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World at War: Soviet Infantry Weapons of WWII

Updated on July 2, 2013

Soviet Infantry Weapons of World War II

The Soviet Union in World War II

The Soviet Union entered World War II when Nazi Germany invaded during Operation Barbarossa the 22nd of June, 1941. This act of aggression shattered the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that had established non-aggression between the two ideologically opposite powers. However, there was always serious consideration between both nations that war was inevitable. Pre-War information reveals that both nations thought war was forth coming, and Stalin even hinted at this a month before the invasion, at the graduation ceremony of new Soviet Officers.

However, the Soviet Infantry was the key element of the Soviet theory of defense in depth and deep war theories. Soviet tactics provided for a tactical, operational, and strategic level of war (and was the first doctrine to add this 'operational' level as doctrine). Part of the Operational level was the use of partisans, and infantry to hold static lines in varying places to prevent the forming of a salient.

As a result, partisans, infantry, artillery/armor crews, and rear echelon troops were all expected to carry and use weapons. These weapons had to be competitive with German Arms for the strategy to even have a chance of winning. However, the Russians, at this point did receive serious material and armament support from the United Stated through the Lend Lease Program.

Soviet Tokarev Pistol

The Soviet Tokarev Pistol
The Soviet Tokarev Pistol | Source

Soviet Pistols

During the Great Patriotic War (the Soviet term for World War II), the Soviet Union utilized two pistols mainly on the battlefield. They utilized the new Tokarev TT Pistol, and the Nagant Revolver. This was a matter of necessity, as arms and armament were in short supply at several points during the war.

The Tokarev was the superior handgun, and utilized a 7.62 round. The Tokarev was designed in 1930 by Fedor Tokarev, and was created to fill the niche of a Semi-Automatic handgun for Officers. The ammunition it carried could be cross-loaded with many of the Sub-Machine Guns that the Soviet Union used.

The Nagant M1895 Revolver was  a relic and hold-over from the Imperial era. It was a revolver, and carried six rounds, of 7.62 ammunition. However, this ammunition couldn't be cross-loaded with the Tokarev or the SMGs used by the Soviet Union. This handgun was also issued to police forces throughout the Soviet Union, and was a common weapon for use by Partisans. 

Despite their differences, both were remarked for their power and their durability. The Tokarev continues to this day in service, though in a different form. 


Soviet Main Rifle

While not as numerous along the front as the Mosin-Nagant, the SVT-40 was a self-loading battle rifle that was issued in 1940. It was designed by Fedor Tokarev and based off of the designs of the SVT-38. Many of the world's nations saw that a Semi-Automatic rifle was the key to volume of fire and reactivity that infantry needed in fast-paced mobile conflicts.

When Germany invaded in 1941, the Officers were stunned to find that the Soviets had developed, and mass-produced a battle-rifle that was superior to their standard issue. However, as the war dragged on, the Soviets lowered and eventually ceased production of the SVT on the grounds that it was more expensive, and harder to train soldiers to maintain it properly. Thus, by the end of the war, the Mosin-Nagant had returned to prominent service, having been about 75% of Soviet Infantry Arms in 1941, and around 80-85% by the end of the war.

The SVT-40 utilized the 7.62mm round that could be cross-loaded with the Mosin-Nagant. 

Mosin-Nagant 1930

Soviet Rifle

The Mosin-Nagant production model of 1930 was the Main Rifle employed by Soviet Forces during World War II. It was apart of a legacy of rifles that went straight back to the late 1800s, and was known for its reliability.

The Mosin-Nagant was produced as a rifle version, with the afore-mentioned 7.62mm Rifle Cartridge, and was originally slated to make up 75% of an Infantry Division's compliment of rifles. This only increased as the war dragged on.

More importantly though, the Carbine was manufactured and delivered to gun crews, rear-echelon troops, and in all those places that it was required for a Deep War Doctrine of fighting. 

DP Machine Gun

Soviet Infantry Machinegun

The Dgetayrov Machine Gun, known as the DP, was the main squad support weapon for the Soviet Army during World War II. It had an impressive rate of fire, and chambered ammunition that the Soviet Battle Rifles used.

While the Soviets did use the machine gun extensively, it was used in attrition and defense support roles, to prevent an enemy from advancing, while rockets and tanks maneuvered past him. While the Soviets did employ rudimentary squad tactics, they utilized artillery support in advance of an attack, with the machine gun providing a secondary role. 


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    • MPChris profile image

      MPChris 3 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      After approximately a year, still no response. As far as this mysterious arctic convoy that was lost and accounted for more tank losses than any single battle, this can easily be dis-proven.

      While not an academic site, every figure I have ever read has been in in this range, so it is likely accurate. Note that total losses of all armored vehicles to convoys is 1600 units...and that is all armored vehicles, not just tanks.

      The Battle of Kursk itself ( had 6000 Tanks & Tank Destroyers lost on the Soviet side. This figure can be raised to 8500 if you include operation citadel.

      Whether or not Russia could have won without lend-lease aid is debatable. Remember, that by December 1st of 1941, the Russians had already fought and won the defense of Moscow, thereby ending the German Blitz. At this point, there was a limited lend-lease, but it was during the cash and carry iteration of the program. That is to say, presumably, they bought what they paid for. Even if the American Government had not had active policies to encourage lending/leasing, The Russians might have gotten at least supplies and vehicles from elsewhere. I think the American secondary market (dealing directly with American companies) would have been an the Soviets had a history of doing so before. Maybe Persia and Turkey for access to fuel and general supplies.

      Point being; I don't think any such arctic convoy existed. As for Wikipedia being sourced as an article; all the figures come from:

      Krivosheev, Grigoriy (1997). Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century. London: Greenhill Books

    • JPB0756 profile image

      Robert A. Joseph 4 years ago

      MPCris, ty. I appreciate your remarks. I am on the hunt,too. I have quite a bit of this material, just need to sort out locale, etc,; thx for your patience. Locale of info; I love ambiguity.

    • MPChris profile image

      MPChris 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Its not a problem, I was aware that the T-34 had lineage from the Christie; I meant from one of the statements above that T34s were already in service during the land invasion. At least 400 of the 1940 varaints were in Divisions, and up to another 6000 of the 1941 variants.

      But, dont stress. I am seriously curious about the sinking. I had known that one of the biggest lend-lease purchases by the Soviet Union was a merchant marine fleet, as most of their resources were located in the Baltic and had been sunk within the first two months.

    • JPB0756 profile image

      Robert A. Joseph 4 years ago

      I apologize for my ambiguity; those are unverified stats on both sets of tank losses; actual stats upon discovery in my "library," lol.

    • JPB0756 profile image

      Robert A. Joseph 4 years ago

      As I've previously stated, I'll have the stats on tank loss; sunk, 500, Kursk Salient,450plus, basically. The ship ,etc., is forth coming, so thanks for your patience. I've read that book. As stated earlier, and emphatically repeated now is NO T-34s would've been made(btw, it's a Christie tank) had the 7,000 U.S, tanks not been given to the Soviets. Have you heard of anyone named Winterbotham? Also, Irwin Rommel used captured Grants and liked them. I'll continue as promised, my young friend. My Dad was part of the original O.S.S.; REMEMBER, "THE VICTORS WRITE HISTORY."

    • MPChris profile image

      MPChris 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Alan Clarke (fmr Minister of Defense for the United Kingdom) wrote a great book called Operation Barbarossa. I would suggest you read it, there is one page, describing how in early July a German Company had gone into combat with two T-34s and a supporting infantry company. The German's called in a specialty Panzerschreck unit to deal with the T-34s, but not before they had held back several German Panzers (with higher kill ratios). The Officer was later to report that if the Russians mass-produced more of this tank, they would win the War. Speaking of mass-production, they did, and it was the most produced tank in WWII.

      No one denies the presence of American Lend-Lease. Russia was notably dependent upon the other Allied Powers not just for a breadth of industrial goods in quantity, but specific goods like Rubber. Its notable that the Jeep was used heavily, as were aviation shipments. In fact, there are numerous accounts of Jeeps being driven up through occupied Persia, crossing the border, and whole companies mounting up and heading to theater.

      However, the 1st Soviet Protocol for Lend Lease didn't begin until October 1st. There was credit extended (I think based upon some sort of gold deposit system) before this.

      I think its reasonable to assume that the Germans had lost the chance for complete and total victory, when Zhukov turned back the Germans at Moscow by December 1st. While this didn't assure an allied victory in Russia (yet), it assured that German victory would be via terms.

      " they would never have had the time to move their factories to "Tankograd," or whatever without U.S. armor, fact. " First, this is an assertion, not a fact. You have to give assertions, then prove them with facts. Your assertion is incorrect, because Chelybansk Tractor Plant (called Tankograd during the War) was built in 1933. You are probably referring to the fact that other plants had capital assets transferred there prior and during WWII. The largest component of 'Tankograd' was the Kirov Plant, which actually was moved in 1939 (link: ); which is before any iteration of Russian Lend-lease, or even before the lend lease act was passed (March 11, 1941).

      I've read somewhere that lend-lease to the USSR was around 11 Billion, while lend-lease to the UK was around 30 Billion. It is important to rember that 9 out of every 10 Whermacht killed were killed by the Red Army (paraphrased from Alan Clark; As stated, his book is well worth your read.

    • JPB0756 profile image

      Robert A. Joseph 4 years ago

      MPChris; I have failed to locate the pertinent info within the 24 hour period I ascribed myself, and I apologize. I will have all the stats you requested plus other relevant facts concerning subject matter. Excellent writing, and you seem to appreciate the Russian perspective. I will continue when I have those facts you want. Peace.

    • JPB0756 profile image

      Robert A. Joseph 4 years ago

      I will give you the specifics by tomorrow on that sinking, need to locate material. The Soviets claimed many things post WWII, however the truth is they would never have had the time to move their factories to "Tankograd," or whatever without U.S. armor, fact. Specs soon and thx for responding! T-34 was a design coup in response to superb German tanks; never would have even had the facilities or materials without U.S. tanks.

    • MPChris profile image

      MPChris 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks for the comment. I was unaware of any specific sinking incident. Could you name the incident or give account what port it happened near? Generally speaking, the Russians did receive armor support during lend-lease, but specifically eschewed the M3 Lee/Grant in favor of the T-34.

    • JPB0756 profile image

      Robert A. Joseph 4 years ago

      Nice work, interesting! As a poignant addend, the Soviets would have been OUT of their "Great Patriotic War," if not for F.D.R. The largest amount of tanks lost in battle were not from the famous German-Soviet armor clash at the Salient but when a U.S. cargo ship was sunk heading into a Russian harbor bearing Grant tanks made in the U.S.A. but given to the Soviets. Soviet weaponry, when it was needed, was American. No Soviet Union without the U.S.; remember, Churchill wanted the Germans (fascists) and the Soviets(communists) to destroy each other. Good writing, too; thanks for a fine work! U caught a follower, my friend.

    • handymanbill profile image

      Bill 4 years ago from western pennsylvania

      Good Article and well written. Very informative.

    • MPChris profile image

      MPChris 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks so much!

    • alwayscool profile image

      Quincy Harrison 5 years ago from Climax Springs, MO

      For some reason I can't really identify, I've always been interested in Soviet arms. I just had to say like the way you put it above, that they are tools, and despite my keen interest in the subject, I agree that to hold weapons like these in any kind of "high regard" is a mistake. Cool article, very interesting.

    • MPChris profile image

      MPChris 7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      They are tools, nothing more, nothing less. I think to hold them in high regard (either in pacifism or in perverted reverence) is to give them more power than they deserve.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Interesting article...even for an individual like myself who has never held a weapon in his hands....


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