"Winter Bolt Handle" K11, myth or truth? (Created: 16.04.2020)

Initial position

Sometimes there are coincidences: At the beginning of April 2020, the article on the Modell 1911 Carbine was adapted and the "winter bolt handle" myth previously advocated was toned down based on Ernst Grenacher's book.

Now, as I was informed by a reader in mid-April 2020, an article on Facebook claims that the "Winterriegel" theory is 100% wrong. The reader has sent me a document from the Federal Archives, which has been available to for years. The post on Facebook, which is only available as a screenshot because it was published in a private group, is supposed to refute the "winter bolt handle" theory once and for all.

So far so good.

Document E27#1000/721#18140*

Here is the content of the document from the Federal Archives (reference BAR E27#1000/721#18140*):

(citation beginning)
"Bern, den 21. Februar 1928.
An die eidg. Kriegsmaterialverwaltung Bern.

Ord. Gewehr und Karabiner

Die W+F Bern hat, um die Fabrikation einzelner Gewehrbestandteile rationeller zu gestalten, am Verschlussriegel einige kleine Aenderungen angebracht, die aber weder die Funktion noch die Festigkeit beeinflussen. Diese Abänderungen sind:
a) Anfräsen kleiner Flächen vorn am Fuss des Riegelgriffes und des Spannstollens hinter dem Gleitstollen.
b) Einfräsen von kleinen Rillen für bessere Reinigung und Fettung am Fusse von Spannstollen und Riegelgriff.
Wir legen zur Orientierung 4 neue und einen bisherigen Riegel bei, an denen die Abänderungen erkenntlich sind."

(citation end)

It is mentioned in the Facebook post that the information on is incorrect. Thanks to the above mentioned reader K.M. of this can now be investigated; with documents, literature and with real evidence.

What is called in mythology the "winter bolt handle"?

The winter bolt handle is said to have been developed to make the Modell 1911 Carbine more winter-proof, as it was to be used by the mountain troops. The myth says that this was to prevent the bolt handle from freezing to the receiver. The myth refers to a "winter bolt handle" which has about 5mm less base on the locking bolt handle than a normal bolt handle. The following picture shows a "normal" bolt handle at the bottom left and a "myth winter bolt handle" at the top right:
Down left normal bolt handle, up right winter bolt handle

How did the "winter bolt handle" myth begin?

Now that we know what such a "winter bolt handle" is supposed to be, I would like to examine the origin of the myth more closely:

Personally, I read it for the first time in the book "Bewaffnung und Ausrüstung der Schweizer Armee seit 1817, Handfeuerwaffen Gradzug-System (Band 4)", page 42, at the very end of the text. The book was published in 1978.

In the 1980s and 1990s the company AMAZA (later AMA) was active and sold weapon parts from army stocks. Already in the 80s a "Bolt handle Winter version" was available. In the price list of 1994 the bolt handle is listed on page 2, position 25.

The book "Die Repetiergewehre der Schweiz" (published in 1991) describes on page 165 that Modell 1911 Carbine mainly of the last years of production were delivered with a bolt handle with a 5mm shortened attachment. However, the word "winter", "winter version" or "winter bolt handle" is not (no longer) mentioned!

Furthermore, a contribution was made in the theswissriflesdotcommessageboard by Frank alias Guisan (click here for the contribution), where he speaks of a "winter bolt handle". He too is unsure whether this is true. Frank was a great connoisseur of Swiss rifles and unfortunately passed away in 2015, two weeks after I was able to meet him personally for the first and only time in Interlaken.

In the year of Frank's death the most recent work on Swiss rifles has been published, the book "Schweizer Militärgewehre Hinterladung 1860-1990 (Ernst Grenacher)" by Ernst Grenacher (published 2015). On page 441 Ernst Grenacher doubts the myth of the winter bolt handle and mentions the possibility that it was a production simplification.

The Facebook post mentioned at the beginning seems to take up the theory of Ernst Grenacher and tries to dispel and end the myth of the "Winter Bolt Hanlde" with the above mentioned document from the Federal Archives.

The myth of the "winter bolt handle", right or wrong

For a long time I was aware that something must be strange here. Unfortunately, I haven't taken the time to get to the bottom of it.

In the collection I have found bolt handles which show significant changes compared to the "normal" bolt handles, but which are not a "mythical winter bolt handle" with a 5mm shortened attachment.

But let's first look at the quoted document of the Bundesarchiv; it announces that two changes have been made, changes "a)" and changes "b)":

a) Milling of small areas at the front at the foot of the bolt handle and the tensioning lug behind the sliding lug.
b) Milling of small grooves for better cleaning and greasing at the foot of the tensioning lug and bolt handle.

Now the research with the real parts has shown that the above mentioned changes, which are all milling of surfaces and grooves, have actually been carried out.

The changes described above lead to the assumption that further changes were made to simplify production. It is indeed the case that this could be. Could be. There are no documents (yet) about this!

However, research has also shown that these changes have absolutely nothing to do with the "winter bolt handle", i.e. with the bolt handle set back by 5mm!

Why is that?

There are three different bolt handles available, which are described on the pictures 01 to 07 with the variants sw-a, sw-b and sw-c.

Variant sw-a shows the original bolt handle as it was mainly used.

Variant sw-b shows the bolt handle modified according to specifications a) and b) of the above document. The effective handle is still the same as in variant sw-a. So NO "winter bolt handle" according to myth! See pictures 02 and 03 and 05.

Variant sw-c then shows a bolt handle like variant sw-b, but WITH a 5mm shortened projection. In the same way as the myth describes a "winter bolt handle". See picture 05.


According to the current state of knowledge, the following theories can now be defined.

Theory 1:
The document which has from the Federal Archives and which is also said to have appeared on Facebook is incomplete. There are other changes (for example under c)) which are not listed. This theory is unlikely, because otherwise the variant sw-b of the bolt handle should not exist.

Theory 2:
Further changes were made to the bolt handles, which were (or were not) recorded in other documents.

Theory 2a:
The other changes were again made due to production simplifications.

Theory 2b:
The other changes were made to prevent the bolt on the lock housing from freezing.

Theory 1 can be excluded with a high degree of probability. Theory 2a and 2b are both possible and neither theory can be confirmed or excluded.


So we are back at the beginning again!

According to the current state of knowledge, the "winter bolt handle" myth will (rightly) live on until someone finds a document that confirms theory 2a or 2b.

The Facebook post reported by K.M. is exciting, but has proven to be false after these investigations.

Picture 01Picture 02Picture 03Picture 04
Picture 05Picture 06Picture 07

Translated with the help of