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Schmidt-Rubin rifles
Schmidt-Rubin Infanteriegewehr Modell 1911
Type Straight-pull bolt action repeating rifle
Place of origin   Switzerland
Service history
In service 1889–c. 1970
Used by Swiss Army
Production history
Designer Eduard Rubin and Rudolph Schmidt
Manufacturer W+F Bern
Number built 1,366,228
Caliber 7.5×53.5mm Swiss (GP90 & GP 90/03)
7.5×54.5mm Swiss (GP90/23)
Action Straight-pull bolt action

The Schmidt-Rubin rifles were a series of Swiss Army service rifles in use between 1889 and 1953. They are distinguished by the straight-pull bolt action invented by Rudolf Schmidt and use Eduard Rubin's 7.5×55mm Schmidt Rubin rifle cartridge.


Schmidt-Rubin 1889

Schmidt-Rubin Model 1889 rifle chambered for the GP90 7.5×53.5mm cartridge.

The Model 1889 was the first in the series of Schmidt-Rubin rifles which served Switzerland from 1889 to 1953. The rifle takes its name from the designer of its action, Colonel Rudolf Schmidt, and the designer of its ammunition, Colonel Eduard Rubin. Production of the rifle began in 1891; the Schmidt-Rubin was the first straight-pull bolt action service rifle of any nation. The straight-pull bolt action allows the user to pull the bolt straight back to unlock the action and eject the spent cartridge in one motion, and push the bolt forward to chamber a round, cock the striker, and lock the action. This is as opposed to a traditional bolt action, wherein the user must lift the bolt handle to unlock the action before pulling the bolt back. The rifle is roughly musket length with a free-floating barrel, 12 round magazine and wood stock that extends almost to the tip of the barrel. The Schmidt-Rubin 1889 was an advanced weapon for its time. The Schmidt-Rubin 1889 was one of the first rifles to use copper jacketed ammunition as its standard ammunition. The GP90 7.5×53.5mm round designed by Col. Rubin in 1882 was revolutionary in that most of the bullets used in Europe at the time, except for the Mle 1886 Lebel rifle metal-jacketed 8mm bullet, were around .45 inches as opposed to the .308 inches of the Schmidt-Rubin ammunition. Strangely enough the round was "paper patched" meaning that the bullet was surrounded by a piece of paper, much like the cotton patches placed around a musket ball. Paper patching the round was supposed to aid in the lubrication of the bullet. In 1923, long after the discontinuation of the Model 1889, the GP90/23 7.5×53.5mm round was produced without the paper patching. The Model 1889 was eventually replaced by its successor models including the Model 1896, Model 96/11, Model 1911, Model 1911 carbine and the famous K-31.

Schmidt-Rubin Model 1896

The Schmidt-Rubin Model 1896 was the replacement for the Model 1889.

  • Barrel Length – 30.7 inches: 3-groove, RH, concentric rifling, 1 in 10.63
  • Overall Length – 51.2 inches
  • Weight – 9.92 lbs empty
  • Action – Schmidt-Rubin Straight Pull
  • Caliber – 7.5x53.5 Swiss (GP90 & GP 90/03) 7.5x54.5 Swiss (GP90/23)
  • Capacity – 12 round detachable box magazine
  • Sights – Quadrant sight graduated to 2,000m
  • Total Production : 137,050
  • Bayonet: Model 1889, Model 1899, Model 1889/92, and Model 1906

Even before the Model 1889 entered service, the Swiss Rifle Technical Commission had reservations about the strength of the Model 1889's action. In 1888 they requested that Col. Schmidt redesign the Model 1889 action by moving the locking lugs forward on the bolt sleeve. However, Schmidt, then the Director of Armament Manufacturing, refused, claiming that such a change was "not feasible".

As the Model 1889 entered service, the Rifle Commission's fears were realized, and in 1892, it became apparent that the rear mounted locking lugs of the Model 1889 were problematic. On November 3, 1892, Col. Vogelsang was assigned the task of designing three rifles with improved actions; shortly thereafter, an additional 50 rifles were requested.

The changes made by Vogelsang (with assistance from his co-worker Rebholz) were simple. He moved the locking lugs from the rear of the bolt sleeve to the front of the bolt sleeve. However, these changes required the redesign of the bolt (including the bolt sleeve, firing pin and firing pin spring), receiver, and the stock.

Due to turnover amongst Armament Manufacturer Department Heads testing of the new action was delayed until 1895. On 1 January 1895, the test rifles were delivered to the shooting school in Walenstadt. Testing of the new design revealed numerous improvements in performance.

Testing determined –

  • The bolt itself was strengthened,
  • Breakage of the locking lugs was reduced,
  • The action could handle higher pressure cartridges,
  • There was less binding of the bolt,
  • There was tighter lock-up of the bolt, producing better accuracy,
  • There was an increase in the length of pull, by 2 cm, allowing for a better shooting position,
  • And there was a decrease in weight of about 100 g,

It was determined that it would be impractical to attempt to convert the existing Model 1889s to the new action type, thus a new rifle model was required. Thus on July 31, 1896, a new rifle, designated the Model 1889/96 was approved for service.

Several minor modifications to the design were made throughout the service life of the rifle. Even before the rifle entered into production the barrel band and firing pin spring was redesigned and the rear of the receiver was widened slightly. Shortly thereafter, the firing pin itself was widened from 3.5 to mm in diameter.

Nearly all of the 1889/96 were converted into Model 1896/11 in the 1910s. Of the 137,000 89/96s produced, only 1,280 remained in their original configuration. The 1896 was eventually replaced by the 1911 and K-31.

Model 1897 Kadet Rifle

  • Barrel Length – 23.3 inches: 3-groove, RH, concentric rifling, 1 in 10.63
  • Overall Length – 43.5 inches
  • Weight – 7.78 lbs empty
  • Action – Schmidt-Rubin Straight Pull
  • Caliber – 7.5x53.5 Swiss (GP90 & GP 90/03) 7.5x54.5 Swiss (GP90/23) Cadet Round (see text)
  • Capacity – Single Shot
  • Sights – Quadrant sight graduated to 400 m on the right of the sight and 1,200 m on the left of the sight.
  • Total Production : 7,987
  • Bayonet: Model 1889/92

By 1893 the Vetterli Cadet Model 1870 Rifles was in short supply. Consequently it was decided to build a new Cadet Rifle, based on the Model 1889 design.

Adopted in 1898, the single shot Model 1897 Cadet Rifles fired a cartridge who with a powder charge that had been reduced by approximately 10% for the smaller stature cadets. The reduced load produced a muzzle velocity of approximately 1670 ft/s, as compared to the standard round which produced a muzzle velocity of approximately 1900 ft/s. In order to accommodate both standard GP90 ammunition and the cadet round, the rear sight has two sets of graduations. The left side of the sight was graduated for the GP90 cartridge, while the right was graduated for the cadet round.

Model 1899/1900 Short Rifle

  • Barrel Length – 23.3 inches: 3-groove, RH, concentric rifling, 1 in 10.63
  • Overall Length – 43.5 inches
  • Weight – 8.36 lbs empty
  • Action – Schmidt-Rubin Straight Pull
  • Caliber – 7.5x53.5 Swiss (GP90 & GP 90/03) 7.5x54.5 Swiss (GP90/23)
  • Capacity – 6 round detachable box magazine
  • Sights – Quadrant sight graduated to 1,200 m
  • Total Production : 18,750
  • Bayonet: Model 1889/92 and Model 1906

In 1896 it was decided to equip artillery and other rear area troops with rifles. The Model 1893 Carbine (a Steyr-Mannlicher design similar to the Austro-Hungarian Model 1895) had proven to be unsuccessful, so a new design was undertaken. Beginning on February 27, 1900, the Model 1889/1900 was issued to fortress troops, artillerymen, bicycle troops, balloon companies and communication companies. 18,750 1899/1900s were produced from 1901 to 1911.

Model 1905 Carbine

  • Barrel Length – 21.65 inches: 3-groove, RH, concentric rifling, 1 in 10.63
  • Overall Length – 42.15 inches
  • Weight – 7.94 lbs empty
  • Action – Schmidt-Rubin Straight Pull
  • Caliber – 7.5x53.5 Swiss (GP90 & GP 90/03) 7.5x54.5 Swiss (GP90/23)
  • Capacity – 6 round detachable box magazine
  • Sights – Quadrant sight graduated to 1,500 m, plus a 200 m fixed sight
  • Total Production : 7,900
  • Bayonet: none

In 1905, the Model 1905 Cavalry Carbine was introduced to replace the older, and unpopular, 1893 Carbines. The 1905 was fully stocked to the muzzle, and had no provisions for mounting a bayonet. The 1905 retained the Model 1893s distinctive rear sight, The sight essentially has two parts. A fixed sight, set at 200 m, and a fold down quadrant sight which was adjustable up to 1,500 m. The 1905 also mimicked the 1893s sling arrangement by having a slot in the buttstock for attaching a sling. 7,900 Model 1905 Carbines were produced between 1905 and 1911.

Schmidt-Rubin 1896/11 Rifle

The Schmidt-Rubin 1896/11 Rifle or the Model 96/11 was Switzerland's effort to upgrade the 1896 rifles it currently issued to use the more powerful cartridges of the Model 1911.

  • Barrel Length – 78 cm (30.7 in): 4-groove, RH, concentric rifling, 1 in 10.63" (approx 6,000 96/11s had a twist rate of 1 in 9")
  • Overall Length – 130 cm (51.2 in)
  • Weight – 4.51 kg (9.94 lbs) empty
  • Action – Schmidt-Rubin Straight Pull
  • Caliber – 7.5x55mm Swiss (GP 11)
  • Capacity – 6 round detachable box magazine
  • Sights – Tangent-leaf sight graduated to 2,000 m
  • Total Production : 135,770
  • Bayonet: Models 1889,1899 & 1906

As early as 1903 there was discussion about the adoption of a lighter, easier to handle rifle, with increased velocity cartridges. It had been determined that there were severe ballistic shortcomings to the 89/96 action and GP90 cartridge combination. In late 1907, the Swiss Rifle Commission gave permission to Waffenfabrik Bern to create 200 rifles for testing purposes. The rifles were built with the following configurations:

fifty rifles with 1889/96 Barrels firing GP90 cartridges, fifty rifles with 1889/96 Barrels firing GP90 cartridges, and re-milled cartridge chamber, fifty rifles with 1889/96 Barrels and new cartridges and re-milled cartridge chamber, fifty rifles with new barrels and new cartridges.

Other modifications included the removal of the magazine cut-off, improved sights, and an integral rifle rest. While the integral rifle rest was discarded as superfluous, the testing otherwise proved successful. This led to the authorization of the creation of 900 Rifles and 100 Carbines, for the purposed of testing the new GP08 (later redesignated GP 11) cartridge. The 1908 Rifles and Carbines were fitted with Model 1899/1900 style 6 round magazines, and improved sights. The 1908s also had several novel features, not found in other Schmidt-Rubin models. The locking lug sleeve of the 1908’s bolt had three circular holes, presumably for weight savings purposes. In addition, the relief cuts on the top of 1908s receiver were of different length, with the longer cut set along the center of the receiver, with the shorter cut off to the side. On all other Schmidt-Rubins, the relief cuts were of equal length, and both cuts were equally offset from the centerline of the receiver.

By around 1907, the Swiss knew the old GP90 cartridge was inferior to those being adopted by their neighbors. So they started testing a new round. They built the 1908 series for this purpose. The 1908 has some novel features, not seen in other Schmidt-Rubins, including three holes in the bolt. Testing showed the VGP08 cartridge produced significantly better results than the GP90 cartridge. Consequently, the VGP08 cartridge was adopted as the GP 11 cartridge.

It was determined that the 89/96 could easily be converted (Model 1889s could not) to handle the new cartridge by re-barreling the rifle.

1889/96s were converted to 1896/11s by replacing or modifying the following:

  • A new barrel was added.
  • Already fitted to the barrel were new front and rear sights.
  • A pistol grip was grafted onto the stock of the rifle.
  • The new rifles were also fitted with 6 round magazines, similar to the 1889/1900 pattern magazine, minus the reinforcing ridge, although the magazine did include a bolt hold-open *feature for when the magazine was empty.
  • A new trigger-guard was fitted to accommodate the new magazine.

However, it took several years for all the 89/96s to be converted to 96/11 and 1911 Rifle production continued until 1918. Rather than leave large numbers of troops unarmed while the rifles were shipped off for conversion, they were re-issued Model 1889s. (Troops with Model 89/00 Short Rifles and 05 Carbines were re-issued 1893 Carbines).

Swiss soldiers are roughly classified into two categories, elite and reserve. Elites are under the age of 30, reserves are over the age of 30. Any trooper reaching reserve status, who had a 89/96 during the changeover period was issued a Model 1889, and kept it for the remaining term of his service. Raw recruits, were issued Model 1889s as well and were later issued 96/11s or 1911s.

The various Canton Arsenals were given different priorities regarding when they were re-equipped.

Model 1911 Rifle

Bolt of the Model 1911 Rifle and Carbine, operating rod stripped


Schmidt-Rubin Model 1911 Rifle

An improvement over the original, 1889, version of the Schmidt-Rubin rifle, the Swiss M1911 placed the locking lugs in the middle of the bolt, rather than at the rear, strengthening the action and allowing a more powerful cartridge, the Gewehrpatrone 11 or GP 11 to be used. It is distinguished from the 96/11 rifle by a curved buttplate and by a stock with an integral semi-pistol grip. It uses a graduated tangent sight which begins at 300 meters. The 1911 and 96/11 rifles are characterized by exceptional accuracy and were made with excellent craftsmanship. The fact that Switzerland remained neutral through both world wars ensured that they are in far better condition, on average, than the rifles of other European nations from that vintage.[1]

Model 1911 Carbine ("K11")

Barrel Length - 23.3 inches: 4-groove, RH, concentric rifling, 1 in 10.63 Overall Length - 43.6 inches Weight - 8.85 lbs empty Action - Schmidt-Rubin Straight Pull Caliber - 7.5x55 Swiss (GP11) Capacity - 6 round detachable box magazine Sights - Tangent-leaf sight graduated to 1500m Total Production : 185,150 Bayonet: Models 1892 Spike Bayonet, 1899, 1918, 1906 Pioneer (Sawback) and 1914 Pioneer (Sawback)

Produced concurrently with the 1911 Rifle, the 1911 Carbine replaced both the Short Rifle and Calvary Carbine. While production of the 1911 rifle stopped in 1919, Carbine production continued until 1933 with some 184,000 Carbines being produced. [2]

K31 Carbine

ZfK31/42 and /43

  • Barrel Length – 25.65 inches: 4-groove, RH, concentric rifling, 1 in 10.63
  • Overall Length – 43.7 inches
  • Weight – 9.41 lbs empty
  • Action – Straight Pull Bolt Action
  • Caliber – 7.5x55mm Swiss (GP 11)
  • Capacity – 6 round detachable box magazine
  • Sights – Optical: (Model 31/42) 1.8x9 optical sight (Model 31/43) 2.8x12 optical sight – Iron: 2 Tangent-leaf sights One on the scope graduated to 700m and one on the barrel graduated to 1500m
  • Total Production – 2,241
  • Bayonet: Models 1899/18, 1918, 1918/55 and 1914 Pioneer (Sawback)

The Swiss began experimenting with rifles with telescopic sights in 1918. However, it wasn't until 1940, that they found a satisfactory telescopic sight. The Swiss liked the low mounted Kern telescopic sight, as it helped keep the shooters head down, thus limiting his exposure to enemy fire. The telescopic sight was mounted to the left side of slightly modified K31's. In addition to the optics, a short range (700 m) iron sight was mounted on top of the scope. The K31/42 was fitted with a 1.8x9 sight, while the 31/43 was fitted with an improved 2.8x12 sight. Both telescopic sights had a rather innovative periscope arrangement which allowed the objective of the sight to be rotated out of the way, when not in use. However, neither telescopic sight proved to have enough magnification or field of vision to be especially useful, and production was ceased shortly after it began.

ZfK55 Sniper Rifle

ZfK55 sniper rifle

  • Barrel Length – 25.65 inches: 4-groove, RH, concentric rifling, 1 in 10.63
  • Overall Length – 47.55 inches
  • Weight – 13.5 lbs empty (with telescopic sight attached)
  • Action – Straight Pull Bolt Action
  • Caliber – 7.5x55mm Swiss (GP 11)
  • Capacity – 6 round detachable box magazine
  • Sights – Tangent-leaf sight graduated to 1,500 m
  • Total Production – 4,150
  • Bayonet: Models 1899/18, 1918, 1918/55 and 1914 Pioneer (Sawback)

While the ZfK55 possess many visual similarities to the K31, the two rifles only have four parts in common (the cocking piece, the firing pin, the firing pin spring, and the extractor.) The ZfK55 is fitted with a 3.5x22 Kern telescopic sight mounted to the left of the receiver, with the mounts being an integral part of the receiver. The 3.5x22 Kern telescopic sight was graduated for engaging targets up to 0 up to 800 m in 100 m increments. The entire action of the ZfK55 is tilted at an angle to allow for ejecting cartridges to clear the telescopic sight. The barrel fitted to the ZfK55 is heavier than the one on the K31 and is fitted with a large muzzle-brake/flash suppressor. The ZfK55 also boasts a half-stock with a pistol grip and a bipod.


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