The First Russian Assault Rifle: The Fedorov Avtomat

Nathaniel F
by Nathaniel F

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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 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

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  • Alexandru Ianu Alexandru Ianu on Dec 19, 2015

    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 Secundius on Dec 19, 2015

    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...