September 22nd, 2010

Swiss Shooting Traditions — A Nation of Riflemen

Swiss feldschiessenIn Switzerland, universal military training is required of young men, and after military service, Swiss men retain their military weapons, including assault rifles, in their homes. In addition, target shooting remains a hugely popular activity among the Swiss. Though it has a population of just 7,000,000, Switzerland boasts over 2,000 rifle ranges. Each year, close to 200,000 Swiss participate in the Eidgenössisches Feldschiessen (annual shooting skills exercise). A several hundred-year-old tradition, the Feldschiessen (aka Tiro Federale in Campagna) is the largest shooting event in the world.

Shooting service rifles at 300m is typical at many Feldschiessen matches. Some Swiss ranges boast the latest high-tech equipment. At one of the popular ranges, 400 electronic targets served thousands of shooters. And get this — the Swiss government provides free ammunition at each year’s Feldschiessen. Contrast that with California — which recently passed legislation requiring citizens to provide thumbprints and personal data just to purchase ammo. Switzerland views armed citizens as a vital national asset. California views shooters as a pariah class that should be eliminated.

Swiss feldschiessen

Swiss Gun-Control Advocates Call for Change
Despite the popularity of shooting in Switzerland, and the nation’s tradition of maintaining an armed citizenry, there are groups seeking to restrict gun ownership and require that military arms be removed from homes and stored in military barracks. Both sides of the issue are covered in a video report from World Radio Switzerland. You should definitely watch the video. In it, Marc Heim, a Swiss citizen, explains that the Swiss government seeks to maintain “a very high state of readiness for the Swiss military and population. The [goal] has always been that, within 24 to 48 hours, Switzerland could mobilize a pretty large army.” Heim still has the Stgw 57 (7.5×55) rifle he trained with, as well as the rifles used by his father, and grandfather before him. Heim’s young son, in his 20s, keeps a modern, fully-automatic Sig 550. That is the rifle Marc Heim and his son would take to the Feldschiessen.

Swiss feldschiessen

CLICK HERE for Story and VIDEO on Swiss Gun Tradition (Highly Recommended)

Reasons for Armed Citizenry in Switzerland
Marc Heim believes that it is important for Switzerland to retain a “citizen army”. His belief was strengthened after he visited a Holocaust museum: “That’s when it all hit me… I want to be free and never in a situation where they could just march us off to ovens or prisons… or just take away our freedom. The key to freedom is the ability to be able to defend yourself, and if you don’t have the tools to do that then you are at the mercy of anyone who wants to put you away. And the tools for that are guns.”

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May 29th, 2010

Swiss Stamp Celebrates Markmanship Competition

Swiss Rifle stampIn some nations which have imposed draconian regulations on firearms, a match rifle is the last thing you’d expect to see on a postal stamp. That’s not the case with the Swiss. Switzerland is a “nation of marksmen”.  When young, all Swiss men receive military training, and then, after active duty, male citizens remain “on call” in a reserve status — retaining their rifles. Not surprisingly, target shooting is a hugely popular activity throughout Switzerland.

Though it has a population of just 7,000,000, Switzerland boasts over 2,000 rifle ranges. Each year, close to 200,000 Swiss participate in the Eidgenössisches Feldschiessen (annual shooting skills exercise). A several hundred-year-old tradition, the Feldschiessen (aka Tiro Federale in Campagna) is the largest shooting event in the world. The Swiss government actually provides free ammunition for Feldschiessen competitors.

To mark the importance (and popularity) of target shooting, Switzerland recently introduced a new stamp. Remarkably, on the right side of each stamp, in the middle of the bullseye, a small hole is actually punched through the paper! That’s Swiss attention to detail. A sheet of these stamps can be purchased from Swiss Post for 20 Swiss Francs (about $17). Shipping worldwide is free.

Swiss Rifle stamp

Photos and original story concept courtesy The Firearm Blog.

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