Artillery of the Russian Army in the First World War.

The 3-inch Mountain Guns.

Text, reconstruction, and illustrations by Aron Sheps.


[From Tseikhgauz No. 13, 1/2001. Pages 38-39.] 


            At the Obukhovsk Works in 1902-03, Captain P.A. Perepelkin built a new mountain gun for the ammunition used by the M1900 3-inch quick-firing field gun. After trials, the gun was accepted as the weapon for mountain-artillery batteries and designated the “three-inch quick-firing mountain gun, model 1904” [“trekhdyuimovaya gornaya skorostrel’naya pushka obraztsa 1904 g.”]. The gun had an original design. In order to decrease the overturn moment that caused the gun to jump when fired, the axis of the barrel was bought close to the longitudinal axis of the carriage. To lessen the barrel’s recoil and travel when returning to its starting position, the gun was fitted with a brake frame with two hydraulic extension devices and compression springs. The gun could be disassembled into five pieces and transported by pack animals. The gun’s range was up to 4500 meters; the weight of the round was 6.5 kilograms; initial velocity of a shell was 290 m/sec. The weight of the gun in its firing configuration managed to be reduced by 23 kilograms, even with the crew protected by a steel shield. However, there were basic defects. The low placement of the barrel limited elevation. The hydraulic cylinders were difficult to synchronize, and as a result the barrel would warp. When transported, dirt would get on the low-lying barrel.

            The Putilovsk Works submitted to the Main Artillery Directorate’s Artillery Committee [Artilleriiskii komitet Glavnogo Artilleriiskogo upravleniya (GAU)] a new 3-inch mountain gun developed by the French Schneider firm. Its construction was rather typical. The rocking part of the gun was placed in the cradle of the riveted steel carriage and consisted of the barrel and underlying tube with hydraulic recoil and return spring. Coarse horizontal laying was done by turning the trail end of the carriage. Precise aiming was by means of a screw mechanism that allowed the barrel to be traversed 3 degrees right and left of the longitudinal axis. The vertical elevation mechanism permitted a –10 to +35 degrees variance from the horizontal. Large diameter wooden wheels allowed the hitched-up limber and gun to travel at 6 to 8 km/hr. A steel shield to protect the crew was fitted onto removable brackets on the carriage. The new system did not fully answer the needs of the GAU, since when packed on animals the load exceeded 100 kilograms. Nevertheless, in 1909 the gun was accepted into the inventory with the consideration that during fighting in the Caucasus and Turkestan, mountain batteries were practically never packed onto animals—wheeled transport was preferred even on mountain trails. Another problem arose from of the gun proving to be rather complicated to produce. There were 536 separate parts in its construction (for comparison, the 1902 field gun had 362 parts), which required high precision during manufacture.

            On the other hand, the new gun’s ballistic characteristics were outstanding: range increased more than 50%; rate of fire was about 10 shot per minute; initial projectile velocity was about 380m/sec; vertical elevation was increased to almost twice as before. Thanks to this, the M1909 mountain gun had the characteristics of a light howitzer and could conduct high-angle fire from concealed positions. True, the excellent ballistics could not be fully taken advantage of due to the use of ammunition from the 3-inch field gun. This, a fused high-explosive shell, could be fired for more than 7000 meters, but the 22-second long-distance fuse tube limited the range of fire to 3000 meters. A 34-second fuse developed before the war turned out to be complicated to manufacture, so factories were unable to put it into mass production.

            In August of 1914, 45 batteries of mountain artillery and 12 batteries of mountain horse-artillery were armed with 408 3-inch mountain guns of the 1904 and 1909 models. Another 32 guns were in reserve and 46 in fortresses. About 40 M1904 guns were additionally returned to the troops after having been withdrawn from use and stored in artillery parks. During the course of the war approximately 40 more batteries of mountain artillery and mountain horse-artillery were formed. Over 1400 M1909 mountain guns were produced by the Petrograd and Putilovsk factories. They were used as specifically intended on the Caucasian Front and in the Carpathians, but the bulk of the mountain guns were given to field batteries. Thanks to its weight (1.5 times less than the M1902 field gun), the crew could easily move the gun by hand while maneuvering as part of tactical infantry formations. His was very helpful in the Brusilov breakthrough offensive in the summer of 1916, when mountain guns suppressed enemy points in the second line of defense and reserve positions. The mountain “trekhdyuimovki” [“three-inchers”], mounted on a pedestal carriage, was also used on river monitors, patrol cutters, and minesweepers. They were also mounted in turrets and bodies of armored trains.

            Neither the allies nor the enemies of Russia had a mountain gun of equal combat capabilities. The French M1906 65mm Schneider mountain gun had less range, a slower rate of fire, and lighter rounds. By all accounts the following were all inferior: Italian 65mm Turin Arsenal mountain gun, Austrian 72.5mm M1899 mountain gun, the AZF company’s M1908, and the German 75mm M1914 Rheinmetall mountain gun. Close in characteristics was the British 2.75-inch Vickers M1902 mountain gun (but with less range and a lighter projectile), while the Japanese 75mm Arisaka mountain gun has a slower rate of fire. Even one of the best, the German 75mm M1915 Rheinmetall mountain gun, was not “up to” the level of the Putilovsk guns.

            The M1909 mountain gun remained in the Red Army’s inventory until the end of the 1930s and even took part in the battles of the Great Patriotic War. The M1927 76.2mm regimental gun was created based on its barrel and became the main weapon for direct support of rifle units. A new mountain gun was accepted by the Red Army only in 1938.




Page 38: Sublieutenant of horse artillery F.V. Gunbin in standard winter uniform while in formation, Yekaterinoslav, October 1909. (From a private collection.) 

Page 39: (Top) 3-inch (76.2mm) quick-firing mountain gun, M1909. (Bottom) 3-inch (76.2mm) quick-firing mountain gun, M1904.


Translated by Mark Conrad, 2001.