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
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 They were really outdated and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.
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.
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.
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
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
In 1938 next competition was announced.
[...more to come. Stay tuned :)]