When I have a reasonable amount of time to take a careful look at your rifle, I'll respond in detail. On the short term, based on the markings on your butt-plate, this rifle was inspected and possibly reworked in some manner at the German Depot in Koblenz, a German city situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers.
The #5 is the code for the Koblenz Depot and the letters, "B" and "E", would each indicate a specific inspector who was assigned that particular letter. This was done to establish accountability on the part of the inspectors.
There is typically only one numeral ~ letter set found on most rifles, however on occasion when a rifle was initially inspected and rejected for repair, it will bare the mark of a second inspector. This appears to have been the case with this rifle.
This system was used for both regular issue German weapons as well as those captured from the enemy on the battlefield. On occasion, a rifle will turn up with two complete sets of depot markings that was proof that the weapon had passed through different depots on different occasions.
Your rifle may have been rebuilt to as is configuration at Koblenz or it may have been rebuilt after WWI? More photos would be helpful and give the stock a good look before and behind the trigger guard. What is the serial number on the magazine floorplate?
Much obliged for you help. The rifle is all matching, Tula, barrel bands, etc including the magazine. However the exception is the bolt, which is Izhevsk having four (4) numbers on the bolt body, including #73720. That number has been struck out as has 4196. The other two are 68538 and 10873 which matches the one on the r/side of the receiver.
I can find no evidence of marks both before and behind the trigger guard. However, please see the additional photos attached.
An interesting rifle. There are some real oddities with this rifle! Here's my best guess based on my experience and research over the years.
Based on the "Deutsches Reich" cartouche on the left side of the stock, obviously it was in German hands at some point during the course of WWI. The cartouche is clear and the only thing that stands out is that it's on the left side of the stock. The vast majority of these cartouches are stamped on the right side of the stock. I'm not suggesting it isn't a German cartouche, the inspector that stamped it must have been working his way through a pile of rifles!
Double Rework Inspection Marks
One of the two inspector's stamps would be the final acceptance indicating that the rifle was fit for service. The second inspector's stamp in the absence of a second depot mark indicates that when the rifle was recovered from the field and shipped to Koblenz, there was some issue with the rifle. It underwent a repair at the depot.
The obvious repair required the replacement of the magazine housing. None of the Russian arsenals were producing magazine housings with the early pattern sling swivel in 1915. The German's undoubtedly replaced the original damaged magazine, inspected the repair, then added the second inspection mark indicating that the rifle was fit for service.
The possibility exists that the mag housing was replaced and the original numbered floorplate added to the older replacement magazine housing, but I don't think so. The German ordnance staff at the depots couldn't have cared less as to whether or not any of the serial numbers on captured rifles matched. They were overworked and as it pertained to captured weapons, if the rifle would fire, it was good to go!
At some point before the end of the war, the rifle was most likely recaptured. It could have changed hands and been reissued during WWI, but based on the date of manufacture, it was most likely returned to service during the Russian Civil War. It would have been cycled through a Soviet rebuild program after WWI before being reissued. It may have been arsenal overhauled after the Civil War. I would assume that it was at this time that the bolt was force matched to the original serial number of the rifle.
I would also suggest that it was during a Soviet rebuild that the floorplate was numbered to match the original serial number on the rest of the rifle. As close as they are, its obvious that the numbers on the barrel, buttplate and floorplate were serialized with different stamping dies.
It was common practice to stamp the barrel with the primary serial number after which, when the rifle was complete, to stamp the rest of the numbered parts to match the number on the barrel. In this case, the serial numbers on the butt-plate and floor-plate were obviously marked with different die sets. Could this rifle have been marked in a different sequence? Certainly, but it would have been outside of the norm. It's also possible that the marking practice was changed at some point during the war.
While the German Depot's renumbered replacement bolts when they reworked German rifles, i.e. Gew 88s, Gew 98s and Kar 98s, they generally didn't bother to renumber the bolts of captured enemy rifles. They were going to be issued to rear echelon units and were not expected to see front line service other than in emergencies.
Quite a work load!
Totally Bizarre Bolt?
Your bolt is a real anomaly??? Based on location, it would appear that "4194" was the original serial number of this bolt. If the serial number that matches the barrel, i.e. "73720" was stamped as a forced match by the Germans or the Russians, then why are there two other serial numbers on top of the bolt guide rib???
The Austro-Hungarians serialized the rifles that they captured, but generally did so on the stock, not on the rifle or bolt. The Germans generally didn't bother to renumber captured weapons. This would have required a much larger effort on the part of the depots, all of which were swamped with the repairs required to keep frontline weapons in service.
When actual conversions were performed, such as the re-chambering of M91s to 8x57mm, the work was performed at arsenals, not depots and the bolts would have always been serialized. But why was it serialized four times???
The "new" serial number marked on the right side of the receiver is another anomaly??? With the bolt having already been force matched to "73720" to match the serial number on the barrel, why bother to renumber both the bolt and the receiver? The only scenario that makes sense is that the rifle and bolt were renumbered as part of a much larger inventory program prior to placing the rifles in storage somewhere well after WWI.
All of my comments above are based on what I have come to know as "common practice." This of course doesn't mean that my observations are correct. As every collector discovers over time, there are ALWAYS exceptions in every case and outside of that, there are always a small percentage of totally bizarre examples that surface.
Based on all of the above, IMHO this rifle was reworked during WWI at Koblenz and then received a total overhaul by the Russians either before, during or after the Revolution. Then at some point in time, perhaps in a Warsaw Pact country, it was renumbered and placed in storage.
All of these rifles passed through a variety of different hands during the past 100 years after Imperial Russia ceased to exist. Regardless of the anomalies, this is a very nice example of a WWI German captured and reissued M1891 Three-Line Rifle.
As always, John, your observation and summaries are well presented. I had similar thoughts about the Russian/Soviet rework, but could never articulate in such a comprehensive manner as you have.
I have followed this intriguing rifle from The Collector's Forum. It is just outside the norm in a few aspects, and deserves some extra praise and attention. I would be proud to own such an example, staffy.
Hi John - I'm quite flattered by the amount of work you have put in deciphering and providing an explanation for this piece. It had occurred to me that the bolt would have had it's original Izhevsk number, struck out, and was force matched to this rifle whilst in Russian hands. After that, given the history following the Russo/German peace, with the continuing presence of Germany in the Ukraine and Baltic States, the possibilities are boundless.
I am most grateful to you and shall cherish this item, whilst reflecting on the 'tour de force' you present to us all.
Fascinating rifle! And, great comments, John! Yes, these old rifles have passed through many hands over the course of a hundred years, and dechiphering their history is quite a task. I will soon post an equally strange Kar98a, which I think I have to some degree dechiphered, but need extra input on, and possible correction of what I think about it.
Thank you one and all for your kind words. I got a little carried away with this one staffy, but the farther I went with it, the more there was to unravel. The strange sequence of numbers on the bolt are truly bizarre since one of the over-struck numbers matches the original serial number???
The handful of anomalies aside, this is a very nice rifles and an excellent representative example of an unmolested German capture. It never passed through Finland and I would bet dollars to doughnuts that the early pattern mag housing was added by the German's in Koblenz.
While we will never know for sure one way or the other, the possibility also exists that the mag housing with swivel was added for use with a German export pattern sling with an ersatz hooked swivel. I have an original example of one of these hooked swivels that was a gift from a member of the museum staff in Belgium. It's German, NOT the issue pattern sling that was introduced by the Russians with a hooked swivel stitched to the sling.
Here are photos of this swivel in use by a unit of the Matrosen Division. You can see how crudely formed these were in the photos. These slings were issued with captured rifle that lacked the top swivel. Their rifles are also equipped with tubular bayonet adapters, but that has no connection to this thread.
At least this is less of a mystery thanks to you and the contributions on this thread. Some things are destined to remain a puzzle, but who knows what may turn up in future researches.
Kindest regards, staffy.