The Gra rifle is a kind of product of understanding that a more advanced weapon leads the army to victory, although it was necessary to pay a high price for understanding this simple truth, namely defeat in the Franco-Prussian war. Seeing that the main reason for the defeat lies in the lag in armament, it was decided to urgently re-equip the army and first of all you need to start with the adoption of a rifle for a cartridge with a metal sleeve. Of course, there was no money either for the cartridge itself or for the weapon, and it was always quite expensive to rearm an entire army. Partly solved the problem by Captain Basil Gras, who proposed a relatively cheap solution for creating a weapon chambered with a metal sleeve, using Shaspo rifle as a basis, well, I had to pay the full amount of ammunition. By the way, the cartridge for the rifle is also the merit of Captain Gras. In fact, the decision was not the most original and many saved it in this way, however, the merits of the captain cannot be diminished, especially considering that the resulting weapon was distributed at the time in Russia. In fact, the main work of the captain was to create a bolt for the rifle and cartridge, the work with the drill associated with the chamber can be disregarded as a matter of course. Since the basis of any weapon is ammunition, then we will begin with it.
The cartridge was based on a sleeve-shaped sleeve with a flange made of brass 59 mm long. Powder weight was the weight of 5,25 grams, but the most important was the bullet of this cartridge. The bullet was cast from pure lead, and its weight was 25 grams. Leaving the barrel of weapons, this bullet accelerated to 448 meters per second, that is, the kinetic energy of the bullet was about 2500 Joule. Considering that the bulletless blast is easy to imagine what kind of injuries she inflicted when she hit the body of the enemy, with such energy. Add to this a decent bullet caliber just over 10 millimeters and get the perfect ammunition for hitting an unprotected enemy with a bulletproof vest. However, not everything was as perfect as it seems. Sealing the junction of the liner and the bullet was made quite unreliable composition in the form of a mixture of wax and fat. As a result, when the weather was quite hot, the whole thing “floated”, and since the bullet itself held onto the shell only on this train, the missile could simply have dropped out of the shell itself. Saved only by the fact that the hot weather was far from frequent. Another interesting point was that the cartridge primer was originally covered with a cap so that the cartridge would not accidentally shoot, and also to protect the capsule composition from moisture. This was done very briefly, and since it was necessary to remove this cap to make a shot, they came up with more sensible methods for sealing the capsule. In general, the cartridge for its time came out very good and lasted much longer than the other first ammunition with a metal sleeve, although it was constantly being upgraded.
As mentioned above, the Gra rifle is a modernized Shaspo rifle, in which the bolt was replaced, and the chamber was bored under the metal sleeve. Even the bayonet of the weapon, which was a small saber, was left unchanged. The rifle bolt was a very simple and at the same time robust design, which consisted of only 7 parts and without any threaded connections. Thus, it took seconds to disassemble the bolt, which was a positive weapon quality, because thanks to its simplicity and ease of maintenance, absolutely anyone could handle it. The barrel was locked over the crest of the bolt when turning 90 degrees. Despite the seeming simplicity of the design of the shutter, it is easy to notice that it took a lot of time to make it, and judging by the photos, the quality of the machining of parts is such that many modern manufacturers (I won’t point the finger) have a lot to learn, and yet all this was done against the general background the strictest savings. The extractor is a V-shaped spring, which at one end seizes the sleeve at the rim, and with the other, when the bolt is locked, it rests against the constriction in the receiver. As a result, the second end of the spring reliably grips the liner rim, which allows you to reliably remove the liner after the shot, even if it was deformed for some reason and stuck in the chamber. Of considerable importance in this all has a thick shutter handle, quite convenient for the application of muscular strength to her arrow.
The appearance of the weapon is largely due to the fact that the bayonet attack was an integral part of the battle of that time, so they tried to make the weapon as comfortable as possible to work with a bayonet. The rifle's stock and rifle were made of walnut wood, the receiver was fastened with just one screw, and in addition, the barrel of the weapon was fixed in two rings. As already mentioned above, the bayonet of the weapon was a small sword, which could be quickly detached from the weapon and used separately from the rifle. An interesting point is that in the butt of the weapon there was a small capsule with holy water. Many consider this to be nothing more than a legend, but absolutely on all rifles on the right side you can notice a small cap in the butt. I personally do not see any justified practical motives for adding to the construction of this part, so why not be this true. By the way, one more thing about the stock. The butt plate was metallic, so that the butt hit was serious, not as serious as a bayonet strike, but it was definitely not a pleasant one.
Sights, which are mounted on the weapon, are quite interesting and using them is far from being as easy as it may seem at first glance, but if you look, then no problems arise. Sights consist of a pillar and front sight on a high rack. When firing at a distance of up to 300 meters, a slot is used based on the rear sight, in other words, the part that is closest to the arrow is used. From this we can conclude that the distance of the direct shot of the weapon is 300 meters. For firing from 300 to 400 meters, another slot is already used, which is located on the rising part of the rear sight, it is wider, plus it is located just above the first slot in the raised position. It is difficult to imagine that the fire with the help of open pillars and flies can be conducted effectively at a distance of more than 400 meters, however, there were no alternatives at that time, and to be able to at least scare the enemy with off target fire, hoping that thanks to luck find, I would like to. In this case there is a very high folding part with graduation at different distances from 400 to 1100 meters with a slot in the center. But this is not the limit. At the very top of the huge pillar along the length there was another cutout for firing at a distance of 1200 meters. With the improvement of ammunition appeared sights for firing at a distance of 1800 meters, which is, in my opinion, an even greater manifestation of optimism. I, for example, wouldn’t spend ammunition at a distance of 600 meters, since it’s absolutely useless to shoot at a great distance, although 600 meters is a distance for shooting “for good luck” with such sights, and the single charge of the weapon is clearly not has - the hand will be tired by the time the enemy approaches the normal distance.
The barrel of the weapon had a 4 rifling height 0,25 millimeters in increments of rifling 550 millimeters, but the length was already dependent on the weapon version. The barrel of an infantry rifle was the length of entire 820 millimeters, while the length of the rifle itself was 1305 millimeters, and with a bayonet, and in general 1827 millimeters. The weight of this weapon without a bayonet was equal to 4,2 kilograms, with the bayonet the same - 4,740 kilograms, do not forget about the metal back plate on the butt, with a good swing you can quite successfully crush the skulls of foes. In addition, on the meringue of the Gra rifle, a carbine was created, or rather, two carbines, one for the military, the other for the gendarmes, they differed only in details and were generally the same weapon. They differed from an infantry rifle with a smaller length of the barrel of the weapon, as well as a bend of the bolt handle, for more convenient carrying of the weapon. The length of the carbines was 690 millimeters, the total length was equal to 1175 millimeters. The carbine version for the army was also equipped with a bayonet, with which the total length of the weapon was 1748 millimeters. For the gendarme variant, a bayonet of a slightly different design was also provided, but it was not used. The weight of the carbine for the army was 3,56 kilograms, the gendarmery carbine weighed a little more - 3,59 kilograms. With a bayonet army version of the carbine weighed kilogram 4,25. There was also a fitting made on the base of the rifle. The length of its barrel was 505 millimeters, while the total length of the weapon was 990 millimeters without a bayonet and 1563 millimeters with a bayonet. The weight of this device was equal to 3,26 kilogram and 3,915 kilogram without a bayonet and with a bayonet, respectively.
As is clear from the description, the weapon was not easy even in its most “trimmed” version, and the length of these samples was clearly not the most compact, which was in principle a plus when working with a bayonet. The maximum claimed rate of fire was 30 shots per minute. That is, it was assumed that in two seconds the shooter would remove the cartridge case, insert a new cartridge, aim and shoot, which is unlikely if it is a really aimed fire and without taking into account various circumstances that make it difficult to recharge and aim, such as the enemy’s fire.
Officially, the rifle was decommissioned by the French army in 1886, when Lebel’s rifle came to replace it, but the rearmament process was delayed. Only by the middle of the 1910-s was it possible to completely remove weapons from the army and store them. And here it began история weapons on the territory of Russia, since after the conservation of the 450 thousands of rifles, carbines and Gra unions were sold to us. In addition, part of the weapon was sent to Greece, where it was successfully used during the war and after it. Strange as it may seem, but the weapon was by no means the best even at the time of its creation, yes it was not bad, but, nevertheless, this model was widely spread due to circumstances, at the same time it was simple and cheap as made it quite famous, forever inscribed in the history of the name Basil Gras. Naturally, the weapon was constantly changing, the ammunition improved, some moments changed during rifle production, but no significant changes were made, even the rifle magazine was not hitched, and this would significantly increase the rate of fire, increasing the effectiveness of the weapon. In general, such a weapon was here, and since it became a part of our history, we still need to know it, even though now it can be found very, very rarely, even in a museum. Although, maybe, a couple of hundreds of these forgotten rifles were lying somewhere in some warehouse in the corner.