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  1. #1
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    Default Russian surplus rifle export timeline?

    I'm writing an article about an Italian Vetterli with Russian markings. So far, it appears the rifle went from Italy to Russia as aid in the dark days of WW1.

    During the Spanish Civil War, it seems to have been sold to the Spanish Republicans (communists) by the Stalin gov't. It has the "made in Italy" mark consistent with a rifle that came here from Spain as surplus in the late 50s - early 60s.

    The editor now wants to know if it could have been sold as surplus directly from Russia instead of Spain. My feeling is that the late 50s - early 60s was smack in the middle of the cold war, and Russia exported little to America then.

    When did Russia start selling surplus rifles to America? Any links on that topic? SW
    Of all the things I ever lost, I miss my mind the most.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5thDragoons View Post
    I'm writing an article about an Italian Vetterli with Russian markings. So far, it appears the rifle went from Italy to Russia as aid in the dark days of WW1.

    During the Spanish Civil War, it seems to have been sold to the Spanish Republicans (communists) by the Stalin gov't. It has the "made in Italy" mark consistent with a rifle that came here from Spain as surplus in the late 50s - early 60s.

    The editor now wants to know if it could have been sold as surplus directly from Russia instead of Spain. My feeling is that the late 50s - early 60s was smack in the middle of the cold war, and Russia exported little to America then.

    When did Russia start selling surplus rifles to America? Any links on that topic? SW
    I thought Soviet Union was selling small arms to neutrals like Canada in 50s and 60s.

  3. #3
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    I highly doubt Russia was exporting M1870/87 Vetterli-Vitali rifles to the U.S. at ANY point in time. It is well documented that Russia sent many rifles, and the types of rifles were well recorded too. You should look into the book Arms for Spain by Gerald Howsen. Another source of information would come from vintage firearms magazines from the 1950s and 1960s. Here's an example from a 1956 issue of Guns Magazine:


    As you can see, the Vetterli-Vitali is being sold along with the M1874 Gras. The Gras is often found marked "Made in France" and with Russian markings. I have one such example. These rifles are also attributed to the Spanish Civil War, and since they commonly have Russian markings, it would be logical that they weren't exported from France, but instead from Spain. So in my opinion, it would be highly unlikely that two types of rifles, originating in two different countries, both being sent to Russia in WWI, both being marked in the same manner upon export to the U.S., and both having similar Russian markings, would have been exported from different countries (i.e. the Gras being exported from Spain, and the Vetterli-Vitali from Russia). Here's an example of a Russian marked M1874 Gras:


    There ARE Vetterli-Vitalis that don't have Russian markings but are still marked "Made in Italy." I have an example of one of these rifles as well. As well as I can tell, I'm assuming these rifles were given directly to Spain by Italy, or were possibly used by Russian forces but never marked.

    Another route of investigation you may follow would be about a man named Sam Cummings, and the company of Interarms which originally found and imported these rifles to the U.S. One of his greatest caches of firearms was in Spain, and it would seem the Russian marked Gras and Vetterli-Vitali rifles came from this lot.

    Hope this helps.

    EDIT: Just wanted to point out that in the ad above, there are also M91/30 Mosin Nagants being sold. Notice the reference to them being confiscated from "Communist revolutionaries" and that the sale of these rifles in no way aids "any iron-curtain country." These vague references seem to be pointing to these rifles coming from Spain. It's possible these rifles MIGHT have come from Finnish sources, but when coupled with two other types of rifle commonly attributed to Spanish Civil War use (the Russian marked 1874 Gras and the M1870/87 Vetterli Vitali), all the evidence seems to point that these 3 rifle types in this ad, at this time period, are from the Spain.
    Last edited by Longbranch303; 11-17-2009 at 04:46 PM.

  4. #4
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    Longbranch,

    Thanks for that! Having found and read relevant links, I find it a fascinating topic. It looks like the Russian communists pretty much just wanted to clean the Spanish commies out of their gold.

    Little things like not sending spares for the light tanks they sold the Spaniards at "full retail" and only the most abbreviated training for the Spanish kids who were supposed to drive the tanks. Seems the Spanish farm boys had only ever farmed with oxen or mules and promptly burned the clutches out of about a third of the tanks. And no spares.

    Only about 100 rounds of ammo per Vetterli... It sucked to be them.

    BTW, isn't it odd a 7mm Mauser sold for more than an Eddystone 30-06? Great old ad!! SW
    Of all the things I ever lost, I miss my mind the most.

  5. #5
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    $55 for a 98 Mauser barreled action in 1956?:eek: That equates to $431 today. Who had that kind of scratch back then?

  6. #6
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    I had read in "Deadly Business: Sam Cummings, Interarms, and the Arms Trade" that Cummings was given the task by the CIA to scour Europe for surplus WWII arms and export them back to the U.S. The book also implied that Golden State Arms was the original front company to sell them to the public.

    My theory is that the "Confiscated Russian Rifles" were captured by the Germans and Sam Cummings liberated them.

    "Brave men tell the truth, a wise man's tools are analogies and puzzles. A woman holds her tongue, knowing silence will speak for her"--Royksopp

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fushigi Ojisan View Post
    I had read in "Deadly Business: Sam Cummings, Interarms, and the Arms Trade" that Cummings was given the task by the CIA to scour Europe for surplus WWII arms and export them back to the U.S. The book also implied that Golden State Arms was the original front company to sell them to the public.

    My theory is that the "Confiscated Russian Rifles" were captured by the Germans and Sam Cummings liberated them.
    I suppose it's possible that Golden State Arms was indeed a front company for Interarmco (as the company was called until 1966 until they lost a lawsuit for name infringement, whereby the company was then called Interarms). However, Golden State Arms was located in Pasadena, California, while a similar type of store front, advertised as "Ye Old Hunter" was located right next to Interarmco. Original sales invoices from Golden State Arms show the shipping point is indeed Pasadena, California. So, I believe that if Sam Cummings was creating a store front for his firearms sales, "Ye Old Hunter" (AKA Hunter's Lodge) would be it, not Golden State Arms. I haven't had a chance to read Deadly Business yet, but it would be interesting to see what connection they make between Interarmco and Golden State Arms.

    In regards to your theory, what evidence do you have to believe the rifles were sourced from Germany (more specifically, I assume you mean West Germany)? I only ask, because you seem to suggest that the rifles did NOT originate from Spain, despite fairly strong evidence to the contrary. I have confirmed samples of Russian marked, foreign manufactured rifles (rifles, I might add, with documented evidence that they were given to Spain by Russia during the Spanish Civil War) being sold through American distributors during the same time period as this ad. To further prove that these "confiscated" rifles were of Spanish origin, I'll reference a May 1966 issue of Popular Mechanics. There was a story in this issue concerning Sam Cummings and his company Interarmco. In this story, they made reference to "offer Spain $1 million for Russian infantry weapons captured and stored since the Civil War in 1937" which Interarmco has "done recently." So when you put it all together, the odds are VERY HEAVILY AGAINST these arms have coming from any other source. We have documented examples of Russian marked firearms being sold in the U.S., documented evidence that Russia supplied thousands of firearms of the SAME TYPES (i.e. M1874 Gras, M1870/87 Vetterli-Vitali, M91/30 Mosin Nagant, etc.), and documented evidence of Sam Cummings/Interarmco having purchased "Russian infantry weapons" of the "Civil War of 1937" from Spain earlier than 1966.

    I have no problems with alternative theories, as long as adequate evidence to support those conclusions can be provided.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by COASTIE View Post
    $55 for a 98 Mauser barreled action in 1956?:eek: That equates to $431 today. Who had that kind of scratch back then?
    Of course, these were fitted with new barrels, headspaced, and contoured to however the buyer saw fit . So, one could have a Mauser action with a new barrel in their choice of caliber for $55 (or for the buying power of $431 in 2008 terms).

    I wasn't alive back in those days, but I'd assume that the demand for Mauser 98 actions was greater then, causing the prices to be comparitively higher in 1956 than they are today. Just the action was selling for $25, which would be just short of the buying power of $200 dollars in 2008.

    So, though they may seem expensive, in 1956 the prices might not have been out of line. You can't always compare 1956 prices to their equivalent amount in 2008... sometimes you have to compare the 1956 prices to the prices of substitute goods.

  9. #9
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    M91s for $14.95, U.S. Model 1917 rifles for $37.50...

    Sorry, I need to go walk away and wimper...
    No one ever got into Valhalla unarmed.

  10. #10
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    Don't wimper too much... the $14.95 for these M91/30s in the ad would have an approximate cost of $118 in 2008. So, in actuality, you can get an M91/30 Mosin Nagant cheaper TODAY than you could have in 1956.

  11. #11
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    The lucky guys that bought milsurp weapons in
    1956 (was only 13 then), no billboards; not
    even a import stamp back then anywhere . RC
    Rockfish Heaven
    Fox Hill, Va.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fushigi Ojisan View Post
    I had read in "Deadly Business: Sam Cummings, Interarms, and the Arms Trade" that Cummings was given the task by the CIA to scour Europe for surplus WWII arms and export them back to the U.S. The book also implied that Golden State Arms was the original front company to sell them to the public.

    My theory is that the "Confiscated Russian Rifles" were captured by the Germans and Sam Cummings liberated them.
    Not Sam Cummings, but I have a Nagant revolver with a German name inside the holster flap and US capture papers, so it's likely some MN rifles made it to the US by being captured twice.
    Turning relics into near-relics since 2005.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Murvihill View Post
    Not Sam Cummings, but I have a Nagant revolver with a German name inside the holster flap and US capture papers, so it's likely some MN rifles made it to the US by being captured twice.
    I have a TT33 with US "bring back" or "capture" paper from 1945......

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