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Karabiner Modell 1931 (K31)

In 1889, Switzerland adopted a new rifle to replace its aging Vetterli rifles which in their day had been at the cutting edge of small arms design, but had been in service since 1866.  The Schmidt-Rubin design adopted used a straight-pull action (which was cycled simply by pulling back and pushing forward the bolt).   The action was designed by Rudolf Schmidt while Eduard Rubin designed the 7.5×53.5mm, one of the first spitzer, smokeless rounds, the earlier Schmidt-Rubin rifles were chambered in.  The Schmidt-Rubin's action is widely recognised as the smoothest to operate and most successful of any straight-pull rifle.   

Instruction manual diagram of the Schmidt-Rubin Modell 1889  (source)

The Karabiner M1931 was a refinement of the earlier rifles, it was chambered in 7.5×55mm and was significantly shorter, while termed a carbine the K31 was used by the entire Swiss Army, much as the Mauser K98k was was used by the German Army.

The K31’s cardboard charger  (source)

The rifle fed from a six round box magazine which was loaded using a durable resin coated cardboard charger which was cleverly designed with a cutout to allow rapid loading.  The main difference between the K31 and the earlier Schmidt-Rubin rifles it was derived from is that the bolt’s locking lugs are positioned to the front, rather than the rear, of the bolt which allows the rifle to have a shorter receiver.  This gave the rifle an overall length of 43.5 inches as opposed to the Modell 1889’s 51.2 inches. 

The rifle was manufactured to tight tolerances making it extremely accurate - capable of tight groups at extended ranges.  This was an important aspect for the Swiss, as marksmanship was their first priority.   In 1942, the inherent accuracy of the K31 allowed the Swiss to outfit a number of the rifles with telescopic sights for use in sniper roles.

A comparison of the K31’s bolt (bottom) with the earlier Modell 1911’s longer bolt  (source)

A distinct feature of the rifle’s design that was inherited from its predecessor rifles is the metal loop to the rear of the bolt.  This is the rifle’s safety catch, by pulling back and twisting this the weapon is made safe, the large loop made operation while wearing gloves easier and allowed instant recognition of whether the rifle was safe or not.

While the K31 did not see combat during World War Two, due to Switzerland’s armed neutrality, it was in use with the Swiss Army from 1931, until its replacement by the STuG-57 developed by SIG in 1957. While a small number were also issued to Pontifical Swiss Guards in the 1930s.   In recent years the rifles have become an extremely popular military surplus rifle with collectors admiring the novelty of the smooth straight-pull bolt and excellent accuracy.

Image One Source

Image Two Source

Jane’s Guns, (1996), I. Hogg

Military Small Arms of the 20th Century, (1985), I. Hogg


The Cat Army of Cambyses —- How the Ancient Egyptians Were Conquered by Cats in 525 BC.

Dedicated to Gary’s kitty, Mongo (pictured above)

In 530 BC Cambysis II, son of the legendary Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great, inherited the Persian throne.  Among his many goals for the mighty Persian Empire was to conquer the ancient land of Egypt, and add the rich kingdom to his realm.  In 525 BC he invaded Egypt, right when a new pharaoh named Psammetichus III inherited the Egyptian throne.  Psammetichus fortified a position near Pelusium at the mouth of the Nile, confident that by holding a superior position he could easily repel the invaders.  However Cambyses came prepared with a secret weapon; cats.

The common housecat was one of the most sacred animals in Ancient Egyptian religion, symbolizing the kind goddess Bastet.  The cat was so highly revered that killing one was punishable by death.  Cambyses used the Egyptian veneration of the cat in one of the most ingenious psych outs in military history.  He ordered all of the shields of his men painted with a picture of Bastet.  Most incredibly he brought along thousands of cats with his army, as well as a whole heard of animals that were considered sacred to the Egyptians.  He ordered that every soldier and cavalryman carry a cat with him into battle, in essence using them as feline shields.

When the Persians and Egyptians met in battle at Pelusium it was the Persians who immediately attacked.  Upon seeing the thousands of cats among the Persian Army and the Persian shields painted with Bastet, the Egyptians waivered and hesitated.  Egyptian archers refused to fire and Egyptian infantry cowed at the assault, refusing to fight lest they harm the animals or profane the image of Bastet.  What resulted was an immediate route as the Egyptian Army went into full retreat.  Many thousands of Egyptian soldiers were massacred as the army became a panicked mob.  To add insult to injury, when the Egyptian Army surrendered, the Persians then flung many thousands of cats at the surrendering Egyptians.

The Egyptian Empire fell and was absorbed into the Persian Empire.  With a few exceptions, Egypt would be ruled by non-native pharaohs; first the Persians, then a return to native rule, reconquest by the Persians, and finally rule by the Greeks after Alexander the Great.  Psammetichus III would be taken prisoner and treated well, but later executed after instigating a revolt.  Cambyses later attempted to conquer lands west and south of Egypt, but with little success.

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