British supply of rifles and ammo to the Russian Army, pt. 1


The British National Archives keep some very interesting information about guns and ammunition. A particular document deals with the supply of rifles and small arms ammunition to the Russian army in 1915, during WWI, no doubt to be used against the Kaiser troops. … Id=7954054

As it is known that the Soviets disposed of many of the old guns and ammo in their inventories by selling them to the Spanish Republican goverment in 1936-1939, I am interested in knowing more about that material supplied to the Czar in 1915. I am sure you all can help, so I am enclosing some excerpts from the cited document:

Japanese 6,5 mm cartridges usually don’t have any headstamp, but what about these cartridges assembled in Britain from Japanese components?

If the Japanese themselves were sending rifles and cartridges to the Russians in 1915, then not all of the stock of Japanese material in the hands of the Soviets came from the Russian-Japanese war of 1904, as I believed.


You obviously have not read my book on the Arisaka rifle in British service (bad boy!) which is Part 1 of a series of four “British Secondary Small Arms 1914-1919”.

That gives full details of both the Japanese supplied ammunition and the British made rounds which were supplied to Russia. To answer your question, the 22 million sets of Japanese components loaded by Kings Norton Metal Co. had no headstamps as they were Japanese service cases. However, they can be identified by the three pin stab crimps securing the bullet.

Kynoch and Royal Laboratory Woolwich made some 600 million rounds of 6.5mm in 1916 and 17, the great majority of which went to Russia.

That document is a summary for the Cabinet, although the Cabinet Minutes also have some details of shipments to Russia.



I’d recommend all of TonyE’s books and come to that, the books of Tony Williams. Both IAA & ECRA members.


The sheer volume of ammunition shipped explains why Russia was looking at the 6.5x50mm as a possible automatic rifle cartridge in the 1920’s. Bolotin’s book doesn’t make this very clear. I thought it was more or less a desire to use an existing cartridge rather than develop a new round in order to deal with the limitations of the then-current designs.


BerdanIII, Russia used the 6.5 Arisaka already in the 1916 model of the Fedorov rifle because the originally developed cartridge in 6.5x57 was not fitting the industry which was ordered to produce only 3-line rifle cartridges (7.62x54R). The 6.5 Arisaka was on hand and got used.


"because the originally developed cartridge in 6.5x57…"
Something else not covered in the book. So the desire all along was to use a 6.5mm round and the 6.5x50mm was picked because it placed no burden on exisiting ammunition manufacturers? An odd way of picking a service round, but in war anything goes, I guess.


For the Federov the 6.5 m/m Arisaka was by no means a bad choice. In addition to already being available in Russia, it had a light recoil impulse and muzzle blast and the ammunition had a relatively light per round weight. For a selective-fire rifle it was about as good a choice as was available off the shelf in 1916. It’s interesting to compare it to the .276 cartridge J. D. Pedersen developed for his semi-auto rifle a decade later. Jack


Or conversely, consider what an “assault rifle” in 7.62x54mm would have behaved like. Rather like the ill-chosen 7.62x51mm was when the original goal was for an assault rifle cartridge. No rifle in either of these calibres was successful in burst or full auto fire, too heavy recoil, waste of ammunition.



Gravelbelly: I couldn’t agree more. Jack