The Mosin–Nagant is a bolt-action, internal magazine fed, military rifle that was used by the armed forces of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and various other nations, most of them from Eastern bloc. It gets its name from the Russian Artillery Colonel Sergei Ivanovich Mosin who designed the bolt and receiver, and the Belgian Emile Nagant, who designed the magazine system. His brother, Leon Nagant, was a rifle designer. Also known as the Three-Line Rifle , in reference to the 7.62 mm calibre, it was the first to use the 7.62x54mmR cartridge.
As a front-line rifle, the Mosin–Nagant served in various forms from 1891 until the 1960s in many Eastern European nations, when the sniper rifle variant was replaced by the SVD. The Mosin–Nagant is still used in many conflicts due to its ruggedness and the vast number produced.
Initial design and trialsEdit
During the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, Russian troops armed with mostly Berdan single-shot rifles engaged Turks with Winchester repeating rifles resulting in heavy casualties. This emphasized to commanders a need to modernize the Imperial army. The Russian Main Artillery Administration undertook the task of producing a magazine-fed, multi-round weapon in 1882. After failing to adequately modify the Berdan system to meet the requirements, a "Special Commission for the testing of Magazine fed Rifles" was formed to test new designs.
Sergei Ivanovich Mosin, a captain in the Imperial army, submitted his "3-line" calibre (.30 cal, 7.62 mm) rifle in 1889 alongside a 3.5-line design by Léon Nagant (a Belgian) and a 3-line design by captain Zinoviev. When trials concluded in 1891, the units which tested the rifles were split in their decision. The main disadvantages of Nagant's rifle were the following: more complicated mechanism, long and tiresome procedure of disassembling (which required special instruments - it was necessary to unscrew two screws). Mosin's rifle was mainly criticised for lower quality of manufacture and of materials used which resulted in a slightly larger number of stoppages. The Commission voted 14 to 10 to approve Nagant's rifle. However, the head of the commission, General Chagin, insisted on subsequent trials held under the Commission's supervision during which Mosin's rifle showed its advantages, leading to its selection over the Nagant.
Refinement and productionEdit
The 3-line rifle, Model 1891 (its official designation at the time) was adopted. Some details were borrowed from Nagant's design: the form of the fixed box magazine, the principle that the magazine spring is attached to the magazine base plate (in Mosin's original design, the spring was not attached to the base plate and according to the Commission could therefore be lost during cleaning) and the form of the "interrupter" - a detail in the feeding mechanism preventing stoppages due to feeding two cartridges at the same time.
The initial rifle proposed did not contain an interrupter at all, which caused numerous failures to feed. This detail as well as the new configuration of the feed mechanism was introduced in the rifle during the trial and was borrowed from Mosin's rifle (although the form of the interrupter was slightly changed - this changed form was subsequently borrowed back by the Commission for the Model 1891 Mosin Nagant). During the modernisation of 1930 the form of the interrupter was further changed as the part had turned out to be one of the least reliable parts of the action. Thereafter, only the magazine of the Model 91/30 Mosin Nagant rifle and subsequent models was designed by Nagant.
Production of the Model 1891 began in 1892 at the ordnance factories of Tula Arsenal, Izhevsk Arsenal, and Sestroryetsk Arsenal. An order for 500,000 rifles was placed with the French arms factory, Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault.
By the time of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, approximately 3.8 million rifles had been delivered to the Russian army. Initial reactions by units equipped with the rifle were mixed, but any adverse reports were likely due to poor maintenance of the Mosins by infantrymen more familiar with the Berdan who were not properly trained on the Mosin Nagant.
Between the adoption of the final design in 1891 and the year 1910, several variants and modifications to the existing rifles were made.
World War IEdit
With the start of World War I, production was restricted to the M1891 dragoon and infantry models for the sake of simplicity. Due to the desperate shortage of arms and the shortcomings of a still-developing domestic industry, the Russian government ordered 1.5 million M1891 infantry rifles from Remington Arms and another 1.8 million from New England Westinghouse in the United States. Some of these rifles were not delivered before the outbreak of the 1917 October Revolution and the subsequent signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which ended hostilities between the Central Powers and Russia. Mosin–Nagant rifles in Great Britain were used to arm American and British expeditionary forces sent to North Russia in 1918 and 1919. The rifles still in the United States were primarily used for the training of U.S. Army troops. Some were used to equip U.S. National Guard, SATC, and ROTC units. Designated "U.S. Rifle, 7.62mm, Model of 1916", these are among the rarest of American service arms. In 1917, 50,000 rifles were sent via Vladivostok to the Czechoslovak Legions in Siberia to aid in their attempt to secure passage to France.
Many of the New England Westinghouse and Remington Mosin Nagants were sold to private citizens in the United States before World War II through the office of the director of Civilian Marksmanship, the predecessor to the federal government's current Civilian Marksmanship Program.
Large numbers of Mosin–Nagants were captured by German and Austro-Hungarian forces and saw service with the rear-echelon forces of both armies, and also with the German navy. Many of these weapons were sold to Finland in the 1920s.
Civil War, modernization, and wars with FinlandEdit
During the Russian Civil War infantry and dragoon versions were still in production, though in dramatically reduced numbers. The rifle was widely used by Bolsheviks and their enemies, the Whites. In 1924, following the victory of the Red Army, a committee was established to modernize the rifle, which had by then been in service for over three decades. This effort led to the development of the Model 91/30 rifle, which was based on the design of the original dragoon version. The barrel length was shortened by 3 1/2 inches. The sight measurements were converted from arshins to meters; and the front sight blade was replaced by a hooded post front sight less susceptible to being knocked out of alignment. There were also minor modifications to the bolt, but not enough to prevent interchangeability with the earlier Model 1891 and the so-called "Cossack dragoon" rifles.
Finland, a Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire until 1917, had long used the Mosin–Nagant in its military. The rifle was used in the short civil war there and adopted as the service rifle of the new republic's army. Finland produced several variants of the Mosin–Nagant, all of them manufactured using the receivers of Russian-made or (later) Soviet-made rifles. Finland also utilized a number of captured M91 and M91/30 rifles with minimal modifications. As a result, the rifle was used on both sides of the Winter War and the Continuation War during World War II. Finnish Mosin–Nagants were produced by SAKO, Tikkakoski, and VKT, with some using barrels imported from Switzerland and Belgium. In assembling M39 rifles, Finnish armorers re-used hexagonal receivers that dated back as far as 1895. Finnish rifles are characterized by Russian, French or American-made receivers stamped with a boxed SA, as well as many other parts produced in those countries and barrels produced in Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and Germany. The Finns also manufactured two-piece stocks for their Mosin–Nagant rifles.
In addition, the rifle was distributed as aid to anti-Franco forces in the Spanish Civil War.
World War II Edit
When the Soviet Union was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1941 the Mosin–Nagant was the standard issue weapon of Soviet troops. As a result, millions of the rifles were produced and used in World War II by the largest mobilized army in history.
The Mosin–Nagant was adapted as a sniper rifle in 1932 and was issued to Soviet snipers. It served quite prominently in the brutal urban battles on the Eastern Front, such as the Battle of Stalingrad, which made heroes of snipers like Vasily Grigoryevich Zaitsev and Ivan Sidorenko. The sniper rifles were very much respected for being very rugged, reliable, accurate, and easy to maintain. Finland also employed the Mosin–Nagant as a sniper rifle, with similar success. For example, Simo Häyhä is credited with killing 505 Soviet soldiers using his M28 Mosin–Nagant.
In 1936, the 91/30 was again modified, this time to speed production. The receiver was changed from its octagonal shape (colloquially referred to as a "hex receiver" for reasons that are not clear) to an easier to make round receiver. When war with Germany broke out, the need to produce Mosin Nagants in vast quantities led to a falling-off in finish of the rifles. The wartime Mosins are easily identified by the presence of tool marks and rough finishing that never would have passed the inspectors in peacetime. However, the basic functionality of the Mosins was unimpaired.
By the end of the war, approximately 17.4 million M91/30 rifles had been produced.
Increased world-wide useEdit
In the years after World War II, the Soviet Union ceased production of all Mosin–Nagants and withdrew them from service in favor of the SKS series carbines and eventually the AK series rifles. Despite its growing obsolescence, the Mosin–Nagant saw continued service throughout the Eastern bloc and the rest of the world for many decades to come. Mosin–Nagant rifles and carbines saw service on many fronts of the Cold War, from Korea and Vietnam to Afghanistan and along the Iron Curtain in Europe. They were kept not only as reserve stockpiles, but front-line infantry weapons as well.
Virtually every country that received military aid from the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern Europe during the Cold War used Mosin–Nagants at various times. Middle Eastern countries within the sphere of Soviet influence—Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestinian fighters—have received them in addition to other more modern arms. Mosin–Nagants have also seen action in the hands of the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan during the Soviet Union's occupation of the country during the 1970s and the 1980s. Their use in Afghanistan continued on well into the 1990s and the early 21st century by Northern Alliance forces.
Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mosin–Nagants are still commonly found on modern battlefields around the world. They are being used by insurgent forces in the Iraq War and the current war in Afghanistan. Separatists have also used the rifles alongside more modern Russian firearms in the Second war in Chechnya.
- Model 1891 Infantry Rifle — The primary weapon of Russian and Red Army infantry from 1891 to 1930. Between 1891 and 1910 the following modifications were made to the design of the rifle:
- Changed sights.
- Inclusion of a reinforcing bolt through the finger groove (due to the adoption of a 147-grain pointed ('spitzer') round).
- Elimination of the steel finger rest behind the trigger guard.
- New barrel bands.
- Installation of slot-type sling mounts to replace the more traditional swivels.
- Dragoon Rifle — Intended for use by Dragoons (mounted infantry). 64 mm (2.5 in) shorter and 0.4 kg (0.9 lb) lighter than the M1891. The Dragoon rifle's dimensions are identical to the later M1891/30 rifle, and most Dragoon rifles were eventually reworked into M1891/30s. Most such rifles, known to collectors as "ex-Dragoons", can be identified by their pre-1930 date stampings, but small numbers of Dragoon rifles were produced from 1930 to 1932 and after reworking became impossible to distinguish from purpose-built M1891/30s.
- Cossack Rifle — Introduced for Cossack horsemen, it is almost identical to the Dragoon rifle but is sighted for use without a bayonet.
- Model 1907 Carbine — At 289 mm (11.4 in) shorter and 0.95 kg (2.1 lb) lighter than the M1891, this model was excellent for cavalry, engineers, signalers, and artillerymen. It was stocked nearly to the front sight and therefore did not take a bayonet. It was produced until at least 1917 in small numbers.
- Model 1891/30 – The most prolific version of the Mosin–Nagant. It was produced for standard issue to all Soviet infantry from 1930 to 1945. Most Dragoon rifles were also converted to the M1891/30 standard. It was commonly used as a sniper rifle in World War II. Early sniper versions had a 4x PE or PEM scope, a Soviet-made copy of a Zeiss design, while later rifles used smaller, simpler, and easier-to-produce 3.5x PU scopes. Because the scope was mounted above the chamber, the bolt handle was replaced with a longer, bent version on sniper rifles so the shooter could work the bolt without the scope interfering with it. Its design was based on the Dragoon rifle with the following modifications:
- Flat rear sights and restamping of sights in metres, instead of arshinii.
- A cylindrical receiver, replacing the octagonal (commonly called "hex") one. Early production rifles (from 1930 to 1936) and converted Dragoon rifles retain the "hex" receiver.
- A hooded post front sight, replacing the blade on previous weapons.
- Model 1938 Carbine — A carbine based on the M1891/30 design that was produced from 1939 to 1945 at the Izhevsk arsenal and in 1940 and 1944 at Tula. Very few M38 carbines were made in 1945 and are highly sought after by collectors. Essentially a M1891/30 with a shortened barrel and shortened stock, this carbine did not accept a bayonet, however many M38 carbines were fitted into M44 stocks by the Soviets as a wartime expedient. The M38 was replaced by the M44 carbine in 1944.
- Model 1944 Carbine — This carbine was introduced into service in late 1944 and remained in production until 1955. Its specifications are very similar to the M1938, with the major exception of having a permanently affixed, folding cruciform-spike bayonet. These were in use not only by the USSR, but also its various satellite nations.
- Model 1891/59 Carbine — M1891/59s were created by shortening M1891/30 rifles to carbine length, with rear sight numbers partially ground off to reflect reduced range. These rifles are almost clones of the M38 except for the ground off M91/30 rear sight. The "1891/59" marking on the receiver suggests the carbines were created in or after 1959. It was initially thought that Bulgaria or another Soviet satellite country performed the conversions in preparation for a western invasion that never came. Recent evidence suggests that the M91/59 was indeed produced in Bulgaria from Soviet supplied M91/30's.
Mosin–Nagants have been exported from Finland since the 1960s as its military modernized and decommissioned the rifles. Most of these ended up in the hands of private collectors in the West.In Russia the Mosin Nagant action has been used to produce a limited number of commercial rifles, the most famous are the Vostok brand target rifles exported in Europe in the 1960s and 70's chambered in the standard 7.62x54mmR round and in 6.5x54mmR, a necked down version of the original cartridge designed for long range target shooting.
A number of the Model 1891s produced by New England Westinghouse and Remington were sold to private citizens in the United States by the U.S. government through the Director of Civilian Marksmanship program between the two World Wars. Rifles from this program are valuable collectibles. Many of these American-made Mosin–Nagants were rechambered by wholesalers to the ubiquitous American .30-06 Springfield cartridge; these were crudely altered, and are considered dangerous to fire, with severe injury or death a distinct possibility. Despite this, the .30-06 conversions are considered desirable to some collectors for their relative rarity.
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, a large quantity of Mosin–Nagants have found their way onto markets outside of Russia as collectibles and hunting rifles. Due to the large surplus created by the Soviet small arms industry during World War II, these rifles (mostly M1891/30 rifles and M1944 carbines) are inexpensive compared to similar surplus arms, and possibly the cheapest firearm of the day, often found at under 100$. There is serious collector interest in the Mosin–Nagant family of rifles, and they are popular with target shooters and hunters.