The Russian Empire, like most European countries, had very liberal gun laws, with no significant restrictions on sales, possession, or open carry.
Chelyabinsk gun shop around 1900.
After 1905, you needed the permission of the local head of police to buy pistols and revolvers, but this was a very quick affair and granted as a matter of course. Considering the context of the time – (thousands of assassinations of government officials during this period), this was not an unreasonable precaution. There were no laws on hunting rifles at all until 1917.
Russian Gun Shop Poster (1917)
The Soviets began confiscating private weaponry from 1918. Pistols and revolvers were restricted to Communist Party members, as befits the nomenklatura caste society, and would only be allowed for narrow classes of people thereafter. Hunting rifles and shotguns were only available to registered hunters, and acquiring them involves a lengthy and bureaucratic process to this day. As of 2014, Russia scored 3.1/10 on the Gun Rights Index, far behind the US (8.0) and Czechia (6.4), if for now ahead of the United Kingdom (1.5). Incidentally, as of 2016, the Czech homicide rate was twice (!) lower than the UK’s.
In 1935, even some types of knives were forbidden: “Prohibit the manufacture, storage, sale and wearing of daggers, Finnish knives and the like of cold weapons without the permission of the NKVD in the established manner” (Article 182). That’s right: BASED Stalin had the same attitude to knives as Sadiq Khan and Mr. Plod. This provision was later relaxed.
There are a few sovok trolls in the comments who tell me to go back to Texas because apparently gun rights constitute “transplant Protestant individualism” and “Western craziness.” Both of those things of course being the very definition of the Russian Empire, while the mustachioed Caucasian BDSM master represented the true Orthodox Russia. Another thing they claim is that gun rights would cause Russians to immediately shoot each other up en masse “like Americans do.” But given American criminological statistics, we must also conclude that sovoks believe Russians are behaviorally equivalent to American Negroes. But of course it’s me who’s the Russophobe.
PS. Much longer, comprehensive article on Imperial Russian gun culture (Империя и оружие. В царской России “стволов” в продаже не боялись). Doesn’t seem like a topic that has been written much about in English, for obvious reasons.