Russian Pistols before the Revolver - Flintlocks and Conversions - Part One

A Russian trooper with a pistol
A Napoleonic Period Hussar NCO with a Pistol and Saber


The Pattern 1808 Family of Weapons in 7 Line Caliber
The Pattern 1809 Soldier’s Pistol.
The Pattern 1809 Soldier’s Cavalry Pistol.
The Pattern 1809 Officer's Pistol.
The Pattern 1839 Cossack Trooper’s Pistol.
Original Pattern 1839 Cossack Officer’s Pistol.


At the end of the 18th century the Russian Army was armed with an incredible mixture of weapons. Not only were there a great variety of Russian manufactured weapons in calibers from 5 lines to 8 ⅝ lines A, the weapons in service dated to as far back as 1700. There were also significant numbers of muskets of foreign origin; Prussian, Austrian, Dutch, and especially English (the Russians obtained 60,000 muskets from the English Government in 1804 – at the period of the coalition against Napoleon). Many of these foreign weapons were war time captures from the Swedish and allied forces defeated during the Seven Years War (1756-1763). As the Napoleonic Wars in Europe continued, the Imperial War Ministry faced the monumental task of reequipping the Army with a standardized pattern of weapons. The quantities required to accomplish this were huge, and their production would place a significant strain on the manufacturing resources available to the Russian government.

During the years 1800-1806, the Tula factory alone produced between forty thousand and forty-five thousand shoulder weapons annually. These would have been the older pattern 1798 and 1805 families of weapons.

To increase production, during the period of 1805-1807, Tsar Alexander I (reign 1801- 1825) converted one of the metalworking factories at Izhevsk into an infantry weapons factory. Izhevsk, in the heart of the Ural Mountains, had been an important center for the iron industry since the early seventeenth century. The armory at Izhevsk began the production of infantry weapons in 1810 under the name Izhevsk Weapons Factory (Ижевский Оружейный Завод).

The standardized pattern 1808 family of 7 line weapons was introduced only a few years before Imperial Russia’s “Patriotic War” with France. The Russians had been aware of the threat posed by Napoleon for a long period of time, but despite this, the Russian Army was not prepared when Napoleon’s armies crossed the Russian frontiers on 24 June 1812. The Russian army was badly outnumbered (260,000 Russians to 600,000 French and allied armies) and was forced to retreat in the face of Napoleon’s advance. War Minister A. A. Arkacheev (minister from 1808 to 1825) directed the weapons manufacturing centers during the “Patriotic War.” By 1810, the single year total production of shoulder arms had risen to nearly sixty thousand. Even with a drop in production in 1811 to 48,908, the production figures were still impressive. Additionally, the workers at Tula also repaired 9,655 older weapons. Tula’s total production for the period 1810 through the Patriotic war (1810-1816 inclusive) was 456,704 new weapons and an additional 153,129 pieces were reconditioned and repaired.

The Pattern 1808 Family of Weapons in 7 Line Caliber

1808 and 1809 locks
Shown is an early Sestroretsk manufactured Pattern 1808 Infantry and a Pattern 1809 Dragoon/Cuirassier musket. Note the reduced size of the lock on the Dragoon/Cuirassier musket.

The 7 line infantry musket was adopted in 1808. It was basically a copy of the French musket of the period, the M1777. The biggest visual difference between the French pattern 1777 and the Russian Pattern 1808 is the material from which the furniture is made, the French 1777 had iron furniture and the Russian Pattern 1808 has brass. The entire family of 1808 weapons was to be made in only one caliber to simplify supply.

In addition to the Pattern 1808 Infantry rifle, in 1809 the Russian Army adopted a Dragoon and Cuirassier musket, a Hussar and Jaeger musket and a pistol, all in the identical caliber to the Pattern 1808 Infantry musket. The lock used on all of these muskets intended for horse mounted troops and the pistol looks just like the lock on the Pattern 1808 Infantry rifle except that it is significantly smaller and, therefore, lighter. This same reduced size lock would also be used on the later Pattern 1832 Cossack Musket.

The Pattern 1809 Soldier’s Pistol
Пистолет солдатский образц 1809 г.

The pattern 1809 pistol was used to arm horse mounted Dragoons, Cuirassier, Hussar and Cossack troops. The pistol was carried in a holster on the horse or in a holster carried on the riders left side. Horse artillery, pioneer, signal and officers of all types also carried the pistol in a holster, usually on the left side (source Russian army 1812-1814). Holsters were either a band type holster or a tubular type with out a cover flap. Cossack troops sometimes carried the pistol on a shoulder strap similar to the way Uhlans carried their carbines.

Period drawing of an 1809 pistol
Part of a drawing from a nineteenth century report on the Tula Arsenal showing the separate ram rod for the pattern 1809 pistolC Top view of 1810 dated pistol

Top view of a converted 1810 dated 1809 pistol. Note the band around the barrel in front of the tapered barrel extension similar to those seen on pattern 1798 and earlier pistols.

The original Pattern 1809 pistol is full stocked with a brass band at the front of the stock completely circling the barrel and the front of the stock. The bore of the barrel is 7 line, smooth bore and 10½ inches in length. There is a low profile brass front sight just behind the front barrel band and no rear sight.

The butt of the pistol was reinforced with a brass butt cap with 2 integral straps that follow the curve of the grip up to the rear point of the lock plate on both sides of the grip. The rather poor quality of wood used to stock Russian pistols necessitated these reinforcing straps and surviving examples are almost always seen with either cracked or split grips. There is no provision for a ram rod on this version of the pistol; it would have been carried separately.

In Russian service a ball ¾ line (.075 inch) smaller in diameter than the barrel bore was used in all smooth bore muskets and pistols, so the 7 line pistol fired a 6 ¼ line lead ball weighing 5.59 zolotnik or 23.85g. Weight of the powder charge was 6.3 g. and effective range of the pistol was about 30-35 paces. B

The earliest Pattern 1809s seem to have a barrel and extension like the earlier models of Russian flintlock pistols with a ridge or band around the back end of the barrel. Shown below is an 1810 dated pistol which has been converted to percussion showing the early type banded barrel.

The first example shown below is an 1814 dated original configuration Pattern 1809 pistol manufactured at the Tula Weapons Factory.

View of 1814 dated pistol View of 1814 dated pistol

Side views of the 1814 dated original configuration pistol. This pistol is totally unaltered and serves as a good example of original manufacture.

View of th lock on 1814 dated pistol

Detail of the lock on the Tula manufactured pistol dated 1814

View of the top of an 1814 dated pistol

Detail of the top of the barrel and barrel extension. The barrel is smooth with no band and the barrel extension is straight. Note that there is no rear sight and very few marks. In fact, there are very few inspection or arsenal marks on any of the early pistols, the top of the barrel, the left side of the butt cap and the front of the trigger guard. Later pistols would show a profusion of marks on the butt cap, barrel and side plates

View of the left sideplate of an 1814 dated pistol
Marks on the butt cap of the 1814 dated pistol

View of the nose an 1814 dated pistol Second view of the nose an 1814 dated pistol
Detail of the nose band and low profile front sight
View of the escutcheon of an 1814 dated pistol
Cipher of Alexander I (Tsar from 1801 until 1825) on the grip escutcheon

The original configuration of the 1809 was still in use during the Crimean War in 1853-1856. Pistols still in original configuration are seen with manufacturing dates into the 1820s and would appear to have been made at all three arsenals. (It is interesting that most of the original configuration pistols observed are of Tula manufacture).

The pistol below was manufactured at Tula in 1813. It shows the black paint finish that is typical of weapons that saw use in the Crimean Theater in the 1853-1856 period.

View of an 1813 dated pistol View of an 1813 dated pistol
Pattern 1809 7 line pistol showing the black paint typical of Crimean war usage

The lock of an 1813 dated pistol
Detail of the lock of the 1813 dated pistol

1813 dated pistol with a belt hook
Some original configuration pattern 1809s pistols have been seen with a belt hook on the left side of the pistol. This was probably not original but added at a later date. This pistol was manufactured in 1813. Note the unusual half band at the muzzle of this pistol. (Courtesy Bob Brooker)

The Pattern 1809 Soldiers Cavalry Pistol
Пистолет солдатский каваллерийский образц 1809 г.

The second pattern seen from the Napoleonic period is a half stocked pistol with a captured rod and belt hook. This is the Cavalry enlisted man’s model 1809 (Пистолет солдатский каваллерийский образца 1809 г.). This version of the 1809 still has all of the early features; the longer barrel (10 ⅜ inches), a low profile front sight in its original forward location and no rear sight. The example shown is dated 1813. It also shows what is left of the black paint finish of Crimean use. This model is very seldom encountered.

1813 dated pistol with a belt hook and captured rod 1813 dated pistol with a belt hook and captured rod
1813 dated Tula pistol with half stock, the captured ram rod and belt hook.
Detail of the1813 dated pistol with a belt hook
Detail of captured rod and muzzle area. Note the low profile front sight.
Detail of the left side of the 1813 dated pistol. Note the lack of rear sight
Detail of the barrel extension area without a rear sight and the belt hook attached to the side plate
Detail of the1813 dated pistol with a belt hook
Another detail of the barrel extension area without a rear sight and the belt hook attached to the side plate
Detail of the1813 dated pistol with a belt hook
Detail of the lower part of the pistol.

The Pattern 1809 Officer’s Pistol
Пистолет офицерский образца 1809 г.

Shown below is the pattern 1809 Officer’s pistol.

Detail of the1809 officer's pistol
Pictures of officer’s pistol Weapons Artistic Tula 18th – 19th century in the collection of the Hermitage kam 96

Continue to Part Two

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A Russian calibers were measured in ‘lines’, each ‘line’ being equal to .1 inch.

B Source Fedorov

C A drawing of the weapons produced at Tula Source?