The uniform and field gear requirements of the Red Army rifleman are fairly simple and much less expensive than those for a Fascist soldier or those of our "Soyuzniki" (Allies). The most basic elements include: Pilotka overseas cap, Gymnastiorka tunic (with rank), Sharovari trousers, Belt, Ammo pouch, Canteen, Boots. Simplicity and functionality have always been hallmarks of Soviet/Russian uniforms and equipment. The frugal shopper can get this set for around $300-$500. The items are described below.
Pilotka: Can be authentic or postwar or repro. Make sure postwar is correct configuration. Should have the subdued star on the front, rather than the Red enamel.
Shelm: Either M36 or M40 helmet. If M40, liner should be correct configuration. Can be period or postwar. If postwar, be careful to get the correct style. The helmets from the 80's look similar to the M40 but are incorrect (they are a bit bigger with a leather chin strap). The Czech and Hungarian helmets from the 50's are currently accepted.
Gymnastiorka: Either the M35 or M43 style are acceptable. Reproduction, period or postwar production, since for many years after the war, the Soviet uniforms were the same as those produced during the war. Cotton for summer issue, wool for winter issue. Some shade of khaki is what the tunic should be, but there was GREAT variance in colors of war-time produced uniforms. Need to have rank insignia as well. Does not need to have pockets if M43 style (despite what 'experts' say). You MUST have the collar liner sewn in or the Starshina shall not be happy.
Sharovari: Not much variance in the trousers. Only real difference is that enlisted trousers usually had reinforcing patches on the knees. There are also subtle differences between the M-35 and M-43 Sharovari. Coloration and production as per the tunic.
Sapogi: For footwear, the Red Army soldier has some choices. One is the sapogi high boot. These are (were) fairly cheap, the upper made of an impregnated canvas-like material and the foot made of leather. These were also referred to as Tarpaulin Boots in wartime accounts. Recent Soviet (Russian) issue are acceptable. Low boots were also very common. With these, the rifleman must wear puttees. Lend-lease means that US or British low boots can be used. East German jackboots are currently also accepted. You could even use captured fascist low boots. Puttees can be either wool or cotton canvas (cheap! but the wool seems to be easier to make stay up).
Winter Uniform Items: For cold weather, the most basic item for the rifleman is the brownish wool overcoat. It has to have the hooks to close it (buttons only for officers). Postwar production is permitted and are pretty cheap right now. This will be a most useful item to have since the Red Army didn't issue blankets or sleeping bags. To go along with the overcoat is the SHAPKA-USHANKA fur cap. Get the enlisted quality cap. There are many good repros on the market today. Modern production is not correct (fur is wrong color). The TELOGREIKA padded jacket and VATNIE SHAROVARI padded trousers are also good items to get. They are more convenient than the overcoat when running around in the woods. Postwar production and repros are permitted, but check the jacket to make sure the configuration is correct (sausage rolls need to be on the outside of the jacket). Often they need some conversion (post-war sometimes needs to be turned inside out). Telogreikas produced up to the 80's should be ok as M43 style. Felt boots (valenki) can also be worn for the winter. These are really only good if the snow is dry.
Belts: The Rifleman can have a belt in several configurations. Very common is the web belt with (sometimes artificial) leather reinforcement. Postwar production is permitted. A real leather belt with single prong buckle can also be used. Leather must be brown. Captured Fascist belts can be used on occasion, with buckle intact or styled to be a Soviet buckle (Red Star). These captured belts were prized by our brave Razvedchiki. If the buckle was left intact, the Swastika was usually ground off.
Field Equipment for the Red Army Rifleman
Plasch shelter. This is what everyone should be sleeping under!
The field gear required for the rifleman is also quite simple. A shelter half (plasch-palatka), a Meshok rucksack, gas mask bag and you are all set. Think simplicity - the more austere the better you look. Captured gear can also be used in moderation. Blankets were not issued; the rifleman made due with the overcoat.
Plasch-Palatka: This is a cape used as a shelter half as well. It is a canvas fabric and can range from a dark olive to light khaki color. Postwar production is acceptable, just make sure the toggles are wood, not plastic. grommets MUST be leather (no brass).
Veshchevoi Meshok: This is a simple sack with a drawstring at the top and canvas straps sewn on. Postwar production is allowed, just remove the outside pockets and extra straps. Homemade and repro (Mike Thompson-made as seen on right) meshoks are also permitted.
Gas Mask Bag: Most soldiers discarded the masks and used the bags to carry whatever they needed, due to lack of a proper rucksack. Period, postwar or repro are acceptable. Postwar should be examined to see that it is indeed the correct configuration since there were several styles of mask bags after the war. The mask is not a neccesary item, but get one if you find it.
Ammo Pouches: These can be either real leather or the impregnated canvas artificial leather. The impregnated canvas pouches that usually come bundled with the Mosin Nagant 91/30's are OK for late war use. Please get the correct ones, as there are some postwar ones which look similar (Polish) but aren't correct. Only need one and they are cheap. They did have cloth bandoliers, but they weren't very common. You can still buy one, though. Be sure to obtain stripper clips as well. Pouches for weapons other than Mosin rifles/carbines will be somewhat costlier, such as the pouches for the SVT. Those can be cloth or leather.
Canteen: The canteen is a simple oval shaped metal (or glass) flask with a screw on top. Need to have the fabric cover for it. Postwar production is permitted since they looked (essentially) the same for many years after the war. The color of the cover should (not necessarily) be a khaki color, but there was a great variance in production of this item, so color is not very important.
Entrenching Tool: Period or postwar production is permitted. Also need to have the cover for this. E-tools were not as common as they were with the Fritzes, so this is an optional item. Since the Red Army didn't use Y-straps like the Germans, this will likely just pull down your belt. If you use the postwar e-tool, you will need to get a period or correct pattern repro cover.
Here is a basic 1943 uniform.Your choice of Sapogi or lowboots with puttees (in front of boots). Lowboots courtesy of a dead Fritz.
Here you have a basic rifleman kit. Included is the Meshok and gas mask bag, Plasch, and mess gear (cookpot,spoon and cup).E-tool is optional.
Here are the Telogrieka and padded trousers, along with Valenki and Ushanka. All you really need, though, is an overcoat.