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 very different from what the 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 did not have scoped sniper rifles at that time. But the Soviets had become interested of sniper rifles early on and had started testing existing German rifle scopes already year 1922. They had started by testing commercially available rifle scopes with dragoon rifle M/91. They acquired second batch of German rifle scopes for tests circa 1924 - 1925. Important milestone 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 ("Dynamo 2" or "D2") 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 acquired for NKVD circa 1927 - 1928. The combination of Zeiss Zielvier 4X rifle scopes and GECO side mounts was very similar to m/33 sniper rifle later acquired by Finnish Civil Guard. Testing and development took its time, so the Soviets they did not introduce their first domestically manufactured sniper rifle until year 1931 and it did not see mass-production until two years later. Their try of starting domestic production happened with PT rifle scope in year 1930, but this scope design proved less than successful. Failed PT rifle was in large extent based on German Busch Visarfunf 4.5 rifle scope with some featured probably taken from Zeiss rifle scopes. While PT rifle scope proved a failure, it did serve as a starting point for further development of PE-rifle scope, which entered production the next year. PE rifle scope proved notably more successful, was officially approved to production in year 1941 and after some development with numerous manufacturing versions entered to mass-production in 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. The standard scope mount design that the Soviets used for PE and PEM rifle scopes with M/91-30 rifles was top mount design developed by A.A. Smyrna, which had been introduced already circa 1928. This top mount system had a separate mount base that was attached on front part of receiver with six panhead screws - two versions of this mount base existed, early version for hex receivers and later version for round receivers introduced in year 1936. While the top mount system was quite good for its time, they were not completely satisfied with it. Hence around 1937 - 1938 it was replaced in production with new side mount design in which a robust steel scope mount was installed to dovetailed heavy steel bracket that was attached on left side of receiver with two pins and two screws.

Sniper version of Soviet 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 some extra work done for parts of their trigger mechanism to make shooting the rifle accurately easier. 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).

Soviet production of M/91-30 sniper rifles equipped with them continued until year 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 year 1937. It is worth noting that while PE and PEM scopes are often considered to be two separate scope models, the Soviets simply considered PEM scope to be version of PE scope normally referred as m/1937. Already before World War 2 Soviet M/91-30 sniper rifles equipped with PE rifle scopes had sawn some combat use in Spanish Civil War. For all practical purposes 4.2 x 29 PEM rifle scope is somewhat 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 had 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 self-loading rifle. Since they were planning to equip their infantry with such a rifle, it obviously made sense to develop also sniper rifle version of such rifle. 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 attached to groove on left side of receiver. 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 sniper rifle version 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 the Soviets stopped manufacturing 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. SVT-40 had its PU rifle scope installed to to rifle with scope mount also designed by F.V. Tokarev. 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 Soviet plans to go with SVT-40 rifle and especially making it a standard sniper rifle as well proved to be a massive mistake. SVT-40 proved to be far more complicated to manufacture, less accurate and more unreliable than M/91-30 rifle, even if it hold an edge firepower-wise. While the difference in accuracy was not much an issue in normal shooting ranges of service rifle, as a sniper rifle for a sniper rifle SVT-40 had rather serious accuracy issues with common issues of first bullet being a flyer and considerable vertical dispersion. By the time manufacturing of SVT-40 sniper rifle ended, total of about 58,000 had been made.

Year 1942 the Soviets were forced to restart production of M/91-30 sniper rifle, which after short return to manufacturing rifles equipped with PEM rifle scopes was now equipped with PU rifle scopes. More precisely when this happened around 1942 - 1943 number (total about 36,000) of M/91-30 sniper rifles built in Izhevsk and Tula seem to have been still been equipped with PEM scopes attached to M/91-30 rifles with production of pre 1940 type side mounts continuing in Leningrad until year 1943. 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 versions of PU rifle scope do not have similar elevation drums, which allows identifying for which the scope is actually intended. Starting from year 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 in smaller extent. The total Hungarian production for these sniper 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).

Soviet snipers were under orders to destroy their rifle scope if being taken as prisoner or war, so capturing sniper scopes intact was not as common as one might think just by seeing the massive number of sniper rifles that the Soviets issued to their troops. Finnish troops suffered acute shortage of sniper rifles throughout World War 2, hence they typically took captured Soviet sniper rifles immediately to their own use. For obvious reasons Finnish military units that had succeeded capturing any were unwilling to hand them over, so captured sniper rifles seem to have normally remained in military units that had captured them. Unfortunately captured sniper rifles were also top of the list items as war souvenirs for Finnish soldiers, so soldiers who had been fortunate enough to capture one often also took captured rifle scope home to be later used in their own hunting rifle. Basically this lead to situation in which individual soldiers and units of Finnish Army had captured sniping rifles, but Finnish Army did not have any control of those rifles. Official channels existed and captured weapons should have been handed over to them, but when it came captured sniper rifles it simply was not happening. Mere 213 Soviet rifles ended up being delivered to official channels (in one way or another) during Winter War and during Continuation War situation just got even worse. While Finnish troops captured over 128,000 Soviet Mosin-Nagant rifles and 17,000 self-loading rifles during Continuation War only 67 captured rifle scopes were forwarded to official channels. Situation was so dire that even domestic manufacture of PEM rifle scope copy was considered in year 1943, but the idea never developed beyond being considered. Not that Finnish industry would have been capable to manufacture such a large number of rifle scopes in reasonable time. Even when wartime Finnish Army units were being demobilized after Continuation War in 1944 - 1945, very few of the captured sniper rifles and rifle scopes were finding their way into official inventory. Year 1951 still only 206 captured Soviet sniper rifles remained in inventory of Finnish Army, they remained stored for possible further use 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 presumably 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 not more than 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 notable 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 year 1927 and in that year Finnish Defence Ministry founded committee lead by Major T. Raatikainen (later: Head of Ordnance Department for Ministry of Defence / General Headquarters of Armed Forces) to investigate optical sights for rifles and machineguns. The committee tested eight rifle scopes and found six of them to be totally unsuitable for the purpose. 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 rest. 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 of rifle poor. First Suojeluskunta decided to test rifle scopes with 6.5 mm x 50R calibre Japanese rifles as quality of available (mainly captured World War 1 era 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 Gnom 4X and Hensoldt Ziel Dialyt 3X rifle scopes further tested by Civil Guard. 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 could have completely changed the history of Finnish military sniping. Being series made for testing rifle scope designs, m/28 sniper 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 various rifle 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 their purposes. 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 then 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 how the project was done. Instead Finnish military decided that it wanted universal optical sight 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. While this made sense in some ways, it seems that common wisdom such as "form follows function" and "jack of all trades - master of none" had been completely forgotten in the matter.

PICTURE: Finnish Physica 3 x 24 universal optical sight. (SA-kuva photo, archive photo number 124746). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (85 KB).

Resulting (3 x 24) prismatic Physica-scope named after its manufacturer 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, weight about 800 grams, and designing a decent 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 off-set to to left side of the rifle. As the Physica scope had to installed to left side of the rifle the rifle butt needed be equipped with large cheek rest (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. Admitted attacking rifle scope on this manner did provide one minor benefit - since the scope was on left side of the receiver the rifle could be loaded with normal five round stripper clips. Also, unlike most period military rifle scopes, reticle used in Physica scope actually had etched 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 some rifle scope of better design. Nevertheless the problems, once started, the project went ahead. By 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 rifle barrel with serial number over 80000. These sniper 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, although US military had found Warney-Swasey insatisfactory already back then.

PICTURE: Finnish sniper rifle m/27 PH seen from both sides. Notice cheeck rest in rifle stock. (Photo collage made from SA-kuva photo archive photos number 113219 and 113220). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (144 KB).

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 (infantry 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. While originally referred as sniper rifle M/37, the older version Physica-scoped rifle rifle build on (infantry rifle M/27 was named as Sniper rifle M/27 PH during Continuation War. In addition of earlier listed problems the wartime use revealed that Physica rifle scopes and fogging issues and were more complicated to maintain than captured Soviet rifle scopes. Number of m/27 PH sniper rifles were decreasing fast already during the war and in year 1951 only 24 of them remained in inventory. The last of these rifles remained stored 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 rest that was installed to some M/27 PH rifles, but not all. Cheek rest 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 (52 KB).

 

Sniper rifle M/39 SOV:

Year 1943 Finnish Army HQ finally decided to something about soldiers taking captured rifle scopes and complete sniper rifles back home as war souvenirs, while rifle scopes would have been desperately needed for snipers in the frontline. So the GHQ 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 efforts 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 combination 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 total 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 do not know even single verified case of M/39 rifle with PU-scope in use of Finnish Armed Forces. Soviet PE and PEM scopes were typically installed to m/39 military rifles with Finnish (Valtion Kivääritehdas / State Rifle Factory / VKT) manufactured top mounts copies that were direct copies of mount designed by A.A. Smyrna, although the Finnish version deviated in small detailed. Year 1951 Finnish military still had 122 of M/39 SOV sniper rifles and they remained stored for possible further use until 1970's.

PICTURE: Sniper rifle M/39 SOV was combination of captured Soviet PE or PEM rifle scope and Finnish infantry rifle M/39. 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 was 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. Scope mounts were manufactured by Leonard Lindelöf's Metal Works. Likewise the receiver demanded cheek rest being added to left side of rifle butt, hence special rifle stocks with glued-in cheek rests 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 also the fogging problem remained. 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 shot-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 sniper rifles were small and in 1951 there were still 193 of them remaining in inventory. M/39 PH sniper rifle remained in use of Finnish Armed Forces until 1970's and remained mothballed in Finnish Army Weapons Depots until 1980's.

PICTURE: Sniper rifle M/39 PH. Rifle stocks with cheek rest 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 rest. (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 to satisfy the need either, so more and better rifle scopes were needed. Since Finland lacked proper industrial capacity for large-scale manufacturing of 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, who used tradename Ajack. But before deliveries started March of 1943 Finnish Army got informed that the Germans needed their 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 Finnish military 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 (State Rifle Factory) 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 most of the rifle scopes delivered in 1943 - 1944 lacked 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. After the war it remained first in training use and were later mothballed for possible wartime-use until early 1980's. However even this scope was not perfect - its Finnish-made scope mounts and mount bases proved somewhat weak due to low quality steel used as their raw material.

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 Finnish 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 38. 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 stored until late 1980's.

 

PICTURE: Sniper rifle M/39-44. Notice m 44 marking. As can be seen, this Finnish made rifle scope M/44 as practically a direct copy of German Ajack 4 x 38. (Photo taken in Jalkaväkimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (125 KB).

Finnish sniper rifles with mixed scopes:

While official sniper rifle models used by Finnish Army during World War are listed above, there were also some sniper rifles which did not fit to any of these categories and can only be best called as mixed 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 - probably not more than a few dozen. In addition Finnish military managed to buy batch of some 40 mixed rifle scopes from Germany in year 1943. 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 scope 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 have mental & physical capabilities for the job 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 marksmanship training was designed to make its capable members expert riflemen, which could reliably hit long range targets with their rifles - which fit very well together with sniper training. 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 guardsmen. It must be noted that very little is known about contents of Civil Guard pre-war sniper training program. During Finnish-Soviet Winter War (1939 - 1940) Civil Guard sniper training proved highly effective, with Simo Häyhä becoming the most successful example of Civil Guard trained marksmen, but in general Finnish use of snipers was unofficial, limited to individual and not organized in any proper manner.

The situation did not change during the Finnish offensive in the first few months of Continuation War, but the trench war period that started in late 1941 - early 1942 depending frontline sector would change things. In trench war conditions rough resembling World War 1 western front ever increasing Soviet sniper activity started causing Finnish troops increasingly large number of casualties, creating problem which Finnish military was forced to address. Early attempts of trying to alleviate the problem included passive methods such as digging trenches deeper, placing warning signs on particularly dangerous spots, issuing orders about use of helmets and clean snow camouflage and ordering officers (priority targets) to equip themselves in manner that would not make them stand out etc. Active anti-sniper methods included use of artillery (either single howitzer or artillery battery) or even antitank-gun in direct-fire mode to take out enemy sniper. October of 1942 Finnish Army changed organisation of rifle squads in its infantry regiments in such manner that each rifle squad of nine men was to have one sniper, although no sniper training or proper sniper rifles were made available at that time. This change namely provided each infantry regiment no less than whopping 156 snipers per infantry regiment. Due to shortage of proper sniper rifles these newly named snipers tried to do with their normal rifles what they could in anti-sniping duty against their better trained and equipped Soviet adversaries.

First large-scale Finnish sniper training program was introduced late winter - early spring of 1943 with sniper training courses organized in infantry regiments at regimental level. These training courses were no standardized with their contents and duration (2 days - 2 weeks) varying considerably, but still started producing positive results. On average regimental level sniper training courses had 18 soldiers per training course. Autumn of 1943 Finnish Armed Forces GHQ finally published a standardized sniper training program, which was then introduced as sniper training arranged at battalion level in all infantry regiments. This new sniper training was two stage training course with 14 men picked for 1st stage (of 20 - 25 days) and best of them selected for 2nd stage of training. Finnish snipers started working in pairs (shooter and spotter) and were often organized as sniper teams (of typically 4 - 5 men) in battalion and/or regimental level with officer assigned to lead them. Shortage of proper sniper rifles equipped with rifle scopes still forced even trained Finnish snipers to be mainly equipped with rifle m/39, which has only iron sights or often several snipers had to share a single scope-equipped sniper rifle using it in shifts. But in 1943 - 1944 Finnish snipers were finally little by little receiving larger number of proper sniper rifles. Still the number of sniper rifles was never large enough to satisfy the demand. To make things worse re-distribution of captured sniper rifles could have helped the situation especially early on when Finnish Army was suffering most for this shortage, but they rarely found their way to hands of trained snipers. The results of this were far from positive - while grand majority of captured sniper rifles remained in hands of soldiers who lacked sniper training and their scopes were even taken home, much of those soldiers who had now received actual sniper training lacked scoped sniper rifle. Due their good shooting accuracy and good iron sights rifles m/28-30 and m/39 proved relatively successful as "sniper rifle substitutes" of sort.

 

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 must 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 rifle 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, post-war Soviet scopes 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 info of all sniper rifle variations used by Finnish military during World War 2. Also while Finnish post World War 2 sniper rifle designs of Mosin-Nagant lineage (M/28-76 and M/85) are based to World War 2 era rifles, their rifle stocks do not look anything like the wartime rifle stocks, being purpose built rifle stock desigs for these sniper rifles. In addition only very specific German rifle scopes (MSW Wetzlar and Schmidt & Bender 4X36 and Zeiss 1-6X42) have been ever issued with them and have Finnish military property markings.

Few basic rules for spotting a fake being 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 more 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.

Dissertation: Suomalaisten tarkka-ampujien toiminta sodassa 1941 – 1944 (Finnish Sniper Activity in War of 1941 – 1944) by Jyrki Tulppala.

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


Last updated 28th of July 2018
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