Original Imperial Russian M1870 Berdan II Rifle with Crest Brought Back from Afghanistan - Dated 1883

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is a very interesting and extremely scarce Imperial Russian Model 1870 Berdan M.II Single Shot Infantry Rifle, dated 1883, manufactured at the Tula arsenal in Russia. The design is is a very impressive infantry bolt action rifle designed by US Army General Hiram Berdan. These were obsoleted in 1895 after the adoption of the M-1891 Moisin Nagant Rifle, and most were disposed of. Some however survived, and this one is definitely exceptional in that regard.

This particular example has Arabic writing on the left side of the receiver, and was in fact brought back from Afghanistan by a U.S. contractor, complete with official bring back papers. This most likely means that it had been in Afghanistan for over 100 years, having been lost in the late 1880s. In 1885, Russian forces had seized the disputed oasis at Panjdeh south of the Oxus River from Afghan forces, which became known as the Panjdeh Incident. The border was agreed by the joint Anglo-Russian Afghan Boundary Commission of 1885–87. This rifle apparently was left behind, and eventually acquired by the contractor. Everything about the rifle is correct, except that it was shortened at some time by about 5 inches, and the nose cap re-set. Truly interesting!

Hiram Berdan was one of the demigods of American rifle lore. During the American Civil War he organized Berdan's Sharpshooters, one of the first specially trained sniper units. But after the war he was an influential weapon and ammo designer. But like so many inventors during the late 19th century, he was virtually ignored in his homeland and found success and fame abroad. The 10.75mm round he developed featured the first modern centerfire rifle primer, which became the standard European primer pattern (by contrast the American Boxer primer was invented by a British Army officer who was equally ignored in his own country). The round and the bolt action single shot rifle that accompanied it were adopted by the Imperial Russian Army in the late 1860s, and these remained in service until the late 1890s.

The model of 1870, or Berdan II, is a single shot bolt action with a distinctive short, pear-shaped, bolt handle. The bolt handle serves as the only locking lug for the action, and when closed, points upwards at a 30 degree angle, rather than horizontally. The Berdan II was produced in four variants: an infantry rifle, the lighter and slightly shorter dragoon rifle, a Cossack rifle with a button trigger and no trigger guard, and a cavalry carbine. Infantry and dragoon rifles were issued with quadrangular socket bayonets. Initial production of the Berdan II was at Birmingham Small Arms in England. The rifles were later manufactured in large numbers by Russian factories at Tula, Izhevsk, and Sestroretsk. Estimated total production of all models is over 3 million. The rifle was known for its accuracy, simplicity and reliability.

The rifle was patented in USA in 1870, and was adopted as a service weapon by only two states, Russia and Bulgaria. At the time, Berdan II was among the most powerful service rifles in the World. Berdan rifles were still in use during the World War One, as a secondary weapon. Many Berdans were captured by Austro-Hungarians and Germans, and consequently, were reissued to their armed forces.

This example, as stated previously, has been shortened by about 5 inches, so it now is 48 inches long, with a 27 1/21 inch long barrel. The receiver displays an Imperial Russian Double Headed Eagle across the chamber ring and Cyrillic letters.

The barrel is nicely marked with the manufacturing information: Тульский оружейный зав. 1883г which translates to: Imperial Tula Armaments(or Firearms) Factory 1883 year. In front of this it is marked ИМЛЕРАТОРСКІЙ, which is the IMPERIAL acceptance marking. There is also serial number No 22645 right in front of the sight.

The rifle is in good condition, considering the history, and the stock definitely shows wear. The top of wrist has a repaired crack behind the receiver, and the right side of wrist has a small repaired crack. The bore shows strong rifling, though it is a bit dark. The action is strong and functions correctly, though it is finicky, as these always were. The cleaning rod looks to be a replacement, and we have not been able to remove it.

In fine collector's condition this really is a great find. A very hard rifle to locate today, with a very interesting history. Ready to display!


Year of Manufacture: 1883
Caliber: 10.75×58 mmR
Cartridge Type: Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 27 1/2 Inches
Overall Length: 48 Inches
Action type: Bolt-Action
Feed System: Single Shot

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