Historic Firearms - Mosin-Nagant 91/30
Originally designated the "3-line rifle, Model 1891", the Mosin-Nagant was designed as part of trials following the Russo-Ottoman War (1877-1878). The use of single-shot Berdan rifles in this conflict by the Russians exposed a need for a magazine-fed rifle after the Russians suffered heavy casualties at the hands of the Turks who employed Winchester repeaters.
Three rifles were evaluated in the trials, one each by Captain Zinoviev, Sergei Mosin of the Russian Imperial Army, and Belgian Leon Nagant. Though Nagant won the initial bid, a subsequent trial led to the selection of Captain Mosins rifle.
At final production, some design elements were pulled from the Nagant rifle, leading to several variants known as Mosin-Nagant rifles in the West (though this name was never officially used in Russia), the most common of which being the 91/30.
Simo Hayha (1905-2002), was a Finnish sniper during the Winter War of 1939. He used a Finnish variant of the Mosin-Nagant, the M/28 White Guard chambered in 7.62x54r with open sights (no scope) for improved concealment.
Over the course of the war, Simo and his Mosin earned the nickname "White Death" from the Soviets and a place in history, racking up a mind-blowing (no pun intended) 505 kills. No sniper in a major war has surpassed this number to date, giving Simo (and the Mosin) the record for most sniper kills.
In spite of entire Soviet counter-sniper units and artillery strikes being deployed for the sole purpose of stopping "The White Death", Simo survived the war with only one major wound to his face and lived out his days as a hunter and dog breeder in Finland.
The Mosin-Nagant rifle, primarily in it's infantry and Dragoon variants, was employed in numerous conflicts and produced in the millions during the early half of the 1900s. From the Russian Civil War through today, the Mosin-Nagant is one of the most widely produced rifles in history and was deployed in combat by numerous countries including Russia, Afghanistan, Japan, Germany, Finland, and many more.
Though the Mosin-Nagant was frequently used as an Infantry rifle for decades in a number of variants, it was found to be too long and cumbersome in many combat conditions, leading to the addition of a turned-down bolt assembly and scopes to the 91/30 model from 1932 on, and one of the most widely employed sniper systems in history was born.
Mosin-Nagant 91/30 Specifications
Note: Specifications are approximates for Soviet 91/30.
Overall Length: 48 1/2"
Weight: 9 lbs
Rifling: 4 groove 1/9 1/2" right hand twist
Mosin-Nagant Sniper Rifle
Deployed before, after, and during World War II, the Mosin-Nagant 91/30 is the most widely produced and deployed sniper rifle in history, as well as the longest serving. From it's initial production, the Mosin-Nagant 91/30 was the primary Soviet sniper rifle until it was replaced with the SVD Dragunov in 1962.
Used by such famed snipers as Vasili Zaitsev (of Enemy at the Gates fame), Simo Hayha, and Ivan Sidorenko, the Mosin-Nagant 91/30 was additionally the sniper rifle most employed by female snipers.
Mosin-Nagant 91/30 in Action
Collecting and Stamping
Part of the real fun in owning a Mosin-Nagant rifle is the long history of the weapon itself. Various stampings were applied to the rifle in many of the countries in which they were employed, and with a good reference and some patience you can trace the entire history of your Mosin-Nagant from the factory in which it was produced to the purpose of it's deployment.
For example, I own a Mosin-Nagant 91/30 which was manufactured at Tula Arms in 1932. It was originally a training rifle and then moved to the front. It was captured, remanufactured, and redeployed by the Germans.
Note from the Author
As usual, this is a summarized version of the history and by no means completely covers the scope of this weapons history. Additionally, the individual pictured with the rifle above really should have been wearing safety glasses while firing, and yes that individual is me.