Mosin-Nagant Model 1891
Bolt-Action Service Rifle / Carbine
The Mosin-Nagant M1891 bolt-action rifle was developed by a Russian-Belgium design team and produced in over 37,000,000 examples.
Authored By: Dan Alex | Last Edited:
The "Carbine M1910" was the first true carbine variant of the M1891 rifle in that it was decidedly shorter at 40 inches long. This made for a more compact weapon system that could be favored by both mounted troops and soldiers fighting in confined environments and at short-to-medium ranges. The action remained the same as in previous Mosin-Nagant rifle offerings while feeding from the same 5-round integral magazine box.
Imperial Russian troops were issued Mosin-Nagant rifles in number during World War 1 against Imperial Germany along the Eastern Front. The rifle series became the standard issue long gun of these Russian troops during the bitter struggle which degraded into trench warfare just as in the West. Millions of the type were believed produced from Russian factories to supply the millions of soldiers in need. The October Revolution of 1917 brought about the turning of the tide from Tsarist Russia to Communism and helped to end the war with Germany, thusly removing Russian participation in full before the end of 1918. A short civil war then followed in which communist power became the way of things in the new Soviet Union.
The Mosin-Nagant rifle was revised for the first time under Soviet rule in 1930 as the "Short Rifle M1891/30" intended to bring the Dragoon Rifle's length to the standard M1891 long guns in service. This was a popular movement within national powers of the world as well, realizing that length could be sacrificed for a less cumbersome service rifle (as in the original German Mauser of World War 1 becoming the Mauser Kar 98K of World War 2). The Mosin-Nagant also saw a new, more rounded, receiver take the form of the older squared off versions and this move further simplified mass production in turn. The old leaf pattern rear sights were given up for a tangent-leaf fitting instead. The front sight was similarly replaced from the original's invert "Vee" post to a more modern tapered hood. The bolt was now turned down and of an all-new design. Overall length of the revised rifle was 48.4 inches while the barrel measured 28.74 inches. The M1891/30 became the standard-issue service rifle of Soviet forces heading into World War 2 and saw frontline use until the end of the conflict in 1945. The line was ultimately replaced by high-volume submachine guns which proved more efficient to mass-produce in the numbers required while offering repeat fire through a fast automatic action (as opposed to manual bolt-action guns).
Also in 1930, the M1891/30 was developed into a specialized variant specifically intended for snipers. A block mount was added to the left side of the gun body to which a 3.5x PU telescopic sight was affixed (though usually replaced with the larger, adjustable PEM twin-ring-mounted version). The bolt was turned down to prevent snagging and, beyond these additions, the Sniper's Rifle M1891/30 did not largely differ from the respective M1891/30 sister. Issue of these specialized guns did not begin until 1937.
The Soviet Union was not shy about deploying large numbers of snipers in-the-field, particularly during World War 2 where a single shot could have a dramatic effect on a battle and enemy morale. Unlike other forces of the world, the Soviets were also keen on the use of women warfighters and many gave their lives in service to the Red Army as specially trained female snipers operating under camouflage and at range while targeting key enemy personnel.
In 1938, a carbine form inspired by the earlier M1891/30 was unveiled as the "Carbine M1938". This version included a simplified receiver for friendlier mass-production, a front hooded sight and all changes brought about by the aforementioned M1891/30 line when compared to the original M1891 models. This variant was 40 inches long and featured the original optional bayonet.
In September of 1939, Germany invaded Poland to officially begin World War 2. The Soviet Union joined weeks later and the sovereign nation was subdued. Soviet leaders then turned their attention against neighboring Finland to begin the "Winter War" of 1939-1940 with the Mosin-Nagant rifle still in play. In June of 1941, the German military turned its own attention against one-time ally, the Soviet Union, and began the Eastern Front for World War 2 - a bloody year's long conflict that would take millions of lives in the worst possible ways.
After several years of fighting finally began turning the tide in favor of the Red Army, a new Mosin-Nagant carbine appeared as the "Carbine M1944". This version followed the same form and function of the Carbine M1938 prior. The weapon was nothing more than the preceding design of 1938 though fitted with a permanently attached hinged folding bayonet. For reasons known only to Soviet authorities, this was a production move that was required for Soviet infantry fighting at range in close quarters. Like the original carbine, these weapons measured 40 inches long. As a historical aside, the Carbine M1944 became the last large-scale issue of a bolt-action firearm anywhere in the world.
The "reach" of the Mosin-Nagant line cannot be understated for the weapon fought in all major conflicts of the 20th Century. It was first used in anger during the Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901 and saw action in the upcoming Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. From there, the type was featured in World War 1, the Turkish War of Independence, the Polish-Soviet War, the Russian Civil War, the Chinese Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, World War 2 (including the Winter War and Continuation War), the Finnish Civil War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War among other clashes. The rifle saw widespread service in the Southeast Asian wars and civil wars as well and was in use during the more modern Russian-Chechen wars. The rifle was still being encountered by coalition troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq following their respective US-led invasions in 2001 and 2003.
With this in mind, production totals for the rifle line are estimated at some 37,000,000 having been produced since inception/adoption in 1891. Initial production originated from the storied Tula Arsenal and joined by the Izhevsk and Sestroryetsk arsenals. Localized versions existed in Czechoslovakia, China, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Poland and Romania. US firearms producer Remington was charged with production of the Russian rifle in 1916 to help shore up stocks for its wartime ally.