For most shooters, the first weapon they get is either a vintage hand-me-down or, like me, a military surplus long gun. I still fondly remember the beaming smile I had the morning of my 18th birthday when I knew in a few short hours I would have my very first gun that was MINE. For me, this was a Yugoslavian SKS, which in turn sparked a love for all things military. Over the years I have bought dozens of milsurps, and then in 2012, I found a gun that completely shook my concept of what a milsurp could be, the Swiss K31.
The Swiss were actually neutral during World War II, but they fielded and trained a formidable army equipped with a very unique rifle. The K-31 is a straight pull, box magazine fed, bolt action in the brutal 7.5x55mm caliber. As with all things Swiss, the anal-retentive attention to detail is staggering. The super tight tolerances and unflinching detail in these guns made them very accurate.
In World War II, the Swiss remained free from axis rule thanks in no small part to this rifle. While technically considered neutral, they created a strategy called “the National Redoubt”, which comprised of forts and redoubts at vital passes through the mountains with k-31 armed marksmen being its backbone. The idea of marching up the alps against well-trained marksmen that could confidently engage out to 1000m with MOA or Sub MOA accuracy proved to be too costly for Hitler to pursue.
Shooting the K-31:
My first time shooting a k-31 was with a good friend of mine in the woods on my 300m range. He handed me this goofy operating rifle in a battered stock and told me to shoot the can of Tannerite at the 200 yard mark. I laughed at the idea, but went prone and took aim. The first thing you notice behind the trigger of a k-31 is the classic Mauser-like rear sight, which is slid up to the 200m mark, as you would on any milsurp, without problem. Then I ran the bolt forward which just felt cool, smooth, and it locked up rock-solid. Finally, it came time to shoot. Pulling through the first stage of the trigger was nothing new to me, but then suddenly at about three pounds it shot and literally scared me. The boom of a pound of tannerite sounded off through the woods, and I was flabbergasted. Cold shot, I had hit it on the first pull of the trigger, and my jaw was on the floor. I proceeded to run another 29 rounds of the surplus gp-11 ammo through it, and once I realized I was in fact shooting a milsurp with a three pound smooth as glass trigger hitting sub moa, I decided I HAD to have one. That night I went online and began my search, and three days later, I was at my FFL picking up my new rifle ($325 after transfer and shipping). Since then, I have shot at least 1500 rounds through it, and to this day, it is still super crisp, composed, and laser beam accurate.
The ammunition can still be reliably found at sane prices, on average 40-60 cents a round for the shiny gp-11 surplus ammo in the small 10 round boxes and around $20 for a box of Privi soft points. While talking about the ammo, it is crucial to mention that it is match grade, even as decades old surplus. I took 3 boxes of 10 apart (from different orders) and found a variance of about 100th of a grain max on both bullet weight and charge weight, with all lengths being precisely the same. Again, the Swiss do not mess around. The 7.5×55 is a bit heavier recoil than a .308 or even a 54r, but it is by no means a shoulder breaker. Reloading dies are available, and it uses a .308 pill, so it’s pretty easy to get set up reloading, with the only real issue in reloading being the need for good, full length dies. The surplus averaged 2561fps and seemed to hit the steel just a touch harder than .308.
Overall, I feel this is a rifle that everyone should own, especially with its fair price (as of writing this Nov 1, 2013 the rifles average $350-$400). It will out-perform almost anything else in its price range. My personal advice is get one now, before the price climbs more. Various places online stock the gp-11 surplus, and every gun show I’ve visited has had the soft point ammo on the tables. The K-31 is a great shooting, unique gun that will only go up in value. Period.