M1856/69 RUSSIAN ALBINI-BARANOV
(орострельная винтовка системы лейтенанта Баранова)
(Rapid-firing rifle of the Lieutenant Baranov system)
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A M1858/69 Russian Albini-Baranov with early “short” tangent rear sight. Photo Credit: Вевеляй's (Vevelyai's) photos from https://forum.guns.ru
Note to Visitors: This rifle, along with the M1856/69 Russian Krnka and the M1868 Russian Berdan I were all developed more-or-less concurrently over the same several years, hence this HISTORICAL CONTEXT section as well as the bulk of the DEVELOPMENT section will have substantial similarities for all three rifles.
Peter the Great’s rule, from 1696 until his death in 1725, was a great turning point in Russia when, by virtue of Peter’s reforms, a strong trend of European influence developed, gradually replacing the earlier influence of Byzantium and the Tartars. Catherine, wife of Peter III (Peter the Great’s grandson), succeeded him in 1762. She had been an obscure German princess but eventually proved to be one of Russia’s most successful leaders and, by the end of her reign in 1796 was called Catherine the Great. Catherine continued westernizing Russia, introduced French culture into Russia and greatly improved education of the Russian nobility. She extended Russian territorial gains through additional conquest,, making Imperial Russia one of the great European powers. In early wars with the Turks, Russia gained a firm foothold on the Black Sea for the first time. During the Napoleonic wars Russia used the power of its winters to bleed Napoleon white and Russia became the leading player in the coalition between Austria, Prussia, Great Britain and Russia which led to Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo in 1815.
The death of Alexander I in 1825 brought Tsar Nikolas I, one of Russia’s most reactionary Tsars, to the throne. Nikolas persecuted large segments of his population, suppressed publications, forbade foreign travel and generally tried to eliminate progressive thinking and reverse the westernization of Russia. However, Alexander II (1855-1881), Nikolas’ son, reigned principally as a reformer freeing the serfs, providing allotments of land establishing local legislatures and reforming the legal system. Unfortunately, revolutionary pressure continued to build and in 1881 Alexander II was killed by a terrorist bomb in the center of St. Petersburg. This generated a new era of repression lasting through the reigns of Russia’s last two Romanovs, Alexander III (1881-1894) and Nikolas II (1894-1917).
As the Ottoman Empire was breaking up, France, Great Britain and Russia all had interests in the Ottoman territories. The rivalries among these countries reached its climax in the Crimean War (1853-1856) where Russia fought an alliance consisting of France, Great Britain Sardinia and Turkey. The Russians sued for peace in 1856 giving up Bessarabia (part of present day Romania ). Twenty years later Russia again went to war with the Turks attempting to regain Bessarabia and, although they defeated the Turks (see M1866 Turkish Winchester and M1872 Turkish Peabody-Martini ), British and Austrian forces interceded forcing Russia to give up most of its gains.
Failing to make any gains in Europe, during the late 1800s Russia turned toward the east, expanding Russian territory during this period and eventually bringing Russia and Japan into intense competition, and eventual war in 1905.
Despite having a less well developed industrial base than the rest of Europe, Russian small arms development during the 1800s followed the European example of a combination of purchasing arms abroad and manufacturing arms at home. Russian military setbacks during the early-mid 19th century demonstrated to the Russians that their large caliber “7-line” (.70 cal) smooth-bore muskets were woefully obsolete, lacking in both accuracy and range, and forcing the Russians to adopt somewhat “reduced-bore” muskets with rifled barrels, leading the adoption the M1854 and related M1856 to M1860 "6-Line" (.60 caliber) percussion rifles.
The Crimean War taught the Russians the value of rifles over earlier smooth-bore muskets and the Russian command quickly began to re-equip its troops with rifled small arms. In a short time, The Russians were able to both manufacture domestically, and to acquire from abroad, a huge number of muzzle-loading rifles of the 1855-1856-1858 series.
Like every single European nation at the time, the Russians paid close attention to the swift Prussian victories of both the Danish-Prussian War of 1864 and the even more astonishing Austro-Prussian War of 1866, popularly referred to as the Seven Weeks War, in which the breech-loader armed Prussians in quick succession soundly defeated both the Danes and the Austro-Hungarians. Most observers in 1866 attributed these victories to Prussian breech-loading rifles, ignoring that Prussian organization and logistics were fully superior to that of their opponents, a hard lesson that France would belatedly learn four short years later in 1870, when the French were then armed with the clearly superior M1866 Chassepot, for what little good it did them tactically or strategically. Nevertheless, these two quick Prussian victories and the US Civil War revealed to the Russians the need to urgently yet again adopt entirely new arms by replacing their relatively new muzzle-loading arms with breech-loaders.
The fastest and most economical method of replacements in such quantity would be to convert Russian rifle stocks rifles from muzzle-loading to breech-loading. There were already a host of such conversion methods extant from which to choose or at least from which to gain inspiration for domestic conversions: The Austrian Wanzl series, Belgian Terssen and Belgian Albini-Braendlin, British Snider and Danish Snider, French Tabatiere, Montenegrin Krnka and Spanish Berdan and American Springfield (using Berdan’s ideas) were only a non-exclusive list of functional conversions.
To the Russian Commission tasked with evaluating the various systems, that of Sylvester Krnka promised the most favorable cost/benefit for converting Russia’s large inventory of muzzle-loaders. It is not generally known, however, that in parallel with Krnka developments, a second project (widely considered by then contemporary Russians to be a domestic system) was also presented to the military department. In about 1867-68, the then director of the Maritime Museum of St. Petersburg, a previously unknown Lieutenant Nikolai Mikhailovich Baranov (rus: Николай Михайлович Баранов), first advanced his proposal for converting muzzle-loading rifles into metallic cartridge breach-loaders. His system was a virtual copy of the M1853/67 Belgian Albini-Brandlin rifle.
Even during this time frame, Russians Colonel AP Gorlov and Captain KI Ginnis (alternate Latin: Guniuom), together with American Colonel Hiram Berdan, were already well into the development of a smaller caliber (4.2 line 10.75mm) rifle, what would become the M1868 Russian Berdan I with its associated cutting-edge modern brass cartridge, although it was still at least a year before it would be acquired and fielded, and even then only in small numbers owing to challenges with establishing production in Russia. If the vast stores of Russian M1854 through M1858 andM1860 rifles were to be converted, they were going to fire metallic cartridges. But the main requirements for such rifles were necessarily simplicity and economy of the design with proper combat qualities.
Thus, in 1866 the Russians concurrently began the process of both researching a suitable modern purpose-built breech-loading rifle and exploring systems suitable for updating by conversion its large store of current muzzle-loading rifles to breech-loading systems. Despite the evidence of the potential superiority of metallic cartridges, this was not assured, and the Russians initially followed the lead of the Germans (Dreyse), French (Chassepot) and Italians (Carcano) by initially adopting the Terry-Norman and the Carlé paper cartridge ignition systems with which to convert its store of muzzle-loaders.
M1856 or 58/67 Russian Carle’.
Photo Credit: Scandalchris's Carle photos on Imgur.com
These were difficult to manufacture (only 90,000 had been produced by 1869) and of course proved to be obsolete even as they were being adopted. What was needed was a much simpler-to-convert system. As quickly as by 1868 metallic cartridges had been much improved and their advantages were now clearly evident to everyone.
In February of 1869 it was proposed that the conversions to the Carlé system be halted and that conversions to a metallic cartridge be substituted. Four systems were considered for mass conversion of Russian rifles: Those of Terssen, Albini, Krnka and the herein Baranov (substantially a slightly simplified clone of the M1853/67 Belgian Albini).
Top: American Allin-Springfield (a M1873 but substantially similar to the M1868 Allin)
2nd from top: Belgian M1853/67 Albini-Braendlin from which the Baranov was copied
3rd from top: Austrian M1863/66 Wanzl
Bottom: Russian M1868 Berdan I.
Photo Credit: User Pavlov's photo from https://forum.guns.ru
As a result of comparative tests, the Krnka was chosen over the other contenders but nevertheless both the Krnka and the Baranov went into production in 1869, the Krnka rifle becoming the main armament of the Russian army through the Crimean War and the Albini-Baranov entering service with the much smaller Russian navy. Formally, the Baranovs were replaced in 1870 by Berdan II rifles, but in fact they continued to be used through the Russian-Turkish war.
Top: The Russian M1856 6-Line rifle from which the Krnka and Baranov were both developed
Middle: The Russian M1856/69 Albini-Baranov
Bottom: The Russian M1856/69 Krnka.
Photo Credit: (unknown, info re: source is welcome)
Unlike much of Europe (but similarly to the United States), although there were numerous experiments and proposed alteration-to-repeater designs, Russia never adopted a repeating black powder cartridge rifle, transitioning directly from the single-shot M1870 Berdan II to the well designed and long-lived smokeless powder M1891 series Mosin-Nagant.
Yet another tale of military-industrial intrigue:
The well-known industrialist Nikolay Putilov (an important figure in 19th century Russian history!) was a former naval officer and he happened to be a friend of our ambitious Lt. Baranov. Putilov proposed the idea of producing and arming the Russian army with a rifle of his comrade Baranov's system. The actual production of such rifles would take place at his factory of course. Putilov was well connected and was acquainted with Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich, the future Alexander III of Russia and current Heir Apparent. Through Putilov, Alexander became friends with Baranov. Putilov and Baranov convinced Alexander to lobby for the adoption of the Baranov rifle. These efforts went so far that the heir personally, with his own funds, underwrote the manufacture of Baranov rifles by Putilov and moreover purportedly accused the Russian Minister of Defense, the well regarded Milyutin, of fraud because Milyutin was a supporter of the rearmament of the Russian army with Krnka rifles. The conflict was ended by Emperor Alexander II himself, who forbade the heir from interfering in the rearmament of the army! Nevertheless, Putilov did receive an order for the conversion of 10,000 M1856 rifles to Baranov-Albini breech-loading rifles, of which 9,872 such rifles were eventually produced.
Originally it was intended to remake both M1854 7-line rifles, stocks of which were already in the fleet, as well as converting the M1856 and M1858 6-line rifles. In early 1868, Baranov received rifles from the naval department for conversion. Most of these were 7-line models. Alteration experiments continued until the end of 1868, and in December, 1868, a production order was given to Putilov. It was assumed that the new rifles would go into service with the 1st Guards Infantry Division.
Putilov manufactured an initial batch of 1,696 converted Baranov rifles which were transferred to the Life Guards Semyonovsky Regiment. The rifles were well liked by the guardsmen, being recognized immediately as superior to their earlier experiences with the Terry-Normans and Carlés.
By order of the Tsar, the Baranov rifles were sent to the 1st Regiment of the Guards Infantry Division for trials, and a commission was set up again to discuss the regulations and test rules. The commission concluded that while the rifles were satisfactory there were insufficient Fusnot cartridges available, and that therefore the weapons must be located in only one place. The 1st Guards Semenovsky Regiment was selected.
In May, 1869, the Minister of the Navy, GA Krabbe requested of Field Marshal Barantsov that the naval department be supplied with with several thousand “rapid-fire rifles” (converted metallic cartridge rifles) for naval crews. These were requested because the navy was preparing to send three ships of the Pacific squadron sailing on long-term voyages and one ship to be deployed to the Mediterranean. The Minister requested rifles with metal cartridges that were approved for the Russian army as a whole, including all necessary accessories. The Minister of War responded that there was not a single approved Krnka or Berdan type rifle available, and even if such were available, in any event the rifle battalions would be armed with them first. In the end, in October of 1869, the Emperor himself decided to transfer the existing stock of completed Baranov rifles manufactured by Putilov to the naval department with their supplies of Fusnot cartridges, and all 9,872 rifles were handed over to the Navy, including accessories such as cases, bayonets, screwdrivers, wipers, stocks, molds for casting bullets and presses for extruding cartridges. The conversions with which the army was re-equipped were exclusively Krnka system rifles until new-built Berdan rifles (No.1 initially and then No.2 rifles in far greater numbers) eventually replaced these in front line service.
The M1856/69 Albini-Baranov rifle is a breech-loading, single-shot metallic cartridge rifle proposed by navy Lt. Nikolai Mikhailovich Baranov and eventually adopted for service into the Russian Navy.
The rifle was converted from muzzle-loading M1856 infantry rifle utilizing the Albini-Braendlin system for its receiver, breech-block and bolt and retaining the borrowed M1856’s stock, lock and trigger.
Views of an early production Russian M1856/69 Baranov conversion, with early short-leaf rear sight.
Photo Credit: Вевеляй's (Vevelyai's) photos from https://forum.guns.ru
Russian literature reports that the Baranov rifle had “10 significant differences” from the Belgian Albini rifle, but we have been unable to ascertain what those differences might have been outside of markings and the parts contributed by the parent rifle. By all outward appearance, the Russian rifle is a copy of the Belgian rifle applied to a Russian muzzle-loader
Baranov's conversion system did have a number of disadvantages which it shared with its Belgian twin such as an inability to inspect and clean the rifle from the breech, that spent cases were extracted but not ejected and that the breech-block had a tendency to open spontaneously when the rifle was tipped over past the horizontal. But the rifle was strong and relatively simple, and when undertaking conversion from muzzle-loader to metal cartridge breech-loader the lock, stock and barrel as well as hardware were all retained, with only the hammer and receiver being new-made.
The rear sight for the Baranov rifle was initially set to 600 steps (the short-leaf rear sight) but later a "high sight" for 1200 steps was adopted for service. The production of cartridges for the Baranov rifle was established in the workshops of the Maritime Department, which fully covered the need for them. A Veltishchev bullet was later adopted for the Baranov cartridge, since the original Minie bullet, adopted for the parent six-line muzzle-loading rifles, turned out to be of a slightly smaller caliber and firing it gave unsatisfactory results.
The M1856/69 Albini-Baranov is, for all intents and purposes, a Belgian M1853/67Albini-Braendlin built onto a Russian M1856 6-Line rifle and carrying original and new Russian markings. Overall, its most distinguishing characteristic is the forward-lifting breech block locked at firing with a longitudinal pin attached to the hammer, exactly like the Belgian rifle, but sporting Russian markings.
Notable differences between the two rifles includes that the Russian rifle is fitted with a distinctive tangent sight, different from the Belgian rifle’s rear sight, the nosecap is significantly different being quite elaborate for the Belgian, and very simple for the Russian, and the lockplate is noticeably different in design and attachment to the rifle. Lastly, and immediately is that the Russian variant retains the lower tang finger spur from its parent M1856 Russian 6-line rifle while the Belgian rifle has no spur.
Left: A M1853/67 Belgian Albini-Braendlin. Right: A M1856/69 Russian Albini-Baranov
Baranov's rifle had a hinged bolt copied from the Italian-British Belgian Albani-Braendlin design, which itself borrowed from a line of forbears including the earlier Spanish Berdan, Austrian Wenzl, American Allin going back to Mont Storm. The production version had a new external hammer and receiver, along with a lock, stock, barrel, sights and hardware donated from a Russian M1856 muzzle-loader. Its operation was identical to that of the Belgian M1853/67 Albini-Braendlin, and reference is made to that rifle’s webpage regarding additional operating information.
At the breech of a Baranov rifle the chamber was reamed to accept the new metallic cartridge, the barrel was threaded and the new receiver was screwed on. The breech-block was attached to a hinge at the top of the receiver, and pivoted up and over forward to access the chamber. The back-action lock and trigger were borrowed from the parent M1856 rifle and were conventional but fitted with a new-made hammer attached to a longitudinal bolt which passed through a channel cut in the rear receiver which, on firing, locked the breech-block closed and struck the spring-loaded striker housed in the breech-block, which concurrently struck the primer firing the cartridge.
For loading and firing a shot, the trigger was cocked withdrawing its connected bolt from the breech-block allowing the block to be flipped up and open. A new cartridge was then thumb-pressed into the chamber and the breech-block lowered, seating the cartridge completely in the chamber, and the rifle was ready to be fired.
After firing the hammer was cocked withdrawing the locking bolt and the breech-block was flipped up. On opening, the breech-block contacted the protruding ribs of a pair of hook-shaped extractors on either side of the face of the breech-block, pivoting with the breech-block and camming against the rim of the spent cartridge case pulling it out of the chamber. There was no ejection mechanism and the shooter had to finger out the spent case or roll the rifle to drop it out, similar to the action of the British M1866 Snider.
Views of the Baranov Breech-block partially and fully opened (below). Photo Credit: (unknown, info re; source is welcome)
Among the shortcomings of Baranov's design, as distinct from the Belgian Albani-Braendlin were that there were breakdowns of the hammer-striker assembly; when turning the rifle on its side at an angle exceeding 90°, with the trigger fully cocked (that is, the bolt withdrawn from the breech-block), the breech-block would spontaneous fall open. The earliest Baranovs had a locking mechanism on the stock that prevented the breech-block from opening, but when production was established, this element was eliminated, simplifying conversion but to the detriment of reliability.
The lower photo illustrates the early Baranov breech-block operating lever with integrated locking device. This feature was eliminated on production rifles. The upper rifle in the photo may not have been a M1856 as it's upper sling swivel is located on the upper band, unlike that of the M1856s. Interestingly, the rear sight leaf has been rotated to face forward to make room for the opening breech-block, and the sight sidewalls have been modified to accommodate the open breech-block. Production Baranov rifles do not appear to have utilized this option.
Baranov rifles maintain all of the markings of their parent M1856 6-Line rifles, being lock-plate markings of original armory and manufacturing date, barrel markings and brass barrel band and buttstock markings, except for those markings that would have appeared on the barrel tang, if any, which was removed during conversion.
Lockplate of the donor Russian M1856 6-Line rifle converted to Baranov. Credit: User Pavlov's posted photo at https://forum.guns.ru
SPECIFICATIONS, STATISTICS & DATA
Caliber: 6-Lines 15.24x40R (15.24mm) mm.
Overall Length: 1300 mm (51.2 in)
Barrel Length: 910 mm (35.8 in)
Sights: Pivoting leaf dating originally from the Russian M1843, initially with a short leaf set to 600 meters, later re-sighted with a long leaf set to 1200 meters
View of a later production M1856/69 Baranov fitted with the long-leaf 1200m rear sight leaf. The rear sight leaf has been reversed from it's donor M1856 mounting, presumably to clear the lifting breech-block of the new Baranov conversion mechanism.
Credit: User Pavlov's posted photo at https://forum.guns.ru
SHORT RIFLES, CARBINES AND SPECIAL VERSIONS
The Baranov rifle was issued with the triangular socket bayonet of the donor Russian M1856 6-Line rifle, exactly as described for the Russian M1869 Krnka series rifles, and reference is made via this link to that webpage on this site for more extensive information.
Bayonet of the donor/parent M1856 Russian 6-Line rifle, carried over to the Baranov. Photo Credit: (unknown, info re; source is welcome)
As discussed above, ultimately the army was re-equipped with Krnka conversion rifles, the fleet with Baranov rifles. While the branches seemed satisfied with this result (the needs of the small Russian navy being much smaller than that army) the selection commission did demand that the cartridge be the same for both rifles. Perhaps surprisingly, this was not so easy to achieve. At first, both rifles were supposed to accept a cartridge like a four-line Gorlov-Gunius rifle (i.e., the Berdan I, which given the Baranov’s caliber, should have been about equal to the 15mm Spanish Berdan cartridge). But for unclear reasons, perhaps manufacturing limitations, this turned out to be impossible. Dedicated cartridges were designed for each rifle.
The parent rifles of the Baranov and Krnka (M1856) had the same barrels, rifling and bullets. And yet, although the Baranov and the Krnka were both specified to be chambered for the same cartridge, the specific cartridges proposed to be used by Baranov were designed by Fusnot of Belgium while Krnka used cartridges designed by Berdan for his proposal. Ultimately, each rifle was adopted to use these specific cartridges for their individual rifles.
For actual Russian production the Krnka utilized a six-line cartridge with a compound sleeve made of brass tape with an internal primer cup designed by TF Gan. It was improved by S. Krnka, and called the Krnka-Gan cartridge. Initially for Baranov ammunition production this was settled on a copper sleeve with a brass outer cup. But composite sleeves had a number of drawbacks including poorly fitting sleves, cracking, oxidizing and quickly deteriorating. This pure copper design was soon abandoned and cartridges began to be made only from brass.
To further add interest to the mix, Baranov ammunition was produced in two types of cartridges for the rifle - with a Veltishchev bullet and a Minni bullet. Initially, components (cartridges and primer) were ordered in Belgium at the Fusnot factory, then the production of cartridge cases for the needs of the navy was set up at the Admiralty Izhora plant.
We have been unable to find any photos of a definitely identified Baranov cartridge. As nearly all went to sea with the Russian navy, such a cratridge would be exceedingly rare. This photo shows what appear to be a pair of Krnka cartridges, although the slightly different cartridge might possibly be one of the Baranovs. Nevertheless, externally the cartridges will be intentionally nearly identical. Photo Credit: Mechanik@www.cartridgecollectors.org
9,872 Baranov rifles were known to have been produced of an official order of 10,000 conversion rifles.
Note that possibly all 10,000 rifles ordered were actually manufactured, however the only records that we could locate regarding production reference the transfer of these many rifles, being “all Baranov rifles”, to the Russian navy, so for sure at least these many were built.
UTILIZATION BY OTHER COUNTRIES
There is some speculation that M1856/69 Russian Berdan rifles may have been transferred to and utilized by the Bulgarian navy, but other than a reference to such a rifle having been stolen from a Bulgarian museum during the break-up of the Soviet Union, we can find no other references to the utilization of the Baranov by any other countries.
We did find the following reference to the intermediate fate of the Baranovs:
“. . . Baranov's rifles were replaced by 4.2-line rifles mod. 1870 ("Berdan system No. 2"). The obsolete Baranov rifles were transferred to the Kherson seafaring classes.”
PREDECESSOR & FOLLOW-ON RIFLES
Predecessor Rifle(s): Russian 6-line muzzle-loading rifle of the 1856 model served as the basis for the conversion into the Baranov rifle
Russian M1856 6-Line rifle
Follow-On Rifle(s): Formally, the rifles of the Baranov system were replaced in 1870 by the Russian M1870 Berdan II, but in fact they continued to be used by the Russian navy until after the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878.
The mass-produced Russian m1870 Berdan II
We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of:
Кадушкин Вадим (Vadim Kadushkin) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Владимир А. Рыбалко (Vladimir A. Rybalko) (email@example.com)
for help with information on this page.
https://ibis.net.ua/post/skorostrelnaya-vintovka-sistemy-leytenanta-baranova/ [Last accessed Nov, 2022]
"Small Guns" by V.Markevitch
Ручное огнестрельное оружие русской армии конца 14-18 веков Л.К. Маковская
Page started March 10, 1999
Revised April 15, 1999
Revised February 19, 2000
Updated: Nov 7, 2021
Updated: Dec 16, 2022