I recently picked this ammo pouch up from a seller who marketed it as a "Swedish Ammo Pouch". That little bit of smoke screen worked to my benefit, and the pouch is now mine.
This pouch is an original, Russian issued, leather ammo pouch that was later captured on the battlefield, and re-issued by the Finland Army, during the Winter War of 1939.
In 1937, Russia designed the first leather ammo pouch that was in the divided, two compartment style, for the Mosin Nagant rifles. Prior to that, all of the pouches were a large, single compartment, pouches. These two compartment pouches were made from 1937 to 1941, before the design and materials were altered due to war time shortages in materials and demand for higher production.
My pouch is stamped with the Finland Army acceptance stamp "SA", on one of the flap straps. This indicates that this pouch was a captured pouch that was then re-issued to the Finland Army. These early "SA Capture" pouches would have come from the battlefields of the Winter War of 1939, or possibly during the Continuation War that followed.
Originally this pouch would have been on the belt of one of Russia's soldiers as he marched into Finland, most likely in 1939 Winter War invasion. We will never know the fate of that soldier, but the pouch is in such good condition, it is safe to say it did not spend that long in combat.
Finland captured somewhere around 100,000 Russian Mosin Nagant M91/30 rifles and the associated gear that went with them. They then turned them around and re-issued them to the Finnish soldiers to use against their original Russian owners. Prior to re-issuing them, the pouches were inspected, repaired if necessary, and then stamped them with the Finnish armory's "SA" acceptance stamp. From what I understand the M91/30 rifles that were captured received their "SA" stamps starting about 1941. It may have been the same with the captured pouches as well, or possibly after the war, when all the gear was turned back in to the armory. It would make sense that the newly captured pouches and rifles would have been immediately put into service, probably without stamps, but no one knows for sure.
Recognizing these old Russian Pouches can be a bit tricky, unless you know what you're looking for. One give-away is that the back of the pouch is sewn from two layers of leather. The post-war versions have only one layer of leather. For those of you familiar with the post war pouches, from countries like Yugoslavia, Hungary, etc., you will notice how similar they all are (they copied the post-war designs from the Russians!). The second give away, is the "SA" stamp.
My pouch has the last remains of the original Russian Army ink stamp inside one lid, but it is too faded to read the year date, or any other markings (they were made from 1937 - 1941). At some point a number was written over the top of the stamp in pencil, probably by the Finnish Army.
My pouch has solid, single straps, on each lid, with separate back straps for attaching to the belt. These ammo pouches can also be found with the "post-war style" split "Y" lid straps as well. No one knows for sure why two different style were made during the same time period, but they were, further complicating identification for modern collectors! My pouch appears to have been made of pig skin leather for the body, and heavier cow hide leather for the straps.
Here is great web page that chronicles the history of the Russian ammo pouches. You can see both strap styles there as well.
Here is another good website that give great overall information about the old Finnish gear, including the ammo pouches (on the "belt" page).
Let's take a closer look at this remarkably preserved bit of Winter War history: