Vintage Saturday: No Such Thing as Overarmed

Well, Leszek in Poland has been sending us a bunch of great vintage photos, so I’m not going to have to dip into my own stash for a while:

Russian soldier armed to the teeth (PPSh-41, 1895 Nagant, hand grenades)
“You talkin’ to me? Are you talkin’ to me?”

Yeah, you might not want to let this guy find out about your German heritage. Note the early PPSh-41, the brace of 1895 Nagant revolvers (who knows how many more of those are under the coat), and the hand grenades. Plus what appears to be a belt of 8mm for a ZB-37 – if he didn’t look so twitchy I’d like to ask him what that was for.

Leszek notes that the three middle grenades are early F1 models with particularly tricky and unsafe Kovyeshnikov fuzes.


  1. OK, easy, I’m not going to hi-jack the site, really. Just a small pointer – the belt is a regular Gurt 33/34 for MG-34 and 42, as the ZB-53 belt holds the bottom of case rather than mid-section here. Plus, it is connected with pins not wire springs (in the full-metal version, as the earlier featured cloth belt with pressed-on metal fittings.

  2. Hahaha! I love it, wish I knew what happened to him, I think I’ll print this out. Dude looks like one badass brother!

    It is nice to see he has an anti-tank grenade too. I can imagine him clinking and clattering as he walked along.

  3. Leszek –

    Was this man AK (Home Army, anti-Nazi partisans), PRL (Polish Communist government), or WiN (Freedom & Independence, anti-communist partisans). I just bought “Zolnierze Wykleci” (Doomed Soldiers) and was astounded to find out that WiN fought the PRL into the 1960’s. Lots of photos of the equipment used, including rare (to us in USA) prewar Polish weapons.



  4. Leszek-
    Thank you for this great photo, and thank you Ian, for posting it on your blog. He looks so young. I wonder if he survived the war.

  5. Thanks, Leszek and Ian, for posting this photo! Now that I think of it, photos of early PPSh-41s with rifle-type sights, are not that common.

  6. You have to wonder how much -weight- he was carrying around. PPShs aren’t that light and everything else he has on… People complain about combat loads now days. How about no food and all ammo?

    • My grandfather (RKKA) said he tried to avoid drum magazines. He “lost” his helmet too. The weight loss was made up with grenades. Disclaimer: these are his recollections 50 years after the fact.

  7. is that a 1895 nagant revolver in your coat, or are you just happy to see me…
    seriously, thats quite the load-out for a single soldier or anybody for that matter. wow! i wonder if the poor guy has any room for rations, gotta keep your strength up to lob all that seemingly heavy equipment around.
    very awesome picture, by the way, thanks for sharing it.

  8. A few thoughts —
    about a third to a half of the PPSh’s we had in Arms Room 4when we used to teach it in SFQC had the rifle type sight. The rest had the simplified sight. Is there any nation that didn’t simplify weapons to meet the demands of war production? (MP38->MP40, M1928->M1 TSMG, M3->M3A1, Sten MkI ->Mk II — although we’ll grant that the MkIII and V were going back the other direction).

    I wonder if Leszek knows any of the background to the photo. I’m thinking some kind of irregular because I see no insignia, unless there is lace of some kind on his right sleeve?

    There are US Civil War photos like this, and in those, the guy is often posting with guns the photographer’s studio had as props.

    The US and UK ran guerillas in Eastern Europe until circa 1957, although the Polish operation wound up earlier. Think there’s some stuff on the operation in the unclass version of Studies in Intelligence, available online.

    The big mamma jamma is an AT grenade. RGD-1 maybe? Not were my references are right now. To me the interesting one is the one with the frag sleeve. Soviet ‘nade doctrine at the time specified both offensive and defensive grenades, generally blast and frag grenades respectively, and at least one of them had a removable frag sleeve so the same grenade could do double duty.

    An offensive or frag grenade might be thrown when you and your buddies were in the open, on an assault. A defensive grenade was thrown from a trench, foxhole or other covered and concealed defensive position. It is very very easy to score an “own goal” with frag grenades.

  9. Makes sense given that its 1 SMG with maybe a spare drum (142 rounds) a couple of revolvers that can’t be reloaded in combat (12 shots basically) and 5 grenades. Its looks like a lot but isn’t really. This is a little less than a modern load out. The only differences are two pistols and lack of decent web gear

    I’d like to know the linked ammo belt though.

  10. Just a hunch…but couldn’t this guy be Polish Home Army? They used whatever weapons they could lay their hands on, as I understand it, German, Soviet, and anything else they could lay their hands on. Stalin made sure most, if not all, died in the Warsaw Uprising, by refusing to allow resupply to them…the murdering ####!!!!

  11. Is he Polish at all? Isn’t he a Soviet soldier?

    And come on, guys! It’s just a photo to send home! Nowadays you can be photographed like that in the course of your daily life, but back then it was an occasion. This is a (field) studio photo, and the guy beefed himself up with all he could find (and made a face to suit the loadout) just to show folks back home just how good he is fighting for his Motherland, whatever it was – I would prefer not to discuss Polish dislike for Russians. (Incidentally, that’s also what the photographer would have wanted to show if this was a photo for press).

    It’s the same reason people made sure their expensive watches, personal weapons, ceremonial weapons, medals and insignia showed up nice in the picture. They took pride in it.

  12. Some humorists-commentators can’t realise that this is staged photo. I could see his willing to fight. Oh, excuse me, the natural fear to Soviets prevent you to see.

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