The Fedorov Avtomat was a Russian automatic rifle designed by Vladimir Fedorov. Developed in 1915, the Avtomat is often cited as a precursor to the assault rifle, although it predated the concept by several decades.
The Fedorov Avtomat was developed from Captain Fedorov's earlier self-loading rifle of 1912. Despite the rejection of that rifle by the Russian Army, the military authorities felt Fedorov showed exceptional aptitude in arms design and assigned him to a senior position at the Sestroretsk arms plant, where he was given a budget to develop new designs. He decided to make significant modifications to his rifle design and adapt it into a selective-fire rifle.
Fedorov opted to chamber this gun for the Japanese 6.5×50mmSR Arisaka cartridge, which produced less recoil than the standard Russian 7.62×54mmR cartridge and was more suitable for automatic fire. Work on the Avtomat was completed in 1915 and it was duly submitted to Army trials. The Army, which was already short of machine guns as a result of the ongoing war, quickly accepted the Avtomat into service in 1916 and production was handled at Sestroretsk. The gun saw limited issue to Russian troops during World War I, where it was fielded in the role of a light machine gun.
The October Revolution and subsequent outbreak of civil war in Russia saw the production of the Avtomat disrupted and initially cancelled, but Fedorov soon managed to secure a favorable position with the new Soviet government, who allowed the Avtomat to resume production. An order of some 9,000 Avtomats was placed by the Red Army, but ultimately, owing to the poor economic situation of the post-war Soviet Union, only 3,000 were actually made before production was finally cancelled in the early 1920s.
Fedorov's "Avtomat" is a short recoil-operated, locked breech weapon which fires from a closed bolt. The bolt locking is achieved by two locking plates, located at either side of the breech. Those plates are allowed to tilt slightly down and up, locking and unlocking the bolt with special lugs. The barrel is fluted to save the weight and improve cooling. Trigger unit uses a pivoting hammer to fire, and separate manual safety and fire selector levers are installed within the trigger guard. The stock is made from wood, with semi-pistol grip and additional vertical foregrip in the front of the magazine. The curved box magazine held 25 rounds in two rows, and was detachable. A special bayonet was attached to the front of the steel heat-shield below the barrel. Standard open sights with tangent rear were installed on the barrel.
Due to loose production controls, the magazines had to be hand-fitted to each gun and were seldom interchangeable between guns. Each Avtomat was generally issued only one magazine, which the second crewman, the loader, would top up with 5-round Arisaka rifle stripper clips.