and parch un-impressive land on top. Good choice of weapon and good luck in race!

  8. Important detail to add – we had no shooting involved at that time as you do. In such case the physical condition of competitor is stretched to utmost. But, you need to do it to find ‘what is in you’.

  9. Good luck with the match. It’s refreshing to see someone run the course without the typical AR/Glock combo that everyone else will be shooting with. I don’t know how they run their categories, but at our range we often do vintage weapon competitions. The Gew. 1911 is a long and heavy rifle, but the action is smooth and fast, and if you get the sights dialed in, it will be plenty accurate enough. With the heat and dry air, I think hydration (or lack thereof) will be a major factor in this competition. You may want to add a second canteen, or at least stay well hydrated before taking off on the run. All in all, it sounds like fun. I’d like to join you, but I’m a beat up old fart so for me it would be more of a limp, cuss, and shoot. 🙂

  10. Good luck. You probably won’t win on points, but you’ll definitely win on style. The Swiss bandolier is interesting. A while back I was surfing through vintage pics of the Finnish army during WWII (I have esoteric interests). The Finns used German style (and often German surplus) Mauser ammo pouches. One pic, though, showed a Finnish soldier wearing what appears to be that Swiss bandolier, but worn around the waist instead of over the shoulder.

  11. Ian, it’s a shame you can’t take that EM-2 with you on this one. I always found a bullpup easier to run with and having a good long barrel will help a lot, as you pointed out already. It would probably satisfy the hipster in you too 😛

  12. Ian, best of luck with your endeavours and I really think you did the right thing with your choice of weapons and support gear in the context of maintaining an interesting historical precedent. Modern gear is innovative and wonderful in its own right, but a great deal can still be done with simple, “old-fashioned” equipment that will often surprise and dismay the high-tech enthusiast. It is how you use your available tools to best effect that really matters, rather than simply having at hand the latest and most sophisticated gear.

  13. Good luck. I wonder if any biathlon hopefuls are going to be in the competition. It seams like it would be the perfect (summer) training.

  14. Good luck and God Speed! We need more folks like you to do as you are: take training into their own hands and be proficient with their firearms. Wish more American would follow your example, seeing as less than 2% Americans served with us Veterans. Wish I could be running alongside of you. Thanks for an excellent website as well, look forward to your postings every day. I’ve learned more about the history of firearms because of you than from just about any other source in years.

  15. I will say Good Luck, and mean it, but luck doesn’t hit targets, preparation and control hit targets. Predrink lots and then drink some more on the move. “Water discipline” is a crock, its like saying you can “discipline” a car to not use gasoline. (cf. Israeli water doctrine) You should be sweating the whole time, if you’re not your body is running out of gas and starting to shut down, with your eyes ability to sharply focus going first. Since you’ll be sweating and shooting wear a hat and/or headband and have a dry rag with you to wipe your face/forehead just before you commence fire. — Sorry, old soldier ranting, but I became a believer the hard way and heat exhaustion/heat stroke are no fun at all, trust me on this point. —- Anyway, why ammo pouches in the back? I suspect for the same reason my units carried magazine pouches on the back of our rucksacks, so your fellow soldiers can get resupplied without interrupting what you’re doing. Probably not very useful in your situation but consider a two man (or say, twenty man) team all with the same weapons type. Enough rambling, get stuck in, and if you’re walking and talking at the end you’ve won.

  16. Congrats! I really liked your reasoning about stress, time and competition teaching valuable lessons! Best of luck, I hope you will be posting film? If not at least post your scores and times! Ranges, number of rounds fired, hits and times for each stage, plus time over all? Please, I have a professional interest in your scores/times and over all performance as I am half done writing a FRP Game!
    Do you have a micro camera/recorder? They used to sell pen cameras that could record for four hours for $89.99 + $6.95 S&H. Ever thought of something like that?
    Again, best of luck and hope you have as much fun as I did! ( Past tense!)

  17. Good luck, Ian, as always it’s great fun to see someone try the practical shooting events with old and unusual guns. I notice the rules say, “Rifles will be safe (no loaded magazine inserted, no round in the chamber) at all times except when competitor is on a live range.” In your case, I guess you can still remove the magazine from the K11, but what about an ’03 Sprinfield, M1917 Enfield, Mosin-Nagant, etc. Would they make you cycle the rounds out of the gun at each stage? Cheers, Matthew

  18. All best and good luck and good shooting to you, sir! Very awesome.

    Oh. One Swiss bandolier nudge: *Ahem* mounted troops (cavalry, motorcycles) but mostly, BICYCLES! The Model 1905 single-spead Ordonnanzrad to be specific! (something to add to you 3-gun video series! Ha! Think Wehrmacht Truppenfahrrad vs. Swiss Ordononzrad and the gear to match, say, K98 and Luger or P38 vs. Schmidt Rubin K11 and Luger or P210!) Swiss bicycle troops were some of the best!

  19. Hey Ian, heard you were coming to west Texas. I’m being lazy and C&P a comment I made on another site but the same info hold true:

    [It’s] been raining all week and is very likely to over the weekend. Be aware that nothing in pecos is built for rain, especially the dirt. I’ve never seen such a weird mix of clay and gypsum soil that just seems to hate absorbing water. There will be mud and it won’t be your friend. May want to look into some sort of light weight rain gear that breaths, I’ve heard good things about frog togs but never used them.

    Also Pecos is an oilfield town, half the people are friendly and helpful, the other half are oil-fieldworkers. In short, mind the rain, mind the prices, and mind the vac trucks whose drivers just don’t give a damn.

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