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Moderator/Silver Bullet Member
20,216 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
ВИНТОВКА ХОЛОДОВСКОГО: Rifle Kholodovskii, M91 Prototype 1912-1916

My Deepest apologies are extended for those who wished for pictures. The hosting site went offline, and all the links were lost. I no longer have the gun, and cannot replace the detailed pictures. The information is still good!


By Matt Martin

Translating, Editing: Alexander Neverov

Editing: sparky236

Additional Photos: Joe Leiper

Publisher: Vic Thomas,

Author's Note:

With so little left which is new to announce in the realm of Mosin Nagant information, it now becomes my pleasure to report to collectors and historians on a topic which has become little more than footnote in the eight decade story of Three Line Rifle production. My fortune in attaining what is one of the least known variants, but perhaps the most advance engineered Mosin Nagant M91 rifle ever built, is just too unbelievable to withhold the justice that a one hundred year old marvel deserves. I have to pinch myself to be sure that I am truly holding a specimen which must look much the same as it did on the day it left the workshop at Tula in July 1913, and its story should come alive and be shared.

In European, and more specifically Russian archives, the Kholodovskii Prototype is better known than it is in the Western Hemisphere. But even so, precious little is preserved in writing about this gun and its four year saga. And I am honored now to present the most comprehensive article which can be found in the English Language. Thank you Vic Thomas, and the members and guests of your community, for the venue to present this historical account.

And just the same as always folks, for those who like the pictures too, thanks for looking.

- Matt Martin


After the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05, the research and development branch of Russia's Main Artillery Administration (GAU) solicited input from troops on the performance of the Mosin Nagant Model of 1891 (M91) with the intent of improving the rifles shortcomings. Some of the major issues identified for refinement 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 far behind in domestic research and design innovation. Historically, they had relied heavily on foreign engineers to produce small arms system designs, blueprints and prototype testing. In the early Twentieth Century, rather than to continue with this reliance on foreign support, military planners shifted focus to look inside Russia for creative design talent.

Early in 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 their time. A similar venture implemented several years earlier at the Izhevsk Arsenal had already yielded the design of the M1907 Carbine, with a new line of production starting in 1910.

The Tula Arsenal was chosen for the M91 project because of its noted excellence in engineering and workshops with adequate tooling apart from the assembly line already on site. 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 in 1890, and his strong connections with both the GAU and the Romanov Royal Family may indicate why he was chosen to modernize Russia's main infantry rifle. With Kholodovskii in place, the extremely ambitious overhaul of the Mosin Nagant M91 began.

Head of Artillery Odessa Military District, Lieutenant-General Nikolai Kholodovskii


Kholodovskii Prototype development did not proceed as smoothly as Izhevsk Arsenal's 1907 Carbine project. 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. These rifles were to be offered to officers at the infantry school for testing before a decision would be rendered to move forward with the project.

Proposals were also made to upgrade 4 million existing M91 Rifles with some of Kholodovskii improvements, such as the sight and bayonet systems. ARTCOM objected, citing that the design systems had not yet been 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 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 target 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

Even with the adequate arsenal facilities and GAU support, prototype production was fraught with setbacks and quality control issues. Kuhn noted extensive delays of design drafts and incomplete drawings from Kholodovskii. The necessary duralumin orders had not been filled. 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, over one year after the initial prototype order.

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.

Production and Complication

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. Finally, the revised order was delivered for the 288 prototypes 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.

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. The Tula 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.

Highlighting Kholodovskii's power and influence, and despite noted deficiencies of the prototypes in trials, Tula Arsenal was still given the oral order to begin manufacturing of machine tooling for the production of 5,000 additional units in November 1913. Then surprisingly in May 1914, the written order was increased to 32,000 rifles. But at a meeting in which Kholodovskii could not attend due to illness, 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, Nagant Revolvers, and to expand into light machine gun production.

Kholodovskii was furious following the results of the meeting. The decision to curtail the production orders was a blow to his pride, and he once even threatened to resign.

The Tula arsenal did not have the sustainable resources for both the increase in standard production and for the development of 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. It would seem if the order had even been partially filled, there would be more specimens observed today. There are also references to the conversion of Kholodovskii Prototypes into 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.

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 elements of the rifle were "indisputably good". The focus was shifted to identify these elements which could be incorporated into production. Thus, Kholodoskii's ideas remained under consideration for post-war implementation.


Moderator/Silver Bullet Member
20,216 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)

Kholodovskii M91 Prototype Features.

- Prototype Rifle: No. 311

Notes: The specimen which is available for observation in this article may exhibit subtle differences from other specimens, as it is previously noted that some design changes were implemented during the production run.

The particular prototype was built utilizing an 1895 dated Tula receiver, 1894 dated Tula barrel, Tula bolt body, bolt head (new), and striker. The magazine housing, bolt connector and interrupter/ejector are Sestroryetsk marked. The only outwardly visible number (besides old Tula magazine floor plate) is found on the rear sight leaf, and marked 158. Cupped cocking knob is Tula stamped and not numbered. Barrel bands are Tula stamped. Trigger is Tula stamped with number 171. Sear arm is Tula stamped with number 167. Sear spring is Tula marked and not numbered. Stock buttplate is number 3 on the underside, and the three spacers with number 5. Stock appears to be signed inside the barrel channel.

The barrel and receiver are marked on the underside as number 311. And though only 288 completed guns were confirmed, with the rejection of around 100 complete rifles, this number in the three hundred range could be expected.

The barreled receiver is of a high polish rust-blued finish. The stock is birch construction with a linseed oil finish. Condition is 97%.

1. - Stock.

Perhaps the most elaborate changes were made to the stock, with the goals of lighter weight and better handling characteristics. Overall dimensions exhibited a shorter length in accordance with the shortened barrel, and a thinner width. The fore stock design was based on that of the Dragoon. But it utilized three solid barrel bands of a much thinner gauge thickness than that of the two band system of the Dragoon. The bands were secured with retaining springs which were attached with small screws into the stock, and finger relief cuts were made behind the rear band to facilitate removal. The three solid bands are of a very loose fit, with no clamping pressure exerted on the handguard. A fourth and forward-most band was retained with a partial split ring at the nosecap, with the split portion applying tension against the cap and securing the barrel tightly down at the front of the fore stock. One of the front bands was suggested to be eliminated in the proposed production run following the prototypes, but it was not specified whether it would have been the solid band or split band. A Dragoon-style handguard wrapped around the rear sight base, with arshini increments of 2 to 12 (hundred) stamped onto the left side below the rear sight base. But unlike the Dragoon handguard which was prone to breakage from the rear, the new handguard was supported against lateral damage at the rear inside a stamped steel ring which was fitted around the barrel at the junction of the receiver. The nosecap is stamped steel and secured on the front face with a wood screw. Holes are drilled through the cap for the passage of the cleaning rod and barrel band retaining spring button. The stock barrel channel is signed, 'Gorb'.

For weight reduction, aluminum was used for the band retaining springs, sling slot escutcheons and crossbolt. The crossbolt was also internally supported in an aluminum boxed encasement. An aluminum bracket was also installed on the underside of the stock, just forward of the magazine, for the purpose of attachment of the gun to a soldier's belt. To ensure consistent action mating and tightening of the magazine housing to the receiver, aluminum pillar posts were fitted inside the stock for the passage of the action bolts. The cleaning rod was also made from aluminum with a knurled steel head, and was held in place by the friction tension of a leaf spring instead of the standard threaded nut. The handguard was reinforced with five aluminum brackets with copper rivets.

The buttstock drop angle was lowered by 3 degrees, and the comb shape was altered to a higher forward profile for better cheek weld and sighting acquisition. Each stock had a dovetailed toe-splice, and had up to five removable discs under the buttplate to adjust for up to 25 mm shortened overall length, or a 17mm extended length (42mm total variance). A three disc stack as shown would allow for a standard 350mm length of pull.

2. - Barreled Receiver.

The barrel itself was shortened by 37 mm, from 800 mm to a 763 mm length (33 mm longer than dragoon), and twelve semi-circular longitudinal grooves at a width and depth of 2 mm were milled along its mid section. The purposes for the grooving were to reduce weight and allow for faster cooling during sustained firing, with the theory that accuracy would be be improved. For perceived fortification of the barreled receiver, the breech face was moved forward by 6.3 mm with the corresponding forward reaming of the chamber and throat into the barrel shank housing. A recess for thumb relief was milled into the left side receiver wall, just forward of the stripper clip guides. The top of the receiver tang was ground and beveled rearward, for lightening purposes and to follow the lowered angle of the buttstock. The internal slot in the rear of the bolt channel was lengthened to allow for the newly designed sear lever. The top forward outer section of the barrel chamber housing was ground to allow relief for the back edge of the extended length of the rear sight leaf. The number 311 was stamped on the underside of the receiver and barrel.

3. - Trigger System.

The trigger was entirely changed to adopt a two stage pull. The traditional trigger system had two moving parts, a trigger lever with integral bolt stop, and a single leaf spring with an integral sear. The new system introduced a third moving part called the sear lever. To achieve this two stage function, the bolt stop was removed from the top of the traditional trigger lever, and a stirrup style slot was machined into the trigger above the pin. The single leaf sear spring was eliminated. Both the sear and bolt stop were combined and transferred to the upper arm of a new and separate 7-shaped lever (sear lever) of which the short horizontally positioned arm was supported upward by spring pressure and rested inside both the bolt channel slot and through the top arms of the trigger stirrup.

On the 7-shaped sear lever, the short horizontal sear arm would pivot at the junction angle of the longer vertical arm, and on a ledge which was milled directly behind and under the sear slot opening of the bolt channel. A tuning fork shaped spring with dual leaves replaced the traditional single leaf sear spring. The front of the short horizontal arm of the sear lever rested on top of the first stage spring. In the static position, the long vertical arm of the sear lever passed downward and with approximately 1.5 mm clearance behind the trigger lever. Initial rearward trigger travel slightly rocked the sear lever at its pivot and began to depress the upper first stage spring.

When the rear of the trigger lever contacted the lower arm of the sear lever, a tangible point of resistance was evident at the engagement of the lower second stage spring. This contact was at a consistent point of first stage trigger travel, and could easily be felt by the trigger operator. Further trigger travel experienced increased second stage spring resistance while simultaneously dropping the short arm of sear lever downward and through bolt channel slot of the receiver to release the cocking knob and firing pin of the bolt. The two stage system allowed for a known travel distance and repeatable feel for the sear release by the shooter. With this consistent release point, a shooter could attain better accuracy for repeat firing.

4. - Magazine exhausted cartridge warning.

The purpose of this adoption was to alert the shooter that the magazine contents were exhausted. It operated on a very simple premise. When no more rounds were available to feed, the magazine follower would rise high enough to stop the forward movement of the bolt inside the receiver channel. This interference between the bolt and the follower would mimic operation to that of the follower on the US Model 1903 rifle. To achieve the higher upward position of the follower, an angular travel stop was ground back on the lower hinge area of the follower arm, thus allowing a greater upward angle of movement.

The follower arm spring itself was of a lighter gauge and spring rate, but no explanation for this was given. Here, it may be theorized that the reduced spring rate would have lessened the upward compression force on the cartridges between the follower and interrupter, and possibly minimizing the chances for rim lock among the stacked cartridges.

5. - Sight System.

As the barrels of existing M91 rifles were shortened, the original and integral front sight base had been cut off. A new base needed to be created. A semicircular convex arched dovetail key was soldered into a slot which was cut perpendicularly across the top of the barrel. The bottom of the sight base was a mating semicircular concave arched dovetail slot, which was then pressed along the upper arch of the key, and soldered in place. The sight itself was a block which was pressed into a straight dovetail slot in the top of the base, and could be positioned for windage adjustment. The front sight was shaped with a center blade which had a circular dot at the peak with a silver insert which increased visibility in low light conditions. Small ears, at roughly half the height of the blade were placed on each side of the center sight.

The rear sight base had the elevations steps ground to parallel planes with the barrel, the graduations from 4 to 12 (hundred) arshini on the original base were not visible with the handguard in place. A hinged flat leaf with a slider was utilized, vs. the standard Konovalov curved leaf. In the horizontal position, the slider could be adjusted along the flat leaf to the distance graduations which were stamped from 2 to 12 (hundred) arshini on the left side of the handguard. The slider was retained by set screws on the rear sides of the leaf. In the upright perpendicular position the leaf was graduated from 13 to 33 (hundred) arshini.

The rear sight itself consisted of two v-notched blades, one stationary blade with a large v-notch as an integral part of the slider frame, and the rear most and taller spring loaded hinged blade with a small v-notch resting against the stationary rear blade. This taller hinged rear blade would fold flat (horizontal) at battle sight zero settings when the slide was pulled fully rearward, simultaneously raising the entire rear leaf above the 200 arshini setting by passing the slider over the top of the notch in the barrel. When this leaf was folded flat, it would reveal the larger v-notch of the fixed blade. Sighting through this larger v-notch would allow the ears of the front sight to be visible in the sight picture, which would aid in framing the view of a moving target. With the slide adjusted for any distance other than the fully rearward position of battle sight zero, the smaller v-notch of the taller hinged blade was in the upright (vertical) position, and only the center blade of the front sight was visible in the sight picture.

6. - Bolt

The bolt charging handle length was increased by 16mm. The rib of the bolt body was lightened by removing a 25mm X 7mm section just forward of the handle attaching point. The bolt head length was increased by 6.3mm to correspond with the new forward breech face and chamber location. The firing pin and extractor lengths were increased accordingly. The bolt connector and firing pin spring were unchanged. The rear cocking knob was altered from a disc to a cupped shape, with a knurled outer gripping surface increased from a 1.5mm to 10mm width. This would allow a more comfortable setting action of the safety.

7. - Bayonet (Photos by Joe Leiper)

The bayonet was also targeted for weight reduction. This was achieved by two distinct methods. First, the longitudinal flutes were machined to a greater depth. Extra material was also removed from the offset leg and sleeve. Secondly, the bulky locking collar was eliminated in favor of a hinged clamp which utilized a spring steel band and tandem arms. The hinged arms of the clamp operated on a cam system which would draw tension on the band to clamp the sleeve tightly to the barrel. It locked with a hook and latch system which could be released by a spring operated cylindrical push button which was located in a housing at the outer end of the hinged arms.

The clamping system offered two methods of mounting. The first employed a full swing of the hinged arms to the maximum travel around the circumference of the sleeve. The band was positioned behind the rear sight with this application. Secondly, the hinged arms could be latched at a partial point of travel around the circumference of the sleeve. This application would allow for the hinged arms to form a hood over the front sight.

The bayonet which is pictured for this article is of steel construction. Other accounts refer to the bayonet as duralumin construction. Note the pointed vs. blade tip.


Moderator/Silver Bullet Member
20,216 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)

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.


While it was quite evident that the modernized features of the Kholodovskii Prototype were of a significant departure from the standard M91, its time and place in history were suspended in the chaos of continental war and looming internal revolution. Russia simply could not afford the costs or labor intensive effort which would have been required to reap its advanced benefits. But through its internal innovative development, production and field testing, some key points were identified for post-war consideration.

- Initial advantages of the Kholodovskii Prototype were noted as:

1. The rifle's weight was decreased by 550 grams (or more).
2. Improved balance to shoulder and aim
3. The sight was better calibrated for the ballistics of the spitzer bullet
4. The elongated bolt handle facilitated better control when cycling
5. The recess in the receiver allowed more safety for the thumb when charging from stripper clips.
6. Contour of the buttstock comb aided in accuracy.
7. Buttstock had removable discs to fit individual soldiers for length of pull.
8. Thinner forestock allowed for easier grasping.
9. Stock was overall lighter in weight.
10. Bayonet was lighter in weight without shortening the length of the blade.
11. Sight picture was better for moving target acquisition.

- Some disadvantages were noted as follows:

1. Barrel was still too long, by 10-12 cm, and it was difficult to keep rust from developing in the outward grooves.
2. Complex bayonet mounting system
3. Difficult concept for zeroing of the sights (height of front sight could not be altered)
4. Forward most barrel band unnecessary.
5. Aluminum cleaning rod was weak and easily deformed.
6. Head of the cleaning rod would not pass through the bore.
7. Cleaning rod retention spring was complex and not strong enough
8. Belt mounting bracket was not necessary
9. Bolt had previous deficiencies.
10. Stripper clip notch in the left side of the receiver still too small
11. The stock neck was too thin (easily broken)

Direct examination of the prototype rifle reveals another glaring disadvantage which was not identified in the structural features or the testing results. The introduction of main components with different design and size specifications severely limited parts interchangeability. The receiver, barrel, bolt head, sights, stock, cleaning rod, bayonet mounting and trigger group were significantly altered as to make them virtually incompatible with the components of the standard M91. Therefore, beyond new tooling at the arsenal, entirely new inventories of spare parts, special tools and field armorer kits would need to be filled. The only interchangeable components with existing rifles were the magazine housing, bolt body, firing pin spring, bolt connector, cocking piece, interrupter and action bolts.

Grand Duke Sergei Michailovich Romanov

With the great complexity of construction and sheer number of design changes deemed as costly, and some seen as entirely unnecessary, General Inspector of the Artillery Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich Romanov charged ARTCOM on October 28, 1914 to narrow down the features of the Kholodovskii Prototype which could be efficiently integrated into the retrofitting of existing rifles and/or introduced into new production. Five points were recommended as follows:

1. Cocking piece – for improvements of safety operation;
2. Spring loaded cleaning rod holder
3. A longer handle for the bolt body.
4. Feed mechanism with an exhausted cartridge warning.
5. Receiver with finger cutout in the left wall with the changed inclination of the stripper clips grooves.

All other changes proposed by Kholodovskii were no longer considered, following the ARTCOM decision. Then in early November 1914, ARTCOM also came to the conclusion that the implementation of even this reduced number of the accepted proposals should be done at a more favorable time when the pressures of war were not so great.


Though the prototype rifles were no longer being built in the arsenal workshops and all expansion of production line orders were halted, Kholodovskii's reduced proposals were still alive, at least in spirit, until in November of 1915 when Tula Arsenal Director A.V. Kuhn wrote to the GAU, stating that the drawings for the five recommended changes were still undelivered. And on August 13, 1916, the Tula Arsenal was ordered to scrap the Kholodovskii Prototype project altogether.

In conclusion, the entire project was a typical example of the procedural operations which took place in early 20th century Imperial Russia. Often times, the approval and execution of projects did not depend so much on the merit of the inventions or designs as it did on the reputation of the inventor and/or favorable status among military contemporaries and Royal Family connections. The final result of the Kholodovskii Prototype project was a major distraction of both material resources and manpower at a time when Russia could afford neither. And as ambitious and innovative as the final product proved to be, the fate the most modern Infantry Rifle of its time fell victim to the excruciatingly slow development by the inventor himself, and to the political circumstances of timing in tumultuous Europe. With none of its features appearing in later models, the Kholodovskii Prototype project is best summarized as that of an inauspicious detour in the evolutionary path of the Mosin Nagant rifle.

Imperial Russia's effort to cultivate home grown innovation in small arms design met with great adversity in the particular project to transform the M91 rifle. And within the Kholodovskii Prototype experience there are lessons of achievement and futility alike. Nevertheless, the costly effort did yield a physical product and the few complete rifles which remain intact today are distinctly desired specimens for collectors, or have become highlighted features of an era in military museum displays.


1. Who and How to Develop Russian Small Arms on the Eve of the Great War, by E.E. Drozdova, published April 10, 2015


2. Mosin Kholodovskii - 1913, by V.E. Markevich


3. Rifle System Mosin-Kholodovskii, by L. Budaeva


4. Drei Linien: die Gewehre Mosin-Nagant, Volume II, by Karl-Heinz Wrobel

5. Russian Bayonet. Bayonets for S.I. Mosin Rifles and Carbines 1891-1945, by Andrei Danko, Konstantin Lykov, Published May 2015.

6. Imperial Russian Weapons of WWI, Volume I, Rifles and Carbines, by Vladimir Glazkov

External Links:



Additional photos with comparison pictures to a Standard M91, 1918 Tula.

- Buttstock comb shape, drop angle, oil vs shellac finish, receiver inletting, barrel band thickness (compared to Dragoon)

- Barreled receiver length, front sight, rear sight base, rear tang thickness and drop angle, thumb recess for stripper clip guide.

- Bolt handle, body, cocking knob, head

- Trigger, spring, sear, receiver inletting.

- Magazine follower arm height, Lighter gauge follower spring, follower arm angular travel-stop grinding (1918 Tula last picture)

-Cleaning rod diameter

June 26, 1915

8,098 Posts
Cool post Matt, thanks for the effort it took to post it.

Oak Leaves with Clusters Member
3,484 Posts
Thank you Matt. What an incredibly interesting Mosin, great article and fantastic photographs. Another amazing chapter in Mosin history for all of us.

502 Posts
Fantastic article!, a very interesting read for sure. I really like the end result rifle that was produced, it has a certain soul to it. In the end though, there's a lot of extra complexity in that design that make me wonder how it ever got as far as it did considering the lack of any real improvement!

Diamond Member
7,105 Posts
Matt, congrats on your treasure! Thanks to you and everyone for putting this was awesome to open this thread after a long work week. Denny

686 Posts
Incredible post! This rifle looks like a holy grail for collectors. The improvements look really great, I really like the look of that front sight! It's a shame it was not adopted for full-scale production, but of course not surprising considering all the drama Russia was dealing with. I feel like they could have addressed the initial disadvantages given more develop time, but history would not allow this!

Silver Bullet Member
2,914 Posts
Great article and museum grade rifle! :grin:

Turn the Rarity Index up to 11! I guess there's no need to start a serial number survey on this variant!

940 Posts
Excellent post! Most interesting. Thank you for putting it together and sharing it with us.


Moderator/Silver Bullet Member
20,216 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Fantastic article!, a very interesting read for sure. I really like the end result rifle that was produced, it has a certain soul to it. In the end though, there's a lot of extra complexity in that design that make me wonder how it ever got as far as it did considering the lack of any real improvement!
You, and the entire management team at Tula.


Gold Bullet member
4,946 Posts
Correct me if I am wrong but I don't know if many people have realized it or not but Matt owns this rifle. It is indeed museum quality to say the least. Way to go Matt! It is indeed one of a kind in existence in this country and I would not know where to look overseas in museums for that matter! Holy Grail Plus a few points in my eyes. Bill

1,852 Posts

first of all my congratulation for your rifle. It is an ultra rare model, in pristine condition. A Three-line rifle collector could ask for more..
Second, I want to thank you for your efforts in writing this detailed article. It is very informative, clear, a very well written. My congratulations also to Alex Nevorov; Joe Leiper and Vic Thomas, for their continous support to our community.
Futhermore I want to tell my appreciation for the great and detailed pictures of this rare piece.


2,425 Posts
A big thank you to all involved for this great write-up. Probably the most informative and well written post I've read. I am learning something new all the time, thanks to those responsible for this great read and others in the collecting community like them. I appreciate all the hard work you do.

Moderator/Silver Bullet Member
20,216 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
Thank you for the kind words, and the willingness to wade through the three opening posts - I had no idea that there was a 20,000 character limit on posts until yesterday. Somehow, I'll bet JPS knew that...

But there are more people to thank. Kudos to Darryl (Dolk of Russian-Mosin-Nagant-Forums) for taking the time to open his emails and respond to senders. Darryl forwarded a letter to me last January from a fellow with questions about his gun, which allowed me to begin some research. Up to that point, I had only seen the name of the Kholodovsii (Holodovsky) Prototype as part of KH Wrobel's list of variants.

Next, Gunboards member, MosinnagantIzhevsk1942 provided pics of some text from which I could extract information, such as the purpose of the aluminum bracket on the bottom of the forestock.

The Story

A fellow named John from Jacksonville, FL picked up this gun while on his stint at Yorktown Naval Base, from a small shop on his way home from work, ca. 1990. The shop owner stated that it had been turned in by a Vietnam Veteran. John is a black powder cartridge gun collector, and he set the gun aside for years. At one point, he did contact Bob (former owner of RMNF) with a few pictures, and Bob did create the following passage on the gun in the early to mid-2000's. Nagant Rifles/Mosin Prototypes/Mosin Prototypes.htm

John and I communicated sparsely over the six month period until he became ready to sell. We agreed on a price, and the responsibility of caretaker exchanged hands. John deserves recognition for keeping up the condition on the gun for the past 25 years. He did an excellent job. Thanks, John.

Now, I'm offering this story as a Vietnam Bringback as just that, a story. It is third hand information at best, but needs to be considered. As I have over a dozen bringbacks from SE Asia, I am seeing no physical characteristics which are consistent with jungle exposure. But then again, I own one cache bringback which is literally new.

Just as plausible, as its known US origins story began near a shipyard at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, it could have come from Europe when countries such as the Baltic States were purging themselves from mementos of Soviet influence....

... dunno. It's a mystery. I had considered it as a former museum piece, and there are seven light holes in the right side buttstock which could once have been made from nails attaching a plaque. But the holes are not deep, are in a strange pattern, and don't appear to be positioned in a good place to support a plaque or plate.

Still a mystery to me, and will likely remain so. Except that now we have the most extensive pictorial view available of the prototype features.

Previously, only four other specimens have been photographed and presented on the internet, to my knowledge. And I have looked far and wide.

The first pic is one which appeared on Surplus Rifle Forum in 2009, with no explanation of where it came from, or who owned it. The second one is from the book Imperial Russian Weapons of WWI, Volume I, Rifles and Carbines, by Vladimir Glazkov, and resides in the Tula Arms Museum. The third is in KH Wrobel's book. And the last appears on a Russian firearms forum, with only partial pics of the gun.

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