Shooting In Switzerland
The Swiss take their shooting very seriously. They have a long history of marksmanship, and rifle ranges dot the country side. It is not uncommon to see someone on a motorcycle, with an assault rifle slung to his back, on the way to the range. While in Switzerland, I had the opportunity to shoot at two ranges, a small 8 lane range in Bursins, and a large 48 lane range in Basel. Swiss Rifle ranges offer a number of contrasts to American ranges, and they present an unique experience.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference between Swiss and American rifle ranges is the presence of alcohol. Beer and Wine are readily available at Swiss Ranges. It's not uncommon to start a bottle of wine before the days shooting, and to finish the bottle after the day's shooting has ended. Yet, Swiss Ranges remain largely accident free. The Feuerschützen in Basel has not had an accident in over 500 years. Safety is a definite concern at Swiss Ranges, like American ranges, and before coming off the line, weapons should be cleared, magazines removed, and where applicable, bolts locked open. "Cowboy" attitudes don't play well on Swiss Ranges. They are there to shoot, not show-off. The Swiss also have great confidence in their fellow shooters. If you look at the picture below, you can see a driveway on the right side of the picture. Traffic comes and goes, even while there is active shooting going on.
The Swiss almost invariably shoot their rifles at 300 meters. Most ranges have replaced their old paper targets with electronic scoring.
After each round is fired, the screen to the right of the shooter displays the shooter's score, the direction of the round from center, and in some cases the point of impact.
In addition, the scores at tracked and printed out at a console at the scoring station. The card, like the monitor displays the score as well as where the round landed, in relation to the center. It should be noted that group size is largely irrelevant in Switzerland, rather, it's the shooter's score that determine the accuracy of the shooter/firearm combination.
The Swiss traditionally shoot from two positions: prone or kneeling. Many Swiss ranges are not built to accommodate benchrest or standing positions. From a prone position the shooter is firing at a slight incline. Whereas, when firing from the kneeling position, the shooting mat can be removed to reveal a pit in which the shooter can kneel.
Most prone shooting is done either with the assistance of a bipod, in the case of the Stgw.57 or Stg.90, or a small shooting rest, when shooting the K31. Slings are rarely used.
Shooting jackets, gloves, glasses, and target sights tend to be the norm at the Swiss Ranges. Diopter sets were fitted to all of the K31 I observed, and adjustable rear target sights were the norm for Stgw.57s and Stg.90s. Stg.90s are the rifle of choice on Swiss ranges these days. Out of the 30 some odd rifles I saw on the ranges, I only saw two Stgw.57s and 5 K31s.
It should be noted that only K31s, Stgw.57s and Stg.90s are allowed on Swiss public ranges. No other rifles including 1911 series or earlier Swiss Rifles are allowed. To partially offset this, (marginally) reduced price ammo is sold at the ranges. At Bursins, GP11 ammo sold for approximately $18 for 60 rounds. At Basel, 9mm and .22lr ammo was also available.
The Basel range, operated by the Feuerschützen, was able to accommodate pistols, as well as rifles, with 25m and 50m ranges. Pistol scoring was traditional paper scoring, rather than electronic. However, targets were scored after each shot. The target were set on fast moving trolleys, and bullet holes were covered with white or (preferably) black pieces of tape.
Hämmerli pistols, especially 280s and SP 20s, were the smallbore pistols of choice. SIG 210s were the predominant large caliber pistol. At least one Model 06/29 Luger was present, but wasn't used. Shooting is typically done one-handed, although two-handed shooting is allowed
In Basel, the Feuerschützen holds weekly competitions. Shooters can compete with both smallbore pistols and largebore rifles. Smallbore pistol firing begins at 4:30pm, with largebore firing beginning at 5:30pm. All shooting must cease at 7:30pm in order to comply with local noise ordinances. The Türmli opens around 4:00pm to allow the shooters to relax with a glass or two of wine before shooting. The course of fire consists of, after a few warm-up shots, 10 shots scored on a 1-10 cumulative scale. Next, they shoot a best of 3 shot string, scored on a 100 point scale, followed by a 5 shot string, scored on a 100 point cumulative scale. After shooting is complete, shooters relax in the Türmli. Later, everyone reconvenes at the Schützenhaus Restaurant at 8:00pm for dinner, drinks, and the results of the days shooting. I'll being doing a more complete article on the Feuerschützen, in the near future.
Sadly, shooting is very limited in Switzerland these days. As I mentioned above, your are strictly limited in the choice of rifles you can fire on public ranges. In addition, new noise ordinances limited the amount of time you can fire. At Bursins, shooting is only allowed on Wednesday evenings, and in Basel, shooting is done on Thursday evening. Further, the various protection devices that are now being required, be they bullet walls or sound tunnels, are very expensive, and a number of ranges have been forced to shut down, as they couldn't afford the "upgrades". Shooting in Switzerland may soon be regulated out of existence. I encourage everyone to visit the ProTell website. Protell is the equivalent of the NRA and is dedicated to the fight for Swiss Gun Rights. Memberships are around $30 per year, and are an investment in our own future, as well as the Swiss.
I would like to thank Eric Mowrey as well Jürg Boss and Hans-Peter Tschui of the Feuerschützen, for their hospitality and allowing me the opportunity shoot on their ranges.
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