Winchester Model 1915 Lever-Action Service Rifle (United States)
The Winchester Model 1895 served as the basis of the Model 1915 delivered in its modified form to Imperial Russian forces for service in World War 1.Entry last updated on 1/9/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
When the Russian Empire mobilized for World War in 1914, it lacked the stocks of service rifles for the millions of men being called up to fight. As such, a government "purchasing commission" was sent to the United States in an effort to secure whatever types of rifles were available for the war ahead. Contracts were eventually signed with the likes of Remington (among others) and the storied Winchester concern was approached to produce a modified form of their sporting Model 1895 lever-action rifle - the final lever-action design by famous gunsmith John Browning. Winchester agreed and the new weapon was designated as the "Model 1915", becoming one of the few lever-action rifles to see service in World War 1 (1914-1918).
The Model 1895/Model 1915 received its general categorization of "lever-action" by the operator having to manage a hinged lever assembly under the receiver that doubled as the trigger guard. There was an oblong loop aft of the trigger loop to which the operated fit the fingers of the firing hand to apply the required downward pressure against the lever. The resulting action was used to clear the firing chamber of any spent shell casing and introduced a fresh cartridge from the integral, 5-round projecting case under the receiver (ahead of the lever). A ground-breaking concept in the 1800s, the lever-action saw far less use in the new century. Repeat fire could be achieved with such a weapon though the gun was still limited to single shots, each subsequent firing requiring manual management of the lever.
As can be expected, Russian specifications required certain modifications to the existing Model 1895 design - chief of these being a re-chambering for the 7.62x54mmR rimmed rifle cartridge. As the Russian Army relied on a standard charger ("stripper clip") for its existing line of service rifle, the receiver of the Model 1895 was appropriately fitted with guide ribs for proper loading of such ammunition clips supporting the Russian 7.62mm format (these additions clearly marked as protrusions at the top of the receiver). Additionally, a new section of wood was added over the exposed barrel at the base to provide for a more rigid end-product (and protect the operator from heat generated at the barrel through prolonged firing). Work on the rifles occurred in 1914 and the type was formally adopted by Imperial Russia as the Model 1915 - or M1915. The Army procured some 293,000 to 300,000 examples and the first 10,000 or so were fielded with the rare 8" "blade" bayonet, the remainder seen with the more popular 16" length "sword" variety. Deliveries concluded in 1917 at which point the Russian Empire fell into internal strife and ultimate civil war - bringing about the rise of the Soviet Union that would last throughout World War 2 and the Cold War decades to come.
It is said that enough Model 1915 rifles were in circulation into the 1930s that stocks were sent to Spain to help support of the Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
The M1915 featured an overall length of 1,160mm (45,65 inches) with a barrel measuring 712mm (28.05 inches) long. The rifle could be fed by the aforementioned chargers or through single cartridge loading which provided some tactical flexibility on the part of the shooter. Muzzle velocity was rated at 2,690 feet per second. A sling was optional though helpful during marches and transport.
While the Russian Army primarily relied on their tried-and-true Mosin-Nagant 1891 bolt-action rifles during World War 1 (and even throughout World War 2), the M1915 remains a rather forgotten contribution to the Russian effort concerning The Great War.