Fedorov – The First Assault Rifle?

Today we have a couple more galleries of Russian Fedorov rifles, both from Russian museums. One set comes to us from our friend Hrachya, and the other is courtesy of DishModels.ru. The Fedorov is interesting for being often considered the first military assault rifle, using the strict definition of that term. Is it really? Well, maybe. It’s a select-fire design using detachable magazines, but it’s a bit of a stretch to classify the 6.5×50 as an intermediate power cartridge.Me? I think it’s a coincidence that it comes so close to fitting the definition. It’s much closer to guns like the Farquhar-Hill, Scotti X, and Mauser 1916 Selbstlader in style and intent rather than the M2 Carbine or MP44. What do you think?

Fedorov - the first assault rifle?
Fedorov - the first assault rifle?

Historically, it is interesting to note that the Fedorov was initially designed for a proprietary 6.5mm cartridge designed by Fedorov himself, but ultimately adopted in 6.5×50 Japanese. You can see all our Fedorov photos and a video of Fedorov disassembly over on the Fedorov page in the Vault.

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  1. I always thought the Springfield Rifle with a Pedersen device would be considered the first assault rifle.

    • Considering the twin facts that the .30 Pedersen is only somewhat more powerful than .32 ACP, and that the Fedorov was earlier, I think the answer is no.

  2. If you guys think that 6.5 mm Arisaka is an assault rifle cartridge, then you must agree that 6.5mm Carcano must also be considered so. If so then I would say that first assault rifle was Cei-Rigotti, as it was designed much earlier than Fedorov rifle and was chambered in 6.5mm Carcano.
    In my opinion first gun which was designed intently to fill the gap in firearms family (between SMGs and full power rifles), with it’s own intermediate cartridge was StG 44 (or maybe Ribeyrolle???).

    • Worth noting that the Fedorov is typically quoted as being the first assault rifle to see service. The Cei-Rigotti was earlier, but it never saw service.

  3. Hrachya, I understand your point and I think we already discussed this interesting issue before. I do think the first gun actually designed to fill the intermediate niche you mention was, for all intents and purposes, the Ribeyrolle automatic carbine and its proprietary cartridge.
    As for the Federov vs. Cei-Rigotti, I think the first main (or least one of its main) merit was the admission that a less powerful round was desirable, hence the design of a proprietary Federov 6,5 cartridge and the later adoption of the 6,5×50 Arisaka (mostly due to pragmatic considerations). As for the Cei-Rigotti, maybe the mild recoil of the 6,5×52 Carcano cartridge prompted any experiences with less powerful cartridges. So, in that regard, the Italians were just a small one step behind Federov.

  4. Ruy
    Exactly , we had a nice discussion earlier. This question seems to be endless to discuss 🙂
    Ribeyrolle …perhaps…again, pay attention how French appear to be really “prolific front-runners in arms design”, as Ian said in one of previous posts.

  5. Essential in my view is the comparision to the >infantry rifle< of the time. The Federov
    -was much more compact
    -fired a round that developed much less recoil but at the same time was powerful enough to engage targets at 300 meters (considered the practical range limit for rifle shooting). This, the Ribeyrolle could not do.
    -allowed selective fire for close combat
    That Russian and especially Soviet army brass did not grasp the concept is another matter. The Soviets after 1945 even replaced the carbines 44 of the infantry squad with the SKS and the submachine guns with the AK. Quite a show of ignorance in the small arms field. But this does not change the fact that the Federov was the first gun to embody the characteristics of the assault rifle.
    In Germany the StG 44 had predecessors in the thirties already (Walther in 7 mm DWM and Vollmer in 7.75 mm Geco), firing short cartridges.

  6. More Battle Rifle, Like the FN-FAL, or the M-14 then assault rifle…6.5×50 is a SWEET shooting caliber by the by.

  7. No,
    I disagree,Federov is automatic rifle becouse of its rifle round and it cannot be considered as assault rifle..

    The true first assault rifle is STG44 Sturmgewehr and developmant of its first intermeditary round 7,92x33mm round…

  8. The main criteria of an assault rifle is its implementation. The Federov was designed as a cost effective machine gun for an empire that had a limited supply of Maxims and facing a losing war. The design was commissioned because of Russia’s lack of machine guns in the war. The style of warfare brought about by the assault rifle wasn’t widespread, or even experimental much with, in Federov’s day. It would have been issued as a light machine gun, and as the original post said, any similarities to true assault rifles are only coincidental. Maybe its use in the Winter War and later WWII would allow it classification as an assault rifle, but not it’s WWI use.

    • It is my understanding that Fedorov specifically designed the Avtomat as an infantry weapon, and chose his 6.5mm, and later 6.5mm Arisaka, as a way to achieve controllable full automatic fire with a relatively powerful round. This makes the Avtomat unquestionably the first assault rifle to see service, even if the Russians tended to use it as a light machine gun most of the time.

  9. The more authoritative sources I’ve read on the Avtomat suggest that Fedorov intended for it to be a lightweight automatic infantry arm for general use. Care was obviously put into choosing a lower-power cartridge to aid in controllability, while still maintaining good long-range hitting power. This seems to definitely qualify the Avtomat as an assault rifle to me.

    In recent years, as people have begun to feel bitter towards 5.56 and the SCHV concept in general, we’ve seen a number of replacement assault rifle cartridges proposed. One such cartridge is the 7×46 Murray. It fires a 130 grain bullet at 2600 feet per second. The 7x43mm British of the early fifties fired a 139 grain bullet at 2450 (later 2520) feet per second. A number of proposed recent 6.5mm cartridges fire bullets of weights between 120-145 grains at speeds between 2450-2650 feet per second. The 6.5mm Arisaka, from the Fedorov’s barrel, would produce about 245o feet per second with a 139 grain bullet, putting it well within the range of an “assault rifle” cartridge, especially from the 10lb Fedorov. Had Fedorov wished to design a light machine gun, why wouldn’t he have simply used the much more powerful 7.62x54mmR that was already in service?

    • I second that – the designer’s intent, the usage concept matters the most. Fedorov’s name is evoked so often precisely because he went to great lenghts seeking something that much later became the assault rifle (not LMG). Of course, I’m leaning here on the opinion of more mature enthusiasts and scholars – such as Nathaniel.

  10. Hi

    I don’t think Federov 1916 is an assault rifle.

    You need to see the reason for his development. Federov, before, searched a semi-automatic version of the Mosin Nagant for a new infantry weapon. No more than 140 prototypes were made.

    In the process, he noted that it was impractical to use a stronger caliber gun in automatic fire. Should reduce the power gauge, so he opted for 6.5 x 55 mm Japanese, because the stocks captured during the war with the Japanese. With Federov 1916, automatic fire was controllable by size and by the weight of the gun.

    But that was not designed to replace all mosin Nagantas. The Federov 1916 was used as a support weapon in the Russian civil war and war with Finland. In these wars it was used as a personal weapon because who carries a light machine gun (which is heavy) can’t take another individual gun of the same caliber.

    After the revolution, and the emergence of the USSR, the Soviets wanted to back a new weapon for the infantry.

    Federov took part in this process and showed an improved version of Federov, the model 1928. He had a series of refinements, but now used the 7.62 x 54R and had a magazine for 5 rounds. This new weapon has followed the model semi-automatic rifle, not an assault rifle. Because from the beginning was conceived as a rifle capable of automatic fire.

    This does not mean it is an assault rifle because of the assault rifle also have automatic fire.

    Well, that’s my opinion about it.

    Regards from Brazil.

    P.S. – Sorry about my english.

  11. The first assault rifle is clearly the danish Weibel m.32 in 7x44mm. It is a selective full auto rifle, sometimes seen with a bipod. Is has a 20 round magazine for the 7x44mm cartridge, witch it fires at a muzzel velocity of approximately 810mps with a 8 g. projectile. Very similar to the british 280 for the EM2.
    It was however never adobtet by the danish army. See fotos at:

  12. Interestingly, Federov also designed a few LMG derivatives of his 1916 Avtomat, one even fitted with a water cooling jacket… These experimental guns were made in very small numbers for trial purposes by the end of the Russian Civil War. Federov went even further to design a light dual machine gun for tank use fed by top mounted magazines. As for the original M 1916 Avtomat, I am with Nathaniel.
    @ Jesper Bak: wasn’t the Danish Weibel m.32 intended as a light support weapon too? Or was it intended from the start as an automatic infantry weapon for general use? Was it really designed to replace the Danish Krag bolt-action rifles?

  13. Well, the Weibel probably was intended as a light support weapon, as well as an assaultrifle. There was a version without the bipod too, and with only about 4,2 kg and a lenght of 83 cm, it must indeed have been very light as a support weapon.
    I also have read on the net, that it has been sugested, that the Weibel was intended as a light support weapon, although in Denmark it is normaly refered to as a replasement for the Krag. What is the truth, we probably never will know. I haven´t been able to find any mentioning of it in the armys arcives -but there must be some…
    There also exist a submachinegun version in 7,63 Mauser.

  14. @ Jesper Bak: Yes, the Weibel seems to be an enigma, even in Denmark. Still, it never went anywhere beyond army trials. The sub-machine gun seems interesting. Do you have more details?

  15. @Ruy Aballe: Yes, I have the armys ballistic-report for different gunpoweders, as well as several engineering drawings of guns and cartridge. At the moment I´m not able to upload them, due to no scanner. The inside job looks a lot to me, as early winchester selfloaders… I can´t see what type of delaying device they use. One of the only writings about it, sugest that it looks a lot like the mekanisme of the later Walther Mkb 42W, however I can´t see the comparison.
    I have also taken some fotos, but only of the outside of the gun.
    The submachine gun has a very interesting sholderrest on the folding stock, which is a round knob.
    I have tried to get a permit to examin the two or tree guns at the “Tøjhus museum”, but they are in a rather large relocation of there stock, so I was not allowed -yet.

  16. @Jesper Bak: thanks for the details. These are most welcome! Still, the Weibel “assault rifle” doesn’t look a very ergonomic design, at least judging from the photos available at the Museum. It lacks a handguard, among other things, and everything about it seems to scream “light support automatic gun”… To be honest, the contraption looks very much like a (very) light machine gun, and not a rifle, unlike the StG 44 experimental predecessors developed by Walther and Vollmer in Germany by the mid-30s, mentioned above by JPeelen, the Avtomat Federov M 1916 (in its production version) and a couple others (the Ribeyrolle was closer to a SMG imho). Now that you mention it, I think I also saw a photo of the submachine gun somewhere, maybe also at the Museum’s website. We look forward to hearing more on the Weibel designs!

  17. @Ruy Aballe: You have a god point in the missing handguard. I have thought about that, especially in a cold climate, it is a problem to hold on the bare metal. Also the bend sholderstock, indicate that you can rest your left hand in the light machinegun manner, however the submachine gun has the same bend sholderstock.
    As well, there is written “Light machinegun”, on some of the engineer drawings, but then again, on others the writing says “Automatic rifle” even though that they almost looks the same.
    On one of the drawings the sholderstock is strait.
    Thanks for your assessments!
    By the way, do you know what type of delaying device, the Winchester semi-auto blowback cal.401, designed by Thomas C. Johnson (commercial self-loader)use. Is it a type of tilt-lock, that is activated by the gas-system?

  18. I see so many modern guns, both Soviet and world, that look like they took some design features from this gun. THE TWO BIGGEST. THE SVT-40, and the SKS.

  19. BAR was first real attempt at a “Assault Weapon” as it was designed for a walking assault in WWI against Trenches, MG Nests, etc. Only later was it turned into a Squad Machine Gun. Yes, it was a Battle Rifle Caliber (30.06) But it was the IDEA behind it and its use that made it aN “Assault Weapon”.
    Just as the Thompson SMG was originally called a “Trench Broom”, was thought to be used as a weapon to attack trench fortifications.
    How ideas change later, in WWII.

  20. I would say the first assault rifle was the AK-47.
    The Red Army had already come out with the idea of units armed with full auto weapons. The Red Army infantry manual states targets can be engaged at a range of 300 meters this when the Red Army only had burp guns like the PPsh and PPS 43 shooting 7.62X25. This round no doubt drove the Red Army to get a more effective round, the M43 7.62X39. The SKS carbine comes out to use the new round and replace the 41 and 43 sub guns. War ends in which no doubt the short comings of the SKS are discussed. Low fixed ammo capacity, lack of automatic fire, difficult to reload. So the AK47 is brought in as a replacement for the SKS armed companies and later the bolt action companies (The SKS and Mosin going to support troops).

    Problem in defining the first assault rifle is defining what it is used for.
    Red Army comes first with the idea of units with full auto weapons shooting at battle sight ranges.
    The weapons before the AK47 were like carbines or other special weapons, they were not looked at as replacements for the current rifle each nation used.
    My understanding is an attempt was made with the FG42, but once again it did not replace the standard rifle 98K. What is interesting about the M43 round is it probably was designed to be more powerful then the pistol rounds the Red Army was using with an understanding of the limitations the 54r round had as far as a soldier shooting it full auto. The Red Army may have understood how their pistol rounds were not giving them the kind of performance they needed during their prime operation time (Winter) when enemy cold weather clothing would give the enemy unintended limited protection from pistol rounds shot at 200-300 meter range. Unlike the American 5.56 which seems to have been adopted with an eye more on saving money then improving performance. The US starting with replacing the .30 cal with 308 based on “Good enough with new powder” and the 5.56 then being “Good enough” to replace the 308.

    • The term “Assault Rifle” is pretty much a straight translation of the German term “Sturm Gewehr”, several models of which somewhat predated Kalashnikov’s nifty piece of gear.

  21. I have a question RE: the caliber. This article, and others, state that the rifle was in 6.5x50SR Japanese/Arisaka caliber. I’ve read elsewhere that the caliber was 6.5Ă—51mm Fyodorov, a “proprietary” rimless caliber. Which is correct, and, if the 6.5Ă—51mm Fyodorov does exist what are its’ specifications and characteristics?

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