POTD: An Invader With A Russian Rifle

Nathaniel F
by Nathaniel F

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nathaniel F
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. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.

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  • Nils Nils on Oct 10, 2015

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

  • Markrb Markrb on Oct 10, 2015

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