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The Serbian & Montenegrin

Model 1891 Three Line Rifles

From: John P. Sheehan & Kevin Carney


Prior to WWI, only two countries outside of Imperial Russia officially adopted the Model 1891 Three-Line-Rifle (more commonly known as the Mosin-Nagant), Serbia and Montenegro (Albania may be a third, however, we’re still researching this issue!). Both countries shared a common past as a part of Ancient Serbia. Both suffered through three Centuries of domination at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. While detailed accounts of their individual histories are not within the scope of this article, they both managed to slip rather slowly from underneath the grip of an ever-weakening regime in Istanbul. As a result, when complete independence was achieved, the same problems faced both of these small Slavic countries. Both needed to arm and equip their own armies. Both were to receive weapons from Russia as part of this effort.

 

SERBIA

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Following a long struggle, complete with various alliances, assassinations and periods of quasi autonomy, Serbia officially gained its independence from the Turks with the Treaty of Berlin in 1882. Immediately upon achieving self-rule, the Serbs sought to form a standing army. For weapons, their first effort was directed towards the procurement of Mauser rifles from Germany, then the preeminent arms supplier in Europe (and within a few years, the world!). The first weapon they adopted was the Model 1880 Mauser-Milovonovic single shot black powder infantry rifle. Development of this model was underway as the Treaty of Berlin was still under negotiation. The fact that their first rifle was procured from Germany, at a time when a treaty was being negotiated in Berlin, was no accident. Germany sought to gain favor with the new Government in Serbia as a counterbalance against her European rivals, Austro-Hungary and Russia.

Serbia Arms for War

The Model 1880 Mauser-Milavonovic, as it is known, was a black powder single shot which, had evolved from the German Model 1871 Mauser. Shortly after the rifle contract was completed, the Serbian Army acquired their first repeating shoulder arm when they purchased small numbers of cavalry and artillery carbines. The Model 1884 Mauser “Koka” pattern carbines were based on the German Model 71/84 Kropatchek system. They were tubular fed, with each round loaded into the tubular magazine individually. The total production of carbines consisted of 4000 each, of the cavalry and artillery variations. Serbia’s reliance on Germany for weapons, was to a great degree, influenced by their former masters, the Ottoman Turks. This was an interesting time in the development of small arms. Small caliber smokeless powder weapons were replacing large bore black powder cartridge rifles throughout the world. It was an arms race to rival any seen in this century. The Turkish Army had placed a huge order in Germany with Mauser, for 600,000 rifles. Production began with the Model 1887 Infantry Rifle, which was yet another blackpowder variation of the German 1871/84 Kropatchek system. A clause in this contract allowed the Turks to request a change in model should either Mauser, or the German Army, adopt a more advanced system than the model currently in production under the original contract. The Turks had insisted that this be a condition of the contract. Word had spread throughout Europe regarding the French introduction of the first smokeless powder small bore military rifle, the Model 1886 Lebel. Smokeless powder had been under development in several countries during this period, including Germany, and had finally become feasible for military use. As a result of the contractual clause, the Model 1887 was discontinued and production resumed with the first smokeless powder rifle the Turkish Army adopted, the Model 1890 Infantry Rifle.

The Model 1890 Mauser was an improved charger loading bolt action rifle, which was based on the very successful Model 1889 Belgian Mauser. Of the original contract for 600,000 rifles, approximately 400,000 had yet to be delivered. The result was a series of upgraded models, which shadowed the rapidly developing evolution from black to smokeless powder. The Model 1893 and 1903 Mausers followed the Model 1890 as upgraded models under the same terms of the original contract. The Serbs, taking full advantage of Germany’s desire to maintain a close alliance, followed the developments in Turkish arms procurement with more than casual interest. The Serbs fully expected that were they to fight a war, it would be against their former rulers, the Turks. To keep pace with the Turkish weapons program, they continued to look to Germany for improved models of small arms. They didn’t want to be behind the technology curve, with the country they felt most likely to face in the event of war.

This resulted in the ordering of a series of rifles of Mauser design, which began with the Model 1880 and 84 black powder weapons and went on to include the Infantry Models 1899, 1899/07, 1899/08, 1910 and the Model 1908 Cavalry Carbine. All of these weapons were 7x57mm in caliber, utilized smokeless powder and paralleled the designs successively ordered by Turkey. These export patterns were so close in form that both Serbian and Turkish issue bayonets were interchangeable! Serbian fears would develop into reality during the First and Second Balkans Wars and WWI in the early years of the 20th Century.

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Map Courtesy BBC

The First Balkan War was fought between an alliance of Balkan States, the Balkan League, against the Ottoman Empire. Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Greece went to war against the Turks in October of 1912. Turkey had been at war in North Africa with Italy since September of 1911. Taking advantage of the reduced state of readiness of the preoccupied Turkish forces, the Balkan League invaded the European provinces of the Ottoman Empire in Thrace and Macedonia. In a series of campaigns fought primarily in and across Macedonia, the Alliance of Balkan States defeated the Turks and lay siege to Constantinople. An armistice was signed and Macedonia was ceded to the victorious Alliance.

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Map BBC

True to the divisiveness that still plagues the region to this day, the victory against the Turks lead to squabbling amongst the victors. In less than a month, the Greeks, Serbs and Montenegrins had squared off against Bulgaria. The planned division of Macedonia between the victors was at fault. Both sides still had their armies in the field in recently captured Turkish territory. This lead to the Second Balkan War, which saw the alliance of Serbia and Greece, pitted against their former ally, Bulgaria. Fighting raged for two months after which, Romania intervened on behalf on the Greco-Serbian Alliance and invaded Bulgaria from the North. With nothing between the Romanian Army and the major city of Sofia, the Bulgarians had no option other than to sue for peace. The Second Balkan War ended with the Treaty of Bucharest in August of 1913. While Bulgaria lost all it had hoped to gain, both Serbia and Greece expanded their territory with the division of Macedonia. This expansion of Serbia’s borders attracted the attention of Austro-Hungary and gave them the pretext they were looking for to intervene in the Balkans.

In the late 1890s, it became evident that the Austro-Hungarian Empire had designs on all of the Balkans. To detail the various aspects of the political situation in the region at this time would require a separate twenty-volume work! In a nutshell, the later decades of the 19th Century and the early years of the 20th Century were the heyday of Empire building by the European Powers, primarily through colonization. The Habsburg Monarchy of Austro-Hungary had little prospects for expansion. They were being squeezed out of the race for colonies on every continent. Due to problems at home with their polyglot nation, they were too late in the race to grab a suitable portion of Africa, the Middle East or the Far East. The only direction in which they could expand their territories was to the South. A collision with the disorganized and smaller countries in the Balkans was inevitable.

The Balkan Peninsula was at this time populated with Serbs, Croats, Slovenians, Albanians, Macedonians, Montenegrins and Turks, all of whom were, with the exception of the Turks, Slavic peoples. They had changed somewhat during their three centuries under Ottoman rule, mostly due to Turkish immigration to the region as well as the religious influences brought in by their Islamic masters. The rapid growth of Empire, which threatened the balance of power in Europe during this period, was fueled by an arms race that was inevitably driven by the Industrial Revolution. Alliance after alliance was sought to counter the temporary dynastic gains of one power versus another. In order to check the expansion of Her Southwestern rival, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and to curb German influence in the region, Russia, on the pretext of Her role as the ultimate protector of all Slavic peoples, had decided to poke Her nose into the situation in the Balkans. It was due to this intervention that first the Montenegrins and then the Serbs were to become armed with the Model 1891 Three-Line-Rifle by their Russian protectors.

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Russian Berdan

The first Russian Arms, which were supplied to both Serbia and Montenegro, were obsolete Berdan II rifles. This was a blackpowder single shot, which had been adopted by the Russians following its acceptance in the field trials of 1870. Col. Hiram Berdan, the famous American who had organized and commanded the 1st and 2nd Sharpshooter Regiments in the Union Army, during the American Civil War, had designed the Berdan I rifle in the late 1860s. The Russian Government accepted and adopted the Berdan I. The Berdan I was based on a lifting, pivoting breech mechanism, similar to the other muzzle loading conversion systems such as the Albini-Braendlin, Snider, Wanzl, Allen, etc. etc. Production was terminated after only 30,000 rifles had been produced. Col. Berdan had perfected a single shot bolt action rifle, which was of superior design. It was adopted by Russia in 1870. It was later adopted by Bulgaria as well as several other countries who were supplied surplus arms from Russia. Production ran into the millions. Shipments of Berdan IIs were first made to Serbia by Russia in the mid 1890s. Montenegro received 30,000 Berdan IIs from Russia in 1895. The Berdan II was to serve with the reserves of both the Serbian and Montenegrin Armies, as well as with Russian front line troops, throughout WWI. With the precedent already established, the next round of weapons to be supplied to Serbia by the Russians would be the Model 1891 Three- Line Rifle.

The details of the first shipment of rifles to Serbia are somewhat sketchy. The exact date and quantity are not known for certain, so far as my research has been able to ascertain. There is some reference to rifles being supplied in the late 1890s or at the turn of the Century. To date, I have not been able to confirm this. There is evidence that supports the possibility that a French businessman by the name of Adrien Treuille contacted Serbia on behalf of Chatellerault. The Russians had requested the destruction of all tooling and gauges, which were used for production of the Three-Line-Rifle at the French arsenal at Chatellerault, when the French contract with Russia was completed in 1895. In spite of the Russian request, this was not done. The French intended to sell Three-Line-Rifles on the international arms market. At the time, Serbia could not afford the program and the contract was never begun. Whether or not some of these rifles were delivered for trials is unclear. This may be the origin of the reported early acquisitions. The evidence is somewhat contradictory. Another possibility exists as well. It was in 1895 that Russia first supplied 20,000 Three-Line-Rifles to Montenegro. An additional shipment of 20,000 rifles was made in 1905. Perhaps one or more of these shipments were supplied through Serbia. Were this to be confirmed, it might explain the origin of the reported early unconfirmed shipments of Three-Line-Rifles to Serbia. More research needs to be done in this area.

The first confirmed shipment was made shortly after the end of the second Balkan War in late 1913. As many of the earlier procured Mauser rifles were unserviceable following heavy use and battlefield loss in two wars fought in such rapid succession, Serbia was in desperate need of additional weapons. More rifles were supplied by Russia in early 1914 and shipments continued into the early months of W.W.I. The 1915 British Intelligence report on military readiness of the Balkans States lists approximately 150,000 Russian Three-Line-Rifles in Serbian service by early 1915. Most of the existing identified Serbian marked Three-Line-Rifles date from this period. By 1915, Serbian arsenals were producing approximately 120,000 small arms cartridges per day. This included both 7.52x54mmR and 7x57mm Mauser as well as 10.6x57.5mmR Berdan cartridges. In addition, Serbia was being supplied with large amounts of small arms ammunition from many of the Allied countries.

The Model 1891 Three-Line-Rifle

The first confirmed shipments of Russian Three-Line-Rifles to Serbia, occurred sometime in late 1913, following the Second Balkan War. These rifles were of the older, original first pattern Three-Line-Rifle. Many of them lacked handguards and their sling swivels were mounted on the underside of the top barrel band and the forward section of the magazine well. The rifles chambered the original obr. 7.62x54mmR 1891g cartridge, which fired a 200 gr. roundnose bullet at an average velocity of 2050 fps. The rear sight was graduated in Arshins, an archaic form of measure still in use in Russia at that time. One Arshin equaled approximately 0.71 meters. The rear sight calibration consisted of a combat setting of 200 Arshins. This is approximately 142 meters. Additional settings range from 400 through 1200 Arshins (284 - 852 meters) on the left side of the sight base, while the sight leaf begins at 1300 Arshins, up to a maximum elevation of 2700 Arshins (923 - 1917 meters), on the top of the sight ladder. The long-range settings were intended primarily for volley fire which, was used to engage large enemy formations with plunging fire, to provide area fire to restrict enemy movement or suppress enemy fire. This was a standard tactical doctrine of most European armies of the day. Its function was eventually replaced by the machine gun during W.W.I.

The Model 1891 Three-Line-Rifle derives its name from an archaic form of measurement, which was in use in Russia until shortly after the Revolution. The line, lini, was equal to 2.54mm. Hence, the caliber of the rifle was 7.62mm or treh lineynaya, three line. The official Russian name of the new weapon was Treh Lineynaya Vintovka Obraska 1891 goda, or in English, Model 1891 Three-Line-Rifle. These days, it is more commonly referred to as the Mosin-Nagant. This name, while never officially adopted, is a direct reference to the three gentlemen who contributed features to the final design of the Model 1891 Three-Line-Rifle. The three contributors to the final design were Leon & Emile Nagant, representing a firearms maker in Liege, Belgium, and Sergei Ivanovich Mosin, a Colonel in the Russian Imperial Army who was at that time, the Director of the tooling shop at the Tula Arsenal. Trials were held to replace the Model 1870 Berdan II, the aging blackpowder single shot rifle still in use. The Nagant brothers had submitted an 8mm rifle to the Russian Government for trials, while Colonel Mosin, entered a 7.62mm, 8 round repeating rifle based on a conversion of the Berdan II. The final pattern was an amalgamation incorporating the best features of each rifle.

By 1913, Russia had made several changes to the configuration of the Three- Line-Rifle. A top handguard had been added to the late production at Chatellerault in 1894. Sling slots, such as were found on the earlier Berdan II and the first pattern Three-Line-Dragoon, Cossack and Cavalry models, had been substituted for the original sling swivels. By 1908, the new obr. 7.62x54mmR 1908L cartridge had been adopted. This cartridge utilized a 149 grain spitzer bullet, which generated a velocity of approximately 2690 fps. The improved ballistics of new cartridge required the replacement of the original sight leaf with a new curved pattern. The calibration markings on the rear sight base remained the same, however, the sight leaf was marked from 1300 Arshins to 3200 Arshins (923-2272 meters).

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Serbs with M91 Mosin Nagant ( WW1 Era )

While it is almost certain that the peacetime shipment, made in 1913, consisted mostly of the early pattern Three-Line-Rifle (early cartridge chambering, sight leaf and sling swivel arrangement), the configuration of the rifles, which were supplied in the early stages of the W.W.I, most likely consisted of both patterns. Despite the alterations made to the Three-Line-Rifle between 1900 and 1908, Russia still held huge stores of unaltered rifles of the early pattern chambered for the obr. 1891g cartridge. This was due in part, to an inability to rapidly alter all the early pattern rifles that were spread out in stores all across the Empire. The second reason was the fact that millions of rounds of the obr. 7.62x54mmR 1891g first pattern cartridges were still sitting in inventory throughout Russia. Whether the second shipment of rifles to Serbia consisted entirely of one type of rifle, or a mixture of both, is not certain. However, based on existing Serbian marked rifles and photographic evidence from WWI, it must be assumed that rifles of both the early and post 1908 configurations were included in the second series of shipments. I have in my collection examples of both types, which bear Serbian markings. To confuse matters further, many of the early pattern rifles used during WWI continued in service with different countries and had their rear sight leafs replaced with the 1908 type after WWI.

To date, only standard full-length infantry rifles have been identified with Serbian markings. Wartime photographic evidence supports this finding. It is not known if any of the other patterns of the 1891 Three-Line system, i.e. the Dragoon, Cossack or Cavalry Carbine, were included in the weapons supplied to Serbia.

While all of the contracted weapons appear to have been full length infantry rifles, it also appears based on surviving examples that the contracts were supplied entirely by Tula and Ishevsk. In our research, there have been no Serbian marked rifles, which have been identified that were produced at either Chattelerault or Sestroretsk. However, please keep in mind that the small numbers of identified rifles do not conclusively prove either of these points. The lack of photographic evidence showing Dragoon, Cossack or carbine patterns, does support the belief that only rifles were supplied. In regards to the arsenals, which manufactured the contract rifles, the photographic evidence is meaningless.

 

Identification of Serbian Issued Three Line Rifles

The information, which is available, regarding Serbian markings is very limited. This is to a large extent, due to the low survivability of pre W.W.I. Serbian military weapons. The Serbs fought two wars right after the turn of the Century, the 1st and 2nd Balkans Wars and then were very heavily engaged in W.W.I. The turbulent years in the region between the World Wars further reduced the numbers of surviving weapons. Add to this the numbers of Serbian Mausers, of every type, that were converted to short rifle configuration between the wars, and you will very quickly realize that there are very few original pre WWI specimens available for study. One of the primary reasons that Serbia needed rifles at the outbreak of WWI was the fact that many of the original supply of Mausers were already close to worn out before WWI even began! They had already seen 15 years of service and two wars! Many of the rifles that survived WWI and Yugoslavian conversion, went on to serve in WWII.

 

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The Serbs in the shallow trench awaiting attack, something to note is that the third soldier from the foreground has a Model 1899 Serbian bayonet mounted on his rifle. The sixth Serb from the forground has a captured Model 1903 Turkish quillback bayonet. A nice example of the use of captured equipment.

The rifles that have survived are generally very beaten up, with little to no finish remaining. Despite this, they tend to bring top dollar when they appear on the market, as they are extremely rare in any condition. The importance of Serbian Mausers to a Mosin-Nagant collector is in cross-referencing the known Serbian markings, which appear on the various patterns of Mausers, with many of the unknown marking, which appear on the occasional Mosin Nagant. It was a mark such as this on one of the rifles in my collection, that lead me to embark on a three year research project, working in conjunction with my good friend, Kevin Carney. Kevin deserves credit for a very high percentage of this information. He is an absolute Gentleman, a very knowledgeable collector and an absolute pleasure to work with!

The fate of Modern Yugoslavia, following W.W.II, compounded the problem of researching Serbian weapons and markings. Fifty years of communist rule, did not permit Western arms historians and collectors the opportunity to do original research in what little remains of the Serbian pre W.W.I records. To this day, opportunities to work in the Balkans are very restricted.

Kevin and I have, over the past several years, amassed the following verified list of Serbian markings. They have all been confirmed via known Serbian models found in my collection, Kevin’s collection, those of several other collectors, and on specimen that have been inspected at various museums in Europe. All the markings listed below as confirmed, have been found on more than one original Serbian rifle. Those, which are listed as unconfirmed, have been observed on a single specimen only. Please keep in mind as you read this list, that our letter C is the letter S in the Cyrillic alphabet. Hence the use of a capitol C for Serbia, as a proof on many Serbian weapons.

In addition, please keep in mind the fact that while some of these markings may in fact be proofs (in the strictest sense of the word), for the time being, I will refer to all of them as markings. This is necessary due to the fact that with no solid written sources available to confirm which markings might actually be proofs, rather than property marks etc., proper identification is currently impossible. Should our continued research bring to light additional information along these lines, we will be more than happy to share them with you!


Confirmed Markings

  • C
  • Crown - Imperial, two types
  • Crown/C
  • Crown/T
  • Crown/H
  • Crown/M
  • Crown/B
  • Crown/Cyrillic P
  • The Cyrillic letter D in a circle (here after referred to as circle/CD)

Unconfirmed Markings

  • Crown/U
  • Crown H/C*

*Before moving on to the confirmed markings, there is one of the unconfirmed marks, which deserves further mention. On a Steyr manufactured Model 1899/07 Mauser rifle, the Crown H/C mark appears in several places. The description (Crown H/C) is not exactly accurate and cannot be reproduced here accurately, as it is more of a monogram than a capitol H/C under a crown. (A photo of this proof will be found in the illustrations which accompany this article.) Under the crown, is found the left half and crossbar of an H. The crossbar of the H attaches to the mid point of a C. This produces a monogram, which at first glance, appears to be a K. I believe that this was an intentional effort on the part of a creative member of the Steyr Company, to combine two commonly used Serbian proofs, the H and C, to fashion a stylized K. The K is the Steyr arsenal mark for small metallic production parts. The Steyr K is found on one or more metal parts of all weapons produced by Steyr during the Habsburg Monarchy during the later half of the 19th Century. The K is also found as an inspection mark on Steyr inspected, or reworked, captured weapons which were reissued to the Austro-Hungarian Army. I have never seen this mark on any Serbian weapons which, were produced by any other arsenal. I have yet to confirm this with any sources in Austria, but I find the coincidence very interesting.


The various marks listed below are all confirmed as having been used during or prior to W.W.I, on Serbian shoulder arms. On many weapons of the period, more than marking from the above list will be found. On others, a single mark may appear.

C - The capitol C is found on a very large number of the Model 1899 Serbian bayonets. The late Jerry Jantzen, in his great work, Bayonets from Jantzen’s Notebook, suggests that the Crown/C is the most commonly found mark on the Model 99 bayonets. Despite this, I have yet to encounter the crown/C on any Serbian 99 bayonets. That is not to say that it does not occur. The seven examples in my own collection, all of various manufacture (including those made by Plumb in the United States), are all marked on the crossguard with a capitol C only. The capitol C will also appear both with, and without an imperial crown, on Serbian issued Mosin-Nagants. An early rifle in my collection is marked with a capitol C on both the barrel as well as the bolt guide rib. One should be careful, however, in the identification of Three Line Rifles produced by Chatellerault. These rifles are marked with a variety of devices which include the letter C, which represent the name of the French Arsenal. The various marks used by Chatellerault can be found in Karl-Heinz Wrobel’s excellent book, Drei Linien, Die Gewehre Mosin-Nagant. This book is a must for any serious collectors of any of the various models of the Mosin-Nagant. I am happy to say that Karl-Heinz is an excellent friend and as most of you know, a constant contributor to Tuco’s Forum. He is the most knowledgeable person I have ever met when it comes to the Mosin-Nagant.

Crown - There are two styles of Imperial crown markings, which appear on Serbian weapons. It is possible that one was in use at the time of the first delivery of rifles in 1913, while the other dates from the period during the early stages of W.W.I. The evidence to date is not conclusive. The Three Line Rifles, which have been unquestionably identified as Serbian issue, point to this being a possibility. However, the number of identified specimens is too low to draw any definite conclusions. The style of crowns which appear in both markings are arched on top, divided into segments, lacks any points and are surmounted by an Orthodox cross (the Serbs were universally Orthodox Christians). If the assumption should turn out to be correct regarding the markings being of different style based on the period in which they were marked, then the early group of rifles would be found with a crown in two-dimensional silhouette. The later style, would in turn, appear in three-dimensional form. The view represented, shows the crown from a point of view, slightly underneath the crown. This portrays the lower rim of the crown as an oval and gives you the perspective of looking up into the inside of the lower portion of the crown. On all the examples identified to date which bear an Imperial crown of either style, all of them are marked in conjunction with one of the other known Serbian proofs.

Crown/C - This Serbian mark is found, according to Jantzen, on some Model 1899 bayonets as well as many of the Serbian Mausers. While it’s use has yet to be documented on any Three Line Rifles, certainly any rifle found marked in this fashion will have seen service with the Serbian Army. On the early black powder Model 1884 Mauser “Koka” Cavalry Carbine, the Crown/C appears on almost every metal part of the carbine. It is also found on the receiver as one of the marks, which line the right side of the receiver. This row of markings is typically found on German produced weapons of this period. It is also present on the Models 1899/07 and the Model 1910.

Crown T - The Crown/T is an established Serbian marking, which survived into the post WWI era. It has been found as a prominent mark on the Serbian Model 1899/07 as well as a wide variety of other weapons, which were used by the Serbs during and after WWI. I know of three Model 95 Mannlicher Stutzen’s or Stutzenkarabiniers, which are marked with a Crown/T and in one instance, a Crown/H as well. It is impossible to confirm whether these rifles were marked as captured reissued weapons during WWI or as war reparations after 1918. In addition, the Turkish Model 1890 rifles that were converted into short rifle configuration following WWI by the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later day Yugoslavia), were universally marked with a Crown/T. Either way, there is no question that this mark was used by the Serbs before, during and after, WWI.

Crown/H - As with the Crown/C, the Crown/H is found on many of the Serbian Mausers, particularly as a cartouche on the stock. It is also found on metal surfaces as well. One of the prize weapons in my collection is a Serbian captured and reissued Austrian Model 1895 Mannlicher Stutzen. The Crown/H mark appears on one side of the barrel while the Crown/T mark may be found on the other side. Three other carbines have been located with these markings. All three are still chambered for the original 8x50mmR Austrian service cartridge. Like the Crown/C, it has yet to be documented on any Three Line Rifle. Its appearance would unmistakably indicate Serbian use.

Crown/M - The Crown/M mark falls pretty much into the same category as the Crown/H, however, it has been documented on a single Three Line Rifle. The rifle in question is marked with an early style crown and a C on the other side of the receiver. Like the others markings, it appears on various model Serbian issue Mausers of the period.

Crown/Cyrillic P - The Crown/Cyrillic P marking is somewhat problematic. The Cyrillic P, which look like two capitol I’s, connected at the top, or an upside down U, has been used by Russia on nearly all of it’s weapons from this period. In Serbian use, an Imperial Crown always surmounts the Cyrillic P. To date, I have not been able to discover the use of any style crown used by Russia as an official mark, other than the one that is found above the Imperial Eagle, which appears on all Russian Czarist weapons. Therefore, it must be assumed that any Crown/Cyrillic P proof is of Serbian origin. I intend to do more research on this in Russia as I have several Berdan IIs which are marked with a Crown/Cyrillic P and A? Crown/A is a known Bulgarian proof, but I have seen no reference to the use of the A along side the Cyrillic P on any known Bulgarian weapons. More study needs to be done to better document this

Cyrillic letter D in a Circle (circle/CD) - This marking is one of only two Serbian marks found on the Model 1910 contract Mausers made for Serbia by Mauser. The Serbian Model 1910 was produced with two different sets of markings. Mauser produced them at their Oberndorf facility. Some of these rifles have the Serbian crest on the receiver along with the model designation. Interestingly, for some reason, other rifles from this contract have no Serbian crests on the receiver. Why this is the case, is not known, other than the possibility that they were contract weapons for which the actions were made blank for potential use for a variety of different contracts. The rifles, which lack Serbian crests, have WAFFENFABRIK/ MAUSER A.-G./ OBERNDORF a/n marked on top of the receiver. On the left siderail, it is simply marked Mauser Model 1910. The Serbian issued contract rifles are marked with the circle/CD on the trigger guard and floorplate and with Crown/Cs on the receiver and many of the small metal parts. The same circle/CD proof, has been found on many of the Serbian identified Three- Line-Rifles. It appears alone on many of the rifles and has also been found with the second style of crown on several rifles as well. On all of the rifles identified to date, this mark has been found on the top of the barrel below the original Russian date.

This brings up an hypothesis that Kevin and I are trying to substantiate. The earliest confirmed shipment of rifles to Serbia was made in 1913. Additional shipments were then made just before, and during, the early stages of W.W.I. Occasional reference to an earlier shipment has surfaced during our research. There is thought to have been a shipment made at the turn of the Century or in the late 1890s. Whether this reference is to the Chatellerault connection or the possibility that Russia was supplying weapons at this early date cannot be proved at this time. When cross-referencing the various markings found on the weapons examined during our research, the following pattern appears to emerge.

The early models of Serbian Mausers are not marked with the circle/CD. That mark first appears on the Model 1910 Mauser. It appears on many of the Three-Line-Rifles that Kevin and I have identified, but only on rifles which are dated 1914, 1915 and 1916. The earliest identified Serbian Three-Line-Rifle in our study, is a Tula made weapon in my collection. It was made in 1894. It is marked with a stand-alone capitol C, a separate 1st style Crown and a crown/M. The Crown and C are not a single Crown/C mark, but two independently struck marks. Another rifle in my collection was produced at the Tula Arsenal in 1914. It also bears two separate proofs. It is marked with the circle/CD and the second type Crown. Taking into account the date of manufacture of the two groups of rifles, combined with the markings which coincide with certain dates only, it is very tempting to conclude that the rifles shipped to Serbia by Russia can be differentiated as being from the first or second group of rifles shipped. If this can be proved, or the early shipments confirmed, the rifles from the first unconfirmed contract (from the late 1890s) might be identifiable. If so, the 1st style crown and a capitol C may represent this early unconfirmed shipment. The rifles from the second group (emergency shipments from 1913 to 1916) were marked with the circle/CD. When a crown proof has been found accompanying a circle/CD proof in the second group of rifles, it has always been the 2nd style crown (the three dimensional style viewed from slightly below).

The only problem with this hypothesis is that neither of the groups studied is large enough in number to be conclusive. The possibility exists that the difference in marks may be due to different inspectors, different munitions dumps, replacement stamps (they do wear out rather quickly!) etc. etc. We may never know, as I doubt that the population of weapons available for study will ever be large enough to support an accurate conclusion, either way. Serbian weapons, of any type from this period, are very rare.

Serbian Double Headed Eagle?

While researching this subject in conjunction with Kevin, I came across two collectors who believed that rifles used by Serbia were marked with a different style of eagle on either the flat of the octagonal action, or above the arsenal name on the barrel. While this may be possible, in comparing the eagles on all the known Serbian issued rifles, there is no conclusive evidence that the eagles are any different than those found on Russian issued rifles from the same period. From the time of it’s acceptance by the Russian Imperial Army, until the Revolution of 1917, the number of different stamps that must have been required to mark the millions of different rifles produced, must have been enormous! In going through the Three-Line-Rifles in my collection alone, there is tremendous variation in the eagle markings from one arsenal to another and from one period to another. If anyone out there can shed some more light on this or any other issue regarding this subject, please contact me or Kev. Any and all additional information would be greatly appreciated! Also, I want to thank Kevin Carney for his contribution to this research! He should be writing this rather than me, but as I understand it, he is working on a different article for Tuco! I guess I got this one by default!

Anyone finding Serbian marked weapons among their collection please forward a full description of the weapon and it’s markings to Kevin or to me. We would appreciate this, as it would greatly aid our research.  Please email any information to: Kevin Carney or JPS

 

Montenegro

montenegroflag4.jpg (7734 bytes)

Montenegro adopted the Model 1891 Three-Line-Rifle in 1898. The tiny mountainous Kingdom on the coast of the Adriatic was in earlier times a part of Serbia, and like Serbia, populated with Slavic people who were closely tied to Russia. Two of the Daughters of the ruling Montenegrin Prince, Nicholas I were married to Russian Dukes, while a third Daughter was the Queen of Italy. The Montenegrins were a very bellicose tribal people. Blood feuds were very common among them and by edict of the King, every adult male carried a pistol and dagger with him in public at all times! The connection with Russia predated the Three-Line-Rifle, as the Montenegrins had adopted the Berdan II in the 1895. The Berdan II was issued alongside the Model 1873 Werndl, 20,000 of which had been procured from Steyr during the late 1880s. In the early 1890s, Montenegro received additional rifles from Greece in the form of the Steyr produced Model 1874 Greek Gras rifles.

Mont-91-021.jpg (71383 bytes)

Troops from Montenegro armed with M91's - World War One

In an effort to modernize their outdated black powder single shot rifles, the decision was made to acquire 35,000 Model 1891 Three-Line-Rifles. Russia delivered 20,000 of these beginning in 1898 with the initial shipment being completed in 1899. Along with the rifles, Russia supplied 25,000,000 rounds of 7.62x54mmR cartridges. At this time, the 30,000 Berdan II Rifles, which were still in service, were issued to the reserves. An additional 40,000 rifles of “various types” were still inventoried in the Montenegrin arsenals. These would have been the surviving Werndls, Greek Gras’, Wanzls and an assortment of other older models. An interesting sidelight to the contract was that at the time the rifles were procured, they were not ordered with bayonets! To provide the soldiers with sidearms, the Montenegrins procured 44,000 surplus Model 1866 Gras saber bayonets from the French. They were never adapted to fit the rifles, but rather they were issued as short swords for close combat. In 1905 an additional 20,000 rifles were supplied by Russia, which exceeded the original order by 5000 rifles. By 1910, the Model 1891 Three-Line-Rifle was considered as the official first line weapon of the Montenegrin Army.

Identification of Montenegrin Issued Three-Line-Rifles

To date, only two examples of Model 1891 Three-Line-Rifles from the Montenegrin contract have been identified. The two rifles are unmistakably Montenegrin. The Royal crest of the small Mountain State, was a double headed eagle surmounted by a crown, standing on the back of a lion. Prominently displayed on the eagle’s chest is a shield, which bears the capitol letters HI. The letters, HI appeared on the Royal Cipher of Prince Nicholas I, the ruler of Montenegro at the time of the acquisition of these rifles. It is also found on the Montenegrin flag. Additional rifles of unknown quantity were provided to Montenegro at the outbreak of WWI. These were most likely supplied at the same time as the shipments were made to Serbia.

Two rifles have been found with all of the original Russian markings intact. On the right side of the barrel of both rifles, at the wood line of the stock, is stamped a very crude, small double headed eagle, much smaller than any of the eagle markings used by Russia. Next to the eagle, on the left side of the receiver, is stamped a very small HI. The HI is slightly obscured by the woodline of the stock. There is no doubt what so ever, that these rifles saw service in Montenegro.

Anyone finding marked weapons among their collection please forward a full description of the weapon and it’s markings to Kevin, Tuco or myself! We would appreciate this, as it would greatly aid our research.  Please email any information to: Kevin Carney or JPS

Finnish Connection?

For you Finnish collectors out there, during the 1920s, Yugoslavia (at that time, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) decided in favor of the Mauser rifle and the 8x57mm German service cartridge. The remaining 7x57mm Serbian Mausers were shot out. They could be made serviceable again by reboring to 8mm. Other Mausers, captured from both Germany and Turkey, along with rifles supplied as war reparations, were altered to short rifle configuration along with the caliber change. Thus the number of surviving original 7x57mm Serbian Mausers is very small indeed. One sidelight to this decision, was the abandoning of the Model 1891 Three-Line-Rifle as a standard weapon. Some of the remaining stocks of Model 91s were shipped to Finland in the 1920s. As a result, Finnish issued Mosin Nagants may be found with Serbian markings. Several of the Serbian marked rifles identified during our research are also Finnish marked. So get out your rifles and start looking! There’s no telling what you might find!

A Word from the Authors

As a footnote, I would like all of you to know that this research has never been published before now. Bits and pieces of it have appeared on the Forum during discussion, but the meat of what Kevin and I uncovered while working together, is being shared for the first time. This data along with allot of other material, will appear in my book, if I ever get it finished! Kevin is also writing a number of articles for several of the collectors journals. However, as it may be quite awhile before either one of us publishes this information in hardback form. I would simply like to say, that if any of you out there, who are working on a publication of your own, decide to publish this, please give Kevin and me at least a mention and some credit! It’s been a labor of love and has taken quite a bit of time, as all original research does. We wanted to share this with all of you, as what fun is knowledge if it’s not shared? Since I actually wrote this article, I will take the blame for any mistakes made! Kev wouldn’t have made any, just to make me look bad! My apologies in advance!

I would also like to thank Karl-Heinz Wrobel for both the supporting in formation he supplied, as well as his help in proof reading and critiquing the finished article.

John Wall deserves a special note of thanks as well.  His proofreading and advise was most helpful.

In addition, we would like to thank Tuco for the wonderful work he has done in bringing us all together! We have all made lasting friendships through the Forum and are very fortunate to have Tuco support our hobby in such grand style!

  • John P. Sheehan

  • Kevin Carney

 

The Photo Section

A range of different markings that may appear on weapons from this region. 

This is by no means complete and is always a work in progress.

Tula 1894: marked with early style Serb crown and bearing a separately stamped Cyrillic S (capitol C) and a Crown/M.

Tula 1894: different view showing both the Crown and the Cyrillic S (capitol C) for Serbia

Tula 1894: different view showing the Crown over M.

Tula 1894: the bolt guide rib is marked with a capitol C even though the bolt serial number does not match the receiver. It was most likely an arsenal replacement that dates to WWI or earlier.

Sestroretsk 1906: marked with a Capitol S (capitol C) for Serbia.

Tula 1914: Peter the Great marked rifle marked with the second type of crown alongside the Cyrillic D in a circle.

Tula 1913: marked with Cyrillic D in a circle

Ishevsk 1897: marked with Cyrillic S (capitol C) for Serbia.

Ishevsk 1916: marked with a Cyrillic S (capitol C) for Serbia.

Ishevsk 1913: trigger guard flange, marked with a Cyrillic S (capitol C) alongside the bow and arrow mark of Ishevsk.

Tula 1914: trigger guard flange, marked with a Cyrillic D in a circle alongside the hammer mark of Tula.

Tula 1914: matching rifle, marked with Cyrillic D in circle

Tula 1914: same matching rifle as above,  note the bolt is also marked with a Cyrillic D, but not within a circle.

Ishevsk 1916: marked with Cyrillic S (capitol C) amongst original Russian proofs.

Unknown:   marked with a Cyrillic S (capitol C). This rifle is interesting as the C is stamped over a defaced eagle. In addition, the rifle is Austrian marked (AZF). Was it captured from the Serbs by the Austrians, or was it captured by the Austrians from the Russians and then in turn, liberated by the Serbs? An interesting rifle.

Serbian Model 1884 Mauser Carbine - Proof marks found on the forward portion of the chamber of the carbine.

Serbian Model 1884 Mauser Carbine - Cartouche found on the stock of the carbine.

Serbian Model 1899/07 Mauser Rifle - Crown/T proof found on the receiver.

Serbian Model 1899/07 Mauser Rifle - Unusual HC proof in the shape of a K (for Steyr?) on the trigger guard and floorplate.

Serbian Model 1899/07 Mauser Rifle -Crown over Cyrillic P cartouche on the stock.

Serbian Model 1910 Mauser Rifle -Cyrillic D in a circle found on the trigger guard assembly and floorplate.

Serbian Model 1899 bayonets - Cyrillic S (Capitol C) mark of two slightly different sizes on the crossguard of two bayonets for the Mauser rifle.

Ishevsk 1915 - Montenegrin marked rifle. Two small crude eagles have been added to the left side of the barrel and receiver and partially hidden by the woodline, is an HI mark. Two rifles with these marks have been located to date.

Ishevsk 1915 - Second view of the same markings from a slightly different angle.

Russian WW1 period postcard of Montenegrin troops with M91 rifles.


 
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