TFBTV: Swiss Schmidt-Rubin M1889: A “Semi-Smokeless” Rifle

Mike takes a look at a very old Swiss favourite, about which much incorrect information abounds – the Schmidt-Rubin M1889 rifle in 7.5×53.5mm GP90 calibre. A smokeless calibre. Yes, you heard that right – smokeless. Turns out all the books that say “semismokeless” are wrong. Who knew? (Yes, this is one of Mike’s favourite dead horses to flog)

Guns in this video:

Schmidt-Rubin M1889

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Transcript ….

[coming soon]

Mike B

Mike was lucky enough to go to a school with a 25 yard smallbore range, only 25 minutes from the centre of British shooting at Bisley, and had a firearms certificate before he had a driver’s license. Moving to a more gun-friendly country has allowed him to service his milsurp habit. He lives up in the mountains in Switzerland and vlogs at YouTube as Bloke on the Range. He can be reached at


  • MeaCulpa

    The semi-smokeless thing is really strange, it’s sort of like living life imagining that you “totally understand” a second/third/forth language because you have the google translate app on your phone.

  • gunsandrockets

    Well done.

  • Lee Enfield

    The Swiss and their neutrality…..couldn’t make a moral decision between democracy and Nazism.

    One way to determine the morality of something is extrapolate what would happen if everybody did what you are doing. Just extrapolate if every country chose neutrality against the Nazi menace.

    With all that said…I love my K31.

    • It’s rather more complicated than that – they made a moral decision between keeping their own democracy and having Nazism imposed upon them by being invaded. They unsurprisingly chose keeping their own democracy over being invaded. Although I guess they could have picked sides, somehow avoid being invaded, and then starved to death instead since they weren’t self-sufficient in raw materials.

      And it was balanced on a knife edge the whole time. Particularly as the Germans found out in 1940 that the Swiss had an agreement with the French in the case of German invasion.

      I suggest reading “Geschichte der schweizerischen Neutralität” volumes 3 and 4 by Edgar Bonjour to get a really in-depth look at what was going on, right back as far as 1933. No idea if it’s been published in English.

      It’s very easy to look upon it from the outside and be critical of the Swiss, but if you’re a landlocked country surrounded by the Axis and want to survive, you’ve not got many possible courses of action. Sweden had it much easier, being a larger, maritime nation although easily blockaded. Other neutrals (Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg) got invaded. That the Swiss came out of it relatively unscathed was a surprisingly good outcome for them.

      • Lee Enfield

        “That the Swiss came out of it relatively unscathed was a surprisingly good outcome for them.” ….because they let others fight and die on their behalf.

        “Courage is the rarest of human attributes”….Dennis Prager

        • “….because they let others fight and die on their behalf.”

          That’s grotesquely unfair: it wasn’t their war. Nobody was dying “on their behalf”, and I don’t recall any other neutrals, including the US, getting involved voluntarily in 1940 or at any other point. Why would or should they?

          No country willingly chooses its own distruction when it can stay out of a conflict, and it’s churlish to think that they should, particularly 3/4 of a century later.

          • Lee Enfield

            ” That’s grotesquely unfair: it wasn’t their war. Nobody was dying “on their behalf” ”

            Oh really? Do I really have to remind you what the first W in WW2 stands for? Just stating the obvious fact that apparently at no time during 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945 did somebody in Switzerland see the clarity of choices either.

          • int19h

            It was their war – it’s not like the Great European Reich, once such were to form, would allow an indepedent political entity in the very heartland of itself.

            The only reason why they were never attacked, is because Germans had too many enemies already, and couldn’t afford a costly invasion on top of everything else. But yes, it means that Brits, Russians, and eventually Americans all died for the sake of Swiss independence. It would be nice if Swiss at least acknowledged that.

        • Alternate history.

          In 1940, Switzerland declares its support for the Allies and immediately engages German units within range of the Swiss border. The Germans retaliate heavily, and start to push forward into Switzerland. The Luftwaffe destroys the bulk of the Swiss airforce in a week-long series of concerted attacks. France sends forces to help, but the combined French and Swiss resistance is little match, even with the small number of units available to the Wehrmacht in the South. Despite having comparable tanks (including PzKw 38(t)’s) Switzerland’s small numbers of armoured vehicles is easily dealt with, and the French can’t bring in significant enough numbers of heavy weapons to make much difference.

          Since France is the real prize, the Wehrmacht enters ill-prepared Switzerland on a front from Basel to Lake Constance, and sweeps westwards across the plain. In doing so, they bypass the mountains where the Swiss could put up a stiff defence. Despite only having few entry points into France, German columns push through into France via Geneva, the Val de Travers and at several other smaller points such as the Valée de Joux. Although this restricted mobility means that they can’t push in enough units to turn the French southern flank, they nevertheless succeed in drawing enough French units south to significantly weaken the defence further North, where the bulk of the action in the invasion of France takes place. The BEF manages to evacuate few of its troops, and the majority surrender.

          The government and the remainder of the Swiss army withdraws into the Alps, where it remains for 6 weeks engaging in minor skirmishes until its food runs out. At this point the Swiss government recognises the futility of further resistance and sues for peace.

          Switzerland is occupied and divided along language lines between Germany, Italy and Vichy France, and the Germans have entirely free access to all the Alpine tunnels linking them to their ally Italy, which was an invaluable help to them later during the Italian campaign of 1943-45.

          Following the invasion of France in June 1944 and the advances towards Germany, by the late autumn of the same year, the US 3rd Army is tasked with liberating Switzerland. In vicious mountain fighting lasting until the VE in May 1945, the Germans managed to put up surprising resistance to Americans operating at the end of stretched supply lines, at the cost of many US lives.

          Looking back in 2017, it’s sad to think that so many US soldiers had to die to liberate Switzerland during the 6 months of the Swiss campaign in 44-45. Historians are not quite sure why the Swiss decided to enter the war, the results of which were the weakening of France during its battle for survival, the horrors of occupation, and the cost in Allied blood and treasure during their liberation.

          Perhaps if they’d rigorously maintained their aggressive neutrality in 1940, the invasion of France wouldn’t have gone so easily for the Germans, perhaps not. In any case, the Western allies would have had less terrain to reconquer post-D-Day.

  • The_Champ

    Gotta love those old pike length rifles. Always fun to add the old school bayonet for a couple more feet of weapon!

  • int19h

    The best part of it is the detachable 12-round box magazine. That’s “assault weapon” territory right there.

  • int19h

    BTW, does anyone know of a commercial source of 7.5×53.5 ammo, without having to delve into reloading?

  • Used to have one of those. Bought it out of the “trash can o’guns” that Roses used to have in the sporting goods section, when I was 18.

    Sold it because I couldn’t afford to keep up with ammo, and got an SKS.