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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

We had a gun show this week-end in my area in Switzerland. About 6000 visitors during the 3 days. As most of the afficionados, I was there the first day "just to see". On saturday and sunday, it is often so crowdy that you can't approach most tables.

I was not very impressed (I don't mention thousands of SIGs, 1911s, Rugers, CZs, P38s, Radoms, Stars, Tokarevs and a lot of old crap): 1 NIB Walther P5 Compact (I have already a P5), another P5 NIB too at 1350 francs (1000 dollars), 2 High Power: one FN "T" model with some blemish on the slide for 1000 francs (!!!) and a Browning of 198? NIB for 1250 francs. Both negociable but I wasn't very interested. I spend some time by a seller specialised in antiques where I admired a NIB US Property 1911 of WWI era, some Mauser 96s, Lugers, long Lugers and a cased Browning 1900. I finally took in hand some Steyr Hahn 1912s: very nice, with prices between 1000 and 2000 francs, depending on markings - all in perfect shape. This guy also had genuine stock-holsters for Luger, Mauser and one complete set (10 round magazine and cleaning rod) for a Browning 1903 at 2500 francs.

Finally, I didn't cracked for the one of the Steyrs as I have received a 20000 francs bill for my house the day before (gasp!). But I did for a very nice FN 1903 that I found by a friend which allowes me to pay when I can. This pistol was correctly priced at 400 francs. It is 100 francs more than the Husqvarna 1907, which is much more frequent (about 100000 producted) and parkerized. The FN is blued and is more rare as half of the production (58000 total) went to Russia and Turkey. It is difficult to find a 98% exemplar as this one. I just hope that it isn't milled for stock as the 2500 francs set is not really in my budget!

Why a FN 1903? Because I like this blow-back army pistol of yesterday and because it was the first army pistol in 9 mm designed by Browning for FN. In this sense, this nice piece of old manufacture completes the HP and the 1911 in my small collection.

Bye.

L.
 

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I'm not very good with math, but it looks to me as if the prices you were seeing are perhaps 15 - 20% higher than at the small gun shows we have here. At the bigger shows the prices might be more varied, as there would be more variety.

It's really good to hear a report about the show you attended, as I honestly believed gun shows to be an American phenomenon. Considering the very long tradition of Swiss arms, I really shouldn't be surprised, however.

Again, thanks for the report.
 

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Thanks Larry,

It is always interesting to hear how things happen elsewhere. Congrats on your purchase.

PGM
 

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Hi there Larry,

Like Leland, I always assumed gun shows were an American phenomenon. And wow, It does sound like a decent sized show!

Like you, I generally go more out of curiousity to see what the market is offering and what the pricing levels are like on new/used handguns. Sometimes the bug bites me, but more often not when it comes to actually buying something. Generally, my shooting buddies take me as a "reference" for their purchases and we stay on the cell phone a lot.

The FN 1903 sounds like a fabulous find and I hope you will favor us with a picture or two.


Chris
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Hi all,

Happy that you were interested. There are only two or three gun shows in Switzerland every year: the biggest (about 10-12.000 visitors) on spring in Luzern, this one in autumn in Lausanne and another one in Bern on a two year basis. Some people from France, Italy, Germany and even Belgium come to these shows. Only traders with a official permit are allowed to sell. You can buy if you have a permit and the local police is present to give permits if you have the necessary papers (ID and an old permit). You can also reserve a gun and make the papers later.

There was another show in Neuchatel a few years ago but it was definitely canceled as there was some illegal trade, due to proximity with France, where it is very difficult to own legally. In fact, some individuals might ask you to buy something for them, then you made the trade in the park area. Sometime, the guy produced a badge and big problems occured!

Tag prices are high here as the market is small and it is alway a nuisance to buy outside and import (it is possible as a private person, but it involves some papers and money). Prices are of course negociable.

I didn't mention some traders who are specialized in surplus with low prices for beatten goods: for examples, Tokarevs for 195 francs, HPs for 535 francs (beatten, with slides roughly refinished with black paint) and, among that, some good surprises like police surplus SIG P225s for 325 francs.

Chris, sorry for the pictures but you will find the exact gun here:

http://www.littlegun.be/arme%20belge/fn/a%20fn%201903%20fr.htm

Bye.

L.
 

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Hi Larry,

Thank you for the link.

Are the Colt 1903 and FN 1903 of the same manufacture?

Do you have to have a permit to buy? Are sales restricted only to Swiss Citizen's? Are the restrictions on firearms ownership different in France?

Larry, I am just very curious about some of the laws regarding gun ownership in Europe.

Thanks,

Chris
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Hi Chris,

The Colt 1903 and FN 1903 were designed at the same time by the Master. Their designs are very similar (blowback action, internal hammer) but both manufacturers had opposite purposes in mind. As Colt had already the .38 1900 in production for military customers, it wanted a small, easy weapon for civilians. FN on its part had huge success with its 7,65 1900. Even if the FN Browning 1900 was adopted by some armies, FN wanted to have something similar to the Mauser, Luger, Mannlicher and so on for the military markets.

And the destinies of these designs were contrasted too. The Colt 1903 being adopted both by civilians and officers, the FN 1903 being adopted only by Sweden, Russian Police and Gendarmerie, Turkish Police and some small contracts (Peru, Estonia...), due to its blowback design that was not gusted by militaries. In fact, the 7,65 FN 1910 and 1922 had more success on public markets till 1935 when the HP appeared.

Bye.

L.

P.S. I will write about guns laws later as I don't have to much time left.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Hi Chris,

So gun laws in Switzerland...

We have a new federal legislation since 1999. Before, every state (canton) had its own regulations.

Every Swiss citizen has the right to buy and own weapons if he is more than 18, not psy unsane nor condemned. Same is appliable to foreigners who have an establishement card, with some exceptions towards for ex-Yugoslavians, Albanians, Turks and so on.

To buy a weapon by an handler, you need a permit. The cantonal authority will give it if you fullfill the conditions mentionned above. Exceptions are antiques (before 1890), muzzle loaders, swiss ordnance rifles, target and hunting rifles.

To buy a weapon from a private seller, you only need to make a written contrat and keep it for 10 years. This rule was intented to preserve the tradition of sale and trade amoung range mates. Now that a "grey market" has greatly expanded, it will surely be cancealed one day or another...

I'm no specialist on other european laws. Let me just tell you that the Swiss law is very liberal in comparison to Germany, France, Italy and Britain (of course). I think that situation is not that bad in Belgian, Austria and Scandinavian lands.

Bye.

L.
 
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Sorry to pester you with questions, but where do you go to shoot? Are there public ranges in Switzerland?

It's interesting to learn that JMB designed a 9 mm during that time period. I have heard that he originally thought to produce the 1911 as a 9. Do you know if there any truth to this? (I'm not much of a Browning historian.)

Max
 
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I also just noticed the external extractor on the FN. Does the 1903 Colt have one too?

I saw an interview on TV with the engineer in charge of the S&W 1911. He joined Smith from Colt. He felt that after magazine issues, the internal extractor was the main problem area with 1911s. Hence S&W went external in its quest for a machine-made 1911 that would also be reliable. Kimber, of course, had gone external before S&W. Controversy naturally ensued.

Anyway, it's interesting to see this feature on the antique FN. It's also interesting to see someone pursue a JMB collection following the FN line chronologically. This board excepted, we usually see people following the Colt line here in the U.S., for obvious reasons, of course.

Thanks, Larry for a very interesting post.

Max
 

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Hi Larry,

Thank you for the information.

One of my neighbors is from Germany and I have been plying her with the same questions.

One of the more interesting things that I have run across here is the purchase of handguns by non-US citizen's which can be done with proof of residency here in my state of South Carolina. Recently, we had a South African couple that interupted a burglary in progress and after a pretty fierce fight with the burgler who had armed herself (yes, it was a woman) with a claw hammer.

When she was arrested, she vowed revenge and the couple came into the gunshop to arm themselves with a shotgun and a couple of handguns.

Chris
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I'm very pleased to see that the situation here arouses so much interest and I'll try my best to answer...

Shooting in Switzerland. A few years ago, about every small village in Switzerland had its public 300 meters range, intented to provide training for reservists (every male between 20 and 55 years) who have to shoot a least one session every year. Now that the army has been reduced from 600000 to 220000 soldiers, some ranges have disapeared and others are striving to get new audience. In the past, you could only shoot official Swiss Army weapons in the public ranges. Now, some ranges are open to foreign assault rifles (AR-15s, Steyr AUGs...) in addition to K31 repeaters and SIG Stgw 57s and 90s (550).

As I don't pratice much with long weapons - even if I own 3 Mausers, 1 K31, 1 30. M1 Carbine, 1 Lee-Enfield No4 (T) and 1 Mannlicher-Schoenauer - I'm member of a private underground range, which offers distances from 10 to 50 meters. I like the place as the owners are very cool. They allow people of confidence to shoot informal drills (drawing from the holser and so on) if you are alone in the range. They also sold me some interesting weapons: 1 Lightweight Commander, 1 FN HP, 1 Walther P5, the FN 1903... the LE No4 (T) and a Boer 1893 Mauser. They also organize once every month a shooting session in the open air, in a isolated place where you can shoot at short and long distances.

About the Colt 1903: Like the FN 1903, it has an external extractor, just as the prior 1900 and 1902 .38 Colts and the posterior 1905 and 1909 .45s do. The internal extractor came late in the developpement of the 1911. Browning introduced it as a extractor pin loosed out during an army test. It is strange irony that both the HP and 1911 design went back to the external extractor for costs, strengh and... reliability.

About the caliber: The first design of Browning for Colt was the 1900, slightly modified in 1902. It was in .38, just like the Army revolver of the time. As bad reports came back from the Philippines, the Army went back to .45 and so did Colt and Browning in their projects. .45 auto cartridges were already developped in 1902 or 1903 (so writes Bady) and used in the Colt 1905 and following developpments.

About the 9 mm. 1911: the 1900/2 Colt precursors were, indeed, 9 mm. [i:t30nulq5]
 
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BTW, it would be interesting to see what JMB would make of all the 1911 controversies. He'd probably just shake his head and develop a new model with features no one else has thought of yet...

Max
 

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Discussion Starter #16
With a K-31, you still can shoot official competitions for ordnance weapons - some old die hards and traditionnalists are stongly attached to their "wood rifle" - but as a soldier you must shoot your StGw 57 or 90 when doing your annual training at the range.

JMB was a very straightforward person. For example, his 1902 pistol didn't have any manual safety as JMB felt that the pistol could be carried hammer down by soldiers and cavalrymen, and cocked with the thumb to fire. The safety came back late during the refinements of the 1905 design to fullfill wishes from US ordnance. It was followed by the grip safety. The later following a complex Colt proprietary design before JMB refinished it. JMB had a sense for simplicity and inherent safety: being a gunman himself, he knew that safety was between the ears of the user. Similary, it seems that he didn't cared much about high capacity - the prototypes of the HP were designed by JMB for FN around a magazine made by Saive - as he knew that you shouldn't need 13 or 17 rounds to have the job made.

Sure we still have lot to learn from these men.

Bye.

L.
 
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I'd actually love to attend a show that had thousands of Stars. They're not that common over here, and I've found them to be extremely good weapons for the low price.
 

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Interesting thread indeed.
There was a story about shooting in Switzerland in the Gun Digest maybe ten years ago. Whenever I'm thumbing through that edition, I always have to stop at that article for a while and read at least some of it.

I don't know exactly why it's so interesting to people like me, but it is.
Several years ago, a co-worker of mine went to Germany on vacation and brought back a catalog from a shooting center. I couldn't read a word, but I still went over that thing like a kid with a Christmas catalog.
Most of it was competition related- either smallbore or air rifle/pistol. Some of it was hunting related, and the hunting arms were very different from that used here. Most guns had interchangable barrels to get the most use out of ONE registered gun.

Same world, but different.

It sounds like the K31 is held in similar regard as the M1 Garand (or perhaps the 1903 Springfield) here, at least among target shooters. None of the service teams have used the Garand for years, but you still see them at HighPower matches.
I like reading about the K31's use in Switzerland, as I bought one of them a couple of years ago and find it a very interesting rifle to say the least.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
As I'm not enlisted anymore, I do no rifle shooting at 300 m. In fact, I was disgusted of shooting at the army by an instructor that had the nice habit to kick in the belly the recruits that missed - as I shot a lot of rifle grenates, my StGw 57 was very loose, it shot like a water can and I was a candidate for belly kicks. When I finished my time at the army, I received a K31 as I still had some good shootings in my book. Believe it or not I never shot it but I had some opportunities to shoot the new StGw 90 (SIG 550) and I was really impressed: five shots on a 10 points target at 300 m. and never less than 46-48 points (45 is the minimum for the expert mention) with a gun that I didn't even know.

So, last week-end, I spoke with a young instructor at my range and he promised to invite me for some sessions next year with its village shooting society. He told me that they were very open - they don't shoot only ordnance weapons, he for example has a sniper SIG 550 and a custom sniper K31, others shoot with AR15 and Mausers.

I'm really excited to meet these guys.

L.
 

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Hi Larry,

That sounds pretty exciting to say the least!

I hope that you will favor us with a report on your experiences with the village shooting society! I think we would all be extremely interested to hear about your time with them.

Chris
 
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