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Arming ivan: Russian small arms of WWI part 1:

 
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BerichtGeplaatst: 19 Jul 2006 10:30    Onderwerp: Arming ivan: Russian small arms of WWI part 1: Reageer met quote

Arming ivan: Russian small arms of WWI part 1: during the Great War, the Russians violated the first rule of a gunfight—have a gun

The Eastern Front, September 1914--The Regiment changed formation from column to line as they approached the stand of trees. The last furrows of wheat were passing underfoot as Vladimir came on line with his company and plunged into the underbrush just inside the tree line. "Stay on line!" shouted the NCOs as the first artillery shell shrieked by overhead, bursting in a fiery ball within a cloud of grayish blue smoke. The line reflexively crouched in anticipation of the shower of shrapnel. The soldier to his right screamed in pain, doubling over as his right knee collapsed in full stride, plunging him to the ground. Vladimir glanced back to see Nicolai Alexyavich Petrov writhing on the ground in pain, holding the stump that was his left arm, a wide dark stain enveloping the ground around him. He shuddered uncontrollably as he looked back to the front, his mind trying to keep pace with what was happening around him. Another shell burst overhead, cutting a swath through the scattered ranks of brown greatcoats. The thick underbrush swallowed the casualties as the line pushed forward. Some soldiers slowed due to the varied thickness of the underbrush in the dense section of forest, while others slowed out of fear. Another shell screamed by, erupting in a loud explosion, 40 meters to the rear--good news--they were inside the fuse setting of the Austro-Hungarian 75mm shells! "DRESS RANKS" screamed the master sergeant, a hopeless likelihood in among the thick brush and tree branches brought down by the artillery fire. The ragged brown line continued to advance.

Vladimir could hear scattered gunfire on the right flank now, a staccato of pops amid the deeper roar of the artillery shells exploding to their rear. The light filtering through the trees was gradually increasing, they were nearing the edge of the woods. He plowed through the last patch of brush to emerge on the edge of another large wheat field. There before them, was a mass of flowing Austro-Hungarian Pike Gray tunics, passing down the slope of the field from right to left, in several deep ranks, their regiment's flank totally exposed to the axis of the Russian advance

"Halt! ... commence firing! Vladimir reflexively raised the M91 Three-Line Rifle to his shoulder, the rush of adrenaline brought everything into slow motion--the familiar butt plate settled in against his shoulder, his cheek finding the birch stock, his eyes picking up the tip of the front post in the V notch of the battle sight. "Aim low!" shouted the NCO to his right. He swung the sights of the rifle in line with the knees of the nearest Austro-Hungarian soldier, tracked him for a split second before the sear broke clean and the rifle bucked against his shoulder. As the muzzle of the rifle flipped upward from the recoil, the bullet struck the enemy soldier. He had partially turned in surprise at the sudden appearance of the Russians on his exposed flank when the bullet caught him full in the chest. He dropped instantly, hitting the ground hard. Vladimir cycled the bolt of the Three-Line Rifle, running another 7.62x54mmR Ball L cartridge into the chamber, his eyes falling back in line with the sights, searching for another target, The entire Russian line now exploded with a ragged volley of rifle fire, delivered at a range of 30 to 50 meters. The left flank of the Austro-Hungarian formation nearly disintegrated as the entire formation recoiled from the sudden volley poured into the regiment at such close range. Vladimir's sights settled on another target, he squeezed the trigger ...

The fighting on the Eastern Front in the early days of WWI was performed in open order, columns and close order regimental line formations, much like the tactical doctrine developed in Napoleon's day. The well equipped frontline regiments of the Russian army that took the field in 1914, carried a variety of different rifles. The standard issue model was the battle proven, Model 1891 Three-Line Rifle, better known to the casual collector as the M91 Mosin-Nagant. This two part article will explore the diversity of the firearms officially issued to Russian combat troops during the Great War. It is an interesting field of study with a tremendously wide range of weapons, both modern and obsolete, having been issued to front line units.

The "Three-Line" moniker used in the nomenclature of the Mosin-Nagant Model 1891 was based on the caliber of the weapon in the old system of linear measurement still in use when the rifle was first introduced. The bore diameter was literally three "linea". The actual caliber as measured today in the U.S. is .310" to .311". The M91 was produced in six different configurations before WWI. It was produced in greatest numbers as an infantry rifle, however, several shorter variations were produced for specialty troops. These included both the Cossack and Dragoon rifles, the M91 Gendarmerie carbine, which was a precursor of the later Model 1907 carbine. In addition, there was a special carbine pattern produced for the Cossack Cavalry School in St. Petersburg. All of the various Mosin-Nagant variations were chambered for the 7.62x54mmR cartridge. At the outbreak of war in 1914, the Russian inventories were estimated to be as follows.

M91 Three-Line rifles--3,854,036
M91 Cossack rifles--713,551
M91 Dragoon rifles--779,985
M91 Gendarmerie rifles--8,749
M07 Cavalry carbines--236,659
St. Petersburg Cavalry carbines--unknown

This supply of small arms was just barely adequate for the number of troops mobilized at the outset of the war in August of 1914. By January 1st of 1915, the Russians had an estimated 5,000,000 men mobilized, 2,240,000 of whom were serving at the front, with the balance in training or serving in various garrisons spread across the vast Russian Empire. An estimated 800,000 of the recruits undergoing training had no rifles at all. Add to this an estimated loss of over 250,000 rifles at the disastrous Battle of Tannenberg in the opening months of the war and it becomes rather obvious the Russians could not sustain the war effort for very long without substantial help from her allies. The Russian manufacturing capabilities simply were not adequate to support a long protracted struggle on this scale. By January of 1915, the daily consumption of rifle ammunition was estimated at 45,000 rounds. The maximum production of Russian munitions factories at this time totaled a meager 13,000 rounds per day. The balance was being provided by the French and the British. U.S. munitions factories were to supplement this effort beginning in mid 1915.

All of the various patterns of the Model 1891 Three-Line Rifle were marked with the name of the manufacturer in Cyrillic on top of the barrel, between the hexagonal receiver and the rear sight base. The Imperial double-headed eagle was marked just underneath the rear sight and on top of the receiver flat just below the barrel. The date of manufacture and serial number of the rifle was stamped below the name of the arsenal. The date of manufacture of the receiver was marked on the underside of the receiver tang, generally in the form of the last two or three digits of the date. This is important to collectors as this date is what will actually determine whether or not any given M91 is classified as an antique by the BATF. There are many of the later pattern Mosins which have been rebuilt using pre 1899 receivers that are legally classified as antiques. All of the rifles produced before and during WWI were produced with the hexagonal receiver the round receivers seen on Model 91/30s being introduced well alter WW1. The Three-Line Rifle was produced at the Russian Government arsenals at Tula, Izhevsk and Sestroryetsk. Prior to WWI, the M91 was also produced in the infantry rifle configuration at Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Chatellemult in France. During the war, M91 Three-Line Rifles were also produced on contract at Remington and Westinghouse in the United States.

The Model 1891 Three-Line Rifle was the first smokeless powder rifle introduced in the Russian army. The original loading featured a 210-grain, cupro-nickel jacketed, lead-core bullet. The original rear sight was of tangent leaf design, consisting of a stepped base with a flat sight leaf. The steps of the sight base were numbered in 200 arshin increments from a battle-sight setting of 200 arshini to a maximum range of 1,000 arshini. For ranges beyond this, the sight leaf was raised perpendicular to the barrel and the push-button sight slide was adjustable. The slide engaged different graduations marked in 100 arshini increments on the sight leaf, up to a maximum range of 2,600 arshini (1,822 yards), which was composed of a V-shaped notch cut into the very top of the sight leaf above the slide.

The Model 1891 Three-Line Rifle saw its combat debut during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904. The rifle performed poorly at long range when pitted against the fiat-shooting 6.5x50mm cartridge of the Japanese Type 30 Arisaka. After extensive testing, a new bullet was selected in order to improve the ballistics of the 7.62x54mmR cartridge. The new load was adopted in 1908. The bullet was of spitzer design and weighed 148 grains. The bullet was produced with a cupro-nickel jacket over a lead core. The base of the bullet was designed with a concave cupped base. Some of the ammunition loaded during the war incorporated a copper-washed steel jacket over a lead core. The flatter trajectory of the new round required alteration of the rear sight. The flat sight leaf was replaced with a curved leaf that was adjustable from 1,300 arshini to a new maximum range of 3200 arshini. However, the 3,200-range setting was no longer found on the very top of the sight leaf. Instead, the maximum range setting was achieved using the sight slide in its upper most position. The rear sight base was renumbered from 400 to 1,200 arshini in increments of 200. Neither the original nor the second pattern sight were adjustable for windage.

Both the early and second pattern sight leaves were used on the Dragoon and Cossack rifles, with the maximum range markings remaining the same as on the infantry rifle, in spite of the shorter barrels. The original M91 Dragoon and Cossack rifles had the sight base markings stamped into the wooden "ears" of the original pattern top hand guards. The M1907 Three-Line carbine and the St. Petersburg Cavalry School carbine had a maximum range setting of 2,000 arshini.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 19 Jul 2006 10:34    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

he earliest examples of the Model 1891 Three-Line Rifle were produced with a "musket" style sling swivel configuration. By this, I am referring to the sling swivels being mounted on the upper most barrel band and on the front of the magazine housing. This matches the configuration of the earlier Berdan II and most of the muzzle-loading rifles of the mid 1800s. Like the Berdan II, the Model 1891 Three-Line Dragoon and Cossack rifles along with the M1907 Carbine were all designed with the more familiar sling slots seen on most Mosin-Nagants today. A percentage of the first pattern rifles lacked any top swivel at all and instead, were issued with a special pattern sling that had a built in wire hook that was slipped into a gap between the "ears" of the top barrel band and hooked over the tightening screw. Beginning in 1908, newly manufactured stocks were equipped with the sling slots, which up until that time, had only been produced in the specialty patterns, i.e. the Dragoon, Cossack and carbines.

The French Connection
Initial production of the Model 1891 Three-Line Rifle was begun in 1892 at Tula, Izhevsk and Sestroryetsk. Production got off to an extremely slow start with each of the three arsenals rapidly falling behind the projected production requirements. While the three Russian government arsenals were struggling to tool up production, the Russian ordnance department immediately placed large orders with Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Chatellerault in France. Between 1892 and 1895, Chatellerault produced and delivered 503539 infantry rifles. The early rifles produced in Russia and in France were originally equipped with a finger spur extending from the rear of the trigger guard to the rearmost portion of the stock wrist. The finger spur was discontinued in June of 1893 and examples of this early configuration are extremely rare today and highly sought after by collectors. Chatellerault produced rifles can be distinguished by the French arsenal name, in Cyrillic, along with a C inside a circle on top of the barrel.

Small Arms of the Reserves

To help equip the reserves, during the 1890s, the Russian Army had contracted several of the arms manufacturers in Liege, Belgium, to convert approximately 200,000 Model 1870 Berdan II, single-shot black powder rifles, to the 7.62x54mmR smokeless cartridge. This would help ease supply problems as the reworked rifles, known officially as Three-Line Berdan's, would fire the same ammunition as the newer M91 Three-Line repeating rifles.

The Three-Line Berdan rifles received new barrels, with a beefed-up breech section to handle the higher-pressure smokeless cartridge. The barrel channel within the stock was shimmed to support the smaller diameter smokeless barrel. The Berdan II bolt had no locking lugs whatsoever and relied on the bolt root base closing against the forward portion of the split receiver bridge to provide the necessary lock-up during ignition. While this was acceptable with the low pressures generated by black powder, it proved inadequate for smokeless powder. To resolve this problem, a brand new bolt body was produced with a single locking lug added to the detachable bolt head. A locking groove was machined in the steel floor of the bolt way. When the bolt was closed, the locking lug rotated into the machined groove in the floor of the receiver locking the action adequately. The rear sight was of the exact same pattern as that of the M1891 Three-Line Rifle. The Three-Line Berdan's smaller barrel diameter was identical to that of the M91 and enabled the use of the newer M 1891 socket bayonet rather than the older pattern 1870 Berdan II bayonet.

In addition to the Three-Line Berdan conversions, the Russian Army still had a reported 362,400 Model 1870 Berdan II rifles. Unlike the Three-Line Berdans, these rifles and carbines were chambered for the original 10.66x57.5mmR black powder cartridge. Like the M91 Three-Line rifles series, the Berdan II was produced in various configurations, including model variations for the Infantry, the Cossacks, Dragoons and a single carbine version for the Cavalry. The Infantry rifle and the Dragoon rifle were both issued with separate variations of the M1870 Berdan bayonet.

In addition to the Berdan IIs, small numbers of surviving Model 1868 Berdan I rifles were reissued during WWI to reserve troops. The M68 Berdan I fired the same cartridge as the Berdan II, but was of a completely different design. Whereas the Berdan II was one of the early successful bolt action designs, the Berdan I was a hinged, pivoting block, single shot rifle along the same lines as the trapdoor Springfield. Unlike the Springfield, which was originally an Allen type conversion of a muzzleloader, the Berdan I was a newly manufactured pattern designed by Hiram Berdan, formerly of the United States Army and the 1st and 2nd Sharpshooter Regiments, which he raised during the American Civil War. Berdan was also the designer of the later M1870 Berdan II. Beyond the small stores of Berdan I rifles, the Russian small arms inventory fell off" fast, with an unknown number of Krnka's, Karls, and Holub rifles, all of which were not only obsolete, but had not been particularly serviceable rifles when they were brand new.

The second installment in this special series on the Russian weapons of WWI will deal with the varied arms purchased .from or supplied by the Allies in an attempt to keep Russia in the war and the Eastern Front alive. The French and the British both worried that a collapse of the Eastern Front and the withdrawal of Russia from the war would result in a potentially decisive manpower advantage on behalf of the Central Powers. Had the German and Austro-Hungarian Armies been able to mass the bulk of their Jorces on the Western Front before American troops had arrived in France in large numbers, the outcome of the war might have been very different.

1: The rare Cossack Rifle is identical in dimensions to the more numerous Model 1891 Three-Line Dragoon Rifle, however, it is recognizable by the distinctive "KA3" marking found on the barrel marking just below the serial number. The "bow and arrow" mark, which was distinctive to Izhevsk, is stamped underneath the "KA3" Cossack marking. The "KA3" is also found in smaller form on the rear sight leaf, just visible in the top of this photo, beside the slide on the right side of the sight leaf. As with the markings of all of the arsenals, the Romonov crest is repeated on the barrel and the receiver flat. Izhevsk was the sole producer of the Three-Line Cossack Rifle, producing 713,551 before production of this model was discontinued. 2: The barrel of the M91 Three-Line Rifles produced by Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Chatellerault in France were marked in Cyrillic with the Circle/C mark found just below the date of manufacture, this example having been produced in 1895. Below the Circle/C mark is the serial number of the rifle and below the rear sight is the Imperial double-headed eagle of the Romanov Family. The same mark is repeated in slightly different form on top of the receiver flat. In this example, the crest on the receiver flat appears to have been a light strike further reduced by wear or possibly an arsenal refinish. Rifles produced at such an early date have more than likely been overhauled at some point. Keep in mind this one was already 19 years old at the outbreak of WWI. 3: The barrel marking of the Sestroryetsk Arsenal, complete with decorative flourishes surrounding the Sestroryetsk trademark arrow, was the most attractive of all the markings. This particular example is marked "Deutschland" on the top receiver flat, indicating German capture during WWI. The "Deutschland" mark, as stamped on this rifle is very rare when compared to the "Deutsches Reich" mark commonly found on captured WWI Three-Line Rifle stocks. 4: The barrel markings of a Tula produced rifle from 1892 until mid 1912, didn't have the Peter the Great reference, which was begun gradually after February of 1912. The markings read: "Tulski Czarist Weapons Factory." Rifles in process up until the time of the order would have retained these original markings.

IMPERIAL RUSSIAN SYSTEM OF MEASURE


The Russians used an archaic system of measurement prior to WWI. Among the measurements common to this system was the arshin, which equals 28" or one pace. The rear sights of both the Berdan I and II, as well as the Model 1891 Three-Line rifle variations were all marked in arshins. The actual caliber of each weapon was measured in liniya. One liniya equals 1/10" or 2.54mm, hence the designation of the Model 1891 Three-Line rifle, which is equal to the caliber of the weapon. By the same token, the Berdan I and II were also known as 4.2 Line rifles.

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COPYRIGHT 2005 Publishers' Development Corporation
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group


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BerichtGeplaatst: 20 Jul 2006 21:38    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Here are some pictures of a Mosing Nagant M.1891 rifle. It was made in 1906 in the weapons factory of Tula.


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BerichtGeplaatst: 20 Jul 2006 21:39    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

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