A brief history of the Russian Fedorov Avtomat Rifle

Fedorov avtomat in its most recognizable form, as made during early 1920s for Red Army

Fedorov avtomat in its most recognizable form, as made during early 1920s for Red Army

Captain Fedorov, a member of the Artillery committee of Imperial Russian Army General Artillery Department (GAU), began his work on self-loading military rifles around 1905. By 1911, he perfected a self-loading rifle of his own design that fired standard issue “three line” (7.62x54R) ammunition and used short-recoil operation. By 1911 and after much experimentation Fedorov concluded that existing service ammunition is badly suited for semi-automatic rifles due to rimmed case and excessive recoil; as a result, he devised a reduced caliber, improved ballistics ammunition that fired 6.5mm pointed bullets. By 1913, he submitted his first 6.5mm self-loading rifles for trials; these rifles fired new, rimless 6.5mm ammunition with case about 57mm (2”) long; pointed jacketed bullet weighed 8.5 gram (131 grain) and had a muzzle velocity of about 850 m/s (2790 fps). Rifle was fed from internal, fixed magazine loaded with stripper clips. This new rifle passed formal trials and was deemed “promising”, but start of the Great War precluded any chances of adoption of new ammunition.

In 1915 Fedorov was sent by the GAU to the front to provide first-hand observation and analysis of employment of small arms during actual combat. According to his own reports, Fedorov was especially impressed by French newest CSRG M1915 machine rifle – a relatively lightweight and maneuverable automatic weapon which could be used to provide instant covering or suppressive fire during infantry attacks and other combat maneuvers. As a result, he decided to convert his 6.5mm semi-automatic rifle to a “machine rifle”, with select-fire capability and larger, detachable magazine.

Lack of appropriate ammunition forced Fedorov to adopt an existing cartridge of same caliber but lower power – the Japanese Arisaka 6.5x50SR. This ammunition was in use thanks to purchase of significant amount of Japanese rifles by Russian government, seeking to alleviate war-induced shortage of standard issue rifles. Due to smaller case and decreased power of the 6.5mm Arisaka ammunition (compared to original Fedorov cartridge), he cut down original barrels by about 190mm and designed special chamber inserts. New weapon was initially called “ружье-пулемет” (rifle – machine gun, or “machine rifle”). It had noticeably weaker ballistics than originally intended, producing only about 660 m/s (2160 fps) of muzzle velocity with 9 gram (139 grain) pointed Type 38 bullet.

It must be noted that new “machine rifle” was not a substitute for a true light machine gun, because its barrel was too light and overheated rapidly. The primary mode of fire for this weapon was semi-automatic; full automatic fire was to be used only in emergency situations. Also, it was originally issued as a crew-served weapon, operated by two men – the shooter and the ammo bearer (latter being armed with bolt action rifle or a semi-automatic pistol). At this moment the Fedorov machine rifle was considered to be a weapon suitable only for specialized or support use. Late in 1916 a company of the Ismail regiment was sent to the front armed with Fedorov machine rifles and Mauser C96 pistols (for 2nd numbers). Following initial success of this unit, Artillery committee issued requirements for 25,000 of Fedorov machine rifles, which were later cut down to 5,000 due to lack of industrial capabilities.

Events of the 1917 put a temporary stop to evolution of the Fedorov rifle. In the post-revolution turmoil captain Fedorov sided with new Bolshevik government and continued his work at the new machine gun plant in the city of Kovrov, initially built to produce Madsen light machine guns under Danish license and supervision. By 1921 Kovrov plant produced 6.5x50SR Fedorov rifles in small batches of about 150 per month; these rifles were issued to Red Army troops fighting various anti-revolution factions.

In 1922 a first official report was compiled about the use of Fedorov machine rifles; it appears that this report, signed by chief of 1st Red Army officers school N.Filatov coined the term “avtomat” (automatic) to the Fedorov machine rifle for the first time. This report considered the “AF” as a useful addition to the available spectrum of existing infantry armament; however, it also pointed out numerous reliability issues, caused by design flaws and certain quality control problems.

The Fedorov avtomat as modified in 1922. It was a parent to a whole family of experimental small arms - a concept that was decades ahead of its time

The Fedorov avtomat as modified in 1922. It was a parent to a whole family of experimental small arms – a concept that was decades ahead of its time

Fedorov continued to refine his rifle, but in 1924 Red Army command decided to stick to the 7.62x54R ammunition as the only standard issue cartridge for rifles and machine guns; All designers were ordered to re-design their weapons to this “three line” ammunition and to design new weapons only in 7.62mm. Production of the AF ceased in October 1925, with overall production totaling at about 3200 guns. In 1928, most surviving AF guns were withdrawn from service and put into storage, to be temporarily recalled for service during Winter War of 1940. This was done to arm special mobile ski units that hunted Finnish troops same way as Finnish units armed with Suomi submachine guns hunted for Red Army troops. At the time Red Army had almost no submachine guns in service, so AF was more or less a match for the Suomi in this fierce close combat, offering less ammunition capacity but noticeably better penetration of cover.

7,62x54R Fedorov automatic rifles, produced for Red Army trials in 1926. Their design was based on the 6.5mm avtomat

Experimental 7,62x54R Fedorov self-loading and automatic rifles, produced for Red Army trials in 1926. Their design was based on the 6.5mm avtomat. These rifles proved to be unsatisfactory and soon were abandoned.

Test-firing 7.62mm Fedorov automatic (machine) rifle, 1926

Test-firing 7.62mm Fedorov automatic (machine) rifle, 1926

As you can see, during its service time AF was not considered to be a “standard issue” firearm; it was built to the same concept of the supporting “walking assault fire” that spawned French Chauchat CSRG M1915 and American Browning BAR M1918 machine rifles. Key advantage of the AF over those two rivals was noticeably lighter weight, thanks to smaller and lighter round, but the basic concept was exactly the same. Of cause, because of the very same relatively “soft powered” round AF became very close to a modern concept of the individual automatic rifle, and in fact can be easily compared to modern rifles firing cartridges such as 6.5mm Grendel. It also must be noted that General Fedorov was an enthusiastic supporter of the 6.5mm caliber as an “ideal compromise” for the general issue infantry rifle throughout his long and distinguished career in Red Army armaments and ordnance circles.

What is often overlooked in discussing the Fedorov Avtomat is that its role or, rather, role of the Captain (later General) Fedorov was much broader than the development of yet another machine rifle. During 1920-1925 Fedorov, working closely with his apprentice Degtyarov, produced a whole family of infantry small arms, based on the same basic action and receiver design; this family included semi-automatic rifles, select-fire rifles, as well as light and universal machine guns with various barrel cooling systems: quick detachable air-cooled barrels, forced air cooled barrels (Lewis type), and water cooled barrels. Those machine guns were designed either with bottom feed (using box magazines) or with top feed (using box or pan magazines). Besides the infantry machine guns, fitted with tripods, Fedorov and Tokarev also produced tank and aircraft installations with twin and even triple guns in single mounts. This systematic development pre-dated actual adoption of similar systems by more than 25 years

6.5mm twin tank machine gun based on Fedorov avtomat and produced in 1922

6.5mm experimental twin tank machine gun based on Fedorov avtomat and produced in 1922

6.5mm Fedorov-Degtyarov light machine gun with water-cooled barrel, produced in 1922

6.5mm Fedorov-Degtyarov light machine gun with water-cooled barrel, produced in 1922

Experimental Fedorov-Degtyarov light machine gun with air-cooled quick change barrel and a 50-round pan magazine, produced in 1923

6.5mm experimental Fedorov-Degtyarov light machine gun with air-cooled quick change barrel and a 50-round pan magazine, produced in 1923

PS: technical description and basic specs of the Fedorov avtomat can be found at this link:

PPS: a special note about the term AVTOMAT (АВТОМАТ). In Russian terminology, this term refers to an automatic weapon in general. In small arms “avtomat” is officially defined as the “automatic carbine”. To put this term in perspective, the “submachine gun” (пистолет-пулемет) is officially defined as the “avtomat firing pistol ammunition”.

Therefore, the term “Avtomat” should not be considered as a synonym for “assault rifle”. In fact, the latter term should be dropped from scientific consideration (apart from its historical context in conjunction with few automatic rifles or carbines actually called “Sturmgewehr”), but this is a topic for a separate article.



Max Popenker

Max Popenker is a long-time firearms enthusiast and semi-amateur firearms historian from Russia. His primary interest is in automatic firearms, their evolution and use. He wrote a number of books on the subject and maintains a Modern Firearms website at http://world.guns.ru


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  • Don Ward

    The excitement as a TFB reader when you see that Max Popenker has written an article about the development of the Federov Avtomat Rifle!!!

    • Don Ward

      I am certainly learning some new things with this article and there is a lot of information here that has been presented in a way that I haven’t considered.

  • Leave it to Max to set the record straight.

  • David Lowrey

    I would love to see one reproduced and tested, thanks for the excellent article BTW.

    • ostiariusalpha

      Tested? The Fedorov Automat is a bit of a clock compared with the self-loading rifles that came after it. Max wasn’t kidding about its durability issues.

  • Paul White

    Can someone that knows small arms history explain the fixation that militaries had on 30 caliber and larger rounds? They seem to invite logistical headaches vs smaller rounds like 223s, the 6.5 family, etc

    • Max Popenker

      simple answer: “machine guns” and “specialty ammo”, especially between the wars.
      The bigger the bullet the easier is to make special rounds like tracers or AP or API
      Also, during inter-war period standard targets for infantry fire included not only enemy personnel, but also cavalry (horses) light armored vehicles and airplanes. All required more punch to disable than a human being, so larger bullet is a plus, as well as improved long range ballistics for MG use
      Evolution of aircrafts, armored vehicles eventually limited small arms fire to mostly human targets, but then again, there were issues with industrial capabilities in regard to making smaller-caliber ammo and barrels;
      Germans and Soviets kept their service calibers for intermediate ammo (7.9 and 7.62mm, respectively) exactly for that reason, despite the fact that ammo in 6.5-7mm caliber range would be balistically more optimal

      • Paul White

        thanks!

        I have to admit I wasn’t even thinking of ballistics, just how heavy and bulky individual rounds were

        • jcitizen

          Colonel Hatcher always said the 6 to 6.5 mm round was the optimal caliber for warfare; however even the Japanese dropped it when field reports came in, and logistics became a nightmare. It was just simpler to use the 7.7 mm far all LMG, bolt rifles, even some heavy machine guns.

          • Small arms ammunition is so contextual that I don’t think you can say “this is the best caliber”. For example, a shorter-ranged rifle round would be appropriate for a fighting force that expected longer-ranged combat to be taken up by heavier weapons at higher levels of organization (e.g., artillery, mortars). For a force that expected its infantry to operate independently of those, however, perhaps a much larger round would be necessary, something closer to 7.9mm German.

            Add to this the nature of small arms suppression and lethality, which are both very complex and difficult to study, and it’s really very difficult to make a statement like “I feel this is the best caliber for infantry small arms”.

          • jcitizen

            It is not difficult to offer my opinion – hence the word “feel”. We now have powders that can launch a small intermediate sized cartridge at 3000 fps or better out of a 10″ barrel. Wildcatters in Eastern Colorado have been doing it for a few years now. They regularly hit out to 300 yards. This chemistry is a game changer to the smaller calibers. I have no doubt that a longer heavier 6.5 mm bullet at high velocity could out perform a larger caliber obsolete version. Still just my opinion, as I can’t prove it. I do know these guys in Colorado are having success. They are using single shot TC pistols with 10″ barrels and shoulder stocks. Since this powder does not increase pressure beyond what a 5.56 mm M855A1 generates, it might even work with the same shell. This is accomplished with a flat pressure profile, instead of a large spike. Basically it is like having your own accelerator or “rail” gun.

          • I think you’re making a few errors in your assessment. Some that I would identify would be:

            – What a handloader can achieve within a certain pressure does not reflect what is possible for a mass produced round that is expected to be made in the billions of units per year.

            – Higher performance almost always comes with associated costs, for example a higher performing 6.5mm round will weigh more than a round of 5.56mm, or may burn barrels more than 7.62mm.

            – Very high performance large caliber (~.30″+) are absolutely feasible. No caliber has a monopoly on slick low drag bullets with a clean sheet design.

            – Slower burning powders have many disadvantages, including higher muzzle pressure that makes them unsuitable for military weapons (due to flash and blast concerns). Anyone advertising a true “plateau”-shaped burn curve with a self-contained cartridge is exaggerating or lying, because in order to do that you have to actually pump propellant into the chamber during ignition.

            All of this skirts around the problem of caliber configuration, as well, which is another subject entirely.

          • jcitizen

            Actually they achieve this with a special two part propellant, from what I read in one of the first American Rifleman reports. I assume the faster burning kernels burn first and then the slower later. I’m told by many wholesalers that this is already being used in some popular calibers now. Since the acceleration is more gradual, the wear and tear in the barrels is not statistically significant. It was primarily chosen by wild cat enthusiasts that wanted to use shorter barrels, but now it is used to attain higher velocities with less deleterious side affects. It was all the news a few years ago, but apparently it is old news now, and I never read articles about it any longer. Yes you could simply use larger calibers, but I’d have to read Hatcher’s report again to remember what all he thought was superior about that, beside cross sectional density ( which I’m just pulling out of my hat). The over all ammo weight would seem to be a more important feature, just like in the present M4 round.

          • Blended propellants are nothing new, and they don’t give you a “plateau”-like burn curve. They’re also not very suitable for military ammunition.

            The idea that the wear and tear on the barrels wouldn’t be significant just because initial bullet acceleration is not as high is bunk, as well. Most barrel wear is due to the heat transferred from the propellant to the barrel, which would be roughly the same for blended propellant loads as for mono propellant loads.

            The other thing you’re missing is that the largest component to ammunition weight is the projectile, and after that, the case head. Being able to use a smaller propellant weight and corresponding volume is fine, but if you’re doing that with bullet that’s twice as heavy as M855, and with a bigger case head, you’ll still have much heavier ammunition (very likely at least 50% heavier).

          • jcitizen

            Thanks for your time in this discussion – I’m pretty sure that article pointed to a longer flatter pressure curve – when I was in the artillery our barrels would wear out faster with high velocity ammunition, we were apparently misinformed by our training at Fort Sill. – I was thinking of a bullet weight in between 100 and 62 grains much like the Grendel; but if blended propellants are not satisfactory in combat conditions, I must quit dreaming. Obviously the Army is headed my direction in many ways when you look at the history of the ammunition development of the 5.56 mm. Many surprising design changes have led to the M855A1, and I look forward to more. Whether my brainstorms are based in something that can actually be realized is not immediately apparent to me, until I find out otherwise. I used to do a lot of things people said couldn’t happen when I was younger, but I have neither the time, equipment, or the money to pursue them now. Thanks again for you contribution here!

          • Hey, no problem, I’m happy to. Thanks for reading.

    • wetcorps

      Maybe it comes from black powder rounds which were originally very large due to the properties of black powder (45-70, 11 mm Gras and such).
      When smokeless came along they discovered they could go smaller, but given the slow evolution maybe going .223 from the start seemed too radical.
      Also they were more focused on long distance engagements, as seen with old rifles sights going from 300 to 2000 meters.

      • Paul White

        I’ve always kind of assumed any sights over 500ish meters were mostly used for volley fire; I’ve tried to use some and man, the front post basically covers a man sized target and then some at those ranges

    • The_Champ asked the same question a while back in the comments of my article “In Search of the Goldilocks Round”. Here’s what I wrote to him:

      That’s a very interesting question, and deserves a longer answer than I can give here. It seems that there was a “race to the bottom” before 1905 for small arms calibers during the round-nosed bullet era. Cutting-edge smokeless rounds were developed in 6.5mm, 6mm, and even 5mm calibers. Even the United States experimented with a .22 cal round based on the .30-40 Krag in 1895.

      This makes sense, as smaller caliber rounds can attain higher velocities while still retaining good sectional density, thus leading to flatter-shooting, faster-firing rifles. This was a very attractive concept for designers envisioning combat between large groups of riflemen happening at ranges beyond 1,000m. He who hits more, faster, wins. The same principle is at work today in long-range practical shooting competitions, where 6.5 and 6mm caliber rounds based on the .308 or .284 cases rule the day.

      So, many ~.30 cal rounds come from before 1905. Examples of this being the .303 British, 8mm Lebel, 7.62x54R, 7.9mm German, and others. These rounds were “behind the curve” so to speak, as they were designed when ~.30 cal was the hot new thing, and subsequently designers moved on to even smaller calibers (although it should be noted this did not happen simultaneously everywhere, e.g. the 7.62x54R and 6.5 Carcano both date to 1891).

      This is a fine theory, until one considers rounds like the 7.35mm Italian, 7.7mm Japanese, 7.5mm French, and others, all designed in the 1920s and 1930s, well after the “small caliber revolution” had hit its stride. Well, in the early 1900s, requirements changed against small caliber rounds. New types of ammunition needed for new targets, such as tracers, armor-piercing, incendiary, and spotter rounds greatly favored larger bore .30 caliber ammunition, and the introduction of the Spitzer in 1905* meant that the large caliber rounds could be just as if not even flatter shooting than the previous round-nosed smallbore rounds, while being more versatile. Further, the new spitzer bullets were just as light in the bigger calibers as the old small-caliber round noses (e.g., the 154gr 7.9mm S Patrone, vs. the 162gr M91 6.5mm Carcano), and had comparable recoil.

      *The French invented the pointed supersonic bullet in 1898, but so far as I can tell kept it secret. It was the German Spitzgeschoss of 1905 that was extremely widely copied by almost every major power.

      So, by the end of World War I, requirements didn’t favor a specialized long-range smallbore round, but a larger-bore caliber more capable of penetrating armor, shooting down balloons and light aircraft, and accommodating a healthy amount of tracer material. Combat ranges during WWI were also much lower than expected, with the average engagement range being not so different from what it would be in World War II. Therefore, although an even longer-ranged, flatter shooting smallbore round could be made with spitzer bullets, the ~.30 caliber rounds were just as flat-shooting over the ranges actually found in combat. The French 7.5mm and Japanese 7.7mm rounds were designed around these kinds of requirements.

      There are several transitional rounds that more completely illustrate this, two of which are from France and Britain, respectively. The .276 Enfield of the early 1910s was roughly equivalent to today’s 7mm Remington Magnum, and shows us an attempt to introduce a powerful, flat-shooting round with a spitzer bullet that could outrange anything else on the battlefield. A very modern cartridge for the era, designed around requirements that were already by then obsolete. The French 7mm Meunier was another great example of this, being broadly similar. Both were cancelled with the outbreak of World War I, although a reduced-power 7mm Meunier variant was produced in limited numbers during that war. After the war, both the French and British abandoned this concept, now clearly obsolete.

      One final piece of the puzzle to add: The United States nearly adopted the .276 Pedersen (a cartridge a little less powerful than today’s 7mm-08) in the early 1930s, however objections were raised against it on the grounds of it having poorer armor penetration than then-current .30 cal armor piercing rounds. While the rejection of the .276 Pedersen had much more to do with logistical concerns than armor penetration (the reduction in armor penetration was widely seen as acceptable, for rifles), that there were concerns illustrates that a certain level of capability for the new round types was expected that the smaller bores could not match. Interestingly, the 7.62x51mm NATO, originally called “.30 Light Rifle”, seems to have been developed in some sense as an outgrowth of the .276 Pedersen, with its caliber increased to solve the armor penetration deficiency! There’s much more to the story than that, and I’ll get into it with my next Light Rifle installment, but it’s an interesting footnote.

  • Kevin Harron

    Excellent article Max. Thanks!

  • ostiariusalpha

    None of the names in general circulation that are applied to weapon classes are all that particularly insightful or scientific, they just tend to sound cool as shorthand (Nate has pointed this out numerous times) for a set of features and functions that are often lacking consensus even in military and firearms engineering circles about their exact parameters. Even designations that are generated from within military ordnance institutions can be almost as misleading as they are helpful. When you have to explain that Автомат is an abridgement for the category of individual carbines with full automatic fire capabilities that don’t utilize rounds as powerful as the 7.62x54R, you’re already on the slope to obfuscation. Yet that classification of sub-7.62x54R automatic carbines is itself perfectly legitimate and rational as a metric of performance that can be used to compare & contrast with other types of firearms. The same goes for select fire individual carbines with detachable magazines that uses an intermediate cartridge (for the expedient of discussion, I’ll arbitrarily define this as any cartridge with a COL between 40-67mm and producing muzzle energy between 1300-2800 joules from a 460mm barrel), which the term Assault Rifle doesn’t really convey in any meaningful way; Battle Rifle being another particularly egregious examples of

    • Max Popenker

      In Russian terminology Avtomat means “automatic carbine” and only just that; It does not have ANY reference to cartridge type. As a consequence, the 7.62x54R Tokarev AKT-40 (a rare select-fire carbine version of the SVT-40) could be properly classified as “автомат”. Its definition also does not include any mention to type of magazine; therefore, if someone would build a select-fire “tanker M1 Garand” it still would be eligible for “avtomat” classification 😉

      • Given the existence and method of use of the short-barreled SCAR-H variants, this still makes loads more sense than “assault rifle”.

        Also, it’s easy and intuitive to define, unlike “assault rifle”.

        • ostiariusalpha

          But how intuitive is it really? The performance difference between an assault rifle with a 51mm barrel or 41mm barrel is much smaller than that between, for instance, the Ohio Ordnance HCAR and the Fedorov.

          • More intuitive than making a new student’s eyes roll over in their sockets with abstract talk of muzzle energies, cartridge overall lengths, and standard loads from a predefined barrel length.

          • ostiariusalpha

            If they are an engineer or interested scholar, I seriously doubt that the very much concrete discussion of measurable performance and dimensional features is going to give them fits.

          • Not everyone is an engineer or scholar though. These definitions exist in part to create a framework for non-experts to work with.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Yes, that’s right, but most non-experts are comfortable with using the terms infrared, ultraviolet, and microwave without greatly concerning themselves about particulars of what exponent of the hertz scale it belongs to (yes, I keep returning to my spectrum metaphor). In the same way, even if the parameters of what pricisely makes an Assault Rifle or Intermediate Cartridge are of a technical nature, they’re still perfectly fine for casual use.

          • Which is why “assault rifle” works well enough, until people start bickering over what is or isn’t one.

            Casual use of it in that way makes it virtually identical to “avtomat”, as well.

          • ostiariusalpha

            The way I see it, there isn’t as many problems with categories that are based more purely on function & features. At the very least, Автомат sums up nicely one of the key features of this class of small arms (though I still think it’s rather broad, but that’s more of a quibble) without trying to pigeonhole it into a specific role, which is always going to be a nebulous proposition. The role-based classifications are not only misleading, but often not what the weapon is actually used for in many cases. A PDW, like the P90 or MP7, is generally been used more often by special units of law enforcement and the military for assault operations than as an emergency backup by rear echelon troops. And the Assault Rifle is so much more general purpose for uses aside from offensive tactics, that the name does no favors in clarifying why this sort of firearm even exists; any firearm can be used in an assault. There’s no real justification for the original term Sturmgewehr either, other than it just sounds friggin’ cool. And then there’s everybody’s favorite ol’ chestnut, the Battle Rifle, which is so vague as to be completely useless for summing up a distinct group of rifles with closely shared performance characteristics.

          • Maschinenkarabiner should correlate virtually exactly with avtomat.

            I’ve pretty much beaten this subject to death. “Assault rifle” doesn’t really introduce any issues if it’s used properly, and so long as the definition isn’t allowed to obfuscate the actual capabilities of the weapons in question.

            Where it becomes a problem is when people try to figure out what the “first” assault rifle was, as just one example. That commits the twin sins of meaningless rules lawyering and the application of anachronistic context.

            Ironically, neither does accepting the MP.44 as the first assault rifle help, either, as that frames the conversation in a severely Germanocentric light. Since that’s what most people do, I take the time to try to break it and get people to think outside the box about these subjects.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Heh, it’s sadly funny that you mention lawyering, because even though I’ve avoided bringing it up, that’d what makes this hairsplitting rather important quite outside of my own analytical engineering interests. If you don’t develop clear definitions for classes of firearms, then someone else is going to do it for you; and then hand it to governmental authorities who will turn it into a legal definition. An SBR is about as clear & simple a class of firearm as the Автомат, and just about as broad: any firearm with an overall length less than 26″ and a barrel under 16″, with the design/modification/intent that it can be shouldered (e.g. a stock). Yet, just like the Автомат has the issue of defining what a carbine is, so does the SBR have to deal with the nature of what makes something a stock. If the firearm has a brace for the forearm on it, then it isn’t designed/modified/intended to be shouldered; but the moment you do try to both place it against your shoulder and fire the gun, it mystically becomes modified into an SBR until you break contact with your shoulder, whereupon it again returns to its former self. Yes, it would be nice not to have to pick over semantics except for the casual fun of it with everyone, and especially not with lawyers, bureaucrats, and politicians, but that’s not the world we live in.

      • ostiariusalpha

        Right, that is why I only included a magazine definition in the Assault Rifle classification. Yet, honestly, how many Russian firearms engineers or scholars really think the AKT-40(SKT-40) is an automat? I’m sure you might be able to convince them that it’s a reasonable term, but do they look at an SKT-40 and just naturally call it an Автомат?

        • Max Popenker

          You see, by education and mindset I’m an engineer. And if there’s a thing that every engineer has to adhere to, its an industry standard. In Russia (and before that in USSR) we had a wide range of GOST – State Standards. Among others there’s a GOST called “Small arms. Terms and definitions”. It’s not ideal, but fairy logical and i certainly see no reason to invent new terms that blur boundaries between various classification subclasses even more.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Perhaps, but that particular definition seems to be so overly broad as to be virtually useless. The PPSh-41 is the same class of weapon as the hypothetical M1 tanker just because they’re both carbines?

          • Why shouldn’t they be? After all, they are both carbines, and they both fundamentally would do approximately the same job.

          • Max Popenker

            yes, they are essentially in same classifications:
            One: Firearms -> Long guns -> Rifles -> Carbines (short rifles)
            Another: Firearms -> magazine fed -> automatic (select-fire)
            Caliber or type of cartridge would be a separate classification.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Thanks for your reply, Max. The criteria you’ve layed out for classifying a firearm as an Автомат are just fine and legitimate for an ordnance department to keep things tidy. But that leads to another question: what is the Russian GOST criteria for defining a carbine? In general usage from the past, a carbine has simply been the shortened form of any already established long arm. So, if a rifle has a 700mm barrel, then the version of it with the barrel shortened to 560mm would be its carbine; a rifle with a barrel shortened from 610mm to 500mm is a carbine, and so on. The Fedorov and Kalashnikov aren’t shortened versions of another rifle though, so what criteria did the Fedorov meet that its 520mm barrel qualified as a carbine? Is it just because at time 520mm was a popular length for carbine versions of standard issue rifles?

          • Max Popenker

            carbine is officially defined as “lightened rifle with shortened barrel” (with no references to any particular weight or barrel length as dividers)
            This works fine for AKT-40 or M1891/44 carbines that were derived from the rifle; but in the case of SKS it becomes more complicated 😉

      • guest

        In Russian terminology Avtomat means “automatic carbine”

        No it does not. It literally means “automatic” and in is used in an equally broad spectrum as the word itself: in WW2 a PPSH was also called “avtomat”, and equally a full-size AK would be called an “avtomat” today as well as an extremely short-barreled select fire 9×39 chambered weapon.

        As for AVT – well, V and T stand for Rifle and Tokarev respectively, and A did NOT stand for “avtomat” but “avtomaticheskaya”, so again a paradox, but it was definately never classified nor called an “avtomat”.

        • Max Popenker

          you know, it’s hard to argue with State Standard.
          http://i64.tinypic.com/24fky1d.jpg

          • guest

            True, but that GOST is not from the time when Avtomat Fedorova was designed and fielded, neither is it from the WW2 era when no country was really sure what an “assault rifle” exactly is.
            Furthermore the scan you show here has a next item number 37 one notch down: “Submachine gun (“Hangun-Machinegun”): An Avtomat in which by design is intended to fire handgun cartridges”

            That is a a terminology clusterf*** right there: a submachine gun is NOT an assault rifle by any definition. And furthermore it goes to show that the word Avtomat (as I wrote previously) was in fact used to describe a submachine gun, amongst other things.

            Furthermore, since the definition of an Avtomat is “an automatic carbine” (where again, it should have been written “fully automatic fire” or “select-fire” to clarify things), we can also look what the definition “carbine” means, and that same GOST specifies: “A lightened bolt-action rifle (or just “rifle”, “vintovka” is another ridiculously ambiguous term) with a shortened barrel”.

            Well, if the term “pistolet-pulemet” entails an “avtomat”, and “avtomat” entails a “avtomaticheski karabin”, then by looking at this text alone an Avtomat could JUST AS WELL be almost anything, including a light machinegun, or a submachinegun with an untraditioal pistol cartridge etc.

            TL;DR
            this entire terminology is completely messed up. My my point, though a hair-splitting nitpicking one, is still valid – russian gun terminology did not evolve logically and this govt standard is the very proof how deep the problem goes. If you add WW2 and pre-ww2 definitions, it just gets worse.
            Вот так вот.

          • Max Popenker

            let me put this short: there’s no such thing as “Assault rifle”, neither in GOST nor in my own opinion, except for the Stg.44 and handful of other rifles specifically and formally called as such (like, say, Stgw.57 or Stg.58, both being somewhat ironic)

          • guest

            Yeah, there is not, duh – because it’s replaced by the ambiguous and very loose term “avtomat” which as I said and pointed out can mean anything from a submachinegun to an LMG (again, as per the GOST terminology). Plus to add another classification besides Avtomat in russian terminology would confuse things beyond belief.

            And while that may have been a fitting term for Avtomat Fedorova for the very simple reason that no similar weapon existed at the time and more importantly because it was NOT designed as an LMG nor did LMG/SAW as a concept even exist at the time (except for BAR. Maybe), the term “avtomat” did not fare well in the long run because of its universal application.

  • Don Ward

    Whinging over arbitrary definitions like “assault rifle” aside, an article like this shows that the Russians/Soviets far from being cliched stereotypes who prefer quantity over quality, and needed captured German technology to advance, were instead well aware of and capable of making modern rifles early in the 20th century. You take a look at those prototype designs pictured from the 1920s and designed by Federov and it takes little imagination to see how the Soviets were able to apply the lessons from these Avtomats in order to make modern rifles like the SKS and Kalashnikov in the 1940s, which would see action in seemingly every conflict in the late 20th Century.

    • ostiariusalpha

      LOL! I’d like to think my comments are more directed at provoking an honest, thoughtful dialog about how the mix of terminology from engineering, ordnance departments, and even frankly from crass marketing create this interplay that is reflected in how we commonly refer to different kinds of firearms. I’m not trying to one-up Max & Nate to “prove” that I’m right and they’re wrong, I respect their opinions as subject matter experts that have spent considerably more time than myself thinking about the nature of firearms and I’m very much interested in their reflections on some points that I feel mildly skeptical about. If that comes across as just nit-picking, or whingey, then I apologize. It certainly isn’t going to hurt my feels that not everyone appreciates why I’m pushing these points, I’m well aware that this discussion is not going to lead to a cure for cancer or peace in the Mid East. But, I will point out that how “Soviets were able to apply the lessons from these Avtomats” had nothing to do with the technological innovations that Fedorov used in his rifle. In fact, his mechanical design is an orphan that none of the succeeding weapon designers borrowed in any way for their own guns. The true inspiration that Simonov, Kalashnikov, and Elizarov’s cartridge design team took from Fedorov are those very abstract and arbitrary elements that are the basis for why they chose the performance metrics for the 7.62x39mm, SKS, and AK.

      • My preference is for the semantic arguments to end. However, regardless of what you or I do, they won’t end, so I’d rather try to break some of the established (and wrong) narratives than sit out.

      • Don Ward

        Whether the Avtomat directly led to latter weapons based on their operating system is kind of irrelevant. The fact is that the Russians were as early as 1915 and into the 1920s producing semi and fully automatic rifles with high capacity, detachable magazines that were relatively light weight and man portable.
        Which completely flies in the face of the Soviets being a bunch of hapless orcs who had to steal SUPERIOR TEUTONIC WEAPONS in order to produce their later weaponry. Not only were the Soviets producing the weapons, they were using them in a tactical setting in actual combat. And they were doing so long before the much vaunted Sturmgewehr was ever around.

        • TJbrena

          The technical term is actually KRAUT SPACE MAGIC.

          I like to imagine Bizarro-TFB has extensive posts on such subjects.

          Maybe Nathaniel F. could write a scholarly joke post for April 1st? Being serious about silly things is usually pretty funny. A prime example of this is the discussion of the economics and politics of Thomas the Tank Engine that took off a year or two ago.