An Imperial Russian M1881 Mounted Artillery Trooper Sabre. May 21, 2021 13:38:00 GMT
Post by Uhlan on May 21, 2021 13:38:00 GMT
This is the first sabre I worked on after the lockdown over here ended life as we knew it. Last one was posted in August 2020. How time flies.
As I really needed a break from the sabre business after all these years, this was a good opportunity to explore the wonderful world of computing and the ,, How to Build a State of the Art Gaming Rig'' universe. Learned a lot and it was good fun.
As life is now somewhat back to normal and business is allowed to open, it is time to pick up the polishing once again.
So here we go with an Imperial Russian M1881 Mounted Artillery Trooper sabre that has been waiting in the racks for some time.
EDIT: More like 6 years and some months. I posted about it back when I had just bought it. That was November 2014.
See the old thread here: sbg-sword-forum.forums.net/thread/42406/shashka-turkish-mystery-sabre Oh how young and innocent I was...
Tzar Nicholas II with M1881 type sabre.
Some sellers refer to the sabres of the M1881 line as ,, Shashka''.
I have my doubts these sabres with the typical sabre knuckle bow can be labelled as such. Even the blades I have seen look just like standard fare Western sabre blades. Nothing special, so I wonder where this Shashka thing is coming from.
A much later model , the M1927 Soviet, has a hilt design that refers to the old Cossack Shashka, but that is about all.
I mean, hanging a sabre upside down does not make it a Shashka as far as I can see, but hey, you wanna call a sabre a Shashka?
Be my guest.
Another thing I want to touch upon is that I do not know much about the workings of the Imperial Russian Mounted Artillery. It seems that information is quite scarce. I picked up some Dragoon related stuff from the interwebs, found some pages of a Polish language publication probably discussing the Polish variant of the M1881 Russian Dragoon, so not much to learn there and that is about it.
Hunting for info made a few things clear though. What I present here is definitely a regulation MA Trooper sabre and it looks like there are some variants about too, as I found one example of an MA sabre with what looks like a steel or plated hilt adorned with nice stamps
and a version referred to as an Infantry sabre, but I cannot make out whether the latter is a genuine Imperial Russian regulation NCO/Officer model or a Persian, Polish or Baltic States variant.
This one is said to be from the Persian Cossack Brigade.
Also found a private order M1881 Officers sabre made by Alexander Coppel,
and one claimed to be an M1881 Officers sabre with a damast Blucher style blade.
And some more Officers sabres with and without the Order of ST. Anna.
For the rest, as far as I can tell, it is just business as usual, with Imperial blades mounted with Soviet hilts, replicas, fakes and so on.
Nothing out of the ordinary.
So let's begin with the examination.
A solid and simple piece of work this one is. It has a nicely grooved wood grip that, in my opinion, is way too flat. The sabre wants to turn all the time and even with gauntlets it is hard to get a good grip.
The blade on this example starts with a quite thin 7mm on the ricasso, with a long and broad fuller on either side. This should have helped to get the POB down closer to the guard, but strangely it does not.
More about that surprise in the Handling section.
The blade is quite stiff and the steel is very hard.
The wobbly and molten looking lines remind me of a typical Windlass.
This was also the first impression member PGandy had after looking at some images I send over.
The lines could have been washed out over time, after a lot of cleaning and sharpening operations, but I cannot find evidence suggesting that is the case. If this were to be so, there should be some spots where the old, sharp and better defined lines would have shown through. Here there is absolutely nothing pointing in that direction, so my conclusion for now is that this blade may have been made in this wobbly and washed out way. Specimens I found online look somewhat better in that regard, but with some good lightning even a pig can be made to look like Marilyn Monroe as the saying goes,
so there is that.
I think we see evidence of a simple grind on a blade made from very hard steel, with, to my surprise (this thing is full of surprises it seems!), residue of a good standard polish under the guilon on the spine.
I would have thought they may have skipped on that too, but no. Hammer dents all along the blade show up in the right light and on the spine the resulting variations of thickness are easy to spot.
The sabre has a threaded tang and is held together with the kind of nut I know from the German Mauser rifle or the K98.
Very sturdy. There is no play at all.
The scabbard was made from wood, covered with a good quality leather and with solidly made bronze fittings. Again, nothing fancy.
The entire package gives me a well made, simple farming or workshop tool kinda vibe.
I found an informational text by Mr. Henry Yallop from the British Royal Armoury which I would like to present here in full as it contains many interesting tidbits.
So, over to Mr. Yallop:
This is an early 1881M (1883-1884) example with a smooth rounded pommel and lack of pommel pins. There is the pre-1890 circular Zlatoust maker's mark and post 1880 "C" inspector's mark. The obverse of the blade has two slightly different Zlatoust cyrillic P (looks like the mathematical pie symbol) inspection stamps, indicating the shaska was re inspected during its service life.
By 1881 there was a total of six sword patterns worn by the various regiments of Russian cavalry and a total of 13 different types across the whole military. At a time when the use of swords as a primary combat weapon was in sharp decline, such variety was unnecessary. As such, a commission under General Gorlov was set up to come up with a standard sword pattern that could be used by the whole cavalry. The result was that the hilt of the Pattern 1841 Dragoon Shashka and the Caucasian type blade.
This was a thick, single edged, spear pointed blade with one broad fuller. The 1881 Cossack version retained their distinctive Caucasian type hilt although from 1909 Cossacks were allowed to forgo altogether regulation swords and 'to serve carrying the weapons which have been handed down to them by their fathers and forefathers, provided such weapons are in a serviceable condition.' The Dragoon, Cossack and Officers Pattern of shashka formed the combat 'system of 1881', which was worn hanging from a narrow belt over the right shoulder, whereas most cavalry swords of the period were attached to the saddle. The sword was worn with the edge facing backward, in the Caucasian style. The Dragoon scabbard also contained a fitting to hold a bayonet.
In addition to the Pattern 1881 Shashka, from 1913 until the 1930s all the front ranks of Russian cavalry units carried the Pattern 1910 lance. This was a crudely made weapon of all steel construction with a short, hollow-ground, cruciform point.
Use and effect
Because of their small horses, the Russian cavalry were generally unsuited to shock action with the sword or lance. As such, they tended to operate more as mounted infantry, with bayonets fixed to their scabbard for dismounted action. However, there were exceptions and the Russians were involved in the only full scale cavalry battle of the War, and the last of history, at Jaroslavice, on 21 August 1914. The Austro-Hungarian 4th Cavalry Division was pitched against the Russian 10th Cavalry Division in an indecisive clash, as part of a failed reconnaissance in force by the Austrians.
Blade length 86 cm (33.8 in)
Country of manufacture Russia
Date entered service 1881
Manufacturer Zlatoust Russian state arsenal
Overall length 1.01 m (39.7 in)
Primary operator Russia
Weight 924 g (2 lb 0.6 oz)
The later models had a flange around the pommel cap.
1881 Models do not and are just round.
Cavalry blade length: about 86 -87 cm. Mounted Artillery: 76 cm.
During the 1920s largely replaced by simpler Model 1927 Shashka.
In Polish service it lasted till the start of World War II mainly in officer schools and Artillery Corps.
This is what Karabela Auctions has to say about Officers models:
Origin: Russian Empire. Russian dragoon officers’ shashka, model 1881 after changes in 1909, rare example made by a private manufacturer in Zlatoust (not ZOF)(?) in great condition. Length in scabbard –99,8 cm, without – 94,5 cm. Weight in scabbard – 1076 g, without – 745 g. A Shashka is a cut and thrust long bladed edged weapon. The Russian army regulation shashkas were distinctively different from the Caucasian type shashka in their hilt and scabbard organization. The pattern 1881 shashka came in 1881 to replace the cavalry dragoons and infantry sabres and cuirassiers broadswords of all the officers and generals authorized to carry them. In 1909 the hilt was somewhat changed. The grip’s incline was made steeper, a bulge appeared in mid-grip, the pommel was decorated with the Tsar’s monogram. The grip’s grooves became crosswise and deeper and other changes were made. Blade: regulation officer’s shashka blade, slightly curved, single edged, with two narrow fullers and one wide groove and the false edge. Blade decorated with Nicolas II monogram on one side and the Imperial eagle on other side. Length of the blade - 81 cm, width –3,0 cm. Hilt: closed brass guard connected to the brass pommel. Monogram of Nicholas II on the pommel. Grip made of dark brown ebonite. Scabbard: wooden scabbard with brass fittings typical for officer’s shashkas, covered with black leather.
The numbers of my example.
Sl : 89.1cm.
Bl : 75.6cm.
Bth : 7 : 6 : 5.8 : 4.8 : 2.5mm.
BW : 30.8mm.
POB : 17.7cm!
WS :740 grams.
WS+Sc: 1250 grams.
It looks like there are some cm's of the blade missing, but that is not true.
To be sure I inserted a piece of wire into the scabbard and found that the length inserted slightly outmatched the blade length. What is going on is that the bottom of the drag has a solid block.
Like the block in the Prussian M1811 scabbard it protects it from splitting open and from tip damage when banging the scabbard drag into whatever it could bang into.
Another surprise. With such a ,,short'' and thin blade to actually have a POB of 17.7cm or 6.96" is something else entirely.
On a good day even replicas can do better than this.
The sabre and scabbard were in a bad state. The black lacquer on the scabbard leather had disappeared long ago, the scabbard furniture was covered in a thick layer of grime and ,,patina'' (even Mothers had a hard time cutting through it!) to such an extend that inspection stamps were hardly, if at all, visible, the blade was covered in dried grey ,,stuff'' with dark spots all over and the tip of the blade had (still has) patches of deeper pitting.
As I said before, the blade steel is very very hard, so only superficial spotting could be removed and there was a lot of that. Fixing the washed out lines and the deep pitting in the tip section could not be done however, so the situation turned into a kind of ,,take it or leave it'' thing. Compromises had to be made. I decided the sabre deserved the best clean up I could do under the circumstances and leave it at that, so there are plenty of old scars to be admired, all the interesting edge filing is intact and so on.
I gave the leather a wash with black leather paint, just enough to fresh it up a bit, but with the brown scars still shining through. Removed the super thick grime from the fittings and in doing so recovered many very small inspection stamps and that was about all. The blade took 5 hours of work for each side and the scabbard almost as much time, but it now looks much better I think. Like a battered mud covered war hero after a nice long soak in Madam Ladiava's tub, aided and assisted by the Madam in person and her giggling girls too.
The sabre even smells good now.
I am talking here about the state of the cutting edge.
This blade has been field sharpened for so long, it is a wonder there is anything left. When I find something interesting in the sharpening department I send member PGandy some pictures for his collection.
This time I asked him whether he would like to say something about the cutting edge on this MA. He agreed and thus, without further ado, here's our Resident Cutting Edge Expert Extraordinaire (This is Not a joke) with his take on what he was confronted with:
,,Uhlan asked for my input and while that was a boost to my ego I’m a bit lost. Not knowing anything about the sword in question and only seeing what I could through small localized photos, so take what I say is purely subjective, thoughts off the top of my head if you will, and not to be taken as the gospel. What Uhlan has in my opinion is not a well known sword to western Europe and a good representation of a working sword from that period and it has something to say. This is not what some officer purchased and babied or was issued to see only garrison duty if that much. To me his Mounted Artillery sabre represents what the common grunt used for real and how he treated it. It in all likelihood had been used, returned, to be issued again, several times. And I am speaking of a ‘working’ sword, not to the grunt assigned garrison duty. Talking about service sharpened, wow. Here’s one that appears to be so with the most basic tool, a file. Granted it’s not pretty but should be serviceable. The metal hardness surprises me after reading of how easily Russian swords bent, not to be confused with floppy, during the Crimean War. But then this sword is at least a generation later. And it must not be too brittle to have survived so long. I think the file marks are interesting. I have those on my antique kukris. I've only seen photos of a grinding wheel being used in the field but this proves otherwise''.
Thank you PG for your time and insights, very much appreciated.
Here are some of the images of the hand filing.
Very interesting to see some going in one direction and some going straight the other way. Like PG says, this doesn't look like the work of an armourer, but most probably it was done by a MA Trooper himself. Like PG for me it also is the first time ever to see this on a sabre.
There are many and it is important for aspiring M1881 owners to take a good look here.
Whatever the variant, MA or Dragoon or Infantry, the stamps and their place on the various parts are about the same it looks like, although the very small inspection stamps may be different as they are probably name letters or, as mentioned above, revision stamps.
Remember: There are a lot of M1881 and M1927 fakes around. I hope the stamp images may help you somewhat to get a grip.
I will start with the stamps I found on this MA and after that continue with some images I found on the internet.
Some random finds:
When I picked up the sabre again, after it had been in the rack for some time, I was very surprised by its absolute refusal to engage in swordplay of any kind. I expected the sabre, given its relatively (let us not forget it still is of standard Katana length) short and thin blade, to behave more like a Hussar sabre, fast and nimble and easy on the wrist.
Well, there is a solid ,,Het!'' or as we say ,,Njet!'' for you. This one at least is a true wrist breaker. The funky POB does not help and the thin grip does the rest.
I bought this sabre a rather long time ago in the understanding it was an M1881 Dragoon. What did I know.
Only during cleaning and research for this post I found it to be a Mounted Artillery Trooper sabre.
At first I was somewhat p!ssed off, but then I realized there are plenty Dragoons around, but hardly any Mounted Artillery variants of the M1881 line. Let's call it beginners luck.
While it is in my opinion qua handling a complete disaster, they should just have copied my favourite, the French M1829 and mounted the scabbard fittings upside down to get the best of both worlds, as a testament of long and hard use in the Imperial service and maybe even beyond, I like it a lot and I am glad and humbled to have been able, to some extent, to give back some semblance of its former dignity to a sabre that has gone through a long period of immense and unparalleled human suffering.