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The number of weapons available for the Finnish Army

during the Winter War

 

 

 

 

 

The Start

The Finnish HQ calculated, that at the start of Winter War, the deficiencies from standard strengths were 15 % in rifles, 10 % in LMGs, 40 % in MGs, 70 % in SMGs and 75 % in pistols. The immediate and absolute minimum requirement was 72 000 new rifles, 28 000 pistols and 240 MGs. This number of weapons included all weapons of the Army and the weapons from the Civic Guard (86 255 rifles, 410 MGs, 622 LMGs and 662 SMGs were handed over to the field army, and 27801 rifles, 138 MGs, 62 LMGs and 803 SMGs were used to arm the local troops in the Home front, and were of lower quality than those that went to the field army) . As the numbers reveal, without the patriotic Civic Guard organization, Finland couldn't have hoped to offer any resistance to the Red Army.

Finland bought weapons and received donations from numerous countries but, in many cases, the weapons arrived after the war. There was also another problem with the weapons obtained from abroad. From the some 91 000 weapons, only under 10 % had their calibre compatible with the Finnish ammunition supply system. The sheer work of organizing the ammunition supply to the front line forced the majority of theses weapons to be used by the Home front, coastal or air defense units or in training centres.

The captured Soviet weaponry was a totally different matter. The weapons were mainly relatively new and of good quality, and most importantly they were mostly compatible with the Finnish ammunition supply system.
    As the Finnish weaponry, especially the M/91 rifles, were in many cases older and of lower quality as the Soviet counterparts, huge amounts of captured weapons were taken into use immediately and the old weapons abandoned on the battlefield. The quantity of this "swapping" couldn't be counted, so the stats show only the number of weapons really counted in the statistics of captured weapons. It was also common to keep captured pistols, revolvers and rifles as "secondary" weapons, and after the war take them home as war mementos. Also weapons suffering natural war-consumption (meaning weapons damaged, used up etc.) were often replaced immediately by captured weapons and not showing in any statistics.

 

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Weapons lost and captured

The following figures reflect a closer truth to the number of weapons lost by the Finns and captured from the Red Army than the table showing the weapons situation. Note that even these figures are lower than reality, the Finnish weapons losses were a little higher, and more weapons were captured, but as the lost weapons were directly replaced on the field, it doesn't show up on any stats.

 

Finnish losses Captured weapons
Rifles 5 568 Rifles 33 637
SMGs 476 Sniper rifles 88
LMGs 488 Automatic rifles 3 012
MGs 476 Pistols & revolvers 396
Pistols 168 SMGs 239
AT-rifles 6 LMGs 3 076
(Note that the majority of the Finnish weapons lost were from the front line, thereby being of the best quality.) MGs 1 768
AA-MGs 20
( also a large number of damaged weapons were captured, usable as spare parts.)

(Source: "Sotilaskäsiaseet Suomessa 1918-1988, vol 1")

 

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The weapons situation in numbers

Situation              

Obtained

weapon type calibre 30 Nov 1939 13 March 1940 domestic production from abroad war booty
Rifles 6.5-7.62 mm 254 518 416 074 82 570 77 300 25 248
LMGs 7.5-7.92 mm 4 062 11 647 960 5 800 1 574
MGs varies 2 405 3 475 605 100 954
SMGs varies 4 144 4 704 1 265 - 54
Pistols varies 18 260 26 800 1 165 7 465 99
AT-rifles 8.0-14.0 mm - 130 - 130 -
AT-guns 25 mm - 22 - 40 -
AT-guns 37 mm 112 164 105 18 2
AT-guns 45 mm - 55 - 10 123*
Mortar 81 mm 360 788 272 216 -
Mortar 82 mm - 15 - - 63**
Mortar 50 mm - 15 - - 31**

NOTE: The numbers of war-booty infantry weapons (rifles, LMGs, MGs, Pistols) are inaccurate, as hundreds were taken into use immediately and not reported
* = 57 were inspected / repaired and delivered to troops during the war
** = 15 were taken into use

(Table source: "Talvisodan Historia 4", p.298)

 

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From the weapons obtained from abroad (bought or donated) just before or during the Winter War, and which arrived (or at least a part of the shipment) before the war ended, the most notable were:

- 60 000 rifles (7.62 mm soviet origin) from Yugoslavia, included in the start (were used and low quality)
- 77 000 rifles (6.5 mm Mauser) from Sweden, 52 000 arrived in January and the rest in February
- 100 000 rifles (7.5 mm "Terni") from Italy, arrived after the war
- 700 LMGs (7.92 mm Browning) from Belgium
- 5 000 LMGs (8.0 mm m/15) donated by France, 2725 arrived in February and the rest in March - April
- 100 MGs (7.7 mm Vickers) donated by England, arrived in January
- 7 465 pistols (7.65 & 9.00 mm FN and 9.00 mm Parabellum) from Belgium
- 1 250 flare-pistols from England, France and Belgium (no domestic production)
- 200 AT-rifles (14.0 mm) donated by England, 100 arrived in January and the rest after the war
- 50 AT-guns (25 mm "Marianne") bought from France, 40 arrived in February and the rest after the war
- 100 mortars (81 mm) bought from France, arrived in February
- 100 mortars (81 mm model "Brandt") bought from Italy, arrived in February

 

Go to
The Finnish Army
Part I
Part II

Small Arms page

 


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