Paradoxically, the most accurate, fastest-cycling and generally highest quality as-issued Vintage Military Rifle competition rifle, the Swiss K31, is not more prevalent at VMR matches—perhaps at least in part because the chargers have been an issue.
The Swiss-manufactured K31 six-round chargers (“stripper clips”) of a varnished papier-mâchéwith tinned iron edges. They were not intended to be reused, and after bending the tinned iron cartridge retaining clips a few times in reuse, they break off, rendering the charger useless. We need these chargers for reloading the K31 in VMR competition’s rapid-fire stages.
Once prevalent and inexpensive when the K31s and Swiss GP11 ammunition first hit American markets some years ago, original chargers are now so scarce that online auctioneers (or buyers) have escalated prices for these throwaways into the “Absurd” category at around $25 each. Solution: Northridge, Inc. has come to the rescue with reusable, durable polymer chargers. Cost is $25 a pair—and two is just what we need for a VMR match.
The origin of the K31’s charger is a pair of U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonels who, though creative, didn’t have much luck on the business side. According to The Book of Rifles (Smith & Smith, 1948) and an April 12, 1906 article in Shooting and Fishing magazine (precursor to American Rifleman), the Swiss papier-mâché charger is a knockoff of an earlier one invented by U.S. Army Lt. Col. Andrew H. Russel and Lt. Col. William R. Livermore in the late 1800s. It appears the Swiss did not compensate Russell and Livermore for their idea. The light colonels lost again when the U.S. government adopted the Krag-Jorgenson rifle after their Russell-Livermore Magazine Rifle failed to outperform the Krag in Army trials. They subsequently sued the government for $100,000 in 1901, claiming the side-loading Krag used several patented features of their rifle. They lost yet again when the court decided, on a technicality, that the colonels had sued based on an implied contract, rather than on a patent infringement, and so found no case against the government.