The First Russian Assault Rifle: The Fedorov Avtomat

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The title of this article is an Anglicized version of the title of the article linked below.

The search for a successful selfloading weapon that could be issued en masse to troops was closely related to the development of early weapons that were predecessors to the modern assault rifle concept. It was found that lighter, smaller ammunition greatly eased the difficulty of designing a successful selfloading rifle, and even before the year 1900 mechanisms for providing select-fire operation were well understood. One rifle embodies this close relationship better than any other, that being the Fedorov Avtomat. An early Russian selfloading rifle project, it would become a weapon best remembered in the West as the grandfather of the assault rifle. Emerging in the 1920s as a select-fire weapon with a 25-shot detachable box magazine and firing the lower-powered 6.5mm Japanese round, Fedorov’s weapon represents a midway point between selfloading rifle, light machine gun, and assault rifle. An article from Russian-language website Armejskij Vestnik machine translates rather intelligibly, giving us more details on the elusive Fedorov rifle. The translation below is not entirely raw from Google; I have massaged it somewhat to improve clarity, where I can:

Fedorov Avtomat, also known as automatic rifle Fyodorov – a Russian 2.5 line automatic rifle (6.5 mm), which was created by the Russian Army captain Vladimir Grigoryevich Fyodorov in 1913-1916. In fact, it was the first automatic rifle that was created in Russia. The weapon was of limited use, having, however, to participate in the Winter War with Finland. Fedorov Avtomat was the predecessor of modern infantry automatic weapons.

The captain of the Imperial Russian Army Vladimir Fedorov started to work on the creation of semi-automatic rifle in 1906. His first rifle was created under the standard for the famous Russian three-line cartridge – 7,62x54R and equipped with a magazine designed for 5 rounds. The tests were carried out of the semi-automatic rifle in 1911, and in 1912 it was even decided to order a pilot batch of weapons – 150 rifles, which were planned to be sent to military tests.

Military trials of automatic rifle Fyodorov was successful, but its adoption never came. He created the rifle weighed 600 grams more than the M91 and its store capacity has remained the same as that of the rifle Mosin. Moreover, all attempts to reduce the mass of the rifle led to a decrease in the strength and reliability of its construction. Therefore Fedorov just continued to work, but on the creation of new weapons, this time with his own smaller caliber, which also solved the problem of the weight of the weapon.

The first Russian automatic automatic Fedorova

Fedorov had chosen for his automatic rifle a 6.5 mm cartridge. This cartridge has a pointed bullet caliber 6.5mm, which weighed 8.5 grams, and sleeve bottle-shaped without serving chimes. The initial speed of the bullet was a level of 850 m / s, which provides a muzzle energy of 3100 J. level. For example, a rifle cartridge 7,62x54R muzzle energy of 3600-4000 was J. depending on options and equipment.

From these characteristics, we can conclude that the cartridge Fedorov set up, was not an “intermediate” in the modern sense – it was quite a full-fledged rifle cartridge of reduced size (for comparison: muzzle energy of the intermediate cartridge 7,62h39 mm is about 2000 joules). This cartridge Fedorov gave little recoil impulse in comparison with a standard rifle cartridge 7.62mm, weighed less, and was much more suited for use in automatic weapons.

High initial speed of a bullet has allowed designers to reduce the length of the barrel and reduce the size of weapons by about one meter (N: This appears to be a mistranslation). In his fighting qualities to develop Fedorov proved something intermediate between an automatic rifle and a machine gun. For this reason, at the suggestion of the inventor, it was asked to create a new name for it – the “avtomat”.

Tests of the new development Fyodorov began in late 1913, but the outbreak of the First World War put an end to investigations into new cartridges. However, in 1915 the Russian army began to experience an acute need for small arms, including light machine guns. Quite a number of small arms was lost in battle. Therefore, an automatic rifle Fedorov returned again and decided to order it as a light infantry support weapons. On the need for such weapons of war and pushed the nature of the fighting, which is substantially unchanged in comparison with the wars of the past.

When deciding to resume production machine Fedorov, we decided to put it under the Japanese Arisaka cartridge 6,5x50SR, which has similar characteristics to the cartridge Fedorova. The Russian army has had these cartridges in large numbers. They were purchased with the Japanese Arisaka rifles during the war to make up for losses in the arms. At the same time, the machines were going to have released a remake of the Japanese cartridge for use with the help of a special installation in the chamber liner.

The first Russian automatic automatic Fedorova

From the previously developed automatic rifle Fedorov his automatic rifle is distinguished by the presence of the firing mechanism of a hammer type, a shortened barrel, the presence of detachable box magazine sector for 25 rounds (two-row) and the presence of an interpreter fire mode lever type. Automatic weapons operated by the recoil of the barrel when the short course. The barrel is locked by means of locking block with twin lobes (coupling cheeks), which rotate in a vertical plane. This weapon can fire either single bullets, and continuous shooting, there was a mechanical type safety.

On the machine it has been applied sighting device open type, which consisted of a sector of the sight and foresight. There was also the possibility of installation on the gun bayonet. The presence of strong bayonet and butt allowed to use the machine in the melee, where it is due to the smaller size was convenient rifle.

Already in 1916, after a series of tests required, the novelty was adopted by the Russian army. The first combat use of the machine took place on the Romanian front, where a part of some regiments were formed special company of machine gunners. For example, in late 1916, a special team of the 189th Infantry Regiment of Izmail the 48th Infantry Division were armed with 45 Fedorov 6.5-mm automatic rifles and 8 automatic rifles of 7.62 mm (experimental model of the same designer) .

Interestingly, in the calculation of the new weapons in addition to the submachine included and porters of ammunition. Also, teams of machine gunners equipped with binoculars, scopes, daggers-Bebutov, portable shields. Used machine Fedorova and in aviation (particularly its crews used heavy bombers, “Ilya Muromets”), where he was on-board weapons pilots. Automatic weapons planned to rearm in the first shock of the army.Thus at the end of operation at the front, he received very good ratings marked its reliability, accuracy of fire, high strength locking bolt parts. In the Army machine Fedorova even saw a light, but still gun.

Then at the end of 1916, Russia made a decision to order a batch of 25 thousand machines, which would be received by the troops. The mistake of the authorities was that as a contractor to perform work they had originally chosen a private factory. The selected contractor did not fulfill the state order. While these companies are run by Zemgora, whose leaders are closely interacted and were associated with the future members of the February revolution. In fact, it was a diversion and sabotage, as part of the economic war in the country, which portends further confusion. When the order was nevertheless decided to place on the state enterprises, handing it Sestroretsk factory, it was too late, in February 1917, revolution broke out in Russia.

The first Russian automatic automatic Fedorova

After the October Revolution, which occurred in the same year, Vladimir Fedorov sent to work in secret, where he was to set up production of his machine. In 1918 he was elected director of the plant, at that time the position was elective. The head of the pilot workshop at the plant was appointed Degtyarev. Already in 1919 they were able to run the machine in series production, and in 1924 began work on the development of a uniform with a gun Fedorova of a number of machine guns – manual, tank, aircraft, air defense.

Thus in 1923 the automatic rifle was slightly modernized and made its construction a number of changes: changed the shape of the feeder in the store; introduced the slide stop; performed in the receiver slots for mounting clips of ammunition; namushnike introduced; We created sector sight with setting ranges up to 3000 steps (2100 meters).

Fedorov Avtomat happily stood in service of the Red Army until the end of 1928, while the military did not put forward to the excessive demands of infantry weapons (as it turned out only later). In particular, they demanded that an infantryman could from small arms armor-piercing bullets hit the armored vehicles. Since the 6.5-mm bullet pierces armor slightly less than the 7.62 mm rifle, machine gun, it was decided to phase out, focusing on the development of a new automatic rifle.

Also, the decision was due to the military began the unification of ammunition when it was decided to retire the weapon caliber, which differed from the main – 7,62x54R. And the stocks of Japanese patrons, bought during the First World War were not limitless, and to deploy its own production of ammunition in the USSR was considered uneconomical.

Total until 1924, when the production machine Fedorov was discontinued, was released about 3,200 units of small arms. After 1928 these machines were transferred to warehousing, where stayed until 1940, when in the course of the war with Finland weapon hastily went back to the troops, experiencing an acute need for automatic weapons.

The first Russian automatic automatic Fedorova

It should be understood that in itself automatic Fedorov could not seriously be considered as a mass of army weapons. Its reliability was insufficient (especially in terms of pollution and dust), it was difficult to maintain, and production.

However, the analysis only available today a reliable source operating machine Fedorov – the brochure, which was released in the Soviet Union in 1923, says that the main problem of the machine was not the flaws of its construction, and the low quality of the construction materials – sediment details spatter and so on, as well as the poor quality of ammunition, which were delivered to the troops.

It is worth noting that the author himself did not consider his weapon as a mass. In “Evolution of small arms” Vladimir Fedorov wrote that his machine is designed primarily for weapons of various special units, rather than linear infantry. It is assumed that the machine will be the weapon of motorcycle, horse-hunting teams, as well as selected shooters among Marines, who will be able to realize its potential.

The first Russian automatic automatic Fedorova

Perhaps the main achievement of Vladimir Fedorov was the fact that he was the first in Russia to create a working (though not perfect) a sample of individual automatic weapons infantryman – machine. Fedorov pioneered the creation of a manual of automatic weapons, anticipating the course of history of the XX century, one of the brightest symbols of which, of course, and became automatic.

Main Specifications:
Caliber – 6,5 mm.
Length – 1045 mm.
Barrel length – 520 mm.
Weight – 4.4 kg (without magazine), with the store – 5.2 kg.
Rate – 600 rds. / Min.
Sighting range – 400 m. The
maximum range – 2100 m.
Magazine capacity – 25 rounds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7v-_5Sc6b_4&feature=youtu.be&ab_channel=VladRussianArms

Fedorov and his forward-looking mind would continue to be highly influential in Russian arms development through the end of World War II. He had substantial influence in the development of the 7.62x41mm cartridge that preceded the now-famous 7.62x39mm round of the AK rifle, and indeed his term Avtomat lives on in the letter “A” in the name of that weapon, and of every other type-classified Russian assault rifle design.

Fedorov’s Avtomat itself would be succeeded by two other designs, each less successful than the Russians had hoped. The first was the AVS-36, which combined the select-fire capability of the Fedorov with the 7.62x54mmR cartridge of the M91 Three-Line Rifle. The second was the SVT-38, later SVT-40, a design by Fedor Tokarev that itself was the foundation for both a select-fire variant and an assault rifle derivative. The SVT-40, although more successful than either the Fedorov Avotmat or the AVS-36, would be discontinued prematurely in 1943.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Don Ward

    A good read as always. It’s interesting that an officer in the Imperial Russian Army, Federov was able to so successfully transition into that of the Red Army. I’m certain there are some interesting stories regarding the inventor that have not trickled down to the West yet.

    • WhatAboutBob

      Stalin was crazy like a fox. Yeah a homicidal maniac too, but mainly to keep any threats to his power at bay. So killing a hundred colonels before breakfast? Why not? Killing a guy who can make people killin stuff? No way.

      • SP mclaughlin

        Well I think this was before Stalin could gulag anyone, during Lenin’s reign.

        • WhatAboutBob

          The story discusses czarist and Soviet times through after WW2. The Purge and Gulag festivities were during the 30’s. Lenin died in 1924. Stalin was in control before the Avtomat was decommissioned in 1928.

      • lapkonium

        It is somewhat peculiar, but most of the scientists and around more than (or at least around) a half of the Russia’s army officers ended up on the red side.

  • guest

    Haters gonna hate, but this *is* the first assault rifle, ever.
    The bulk of the argument rests on the consensus that an assault rifle *must* be chambered in an intermediate round. I doubt very much one existed at that time, if so Fedorov could not just Google one anyway, plus that the weaker Arisaka cartridge does a damn good job at being very close to the performance of an actual intermediate round in terms of muzzle energy.

    The article goes on to say it had reliability issues – well duh, it was the first of the first, bar-none. Except the BAR though, pun intended, but it’s a light MG more than a “rifle” of any kind.
    What firearm besides a bolt-action did NOT have issues, and what modern top-notch assault rifle does not have issues today? So that’s a non-argument.
    Secondly, it operated using short recoil. I hope I am not re-discovering Americas here for anyone, but at that time – and still today – it is one of the most reliable opeating principles. Som IMHO that choice was well reasoned.
    As for numbers, true, it was not mass-produced. Don’t really expect a brand new weapon with still much to be desired to enter production in a time staring with WW1, trough Civil War, Stalin’s purges and ending in WW2.

    • So criteria for being an assault rifle requires an intermediate round, and even though the Fedorov didn’t use one its still the first assault rifle?

      Even Nate says it lies somewhere between early self loader, LMG, and assault rifle.

      • ostiariusalpha

        It’s kind of a gray area, because like so many things in the firearms sphere, there isn’t any clear, technical definition of what makes a intermediate cartridge different from a full sized cartridge. All the 7.62×39, 5.56×45, and 5.8×42 cartridges are clearly not in the same category as a 7.62×51, much less a 7.62x54R or a .30-06. Still, what about a 7×46 UIAC or many of the .280 British rounds? They were also designed for use in select fire standard issue weapons, and the 6.5 Arisaka is really so far down on the potency scale of full power cartridges that there starts to be an overlap between that 118 year old round and these more efficient modern examples. Is performance the sole factor in developing a precise classification or does the size of the case (i.e. the efficient use of volume) preclude the anemic old codger?

        • Riot

          It isn’t an assault rifle cartridge, but given its low power and it being chosen because it was already existing and in stock and that the Fedorov was so early – I’d give the rifle itself somewhat of a pass.
          It’s an assault rifle or at least a battle rifle.

      • For the record, I think arguing about whether something is or is not an assault rifle is pretty damned stupid.

        What’s way more important than whether or not it technically qualifies as an assault rifle is that it was one of the earliest select-fire individual weapons in history, and it utilized a smaller, less powerful cartridge for the express purpose of making the weapon smaller and lighter, and to reduce recoil.

        Whatever you want to call the Fedorov technically*, that combination of features was extremely forward-thinking, and Fedorov deserves a lot of recognition for his design.

        *IMO, the best term for Fedorov’s weapin is right there in the name: “avtomat”. It’s a much less ambiguous term than “assault rifle”, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it or an English equivalent supplant that term entirely.

        • Riot

          I think we would use automatic rifle more if the bar hadn’t jumped in and took the title, with it being such a heavy lump and a poor lmg.

        • Ax

          What do you consider to be the criteria for being an avtomat? The most famous avtomat is generally considered to be pretty much definitive assault rifle.

          • “Avtomat” just means “automatic rifle”, really. I am fine with that category, I don’t really see why “assault rifle” has to exist in tandem with it.

          • Fruitbat44

            It can also mean “slot machine.” 🙂

          • guest

            No, it does not.
            Avtomaticheskaya Vintovka (like in AVT rifle, the first two letters of the abbreviation) means Automatic Rifle. Avtomat means “automated”, in case of firearms it is the exact term for “assault rifle” in russian. So there is a very clear definition of semiautomatic (self-loading) rifles, automatic (select fire) rifles, assault rifles and machineguns in russian terminology.

          • “Avtomat” literally means “automated”, but in some contexts it refers to an “automatic rifle” or “automatic carbine”.

        • guest

          Nothing silly about it. When you start talking about Browning it’s an orgy of americanism, as if he was the second coming of Jesus that was responsible for everything, including AK-47. While here, the very basis for the same firearm (not full length rifle barrel, detacheable box mag, intermediate – or rather weaker than regular rifle – cartridge, select fire) is presented decades earlier and you call it “silly”. Even before the germans, americans, etc manage to figure out how to make a blowback submachinegun this guy goes ahead and makes an assault rifle. Given, it had many flaws as anything that is pioneering the work in the field.
          But historically, this is pretty damned important.

          • I don’t recall ever saying the Fedorov was silly.

      • andrey kireev

        To be fair Alex, 6.5 Arisaka could be viewed as an intermediate round, as it’s a fairly week one.

        • It delivers the same amount of energy as 6.5 carcano (and is dimensionally similar).

          • andrey kireev

            Yeah, but what I’m trying to get t at is it has quite a bit less muzzle energy than 7.92, 7.62x54r and 30-06… Depending on the sources about 300-400Ft-lb more than 7.62×39. Article mentions progressive decrease in cartridge dimensions / decrease of excessive long distance performance . One of the earlier intermediate cartridges were also on the bigger side of the spectrum, that what we’re used to… like original Soviet intermediate cartridge (M43) was 7.62×41 (instead of x39) while modern intermediate cartridges are even smaller like 5.45×39 and 5.56×45.

          • Which is to say about 2600 Joules, or about as much energy as 6.8 SPC or .280 British from the same barrel lengths, yup.

      • guest

        Yes, that is the criteria. But you are deliberately omitting that a) “intermediate round” was unknown at the time of the creation of Avtomat Fedorova, b) there was no other rifle to really compare this to at the time, and c) Arisaka round fits very well into “intermediate” category as far as muzzle energy is concerned.

        The most ironic is that post-5.56 critics argue that an intermediate cartridge between for example 5.56 and 7.62×51 are needed, often the calibre choice and muzzle energy ends up with a cartridge having similar performance to Arisaka, the only real difference being other physical dimensions.

    • The_Champ

      Credit where credit is due, certainly. In the context of the times it was a very innovative weapon.

      I think the comparison to the BAR is well worth exploring as well. The US army eventually turned the BAR into a light machine gun but keep in mind Browning’s original, WWI design weighed in at only 16 pounds vs the 22 pounds of later models. A later niche market BAR ‘Monitor’ weighed only 13 pounds.
      So what did Browning’s original BAR and an extra 5 pounds of gun give you over it’s contemporary, the Avtomat? Superb reliability and ruggedness, and a full power round that was compatible with the rest of your squad. I suspect this is one of the reasons the BAR soldiered on well into the Cold War, while the Avtomat is just a footnote in most firearms history.

      A question remaining in my mind is, did the Avtomat DIRECTLY influence future firearms design in Russia or elsewhere?

      • The_Champ

        I meant to add, in the spirit of credit where credit is due, Ian at Forgotten Weapons is the one who initially brought my attention to the vast differences between the original BAR, and later light MG models.

      • Brian M

        Well, it did make long stroke piston rotating bolt the go-to system for automatic weapons…

    • Max Popenker

      In regard to its original role, the BAR was as much assault rifle as Fedorov or CSRG. That is, an automatic rifle for use for off-hand “walking fire” during infantry assaults on enemy positions

      • guest

        So could be the MG-42. Both were LGs as far as weight, dimensions and actual use is concerned.

    • Craig W

      Given the weight, cartridge, recoil, and characteristics of the Avtomat Fyodorova, I think it would have to be the first assault rifle.

  • Vitsaus

    In before some one suggests a company make functional reproductions in (insert favorite boutique caliber) and retail it for under $1,000 MSRP.

    • wetcorps

      And taking AR mags. And AR accessories. Also controls should be modified to be closer to AR controls 🙂

      • Riot

        Forgot the must have M4 stock

        • WhatAboutBob

          & candle powered red dot

      • Rock or Something

        Better yet, if they make it compatible with BAR magazines, they might win some lucrative U.S. Army contracts.

      • Dolphy

        So ruin it? I have a great idea, why not just make a 6.5 Arisaka AR?

  • mosinman

    so much for the idea that Russians couldn’t build advanced military equipment by themselves

    • Bal256

      Who ever said that? Its no German space magic, but the same Russians built the AK.

      • Scott P

        A lot of gun owners particularly the self-righteous, AR-is-perfect-in-every-way, ‘Murica, superpatriot, blowhards that make up the majority who post on gun websites.

      • mosinman

        no one specifically, it just seems to be a general kind of idea i hear often in discussions on this particular era

  • Max Popenker
  • Riot

    Length mostly, an intermediate cartridge needs to be shorter than a machinegun or bolt actions round in order for the assault rifle to be more compact and lighter in terms of action.
    The Fedorov is a battle rifle without argument, assault rifle – close.

    • ostiariusalpha

      So you’d characterize a .25 WSSM as an intermediate cartridge just because it’s a short case? That’s seems a bit of a stretch, it has nearly as much muzzle energy as a 7.62×51. Just saying it’s too long gets pretty sketchy when you haven’t really clarified what length is the cut-off point, and why you’ve decided on it.

      • Riot

        I was saying length is what makes it ineligible for the 6.5
        Controllable recoil is a must obviously

  • Alexandru Ianu

    I’d argue that the first assault rifle to be actually put to use is the French select fire conversion of the Winchester 1907. That, and the Fedorov is a light automatic rifle as it uses a weaker, but still rifle round. Its recoil is still quite significant. That said, filling the role of the HK417 isn’t bad at all for a WWI design.

  • Secundius

    The designer Vladimir Grigoryevich Fyodorev, was a Military Observer in 1915. Assigned to the French Sector of Fighing in WW1. He was impressed by the Fusil Mitrailleur Modele 1915 CSRG (or simply Fm Chauchat) for it’s 2,000-meter maximum firing range and the .33-caliber (8.1x51mmR) Lebel ammunition. Several were taken back to Russia, He improved the Chauchat Design into a Rifle Configuration and just made the Bullet Smaller…