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...As to the first "quick firing rifle" what about the Terry-Norman percussion gun adopted 1866? or the Karle in 1867? The Baranov cossack rifle in 1869, maybe before the Krnka? They certainly made converted more Krnkas, but it wasn't the first.
Krnka was the first "quick-firing" rifle (скорострельная винтовка); the others were termed "breech-loading" rifle (казнозарядная винтовка) - according to the official Russian nomenclature. That's why I posted the cover page of the contemporary Krnka manual that shows the official name of the rifle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #42 ·
Krnka was the first "quick-firing" rifle (скорострельная винтовка); the others were termed "breech-loading" rifle (казнозарядная винтовка) - according to the official Russian nomenclature. That's why I posted the cover page of the contemporary Krnka manual that shows the official name of the rifle.
View attachment 88437
 

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BSA "made" Berdan II rifles.

Whilst BSA may have been the "manufacturer" of both the initial Test prototypes, and also the "30,000" initial order, the actual "Sleeper" here is the machinery Firm of Greenwood and Batley, of Leeds, who supplied all the machinery for the Russian Contract, including Engineering drawings, tools etc. It was common practice for any comissioning Customer, to have new machinery "Tried out" before acceptiong delivery; G&B used the facilities of BSA and their already trained labour force, to "Try" the machinery ( and a group of Russian supervisors) which was earmarked for the Russian order, by making a batch of Rifles...quite a substantial batch, so it seems...usual "try" runs were several thousand guns; But the Russians always did things in a big way... ( Ezell's Book on the AK 47 and general Russian ordnance development from Napoleonic times).

A very good thread on what are generally Rare guns of any type...

Congrats,
Doc AV
AV Ballistics.
 

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Discussion Starter · #44 ·
Greenwood and Bately

Greenwood and Bately

Greenwood and Bately supplied the all of the tooling, dies, jigs and fixtures to BSA to make the 30,000 rifles ordered by the Russian Government. When Greenwood and Bately heard of the intent of the Russian government to manufacture the Berdan II in Russia, they pursued it through their representative Thomas Greenwood in St. Petersburg. They were successful in obtaining a contract on 23 Mar 1871. This contract was for machinery capable of producing 300 rifles and bayonets in a 10 hour period. When the tooling was completed, Greenwood and Bately manufactured components for the Berdan II rifles to prove their capability. After that all of the machinery was packed and shipped to Tula in Russia. This occurred in 1872. The installation process at Tula took most of 1872, all of 1873 and part of 1874 to complete.

Meanwhile back at the ranch…

By August of 1871 BSA was manufacturing 1000 rifles and bayonets per week. In November of that year the news arrived that Russia would definitely be ordering no more weapons from BSA. The tooling for the order of 30,000 rifles had cost more than Russia paid for the 30,000 rifles. BSA had expected further contract was almost financially broken by the Russian’s failure to order more weapons from BSA. The last rifles were delivered from BSA on 15 Jun 1873.

Greenwood and Bately also supplied tooling for the arms factories at Izhevsk and Sestroretsk. Manufacture of the Berdan II began at all three factories in 1874.
 

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Hello Gents,

My apologies for coming late to the party, however my current project has me acting as the proverbial one armed paper hanger as of late!

Excellent rifles jleiper! Truly exceptional and unbelievably rare! Thank you for sharing them with us! You have a remarkable collection. While I don't generally collect anything other than general issue pattern weapons, I do happen to have one trials rifle that I can add to this thread.

I acquired this rifle quite by accident in that the condition and price were right, but I did not know at the time exactly what I was buying? I assumed that it might potentially be part of a foreign contract that I was not familiar with?

In fact it turned out that this particular Berdan II (matching and in beautiful condition) was one of 300 examples that were submitted for field trials in 1876 utilizing a Russian sword bayonet patterned after the French Mle 1874 Gras bayonet. I have a photo of the bayonet that was issued with these rifles, however it is at home in one of the Russian bayonet books I purchased in Moscow last year.

The bayonet in these photos is a regular Gras bayonet that was adapted to fit the German 71, 71/84 and 88 rifles BEFORE WWI. Since it slips on quite nicely, I have used it as a display piece to go with this rare rifle. The Russian bayonet is T-backed, like the Gras, however the quillion curves back toward the grip rather than towards the blade.

My apologies regarding the quality of these photos. They were taken years ago with a regular camera then scanned. I'll have to get around to shooting some new photos sometime soon with my Canon digital!

Regarding the later direction of this thread, I will add one or two more posts to round out the subject matter.

Enjoy!

Warmest regards,

JPS

PS - Found a photo of the grip, pommel and crossguard of the M1876 bayonet! I only wish it were in my collection!
 

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Hello Gents,

Per the rest of this thread, here are some photos of the near mint, unfired Berdan I from my collection. This rifle came out of a pattern room collection. Other than some slight fading of the color case hardening, it looks as though it was manufactured a week ago!

You can see from these photos that the trials rifles shown jleiper above borrowed heavily from the Berdan I. In fact the primary reason that the development of the Berdan II was affected so quickly was due to the fact that other than the action, the Berdan II "borrowed" rather heavily from the Berdan I.

Here is a section from my stalled and unfinished book on the Berdan rifles that I started many years ago. Perhaps one day I'll finish it?

Per the comments above by Doc Av and jleiper, the Russians did to BSA via Greenwood and Bately, EXACTLY what they did to Colt a few years earlier!

Here are some excerpts from my unfinished manuscript. Any blanks you come across require additions from my subsiquent research. I'll add a wee bit more in the next post on the Berdan II.

Warmest regards,

JPS


Warmest regards,

JPS

_____________________________________________________________________________


Colt & the Russian Contract


The Berdan I prototype rifles were produced at the Colt plant in Hartford, Connecticut, under the supervision of Hiram Berdan, Colonel Gorlov and Colt’s team of engineers and inspectors. The first rifles were tested in the United States at the Colt facilities and then forwarded to Moscow for further testing. The Russian Commission was very impressed with the performance of the Berdan as compared to the other rifles tested......................

................The ordnance board was suitably impressed, but still produced a list of desired changes. These changes turned out to be minor compared to those recommended by Gorlov, which totaled twenty-five in number. All of Gorlov’s proposed alterations to the original design were in fact adopted. The final pattern was in reality, a joint collaboration between Gorlov and Berdan. They worked on the changes together along with Gunius in the Colt factory. When everyone was satisfied with the changes, the decision was made to place the first production run with the Colt Firearms Company. The original plan called for Colt to produce the first production run of 30,000 rifles. Typical of the intrigues of international arms dealing both then and now, Colt was not told about the plans to build arsenal capacity in Russia to produce the majority of the Russian contract rifles. Czar Alexander had finally decided that in order to remain a major player in the geo-political game in Europe, Russia could not afford to be dependant on weapons produced in a foreign country. One never knew when alliances might change and leave the army cut off from it’s weapons supply at a critical time.

While the final design was a collaboration of Berdan and Gorlov, when Berdan filed for design patents for the Berdan I, Gorlov’s name was conspicuously absent from the applications. Berdan resented Gorlov’s meddling with his design and this issue was a constant source of irritation during the production of the rifles at the Colt Factory. The production pattern for the Russian contract Berdan I rifle was sealed for the purpose of production on November 2nd, 1867. With the design more or less complete, negotiations began in the three-way battle between Berdan, the Russians and Colt to determine the price and size of the contract for the first run of production rifles. Each party in the game had different goals to achieve and none of them were in sync with the other two. Berdan wanted to make as much money as possible from his designs at the expense of both the Russians and Colt. Colt was salivating over the prospects of producing millions of rifles for the massive Russian Army. The Russians wanted to pay as little as possible to both Colt and Berdan, with the primary goal being to acquire the new rifle design and to produce as many as possible in Russia.

The Russian Ordnance Department assigned Gorlov and his team to the Colt Factory to supervise the production of the rifles and to function as source inspectors to insure the quality of the finished rifles. He was so deeply involved in the development of the weapon that it only made sense that he should head up the inspection team. Serial production began on with the issuing of the Russian purchase order for 30,000 rifles and 7.5 million rounds of ammunition on December 7th, 1867. From the very beginning, the project experienced major problems, with the Russian inspectors complaining constantly about everything from the quality of the barrels to the daily output of the production line. Bad blood developed immediately between all three parties. Berdan and the Russians argued intensely over the design changes, the Russians argued continually with the Colt management over the quality and output of the plant, while the Colt management felt that Berdan was of little help in dealing with the Russians and to add insult to injury, was getting rich at the expense of Colt’s hard work. It is not surprising, that under these conditions, initial production went very slowly...........................

.....................To compound everything at this critical junction in the production of the Berdan I contract, Colt accidentally discovered the intentions of the Russians to manufacture their own rifles on the new equipment, which Berdan was going to help them acquire and operate. The carrot, which had so temptingly been dangled in front of Colts nose at the beginning of the project, evaporated along with the profits Colt had hoped to make once the start up problems had been overcome. While the original price quoted the Russians had been ______ per rifle, it was understood by Colt that the first rifles produced would more than likely be run at a loss. This is not unusual with the start up of a new project, even in manufacturing today. Most programs suffer start up problems, which have to be worked out and the cost of any special equipment and tooling must be amortized. As a result, the unit cost of the first production run will often exceed the quoted price. It is generally understood that in instances such as these, that as the production problems are resolved and the start up costs absorbed, that future production increases and the early losses are recovered in due time on the follow up orders. In this case, however, it quickly became apparent to Colt that the critical follow up orders would never come their way.

They were furious with both the Russians and Berdan. The Russians had been less than honest with them from the beginning and Berdan had been complicit in their deception. The already volatile relationship exploded. Colt was bound by contract to complete the remainder of the 30,000 rifles on order, but refused to even consider producing a single rifle beyond the existing contract. Berdan was in complete panic at the thought of losing his one and only major client, in the event that they could not find a suitable source to produce the remainder of the rifles until such time as the first of the Russian arsenals was in production. The Russians were in turn petrified by the sudden turn of events since they were at least a year away from the completion and delivery of the machinery and tooling for the first of their proposed production lines. In addition, they were well aware of the fact that once the machinery and tooling was delivered, it would still take an additional year, perhaps more, to have the equipment up and running and a suitable work force trained to run production.

Colt was spending _______ for each rifle it produced. The contracted price was _______ per rifle. When the last rifle built for the Russian contract was shipped to Russia on _________, the company had lost a staggering _______ dollars. It would take the development and sales of the Model 1873 Colt revolver for the company to recover from the disastrous Russian Berdan I contract......................

.................... In addition to the 30,000 rifles built by Colt, and in spite of the introduction of the Berdan II in 1870, there were two production runs of Berdan I rifles made in Russia. In 1873, Gorlov, Gunius and a number of other Russian officers who favored the Berdan I over the Berdan II, managed to convince the War Ministry to order an additional 30,000 Berdan I rifles. Orders were placed with Tula, for 20,000 rifles and Sestroryetsk for an additional 10,000 rifles. Production was begun in the same year. The orders were never completed. Tula stopped production after the completion of 8,803 rifles. Sestroryetsk produced even less with the final total reaching 7,772. This brought the total production of Berdan I rifles from all sources to a grand total of 46,575 rifles.

In addition to the Berdan I infantry rifle, prototypes of a saddle ring cavalry carbine and Dragoon rifle were produced and submitted to the Russian Armaments Commission. Trials were held and both variations tested. Before these tests were complete, the Berdan I was overtaken by rapidly changing events.

It is at this point that our story shifts across the Atlantic to Birmingham, England and the next chapter in the development of the Russian contract Berdan rifles.
 

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Yo Gents,

This brings us to the Berdan II. Aside from the rifle equipped with the bayonet lug and tenon for the sword bayonets trials of 1876, the remainder of my Berdan II rifles are regular issue patterns.

The rarest of these would be my Model 1870 Cavalry Carbine, which is in excellent condition and completely matching. The carbines, based at least on my own observations are the rarest of the Berdan IIs. Over the years, I have encountered more of the Berdan I, Berdan II B'ham production, Cossack Rifles and Dragoons than I have Cavalry Carbines? How this compares to other peoples experience, I can't say?

I will add one qualifier to that statement in that I exclude the bizarre combination examples coming out of Afghanistan as of late since it is near impossible to tell what is or isn't original to any given example! All combination of features have been showing up that do not match any of the recognizable Russian military patterns, many with hand made replacement parts!

I have included a few photos below of a B'ham Berdan that I was offered many years ago, however the stock had been broken and badly repaired and the asking price was in the second mortgage range, so I passed! However I did save the photos. Based on the lack of a final number representing the year of mfg in the cartouche, I believe that this rifle was submitted for trials somewhere else other than Russia? The presence of Belgian Liege markings, in my opinion, substantiates this opinion.

In addition to these rifles, I also have a nice completely matching 1874 dated Berdan II from the first year of production, I believe at Ishevsk? I'm pretty sure it's an Ishevsk? I'll check when I get home!

I also have an Austro-Hungarian capture/reissue example that has been equipped with wire sling swivels.

To date, both the Dragoon and Cossack rifles have eluded me, not that I haven't come across several examples of each. They were either waaaaay too expensive relative to what I could afford at the time OR they had something about them that I didn't like! I came across a Dragoon rifle that was very nice, but it had a very old leather action cover screwed into the side of the stock? All of the recent examples have come out of the Middle East and were either messed with or not in original configuration.

Here are the photos and another excerpt from the manuscript. Perhaps I'll finish some day? Who knows? As noted below, both Colt and BSA suffered severely financially due to their involvement in the development of the Berdan I and II! Only Smith & Wesson managed to deal with the Russians during this time period and actual profit from the experience!

Warmest regards,

JPS

_____________________________________________________________________________


The Development of the Berdan II Rifle

As Colt struggled to get out the 30,000 Berdan I rifles ordered by Russia in the initial contract, Berdan was busy in England working with Birmingham Small Arms Company. With his role in the development of the Berdan I completed, Hiram Berdan was busy looking for other markets for his existing designs as well as new technologies, which he might successfully apply to his existing firearms. As production got under way at Colt under the expert guidance of Colonel Gorlov, Berdan began experimenting with different systems, including the sliding bolt action. In his search for new markets, Berdan had obviously come become acquainted with the newly adopted French Chassepot. More than likely, he was already familiar with the Prussian Dreyse needle rifle. He had also come in contact with BSA. They were a large commercial operation who produced weapons for both domestic as well as foreign contracts. It was during his contact with BSA that Berdan either developed or “borrowed” the concept for his next evolutionary rifle design. For reasons that were soon to become apparent, Hiram Berdan moved his developmental work from the Colt Factory in the U.S. to the BSA Factory in England.

It is very likely that while traveling abroad looking for new customers, Berdan had become acquainted with either the Prussian Dreyse needle-rifle or the French Chassepot. Whichever the case, Berdan renewed his bolt-action experiments at the BSA facilities. Berdan’s center fire brass cartridge resolved the major problem suffered by both of these needle fire designs. Both the Dreyse and the Chassepot were plagued with gas leakage. Both relied on a hard rubber obturating ring on the bolt head to seal the chamber and to prevent the potentially dangerous escape of gas from the chamber past the bolt head. The rubber rings quickly became embrittled during rapid fire. As the rubber ring deteriorated, the risk to the soldier firing the rifle became greater with each shot. The other major fault of the needle fire system was the erosion of the needle, which passed through the powder charge to strike the primer located on the base of the bullet. The combustion of the gunpowder engulfed the firing needle during every shot. Needle failure became a serious problem as needles were exposed to constant heating as well as the ill effects of black-powder. The use of the sliding bolt system with the metallic cartridge immediately solved the worst problems inherent in existing bolt-action designs.

It was not long before the first prototype bolt-action rifle appeared. The rifle was for all-intense and purposes, a Berdan I with a sliding bolt to close the action rather than a swinging breechblock. The caliber was the same as were all of the other external dimensions. This was not an accident. Nor were the timing and sequence of Berdan’s travels. He was planning and executing the proverbial end run! The self-aggrandizing inventor had come to realize that he had already made as much money as he was ever going to see from the Colt contract, particularly in light of Colt’s discovery of the real intentions of the Russians. The patent rights had all been assigned and all of the royalties paid. He would continue to be paid royalties on the 7.5 million metallic cartridges being produced by UMC, but as far as the rifle went, the show was over even though it had hardly begun.

When a sufficient number of rifles had been delivered, the Russian Armament Commission had requested that General Berdan travel to Russia to both demonstrate the workings of the new Berdan-Gorlov rifle (the initial name applied to the Berdan I design by the Russians), as well as to train a core group of Russian officers in the use of the weapon. It was intended that these training officers would in turn, train the Russian corps of NCO’s and develop a new manual to be issued with the rifle.

Prior to Berdan’s trip to St. Petersburg, he had concluded a contract with BSA for the production of 100 test rifles. Berdan paid for these rifles out of his own pocket. In addition to the hand made trials rifles, Berdan also reached an agreement with BSA, which allowed them to market the new bolt-action rifle design on his behalf. In exchange for the marketing agreement, BSA guaranteed Berdan royalties for each rifle produced by BSA for any contracts they managed to secure for his new design. With this agreement concluded, BSA hired Leone Gluckman to work as a European sales representative to promote the new Berdan rifle. Gluckman traveled to several different European countries seeking orders for the prototype rifle. After several unsuccessful attempts to sell the design in Western Europe, he traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia in late 1868. The proposal Gluckman placed before the Armaments Commission included an interesting clause. If Russia ordered 300,000 production rifles from BSA, at the conclusion of the contract, BSA would sell the entire production line, complete with all machinery, tooling and gauges, to the Russian Government. The offer indicates that BSA must have been aware, to some degree, of the Russians intentions to eventually build rifles in their own arsenals. It is not known what response this offer received from the Russians. No follow up correspondence exists regarding the Russian response.

While Leone Gluckman had been busy traveling across Europe seeking customers for Berdan’s new rifle, Hiram Berdan had spent several months in Paris trying to sell his new model to the French Army. After exhaustive testing, the French came to the conclusion that the Berdan prototype, while superior, was not effective enough to warrant the cost of replacing the Mle 1866 Chassepot. The Chassepot had only been adopted two years earlier and was in full-scale production. The cost of changing models at that point in time was simply too great to allow them to switch rifles before the Chassepot had been issued throughout the French Army.

Having failed to procure an order from the French in 1868, in 1869, Berdan finally traveled to St. Petersburg per the Russian’s request. The first deliveries of Berdan I rifles had already arrived in Russia. Berdan was expected to train key Russian personnel in the function of the Berdan I Infantry rifle as well as to author a manual for translation into Russian. What was not expected, however, was that he would arrive with a new prototype rifle. He quickly arranged a demonstration of the Berdan II bolt-action prototype for the Armaments Commission. Everyone was extremely impressed. The Berdan II answered what the commission felt were the apparent shortcomings of the Berdan-Gorlov rifle, i.e. the Berdan I.

The greatest technical problem apparent in the Berdan I was weak extraction. Under ideal circumstances, the extractor worked. Still, the hinged breechblock of the Berdan I suffered the same problem as nearly every other hinged breechblock design of this period. The lifting of the breechblock simply did not impart great mechanical leverage. After sustained firing, the cartridge cases periodically jammed in the chamber. The short time that the extractor was in contact with the case rim during the pivoting action of the breechblock was not sufficient to back the case out after substantial amounts of black powder residue had built up in the chamber. Under these circumstances, the extractor would on occasion pull past the case rim, bending the contact point in the process and leaving the case in the chamber. To avoid this, the Berdan I required periodic cleaning during extended firing, a feat, which was not particularly popular with the troops who were issued the rifle. Still, it was a remarkable improvement over the weapons it replaced, all of which suffered from substantially worse problems without having the advantages or the ballistics of the Berdan I. This would never have been considered the drawback it was thought to be had not a better system come along. But a better system did come along. The sliding bolt design had much greater leverage in removing the cases from the chamber and the extractor remained engaged on the cartridge case rim throughout the entire extraction sequence. While the extraction problems with the Berdan I were never to plague the rifle under actual combat conditions, the other major consideration, which favored the Berdan II design, had nothing to do with the function of the rifle and could not be overcome. Through out this entire period of rearmament following the Crimean War, the two greatest factors considered by the Russians in the adoption of every small arms system considered, were the ease of operation of the rifle and more importantly, the ease of manufacturing the weapons system.

The Czar had rightfully come to the conclusion that the future of Russian armament would eventually have to depend of the Russians ability to produce their own weapons. Russia lacked the facilities to achieve this goal. They understood only too well that they would require the simplest successful system available. Other wise, an already daunting task might very well be made impossible. To undertake a complex design, while attempting to modernize and expand the Russian arsenal system, would increase the risk of failure exponentially. In addition to the manufacturing considerations, the Russian Army also realized the limitations of their peasant soldiers. The mass formations fielded by the army in time of war were hardly a sophisticated lot. The simpler the system, the better it suited the Russian soldier. For all of the very same reasons, maintenance was also of prime consideration. In these categories more than any other, it was very clear that the Berdan II rifle fit these criteria better than the Berdan I.

Surprisingly, of lesser consequence in reaching this decision, was the greater rate of fire achievable with the Berdan II. Since the bolt cocked on closing, it omitted the additional step of cocking the hammer of the Berdan I. In addition, when loading the Berdan II, the cartridge can be dropped into the feed-way and chambered by the forward motion of the bolt. The design of the Berdan I requires that the cartridge be pushed all the way forward into the chamber manually. Both of these operating requirements greatly reduce the rate of fire of the Berdan I. The result was a tested rate of fire of ___ rounds per minute for the Berdan II as opposed to ___ with the Berdan I. In the age of the breech loading single shot, the Berdan II had a decided advantage over its competition.

Following successful trials, the Russian Armaments Commission adopted the Berdan II and immediately began negotiating with Hiram Berdan and BSA for the production of 30,000 rifles. The negotiations were already under way when Gorlov, Gunius and Colt learned of the Berdan II prototypes produced at BSA and tested by the Armaments Commission. Gorlov was furious, as was Colt. They felt that they had been betrayed and they were right. Gorlov railed against the adoption of the Berdan II declaring the Berdan I superior in every respect. While he had every right to be angry, it was at this point where he allowed professional jealousy to stand in the way of good judgment. The Berdan II was superior to the Berdan I, particularly in respect to the most important considerations for the future of Russian arms production. He had little influential support for his views among the members of the Russian Armaments Commission. When Russian production of the Berdan I (aka Berdan-Gorlov) rifle was eventually halted in favor of concentrating all efforts on the Berdan II, Gorlov’s bitterness over the entire affair resulted in a last gasp effort to halt the adoption of the Berdan II. He appeared before a meeting of the Armaments Commission and recommended the adoption of the British Martini-Henry in leau of the Berdan II. This was an unfortunate turn of events. Colonel Gorlov’s excellent work on behalf of the Russian Army was overshadowed by his rabid attempts to sabotage the acceptance of the Berdan II.

With Colonel Gorlov out of the picture, it was at this point that the Russians tipped their hand to BSA in regards to their future intentions. It was not coincidental that the number of rifles ordered from BSA was the same as the one and only order placed with Colt for the Berdan I. BSA offered to sell the Russians their Berdan production line, complete with all of it’s equipment, gauges and fixtures, provided they placed a production order for 300,000 rifles with BSA. Under the terms of this offer, the production equipment would be shipped to Russia and set up by BSA’s engineers, following the completion of a production order for the 300,000 rifles. This interesting offer had caught the attention of the Russians. The Armaments Commission sent a team of inspectors to England under the leadership of Captain de Bildering.

The Russian inspection team, while surveying the BSA production facilities, made note of the fact that all of the production machinery at BSA had been designed and built by Greenwood & Batley Co., also of Birmingham. During the negotiations with BSA and Hiram Berdan, the Russians conducted a parallel, but separate set of talks with Greenwood & Batley Co. G&B specialized in the production and set up of specialized machinery. The Russians had decided that after the completion of the initial 30,000 rifle order from BSA, that all production of the Berdan II rifle would be shifted to Russia. To accomplish this, the Russians needed to duplicate the production line at BSA. All of the machines, tooling and dies used at BSA, had been produced and set up by Greenwood & Batley. Why commit to buying 300,000 rifles from BSA in order to acquire what would by then, be heavily used and worn equipment? While these parallel negotiations were under way, BSA discovered that the Russians had hired a team of local draftsmen to make copies of the BSA technical drawings and gauges. If there had been any question of the eventual intent of the Russians before, it was crystal clear after contracts were signed with both BSA and Greenwood & Batley Co. The British arms industry was too small for the parallel negotiations to remain a secret.

By the terms of the agreement with Greenwood & Batley Co., G&B would duplicate the BSA production equipment and install the entire production line at the Tula arsenal. As part of the terms of the contract, G&B would set up all of the equipment and train Russian personnel how to run it efficiently. Berdan was also requested to consult during this phase. BSA discovered this duplicity and chose to ignore it for much the same reason as Colt had. They assumed that the Russians would require additional production rifles before the equipment could be built and the new production line at Tula brought on line and up to speed producing quality rifles. Besides, BSA had already spent over 20,000 Pounds Sterling in preparation to produce the Berdan II rifle. In defense of BSA’s blindness in the matter, the Russians did an excellent job of dangling the carrot, just as they had with Colt. Follow up orders were frequently discussed and BSA was asked to quote a price for an additional production run of 130,000 Berdan II Cossack rifles. Once again, the vision of producing millions of rifles to rearm the massive Russian Army blinded a company to the reality of what was really happening on the floor of the arsenals and in the back room meetings, which characterized Russian arms procurement during this period. BSA was sucked in by the lure of huge numbers just as Colt had been. Certainly the Russians would place follow up orders when the first 30,000 rifles were complete? Wouldn’t they? Rather than learning from Colt’s experience, BSA committed all of the same mistakes.

Upon learning of the acceptance of the Berdan II and at the urging of Colonel Gorlov, Colt countered by offering to help the Russians set up production of the Berdan I rifle in Russia, if the Armaments Commission, would place an additional order for another 30,000 Berdan I rifles. But the Russians had made up their minds and this was not going to happen. This last gasp was to bring to an end Colt’s involvement with the Russian Government. It was during this same time frame that Russia adopted the Smith & Wesson revolver over the Colt. The last contact between the Russians and Colt came on June 29th, 1871. William B. Franklin, the Vice President and General Manager of the Colt Factory in Hartford, Connecticut, received a request for quotation, issued by the Russians through Hiram Berdan. Colt was asked to provide a price quote as well as a delivery schedule for the possible production of 300,000 Berdan II Infantry rifles. If Franklin bothered to respond at all, his correspondence has not survived. More than likely, the request for quotation was summarily thrown in the trash in a fit of anger. At this point Colt passes from the scene, wiser for the experience with a greatly reduced bank balance.

The development of the Berdan II was very quickly completed. Not because Berdan and the designers working on the Berdan II rifle in Birmingham were any smarter than the original team of Gorlov, Gunius, Berdan and Fraklin who had perfected the Berdan I at the Colt Factory. Rather, it was because the original team at Colt had done such an excellent job in developing the Berdan I. With the exception of the breech locking mechanism, nearly every aspect of the Berdan II was borrowed from the Berdan I. Several different trials were conducted throughout 1870. The Russian Armaments Commission ordered the development of special versions of the Berdan II to arm Cossack, Dragoon and Cavalry regiments. These prototypes were built in the Russian Instruction Battalion workshop. Further refinements of the Berdan II were made both by the Russians as well as the engineers at BSA before the final pattern was sealed on February 1, 1871.
 

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Discussion Starter · #51 ·
Is your Berdan I a numbered and accepted gun or one of the leftovers from Colt? I will post a picture of my B I later today. It is "flat new" but is one of the un numbered guns. All of the guns that I have seen that were accepted and shipped have been riden hard and put away wet.
Joe
 

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Discussion Starter · #52 ·
Russian made Berdan Is

JPS,
Have you ever seen a Russian made Berdan I? They made 8,803 rifles at Tula and 7,772 at Sestroretsk. None were supposed to have been made at Izhevsk. I've never seen one and I've only ever seen 2 issued Colt rifles!
Joe
 

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Discussion Starter · #53 ·
Berdan I from Colt

Here are the pictures of my Berdan I. I have owned several of these including an interesting Dragoon Version.

View attachment 89303
Side view of the rifle

View attachment 89304
Detail of the script on the barrel. This was stamped by Colt and then the serial number and acceptance eagle were put on after the Russian inspectors "blessed" it. This rifle is either an over run or a rejected rifle.

View attachment 89305
Detail of the bolt and sight area

View attachment 89306
Detail showing the open bolt of the Berdan I

View attachment 89307
Detail of the cleaning rod and bayonet attachment area.
The bayonet on these lines up with the cleaning rod rather than being to the right side of the rifle like most other Russian rifles. These bayonets are not common, and are highly desired by bayonet collectors. My Berdan I bayonet is shown in the very first part of this thread on the BSA gun.

This is the kind of Berdan I that has been available in this country over the years. The are usually in very good condition since they neversaw action.
30,000 rifles were produced and shipped by Colt and over 16,500 were produced in Russia. In all of my years of collecting I've seen 2 rifles with acceptance marks (one in a European collection and the other just came out of Afghanistan.
 
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