Fedorov Avtomat, The First Assault Rifle?


The Fedorov Avtomat – World War I The Fedorov Avtomat was a groundbreaking design that was ahead of its time. Developed by Captain Fedorov, first as a semi-automatic rifle, and then as a fully-automatic rifle, the Fedorov Avtomat was submitted to trials in 1913, and was finally adopted in 1916. The Fedorov Avtomat was a select fire, closed bolt rifle. It had a rate of fire of 400 rounds per minute, and weighed 9.7 pounds. It was chambered in the Japanese 6.5×50 Arisaka cartridge, which was plentiful, instead of its own specific cartridge as first proposed to cut down on development time. It was not deployed like a battle rifle or assault rifle as we would imagine today, but as a machine gun. It was issued to teams of a gunner and an ammo bearer. Due to Russia’s limited manufacturing abilities, the complex Fedorov Avtomat required hand fitting, so spare parts were few and far between, which meant that each weapon was only issued with one magazine. It had to load all 25 rounds via stripper clips. It was soon rushed into combat on the Romanian Front in 1917, just in time for the Kerensky Offensive. It was also issued to air crews in an attempt to replace other automatic weapons in use, such as the Chauchat. Accounts of its use were extremely positive, but in 1917 Russia dropped out of World War I, had a civil war ensued, making production difficult. It was used during the Russian Civil War by the Red Army, and production resumed after the communists came to power. Production continued until 1925 when the Red Army decided to stockpile all weapons that did not fire the standard domestic rifle round of 7.62×54 R. However, this was not the end of the Federov Avtomat usage. During the Winter War against Finland in 1939, the Red Army reintroduced the Federov Avtomat due to a lack of automatic weapons. It served well in the conflict but most if not all examples were scrapped by the Red Army after the war. In all, the Federov Avtomat was ahead of its time, and would have most likely contributed more to firearms development if political unrest and misfortune didn’t hinder its production and development. Very few Federov Avtomats have survived and only 3,200 were made. Some historians classify the weapon as the world’s first assault rifle, while others describe it as the assault rifle’s ancestor.

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