M1895 Winchester rifle
The Winchester Model 1895 is one of the last weapons designed by John Moses Browning (1855–1926). It is an improved version of the lever-action Henry rifle.
The M1895 arrived in Russia after the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905. After a crushing defeat, the Tsar’s army began to upgrade its weapons and equipment. The reforms were still in progress at the start of World War I. After the outbreak of the war, the production of Russian arms factories was not sufficient to equip the entire army, so the Russian General Staff resorted to foreign suppliers in autumn 1914. Some weapons were obtained from the former enemy, Japan, while a trip to the United States proved very promising. In the US, the Russians negotiated the production of the M1891 Mosin-Nagant for the Russian military. During the same trip, Winchester introduced the M1895 rifle to the Russians, who subsequently ordered 100,000 of these rifles, calibre 7.62x53R. Later, the Tsar’s army ordered another 200,000 rifles. In total, almost 300,000 M1895 rifles were delivered to Russia.
When Russian troops left Finland after Finnish independence in 1917, thousands of Winchester rifles remained in the country. During the Finnish Civil War, Winchester M1895 was considered an elite weapon. The rifle was issued to the best units and sharpest shooters on both sides of the war. The reputation was due to Winchester’s rarity, reliability and high-quality workmanship compared to the Russian M1891 and Japanese Arisaka rifles that had been manufactured in wartime. After the Civil War, many rifles ended up in private collections in Finland. In 1919, according to a Ministry of War survey, a total of 3,611 Winchester rifles were in use.
The Finnish military, which was poorly prepared for the Winter War, introduced almost all firearm models that were in civilian use by hunters or the Civil Guard or stored in weapons depots. The Winchester rifle was no exception. Many Civil Guardsmen went into the Winter War carrying their own Winchester, while the three thousand rifles in the depots were also distributed to the Defence Forces. After the Winter War, there were 1,697 Winchesters stockpiled in depots. During the Continuation War, the Winchester M1895 was just another rifle among many others. It was issued to security forces and policemen, among others. In 1950, all remaining 503 Winchesters were sold mainly to Defence Forces personnel.
References: Palokangas, Markku, Sotilaskäsiaseet Suomessa 1918–1988, Suomen Asehistoriallinen Seura (1991), https://www.miroku-mfg.co.jp/en/products/lineup/?brand=winchester&use=&type= (visited 10/6/2020), https://www.henryusa.com (visited 10/6/2020), https://www.ubertireplicas.com/home-2/ (visited 10/6/2020)