The Mosin Nagant is one of the most widely-produced rifles in modern human history. This rifle has been used for more than a century now. Obviously, the original model has undergone a lot of changes and customizations.
Here we’ll take a look at the journey of this firearm from the simple M1891 to its latest models. You’ll also learn about some features that differentiate various models of the Mosin Nagant.
The Mosin Nagant: A Gun Made for Russia
Tough and brutal. These words describe Russian weather and Russian weapons. The weapon we're looking at here is no exception. Manufactured through a joint collaborative design by Capt. Sergei Mosin and Leon Nagant, this rifle was a big upgrade for the Russian Army. After facing a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Turks in the Russo-Ottoman War, the Russians began looking for a modern, semi-auto and durable alternative for their single-shot Berdan Rifles. This problem got an answer with the adoption of Mosin Nagant rifles in the Russian Army in 1891.
The rifle measures 48.5”, weighs 4 kg and fires a 7.62 x 54mm round(variable for different models). It has an effective range of approximately 800+ metres(with sights). This rifle was prominently used in World War I, the Russian Civil War, the Winter War(with Finland) and World War II. It performed exceptionally well in these theaters and is still used in the modern day.
The current use by professional armies is quite limited. But a few countries still use it for their militaries, like Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan and Finland. Just because it’s not widely used for military purposes, it still gets a good amount of work. The rifle is still used for hunting in the US, Russia and several European countries. These guns are prominently used by the Soviet-bloc countries, which gained weapons and warfare technology from Russia.
The largest military use of this gun outside the Russian Army came with the Finnish Army.
During the Winter War of 1939-40 when Finland declared independence from Russia and pushed the Soviets armies out of their borders, the Finnish army had no infrastructure and weapons. Since they had been fighting alongside the Russian army for quite some time, they were familiar with using the Mosin Nagant. This encouraged them to use the captured ordnance stocks as their primary military combat rifle. The Finnish army made numerous modifications in the gun and use it even today.
These rifles were later manufactured in European countries and even China. More than 37 million Mosin Nagant rifles exist today. Here you’ll learn how to differentiate one model from another.
The Major Russian Variants of the Mosin Nagant
The Mosin Nagant was primarily manufactured and used by the Russian Army. Since the rifle has seen more than a century of service, it saw changes from time to keep to keep up with the times. Here are some of the major Russian variants of this rifle.
M91 (Model 1891)
The ‘original’ version of the gun is the M91 or M1891. This is the original design submitted by Capt. Sergei Mosin. However, it uses a feed system created by Leon Nagant. This rifle was 51 ½ inches long and was manufactured from 1893 - 1925. It featured a hex receiver and a curved rear sight with adjustment markings. The barrel had a blade front sight on top of it. These are the oldest versions available in the market. It was manufactured in Russian (Tula, Izhevsk, Sestroryetsk), American (New England Westinghouse, Remington) and French (Chatellerault) ordnance factories.
The Dragoon model was for the Dragoons (mounted infantry) of the Russian Army. The rifle was 48 ½ inches in length - a bit shorter and lighter than the original model 1891. This made it easier to handle on horseback.
The Cossack rifles were the same as Dragoon rifles. There were for the Cossack horsemen of the Russian Army. The only difference between dragoon and cossack rifles was the bayonet. The Dragoon rifles were issued with a bayonet, but the Cossack’s were not.
The Dragoon version was modified in 1930 to create the new M91/30 model of the Mosin Nagant. The rifle was 48 ½ inches long and featured a flat rear sight, a front globe sight and a split barrel band. The rifle was originally made with a hex receiver. The hex receivers were replaced by round ones in 1935-36. The M91/30 rifles were manufactured only at the Tula and Izhevsk arsenals of the Russian government.
The M38 version was adopted in 1938 by the Russian army. Production began in 1939. Intended to be used by the rear echelon of troops, the rifle was not designed to accept a bayonet.
The M38 is 40 inches long. The Tula and Izhevsk arsenals manufactured it from 1939-45. The rifle featured a short rear sight with leaf and a narrow front globe sight base. The M38’s used recycled receivers, both hex and round. Due to their limited production numbers, these rifles are highly sought after by collectors.
Designed to replace the M38 version of the Mosin Nagant, the M44 officially came out in 1944. It continued in production until 1948. This model was manufactured from 1943-48 at Izhevsk and only in 1944 at the Tula arsenal. The rifle measures 40 ½ inches in length and features a side-folding bayonet with a groove for it in the right side of the stock. The bayonet was the only actual upgrade to the M38 that distinguishes the M44 model.
The M91/59 was modification of the 91/30 and amounted to a change of size. The rifle is 40 ½ inches long - a full 8 inches less than its predecessor. The rifle features a long rear sight with the numbers partially ground off to reflect its reduced range. All graduations above 10 are milled off the leaf. These rifles were manufactured from 1959 to an unknown date. They were created by ‘cutting down’ the M91/30’s from Tula and Izhevsk arsenals.
The M91/38 is a cut-down version of the original M91. This upgrade was performed in Czechoslovakia where the Czech markings can be found on the receiver and the barrel shank. It was not intended to use a bayonet. In fact, it won’t even accept one because of its heavier front sight base.
The Russian word Obrez means ‘cut-down’ or ‘sawed-off’. The name itself tells all we need to know about this “model“ of the Mosin Nagant. This sawed-off version of the Mosin Nagant had no sights, but was highly dangerous both for the shooter and the target.
For Russians who wanted a concealed weapon with the power of a 7.62, an Obrez was the first choice. A large number of Obrez guns were manufactured in Russia (some in US as well). The Obrez model saw service in the Russian Civil war, and lacked purpose after it was over. However, they are still a collectible piece of history.
The Finnish army began using the guns left behind by their Russian occupiers as their primary combat rifle after the Winter War of 1939-40. The Finns had captured Russian ordinances and huge ammo dumps with a lot of these firearms. The best chance of strengthening their army was to use to already-held arms. The Finns probably made the highest number of upgrades to the Mosin Nagant.
The M91rv was simply a Model 1891 dragoon rifle captured from the Russians, with just one modification. This was a sling slot based upon the German Karabiner 98a. Some versions also retained the original M91 sling slot. These rifles were originally meant for the cavalry divisions, just like the dragoon version.
The Model 24 or the Model 1891/24 was the first large-scale upgrade of the Mosin Nagant by the Finns, for the Civil Guard. The major upgrade was the barrel of these rifles. The barrels were ordered from the Swiss Manufacturers SIG and the German firm Bohler-Stahl. The barrels were manufactured in two different versions, straight and stepped (all Bohler-Stahl barrels were stepped).
The manufacturers’ mark is on the chamber or the stock. The receiver also features a Civil Guard logo. The rifle got the nickname Lotta-Svard after the famous Lotta-Svard women's volunteer organization which helped raise funds for the orders.
M27 and M27rv
Manufactured from 1927-40, the M27 was the first fully-functional customized model of the M91 used by the Finnish Army. The rifle featured a new heavy barrel. The front sight had a globe guard. The bolt and the receiver were modified.
The M27rv was the mounted forces’ version of the M27 rifle, with a cut-down stock to reduce the length of the rifle to a carabine. A total of only 2217 M27rv rifles were manufactured and deployed with the most elite cavalry units of the Finnish army. Less than 300 of these rifles exist today, making it one of the most rare collectible firearm.
M28 and M28-30
The M28 is an upgraded version of the M27 model. The primary difference is a change in the barrel bankd. On the M28 the barrel band is a single piece, compared to the hinged band in M27. It also features an open front nose cap on the front barrel band.
The barrels of these rifles were manufactured by SIG, SAKO and Tikkakoski. The markings can be seen on the rifle.
The M28-30 (1934-40) is an advanced version of the M28. The main features are the flat rear sight design, and the ½ inch gap from muzzle to the front sight. The trigger was improved by adding a coil spring. There is also a metal sleeve in the fore-end of handguard to reduce barrel harmonics.
The deadliest sniper of all time, Simo Hayha, used a M28-30 rifle (S.no: 60974).
The M39 was adopted to standardize Mosin Nagant rifle production. These rifles were based on the design of the M28-30 with slight alterations like the semi-pistol grip and the 1-inch gap of the foresight from the muzzle. These rifles weren’t ready for the Winter War, but were used largely in the Continuation war. It was nicknamed “Ukko-Pekka” after the former Finnish president Pehr Evind Svinhufvud.
These rifles were manufactured from 1943-44 by Tikkakoski in large numbers. They featured newly-manufactured barrels with parts salvaged from captured Mosin Nagant rifles from the Winter and Continuation wars. These rifles have a flat rear sight and a stacked front blade sight. The receiver bears a mark from its manufacturer Tikkakoski.
Apart from the above-mentioned models, the Finns experimented with some other variations of the rifle as well. The M/56 was an experimental 7.62x39mm version of the Mosin Nagant. The M/28-57 was a biathlon 7.62x54mm version.
The M/28-76 was modified from M/28-30 and M/39 rifles and were primarily used for marksmanship and training. The most modern version of the Mosin is the 7.62 Tkiv 85 Sniper rifle. It has an original receiver and has been upgraded to meet modern standards of a good sniper rifle.
Table of Mosin Nagant Models with Country and Years of Production
There can be some disagreement at times over what constitutes a "model" of the Mosin Nagant, but we've tried to put together a relatively thorough list with the information available.[table id=27 /]
The Mosin Nagant has an extensive service record. A lot of variations and upgrades to the original design have resulted in numerous models of this rifle. Apart from the above mentioned models, there are other versions of the rifle.
Among the models produced are Estonian, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, Czech, Bulgarian and even Chinese (T53) versions. Each model has its specific qualities and place in history. This long-serving rifle has earned its place in the history books and in the collector’s case.