History of firearms in Russia

Still working. I'll try to complete this section. As soon as possible. Stay tuned :) Too bad Lenin's library doesn't work on sundays and military section works on strange and odd hours. Sorry. Under construction. I did not expect so much visitors when announced this page, and did not think that this page will become so popular :)

  • General information

    Historians do not know where firearms came from. First document mentioning firearms is a "Sofiski vremennik". It describes Moscow under tatar's siege in 1382. Also, it's known that a fire in Moscow in 1400 was started because of blackpowder ignition.

    First guns were like all first guns in the world. A metal (not always though) tube in the wooden box. Later, in XV century first matchlock guns appeared in Russia, and started to gain popularity. But these old guns were slow to reload and keeping wick burining was a big problem in the rainy day. First time firearms were mentioned in the military codex in 1647 with complete instructions on musket use.

    Matchlocks slowly transformed into the sparking mechanism. At first, it was simple file under the flint. Later it became a wheel. We must note an original Russian longarm with light wheelock, completely hidden in the stock, just after the breech.

    Finally unwieldy mechanisms were replaced by flintlock. Progress was moving slowly, until Peter I raised a ruckus, whipped whole Russia and started real wars. And in his time real Russian army was born. All soldiers started to carry firearms. Flintlock guns served until ~1854, until the Crimean War, where Russian army suffered serious defeat. Even in 1930th some hunters in Siberia used flintlock guns, because blackpowder is cheap and can be made at home instead of buying expenisve ammo.

    All history of longarms in Russian since their appearance and up to accepting Berdan rifle type 2 is a history of the upgrade -- matchlock to flintlock, flintlock to percussion, even percussion to breech-loading, but this attempt failed. And history of the officers resisting all innovations.

    [...stay tuned...]

    While many armies in 1850s had revolvers, Russian army had only old smoothbore, muzzle-loading pistols. They were really outdated and almost useless, but all attempts to add revolvers to Russian armament were refused. In 1859 military minister offered to replace old pistols with revolvers, but Weapon Committee refused again, assuming all revolvers as unreliable, complicated and expensive. Instead, they decided to design one-shot breech-loading pistol. Without much thinking they accepted 2-bullet one-shot Jille [sp?] pistol. It has a charge with one bullet in the bore and one "bullet" in the breech. Second bullet was intended to seal breech when pistol is fired. It was a really idiotic construction. These pistols were more unreliable than any revolver of that time. And from 100 samples 64 were spoilage...

    So progress has stopped again, until 1871. In 1871 weapon designers turned their attention to Smith and Wesson revolver. After thoughtful testing it was accepted in Russian army. In 1872 and 1880 design was changed a little, so Russian army had 3 types of these revolvers. But they differ a little, only in weight, barrel length and some minor details. Type 3 had barrel lenght 6.6", type 2 -- 7" and type 1 -- 8". Barrel had 6 riflings, swirled from left to right, doing 1/3 of the full circle. Upper part of the barrel had a ridge, intended to reduce height of the front sight.

    [...stay tuned...]

    Revolution in 1917 changed everything. And as any war, it whipped the progress and forced it to run faster. Red Army inherited weapons of the old Russian army. Mainly they were famous 7.62 Mosin-Nagant rifles model 1891 (there were three modifications: infantry, dragoon and cossak), carbines of the same system model 190, heavy Maxim machineguns model 1910 (usually mounted on the carriage) and Nagant revolvers, designed in 1895. Add some imported weapons.

    And of couse Red Army was short on ammo and weapons. Even before the revolution tzar's factories were able to supply 1/3 of all needs of the old Russian army during WWI. With tremendous efforts people worked to produce enough weapons. Izhevsk factories created 12,500 rifles in Jul 1919 and at the end of the year they were producing more than 20,000 rifles per month. Totally in 1918-1920 years communists manufactured 1,298,173 rifles, 15,044 machineguns and 175,115 revolvers; repaired 900,000 rifles and 5,200 machineguns. Totally they created 840,200,000 cartridges. [CGASA, f4, op3, d22, l28 and f20, op8, d1, l129. I would not decrypt these archive references, 'cause i don't know how :)]

    After ceasing war activity communists started to rebuild Red Army armament and create new, better weapons.

  • Pistols and revolvers

    Nagant was an excellent revolver. Accurate, reliable, safe and always ready to fire it quickly replaced old blackpowder S&Ws in Russian army before revolution. In 1919-1930 given in reward Nagant with award of red star embedded in the grip was the higher reward of the high rank officers, usually given to loyal and trusty.

    But as all revolvers it has several drawbacks -- Nagant was uncomfortable to carry, it has long heavy trigger pull and slow reloading time. And time of semi-auto pistols had came.

    Serious consideration of semi-auto pistols started in 1920-1921, when S. A. Korovin designed his first model. In 1923 his pistol, chambered for 7.65 "Browning" was examined by studied by authorities and noted as good, but not ready for manufacturing handgun. It was safe and reliable, but heavy (915 g) and very complicated. Redesigning took several years and onlyin 1927 pistol was finished.

    The work of Korovin autopistol is based on short recoil. [Here must be a description, but I don't know yet how to translate it.]

    In 1924 S. A. Prilutski offered his construction, also based on 7.65 Browning cartridge.

    7 Jul 1928 Artillery Comission considered Korovin, Prilutski, Walther and several other autopistols. They preferred Prilutski, but said it was not ready yet for mass manufacturing. It's drawbacks were: ejecting empty cartridge into shooter's face, many delicate parts and rough surface, shooters cut their fingers during disassembly.

    Later Artillery Comission gave an advice to all designers to design pistols for Mauser 7.62 cartridge, because it will be used in pistol-machineguns. This cartridge became most popular during WWII, when number of pistol-machineguns in army quickly grew up.

    Caliber: 7.62
    Mass of the cartridge: 10.2 - 11 g
    Mass of the bullet: 5.52 g
    Mass of the powder: 0.48 - 0.52
    Length of the cartridge: 34.85 mm
    Length of the case: 24.7 mm
    Length of the bullet: 16.3 mm
    Chamber volume: 0.93 cm^3
    Max pressure: 2100 kg/cm^3

    In 1929 F. V. Tokarev created his first pistol. It has very long barrel and high capacity magazine for 22 cartridges. It was designed to shoot at the distances up to 700 meters. Its size and weight were unacceptable and in 1930 Tokarev designed famous TT. In the same year another testing happened. Were considered Korovin, Prilutski, Tokarev, Walther and Browning. Pistols were dropped into the box with sand and were tortured in many other ways. Tokarev won hard competition. In 1931 mass production was launched.

    Nagants and TTs were manufactured simultaneously until the war, when experience showed advantages of TT. While in 1937 factories made 59824 pistols and 72086 revolvers, in 1942 they made 161485 pistols and 15485 revolvers.

    In 1938 next competition was announced.

    [...more to come. Stay tuned :)]

  • Rifles and machine-guns

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