Hognose at WeaponsMan takes a look at an interesting photo in one of his most recent articles. He writes:

The picture is a familiar one, it’s one editors seem to always go to for an Operation Barbarossa shot. But look at the rifle in the hands of the lead soldier! It’s a Russian rifle, specifically, a Tokarev SVT-40 (below) or possibly an SVT-38. An SVT-40 is shown below. The SVT-38 has the cleaning rod on the right side of the stock instead of under the barrel, and has a slightly shorter metal hand guard.

SVT-40 tokarev

So… is this a Barbarossa pic, and the German has merely helped himself to a Russian bangstick? Or are these guys, perhaps, Finns? The Finnish Army used both German-style helmets (which was their standard) and Russian rifle, including Tokarevs, which they captured in massive quantities in the Winter War. Indeed, most non-import-marked Tokarev rifles you find in the USA come from about 5,800 pre-’68 imports from Finland, and bear the “SA” cartouche of the Finnish Army.

kennblaetter_fremden_geraetsThen again, every army in the world uses foreign and enemy weapons if necessary. The Nazis, always short of arms for their oversized army, systematized the use of foreign weapons, and actually issued many foreign weapons, from pistols to tanks, and issued them German logistics numbers and printed German-language manuals. The SVT-40 was known to the Wehrmacht as the Gewehr 259 (r.) with the “r” standing for russich, Russian; the SVT-38 was called the G. 258 (r). But these designations were not assigned until December, 1942, according to the official document, the Kennblätter fremden Geräts.

Either way, it’s an interesting picture, possibly staged (In combat photography, how often is the photographer out in front of the infantry?) and possibly not.

Try as I might, I cannot conclusively say whether the soldiers in the image are German or Finnish. The infantry kit of both armies is similar enough, down to the hand grenades, and the image’s detail is poor enough that it may be impossible to know, without the image’s provenance.



  • Mark

    Do not discount the possibility of a falsified photo. Ilya Ehrenburg and other USSR propagandists produced many faked photos as “evidence.” Amusingly, the chief Soviet propagandist is whitewashed in Wikipedia as “a Soviet writer, journalist, translator, and cultural figure.”

    • Phillip Cooper

      Wikipedia isn’t completely accurate? God, I’m shocked… I mean, it’s Open Source, so surely it has to be true… I saw it on the internet….

      • Mark

        Indeed.. an open source… of amusement… and authorized conspiracy theories 🙂

    • mosinman

      i think the USSR propagandists would be smarter than to use a SVT-40 rifle to depict the enemy… something that was highly featured in Russian propaganda itself. that’s why snipers and other famous soldiers were photographed with the SVT-38/40 so often , it was a “high tech weapon” back in the day

      • Mark

        You’d think the Soviets would have been smarter than to blame others for Katyn (and their other accusations), but they haven’t gone wrong depending on the ignorance and gullibility of the general public, have they?

        • mosinman

          hey, i’m not saying it can’t be a staged Russian photo, but the odds are greater that they actually are Germans

    • Well, he was a Soviet writer and journalist. He wrote good stuff, fiction and non-fiction. Also he wrote rousing pamphlets and dispatches from the front during WWII. They were always a hit with regular readers (you can’t always say this about propaganda). Of course, this indeed makes him a propagandist, but he didn’t hold any official rank to bestow him with the title of “chief” one. He really was a journalist – although a star one.

      • Mark

        Note my use of a lower case “c” in “chief,” as in foremost. Let’s scratch a bit to see under your whitewash. Officially he was a founder of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee of the Soviet Union, traveled the USA brandishing his phony bars of “Pure Jewish Fat” soap, oversaw the faked photos that started this discussion, and encouraged war crimes such as raping and killing German women. His “rousing” pamphlet “Kill” was distributed to soldiers with the quintessential precept “The Germans are not human beings.”

        With great irony, the personal archives of this monstrous architect of genocide are kept at Yad Vashem, a propaganda facility built on the site of a matching crime against humanity, the ethnically cleansed and demolished Palestinian city of Deir Yassin.

        • Ooookay. (Slowly backs away, trying not to make sudden movements.)

  • R.M.R

    Most likely these guys are germans, the image is very sketchy, but i think i can barely make out differences in the cut of their pants and collar insignia. Finnish uniforms tend to also have larger collars.

  • Vitsaus

    From many of my readings, primarily first hand accounts, it was EXTREMELY common for Wehrmacht troops to pick up PPsH41s for their mag capacity and reliability in sub-zero temperatures, and pick up SVT variants. Often German troops preferred them because of the larger mag capacity over the K98k, as well as having a greater volume of fire. Ammunition was naturally in plentiful supply as well. In one book particularly, the author described an encounter with Soviet Marines that yielded 100s of SVT rifles that were promptly claimed by his men for their own use.

  • William_C1

    Use of captured PPSh-41s was very common and large number of SVT-38/40s seems to have been utilized too. Supposedly the SVT didn’t have the best reputation among rank and file Soviet infantry, it required routine maintenance and was deemed fragile compared to the near-indestructible Mosin Nagant. Yet when properly maintained it seems to have been reliable. The Germans thought highly of it enough to incorporate elements of the design into the G43.

    • Riot

      They even bought 7.62/7.63 mauser for all the captured tokarev firing weapons.

  • SP mclaughlin

    Server was set to allow use of enemy weapons.
    *Red Orchestra 2 joke*

    • Grindstone50k

      Don’t those guys know how to crouch-run? Must not be playing on Realistic setting.

      • Cal S.

        Maybe they should be endlessly jump-running to throw off Russians aim?

  • Lance

    There where cases while 2nd line troops using captured Russian weapons Even the M-91/30 had a German designation Gewehr 252–256 for some troops who used captured rifles.

  • mikenz25

    Doesn’t really matter if the picture is real surely. Germans did use large amounts of Russian weaponry including Tokarev rifles PPShs, TT33 pistols, T34 tanks and 76.2mm Field guns. All well documented.
    It’s a cool picture.

  • Don Ward

    Just don’t get captured using a captured weapon…

  • andrey kireev

    Germans captured large amounts of SVT-38/40 rifle… in such numbers that field maintenance and care guide in German was printed out.

  • Ripley

    I guess when you go to the front armed with only a single handgrenade you will aim that throw 120%.

    • Ivan

      You see, Hans, when you have only one grenade, you always very sure you only make explode when throw is perfect.

  • 07GMC53

    I have an SVT-40 Finnish captured rifle. It’s my favorite rifle in my collection.

  • Secundius

    My Father fought in WW2, under General Mark Clark. He told me that WW2, was a “Tool Box” War. Because you NEVER knew from One Day to the Next, what you Weapon was Going to Be. The First he went into Combat in Tunisia 1942, he was Issued a M1 Carbine and Left Yugoslavia in 1945 with an M1 Garand. But between those years, he fought with a M1918 BAR, M1928 Thompson, and a Mauser 98k. You can’t afford to be “Picky” in combat, you Fight with what ever you can get…

  • sean

    You keep what you kill! Its the Necromonger way.

  • Nils

    Didn’t the Germans capture the majority of produced SVTs during Barbarossa, forcing the Soviets to rely more upon the Mosin-Nagant than they had intended?

  • markrb

    Hey, I pick up different guns all the time in Call of Duty!!