Weapons Used in World War I

Desperate shortages of arms occurrcd in Russia soon after World War I began. Agents were sent to various friendlv or neutral countries to buv

weapons to bolster the sagging armies. Machine guns were extremely difficult to obtain, for most of the producing nations were in the war at the outset. France and England supplied some; but soon Russia, like several other nations turned to the United States for supplies. The Mossin was manufactured in the United States repeating the history of the Russian arms shortage at the end of the nineteenth ccntury when this rifle was manufactured at Chatellerault. The Colt Company began making Vickcrs machine guns chambered for the 7.62-mm Russian cartridge. A large order was given to the Marlin-Rockwell Corporation of New Haven, Conn., for the Colt gas-operated machine gun, and 4() inspectors were needed at the plant to accept the finished guns.

In addition to the guns made at home and those purchased, all captured guns were used, but even then there never was a sufficient supply. During the 2 years of civil war after Russia withdrew from the war against Germany, a Russian named Federov designed an automatic shoulder rifle of which only a few were used. In the development of ordnance, the civil war was of principal importance because the Soviets had an opportunity to acquire "Imperialist" weapons for study, the White Armies having received considerable supplies of arms from the Western Powers.

Guns Used The Axis Powers World WarTripod Machine Gun Colt 1895

Figure 1-7. In World War I, Russian Inspectors at the Marlin-Hockwell Corporation. New Haven. Conn. Guns being accepted are the old Colt-lever type.

Figure 1-7. In World War I, Russian Inspectors at the Marlin-Hockwell Corporation. New Haven. Conn. Guns being accepted are the old Colt-lever type.

Development of the National Armament Industry

When the Soviet finally made pcace with their many cnAnies, their forces were still armed mostly with foreign arms. The Federov automatic shoulder rifle had been only moderately succcssful. The Russian military press itself has since admitted that the mechanism was entirely too complicated. A nation that continually shouted to the World that Communism and Capitalism cannot live together needed something to back up its doctrine.

In the early nineteen twenties, a decision was made to develop a strong, self-contained national armament industry during the first Five-Year Plan. One of the initial steps was the establishing of the Design (Jfiicc in 1924, in a small building at the Kovrov Machine Gun Factory. The chicf was

V. G. Federov, and he selected for his chief assistant V. A. Dcgtyarcv. These men had worked together at the Scstrorcts Small Arms Plant when the Federov automatic shoulder rifle was made and on the proving ground at Orcnicnbaum, where finished weapons were tested.

At its inception, the Design Office had several skilled machinists and eight machine tools. This was the real beginning of the automatic weapon industry in the U. S. S. R. Small as it was, this office was the forerunner of the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Bureaus of the Ministry of Armaments, which supervised the design and production of at least a million machine guns in World War II.

At the same time the Design Office was established, the U. S. S. R. was still an agricultural nation. The failure of "War Communism" even to feed the people during the various wars from 1917 to 1921 had necessitated a change to a "New Economic Policy." This NKP, as it is often abbre-viated, had the effect of legalizing small businesses; under it, the government also granted several valuable concessions to foreign capitalists. The NFP did not further the armament industry, however, since it was in effect only a policy for the production of consumer goods. Consequently, it was supplanted in October 1928 by the first Five-Year Plan.

This plan, though widely heralded as intended to improve the lot of the masses through industrialization, was actually a thinly disguised scheme to establish a strong armament industry. rI he 4J/4 years that this plan was in operation placed heavy-burdens on the people, /or all efforts were concentrated on industry. Many warlike slogans made their appearance and were adopted, emphasizing the hostility of the outside world. When the pro-

Degtyarev Plant Kovrov

Figure 1-8. Soviet small aims designers Tokarev and Degtyarev, in uniform, as deputies oi the Supreme Soviet of the U. S. S. R.. in

March 1941.

Figure 1-8. Soviet small aims designers Tokarev and Degtyarev, in uniform, as deputies oi the Supreme Soviet of the U. S. S. R.. in

March 1941.

gram terminated at the end of 1932, the goals previously set had not been reached, but remarkable design progress had been made in various lines of military equipment.

Several existing circumstances served to further the ambitions of the Soviets. The complete domination of the people by the regime assured that any needed effort could be channeled to the proper place. The friendship with Germany in the early nineteen twenties, although short-lived, provided help and guidance of incalculable value. Throughout the world, tireless party members were seeking out and forwarding every scrap of military- information they could get their hands on.

Communism recognizes no property rights in regard to foreign patents, accordingly, many of the world's inventors saw their ideas used by the Russians without compensation. However, since information disclosed in a patent may be insufficient for evaluating a piece of ordnance, from time to time efforts were made to purchase individual pieces of promising automatic firing mechanisms from the manufacturer. At the same time, however, every effort was made to keep information on Russian weapon progress from reaching the outside world.

It was indeed fortunate for the Soviet that the first Five-Year Plan progressed in a peaceful period. The Russians engaged in one minor clash with China in 1929. Otherwise, there was no warfare involving their forces, so it was possible to work patiently and unhurriedly on a Degtyarev design, which seemed the most promising of those so far tried. A need for independent testing facilities led to the use of several rcscarch organizations. This policy was in direct contrast to the situation in the old army, where testing was carried out any place that was available, with or without scientific assistance.

One of these research organizations was the NIAP, or Ordnance Department Proving Grounds, which was attached to the Military School KUKS, meaning Kursy Usovershenstvovaniva Komendnago Sostavs or School for Improvement of Qualifications of Commanding Personnel of the Red Army. The NIAP was located at Solnechnogorsk, 75 kilometers Northwest of Moscow, on the Moscow-Leningrad Railroad. The proving ground was established there about 1926, after being removed from the vicinity of Novo Gircevo, which was a station on the Moscow-Kursk Railway, 14 miles from Moscow.

The equipment at the disposal of NIAP was relatively poor compared to West European and American laboratories, but it was better than in other Soviet research organizations. It consisted of a few ordnance testing devices, such as instalments for calculating rate of fire, pressure gages, interior barrel gages, and devices for measuring velocity. NIAP had neither piezoelectric quartz apparatus for measuring pressure inside the gun barrel nor equipment for testing the quality of the metal.

The school had no technical or pyrotechnical laboratories; however, it proved to be a good mechanical workshop which was used principally for the production of trainee equipment. The personnel was relatively large, fluctuating between 60 and 150, since almost the entire teaching staff of the KUKS School participated in the work.

NIAP was engaged in work for the more important small arms manufacturing plants, and also on special tests for the Ordnance Department of the Army, the Research and Development Section of the General Staff, and on special assignments for the Commissariat of Defense.

While trying to improve the Degtyarev light machine gun, the NIAP also worked on correcting the design of the pointed nose type bullet. This work was in collaboration with the Artillery Acadcmv,

the NIIS-OAKh, and the laboratories of the Shos-tenski power plants. The performance of this bullet had never been particularly good. In the coursc of the Civil War and Revolution that followed, it had degenerated through poor manufacturing to such an extent that it could not even be used for target practice or training exercises. As a result, all firing of any importance, such as tests or competitions, was carried out with American manufactured cartridges, mostly the Remington, which coincidentally had been left over from the huge orders placed during World Wrar I.

The first Soviet-made cartridges which could be considered fairly satisfactory bear the identification 1925 on the aft end of the case. At that time (1925), small orders for ammunition for the Russian rifles were placed with American firms—Winchester, Remington, and Peters. Powder similar in type to that used in American cartridges (duPont powder}, was made by the Soviet and has been used since then for loading tlieir cartridges. The switch from black powder (carbon sulphur base) to smokeless powder for the Nagant revolver model 1895 was made about the same time. However, no special propellent for revolver cartridges has been developed; pyroxylin powder for hunters' shotguns (Model Glukhar) was used, though hardly suitable for revolver cartridges.

Another organization known as the NT IS TsS OAKh collaborated with NIAP on the improvement of rifle and revolver ammunition. After 1928, NIAP worked with the Tula Arms Plant in modernizing the Russian combat rifle 1891 model and in constructing a new military cartridge for the medium machine gun. The latter was similar to the German "SS" (heavy pointed bullet with metal jacket). These efforts resulted in the development of a modernized rifle, model 1891-1930, and a model 1930 heavy cartridge for mounted machine guns. During this period, NIAP branched out and devoted much time and effort to testing machine guns for airplanes, tanks, and other special pur-

The NIIS OAKh (Scientific Research Station and Proving Grounds of the Central Council of Oscaviakhim) was located near Kuskovo, South of Moscow. This is the scientific research station and proving ground of the Oscaviakhim.

The ostensible aim of the NIIS OAKh (Nauch-no-Ispvtatelnaya Issledovatclskaya) was to serve the requirements of civilian groups engaged in recreational rifle and pistol shooting. However, as the sport was actually a means of training in Army practices and as Army weapons were used to a great extent, the work of this research laboratory had a definite military slant.

This station began its operation about 1927. It was organized by A. A. Smirnsky, sportsman and marksman, and a former artillery officer in the Czar's Army. In 1926, Smirnsky was attached in some more or less minor capacity to the staff of the Red Army; later he bccamc a permanent consultant and an active worker at the NIAP.

The confusion which existed at the Oscaviakhim characterized operations at the proving ground. During the period from 1927 to 1941, NIIS changed directors ten times. There was one year when three different directors succeeded each other, and the following year there was no director at all.

These head men were sometimes engineers, often students, and in some instances half-educated enthusiasts engrossed in a hobby. Notwithstanding this chaos, the organization achieved substantial results, thanks to the near fanatical enthusiasm of some of its members.

From 1927 to 1928, NIIS was engaged mainly in improving the quality of combat and small caliber cartridges (22 long rifle). At the shooting competitions which took place between 1927 and 1932, cartridges loaded at the NIIS Testing Station were used almost exclusively. NIIS ordered powder, cartridges, and arms from western Europe and America and tested them. They also kept in constant contact with the cartridge plants in Tula, Lugansk, and Kuntsevo.

The laboratories of the NKVD Sports Organization Dinamo also engaged in the study of ballistic matters; however, a discussion of their work is not pertinent here.

The largest proving ground of the USSR was located at Anapa in the Crimea, on the shores of the Black Sea. There the Artillery Academy conducted tests of machine guns and pistols. The principal work was in the field of exterior ballistics. From 1928 on, the testing laboratory worked out procedures for maintenance of weapons. Each year up to World War II, the laboratory published some new "temporary" rules for the maintenance of arms.

A small reference library' was kept at Anapa. It included documents provided by the Intclligcncc Service, official military handbooks of foreign powers, and "capitalistic" magazines and books concerned with arms and ammunition.

The second Five-Year Plan was proposed in December 1933 and ratified in early 1934. As far as automatic weapons were concerned, the first plan had been concerned mostly with research and de-vclopment. The second included the etsablishment of new production facilities, as well as progress in design work of Soviet machine guns of larger-than-rifie caliber. While the arsenal of Tula continued to produce several different types of guns, varying from the oldest model to the most recent design, a new works called the Voroshilov Factory, at Kolomna, was put into operation.

From 1931 to 1933, a number of experimental automatic rifles by Tokarev, Degtyarcv, and others were tested at NIAP. Pistols and submachine guns were also under trial, but little interest was shown in the latter until the Gran Ghaco War in South America. After that, a Russian design was improved and introduced into the Red Army.

The vears 1934 and 1935 were devoted mainly

to efforts to improve the rifle cartridge, which performed very poorly in a certain new machine gun. From 1935 on, NIAP was busy testing machine guns, anti-tank guns, mortars, automatic and semiautomatic rifles, and, after the Finnish War, submachine guns.

At the same time, N11S was similarly concerned with ammunition problems, and it also developed a model of a sniper's rifle and conducted a school for teachers of sniping. Methods of training riflemen and standard designs for rifle and machine gun ranges were worked out. A small caliber machine gun for training purposes was developed, as well as several small caliber rifles and pistols.

Theoretical calculations concerning aircraft armament were in progress at the Central Aero-hydrodynamic Institute, and the practical tests were performed at one of the proving grounds assigned to these programs. This Institute had excellent personnel and equipment, the mere fact that it concerned itself with aircraft armament was considered secret. It was still engaged in this work when the second Five-Year Plan ended in December 1937.

In 1938, when the third Five-Year Plan commenced, all Europe was feverishly preparing for war. This period is marked by Soviet concentration on aircraft weapons, especially the heavier calibers. They utilized experience furnished by the Spanish Civil War, as did the other nations which sent observers to Spain. The slow development of the heavy Russian aircraft guns may be accounted for by the necessity for developing suitable ammunition.

Antique Russian Weapons

Figure 1-9. Hero of Socialist Labor Boris Gabrielovich Shpitalny, automatic weapons cesicner. at his drawing board.


In the late nineteen twenties, Boris Gabrielovich Shpitalny designed a lightweight, high-speed, rifle caliber aircraft machine gun in collaboration with Komaritsky. The design was enthusiastically received and led to Shpitalny's appointment as Chief of OKB 15 (Special Construction Bureau) in the Ministry of Armaments.

Born in 1898, Shpitalny was associated with the Bolsheviks. He was known as a hero of socialist labor from the time of the overthrow of the Czar. He is acclaimed as an instructor in the Red Army, as one of Russia's most prolific designers of automatic weapons, and as author of several books on small arms.

His early association with the Bolsheviks gave Shpitalny a distinct, advantage. He was given every opportunity by the new regime to carry on in his chosen field. He developed to the fullest his natural aptitude in the design of automatic firing mechanisms.

Boris Gabrielovich Shpitalny was 1 of the 12 men recognized by the government to earn- on development immediately preceding World War II; for his work in this field he was awarded the Stalin Prize, first class.

In 1935, Shpitalny was decorated for the successful design of a machine gun. In 1936, he was appointed Chief of the Special Research Bureau for the Development of Automatic Weapons. However, from 1936 through 1943, Shpitalny produced nothing original; by the time World War II had reachcd the halfway mark, he was beginning to be considered by qualified circles as a "has been." The lightweight, high speed machine gun that he designed had by then been improved repeatedly, and though it was the most widely used during the early-stages of aircraft arming, it became less important as the trend became more pronounced toward larger bore automatic guns.

Shpitalny, always the student, then began to be heard of in an acadcmic way; more so than from any notable achievement in weapon design. He held titles such as Doctor of Technical Science in the Ukraine Academv and Chief of Chair of the Ukraine Correspondence Polytechnic Institute.

The Academv of Science of the U. S. S. R. lists his

name among the candidates for the title of Academician.

While the machinc gun that Shpitalny helped to produce had too many features that had been used for half a century to allow it to rise to the dignity of invention, it most certainly was a very noteworthy step in the right direction.

After being brought to the realization that the small rifle caliber machine gun was fast being outmoded by the demands in aviation for a weapon employing an explosive projectile, Shpitalny attempted what practically all other Russian inventors have tried, that is, scaling up the dimensions of a successful rifle caliber machine gun until it fills the needs at hand. The large bore automatic firing mechanism that resulted did not prove successful.

Beresin -

Another automatic firing mechanism, comparable in importance to the Shpitalny, is associated with the name "Beresin."

Mikhail Ergenievich Beresin served as a designer on the staff of Tula Arsenal. For his work, he was rewarded with an important post in Central Construction Bureau Number 14. This Bureau is credited with making and sponsoring the improved version of this gun, which appeared soon after World War II began.

Wehrmacht Attack

When the Wehrmacht attacked, machine gun production was concentrated in three factories, Number 2 at Kovrov, Number 366 at Tula and Number 74 at Izhevski. In the course of the war, Tula and Kovrov were evacuated. Tula joined factory Number 66 at Slatoust-Urzhumka, which made the old reliable Maxim. New factories were established at Kuibyshev and Stalinsk. By the end of 1942, Tula and Kovrov were reoccupied. The Russians never revealed even to their allies what shortages existed in their armies. The most revealing information was gathered early in the war by the German Intelligence through tales told by deserters.

Early Russian Skiing

Figure 110. The Russian Maxim Machinc Gun on ski transport, as used in the U. S. S. R. invasions of Finland in the nineteen forties.


A vast quantity of material was given to Russia by the Allies; its ultimate disposition is unknown. At the time when the United States was shipping gigantic supplies of ordnance, an American officer of considerable determination, who handled certain

lend-lease shipments, managed to obtain a Degtya-rcv light machinc gun, a rifle, and one or two light tanks for the Army's Foreign Ordnance Collection, located at Aberdeen, Md. The Russians attached to the gift a stipulation that no test of the equipment was to be made by the United States. When a Russian liaison officer at Aberdeen Proving Ground at a later date noticed a piece of armor had been removed from one of the tanks for analysis, he protested violently. Yet Russian officials never seemed

embarrassed to ask for specimens of our most secret ordnance, always using the pretext that it would greatly aid their war effort. Actually, of course, such material was wanted for long-range development projects, and it was In no way associated with actively carrying on the war. Sometimes the Russians got what they asked for.

Soviet Production in 1944

During the later days of the war, Soviet production began to recover from the Wehrmacht attack. Substantial levels were reached by the year 1944. Soviet sourccs show the following production figures for 1944 for various types of guns. Later chapters give details regarding each weapon listed here.

Weapon : Quantity


Degtyarcv Infantry__________________________________120,000

Degtyarev Tank______________________________________40,000


Slikas________________________________________________________40, 000

Beresin______________________________________________________60, 000

Types of Soviet Aircraft Armament in World War II

An official Soviet publication dated 1943 includes a table of data which coincidentallv summarizes some of the intelligence presented in this and the chapters that follow.

A translation of the table follows. A table in chapter 9 shows the Russian characters indicating o o

Basic Data on Soviet Machine Guns and Cannon Used for Arming Airplanes of the Air Forcc of the Red Army o o

Designations of the Machine Guns

Designation data

7.62-tw" machine gun Shkas

12.7-mm machine gun of one Be resin system

20-mm cannon Shvak.

Turret Wing





820 638. 4

840 840 860

O Weight

Average weight of cartridge (grams)

Weight of link (grams)

Force for extraction of car- | (kg) tridgc from link (lb)

932 36. 69

Average weight of cartridge (grams)

Force for extraction of car- | (kg) tridgc from link (lb)

23. 32

21. 56

24. 42











13. 2

13. 2



800-1, 000



800-1. 000




23-iruri Çiin VYa

37-mm pun

700-850 700-850 700 850

21.431 21.412 21.438 47.15 47.1064 47.16

130 37

100-120 220-264

100 -1 20 220-264


■ »


2. 667. 05

2, 975. 7

-2, 008. 4

14 679

2, 122

2. 145

66. 1

83. 54

550-650 220

900 2, 843

42 92.4

40 88

100-120 220-264

Pressure of compressed air in cylinder of pneumatic re-loader in atmospheres.

185 38

20-30 44-66

161 354.2

30-35 66 77

Skoda Machine Gun

Figure 1-11. The Soviet DT Machine Gun. In 1944. production of this weapon reached a rate of 40.000 guns yearly.

inventors' names and technical identifications such as turret, wing, and synchronized.

Earlier than 1944, Germany had accurate information concerning not only Soviet weapons and ammunition, but also those of Great Britain and the United Slates. The insides of the front and back covers of this book show wall charts captured in a German ordnance school in 1944. The chart in the front of the book shows types of aircraft weapons which were advanced models at this time; the chart in the rear of the book shows the types of aircraft ammunition used in World War II by the three countries mentioned.

Soviet Armament After World Wai II

As a result of the downfall of Germany and the occupation of some of her important factories by the Russians, the latter are today in possession of complete data on both production and experimental German weapons.

From time to time, reports of manufacturing of machine gun material in the Russian Occupicd Zone have been issued. Such material might well include replacement parts to maintain existing stocks, as well as manufacture intended to result in new guns. Even more important arc reports concerning the work of German ordnance engineers who have gone over to Russia, either voluntarily or under duress.

In addition to their own industry, the Soviets have several of the worlds most famous factories under their control today, lliese include: two German firms, Walther and Haencl; the Austrian Steyr Works; the "Danuvia" arsenal, at Budapest; the Skoda heavy ordnance plant and the company producing the Brno ZB Machine Guns, both of Czechoslovakia. Many other factories of lesser importance arc also controlled, and they provide a valuable addition to the Soviet armament industry.

Weapons developed by some of these countries have vitally affected the pattern of Russian machine gun development in ways that are suggested in this Volume and Volume I in the chapters on Brno ZB and Skoda. The work of the Walther, Haencl, and Steyr firms in pistols, submachine guns, and rifles are outside the scope of these volumes and, accordingly, arc not included.

In the pattern of Russian machine gun armament there is a distinct trend, just as there is in every field of Soviet endeavor. In Russia, even as in "capitalistic" lands, succcssful ordnancc inventors are well rewarded for their services. The fact that a design may incorporate pirated features is no hindrance as long as the gun succeeds in combat. After 20 years, during which gas operation dominated the scene in the latter part of World War II, a new group of designers became prominent after introducing a mechanism powered by the forces of recoil. The most important of these is Alexander Eirunanuilovich Xudelman, Armament Engineer in the Sixteenth Bureau of the Ministry of Armaments.

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