More On The Fedorov Avtomat

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The Fedorov Avtomat is an important milestone in the history of modern small arms. With the Federov, for the first time, an individual soldier could possess automatic firepower in a package small enough to move and fight with, while at the same time not significantly compromising the range or effectiveness of the bolt-action rifle. However, the weapon fell out of favor during the Soviet era, and was never produced in large numbers. By way of WeaponsMan.com (H/T to Hognose), we are brought yet more details of the Fedorov’s story, written by Alexander Vershinin for Russia Beyond The Headlines:

If the Soviet-era legend is to be believed, it was Tsar Nikolai II who hobbled Russian production of the automatic rifle from the outset.

“We don’t have enough ammunition,” he supposedly told the designer as he presented blueprints for the new weapon. But this story is far from the reality – the automatic or assault rifle was in fact developed in Russia almost entirely by lone gun enthusiasts before the 1917 Russian Revolution.

The vanguard in this field was Vladimir Grigoryevich Fyodorov, who wrote his name into the annals of gunmaking as the designer of the world’s first assault rifle.

The idea of arming infantry with rapid-fire automatic weapons was born in the upheaval of the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese war. Light machine guns had begun to appear on the frontlines and quickly demonstrated their effectiveness. If it were possible to equip each man with such a weapon, his value as a fighting unit would be multiplied many fold.

However, the story of the first assault rifle came to an abrupt and largely unexplained end. It was almost as if someone in Moscow’s corridors of power did not like the weapon, but no one can say exactly why. Some believe it was because it was unable to penetrate armour plating, while others say stocks of the Japanese ammunition were depleted.

Whatever the truth, the swansong for Fyodorov’s rifle came in the Karelian forests in 1940 during the Winter War with the Finns. But Fyodorov’s legacy found inherent continuity in the work of other Russian gunsmiths, thereby ranking his design as a forbear of modern Russian firearms.

Only part of it is excerpted here, I encourage our readers to follow the link and read the whole article, which is riveting. The Federov has clawed back its legacy in the Western world from the much more famous German MP.44 Sturmgewehr, often (but erroneously) recognized as the world’s first assault rifle. As recognition of the Fedorov grows, more information on the rifle is released, including photos of the earlier 1912 prototypes in 7.62x54mmR caliber:

The Fedorov 1912 rifle, in 7.62x54mmR caliber. This rifle sported a longer barrel, fixed magazine, and no select-fire capability (being semi-auto only). Image source: forums.axishistory.com

 

As well as video of the rifle in action during WWII:


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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  • Wolfgar

    Great information Nathaniel, there is a lot of information missing in my older collection of firearm books. The internet is amazing. That said I couldn’t help notice the propaganda spewed by the US during the Second World War. Somethings never change.

    • iksnilol

      Everybody did that, probably to counteract “greener grass on the other side” syndrome.

      NOTE: i was referring to propaganda in regards to equipment (I.E. “The German rifly is uncontrollable. etc.”)

  • Malthrak

    While not wanting to denigrate the Federov, i think i should really be seen as a proto-assault rifle. While the 6.5 Arisaka was less powerful than 7.62x54R, its also not really what most would consider an intermediate round in the same way that 7.62×39/8 kurz/5.56 are. Likewise, its ergonomic design is still largely much more centered around a classic bolt action design, with the only accomodation for automatic fire being the addition of a foregrip (a great idea however).

    I’d place the Federov much more in Battle Rifle territory, with the likes of the M14, than in Assault Rifle territory like the AK or Stg44.

    • I can’t really agree. Several times before, I’ve discussed some of the problems with these definitions, but even ignoring those problems, the avtomat is an assault rifle. Why?

      The 6.5x50SR cartridge produces 2,400 ft/s velocity with a 140 grain bullet. This is very similar performance to the .280 British, an assault rifle round. However, that velocity is achieved through the Type 38 rifle’s 31.5″ barrel. Through the Fedorov Avtomat’s 20.5″ barrel, velocity would be reduced to approximately 2,200 ft/s – giving the 6.5x50SR similar performance from the Fedorov Avtomat to 7.62×39!

      Why did Fedorov choose the 6.5x50SR? Because it was a smaller, lighter recoiling round that would allow him to design a small, controllable lightweight general-issue automatic weapon for the infantry – if that’s not an “assault rifle”, I don’t know what is! Indeed, the Fedorov is much, much lighter than contemporary light machine guns, weighing only 9.7 pounds unloaded. Still, it’s a controllable weapon as illustrated by the video embedded in the post above.

      The Avtomat is even called an “assault rifle”. In Russian, the terms “pulemyot” (пулемёт) and “pistolet-pulemyot” (пистолет-пулемёт) are used for machine guns (including magazine-fed automatic rifles, like the DP), and submachine guns, respectively. “Avtomat” (автомат), while not precisely analogous to “assault rifle” (it’s closer to “automatic carbine” in definition), is used virtually exclusively to refer to rifles considered assault rifles in the West, for example the AK series of rifles.

      The full-power, select-fire AVS-36, in contrast, is designated differently. It’s not an “avtomat”, instead, it’s called “avtomaticheskaya vintovka” (автоматическая винтовка, almost directly translating to “automatic rifle”). So it seems the Russians saw a major difference between the Fedorov Avtomat and the AVS-36, putting them in two different categories. Just eight years later, the Russians would be back to using “avtomat” to refer to true assault rifles as part of their program that would eventually lead to the famous AK-47.

      As for not having a pistol grip, in no definition I have seen anywhere is a pistol grip included as a necessary feature for a gun to qualify as an assault rifle. If it were, several weapons widely recognized as assault rifles (such as the Ruger AC-556) would have to be disqualified.

      • ostiariusalpha

        Perhaps it is possibly beneficial to differentiate between large-frame assault rifles like the Fedorov and EM-2, medium-frame assault rifles like the AK and AR, and small-frame guns like the M1 Carbine.

        • In which case the MP.44 is a “large frame” assault rifle, since it’s heavier than the Avtomat.

          • ostiariusalpha

            I was mostly referencing the action length, but maybe it might be just as well to put the MP-44 in the large frame category. Is there some way to clearly label the action lengths without causing confusion with the full power cartridge action terms?

          • No, especially since the 6.5x50SR is longer than the 7.62 NATO.

            If anything, I think small arms historiology has a problem of over-categorization, and over-definition, which has caused people to obsess over things that are essentially semantic, thereby forgetting the actual capabilities of a given weapon.

            An excellent example of what I’m talking about would be the MKb.42(H), which everyone agrees is an assault rifle, in the same category as an M16. Now the PPSh-41 is a submachine gun, again, everyone agrees. Except, categorizing them this way actually obfuscates reality, as the actual capabilities of the MKb.42(H) are far closer to the PPSh-41 than they are to the M16!

          • ostiariusalpha

            Uh oh! Categoryville is under attack! This is a job for pedanticalpha!

            *Spoiler Alert*
            The vast majority of comment readers that don’t give a crap about epistemology should not even bother with the “see more” button and just skip right on past. A few hairs are going to be split here.

            First off, I’m going to p_ssy out here and say that you are objectively, completely correct. Cartridge performance is as mind-numbingly infinitely differentiable as an analytic function, and just as defiant of any attempt to use synthetic classifications. So that is that, end of discussion…

            …With just one exception that I would argue is actually pretty vitally important; that is, that one of the most primal and powerful tools of investigative thought and experimentation is to granularize any analog information and make it open to categorical interpretation. Every that paid attention in science class knows that color is simply a difference in wave amplitude: so much clearly an analog phenomenon that people use the term spectrum as a metaphor for describing any

          • ostiariusalpha

            Uh-oh! Categoryville is under attack! This is a job for pedanticalpha!

            *Spoiler Alert*
            The vast majority of comment readers that don’t give a crap about epistemology should not even bother with the “see more” button and just skip right on past. A rather long-winded splitting of hairs is ahead; you are forewarned.

            First off, I’m going to p_ssy out here and say that you are objectively, completely correct. Cartridge performance is as mind-numbingly infinitely differentiable as an analytic function, and just as defiant of any attempt to use synthetic classifications. So that is that, end of discussion…

            …With just one exception that I would argue is actually pretty vitally important; that is, that one of the most primal and powerful tools of investigative thought and experimentation is to granularize any analog data and make it open to categorical interpretation. Everyone that paid attention in science class knows that color is simply a difference in wave amplitude of electromagnetic rays, it is so absolutely obviously an analog phenomenon that perfectly average people naturally use the term spectrum as a metaphor for describing any analog-like, finely differentiable information. Yet, nature has seen fit that we can project categories on the spectrum, to our real benefit. Being able to discern the difference between ripe and unripe foods by color (amongst other things) isn’t too shabby. Most people with healthy optical faculties have no problem with the concept that the visible spectrum can be divided into the categories of color called red, yellow, and blue; that there is a further subdivision into a category between red & yellow called orange; and another category between orange and yellow that is mostly referred to as marigold; and probably yet another subcategory between marigold and yellow. The number of categories that can be recursively created is infinite, even without adding in the radio, microwave, infrared, ultraviolet, or gamma categories of the spectrum. Scientists, themselves, don’t tend to get to get too hung up about more sharply defining the arbitrary division between these categories, and find them justifiably practical. Also, despite the somewhat symmetrical nature of categorizing the visible spectrum, the point at which you stop subdividing by color & shade is always going to be arbitrary, but that doesn’t keep those categories themselves from being rather useful.

            So what the hell did that odd digression have to do with cartridge dimensions, action lengths, or frame sizes? Well, regardless of the potentially endless number of possible gradations of form and performance, the actual number of variations in firearms and ammunition is most definitely finite and therefore already granular by nature. Though the complete number of styles & models that have sprung forth to acclaim or obscurity throughout history, much like the sheer array of named (and often now trademarked) colors, may seem dizzyingly immense as you wade through example after example of the material efforts of the multitudes of small arms designers, yet they are entirely numerable and coherent. From a wider survey of the bounds of the largest artillery piece to smallest, weakest pea-shooter that can still claim to be a firearm, you start to notice that the gradations are not uniformly distributed, but instead are often concentrated into overlapping or parallel families of similar COL/action lengths, bolt face/rim diameters, max pressure ratings, parent cartridges, shoulder angles, or primer burn rates/sizes, with many large gaps and a few eccentric sui generis specimens randomly separated among the gamut. Anytime after a real break through in the integral function of ammunition or firearms there is a host of ensuing innovations that try to take advantage of it or otherwise refine it, and without any precedents to set a standard, they usually have much less in the way of commonality with their contemporaries. Eventually, some designs prove themselves more popular and successful, with subsequent innovations building on their example again. Those descendants are further winnowed, leading to more invention and generating a sort of lineage of refinements. Design characteristics start becoming mature enough that new guns begin borrowing certain aspects of form or function from amongst the whole range of past designs, both successful and less so, gaining more elements of mixed commonality with their peer designs. These refined elements become that precedent that shapes what future designers will take into consideration as a dependable basis for inspiration, simple duplication, or even ossification (like belted magnums that don’t even use their superfluous belts for headspacing). This coalescing towards categorical commonalities isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even Browning used common elements in the ammunition and firearms he designed. Categorical obfuscation is not a poison of overdefinition, but of underdefinition that creates bad categorization through vaguely understood parameters that no one agrees on. Even vague categories can develop more solid definitions if you critically examine them; not simply to dismiss their dubious origins, but discover why the category caught on anyway in the larger social consciousness, what makes it attractive or convenient to use, and how do the more liminal members of the category differ from the more commonly understood, definitive members. Every model of firearm and cartridge, along with their variant modifications, can indeed be clearly examined through simple contrast with every other individual firearm and cartridge; a unique object in a spectrum of unique objects. This doesn’t preclude or make illegitimate the investigation of that object through the use of higher categories with examination of the relationship between categories though. The Russian “automat” and the western “assault rifle” aren’t required to be perfectly transliterated categories, it’s just as acceptable that they are non-identical, overlapping categories that can be just as edifying to consider their differences and underlying assumptions as their similarities. Despite your reservations about the use of categories, this article has been very insightful about the “automat” and “assault rifle” categories contrast in their understanding of what elements are included, and excluded, from each other.

            To conclude this ramble, fundamentally your instinct is sound: the distinctions between individual cartridges and firearms is quantitative, not qualitative; the differences are by degree. But to find out how one cluster quantitative data is destinct from another, you turn to categories.

          • Um, yeah, I hope you enjoyed writing that, because I wasn’t saying that categorization is bad, just that people often let it obfuscate reality instead of using it properly as a handy shorthand.

            See: Every argument about what the first assault rifle was, ever.

          • ostiariusalpha

            LOL! I honestly did enjoy writing it. You were fairly clear that you consider “small arms historiology has a problem of over-categorization, and over-definition,” but categories are more useful than as a simple shorthand; they allow you to group relevant features for emphasis and comparison. Strong definitions make for clear categories, but confusion arises from mistaking separate, but similar, categories that have different underlying assumptions about what elements define them.

          • I dunno, what you just said sounds an awful lot like “categories are useful because they help you to lie”. Forgive me if that’s an especially pointed thing to say. Maybe I am misunderstanding you?

            It doesn’t seem very helpful to me to throw the MKb. 42(H) into a bucket with the M16, and the PPSh-41 into another bucket, except as the roughest generalization to help introductory audiences, or as a way to group data to examine trends. For a serious discussion on weapon capability, the “assault rifle” category especially seems to muddy the waters more than it makes things clearer.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Heh, it’s hard for me to take anything you have posted as more than a simple matter of honest disagreement. Any method or technique that can reveal truth can also be made to lie if logic is not rigorously applied to it (re Nazi science), just as easily deceiving oneself as it can others; that is the caveat of any attempt to understand reality. The difficulty you’re having seems to stem from the rather common unconscious insistence that many people have that categories should be rigidly mutually exclusive. On the other hand, I feel that a category like “automat,” “assault rifle,” or even “battle rifle” are simply a collection of common features & functions that can better show relationships between members of the category and also contrast with excluded elements; this is the perspective of Set and Category Theories. From this point of view, it is just as legitimate that the MKb.42(H) and PPSh-41 are members in the set of a category that has the AKM & M16 among its complement, with another category having {MP-43/MKb.42(H), M16, AKM} as members of the set and the Russian SMG as the relative complement; the MKb.42(H) would be in the intersection between the two categories, as a member of both sets. Or, a set called Automat with the Fedorov as a member of the category, though a subset called Assault Rifle might exclude it. Then you have another set called Battle Rifle that has {M14, FAL, G3, EM-2, Fedorov} as members. The Fedorov is then in the intersection between Automat and Battle Rifle, but complementary to Assault Rifle.

          • “The difficulty you’re having seems to stem from the rather common unconscious insistence that many people have that categories should be rigidly mutually exclusive. On the other hand, I feel that a category like “automat,” “assault rifle,” or even “battle rifle” are simply a collection of common features & functions that can better show relationships between members of the category and also contrast with excluded elements; this is the perspective of Set and Category Theories.”

            “I wasn’t saying that categorization is bad, just that people often let it obfuscate reality instead of using it properly as a handy shorthand.

            See: Every argument about what the first assault rifle was, ever.”

            I feel like these two statements are perfectly compatible with one another. Recall that I’m the guy who said the M2 Carbine was “assault rifle-ish”. 🙂

            Right, so talking about sets in that way is not normally how categorization is used in small arms, but it is the way it’s used in data analysis. To watch me essentially use it that way, check out my Weight Omnibus, Part III.

      • Malthrak

        Your points are good, however I still think I would consider the Fedorov a proto-assault rifle. The 6.5 round may not be as powerful out of a 20″ barrel, but its still not really an intermediate round regardless of muzzle energy. The weapon was also intended to fill more the role of a light machinegun or squas support weapon than to be a general issue infantry rifle (at least, as far as I’ve read) in the sense that we normally think an assault rifle as being.

        I dont think there will ever be perfect concensus on this, there’s a lot of good points both ways, but its ultimately fuzzy enough, with enough unique qualities, that I personally see it as a proto-assault rifle, something that grasped the concept but wasnt quite there.

        To use an another analogy, the British were the first to come up with and attempt to execute the idea of tanks and their use en-masse in combination with infantry, artilllery, and air support, as evidenced by Cambrai, but it took another 20+ years and a different army to really execute it as it was really intended and codify the doctrine as we understand it today, and why modern tank doctrine looks to 1939/1940 as opposed to 1917 as its inception date in most cases.

        • “The 6.5 round may not be as powerful out of a 20″ barrel, but its still not really an intermediate round regardless of muzzle energy.”

          It’s an intermediate round in every respect, down to its selection for the very reasons intermediate cartridges exist in the first place. It even weighs almost exactly the same as a .280/30 British cartridge (I have both in my collection)!

          Who gave you the impression that the Avtomat was designed as a light machine gun? It was explicitly designed as a replacement for the M1891 rifle! In fact, the first models used 7.62x54R and fed from five round Mosin stripper clips. It was very clearly an infantry rifle program, not a support weapon program.

          • Malthrak

            From my unserstanding, Fedorov, according to his memoirs, designed it to be in class akin to the Madsen or Chauchat but lighter and easiser to maneuver with, with the “avtomat” term being applied later and having a somewhat less specific definition than what we would have today, and deployment was typically not to equip every man in a unit but rather a few men in each company with the weapon, at least for the few they made and deployed in WW1 (im not sure what they did with them in the Winter War).

            As for the 6.5 round, this round was designed and intended to be a full power rifle round for the Japanese army, it just happened to be less powerful than 7.62x54R, plus they’d imported half a billion 6.5 rounds into Russia.

          • The Avtomat was later used as a sort of quasi-light machine gun, due to shortages of those weapons, but that’s not what it was designed for. Look at the prototypes, it is obviously an infantry weapon.

            I’m reproducing a comment I wrote elsewhere:

            “If anything, I think small arms historiology has a problem of over-categorization, and over-definition, which has caused people to obsess over things that are essentially semantic, thereby forgetting the actual capabilities of a given weapon.

            “An excellent example of what I’m talking about would be the MKb.42(H), which everyone agrees is an assault rifle, in the same category as an M16. Now the PPSh-41 is a submachine gun, again, everyone agrees. Except, categorizing them this way actually obfuscates reality, as the actual capabilities of the MKb.42(H) are far closer to the PPSh-41 than they are to the M16!”

            Your statement about the 6.5x50SR is another good example of this obfuscation by categorization. Was the 6.5x50SR intended to be a “full power round”? Well, it was intended to be the power that it was, and I suppose you can consider that to be “full power” if you like, but the fact remains that it is solidly intermediate in terms of its power and capabilities. Even from the full-length 31.5″ barreled Type 38 rifle, it produced less muzzle energy than the .280/30 British!

          • Malthrak

            Im just going by what was translated from Fedorovs memoirs regarding the design process, that said, im probably not qualified to judge a prototype either way.

          • I haven’t seen these memoirs, and I find that hard to believe (who ever heard of a 5-shot stripper clip fed support weapon?). Could you give me a link?

          • Malthrak

            I dont have it on my phone here at work unfortunatley, I first saw that in a book titled “History of the Soviet small arms and ammunition” by David Bolotin.

            There was a translated version on ScribD that got shared on /k/ a while ago and thats where i first saw that, I dont have the link here but you might be able to find it with the title and author above, you could try that. Fedorov’s actual memoirs I’ve never seen translated directly unfortunatley.

          • Malthrak, thank you for the source. I’ll check it out.

          • marathag

            http://www.forgottenweapons.Com/light-machine-guns/type-11-nambu-lmg/

            Yeah, using a hopper to unload stripper clips is a odd concept, but the Soviets did test out that concept of that hopper feed themselves on the DP-28 after seeing the IJA weapon.

            http://www.forgottenweapons.Com/light-machine-guns/kubynov-hopper-fed-dp28/

          • Yes, but those aren’t 5-shot. 😉

      • Max Popenker

        I have to disagree here on several important points
        1. Fedorov chose 6.5×50 Arisaka simply and only because it was of 6.5mm caliber ana readily available; His original intent was to produce his automatic rifle in rather powerful 6.5×57 round of his own design, but wartime emergencies precluded production of an entirely new round. Arisaka ammo, OTOH, was available due to purchase of many Arisaka rifles to alleviate losses at the front
        It was dropped from consideration in 1928 because powers that be decided that 7.62mm caliber is better suited for rifles and machine guns, all things considered.
        2. Автомат (Avtomat) means “automatic carbine”; Пистолет-пулемет (Pistolet-pulemyot) means submachine gun, which is formally defined as “avtomat firing pistol ammunition” (indeed, official designation of the PPSh-41 was “Avtomat obraztsa 1941 goda”)
        3. Full-sized automatic rifles are ineed called just that – automatic rifles (Автоматическая винтовка); however. Tokarev automatic carbines (based on AVT-40) were called carbines, not avtomats.

        Overall, i think that term Assault rifle should be used only in conjunction with Stg.44, being its name; everything else is just an automatic carbine or automatic rifle.

        • Hi Max! Thanks for joining in.

          1. Do you have a date for the 6.5×57 round? I am aware of it, but I am not sure what period it is from. There could be a big difference in intent, for instance, if it is from before 1912 than if it’s from 1915. You’re certainly right about its power, it reportedly produced 3,140 J! That would put it in the same class as the 6.5 Swedish. However, this seems more reflective of the pre-war “rail gun cartridge” craze that spawned also the .276 Enfield and 7mm Meunier than the wartime need for handheld automatic weapons. You know better than I do, though!

          2. Yep, the term doesn’t correspond exactly with “assault rifle”.

          There’s a lot of research I need to do on the Fedorov, but it’s difficult. As always, I have to keep an open mind and be ready to change my opinions whenever they’re proven wrong.

        • I realize I’m reaching here, but here’s a YouTube comment (I know, I know!) containing some more detail:

          “To understand this gun concept, you need to read Fedorov book “Оружейное дело на гране двух эпох” (“Arms at the edge of two eras”). In 1908 arms division of the artillery committee (where Fedorov worked as the officer-clerk) declared that next rearmament in small arms is close and new weapon will be some kind of automatic rifle. Research in this theme they started from developing of new ammo instead old 7.62×54. Choose was between 3 calibers – 6mm, 6.5mm and 7mm; this cartridge had to be a typical rifle round with case volume larger or same, as in 7.62×54. In that time pressure limit in 7.62×54 was only 2700atm when in German 7.92×57 3500atm and even 4000atm in .30-06, so committee wanted to replace old and weak cartridge to modern rimless. There was tested cases from 3.54 to 5.17 cm3 volumes – larger than .30-06 Springfield. At the end of the tests, in 1911, committee choose 6.5mm nominal caliber – 0.263-265 inch. bullet, 8.5g weighted and 860m/sec speed; this is blueprint of new Russian ammo, which made Fedorov by himself https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-T6qIfK_R-N0/VYSM84c2n8I/AAAAAAAAATk/u_9WsXnF1vs/w546-h879-no/2.bmp so, now it would be called 6.7×57 or 6.5×57. In 1913 Fedorov represented two his automatic rifles in 6.5 caliber, tests were very successful and committee ordered another 20 rifles with 200 000 6.5mm ammo for full military tests; when WW1 started rifles and ammo were in the process of production and Fedorov – on vacation. Later there was attempt to adopt Fedorov rifle for Japanese ammo, and this rifles we know today. So, it’s clearly that Fedorov gun never was an assault rifle prototype, it was typical for WW1 era automatic weapon, which used full-powered ammo”

          Now, the author of this comment makes the assertion that because of the round developed in 1911, that the Avtomat is not an assault rifle. Setting aside the semantic argument, whether the Avtomat’s eventual 6.5x50SR round was selected due to its “intermediate-type” characteristics (which I identify as lower bolt thrust allowing a smaller weapon, and lower recoil) is another question we can dive into. It was very popular before World War I for designers to indulge in “magnum” type small caliber rounds, as they feared a long-range arms race between rifles, where the danger space of the cartridge was a critical factor (more than thirty years later, these same characteristics would weigh heavily on the NATO standard rifle cartridge trials, but I digress). This type of thinking resulted in the .276 Enfield and 7mm Meunier, and I reckon also the 6.5×57 Fedorov. What is worth exploring then is how Fedorov’s thinking changed from 1911 to 1916. Clearly the rifle design changed quite a lot; I am under the impression that the 1912 version featured a barrel of similar length to the M91, and was in 7.62x54R caliber. By 1916, the barrel had shrunk to 520mm and the caliber was changed to 6.5x50SR, and the rifle grew a detachable 25 shot box magazine. The choice of the 6.5x50SR is conspicuous, too, since from the Avtomat its performance is nothing like the magnum cartridge Fedorov had in mind.

          I have a hard time believing that Fedorov didn’t realize this, and that the Avtomat was only “accidentally” a lightweight, select-fire weapon in an intermediate caliber just in time for the trenches of World War I where it would have been immensely useful. It seems much more likely that Fedorov knew exactly what he was doing, and that his thinking from 1911 to 1915 had changed, resulting in the choice of the 6.5x50SR round for the same reasons the 7.92×33 and 7.62×39 rounds would be chosen decades later.

          But, with more research, maybe I can shed more light on this subject.

        • ostiariusalpha

          Your third point has got me curious. How exactly do the Russians justify considering the Fedorov an Автомат, whether chambered in 6.5x50SR or 6.5×57, yet the Tokarev (or an American M1A SOCOM) is an Автоматическая карабин? Is it just the lack of select fire capability? From what I can gather, an Автомат is simply any non-crew served rifle with fully automatic fire capabilities that isn’t chambered for what would be considered a pistol cartridge. The use of intermediate cartridges appears to not be a prerequisite at all.

          • Only the AVT-40 would be an Автоматическая винтовка. An SVT-40 is a Самозарядная винтовка. Neither are карабин, except for the carbine versions of the AVT-40.

            And no, so far as I know intermediate cartridges are not a prerequisite for an Автомат, which is why it’s a much clearer term than “assault rifle”. Автомат does generally refer to assault rifles, but it’s way less ambiguous, which I personally like.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Ah, my mistake. So, that still begs the question of what separates a AVT-40 carbine from a Fedorov chambered in 6.5 Fedorov?

          • The Fedorov makes a much better assault rifle, hahaha.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Ha ha ha! Of course. It might break down on you just a smidgen less often than the AVT also.

          • Джон Доу

            Tokarev had four variants of his rifle – in semiauto and select-fire, full sized and carbine version, named as:
            SVT – selfloading rifle
            AVT – automatic rifle
            SKT – selfloading carbine
            AKT – automatic carbine

            Автомат is too generic term for it. Sure he could use Автомат for naming one of two select fire variants of his rifle but it would be a mess.

  • Jonathan Ferguson

    I understand your objection to the Stg44 as the “first assault rifle” on a technical basis, but it’s not wholly “erroneous”, as it was certainly the first so-named.

    • What about the Lewis Assault Rifle of 1918?

      • Jonathan Ferguson

        Again, you’re quite right technically speaking, but as far as I know Lewis called his concept the “assault *phase* rifle”.

        I’d be interested to see evidence that post-war usage of “assault rifle” comes from Lewis and not the German.

        • Well, how about the fact that in Russian, the word for “assault rifle” is “avtomat”, which dates to 1916 with the Fedorov?

          It’s not my goal to argue semantics with you, but the idea that the German Sturmgewehrs were in any way the “first” assault rifles is only true with quite a lot of mental gymnastics.

          • ostiariusalpha

            The gymnastics seem more to do with trying to force a 100% match between the “automat” and “assault rifle” categories. They have much in common, but they aren’t as mutually identical as people tend to depict them.

          • I said elsewhere:

            “The Avtomat is even called an “assault rifle”. In Russian, the terms “pulemyot” (пулемёт) and “pistolet-pulemyot” (пистолет-пулемёт) are used for machine guns (including magazine-fed automatic rifles, like the DP), and submachine guns, respectively. “Avtomat” (автомат), while not precisely analogous to “assault rifle” (it means something like “automaton”), is used virtually exclusively to refer to rifles considered assault rifles in the West, for example the AK series of rifles.

            “The full-power, select-fire AVS-36, in contrast, is designated differently. It’s not an “avtomat”, instead, it’s called “avtomaticheskaya vintovka” (автоматическая винтовка, almost directly translating to “automatic rifle”). So it seems the Russians saw a major difference between the Fedorov Avtomat and the AVS-36, putting them in two different categories. Just eight years later, the Russians would be back to using “avtomat” to refer to true assault rifles as part of their program that would eventually lead to the famous AK-47.”

            “Assault rifle” and “avtomat” are not perfect matches, but it’s revealing how the Russians use the term. So much is made of the “legendary Sturmgewehr” and how it’s very name inspired a whole class of weapons (which is more post-hoc construct than reality, really), while the very similar influence of the Fedorov Avtomat is ignored.

            Frankly, the whole conversation about the development of the assault rifle suffers from an incredibly Germano-centric view of things.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Now that I won’t argue with, the Russian contributions to the development of the modern military service rifle have been downplayed and trivialized for virtually an entire century. The AK was recognized belatedly as brilliant, but only by depicting Kalashnikov as a sort of anomaly of genius instead of placing him in the context of Soviet industrial capabilities, weapon development programs, and sophisticated design culture.

        • iksnilol

          That’s silly, in 21st century we don’t have phase rifles, and then you expect people in the 20th century made phase rifles?

          Get real. 😛

  • I’ve waffled a bit back and forth on this; in my last article on the Fedorov, I said this:

    “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.”

    But really, thinking about it, I don’t agree with that. See my comment in this thread for more detail on why.

  • Don Ward

    The whole notion that the Fedorov isn’t an “assault rifle” because the 6.5 Arisaka round isn’t “intermediate-ish” enough is absolutely silly and is the Internet gun argument equivalent of debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. At 6.5x50mm, it is smaller than 7.62X51mm NATO which is an extremely popular “assault rifle” round chambered in AR-10s and FALs. And no, you don’t bring up the phony and make-believe term that it’s a “battle rifle” which isn’t even a real thing and is just a marketing term used to get people to buy expensive M14 knockoffs that are really made in Taiwan.

    Finally, if it were legally manufactured today, it would be classified as an assault rifle.

    • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

      Besides, “assault rifle” is such a murky term that I gave up thinking about it a loooooooong time ago.

    • iksnilol

      Eh, 6.5x50mm Has an OAL that is actually longer than 7.62×51.

      It’s like 5mm longer.

    • DW

      ” expensive M14 knockoffs that are really made in Taiwan”

      I thought Taiwan’s M14 tooling (From TRW) were sold off, and somehow ended in China.

  • Martin M

    I’m sure Federov was simply going for a full-auto rifle. I think if the idea were allowed to evolve it would have been something akin to a BAR. Certainly not anything like a Sturmgewehr which filled the gap between SMG and Line Rifle.

    • What do you base this conclusion on?

      • Martin M

        Well, Nathaniel, let us consider the contemporary small arms world and the prevailing thought on military doctrine. The Federov Avtomat was simply an automatic rifle. It was no different than a number of other contemporary automatic rifles. Chauchats had vertical foregrips, but were never assault rifles. In just over a year they manufactured over 100k BARs (vs. 3200 total Avtomats over 10 years) and they were never thought of as assault rifles. Beretta OVPs and MP18s were actually used in the assault role, but are not assault rifles. Vladimir Federov himself went on to oversee small arms production of everything but assault rifles.

        Doctrine wise, the prevailing theory at the time of the development was Walking Fire. Chauchats, BARs, and likely the Avtomat were designed with this in mind. They are support weapons despite being crewed by a single gunner, employed in the support of the rifle armed infantry. As SMGs were introduced into the military they were issued to leaders and support troops. Even at the start of WWII, the rifle was still the primary weapon of the infantryman. Only until the mass issue of MP 43/44 was the assault rifle actually born. Now the entire unit had select fire capability and this changed small unit tactics.

        The term Assault Rifle is a hotly contested issue, but it’s so much simpler than it seems. Here is an example to put it in perspective. What makes a Birthday Cake different than any other cake? Does sticking a candle on top of a Wedding Cake make it a Birthday Cake? Does adding a detachable magazine to a rifle make it an Assault Rifle? How about a bayonet lug? California seems to think so. We don’t call the StG44 the first Assault Rifle because of its features, rather because of how it was deployed to mark a new era of small arms and tactics.

        Trying to retroactively apply this label to repeating or rapid fire arms prior to the mid 40s is akin to call Spencers or Winchesters the first assault rifles. Stating the Federov Avtomat is the first assault rifle is just nonsense.

        • Chauchat –

          Muzzle energy: 2,540 J
          Weight: 9.07 kg

          StG.44 –

          Muzzle energy: 1,905 J
          Weight: 4.55 kg

          Fedorov Avtomat –

          Muzzle energy: 1,925 J
          Weight: 4.40 kg

          “No” difference, really?

          Whatever you want to call the Avtomat (it meets perfectly the modern definition of an assault rifle, but there are serious problems with applying modern definitions and contexts to things that didn’t have them), it is an incredible firearm for the period. That’s a necessary thing to convey, and it’s a major disservice to understanding the Avtomat and other weapons to equivocate it with things like the Chauchat and BAR.

          The idea that the Chauchat and BAR were not considered “assault rifles” is a goofy contortion. On the contrary, that’s precisely what they were, by the definitions of the period. They were designed to give automatic firepower to assaulting infantry… Colonel Lewis’s competitor to the BAR was even called an “assault phase rifle”, sometimes shortened in literature as “assault rifle”!

          The other fly in your ointment is that there’s considerable evidence that the Avtomat was intended to be a standard issue weapon, thus making it an assault rifle even by your definition. The Avtomat, consider, has no bipod or other support for firing from support, like a Chauchat. It has a vertical foregrip that unlike the Chauchat’s appears to be designed with firing from the shoulder in mind, as with the somewhat later Thompson. Finally, the earlier versions of the Fedorov rifle were chambered for 7.62x54R, were semi-automatic only, and fed from five-round stripper clips. Here’s a picture of the 1912 Fedorov:

          http://temneuzemi.webzdarma.cz/Historie/Fedorov/Fedorov_puska_automat.jpg

          Note that both rifles have bayonet lugs!

          All of this points to the Fedorov being a weapon incredibly ahead of its time, so it seems very disingenuous to me to say “well it was just an automatic rifle/light machine gun”. Really? With all the preponderance of evidence, you don’t think there was anything truly novel about the thinking going into this weapon? Why must the Germans with the sMP./MKb./MP./StG. series be the first people to think “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if every soldier had a select-fire rifle?”

          Now, of course the Fedorov never got there… But neither did the MP.44, either, although it got closer. So then, the real Model T/M1 Garand of the assault rifle world is… The AK, isn’t it?

          • Martin M

            Ballistic numbers! Historic promotional references! Curses!
            I surrender! Bayonet lugs for everyone!

          • Hahahah, glad you’ve got a good sense of humor about it. 🙂

  • Bal256

    If I were going off of looks, it doesn’t really “look” assault rifle to me, but then neither does this.

    • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

      Fun fact: I’m pretty sure that originally, that was an LMG in the game files 😛
      But, with this thing and the pipe guns and the laser rifles and all the magazine-enhancing attachments, I guess Bethesda didn’t see the need for an LMG and just made this their assault rifle cause it had enough of a weird, fallout retro-ish aesthetic to it.

      Personally? I would’ve wanted a Stoner 63 rather than this massive lewis gun thing. Least that’s actually from the 60s.

      • iksnilol

        But the 60’s didn’t exist in the Fallout universe. Point of departure for the timelines was around 1945 or something.

        • ostiariusalpha

          No Age of Aquarius, Disco Fever, or Rick Rolling for the Vault dwellers either. They never experienced the true heights of cultural achievement.

          • iksnilol

            No Mad Max either. Ooh the irony.

        • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

          By that logic we shouldn’t have the Assault Carbine from FNV. I’m just saying, the Stoner 63 fits the atmosphere of Fallout being a gun with a very retro aesthetic. Plus, it was actually designed for FO4-esque modifications – fully invertible receiver, belt feed, a lot of things.

          • iksnilol

            Hmnm, kinda.

            The Assault Carbine and whatnot were Air Force materiell. Which had the M16 before anybody else.

            That and the Stoner was more used by SOF than anybody else sorta makes sense why it isn’t there. Though I agree, the current Assault Rifle in FO4 is silly, would be better if it was an LMG.

    • “We need a fictional but plausible looking machine gun for our videogame.”

      “Right, well, we’ll just take elements from a bunch of different existing guns and smash them all together without regard for whether they make any sense at all.”

    • DW

      • DW

        Strong dislikes this.

        (Why didn’t my comment shot up?)

  • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

    I wasn’t even aware you could find footage that has Fedorov Avtomats in it. Also, immediately after that, there’s a litter of puppies that look like tiny ovcharkas, so that’s good too.
    Edit: wait, that is probably a samoyed on one side of the picture.

  • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

    Ladies and gentlemen, the reason “assault rifle” is an annoying enough term even when we use it. As demonstrated below.

  • Джон Доу

    There is an obvious error: the image clearly states it is 1925 prototype, not 1912. Moreover, despite it is designated as 7.62 mm caliber piece, I have a strong doubt it was actually 7.62x54R. Looking at the shape and size of magazine, I’d say it was intended for 7.62×54 rimless experimental cartridge.