M1870 Russian Berdan II  Infantry, Dragoon & Cossack Rifles:

GENERALLY:  The Russian Berdans (M1868 Russian Berdan I and this rifle) were designed by General Hiram Berdan, a prolific designer who also designed the Spanish Berdan system (see Russian Berdan I)  This rifle is a bolt action pattern with a comparatively small bolt which acts as the rifle's sole locking lug, locking against the split bridge receiver as so many bolt action arms of this period did (e.g., Gras and Beaumont).  It fired a 10.66mm Berdan primed cartridge (see note @ Berdan I).  Sights are graduated in Russin arshin.  The rifle was initially built in England, and later by the Russians at several Imperial arsenals when they received appropriate machinery and were up and running.

The Russian Berdan II Dragoon rifle was issued to mounted infantry, that is, infantry which was "horse-mobile" but who's tactics were not to fight from horseback.  This rifle is is very similar to the Infantry rifle, being only slightly shorter and identifiable by the sling slots through the wood of the forearm and butt, rather than the more conventional swivels of the infantry rifle.  See photos linked below.

The Berdan II Cossack Rifle is another variant pictured below.  The Cossack model is readily distinguished by it's button-like trigger and was employed by cavalry units, whose tactics were primarily fighting from its horses.

A carbine variant was also built and issued for gendarmerie and light cavalry units but I don't have information on the carbine.

In Finnish Civil War of 1918, troops stationed in Finland still had Berdan rifles warehoused and some 2nd line troops continued to employ the Berdan II.  During this conflict, newer rifles were not always available in needed numbers, so Berdans saw limited use on both sides.  As the Finnish military was not interested in the obsolete Berdan, in 1919 some 2.500 were issued to Suojeluskunta General HQ.  When Suojeluskunta obtained modern rifles the Berdans were returned to Finnish Army stores.  It appears that the Finns retained the Berdan rifles in store until scrapping them started at 1945.  In 1955 the remaining 1,029 were sold abroad, mostly in the US throught surplus arms dealers.  The Russian military never sold off any of their Berdan rifles and they were presumably scrapped.  This accounts for the small influx of Berdans into the US in the late 1950's from Finland, their universally mis-matched bolts, and the relative scarcity of Berdan II rifles, considering that well in excess of 3,000,000 were manufactured between 1870 and 1891.  The Carbines and Cossack rifles were declared obsolete by the 1920's and virtually none made it into the US.  Dragoon rifles were included with infantry rifles and received the same fate as them, which accounts for the small number of Dragoon pattern arms occationally seen in the US.

PHOTO: The rifle shown is a M1870 Russian Berdan II Infantry rifle manufactured by the Imperial Arsenal in Tula.  Rifles were also manufactured in Birmingham England (small initial order) and at the Imperial Arsenals in Izhevsk and Sestroryetsk.

DISTINGUISHING CHARECTERISTICS:  The rifle is very conventional looking for single shot military bolt-actions of this period except for it's slender bolt and very short, small pear shaped bolt handle that, when fully cocked, turned only at about 45 degrees and not the 90 degrees seen on virtually all other bolt-actions.  It is a long rifle (965mm overall) and most examples carry cryllic markings on the top of the barrel adjacent to the serial number ahead of the knoxform as depicted in the photos below.  The top of the knoxform is stamped with the Russian Imperial Czarist eagle with cypher.  The inspector's cypher is punched on the barrle, receiver and other parts.  Dragoon & Cossack Rifles are distinguished above and via pics below.

For additional Information on Russian Rifles please see:     www.russianwarrior.com

                                                                                         and:  http://www.jaegerplatoon.net/RIFLES5.htm



The Russian Berdan II bolt at full cock, ready to fire.

The Russian Berdan II bolt fully retracted, ready to load.  Sight is up.

Business end.  Note unique rod, the adjustability of the front sight (unusual in a military rifle of this age, 1870) and the long range sight pin affixed to the right side of the front barrel band.  The volley sight is a later addition.

More M1870 Russian Berdan II photos

Selected M1870 Russian Berdan II Markings  (text & photos)


The M1870 Russian Berdan II Dragoon Model
Photo and text Credit:  http://www.jaegerplatoon.net/RIFLES5.htm

MORE M1870 Russian Berdan II Dragoon (text & photos)


The M1870 Russian Berdan II Cossak Model
Photo and text Credit:   http://www.jaegerplatoon.net/RIFLES5.htm


Page built February 7, 1999
Revised September 26, 1999
Revised February 19, 2002
Revised August 24, 2003