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Weapons of extreme expeditions
Weapons of extreme expeditions

The specifics of these expeditions largely influenced the type of weapons chosen for them. Weapons of Asian expeditions and northern pilgrims.

Why am I saying this with such confidence?

Firstly, because the expedition workers, constantly moving in space, all the time fell into different conditions and therefore received more experience than the sedentary industrialists and trappers. Secondly, the mobile nature of their activities did not allow them to fully engage in trapper, which is why the main type of prey for wild animals for them remained rifle hunting. And, thirdly, often the workers of such expeditions were directly responsible for collecting zoological collections, which led them to get acquainted with the fauna of the region in much more detail than even educated local residents, for whom the interest in the animals inhabited on their territory and remained purely utilitarian for the birds - to eat the meat and peel the skin.

The specifics of these expeditions largely influenced the type of weapons chosen for them. Unable to take a large luggage, the traveler preferred to use a universal or specialized weapon that is most suitable for the field conditions of the area in which he moved. That is why in the expeditions carried out in the northern latitudes in the last quarter of the XIX - the first half of the XX century, universal bullet-shot guns became widespread - paradoxes, Lancasters, doubles and tees. Of course, such a choice was made by travelers only when there was no danger of being attacked by robbers or warlike tribes of savages. Otherwise, the choice was usually made in favor of a Winchester or a rifle of some kind of army model - Berdan, Mosin, Mauser or Lee-Enfield.

Do I need to carry a knife with me? Knife use methods
Do I need to carry a knife with me? Knife use methods

There were some interesting exceptions. In particular, with the help of a tee chambered for the German 8x57 cartridge, ornithologist B. K. Stegman managed to fight off the Basmachi detachment in the Central Asian desert, shooting the camels on which they were carrying water from a very considerable distance.

And the great Russian traveler N. M. Przhe-valsky, who spent most of his life wandering among the extremely warlike tribes of Central Asia, preferred the lancaster's bullet-shot oval drill fitting - a gift from fellow officers to all the weapons available on the expedition.

Weapons of Asian expeditions

Despite the fact that the regions of the Gobi, Takla-Makan deserts and the Tien Shan, Kun-Lun and Altintag ridges, as well as the Tibetan Plateau, can hardly be attributed to the northern territories, the equipment for their research (and even more so weapons) had much in common with that., which was used to penetrate the polar regions.

By the way, the well-known writer Henry Ryder Haggard (himself a good big game hunter) in his "King Solomon's Mines" put forward very reasonable considerations about the preference of choosing an expeditionary weapon.

“Three heavy double-barreled shotguns, treasury-loading, central engagement, weighing about fifteen pounds each, with a charge of eleven drachmas of black powder.

These guns were intended for hunting elephants. Two of them - for Sir Henry and Captain Good - were made by the most skilled craftsmen of one of the famous London firms. I don’t know what brand my gun was: it wasn’t so beautiful, but it was repeatedly tested by me in hunting for elephants.

Do I need to carry a knife with me? Knife use methods
Do I need to carry a knife with me? Knife use methods

Three double-barreled shotguns of the Ex-press-500 system, firing explosive bullets, designed for a charge of six drachmas, are excellent weapons, especially for medium-sized animals (such as, for example, a sharp-horned or saber antelope), and indispensable for defending against enemies in an open area. One double-barreled Kiperovskoye shotgun of twelve gauge, central action, with both barrels - choke.

Subsequently, this gun has been of great help to us in providing us with our daily food. Three Win-Chester magazine rifles (not carbines). It was our backup weapon. "Apparently, the listed range of weapons covered all the necessary needs of the South African journey.

The size of the zoological collections received from the Central Asian deserts, mountains and oases is staggering even today. These include tons of skulls, prepared limbs, skins, carcasses, formalized or alcohol-based objects. In one expedition of 1899-1901, P. K. Kozlov obtained more than forty pika-eating bears for the collection of the Zoological Institute of the Imperial Academy of Sciences. NM Przhevalsky brought from Tibet dozens of wild yaks, blue rams, Marco Polo rams, kulans and various antelopes. Many of these collections are still waiting for their researcher in a building on the Spit of Vasilyevsky Island in St. Petersburg.

But do not think that the size of the booty of our travelers is explained only by a passion for scientific research. Both N. M. Przhevalsky and P. K. Kozlov were passionate hunters, and, most likely, it was this circumstance, coupled with their restless character, that made them travelers. Knowing the character of the same Nikolai Przhevalsky based on his books, it is easy for us to imagine him in the American Wild West - the sheriff of a cattle-breeding town like Wyatt Earp (who, like Przhevalsky, was a passionate gambler) or a pioneering intelligence officer like Jeremiah Johnson (who is also had a special gift for running into trouble with the indigenous population of those places where he had to wander).

Do I need to carry a knife with me? Knife use methods
Do I need to carry a knife with me? Knife use methods
Berdan's rifle No. 2 mod. 1870
Berdan's rifle No. 2 mod. 1870

Berdan's rifle No. 2 mod. 1870 Photo:

“The strong and cold winds constantly prevailing in the Dalai-noor interfered a lot with our hunting excursions; however, in spite of this, we beat so many ducks and geese that we exclusively ate these birds. Sometimes even the stock was overflowing, and we were shooting out of hunting greed alone; the swans were not so easy, and we hit them almost exclusively with bullets from the chokes."

I must say that the behavior of hunter-travelers in unexplored lands often (if not most often) differed from the traditional ideas of modern zealots of the so-called correct hunting. But we must remember that at that time a completely different worldview prevailed, and these people lived in accordance with it, as well as in conditions … let's say, a certain excess of natural resources around them. The arsenals of the Central Asian Russian expeditions still evoke the envious admiration of both hunters, researchers of the history of weapons, and ordinary readers of their books. Only in one volume of the processed diaries of the already mentioned NM Przhevalsky "From Zaisan through Hami to Tibet and to the upper reaches of the Yellow River" can one find references to the Lancaster breech-loading fitting of 4, 5 line caliber (a gift from fellow officers); the double-barreled shotgun of James Perde, the swing-bolt shotgun of Petrov and the countless Berdan rifles of the escort convoy.

Already in the years of the mass requisition of personal weapons under the Soviet regime, a car was required to remove the arsenal of another explorer of Asia, P. K. Kozlov, from his city apartment!

Do I need to carry a knife with me? Knife use methods
Do I need to carry a knife with me? Knife use methods

For the sake of fairness, it must be said that at the moment when another clash with warlike rangers or Ngoloks arose in the deserts of Central Asia, a convoy of fifteen, or even forty-five Cossacks with an army rifle of Berdan and two Smith & Wesson revolvers at everyone.

Weapons for extreme expeditions
Weapons for extreme expeditions

Weapon of the Nordic Wanderers

It must be said that, unlike travelers in the tropical zone of the Earth, who preferred large-caliber weapons of high destructive effect, pilgrims to the northern latitudes chose weapons of medium and even small caliber.

The J. Franklin Expedition (1845) was armed and equipped to Royal Navy standards in the mid-19th century. About three hundred units of firearms were loaded onto the ships (let me remind you that the expedition included 134 people on the ships "Erebus" and "Terror"). The overwhelming majority of this terrifying arsenal consisted of Berner's fittings arr. 1832 (the so-called Braunschweig fitting), caliber 17, 7 mm, with two rifling fields, adopted shortly before that into service.

Here it is necessary to point out some inconsistencies in the nature of the ammunition adopted by the expedition: in the Marine Corps Museum, among the relics of the Franklin expedition, round bullets are stored for this fitting. At the same time, McClintock speaks of the discovery of a conical bullet with traces of two rifling fields, which were allegedly also widely used by travelers.

Part of the firearms were smooth-bore double-barreled guns with a bore diameter of 16 mm. It was they who accompanied the expedition members on their last journey - two shotguns were found by McClintock in a boat with the remains of bodies off the coast of King William Island on May 30, 1859. Each of them had one barrel loaded - which probably indicates a lack of ammunition.

Do I need to carry a knife with me? Knife use methods
Do I need to carry a knife with me? Knife use methods

The next significant expedition - equipped with a Habsburg house to reach the North Pole under the leadership of the Duke of Abruzzo in 1872-1874 (better known in Arctic historiography as the Payer-Weiprecht expedition) - was armed with modern Verndl army rifles and Lefosche fittings. Interestingly, according to the recollections of the expedition participants, the Verndl rifle (sample 1867, cal. 11 mm) was much more effective when hunting polar bears than the Lefosche rifle "three times the caliber" (as in the original by Weiprecht. - M. TO.). Nevertheless, Payer's party, which set off on a boat on the return journey from their wintering place in Franz Josef Land, had six Lefosche rifles and four Werndl rifles. They reached inhabited places with only two Lefoshe rifles.

Judging by the photograph of the actual leader of the expedition, Julius von Payer, these "Lefosche rifles" were high-profile hunting fittings. I could not find more detailed information about this weapon.

Travelers of the Soviet era were most often content with the weapons that they could get hold of (with practically no imports). They used either those guns that remained in the USSR as a "relic of the accursed tsarism"; or war trophies of world and civil wars; or, which happened most often, the standard armament of the expeditions - three-line carbines and Mosin rifles.

Mosin rifle
Mosin rifle

Mosin rifle. Photo:

At the same time, there were exceptions due to some peculiarities of organizing the supply of the eastern regions of the country (I will dwell on them in more detail later). Thus, the expedition, directed to colonize Wrangel Island in 1926, under the direction of G. A. Ushakov, was armed with Winchester 1894 rifles, acquired in the concession of O. Svenson in Provideniya Bay.

Do I need to carry a knife with me? Knife use methods
Do I need to carry a knife with me? Knife use methods

But most of the polar expeditions of the young Soviet country were armed with Mosin rifles arr. 1891, and in the ratio "one man - one rifle." This applies, at least, to all Novaya Zemlya expeditions led by R. Samoilovich (1921–1928). Along with rifles in each such expedition there were 2-3 smooth-bore guns of an arbitrary design. Fortunately, there were quite a lot of the latter in the Soviet seichhauses after the massive seizures of weapons from the civilian population of the USSR during and immediately after the Civil War.

The polar expedition of Ushakov - Urvantsev, sent to map the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago, had to “pay off the loan” by means of it! For part of the purchased equipment, the winterers planned to pay off with the skins of polar bears, which they intended to catch in this unexplored archipelago. Here is how G. Ushakov, the head of the Severozemelsky expedition, tells about the negotiations with the Gostorg leadership:

- Therefore, you are applying for a loan for the expedition under your personal responsibility. And what will you pay off with when these two or three years pass?

- Bear skins.

- What?

- Severozemelsky.

- Where is she?

- Who?

- Yes, your Severnaya Zemlya?

- Do you understand, in order to cover this amount, you need to get at least a hundred bears?

- Well! It is important that they are there, and we will get them. We will not hunt casually, but seriously …

And I continued:

“We get expedition clothes from you, and you get bear skins. You do not need to open a collection point. We will bring the skins directly to the warehouse, without overhead costs, and pay interest on the loan.

I had nothing more to argue with.

- Well, boldly, in a businesslike way. We need to think, consult. Stop by the day after tomorrow, at twelve.

At the appointed hour, I again went into the familiar office. Several people were sitting there. The owner of the office introduced me:

“Here is a man selling the skins of unkilled bears. Moreover, a wholesaler - he immediately started with a hundred. Meet. But I think he really will get these hundred skins. It seems he knows bears.

I realized that Severnaya Zemlya still has to pay for our clothes. I was given an order from the Arkhangelsk office: to open a loan for the expedition, to supply us with clothes and reindeer fur, and to sign a contract for Severozemelskaya furs.

“Just be careful not to return without bear skins. And then it will be colder here for you than in the Arctic, - a new acquaintance advised me …

With the help of three three-line military rifles and one Mauser 1898 belonging to N. Urvantsev, four researchers obtained more than one hundred polar bear skins, which they handed over to the state in payment for the most difficult geological and geodetic surveys they carried out in the interests of the same state. Wonderful are your works, O Lord …

Do I need to carry a knife with me? Knife use methods
Do I need to carry a knife with me? Knife use methods

In the northeast, the predecessors of the SCS century, the model 94 hard drives, which appeared at the beginning of the 20th century and survived almost until the beginning of the sixties, were especially popular. During the years of Dalstroi, one of the discoverers of the Chukchi tin, Zhilinsky, traveled with the Savage 99 carbine; the Winchester leaves the head of the Mongol party to the hero of the Kuvaev Territory Baklakov.

American researchers from the Peary expedition, which eventually reached the North Pole, used Winchester Mod self-loading rifles. 1907. They handed over the same rifles as payment for services to their Eskimo companions.

The researcher himself used Winchester Mod. 1892 chambered for.44-40 with a 14-inch barrel (probably eventually preferring it to the banal sawn-off shotgun that had to be used up to that time).

Viljallmur Stefansson, a well-known polar adventurer (who should be familiar to Russians primarily from an unsuccessful attempt to seize Wrangel Island in the first third of the 20th century), actively advocated the massive use of firearms in Arctic expeditions. In his book The Hospitable Arctic, he repeatedly points out that every inhabitant of the Arctic should be armed with at least one rifle.

“On many trips, we took at least one more shotgun just in case of an emergency and packed it in a separate, well-protected bale so that it could be preserved in the event of an accident that would render our basic equipment unusable.”

Illustration by Vladimir Romanov.

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