There are a lot of old military surplus rifles out there. Most of them are junk. The ones that are not junk are usually so expensive that its not really worth bothering with. Even if you do get one of the more expensive ones, they are not really that accurate. During their time they could meet the specs of the country using them, but often that was not the kind of accuracy we all seem to want now a days.
One of the exceptions, and it is a major exception, are the Swiss rifles. They are very, very accurate. I am not talking hit a 200 yard NRA target some where in the black with cast lead bullets either. I am talking about the kind of accuracy that outdoes most modern hunting rifles, and not with carefully prepared match handloads either. A friend made a canted scope base that would fit the Swiss K-31 a few years ago after a small group of us all bought K31s. Using Swiss GP-11 7.5×55 ammo, we easily made hits at 1,133 yards. Yep, 1133. I was able to make 1,000 yard iron sight hits with the K-31 so easy it shocked everyone watching, myself included after a first round cold bore iron sight hit at 1000 yards on a chest-sized steel gong.
The good news is, they do not cost that much. The price is going up as the supplies start to dry up, but they are still cheaper then a beat-to-hell mauser with german markings. They do cost more then a Nagant, but lets be honest–you get a lot more for your money as well.
The K-31 is the best Swiss rifle for the shooter who wants to test the waters, and they are wildly popular among those who know about these things. They also have a pretty big amount of support and after market parts, like scope bases, diopter match iron sights and a few other things. The K31 is commonly found at Camp Perry during some National Match events. I will tell you hands down–I have yet to see a M1903 that would out-do the common K31.
As nice as the K31 is, the real beauties to me are the 1896/11 and 1911 series rifle (not to be confused with the 1911 pistol). These are older and longer rifles that fire the same round.
It is so easy to shoot the 96/11 that making 800 yard iron sight hits becomes almost boring. The Swiss-made GP-11 round has a lot to do with it, as I should point out. The ammo was made to be issued to the military but it is the equal to US made Match ammo from Black Hills. The ammo is hard to match with handloads–I just stick to the GP-11. The GP-11 is drying up fast, but that’s not too big of a deal since Hornady, PPU and Norma all make ammo. The price can get high depending on who makes it though.
The round is a pleasure to shoot. It does not have uncomfortable recoil, it has power on-par with military 30-06, and as I said, it is super-accurate. At my first contact with the K31 and GP-11 I was skeptical. I had spent my life with match rifles and handloading. I had seen so many old crappy surplus rifles from other countries that I thought none of them were worth any serious consideration for more than a collector’s gun or a novelty. I was wrong.
Another interesting hand made rifle from the Swiss is the Vetterli. Now, as cool as it is since it is the first bolt action repeater that had a tube magazine that held 11 rounds, there is bad news. It is a rimfire and you cannot buy ammo for it. There is a way to convert it to centerfire and make ammo, but it is a PITA and I am not going to write about it because it sounds like the most asinine thing you will ever hear. That being said, it does work and it actually does give good results. One shooter actually won a medal at a vintage rifle match at Camp Perry with a converted Vetterli. You can learn it for yourself at Swissrifles.com, I will not be talking about it here for a variety of reasons.
When converted, you do get a rifle that will easily push a 300+ grain lead slug over 1300 fps.
If you really want an old beater, then don’t waste your time and money on a nagant unless you just have a thing for soviet weapons. Get one of the Swiss rifles if you want true accuracy and quality at a very affordable price. I will tell you I am a rifle snob–any of my personal friends will confirm that. I do not fool around with junk–I just do not have the interest. The Swiss rifles are not old junk. They are superb. If I had to fight during WW2 and had to chose a bolt gun, it would be the K-31. I think highly of the Enfield, but it would be my second choice–it’s no K-31 or 96/11. If you give them a try, and use decent ammo, GP-11 in particular, you will be as shocked and pleased as I was that day. After knowing what I know now, I would find it hard to justify not having at least one K31 in my personal battery. They may look strange, and the caliber may seem strange, but the performance is anything but strange.
There is more to it than what I have talked about in this little article, so take a look. There are more models and lots of variations. This is common with old military rifles from the past. A lot of people are as in love with Swiss rifles as I am with the Model 70, AR15, and Colt 1911. They are worth it.