ВИНТОВКА ХОЛОДОВСКОГО: RIFLE KHOLODOVSKII, M91 PROTOTYPE 1912-1916 By Matt Martin Translating, Editing: Alexander Neverov Additional Photos: Joe Leiper Publisher: Vic Thomas, mosinnagant.net Origins Following the performance of the Mosin Nagant Model of 1891 (M91) through troop feedback from the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and Russo-Japanese War 1904-05, the research and development branch of Russia's Main Artillery Administration (GAU) solicited input for the rehabilitation of the shortcomings of the rifle. Some of the main debilitating factors which were sought to be overcome were excessive weight, awkward handling, inefficient charging of the magazine, sighting system, inconsistent trigger and sear release, weaknesses of the bayonet, uncomfortable setting of the safety/cocking knob, and ergonomics of cycling the bolt. When compared to weapons development of other Western military powers, Russia lagged seriously behind in utilizing its native innovative research and design. Historically, they had relied heavily on foreign engineers to produce small arms system designs, blueprints and prototype testing. So at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, military planners shifted focus to look internally for creative design talent. In early 1912, the GAU directed the Artillery Committee (ARTCOM) to oversee projects of innovative design, and to work in conjunction with management at the Tula Arsenal. Management at the plant consisted of 15 officers, ten military institution graduates of the Mikhailovskaya Artillery Academy and five factory technicians. Tula was to work with inventor and Head of Artillery of the Odessa Military District, Lieutenant-General Nikolai Kholodovskii, in the development of a prototype rifle which would aid in the modernization of the M91. The specific goal of this project was to provide the Russian Army with the most technologically advanced infantry and cavalry rifles of its time. A similar venture, implemented several years earlier at the Izhevsk Arsenal, had already produced results from the design of the M1907 Carbine, with full scale production underway since 1910. The Tula Arsenal was chosen for the M91 project because of its previously noted excellence in engineering practices, and workshops with adequate tooling already existed at the plant. Therefore, it was deemed that standard production of infantry rifles could continue without interference from the prototype project. Lieutenant-General Kholodovskii's previous field experience, his ballistic tabulation contributions to the original M91 rifle research and development during 1890, and his strong connections with both the GAU and the Romanov Royal Family indicated that he should be well suited for the modernization of Russia's main infantry rifle. Thus, an extremely ambitious overhaul of the Mosin Nagant M91 was begun. Head of Artillery Odessa Military District, Lieutenant-General Nikolai Kholodovskii Commencement However, the progress for completion of the Kholodovskii Prototype did not culminate as smoothly as that from the Izhevsk Arsenal's 1907 Carbine counterpart. There was much infighting at Tula between ARTCOM and Kholodovskii, each blaming the other for delays in such things as inadequate design specifications and poor machining practices. Tula Arsenal chief designer VG Fedorov defended plant operations and blamed inventors, comparing the painstakingly slow integration of Kolodovskii's upgrades to that of his experience at the Sestrotyetsk Arsenal start-up, when only ten complete rifles were produced in the first year. But despite additional objections from the Tula Arsenal Director, Lieutenant-General AV Kuhn, there was enough promise in the proposed design changes for the GAU chief Lieutenant-General DD Kuzmin-Karavaev to place an initial order of 200 Kholodovskii Prototype units, 150 Infantry Rifles and 50 Carbines, for the cost of 2,000 rubles, in late March 1912. Proposals were also made to upgrade 4 million existing M91 Rifles with some of Kholodovskii improvements, such as the sight and bayonet systems, at further objection from ARTCOM, citing that the design systems had yet to be tested. Additionally, these existing rifles were already undergoing the the Konovalov rear sight upgrade, as designed for the ballistics of the 1908 spitzer bullet. Here, the entire prototype project seemed to stall until the GAU chief Lieutenant-General DD Kuzmin-Karavaev, and undoubtedly at the persistence of Kholodovskii himself, restructured the production orders to 288 Infantry Rifles for the additional cost of 3,000 rubles in May of 1912. Some of the design changes were of a radical departure from the standard M91 Infantry rifle. Among them, the barrel was shortened to a mid length between the Dragoon and Infantry rifles, and twelve flutes were machined along the length to provide for a lighter weight and faster cooling. Breech facing and throat reaming for the cartridge were moved forward in the receiver and barrel housing. The receiver was inletted to allow thumb clearance during stripper clip reloading. The trigger was advanced to a two-stage application, similar to that found in quality hunting and target rifles. The bolt was given a longer charging handle, a longer bolt head to accommodate the repositioned breech face, and the cocking knob was changed to allow more efficient safety application. The magazine follower arm was altered to deliver an exhausted cartridge warning. The sighting system improved battlefield zero setting for moving tarqet acquisition, and aiming in low light conditions. The stock was lightened overall with a bracket added for belt attachment, pillars introduced to bed the action, the buttstock drop angle was lowered by 3 degrees, and it utilized stacked discs under the buttplate for adjusting to a soldier's reach. And duralumin (known today as aircraft quality aluminum) was introduced for a hinged-clamped bayonet and many of the small stock parts, with the goal of weight reduction. Tula Arms Director, A.V. Kuhn Tula Arsenal However, production did not proceed in a timely manner at the Tula Arsenal. Kuhn noted extensive delays of design drafts and incomplete drawings from Kholodovskii. The necessary duralumin orders had not been placed. And initial pressure testing of the barrels resulted in ruptures due to poor elastic limits in metallurgy and cross-sectional weaknesses caused by the longitudinal flutes along the outer barrel. In turn, Kholovovskii blamed the barrel failures on inconsistent machining of the flute depths, and noted that standard production M91 barrels were also failing under identical limits imposed during pressure and lodged bullet tests. Yet, with Kholodovskii's insistence that the delays were the fault of the Tula Arsenal, he did not even submit his final design drafts to the War Minister until early April, 1913. Evidence of Kholodovskii's willingness to ply his political influence over Tula Arsenal management's objections was displayed when he proposed to arrange a specific demonstration for the Romanovs, despite the potential dangers of barrel rupture. The animosity between the inventor and the factory chief was never more evident than when A.V. Kuhn threatened to impose Article 170 of the Military Code of Punishment upon Kholodovskii for placing the Royal Family in peril. Neither the demonstration nor the Article 170 charges were carried out. But despite the late blueprint completions and adversarial relationship between Kholodovskii and Kuhn, and likewise with the inventor and ARTCOM, production finally began. Kholodovskii had successfully played his favorable connections with the General Inspector of the Artillery (and Royal Family member), Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich Romanov, as well as with military dignitaries, to push his project ahead. Progress was hampered some through June, with additional design changes implemented on the fly to overcome poor elastic limits of the barrels, and through the rejection of around 100 completed rifles. The result finally culminated in the completion and delivery of the 288 units on July 31, 1913. Of those completed units, it is unclear as to whether any of them were of the carbine length, as was proposed in the initial order.. Product Preliminary testing at the Tula Arsenal of ten Prototypes did not show any significant improvements over the standard M91 Rifle. Additionally, failures to chamber a round were noted when the bolt was cycled at slow speeds, and the barrels did not provide the expected accuracy improvements. Further tests of 120 guns were conducted by the 1st Infantry Regiment, under General-Lieutenant Pavel Timofeevich Nikolaev, and was likely overseen by grand Duke Sergei Michailovich Romanov. It was found that 43 units did not sustain consistent bore measurements along the entire length of the barrel, and 5 units did not match the newly designed bolt head measurement requirements. However, the factory and field test results were not accepted by the GAU, on the premise that the Kholodovskii Prototypes were constructed with some worn parts from several different arsenals, specifically old barreled receivers, and causing tolerances to be out of specifications. Even with the lack of positive testing results being confirmed by ARTCOM, and then to further highlight Kholodovskii's power of influence, in November 1913 the Tula Arsenal was still given the order to begin manufacturing of machine tooling for the production of 5,000 additional units. This order was almost immediately modified to 4,000 rifles, 3,550 infantry and 450 carbine units. Simultaneously, the imminent concern of large scale war was looming over Europe, and the Minister of War had previously placed extensive pressure on the Tula Arsenal in November 1912 to maximize efficiency for the increased production of Standard M91 Rifles and Nagant Revolvers, and to expand into light machine gun production. The Tula arsenal did not have the sustainable resources for both the increase in standard production and for the development for the Kholodovskii Prototype tooling. Thus, at the request of AV Kuhn to the GAU in late 1913, factory orders for both the prototypes and light machine guns were officially put on hold in June 1914, and to be revisited following the war. So it is unclear whether any of the newly ordered 4,000 units were ever produced. Seemingly if the order had even been partially filled, there would be more specimens observed today. But there are also references to the Kholodovskii Prototypes having been converted to sporting type rifles, or perhaps merely the utilization of his design features, for civilian sales of hunting rifles at the Izhevsk Arsenal in the 1920's. The decision to table production orders was a blow to the pride of Kholodovskii, and he once even threatened to resign. Although notable defects were identified in the 288 units and subsequent full scale production orders for the Kholodovskii Prototype were officially postponed, the independent testing results conducted by the 1st Infantry Regiment, which were likely overseen by grand Duke Sergei Michailovich Romanov, had recommended favorably to the GAU that the overall rifle was "indisputably good". Thus, Kholodoskii's ideas remained under consideration for future implementation, and specifically post-war. - Weight Reduction. As one of the main goals of the Kholodovskii Prototype project was to ease the burden on the soldier, and thus allow him to increase his ammunition carrying capacity beyond the standard 120 rounds. Two sources cite differing amounts of weight reduction. But even with the conflicting data, it may be concluded that the load reduction for the soldier was significant. 1. Range of reduction from 596 to 678 grams, with break down of individual parts as follows: a.) Bayonet – by 145 grams, b.) Cleaning rod – by 85 grams, c.) Stock - by 106-192 grams (depending on the density of the wood) d.) Barreled Receiver – by 256 grams. 2. Overall reduction of 550 grams, without breakdown of parts.