Tag Archives: SIG 550

Feel like running a 43K with a rifle on your back? The Swiss call it Waffenlauf

The tiny central European country of Switzerland was renowned for centuries for the quality of their fighting men and was one of the few countries on that continent that was never attacked in either of the great World Wars. One reason may be the grueling armed marathon that they call the Waffenlauf.

Swiss martial tradition

Long a country known for their belief in freedom, the Swiss have kept that notion alive through force of arms. During the Renaissance, citizen sportsmen such as the legendary William Tell kept his crossbow skills sharp– just in case. At a small mountain valley named Sempach in 1386, an Austrian army of professional soldiers attempted to invade Switzerland.

A small militia force of a few farmers led by a man named Arnold Winkelreid met them in battle.  The farmers were outnumbered 6:1 and trapped. The only sane thing to do was for them to surrender and submit to the invader.

But they didn’t.

Arnold ran forward alone and yelled, “Make way for liberty.” The farmers followed him and the stunned professional solders of the Austrian army broke and retreated, with the farmers harassing them all the way back to the border.

 19th-century painting of Winkelried's deed by Konrad Grob.

19th-century painting of Winkelried’s deed by Konrad Grob.

That 1386 battle was the last time Switzerland was invaded.

Sometime after this, Swiss mercenaries (Reisläufer) became the toast of military service for over four centuries. To this day, the Pontifical Swiss Guards– all highly trained veterans of the Swiss Army– ensure that the Vatican is secure from invasion.

Speaking of which, the “Swiss model,” that of requiring all fit males of military age to serve in the armed forces or civil defense, even going so far as to keep all of their arms and equipment at home, ready to go when needed, has been largely cited as a reason that Hitler never came across the Alps during WWII. The prospect of fighting 850,000 Winkelreids on their own turf Wolverines-style likely kept it that way.

Enter the Waffenlauf

In 1916, with Europe at war on all sides of Switzerland’s borders during the First World War, an event called the “Gun Barrel” (Waffenlauf) was run to help showcase military skills and provide a bit of sport. This run, a marathon run in military uniform with marching shoes, full pack, and rifle at distances up to 43 kilometers (26 miles), sounds about as fun as slip and slide made out of cactus, but hey, it’s Switzerland!


Read the rest in my column at Firearms Talk

Camo Frog Frogs

(click to embiggen)

(click to embiggen)

Commando Hubert diver submerged with skrim camouflage and an EOTECH outfitted SIG 550 series rifle. Commando Hubert is a combat swimmer unit assigned to the French Navy’s COFUSCO. Of the five Naval Commando units of the French Navy, Hubert is the dedicated frogman group. The unit is tasked with conducting maritime special operations in support of the French Navy and intelligence services, primarily the DGSE (the French foreign intelligence directorate).

Currently Commando Hubert is composed of 80 men divided into two companies. The first company consists of 50 men and is subdivided into four sections designated A, B, C, and D.

A section is the command and support section. It contains the unit HQ, and the units Hurricane RIBs.

Rapid+casque pare balle+Saint Mandrier 010

B section is the maritime counter terrorism (CT) section. The unit specializes in conducting underwater approaches to terrorist targets. They conduct joint operations with the Navy’s GCMC and GIGN’s diver section. In the event an assault was ordered on a target at sea, B section divers would act as guides for the GIGN team.

C section is the SDV section. The divers of this section receive additional training in the use of SDV’s and their maintenance.

D section contains the units snipers and heavy weapons experts. The section is responsible for performing beach reconnaissance, shipping attacks,underwater demolition operations, providing heavy fire support, and testing new equipment for use by the unit. All members of D section are both HAHO and HALO qualified.

Rapid+casque pare balle+Saint Mandrier 109
Although there have always been lots of jokes about the French military (hey, they were the first army we ever beat, back in the French and Indian War), Hubert divers are as hard as coffin nails. They are constantly out there, unseen in the worst places, and have been in near-constant warfare since 1941.