More On The Fedorov Avtomat

    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 (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:


    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. He can be reached via email at [email protected]