The Arsenals

The top three Russian arsenals are best described by Karl-Heinz Wrobel in his article. I would like to thank him for his generous contribution to this site.

Weapons Manufacturing in Russia

(The Early Years)

by Karl-Heinz Wrobel

Russia had a ordered, organized tradition of weapons manufacturing that functioned relatively well for an agrarian state. It consisted of a multiplicity of typically smaller manufacturers, however only three larger arsenals would be used for the production of the three-line rifle. At the top of each manufacturer was a director, usually a high ranking artillery staff officer, who led the operations and dealt with technical questions and was assisted by a Associate Director who supported the administrative tasks. There was also an adviser under the line of a staff officer for the regulation of fundamental technical questions. Independent of the actual operation, a control and a supervision commission, consisting of several staff and subordinate officers, operated with the multiplicity of barrel fabricators and master armorers.


The Kommandantur of the Arsenal in Ishevsk with attached school in the year 1880

Each Armory was a city within itself. It contained schools, military hospitals, convalescent homes, purchase organizations and advanced training facilities. Here the next generation workforce was trained during four years of training courses.


Tula ( Tuljskaja Gubernija) was at the time of the introduction of the rifle Mosin Nagant in 1891 a District or Province of European Russia. Previously, Tula belonged to the District of Moscow until 1777 . The District was about 200 km south of Moscow, and covered roughly 31,000 square kilometers with approximately 1.34 million inhabitants in 1882. The District was rich in natural resources such as , iron, and was very suitable for cottage industries. Tula, the capitol of the District was known to have areas of strong ore deposits situated quite near to it.

The first weapons factory in Tula , was established in1632 by the Dutchman Franz Marcellus. On 15 February 1712 by decree of the Czar Peter the Great, the Imperial arsenal was establish as a donation by Prince Gregor Iwanowitsch Wolkonskij. The first director of the new factory was Batistechev. In the year 1817 it came under Katharina II and then under the guidance of Alexander II. In 1874 a reorganization took place which resulted in the designation "Imperial Armament Makers" in 1875. In 1882 production was driven with 3,000 to 5,000 workers annually resulting in the manufacture of between 75.000 and 160.000 Berdan rifles.

The city was a prime location for rail access because of the river Upa and in 1882 had particularly good rail connections, which resulted from the importance of the resident arms industry. The number of inhabitants amounted to 63,510 persons at this time. The city had hosted an institute for cadets and an arsenal. In the year 1896 armament makers with the aid of 1,400 machine tools could manufacture 913 weapons per day.

In the last years 19th Century the factory was extended because of the pending production of the three-line rifles and received approximately 1,400 new machines, mostly from France. In addition to the different army rifles, the Nagant pistol, other light arms and edged weapons, hunting rifles and ammunition was manufactured there. The number of workers employed in the manufacture of the three line rifle in the first three years of production is illustrated by the following table:


Total Workforce


Total Workforce









1894 10.045 1898 8.328






Ishevsk or Ischewsk

Ishevsk is a city in Russia that lays 77 km northwest of Sarapul on the river Ischa in the foothills of the Ural mountains. In 1760 the Russian Count Schuwalow established an ironworks which manufactured mainly firearms and cannons. Ishevsk is a city in Russia and lies 77 km northwest from Sarapul. Due to the influence of access of the river Ischa in the Urals , in 1760 were created there by the Russian count Schuwalow an iron goods factory, which manufactured mainly firearms, primarily cannons. In 1763 the factory was taken over by the Russian government and produces weapons to this day. The actual establishment of the Weapons Arsenal Ishevsk took place however on 10 July 1807. Due to the strategic considerations of the world situation (a threatened invasion of Russia by France under Napoleon) the Czarist government searched for a location for a weapons manufacturing facility, that was not as endangered as Tula and Sestroreysk and one that was close to the natural materials required for weapons production. In 1804 Alexey Fiodorovitch Deriabin was assigned this location search. He decided on Ishevsk with its well equipped metalworks . Already in the year 1825 Ishevsk was the most modern and most efficient Russian operation for weapons production. It received its energy source from the river (1,120 HP) as well as from steam engines (1,973 HP). Between 1807 and 1907 alone there approximately four million rifles built. One must realize however the fact that the workers in Ishevsk were conscripted with a 25 year obligation and no possibility of quitting. Measured by today's standards, the work at Ishevsk was simply slave labor.

1882 the city belonged to the Russian Government of Wjatka and had 2,048 inhabitants. In 1902 3,637 workers were committed to the armament industry with approximately 7,000 in 1903 and 1905 exactly 6,366 workers committed to the production of the new three line rifle. Starting from the year 1900 the arsenal experienced an enormous upswing. It possessed the latest modern special machines from France and Switzerland, altogether approximately 3,000 different machines, besides older English machines from the 70's which added an additional 1,370 milling machines. For the production of the three-line rifle an additional 675 new machines were ordered and set up. In the year 1896 daily production was up to 1.000 three-line rifles per day. This number dropped in the year 1899 to 600 rifles per day. Ishevsk also manufactured the blanks and components of the Mosin Nagant for the Sestroretsk and Tula arsenals to finish.

The factory became famous for it's outstanding and very low-priced tool steel. In addition to army rifles light arms and edged weapons and artillery ammunition for the Russian army and the navy was produced. During the Russian civil war the Ishevsk Armory occupied by the " White Army " in 1919 for several months. In the Soviet Union, Ishevsk was capital of the usmurtish ASSR. Up to today Ishevsk held different factories for the production of military , sport and hunting weapons. The successor of the former Ishevsk weapon manufacturer is today's Izhmash company.

Sestroretsk, Sestroriatsk or Systerbäck

The specification concerning this factory is generally very poor. The place Sestroretsk is regularly on maps. If one looks it up in dictionaries whether older or new, there does not emerge a description of the place or armament makers anywhere. In the Russian literature the city Sestroretsk and the factory were created as third armament makers in the year 1721 or 1724, at the same time with the cannon foundry Alexandrowsk in Olonez for the Russian navy. The non-Russian literature indicates that this factory would only have been established because of the production of the three-line rifles by the Imperial Russian government. However the same source gives the production number in the weapons factory at time of Czar Peter the Great, as busy with workers numbering 683. Anyhow Colonel Mosin took over the leadership of the quantity production of the infantry rifles M1891starting from 1894 . The production ran in Sestroretsk until 1918.

The place Sestroretsk is approximately 27 km northwest from St. Petersburg on height of Kronstadt close Oranienbaum on the Finnish sea basin. The factory was established for the use of water power at the river Sestra. Their first director was a Swede named Christian Petrol. In the year 1780 the factory was almost completely destroyed by a fire and could resume firearm production until the year 1799. In the year 1867 Sestroretsk was denationalized and only seventeen years later was again put under state control. The number of the workers varied in the years 1880 to 1894 between 2.500 and 2.600. For the building of the new infantry rifles Sestroretsk received 206 additional machines. In the year 1898 only 1,000 workers in the 8-hour day were there busy. In the year 1903 the factory had 1.200 workers and 940 machine tools and could manufacture approximately 30,000 three-line rifles annually.

Sestroretsk was the factory, where all the theories for the three-line rifle were produced. That served to guarantee the exchangeability of the weapon components for all rifles. Firing tests were conducted beginning in the year 1895. Two rifles each out everyone of the four factories (Tula, Ishevsk, Sestroretsk and Chatellerault) were completely dismantled and assembled in such a way that from the parts eight new rifles were made containing the same number of individual parts from each factory. The weapons functioned perfectly. The assembled rifles then were tested for rapid fire, on the average 22.8 shots per rifle and minute. There were no incidents of damage or malfunctions noted.

Sestroretsk workers played a larger role due to the proximity of the headquarters of Lenin in St. Petersburg with the October Revolution. During the Russian civil war the danger existed that the " White Army" troops might occupy the factory. Therefore the machines were removed and the factory was evacuated. Afterwards one converted the factory into a repair center. When the German troops besieged Leningrad starting from 1941, the Finns allied with the Germans and closed in on the factory, so that it had again to be evacuated. The Sestroretsk workers were absorbed in the Leningrad production plants, among them the " Red Toolworks ". With the establishment of the modern Soviet production plants for hand-held weapons, the factory at Sestroretsk lost it's importance. The factory does not exist any longer.