The Rifles of Montenegro 1878-1914 

By Dan Reynolds 

The history of Montenegro (Black Mountain in English) is that of a remnant of a Slavic tribe related to the Serbs which never surrendered to the Ottoman Empire after the Turk conquest of the Balkans following the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.  Their area of control was constantly shrinking under repeated Ottoman attacks until it finally encompassed only the desolate and remote "Black Mountain". 

These people were renowned as fighters and always preserved their right to keep and bear arms. In 1697 Danilo Petrovitch was proclaimed Prince-Bishop and began reclaiming land from the Turks, establishing an alliance with Russia.  As an Orthodox Bishop he was celibate, but both offices remained in his clan passing down to a nephew, generation after generation until 1852 when the offices were split into spiritual and temporal.  There was no standing Army in peace time. Prior to 1853 a feudal system of local chiefs supplied armed men under their command as need arose.  After that time, a national militia system was put in place.  Each man took his service rifle and ammunition home with him and was on call as required to defend the nation.  In 1870, Serbia supplied 5000 rifles and officers to reorganize the structure of the mobilized Army on the Serb pattern. 

The great war of 1876 in alliance with Russia, Serbia and others against the Ottomans resulted in the regaining of an outlet to the Adriatic coast.  At the end of the war,  rifles on hand included the M1867 14.7mm Snider, .45  Turk Peabody, .45 Peabody-Martini, .44-40 Winchester Musket, Chassepot and several others including muzzle loaders. 

Russia began supplying surplus M1870g Berdan 2 rifles and ammunition around 1888.  Further deliveries continued in 1895 when 30,000 more Berdan 2 and six "Gorloff" Gatling Guns in .42 Berdan  were delivered.  In 1898 Russia supplied 35,000 new Mosin Nagant 7.62x54mmR magazine rifles and 25,000,000 rounds of ammunition for them.  These were designated "Russian Rifle M98". No bayonets were supplied for these rifles. France, in 1902, supplied 44,000 surplus Chassepot sword bayonets that could not be fitted to the M98 rifles. These were issued as a side arm to the rifleman. In November 1904 Russia sent 25,000 Army Revolvers, believed to be .44 S&W pattern, along with 6,000,000 rounds of revolver and rifle ammunition.  Another delivery of 10,000 Mosin Nagants rifles and 10,000,000 cartridges arrived in country in July 1909. These are believed to be the same as the M98 type, rifles and cartridges of the older pattern with a MV 1927 fps.  Further deliveries of Mosin Nagants and ammunition are believed to have been made by sea in 1913 or early 1914. 

At the close of the Balkan Wars and on the Eve of WW1, Montenegro had to import all small arms and ammunition.  A plant for reloading small arms cartridges was in operation at the capitol of Cettinje. Arsenal repair shops were located at Ryeka, Niksitye and Podgorista. 

At the start of WW1, Montenegro was probably able to field 55,000 troops of the Active Army and First Ban armed with the Mosin Nagant.  About 60,000 militia troops of other Bans were armed with assorted black powder breech loaders such as the Berdan, Werndel, and other obsolete types. 

Montenegro was defeated in WW1 and after the war was absorbed into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.