Trench periscopes. General overview
The TR periscope (Трубка разведчика, "scouts tube") is an optical periscope device which allows for the observation of objects from a sheltered position. The use of prisms and lenses in its construction allowed for a relatively good image for a device of this type, the presence of a range-finding graticule allowed it to be used to measure distances.
The first effort in the creation of this device was made by the Soviets in the 1920's. In 1927 the "scout's tube" was designed by the Bolshevik factory in Leningrad. The exact look of this tube is unknown at the moment. In the early 1930's, according sniper training manuals, a 1.5x trench periscope existed. However, real mass production of TR periscopes (4x magnification) started in the late 1930's, the exact date is also unknown at this time.
Soviet mass-produced three models of trench periscopes - TR (4x magnification), TR-1 (4x magnification), and TR-8 (8x magnification). All models had range-finding reticles.
Range-finding reticle used in periscopes.
0.01 size is equal to modern 0.1 MRad
Soviets scouts with a TR periscope
Germans using captured a Soviet TR periscope
The most well known and most common type of the above mentioned periscopes is the TR periscope. It is often called the TR-4 periscope, however, the correct model name is "TR", 4x is size of magnification.
The production period for this model started at the end of the 1930′s and lasted until the end of the 1940's. The earliest observed example is dated 1938, the latest – 1948. Copies of this model were manufactured in Poland during the 1950's.
Soviet TR periscopes were produced by 2 factories - the factory in Zagorsk (ZOMZ factory, evacuated in 1941) and factory in Kharkov (FED factory, also evacuated in 1941).
There are two types of designs - "early" and "late". Early periscopes (1938-1940) had the possibility to cover the top prism (objective) with a rotating tube when the periscope was not used. This feature was eliminated in 1940. Early periscopes had a different construction of the eyepiece, it had an adjustable height and a rubber eye cup, while later models had bakelite eye cup. Early models were issued with hardshell cases, later models with softshell holsters.
1940 early pattern TR periscope with a hardshell case.
Photo courtesy of Pucheng Ke.
Early pattern TR has an eyepiece with an adjustable height and a rubber cup
The "3" marking on the tube indicates that the objective is closed, 0 marking (not visible in this picture) means it is open
On the top - objective is open, on the bottom - closed.
Position of the objective remains the same, only the thin top of the tube rotates
Soviet officers using early pattern TR periscope in field
Late pattern TR periscope with a softshell case.
Photo courtesy of Phillip Gorny.
Late pattern periscopes.
On the left - periscope from the Zagorsk factory (linear shaped knurling), on the right - from the FED factory (diamond shaped knurling)
Late pattern periscopes.
On the left - periscope from the Zagorsk factory (conical top part), on the right - from the FED factory (rounded top part)
On the left - top part of the late pattern periscope, in the middle and on the right - early pattern. Early pattern periscopes had a short conical cap.
Manufacturers and markings
Factory No.355 \ Zagorsk optical-mechanical factory .
The Zagorsk (a city near Moscow) factory was the main manufacturer of TR periscopes. TR's from this factory have been observed with 1938-1948 dates (there is unconfirmed information about production in 1937). Sometimes periscopes with ZOMZ markings are found without dates, however, it is highly likely the ZOMZ factory marking was added/restored during postwar refurbishments, such cases are known with other optical devices and are very common with binoculars.
It's possible they can be wartime production - some wartime binoculars from ZOMZ are also missing dates, or they can be postwar production after 1948. At the moment all known examples of periscopes with these markings are in refurbished condition, further research is required.
Until 1944 periscopes were painted with an "apple" color (green/yellow) paint*, since 1944 the paint color became gray with a greenish tint. In 1944 the style of marking was changed - prior to 1944 factory markings were placed within a rectangular border, in 1944 and later markings did not have it
* "Apple" color (green/yellow) paint was also used during postwar refurbishment.
Pre-1944 style of marking with border
(pre 1941 markings are bigger compared to 1941-1943 markings)
1944 and later style of marking without a border
Refurbished TR periscopes with ZOMZ factory logo and no production date
On the left - periscopes with original paint from the pre 1944 period,
on the right - from 1944 and later
Factory No.3 NKVD /296 NKAP (FED), Kharkov/Berdsk.
Compared to the ZOMZ factory, FED made periscopes are much rarer. This factory started production in 1940 and ended it in 1942. Early pattern periscopes had a construction identical to ZOMZ periscopes, while late pattern periscopes had some differences - tube was rounded at the top (instead of a conical shape on ZOMZ periscopes, knurling on the eyepiece block was diamond shaped (instead of line shaped on ZOMZ periscopes). Pictures with differences are shown above.
FED periscopes are observed with 1940, 1941,1942 dates and without dates. Currently it is unclear why some periscopes are missing dates, but they were definitely produced in 1940-1942. The same situation is observed with FED factory PU scopes - some are also not dated. It is interesting that in both cases, the devices without a year marked had special serial number ranges. Both dated FED TR periscopes and PU scopes had serials before No. 32,500 (roughly), not dated devices had serials within the 60,000-70,000 (roughly) range
Late pattern TR periscope from the FED factory
FED factory TR periscopes with a manufacturing date and without.
TR periscopes with refurbishment markings
Quite often during postwar refurbishment, repair facilities removed original factory markings and added a new serial number. These refurbished periscopes often have mismatched parts made by different manufacturers
On the left - periscope with a refurbishment marking, but with intact factory markings,
in the middle and on the right - periscopes with removed factory markings and new serial numbers
Polish TR periscopes
Polish army used a large number of Soviet made periscopes and produced their own local copies. Soviet periscopes were often refurbished in Poland, these had repair markings, "WZR-**", where ** is a year of the repair.
According to dates on Polish produced periscopes, production started in 1950 and ended later in 1954. ) Some periscopes were issued with softshell cases, some with hardshell cases (different from the early pattern Soviets cases). Construction of Polish periscopes was similar to late pattern ZOMZ periscopes.
Polish made periscope with a softshell case.
Polish made periscope hardshell case.
Construction of the periscope is similar to late pattern ZOMZ periscopes
Markings from different manufacturers
Soviet TR periscopes with Polish refurbishment markings
The Soviets had an interesting model of a trench periscope, the TR-1. Similar to the TR periscope, it also had 4x magnification and a range finding graticule. But this periscope is missing the dioptric settings and had a protective tube over the main tube. The main purpose of these changes was to make the periscope waterproof. No details about this model are known currently, so far no records about it have been found in any documents.
TR-1 periscopes were produced in 1938-1942 in much smaller quantity compared to TR periscopes
TR-1 periscope. The rubber eyecup is missing
TR-1 periscope with removed protective tube
A new model of a periscope with 8x magnification was created in 1945 by the ZOMZ factory. Only a few of them were made for trials, mass production started in 1948. The earliest 1948 dated periscopes had a feature that was similar to the trial model - the top part of the tube became thicker from bottom to the top, almost immediately after production started the design was updated and the tube became one-size.
Image showing a trial periscope from the 1945 ZOMZ factory report
Picture from open sources
On the bottom - 1948 TR-8 with the early feature, on the top - standard design
Picture from open sources
In the 1950's construction of the TR-8 periscope was updated, the top part (objective) was redesigned, the tube was updated with a dehydration capsule. The early construction objective reflected image using a prism, later, with a mirror.
On the left - late design with a dehydration capsule and updated objective, on the right - old design.
Periscope on the right was produced by "Geodezia" factory.
Picture from open sources
There exist a number of TR-8 periscopes, made by the ZOMZ factory, that have "1941" and "1945" markings (other variations are also possible). These markings are not the production year, their designation is currently unknown. Production year for these particular periscopes is coded with a letter prefix of the serial number.