Explaining "P stamps" and "Soldier's Tags"
You may have seen product descriptions for Swiss firearms in our collection noting that a receiver is "P stamped", or maybe P stamped with two additional numbers. You may also have seen descriptions that note the presence of a "Soldier's Tag". But what exactly does this mean?
Each Swiss citizen volunteering or conscripted into the Swiss armed forces would have been issued a weapon of some sort, typically a rifle. Rather than being checked in at the end of the day and checked back out, possibly being issued a different serial number, the soldier would retain this rifle throughout service. Upon this soldier's completion of service and subsequent discharge, the solder was given the option to purchase and retain their issued firearm. If they chose to do so, a P, for "Privat", would be stamped on the receiver or frame to indicate that the firearm is no longer Swiss military property and is now privately owned.
For example, you can see in the above photo there is a letter P stamped on the top of the receiver. In addition to this, there is a number "35" stamped below the serial number. While this was not always done, the "35" indicates that this K11 pictured was retired and Privatized in 1935. This can be easily confused with a very similar mark indicating the year of an armory refurbishment or repair; these are denoted by a two-digit year that is either preceded or followed by a dot, or the two digit year preceded by a "WF" (Waffenfabrik Bern).
The P stamp may be confused with a P immediately preceding a serial number which is related but not the same thing. While the vast majority of Swiss military firearms were manufactured for military service, a very small subset were manufactured with the intent for private sale. These so-called "P Series" firearms are manufactured with a P as part of the serial number, as seen in the above photo. These are very rare. For example, over 185,000 K11 carbines were manufactured in total by Waffenfabrik Bern. Of these, less than 600 were manufactured for private sale.
Finally, what is a soldier's tag? Also known as a troop tag, this is a small tag that may be found under the butt plate of rifles or behind the grip of a sidearm. Since the one serial number for a particular firearm would be issued to a specific soldier, the soldier would write their information on a rectangular slip of waterproofed paper and place it behind the metal butt plate of a rifle or behind the grip of a sidearm. Typically, this information would include the soldier's name, sometimes their year of birth, their unit information, and either the location name of where they served or their place of residence.
You can see in the above photo that this K11 has both a P stamp on the receiver as well as this soldier's tag that was found behind this rifle's butt plate.
As part of our inspection procedures on Swiss firearms, each is checked for the presence of a soldier's tag. However, we do not log any of this information to maintain the privacy of the original owner, only note if one is present.