RIFLES PART 1:

Mosin-Nagants of Imperial Russia

 

7,62 mm Infantry Rifle M/91:

(Russkaja 3-linejnaja vintovka obr. 1891 g.)

War fought by Russia against the Turks in 1877 - 1878 showed the defects of Berdan rifle used at that time. Both small rate of fire (Berdan had no magazine) and old 10,67 mm black-powder ammunition used in Berdan rifles proved problematic. So Russian military started looking for a new better rifle. Special committee for testing new magazine rifles was established in 1883 for this task. Year 1889 only two of tested rifles still remained under consideration, one from Belgian Leon Nagant and another from Russian Captain Sergei Mosin. The rifle selected to production in 1891 was basically amalgamation of these two developments.

PICTURE: Finnish version of M/91 infantry rifle. Note sling attachment loops - a typical Finnish feature commonly added to these rifles. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (40 KB).

Calibre:

7,62 mm x 54 R

Length:

1305 mm

Barrel length:

800 mm

Weight:

4,3 kg

Magazine:

5, non-removable

Official abbreviations:

"7,62 kiv/91" and "762 KIV 91"

Country of origin:

Russia / Finland / Soviet Union

Prototype:

1890

Production:

Original (Russia/USSR) production 1891 - 1924

Finnish use: Most common rifle in Finnish use from 1918 until 1950's. Due to often-poor condition of M/91 rifles primarily the intent was to issue newer rifle to frontline-infantry, but as there never were enough them also M/91 was issued to frontline infantry and naturally to various kind of other troops in very large numbers.

Rifle M/91 was manufactured by three Russian arsenals: Tula, Izhevsk and Sestroryetsk (Siestarjoki to the Finns). Early on production goal was set to half-a-million rifles per year. But the manufacturing started very slowly, only about 8,000 rifles were made in 1891 and it took until 1895 to actually reach the intended annual production rate of 500,000. To compensate this slow start Russia bought 503,539 rifles from French factory Chatellerault, these were delivered between 1893 - 1895. Real mass-production was started in Russia in 1893 and increased slowly but certainly after that. However, Russian domestic production of M/91 didn't remain in level so high very long. By Japanese-Russian war of 1904 - 1905 only about 3,9 million Mosin-Nagant rifles had been made. This war marked again notable increase in rifle production, but soon after it production rate started to decline again. Some minor changes were made before World War 1. Year 1908 Russians replaced old M/1891 ball-ammunition with 210-grain / 13.7-gram O-bullet with new ammunition model 1908, which had spitzer-type 147 - 149 grain / 9.6 - 9.7 gram S-bullet. This change of ammunition lead into need of modifying sights to fit into ballistics of the new bullet. Modification was made by replacing old sight bar of rear sight with new one designed by V.P. Konovalov introduced to these rifles around 1908 - 1910.

By July of 1914 Russia had almost 4.3 million Mosin-Nagant rifles, but this soon proved to be too little. During World War 1 Mosin-Nagant rifle was produced in huge numbers, but also their quality deteriorated during this emergency-production. Imperial Russia tried to improve situation by ordering Mosin-Nagant M/1891 infantry rifles from US companies of Remington and Westinghouse. Remington delivered Russia 840,307 rifles and Westinghouse 769,520 rifles, but because of Russian revolution further 280,049 rifles were not delivered. Russian revolution and Civil War following it decreased Russian rifle production and also led quality of rifles to decline even more. Sestroryetsk Arsenal was too close to Finnish boarder for liking of Bolshevik leadership so its machines were transported to other arsenals after 1918. Year 1922 Soviets decided to concentrate manufacturing of Dragoon-version of Mosin-Nagant M/1891 rifle, which lead into ending production of infantry rifles M/91 around 1923 - 1924.

Russia was arming Serbian military with Mosin-Nagant M/91 rifles during World War 1. When German and Austro-Hungarian Armed Forces used captured Mosin-Nagant rifles in large numbers during WW1 and armed their allies (like Turkey) with them, there were large numbers of Mosin-Nagant rifles all over Eastern-Europe after World War 1. The Germans didn't like original Russian spike-bayonet, so they modified some of the captured rifles to make using German ersatz bayonet possible. The Germans also modified smaller number of Mosin-Nagant rifles to their standard 7,92 mm x 57 JS calibre. Austro-Hungarian military on the other hand considered the non-standard ammunition (compared to their own service ammo) type used to be the most serious problem and concentrated modifying some of the captured Mosin-Nagant rifles to their standard issue (8 mm x 50 R Mannlicher) rifle ammunition. Austrians and Germans made also some more rare modifications to captured Mosin-Nagant rifles. During Russian Civil War also troops of some Western countries that participated it used Mosin-Nagant rifles. During Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939) Soviet Union delivered large number of infantry rifles M/91 to Republican Spain. During World War 2 German military called captured Mosin-Nagant M/91 infantry rifles Gewehr 252 (r).

At 1918 Mosin-Nagant M/91 infantry rifle was most typical rifle Russian troops used, this lead it also being the most numerous rifle used by both sides in Finnish Civil War of 1918. Not only were Mosin-Nagant rifles captured, but also both the Russian Bolsheviks and the Germans delivered these rifles to Finland during that war to support the side they wanted to win. The Bolsheviks supplied Finnish Reds about 35,000 rifles delivered by rail from Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and almost 18,000 rifles shipped from Tallinn. The Germans on the other hand sold Finnish Whites at least 87,000 captured Russian rifles. In addition to these large deliveries both sides also succeeded acquiring thousands of rifles from Russian garrisons located in Finland - the Reds from those Russian soldiers who supported them and the Whites by force, when they captured and disarmed Russian garrisons in their area. The grand majority of the rifles received by Finnish Red Guards and Finnish White Army were Mosin-Nagant infantry rifle M/1891. February of 1919 when Finnish Armed Forces made inventory, they had bit over 210,000 Mosin-Nagant rifles (all versions included).

Mosin-Nagant M/91 was selected as main rifle type of Finnish Armed Forces. This happened for a very simple reason - it was clearly the most common rifle in Finnish use already and there were no financial resources for buying new rifles in numbers large enough, to even consider replacing it. So in August of 1918 infantry rifle M/91 become the standard rifle type issued to all Finnish troops. Only exceptions to this were cavalry, bicycle-troops, artillery and mine-thrower crews. However, large amount of M/91 rifles in Finnish use were from low-quality WW1-time production and/or had already deteriorated in poor use (Weapons maintenance was not exactly well-known among participants of Finnish Civil War of 1918, nor was correct warehousing methods right after it).

PICTURE: Finnish made cartridge clip for Mosin-Nagant rifles. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (28 KB).

Finnish modifications of sights:

As large number of M/91 infantry rifles were in terrible condition in early 1920's Finnish military started large-scale maintenance and repair program. The most usual problems demanding repair were corroded barrels and Russian rear sighs, which were using arschen/arshin (old Russian measurement, about 0.71 meters, the Finns knew the measurement as arsina) as measurement of distance instead of meters, which Finns used. Some rifles also still had old sight bars not suitable to be used with model 1908 ammunition (they had not gone through year 1910 sight modification). The old range markings in were were in left side of the rear sight and had markings 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 (indicating hundreds of arschen / arsin). The new metric settings located to right side of the rear sight with markings 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 (indicated hundreds of meters).

Pre 1910 sight bars got replaced with newer ones and also received new markings indicating meters to their right side. Old Russian markings (at left side of back sight) remained, but lines were often tooled on top of them. In addition new settings step for 150-metre adjustment was added to rear sight. New higher front sight was often needed for this modification. Aimo Lahti, who was gun-master of Keski-Suomi Regiment at that time (starting from year 1921), developed this new front sight and some other small improvements for the rifle. They were his first designs for weapons. Between 1919 - 1923 Finnish military modified sights of about 66,000 rifles according these methods.

PICTURE: Russian Konovalov rear sight with its arschen / arshin range markings without any Finnish modifications. This rear sight replaced earlier rear sight model in Russian Mosin-Nagant m/1891 rifles around 1908 - 1910. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (83 KB).

Relining scandal

By 1924 the amount of corroded rifle barrels in depots of Finnish Armed Forces and Suojeluskunta (Finnish Civil Guard) had reached 200,000 while Finnish Armed Forces had yet no equipment for repairing damaged rifle barrels. Only possible repair methods available for rifles with damaged barrels were either replacing the barrel or relining it with Salerno method (method typically used with artillery pieces). As the Finns had no experience of either, Finnish Armed Forces decided to try them both. Between 1925 - 1927 Weapons Depot 1 (in Helsinki) relined over 13,000 rifle barrels, while at the same time also new rifle barrels were bought and used to replace damaged ones. The relining process with Salerno-method basically included boring the existing barrel and installing a new inner barrel inside it. In addition also cartridge chamber demanded some re-tooling when this method was used). Suojeluskunta on the other hand decided to replace corroded barrels of their rifles instead of relining them - this development lead later into introduction of infantry rifle M/91-24 used by Suojeluskunta.

The relining program created a scandal, as experts that inspected the results considered rifle barrels fixed this way poor quality and even potentially dangerous. This lead first into stopping production of relined barrels in year 1928 and in 1930 also manufacturing of new relined rifles was stopped. Trials followed and reimbursements were sentenced because of this scandal. Before the production of relined barrels was stopped it had manufactured some 13,450 barrels for infantry rifle M/91, 1,490 barrels for cavalry rifle M/91 and 595 barrels for Maxim machineguns. The Committee created to investigate the matter in 1927 considered only 15 % of the barrels good, 20 - 35 % totally unfit for use and the rest (estimated 50 - 75 %) to be in need of further repairs. In second more detailed inspection made in 1930 the Committee came to conclusion that only 14 % of the relined barrels were suitable for use, 51 % were totally unfit for use and 27 % required further repairs. Not before than 1938 was usability of relined barrels re-evaluated, this time they got considered "passable". After this the remaining relined barrels were took back into use by using them to repair almost 8,000 M/91 infantry rifles by May of 1940. Even the worst ones of relined rifles ended up being considered good enough for wartime use and were used during WW2. The persons sentenced to pay reimbursements for their part in "Relining-scandal" in early 1930's got their reimbursements financially compensated in 1940, but the otherwise the sentences remained.

Making rifle barrels was not easy task for small Finnish metal industry. First (unsuccessful) try for starting a mass production was made between 1922 - 1924 with Tikkakoski factory. A second (successful this time) try was made with same factory in 1925. However production capacity of Tikkakoski was not large enough for repairing the problem alone. New barrels for M/91 were also bought from abroad from Swiss S.I.G. and German Venus gun factories. Between 1940 - 1944 VKT (about 45,300) and Tikkakoski (about 33,000) factories manufactured tens of thousands of new rifle barrels for M/91 rifles. By year 1944 over 10,000 new barrels for M/91 rifles had been taken in use.

Also rifle stocks in large number of M/91 rifles needed replacements. (Side note: Russian made M/91 rifles had stocks made from birch, while French and US made had walnut stocks, Finnish replacement shocks were typically birch). Gun depots and several firms rifle made stocks for M/91 rifles, during Continuation War over 77,000 rifle stocks for these rifles were made. During WW2 over 87,000 rifle stocks were repaired to condition comparable to new ones.

Starting this whole repair and improvement process for M/91 can be criticised for a good reason. It might have made a lot more sense to put the money in making new rifles instead of putting so much money and effort to old, long and heavy M/91 infantry rifles, many of which were basically ready to be wrecked. However, the average cost of repairing M/91 rifle was only about 50 Finnish marks, while even (too cheaply made, as we will see) M/27 rifle end up costing over 290 marks per rifle, because of this M/91 was kept in service and their repairs kept going.

Finland also bought M/91 rifles from abroad in large numbers:

YEAR

COUNTRY

AMOUNT

1926

Italy

39900

1928

Albania(1)

13000

1928

France/Transbaltic (2)

2200

1929 - 1930

Oy Transbaltic Ab (3)

4200

1932 - 1934

Oy Transbaltic Ab (4)

20800

1932 - 1934

Oy Transbaltic Ab (4)

5500

1936

Hungary (5)

4600

1936

Poland (5)

2900

1936

Czechoslovakia (5)

10900

1939

Yugoslavia (6)

56500

1940

Hungary (7)

300

1941

Bulgaria (8)

12300

TOTAL

173100

Non included to these numbers are tens of thousands of M/91 that had been either bored to use Austrian 8 mm ammunition or had no barrels (these were used in manufacture of Finnish Mosin-Nagant rifles as were also used the large amounts of parts bought with almost every deal). Most of these deals were made using Finnish firm "Oy Transbaltic Ab" as go-between. Also large amounts of parts of M/91 rifles were bought from abroad and used as spare-parts and in manufacture of Finnish Mosin-Nagant rifles.

  1. Firm "Benny Spiro" from Hamburg as go-between, traded to Japanese rifles, which Benny Spiro sold to Albania. Mosin-Nagant M/91 rifles of this deal originated mostly from Romania and Czechoslovakia.
  2. Oy Transbaltic Ab bought these rifles from French War Ministry, in exchange Transbaltic got 6,7 million rounds of 7,92 mm x 57 ammunition from Finland.
  3. Oy Transbaltic Ab got 5.07-million rounds of 7,92 mm x 57 ammunition in exchange. Also large amount of rifles parts of M/91 were included to this deal.
  4. Two deals connected to each other made around same time. In First one Oy Transbaltic Ab got about 15,000 Japanese rifles, about 500 bayonets and about 1,2 million rounds of ammunition for them. In second one Oy Transbaltic Ab got 470 "light" machineguns M/08-15 and M/08-18, few MG-08 Maxim machineguns, 8,1 million rounds of 7,92 mm x 57 ammunition and 10 German 75 mm mountain guns model 1913 (75 VK L14) with 7,500 shells.
  5. Once again done with Oy Transbaltic Oy, but this time also German firms J. Veltjens Waffen und Munions and Daugs & Cie G.m.b.H of Joseph Veltjens and Willy Daugs participated by delivering rifles from Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia to Transbaltic. Also lot of rifles in parts included.
  6. With Oy Transbaltic Oy, rifles arrived just before Winter War but large amount only suitable to be used as source of parts.
  7. The Hungarians had captured these rifles from the Poles. This deal was made during Winter War.
  8. From about 40,000 rifles bought only about 12,300 could be issued (after repairs), others were in too bad shape to be repaired but could be used as source of parts.

Deliveries of M/91 infantry rifles to Finnish Army during World War 2:

Manufacturer

Year

AV3

AV1

Total

1939

0

10000

10000

1940

0

15000

15000

1941

0

3997

3997

1942

11762

6769

18531

1943

5653

10000

15653

1944

12434

11458

23892

1945

0

0

0

Total

29849

57224

87073

Source: Report of Finnish Defence Forces GHQ Ordnance department concerning weaponry belonging to its area of expertise manufactured in Finland 1935 - 1945. T20207/F16 sal, Finnish Military Archives. Notice: The table doesn't include rifles delivered to Homefront troops. Both Weapons Depot 1 (AV1) and Weapons Depot 3 (AV3) could also be called "assembly plants".

Mosin-Nagant M/91 proved to be reliable and robust rifle in Finnish use. Especially the bolt system proved to be almost indestructible. Rifle M/91 was the most numerous of rifle types used by Finnish troops during World War 2. Rifle grenade equipment for it was designed twice, first in mid-late 1930's and later in 1942 - 1944, but neither version saw real mass-production. Rifle M/91 was mainly used by Finnish ground troops during World War 2 and was most numerable for all Mosin-Nagant rifles in Finnish use at that time. It was somewhat long and heavy compared to most other rifles of that era, but it still served Finns well. Better weapons finally started replacing them in 1960's but some remained warehoused until 1980's.

 

7,62 mm Dragoon, Cossack and Cavalry Rifles M/91:

(Russkaja 3-linejnaja dragunskaja vintovka obr. 1891 g.)

(Russkaja 3-linejnaja kazacja vintovka obr. 1891 g.)

PICTURE: Mosin-Nagant M/91 Dragoon/Cossack rifle. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (42 KB).

Calibre:

7,62 mm x 54 R

Length:

1237 mm

Barrel length:

730 mm

Weight:

3,8 kg

Magazine:

5, non-removable

Official abbreviations:

"7,62 kiv/91 rv" and "762 KIV 91 RV"

Country of origin:

Russia / Finland / Soviet Union

Prototype:

1890

Production:

Original (Russia/USSR) production 1891 - early 1930's

Finnish use: Only few thousands in Finnish use. Rifle types used solely by Finnish cavalry between 1918 - 1919 and 1924 - 1935.

These two rifle models were shorter cavalry versions of M/91 infantry rifle. Ordinary Russian cavalry version was known as dragoon-rifle, it had 730-mm barrel and more slender rifle stock. These changes made this rifle type about 6.8-cm shorter and about 500 grams lighter than infantry rifle. Cossack-rifle was otherwise similar to dragoon-rifle, but had slightly different sights and it was used without bayonet. Cavalry-rifle was a classification that the Finns used about both rifle types in their own use.

Russian dragoon and Cossack rifles M/91 were mainly manufactured in Izhevsk arsenal until revolution. Dragoon rifle was produced in much larger numbers than Cossack rifle, but production of both was very small scale only when compared to huge production numbers of infantry rifle M/91. Both dragoon and Cossack rifle basically went through the same changes as infantry rifle, including replacing the old sidebars with new M/1910 Konovalov rear sight. Year 1922 the Soviet decided concentrate manufacturing of dragoon rifles and ended Cossack rifle manufacture. Around that time also Tula arsenal became large scale manufacturer of dragoon rifles. Production of dragoon rifle continued until early 1930's in Soviet Union. Then military rifle M/91-30 replaced it in production. Just like M/91 infantry rifle also captured dragoon and Cossack rifles were commonly reissued by German and Austro-Hungarian military, but their much smaller numbers made them pretty much disappear in vast amount of M/91 infantry rifles. During WW2 German military knew M/91 dragoon rifle as "Gewehr 253 (r)".

Just like with infantry rifle M/91, during Finnish Civil War of 1918, also dragoon and Cossack rifles saw use in hands of both sides, but in much smaller numbers. August of 1918 cavalry rifle M/91 become rifle type issued to Finnish cavalry and bicycle troops. However, this didn't last long. Already in summer of 1919 Finland bought German Mauser M/98a carbines and used them to re-arm Finnish cavalry and some units of horse-drawn artillery. Only bicycle troops seem to have kept still using cavalry rifle M/91 after that. The main motive behind this seems to have been small number of M/91 cavalry rifles of good condition. The number of these cavalry rifles was simply too small for equipping these troops with.

It was fairly obvious that needing different rifle ammunition for cavalry and infantry was not wise. Finnish Army wanted to have all its rifles with same calibre. So, a new decision was soon made. This lead Mauser M/98a carbines, Mauser M/98 infantry rifles and Maxim MG-08 machineguns being traded to Poland in exchange of 7.62 mm Mosin-Nagant rifles in 1924. This deal resulted Finns getting some 2,151 cavalry rifles M/91 from Poland. After that Finland had enough cavalry rifles of this type to re-arm its cavalry with them. Some 1,490 cavalry rifles M/91 were also relined with Salerno-method between 1926 - 1927 as part of relining program, but after scandal they were not introduced into service until during Winter War.

Sling system of Russian cavalry rifles was not as good as it had been in German carbines. So Finns equipped large amount of M/91 cavalry rifles with new sling system copied from German M/98a carbines. These rifles remained as basic weaponry of both Finnish Cavalry Regiments until 1935, when they got replaced with domestic M/27 cavalry rifles. During World War 2 rifles of this type only saw use mainly in home front, where they were used by training centres and supplies corps. Amount of M/91 cavalry rifles remained minuscule (1.44% of all rifles in Finnish use in February 1943). So they had little importance after the war. Most of remaining M/91 cavalry rifles were sold to Interarmco and shipped abroad in 1960, last ones (the ones that had Finnish sling modifications) remained warehoused until early 1980's.

 

7,62 mm Carbine M/07:

(7.62 mm karabin obr. 1907)

PICTURE: 7,62 mm Carbine M/07 (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (43 KB).

Calibre:

7,62 mm x 54 R

Length:

1015 mm

Barrel length:

510 mm

Weight:

3,3 kg

Magazine:

5, non-removable

Official abbreviations:

"7,62 kiv/07 karab."

Country of origin:

Russia

Prototype:

around 1894 - 1895

Production:

1907 - 1917, total amount manufactured about 370000

Finnish use: Popular weapon of leaders of both sides during 1918 war, the amount was never more than few hundred.

Early on Russian military saw no need for carbine-type rifle, cavalry and Cossack rifles seemed to be good enough to fill the need. Captain N. I. Jurlov of Russian Army did some research about carbine-version around 1894 - 1895, but only production resulting from his research at that time were 11 prototypes. Russian-Japanese war of 1904 - 1905 changed things, now it become apparent that especially machinegun-crews, signal-personnel and engineers needed smaller and handier rifle to their use. Jurlov's plans re-surfaced and new carbine went into production in Izhevsk. Soon also Russian Gendarme got interested, carbines for it were made by Sestroryetsk arsenal by modifying them from Cossack and dragoon rifles.

Carbine M/07 naturally has shorter barrel than in other versions of Mosin-Nagant rifles, in addition it also has a thinner stock and new smaller back sight, which was redesigned in 1910 (due to new bullet introduced at that time). As the name suggests production of this carbine started in 1907 and by year 1909 some 44,000 carbines M/07 had been manufactured for Russian military. They were mainly issued to machinegun-crews, artillery recon teams and to soldiers of serving in headquarters or artillery weapon crews. Production continued until 1917 and total number manufactured is estimated have been about 370,000.

During Finnish Civil War of 1918 handy M/07 carbine was popular among low-level leadership of both sides. This also lead to them ending up as war-souvenirs more often than other types of Mosin-Nagant rifle. Number of carbine M/1907 in possession of Finnish military after 1918 was too small for it to be even classed as rifle type of its own. Due to this none of them were issued to combat-troops of Finnish military during World War 2. Year 1951 only 20 of these carbines remained in Finnish inventory. These remaining few ended up to museum use in end of 1950's. Nowadays Mosin-Nagant M/1907 carbines are extremely rare and valuable collectors items.

 


SUGGESTED LINKS FOR MORE INFO:

Mosin Nagant dot Net More info about Mosin-Nagant rifles

Russian Mosin-Nagant Forum More info about Mosin-Nagant rifles


SOURCES:

Markku Palokangas: Sotilaskäsiaseet Suomessa 1918 - 1988 osat 1 - 3 (= Military Small Arms in Finland 1918 - 1988 parts 1- 3)

Timo Hyytinen: Arma Fennica 2, sotilasaseet (Arma Fennica 2, military weapons)

Markku Palokangas and Maire Vaajakallio: Aimo Lahti, asesuunnittelun suuri suomalainen (= Aimo Lahti, the great Finn of weapons designing)

D.N. Bolotin: Soviet Small-Arms and Ammunition.

Bruno Bogdnovic and Ivan Valencak: Das Groze Buch der klassischen feuerwaffen

Jan Kronlund: Suomen Puolustuslaitos 1918 - 1939 (= Finnish Defence Department 1918 - 1939)

Article: Sotilaskiväärin malli 1891 kehitys by D.N. Bolotin, translated by Matti Ingman in Ase-lehti magazine vol. 3/91.

Military manual: Kivääri 91, rakenne, huolto ja käsittely by Puolustusministeriö (1940).

Special thanks to Sotamuseo (Finnish Military Museum), Helsinki.


Last updated 27th of June 2013
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