RIFLES PART 7:

Sniper Rifles

 

Captured sniper rifle M/91-30:

PICTURE: Captured Soviet M/91-30 sniper rifle with PEM scope mounted on top of receiver. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (32 KB).

Calibre:

7,62 mm x 54 R

Length:

1230 mm

Barrel length:

730 mm

Weight:

4,0 - 4,3 kg (without scope)

Magazine:

5, non-removable

Official abbreviations:

"7,62 kiik.kiv/30" and "762 KIKIV 30"

Country of origin:

Soviet Union

Prototype:

?

Production:

1932 - 1944

During World War 2 the Soviet situation with sniper rifles was not the same that Finns had. The starting point for the two countries had been very much the same - unlike most countries that participated to World War 1 in large scale Imperial Russia didn't have scoped sniper rifles at that time. But the Soviets had been interested about snipers and sniping and started development of sniper rifle in mid 1920's by testing imported commercial rifle scopes in dragoon version of M/91 rifle. They acquired German rifle scopes for tests circa 1924 - 1925. Important markstone of Soviet sniper rifle development was making 170 sniper rifles from M/91 dragoon rifles in year 1926. These rifles known as Moscow Dynamo rifles were equipped with Zeiss Dialytan 4X rifle scope and scope mount manufactured GECO (Gustav Geschow & Co). Another Soviet acquisition of rifle scopes happened with some 500 Zeiss Zielvier 4X scopes equipped with GECO scope mounts bought for NKVD circa 1927 - 1928. Testing and development took its time, so the Soviets they didn't introduce their first domestically manufactured sniper rifle until year 1931 and it did not see mass-production until two years later. Their first try of starting domestic production happened with PT rifle scope in 1930, but this scope design proved less than successful. The next year they took another try with PE rifle scope, which proved notably more successful and after some development entered to mass-production year 1933.

During those years spent in testing and development of suitable rifle scope new M/91-30 rifle replaced dragoon rifle M/91 in manufacturing. Hence domestic Soviet sniper rifles got up and running the sniper rifles were build on M/91-30 rifle. Year 1933 the newly born sniper rifle was introduced to mass-production. Sniper version of M/91-30 rifle typically had better quality barrel and smoother trigger than an average M/91-30 rifle. However actual main changes from standard military rifle to sniper rifle included only bolt with longer downwards turned bolt handle and installation point for attaching mount of sniper scope. Another notable difference of these sniper rifles to standard M/91-30 military rifle was their better fit and finish, which typically included also extra work done for parts of their trigger mechanism improving their trigger feel. Soviet manufacturers of sniper rifles were Tula and Izhevsk factories. When Winter War started in end of November 1939 the Soviets had already over 54,000 sniper rifles equipped with PE and PEM scopes, while Finnish military had failed to introduce sniper rifle of their own in any real numbers.

PICTURE: PE scope with its mount in M/91-30 sniper rifle. Notice focus adjustment ring and installation on top of the receiver. This scope seems to be the mass-produced version made in Factory number 69 (NPZ). (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (135 KB).

First scope introduced by Soviets to production was 4 x 30 PE, which was heavily based to German Zeiss scope designs (machinery for production was even reportedly delivered by Zeiss) with the idea of focus adjustment ring probably originating from Busch Visarfunf, which was one the German rifle scopes they had acquired for testing in late 1920's. Production of PE scopes continued until 1936 - 1937 and production of M/91-30 sniper rifles equipped with them until 1940. Improved and simplified versions of PE scope were tested starting from 1935, these tests lead to development of PEM scope, which replaced PE scope to production around 1936 - 1937. Before World War 2 Soviet M/91-30 sniper rifles equipped with PE rifle scopes saw use already in Spanish Civil War. 4.2 x 29 PEM rifle scope was basically simplified version of PE scope without focus adjustment ring. Apparently at least one of the reasons for leaving out the focus adjustment ring was that it proved to be a weak spot of the design, often allowing humidity and dust to enter the scope. The main manufacturers of PEM rifle scope were Progress and FED plants.

PICTURE: Soviet SVT-40 sniper rifle. (Photo taken in Central Museum of Russian Armed Forces, Moscow). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (169 KB).

In 1930's the Soviet view was that the ideal modern weapon for infantry weapon would be semiautomatic or select fire automatic rifle. Since they were planning to equip their infantry with such a rifle, it obviously made sense to develop also sniper rifle version. Their first attempt in this area issued in any numbers seems to be AVS-36 select fire automatic rifle equipped with PE rifle scope installed to side mounted scope bracket. This sniper rifle version did not see any large-scale production and is nowadays extremely rare. Their next attempt with SVT-38 resulted even less, since apparently the project did not get past prototype stage. However things changed with SVT-40, which with its own scope design was considered successful enough to replace M/91-30 in sniper rifle production. As part of these efforts they stopped production of M/91-30 sniper rifles in year 1940 and replaced it in production with SVT-40 semiautomatic rifle equipped with new 3.5 x 22 PU rifle scope. New PU rifle scope developed by FED plant was notably shorter due to structural demands resulting from its use in SVT-40, but also much easier, faster and cheaper to manufacture than earlier PE and PEM scopes. On the long run this proved to be huge mistake as SVT-40 proved to be less accurate and more unreliable, even if it hold an edge firepower-wise. Year 1942 the Soviets were forced to restart production of M/91-30 sniper rifle, which was now equipped with slightly different version of PU rifle scope. When this happened around 1942 - 1943 small number of M/91-30 sniper rifles built in Izhevsk seems to have been still been equipped with PEM scopes. Also number of PU rifle scopes originally manufactured for SVT-40 rifles were installed to M/91-30 sniper rifles. After production of PU scopes picked pace sniper rifles M/91-30 of this new production were equipped with 3.5 x 22 PU-scope version designed for M/91-30 rifle. Due to SVT-40 and M/91-30 rifles having differences in their ballistics the two version of PU rifle scope do not have similar elevation drums. Starting from 1942 production numbers of M/91-30 sniper rifles rose to totally new heights and manufacturing continued as long as year 1958. The Soviets manufactured some 275,250 sniper rifles equipped with PU scopes between 1942 - 1958. During World War captured M/91-30 sniper rifles and their scopes saw extensive use with German military and its allies. After World War 2 copies of sniper rifles M/91-30 were manufactured also in Hungary in 1949 - 1965. Hungarian-manufactured M/91-30 sniper rifles were usually equipped with PU-scopes, but also older PEM-scopes were apparently used. The total Hungarian production for these rifles was about 33,500 rifles.

PICTURE: PEM rifle scope with mount installed side of the receiver of M/91-30 sniper rifle (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (135 KB).

Finnish troops had acute shortage of sniper rifles all the time and captured sniper rifles were typically immediately taken to own use. Unfortunately captured sniper rifles were also top of the list items as war souvenirs for Finnish soldiers, so those fortunate enough to capture one usually also took the rifle home to be later used as a hunting rifle. Basically this lead to situation in which individual soldiers and units of Finnish Army had captured sniping rifles, but Finnish Army didn't have any control of those rifles. Official channels existed and captured weapons should have been delivered to them, but it simply wasn't happening. Mere 213 Soviet rifles ended up being delivered to official channels during Winter War and during Continuation War situation just got worse. While Finnish troops captured over 128,000 Soviet rifles during Continuation War only 67 captured rifle scopes were forwarded to official channels. Situation was so dire that even domestic manufacture of PEM-scope copy was considered in 1943, but the idea never developed beyond being considered. Everything suggests that soldiers of Finnish Army had large number of captured M/91-30 sniper rifles in their use during early Continuation War, but only very small minority of these rifles were reported and even less handed over to official channels. Soldiers that had managed to capture sniper rifle and also their units were very unwilling to give forward any of the few sniper rifles that they had, as there was little hope of getting back any, once handed over. Already during the war or immediately after it Finnish soldiers took home much of the unreported captured sniper rifles or their scopes. Year 1951 still only 206 captured Soviet sniper rifles remained in inventory of Finnish Army, these remained warehoused until late 1970's.

The most common captured Soviet sniper rifle in Finnish inventory seems to have been M/91-30 with top mounted PE or PEM scope, with grand majority of the Finnish-issued captured sniper rifles probably being this type. Also M/91-30 with side-mounted PE and PEM scopes were captured, but in notably smaller numbers and M/91-30 with PU scope seems to have at least equally rare. Finnish Army inventory referred M/91-30 sniper rifle with PE or PEM scope as "sniper rifle m/30", while M/91-30 with PU scope was referred as "sniper rifle m/42". Also small number of captured SVT-40 sniper rifles saw Finnish use and even some AVS-36 sniper rifles seem to have been captured, but probably just a few.

PICTURE: PU scope in M/91-30 rifle. Only side installed mount was used with this scope. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (148 KB).

PICTURE: Side mount of PU scope seen from another side. (Photo taken in Jalkaväkimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (38 KB).

 

 

Pre World War 2 Finnish situation

The Finns had basically the same starting point as Soviets had in developing scoped sniping rifle. Only difference was that they lacked the bitter World War 1 experiences of fighting enemy snipers armed scoped sniping rifles, while lacking sniper rifle of their own. Finnish volunteers which had fought in Prussian Jaeger Battalion 27 in World War 1 had no apparent experience about snipers or sniping and the short but bloody Finnish Civil War fought in 1918 was fought without snipers on either side. Finnish military got interested about scoped sniper rifles first in 1927 and in that year Finnish Defence Ministry founded committee lead by Major T. Raatikainen to investigate scopes for rifles and machineguns. The committee tested eight rifle scopes and found six of them to be totally unsuitable. Only C. P. Goerz 4X and Zeiss Zeilvier 2.5X scopes seemed somewhat suited for this sort use and the committee ended up recommending the Zeiss made one. The suggested rifle with Zeiss-scope would have been equipped more robust version of German scope mount, longer downwards bent bolt-handle and removable cheek piece. But Finnish military decided to wait for new M/27 infantry rifle before going forward with this project. This stopped the whole process of developing sniper for the Army until year 1931.

 

Sniper rifle M/28:

Suojeluskunta (Finnish Civil Guard) became interested about scoped rifles about the same time as the Army did. The start of Suojeluskunta sniper rifle development was promising but their selection poor. First Suojeluskunta decided to test rifle scopes with 6.5 mm x 50R calibre Japanese rifles as quality of available (mainly captured Russian) 7.62 mm x 54R ammunition at that time was considered too poor for sniping. Another by-path were six Japanese rifles modified to 7.62 mm x 54R calibre and equipped with Oigee Luxor 6X, Oigee Grom 4X and and Hensoldt Ziel Dialyt 3X rifle scopes. The modified Japanese M/97 and M/05 rifles designed by J.E. Kuusisto were not much of a success. Also the story of Japanese rifles in use of Suojeluskunta was about to come to its end, since it got rid of its Japanese rifles only few years later. In year 1929 the Japanese rifles were set aside and testing new scopes was started with new M/28 rifles. Funding for acquiring 700 scoped sniper rifles had been suggested to Suojeluskunta annual budget already year earlier, but only eleven M/28 sniper rifles were ever acquired. With a hindsight one can note that if Suojeluskunta would have acquired the suggested 700 sniper rifles at that time, it would have completely changed the history of Finnish military sniping. Being series made for testing rifle scope designs, these rifles had large variety of scopes. The scopes used in them included not only earlier Oigee Luxor 6X, Oigee Gnom 4X and and Hensoldt Ziel Dialyt 3X, but also newly acquired Busch Vizardrei 3X, Busch Vizarfunf 4.5X, Hensoldt Ziel Dialyt 5X, Zeiss Zielklein 2.5X and Zeiss Zielmunti 1-4X rifle scopes. Scope mounts for these scopes were manufactured by GECO (Gustav Genschow & Co). Because Finnish Army suffered for chronic shortage of sniper rifles during World War 2 also these few M/28 sniper rifles with their varied scopes were issued for frontline use for Winter War and Continuation War.

 

Sniper rifle M/33:

Suojeluskunta (Finnish Civil Guard) tested M/28 rifle with various scopes it had acquired and came come to conclusion that acquired Busch Visarfunf 4.5X (aka Busch Visar 4.5X Dr. Zf.104) rifle scope was the best suited for them. However the scope mount was still not ideal, so its development was continued and decision about acquiring the scopes was not made until early 1931. By that time Zeiss had also continued developing their own scopes and Suojeluskunta ended up changing its mind and acquiring new Zeiss Zielvier 4X rifle scopes instead of almost identical Busch Visarfunf 4.5X. Incidentally also the Soviets had acquired these same scopes for just bit earlier. But as new M/28-30 rifle was soon to be introduced the scopes were not installed to M/28 rifles, but instead Suojeluskunta decided to wait and install them to new M/28-30 rifles. It took until year 1933 before they bought these 25 scopes and scope mounts for 25 rifles. The Sako-manufactured scope mounts used for this demanded small piece removed from rifle stock and these rifles were equipped with bolts that had longer downward pointing bolt handle. Sniper rifles M/33 were tested until late 1934, but as Finnish Army regained its interest and restarted testing of rifle scopes in 1935 Suojeluskunta decided to wait for its results. Sniper rifle M/33 was exceptional in that sense that it had its own special curved 5-round cartridge clips, which could be used in reloading the rifle regardless the scope. While this cartrdige clip design was very smart, apparently only few of these special cartridge clips were ever manufactured. Just like with sniper rifle M/28 even this small test series of sniper rifles was issued for combat use during World War 2.

PICTURE: Sniper rifle M/33. Zeiss Zielvier 4 X scope was installed to M/28-30 rifle with scope mount attached at side of the rifles receiver. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (138 KB).

 

Sniper rifle M/37 aka M/27 PH:

As noted the process of developing a sniper rifle for Finnish Army had stopped in year 1931. While the process had been stopped to wait for M/27 rifle to enter production, it still took several years after that until the sniper rifle project was re-introduced. Finnish Army restarted its testing of scoped rifles in year 1935, but somehow ended up doing the development in totally backward way. Selecting existing rifle scope and purchasing it or even using existing scope and developing new scope from it would have made sense, but that is not what was made. Instead Finnish military decided that it wanted a scope that could be used in several kinds of weapons (rifles, machineguns etc...) and gave only some instructions and the drawings of outer measurements to domestic optics manufacturer Oy Physica Ab, which designed the scope. It seems that common wisdom such as "form follows function" and "jack of all trades - master of none" had been completely forgotten in this matter.

Resulting (3 x 24) prismatic Physica-scope was just about as bad as it could get. The basic design was quite suitable to be used in machineguns, but horribly poor for sniper rifle. Physica-scope was box-shaped, weighted about 800 grams, and designing good rifle mounting for installing it to M/27 rifle was a nightmare. Mounts setting Physica scope on top of the receiver were tested, but they set the scope so high that shooter had to raise his head unnaturally high, which pretty much ruined shooting stance and made getting proper cheek weld impossible. So the scope was installed to to left side of the rifle. As the Physica scope had to installed to left side of the rifle the rifle butt had be equipped with large cheek piece (it seems that all M/33 sniper rifles were not equipped with these). As if there would not have been problems enough Physica prismatic scope had also quite short (40 mm) eye relief, which easily resulted Physica scope of recoiling rifle hitting to brow of the shooter. However the scope attached to side of the receiver came with one benefit - since the scope was on left side of the receiver the rifle could be loaded with normal cartridge clips. Also, unlike most period military rifle scopes, reticle used in Physica scope actually had markings for making quick range estimations and for making speed estimations for moving target. While somewhat crowded, the reticle could have been a success in any better designed rifle scope. Nevertheless the problems, once started, the plan went ahead. Finally in December of 1937 designing of both the scope and mount had been completed and Finnish Army Ordnance Department ordered 250 Physica scopes from Oy Physica Ab. From the 250 Physica scopes ordered 150 were intended as rifle scopes while 100 were reserved for Maxim M/32-33 machineguns (but later ended up also being used in M/39 PH sniper rifles).Production of scopes was slow to start and Leonard Lindelöf's machine factory proved equally slow in manufacturing scope mounts. Finnish snipers received only handful of these sniper rifles during Winter War. Most of M/27 infantry rifles selected to become M/27 PH sniper rifles had Tikkakoski-made barrel with serial number over 80000. These rifles were assembled by Finnish Army Weapons Depots. One could note that Physica scope may have been at least partly inspired by American Warner-Swasey prismatic sight, which US snipers had used during World War 1.

When Winter War started in 30th of November 1939 only 84 of the ordered 250 Physica scopes had been manufactured and none had been yet installed to rifles. Production of scope mounts demanded extreme precision and was so slow that only few prototypes of new M/37 sniper rifle were made in time to be used in Winter War. Whole production run of 150 M/37 sniper rifles (military rifle M/27 with precision trigger mechanism and Physica scope) was completed by June of 1940. During Continuation War Physica scopes were often moved to new M/39 rifles. Older variation installed to rifle M/27 was also called Sniper rifle M/27 PH during Continuation War. In addition of earlier listed problems the wartime use revealed the waterproofness of Physica-scope being questionable, with fogging of lenses being serious issue. Number of rifles equipped with Physica scopes was decreasing fast already during the war and in year 1951 only 24 sniper-rifles M/27 PH remained. Last ones of these rifles remained warehoused until 1970's.

PICTURE: Sniper rifle M/37 aka M/27 PH. Physica scopes mount is of final version. As can be seen this rifle also has cheek piece that was installed to some M/27 PH rifles, but not all. Cheek piece used in M/27 PH rifles was separate part added to rifle stock in left side of rifle butt. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (149 KB).

 

Sniper rifle M/39 SOV:

Year 1943 Finnish Army HQ finally decided to something about soldiers taking captured sniper rifles and their scopes back home as war souvenirs, while the rifles would have been desperately needed for snipers in the frontline. So the HQ tried persuading the soldiers to give their "souvenir" rifle scopes to official use by issuing orders and trying to appeal officers, but results of these were fairly small. Even after this only small number of captured scopes was turned over to official channels. Both these captured scopes returned and some scopes originating from damaged captured M/91-30 sniper rifles were installed by weapons repair personnel to new Finnish M/39 rifles around 1943 - 1944. This new mix of Finnish M/39 military rifle and captured Soviet scope was named Sniper rifle M/39 SOV. Total number of these sniper rifles never reached 200 (although one source claims their number was about 300). Basically all known Finnish M/39 SOV sniper rifles were equipped with PE or PEM scopes. Few Soviet PU-scope equipped Finnish M/39 rifles have been claimed to have been Finnish military issue from World War, but they have to be all considered extremely dubious. This is because Finnish sources don't know even single case of M/39 rifle with PU-scope in use of Finnish Armed Forces. Year 1951 Finnish military still had 122 of M/39 SOV sniper rifles and they remained warehoused until 1970's.

PICTURE: Sniper rifle M/39 SOV was combination of captured Soviet scope and Finnish M/39 rifle. In this case the scope is PEM and scope-mount is Finnish (VKT) made copy of Soviet mount. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (122 KB).

 

Sniper rifle M/39 PH:

As mentioned Physica scope had intended to be used also in machineguns. January of 1943 Ordnance Deparmtment of Armed Forces General Heaquarters found out that batch of 100 Physica scopes, which had been intended for Maxim M/32-33 machineguns, had not been issued with machineguns and were sitting in depot without any use. Decision about installing these scopes to M/39 rifles was made very fast. New sniper rifle that resulted from this was named sniper rifle M/39 PH. As with M/27 PH sniper rifle Lindelöf manufactured scope mounts. Scope mount was similar to design used in M/27 PH sniper rifle with installation bracket on left side of the receiver. Likewise the receiver demanded cheek piece being added to left side of rifle butt, hence special rifle stocks with glued-in cheek pieces were manufactured for this sniper rifle. This new sniper rifle design shared all problems of earlier M/27 PH. Not only did Physica-scope have problems with short (40-mm) eye-relief, but them staying water-proof also proved questionable. Most of the M/39 PH sniper rifles were delivered in year 1943. During Continuation War poor durability of M/27 rifles led more Physica scopes being removed from broken or worn-out M/27 rifles and being installed to M/39 military rifles, which further increased number of M/39 PH. Military rifles M/39 selected to become sniper rifle M/39 PH all had VKT (State Rifle Factory) manufactured rifle barrels. Weapons Depots 1 (AV1) in Helsinki and Weapons Depot 3 (AV3) in Kuopio assembled these sniper rifles. Combat losses of M/39 PH rifles were small and in 1951 there were still 193 of them left. M/39 PH sniper rifle remained in use of Finnish Armed Forces until 1970's and remained warehoused in Finnish Army Weapons Depots until 1980's.

PICTURE: Sniper rifle M/39 PH. Rifle stocks with cheek piece added to shape of rifle butt were designed and manufactured specially for these rifles. This rifle has such a special rifle stock. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (137 KB).

PICTURE: Sniper rifle M/39 PH. Rifle stock of this particular rifle has been equipped with separate cheek piece. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (132 KB).

 

Sniper rifle M/39-43:

By Continuation war it became quite clear that Physica scope was not the best possible scope for sniper rifle and it's production was not large enough either, so more and better rifle scopes were needed. Since Finland lacked proper industrial capacity for making rifle scopes, the only viable alternative was buying the scopes from Germany. December of 1942 Finnish Army HQ ordered 2,000 Ajack 4 x 38 scopes from German firm A. Jackenroll. But before deliveries started March of 1943 Finnish Army got informed that the Germans needed the whole rifle scope production of A. Jackenroll to their own military, so the Finnish order had been cancelled. Summer of 1943 German OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, General Headquarters of German military) finally gave permission for Finns to buy 500 rifle-scopes, which A. Jackenroll delivered in winter of 1943 - 1944. This rifle had a scope mount of Finnish design manufactured by Weapons Depot 1 (Asevarikko 1 = AV1, which also took care of installing scopes to rifles. Rifles used with these scopes were all Finnish M/39 rifles with VKT manufactured rifle barrels especially selected for this purpose for their accuracy after test shooting. The Finns named Ajack scope as M/43 rifle scope. About 300 sniper rifles of this type were assembled before end of Continuation War. The M/43 (Ajack) scopes delivered to Finland were not all similar: Two test sample scopes delivered in 1942 had focus adjustment, while the 500 scopes delivered in 1943 - 1944 did not have it. Representative of A. Jackenroll visited Finland in 1943 after the delivery problem had surfaced and got into agreement about changes to be made to the scope design before the main delivery. The main changes agreed on that time were elimination of focus ring and adding of inch long sliding metal sleeve that could be used as anti-reflection device for the front lens. Sniper rifle M/39-43 proved to be the best of all sniper rifle types used by Finnish Army in World War 2 and after it remained first in training use and later warehoused for possible wartime-use until early 1980's. However even this scope wasn't perfect - its scope mounts and mount bases proved somewhat weak due to low quality materials used in their manufacturing.

PICTURE: Sniper rifle M/39-43 with one of the two test sample Ajack 4 x 38 rifle scopes acquired in late 1942 - this scope has focus adjustment ring, which was lacking from 500 later delivered scopes. Ajack 4 x 38 scope was installed with Weapons Depot 1 made scope-mount. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (144 KB).

 

Sniper rifle M/39-44:

When A. Jackenroll had not been able to deliver the scopes needed, Finnish Army started looking yet another source for scopes. Professor Yrjö Väisälä, who was one of the leading experts in optics, developed a domestic rifle scope that was based to Ajack 4 x 38. The basic idea seems to have been to develop a rifle scope suitable for domestic production, that could be used with the scope mount already in manufacturing for Ajack 4 x 90. If these scopes saw combat use is uncertain, one source claims they came too late while another claims that about 20 were issued before ending of Continuation War. In either case ending of Continuation War in September of 1944 led first batch of 50 manufactured scopes also being the last. The instant need for more rifle-scopes vanished when the war ended, so the production was stopped after that first batch. Some of these scopes named as rifle scope M/44 were installed to M/39 rifles and this combination was named as sniper rifle M/39-44. Like original Ajack scope also Finnish M/44 scope has 4-power magnification, but when compared to Ajack 4 x 38 scope it had smaller front lens and both ends of optics have been sheltered with bushings. Year 1951 Finnish military had 13 only sniper rifles M/39-44. The M/44 rifle scopes remained in use until 1970's and after that were warehoused until late 1980's.

 

PICTURE: Sniper rifle M/39-44. Notice m 44 marking. As can be seen Finnish made scope M/44 resembles Ajack 4 x 38. (Photo taken in Jalkaväkimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (125 KB).

Finnish sniper rifles with mixed scopes:

What is known suggests there were also some less-official sniper rifles. During Continuation War Finnish authorities gathered scopes various rifle-scopes by purchasing all available rifle-scopes suitable to military use from sports shops and even from individual citizens. However the number of rifle-scopes acquired in this way could not have been very large as rifle-scopes were still very expensive and rare in pre World War 2 Finland. Finnish military also managed buying batch of some 40 mixed rifle scopes from Germany in 1943. The total number of the Finnish sniper rifles with mixed scopes was never larger than a few dozen. The scope-mounts for these scopes were very much improvised designs, which Weapons Repair Companies of Field Army designed and build for each individual rifle-scope. Typically the mixed scopes were installed to M/39 military rifles, but also other rifle models seem to have been used for the purpose. Finnish military got rid of most of these scopes and their mounts soon after the war ended.

Technical data of most typical rifle-scopes used by Finnish Army during World War 2:

scope model

magnification

front lens diameter

eye relief

PE

4 X

30 mm

80 mm

PEM

4.2 X

29 mm

85 mm

PU

3.5 X

22 mm

72 mm

Physica

3 X

24 mm

40 mm

M/43 (Ajack)

4 X

38 mm

85 mm

M/44

4 X

30 mm

90 mm

 

Finnish sniper training during World War 2:

Sniper rifle alone does not make a soldier using it an effective military sniper. For soldier to be a military sniper he or she needs to be suitable and to have specialist sniper training. As far as Finland is concerned during World War 2 the low number of sniper rifles available and number of soldiers with sniper training had some interesting consequences. Before World War 2 Finnish Army basically had not given any sniper training to its soldiers, which was likely due to it not having sniper rifles (sniper rifle M/37) needed for this until year 1939 and even then number of these rifles being so small. However Suojeluskunta (Finnish Civil Guard) was another matter. Pre-war Civil Guard rifle shooting training was designed to its capable members expert riflemen, which could reliably hit long range targets with their rifles - this fit very well together with sniper training. So even while the number of sniper rifles in use of Civil Guard was also very small, in 1930's this volunteer organisation provided sniper training to limited number of its members. During Finnish-Soviet Winter War (1939 - 1940) Civil Guard sniper training proved highly effective, with Simo Häyhä becoming the most successful of these Civil Guard trained marksmen. Apparently Finnish Army didn't start providing sniper training until during trench war period of Continuation War, when sniper training courses were organised and used for training snipers from normal infantry soldiers. Soldiers for these sniper courses were selected by Finnish Army infantry units, to which they also returned after receiving the training. Due to very limited number of sniper rifles available, Finnish troops were not receiving the sniper rifles that they bad needed just due to sheer number of Soviet snipers. Soviet sniper rifles were captured in quite a large numbers especially during Winter War and during first year of Continuation War. But since handing over the captured sniper rifle basically meant loosing it without any real chance of getting one back when needed, Finnish units and individual soldiers preferred forgetting to report captured sniper rifles and keeping them for their own use. The results of this were far from positive - while grand majority of captured sniper rifles remained in hands of soldiers who lacked sniper training, much of those soldiers who had now received actual sniper training lacked scoped sniper rifle. Equipment-wise the situation of trained snipers did not start to improve until with deliveries of sniper rifle M/39-43 in year 1944.

 

PICTURE: Another Finnish-captured M/91-30 sniper rifle with PU scope. This scope manufactured in 1943 has also Finnish Army property marking. (Photo taken in Jalkaväkimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (148 KB).

 

Note to collectors - warning for fake and reproduction sniper rifles:

Nowadays Finnish World War 2 era sniper rifle models vary from very rare (= very expensive) to extremely rare (= extremely expensive). So anybody planning to buy one has to be very careful and find out exactly what they are being offered, before possibly making the deal. Several commercial enterprises have later equipped Finnish rifles with various scopes and nowadays these newly scoped rifles are far more commonly available than the real World War 2 era sniper rifles. These newly scoped rifles vary from somewhat accurate reproductions with correct World War 2 era (Soviet) scopes to ones equipped with reproduction scopes, historically incorrect rifle-scope combinations and to old Finnish rifles equipped with modern scopes.

If some-one offers you original Finnish World War 2 era sniper rifle (especially outside Finland) the chances are it is not the real thing. Certain foreign manufacturers have equipped normal Finnish surplus rifles with various scopes (Soviet PU-type rifle scope apparently being the most common of these) and these rifles are often advertised as authentic Finnish sniper rifles. This page contains all sniper rifle variations used by Finnish military during World War 2. Also while most Finnish post World War 2 sniper rifle designs (M/28-76 and M/85) are based to World War 2 era rifles, but their rifle stocks do not look anything like the wartime rifle stocks. Few basic rules for spotting a fake sold as Finnish sniper rifle:

PICTURE: Some of the sniper rifles used by Finnish Army did not fit to the above mentioned sniper rifle models. Here is a wartime photo showing a rifle, which can only be considered a rather extreme example of non-standard sniper rifle. The rifle itself seems to be infantry rifle M/27, but with front part its rifle stock cut off - possibly to ensure that barrel is free-floating for consistent accuracy. The rifle has also been equipped with captured top-attached Soviet PE rifle scope. Photo taken in Ilomantsi year 1941. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 36471). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (144 KB).

 


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)

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

Article: M91/30 PU tarkka-ampujakivääri by Hannu Takala in Kaliberi magazine vol. 6/2003.

Article: Suomen Puolustusvoimien tarkka-ampujakiväärit ja niiden optiset tähtäinlaitteet by Markku Palokangas in Ase magazine vol. 2/1984.

Article: Suojeluskuntajärjestön kokeet tarkka-ampujakivääreillä, 42 kivääriä by Matti Virtanen in Ase magazine vol. 6/1984

Article: Puna-Armeijan tarkka-ampujat II maailmansodassa, historian suurin TA-voima by Heikki Jounela in Suomen Sotilas magazine vol. 1/2009.

Article: Käet, suomalaistarkka-ampujat sodassa by Heikki Jounela in Suomen Sotilas magazine vol. 6/2009.

Article: Snaiperskaja Vintovka obr. 1891-30G PU by Mika Pitkänen in Kaliberi magazine vol 3/2010.

Mosin Nagant dot Net More info about Mosin-Nagant rifles

Special thanks to Sotamuseo (Finnish Military Museum), Helsinki

Special thanks to Jalkaväkimuseo (Finnish Infantry Museum), Mikkeli


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