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 7.5x55mm rifle cartridge.
The first in the series of Schmidt-Rubin rifles which served Switzerland from 1889-1953. Rifle Schmidt-Rubin 1889 gets its name from the creator of the rifle's action, Col. Schmidt and the creator of the ammunition the rifle used, Col. Rubin. The rifle designated as the Swiss repeater rifle model 1889 started production in 1891, and was the first straight pull bolt-action rifle. The straight pull bolt-action of the Schmidt-Rubin allows the user to pull straight back, unlocking the bolt and ejecting the cartridge, with one motion. The action will then allow the user to push forward with one motion to chamber the next round, lock the bolt and cock the weapon for firing. The Weapon is roughly musket length with a free floating barrel, 12 round magazine and wood stock that extended almost to the tip of the barrel. The Schmidt-Rubin 1889 was one of the most revolutionary rifles of its day. The Schmidt-Rubin 1889 was one of the first to use 7.5 mm copper jacketed rounds of ammunition similar to those used today. The 7.5 x 53.5mm round designed by Col. Rubin was revolutionary in that most of the bullets used in Europe at the time were around .50 inches as opposed to .308 inches of the Schmidt-Rubin ammunition. Strangely enough the round was "paper patched" meaning the actual bullet was surrounded by a piece of paper, much like cotton patches were placed around the bullet of a musket. Paper patching the round was suppose to aid in the lubrication of the bullet. In 1923 long after the discontinuation of the Model 1889, the 7.5x53.5mm round was produced without the paper patching. The model 1889 was eventually replaced by its many successor models such as: model 1896, model 96/11, model 1911, 1911 carbine and the famous k-31.
Even before the Model 1889 entered service, the Swiss Rifle Technical Commission had reservations about the strength of the Model 1889s action. In 1888 they requested Col. Schmidt to redesign the Model 1889 action by moving the locking lugs forward on the bolt sleeve. However, Colonel Rudolph Schmidt, then the Director of Armament Manufacturing, refuse the request, claiming such a change was “not feasible.”
As the Model 1889 entered service, the Rifle Commissions fears were realized, yy 1892, it became apparent 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
Col. Vogelsang’s, along with the assistance of his co-worker Rebholz, changes were fairly simple. In essence, he merely moved the locking lugs from the rear of the bolt sleeve to the front of the bolt sleeve. These changes weren’t quite that simple however, as it required a 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 2cm, allowing for a better shooting position, And there was a decrease in weight of about 100g,
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.
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 1670fps, as compared to the standard round which produced a muzzle velocity of approximately 1900fps. 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 GP 90 cartridge, while the right was graduated for the cadet round.
In 1896 it was decided to equip artillery and other rear area troops with rifles. The Model 1893 Carbine had proven to be unsuccessful, so a new design was undertaken. Beginning in 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.
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 200m, and a fold down quadrant sight which was adjustable up to 1500m. The 1905 also mimicked the 1893s sling arrangement by having a slot in the buttstock for attaching a sling. 7,900 were produced between 1905 and 1911.
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 - 30.7 inches: 4-groove, RH, concentric rifling, 1 in 10.63" (approx 6000 96/11s had a twist rate of 1 in 9") Overall Length - 51.2 inches Weight - 9.94lbs empty Action - Schmidt-Rubin Straight Pull Caliber - 7.5x55mm Swiss (GP11) Capacity - 6 round detachable box magazine Sights - Tangent-leaf sight graduated to 2000m Total Production : 135,770 Bayonet: Models 1889,1899 & 1906
As early as 1903 there 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 /GP90 cartridge combination. In late 1907, the Swiss Rifle Commission gave permission to Waffenfabrik Bern to create 200 rifles for testing purposes. The rifle 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 GP11) 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 GP11 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 buy 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 6rd 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, whom 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 at this point in time, and were later issued 96/11s or 1911s.
The various Canton Arsenals were given different priorities regarding when they were re-equipped.
Main article: K31
The Swiss began experimenting with scope rifles in 1918. However, it wasn't until 1940, that they found a satisfactory scope. The Swiss liked the low mounted Kern scope, as it helped keep the shooters head down, thus limiting his exposure to enemy fire. The scope was mounted to the left side of slightly modified K31's. In addition to the optics, a short range (700m) iron sight was mounted on top of the scope. The K31/42 was fitted with a 1.8x sight, while the 31/43 was fitted with an improved 2.8x sight. Both scope had a rather innovative periscope arrangement which allowed the Objective of scope to be rotated out of the way, when not in use. However, neither scope proved to have enough magnification or field of vision to be especially useful, and production was ceased shortly after it began.
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 3.5x scope mounted to the left of the receiver, with the mounts being an integral part of the receiver. The entire action of the ZfK55 is tilted at an angle to allow for ejecting cartridges to clear the scope. The barrel fitted to the ZfK55 is heavier than the one one 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.