WF Bern C42 & E22: Swiss Stgw90 Trials Rifles

Today at the Kessler auction house in Kreuzlingen Switzerland we are taking a look at the W+F Bern C42 and E22 rifles. These are the guns supplied by Bern to compete for the Swiss military Sturmgewehr 90 trials. The C=type ones are chambered for the 5.56mm cartridge, but Swiss adoption of that cartridge was not necessarily a foregone conclusion, and so Bern also supplied a version of the rifle in the 6.45x48mm cartridge (97gr @ 3000 fps).

The action is a two-lug rotating bolt with a long stroke gas piston, and the guns’ handling is reminiscent of the Swiss Stgw 57, especially in the shape of the pistol grip. Both carbines and rifles were supplied, and the barrels were easily removed and interchangeable. The rifle version included a bayonet lug, rifle grenade launching capability, and integral simple bipod (all features omitted on the carbines).

Ultimately the Bern design lost out to SIG for military adoption, for a couple reasons. One was better accuracy demonstrated by the IG rifles, and another major issue was the nature of the charging handle on the Bern design. It had to be taken off to remove the bolt from the rifle, and was a small part very easily lost. Since Swiss doctrine includes reservists storing rifles at home with the bolts removed, this easily lost critical part was a serious handicap.


  1. Good show and super present!

    I have to say I like this design a lot. It is utilitarian, inexpensive and practical. If I start with practical, the barrel removal mechanism for sure adds to it. Anyone who came to touch with shooting knows, that at rifle which has locking lugs ahead of chamber, it is not easiest to clean. Barrel removal feature makes it much easier. My guess would be however that is was this barrel’s, less than rigid location, which caused mentioned lack of accuracy. Good lesson to learn.

    If I was to make description of difference between this and SIG5550, I’d say the latter has more “finesse”. Is it as cheap to make? Probably not. But Swiss have thick valet and they like to shoot accurately.

    • “But Swiss have thick valet and they like to shoot accurately.”
      Yet they have finally chosen 5,56×45 NATO cartridge, rather than own, which I presume was more expensive approach (funds needed for research and development). Also more neutral as it was neither NATO neither Warsaw Pact cartridge, although in reality it proved be of little impact.

      • Mmmm… Not so much. I doubt that the 5.6mm GP 90 cartridge is going to have any less expense or more interchangeability with anyone else. The Swiss do not issue anything they don’t make themselves, and any benefit for logistics is purely theoretical. I suppose there is some economy of scale because they make 5.56mm for a bunch of other folks, and that makes 5.56mm GP 90 a little cheaper to make, but… I’d be surprised if it was at all significant.

        I think the Swiss found the same thing that we did–5.56mm NATO is just “good enough” to make the cartridge tolerable for use by a large number of military forces across a large number of tactical situations, and is thus acceptable for issue. As well, it’s probably a lot more controllable on full auto than the other options they had, and until body armor is on general issue that obviates the utility of the 5.56mm cartridge, well… 5.56mm it is.

        Not that I particularly like that, but the “installed base” effect is there, a real thing, and while we might prefer the Dvorak keyboard to the QWERTY, the fact is that the overwhelming number of installed keyboards out there are in the QWERTY format.

        I would suspect that the Swiss just concluded that a new cartridge with little chance of being sold outside Switzerland was just not a good idea. Most customers for any Swiss products are going to want to buy them in standard cartridges, and swimming against the current was foolish.

        Now, if I were a US small arms developer? I’d be looking long and hard at the Swiss test data, and seeing if there is anything to be learned. My suspicion is that what you’d find is that there’s no appreciable difference between the notional Swiss cartridges, and the 5.56mm NATO, or, at least, not enough to make a real tactical difference.

        • “Not so much. I doubt that the 5.6mm GP 90 cartridge is going to have any less expense or more interchangeability with anyone else”
          Wait, looking at (external) dimensions 6,45×48 is just simply physically bigger than 5,56×45 NATO. I do not have data regarding mass of both cases, but suspect first one is heavier, that is requiring more metal. While for one case it might be small, but after multiplying by quantity made this made become significant.

  2. Mr. McCollum,
    The mobile version doesn’t have this video embedded, it’s just a url. I don’t mind, but I thought you’d like to know.
    -Thank you

  3. A battle sight at 400 meters seems iffy given the date. Maybe compensation for elevation differences between shooter and target?

    • With an MV of 900 m/s with a 6.3 gm bullet, maximum trajectory ordinate at 200 meters shouldn’t be more than 15cm above LoS. So a battle sight of 400 meters means that out to that range, if you aim center chest on the target the bullet will hit him somewhere between his shirt collar and his belt buckle, which is all that’s really required.

      Keep in mind that the “upturned capital D” setting on the rear sight of the SKS and AK in 7.62 x 39 does the same thing with an 8 gm bullet leaving at 700 m/s, with a trajectory that isn’t nearly as “flat”.

      Pinpoint accuracy is fine, but in battle conditions, most of the time “close” really is good enough.



      • Sure, but why the red 3 next to the white 4? If you are shooting at a target that you estimate to be 400 meters distant at an estimated 45 degree downward angle you set your range for roughly 290 meters. Since mountains are common in Switzerland, people tend to travel through the valleys and the Swiss plan on defensive battles, shooting down makes sense as a possibility. It may be pure speculation, but why put a red 3 next to a white 4, unless the night sight isn’t the same height as the regular sight. When you flip to night sights you set your elevation to the new point blank range zero. That just seems like a bad idea. Does anyone else use a 400 yard battle sight? By the 1980s most had concluded combat ranges were within 400 meters. You didn’t convince me, but cheers.

          • I meant 400 meter zero. Whoops.
            AK 74 5.45mm was zeroed by setting rear sight at “3” or 300 meters, 6 o’ clock hold on target at 100 meters, and bullet strikes/impacts at 13cm above point of aim.

            Practically speaking, it was a 400 meter zero.

    • The red 3 isn’t a battle sight setting, but the default setting to be used during 300m qualifications, aiming at the bottom of the target’s black ring.

    • 6,35x52mm a Soviet’s idea on an “ideal caliber” ca. 1930s with a 1117gr. bullet, aka. the Remington Model 8’s .25 Remington.

      .260 Remington/ 6.5x55mm Swedish with light bullets–V. G. Fëderov’s idea of an “ideal caliber” but discounting 6mm a priori.

      6x45mm with 105gr. bullet, U.S. SAW prototype “ideal caliber.”

      8.5mm Creedmor–the latest fad.

  4. [off-topic so ignore if you wish]
    Some time ago I find this interesting pdf:
    So far I understands it describes Mitragliatrice S.I.A. Mod. 1938 (evoluzione della Fiat – Revelli) which, judging from photos, is derived from SIA Model 1918:
    Also regarding text given, it looks to be pointing out drawbacks of 1918 and actions undertaken to remedy it, though my Italiano understanding is to weak to grasp who was initiator of these and what designer and manufacturers was responsible for implementing it and who was supposed to be end user of that machine gun.
    If I understand correctly enough Rate-of-Fire was changed from 700 rpm to 400 rpm, but I would know how it was made.
    Table at page 4 probably are data for barrel and says that:
    barrel was 800 mm long, is 500 mm (610 mm including flash? hider?)
    mass was 4,62 kg, is 2,875 kg
    method of joining [I don’t know what with what was joined or how]
    radiator: was 52 disks, is 26 disks
    rifling: was [?], is [?]
    chamber: was smooth, is grooved(?)
    cartridge oiling: was must, is not must thanks to [?]
    Last 5 words seems to be describing principle used: ad utilizzazione diretta dei gas. but I don’t know what it would be English. Also does text as whole imply 1938 has different principle than 1918 xor that both 1918 and 1938 use same principle?

    • In 1936, the “corpo di S.M.” (Stato Maggiore : general staff?) asked the “societa anonima di armi di guerra” (Anonymous Society of war weapons / I am not sure if they refer to S.I.A or FIAT, let’s assume it’s SIA) to take back the studies on this MG.

      Changing the locking system reduced the rate of fire :
      -a kind of “heel” that prevent premature unlocking have been enlarged.
      This piece is now connected to the “molla di recupero” (buffer spring?) by a steel wire. They don’t act after opening anymore. They are located at the front part / right side (front grip location). There is a tube which hosts the tube that contains the spring.
      -the helical gap is transformed in helical grooves
      They make the striker to move forward when the bolt(?)”otturatore” is rotating, but in such way that “the rotation is complete if the cap have been struck”

      “m. 0,50; con coprifiamma m. 0,61”
      Coprifiamma sounds like flash hider (coprire = to cover, fiamma = flame)

      “method of joining [I don’t know what with what was joined or how]”
      “Sistema di unione al castello”
      ->the way you attach the barrel
      1918 : junction sleeve
      1938 : bayonet mount system & fixing hook


      cartridge oiling
      1918 : necessary
      1938 : not necessary

      1918 : smooth
      1938 : 8 “thin lines” (grooves?) in contact with the “colletto” (when you see bottleneck cartridge, it is the part with smallest diameter)

      1918 : necessary
      1938 : not necessary thank to the small groove within the chamber

      [This is an amateur translation attempt. If there is any Italian native, feel free to correct me]

  5. There are a bunch of features to these rifles that should have resulted in better accuracy than the StG90. They did not, so the question is, what the hell went wrong?

    If I had to guess, I would suspect that one of the factors is probably the sheer mass of the operating parts, in combination with the removable barrel feature. The bipod being suspended from the gas system, and the apparent “free-floating” barrel are both things that would seemingly make for better accuracy, but obviously, did not.

    I would wonder what, if any, effect that the barrel mount at the gas block had on things, and if the unique bolt cam track had any effect on accuracy and the repeatability of lock-up with the barrel extension. You would think that it wouldn’t, but since this feature is unique to these rifles, one does wonder: Why has nobody else ever taken up this cam mechanism? You look at the machining on the cam surface in the bolt, and you see the rough surface, and it makes you wonder how hard that was to make work, and whether or not the classic “cam path in bolt carrier” wouldn’t have been a better route. This strikes me as “being different for difference’s sake…”, rather than being a superior mechanical solution.

    • My take is as follows.
      Interconnection/ hookup at gas block is not that good idea since it interferes with barrel natural vibration. If connection is solid, as is common, they vibrate together. There must be a connection due to gas pressure pass, but it could have been done differently (e.g. angled nipple). Connection between barrel and mount block appears to be cylinder (cone would be better). Similar type of connection is on Minimi which is notorious for poor accuracy/ high dispersion.

      The type of bolt actuation/camming they used is actually easier to make. Think about it: bolt is turning part. As you rotate it and hold cutter in steady position, result is the cam. This type of cam was btw. used by Russian designer Bulkin on his rifle which was competitor to AK. They found (and it is apparent) that since cam is acting at lesser radius, it conveys less torque – meaning potentially lesser reliability and more wear. This system of locking is also used on Slovak made pistols company GP (cam is on barrel) on which it works fine.

      • Still to this barrel connection: they “saved” by separating barrel and gas cylinder. If it was one integral unit with gas block/ cylinder, problem would be by part, or completely (especially using conical connection) gone.

    • The desert Eagle uses the same excentric machined pathway that this does. It also has a stationary cam pin that is mounted to the slide. Mechanicaly, this thing is a massive Deagle with fewer locking lugs.

      • Actually, scratch that. Looking at previous comments, simply having a similar cam surface does not make it a Desert Eagle.

  6. On the topic of WF Bern, ever heard of something called a WF Bern M-1970? Shows up in that one huge modern small arms guide image gallery I’m sure everyone has seen by now, next to the ARPAD 600 (which I understand was some kind of concept/prototype recoilless heavy grenade launcher) and the Raketenrohr 50/58, which definitely existed. The M1970 looks like some kind of mounted weapon or anti-materiel gun, with what looks to be a suppressor and a strange bullpup-ish design like an oversized AO-46, and that’s literally all I can give you. This thing is more of a ghost than the 6P62 and the FN HV-40.

    • You meant first from top in image in link?
      I found bit of info there:
      – crafted by Waffenfabrik Bern in 1970
      – cartridge: proprietary 12,7×64 mm Armour-Piercing [see photo in link]
      – has suppressor
      – gas-operated/tilt, mode of fire: self-loading
      – magazine capacity: 10
      – could be equipped with optical or infrared sight [see photo in link]

      • Yeah, that’s the one. Never would’ve thought it was that small, without anything for scale I was imagining something like an M2 or bigger. Seems like the Swiss got up to some interesting stuff with suppressed rifles during the Cold War, between this thing and the G-150/GW150 with subsonic .41 Magnum.

  7. 1) The Swiss cartridge is not 5.56 mm NATO.
    In particular, barrel twist is 250 mm (about 10 inches) instead of 7 inches.
    The bullet is a little heavier (4.1 g, about 63.3 gr) and has no penetrator in its nose. The Swiss call the calliber 5.6 mm, not 5.56 mm.
    2) The sight setting “red 3” is not a combat sight setting. Quite the contrary.
    It is used for 6 o’clock hold on the ordinary 300 m target.

  8. I’ve always thought the .250 Savage had great potential as a military cartridge. A 6.5 gram bullet at 850 m/s seems just fine. And it’s been around since 1913!

    Ah, what could have been. What if France had selected the .250 to replace the 8mm Lebel for their post-WWI family of new small arms?

  9. Personally, I’ve always wondered about the 7mm08 as a military caliber. It would seem to make more sense than to invent new cartridges like the Grendels.

    Have any of you ever looked at the 7mm08? What would be your view of the pros and cons?

    • DISCLAIMER: I assume you means 6.5mm Grendel under new cartridges like the Grendels. If this does not holds true ignore this post.

      “Have any of you ever looked at the 7mm08? What would be your view of the pros and cons?”
      7mm-08 is in terms of size on par of 7,62×51 NATO, while 6,5 mm Grendel is smaller, in terms of size on par of 7,62×39. Thus former need just bigger weapon and you could take less of that cartridge for same mass.

  10. Daweo,
    Thank you for your reply. The Grendel reference was meant as a comment on recent cartridge introductions in the same class. 6mm, 6.5, 6.8 etc.

    The 7mm08 is pretty much same size as 7.62 Nato, as you noted. Lighter bullet weights make it very easy to shoot in lighter rifles. Ammo would be heavier than other mentioned cartridges, but it could be easily be used in AR platforms. It is available from a couple manufacturers in AR platform already. I like it’s downrange performance. It seems to me to be a matter of trade offs. Superior performance versus heavier cartridge.

  11. I so totally wanted this episode to be about the 7.5x55mm GP 11 or 7.62x51mm SIG AK53 with its gas operated forward-reciprocating barrel with Schmidt-Rubin safety that I was initially disappointed… Until I simply accepted this episode on its own merits. Very, very fascinating! I’d read a few bits and pieces here and there about the 6.45x48mm prototype but had no real idea how they functioned or why they were not adopted.

    Excellent and informative video! Maybe if the Swiss militia-reservist-soldier put the charging handle in the snazzy little compartment in the plastic pistol grip while disassembled and solved the inaccuracy issue? Sure looks pretty inexpensive to make (not a problem for the Swiss, I know….). Heck, if it was about as accurate as the SKS you could sure sell me one!

    Neat episode!

  12. Great video Ian thanks
    What are the advantages of 2 lug bolt like W + F rifle Bern C42 and E22, Singapore SAR-21, American HAC-7 rifles on 8 lug bolt AR-15 ?

  13. Great video, but as for the army’s concern for loosing the charging handle, don’t all sig 55X series rifles have to remove a same size charging handle to take out the bolt?

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