|Type Bolt-action rifle|
In service 1891–present
|Place of origin Russian Empire|
Used by See Users
|Wars Philippine Revolution
First Italo-Ethiopian War
World War I
Finnish Civil War
Russian Civil War
Turkish War of Independence
Chinese Civil War
Spanish Civil War
Second Sino-Japanese War
Soviet–Japanese border conflicts
World War II
First Indochina War
Yemeni Civil War
Laotian Civil War
Cambodian Civil War
Thai–Laotian Border War
Afghan Civil War
Soviet war in Afghanistan
First and Second Chechen Wars
War in Afghanistan
Syrian Civil War
2014 pro-Russian conflict in Ukraine
War in Donbass
Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation|
Designer Captain Sergei Mosin, Léon Nagant.
The Mosin–Nagant (Russian: Винтовка Мосина, ISO 9: Vintovka Mosina) is a five-shot, bolt-action, internal magazine–fed, military rifle developed by the Imperial Russian Army from 1882 to 1891, and used by the armed forces of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and various other nations. It is one of the most mass-produced military bolt-action rifles in history with over 37 million units having been made since its inception in 1891, and, in spite of its age, it has been used in various conflicts around the world even up to the modern day, being plentiful, cheap, rugged, simple to use, and effective, much like the AK-47 and its variants.
- Initial design and tests
- Technical detail
- Refinement and production
- Nagants legal dispute
- Russo Japanese War
- World War I
- Civil War modernization and wars with Finland
- World War II
- Increased world wide use
- United States
- Civilian use
- Former users
Initial design and tests
During the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877–1878, Russian troops armed mostly with Berdan single-shot rifles suffered heavy casualties against Turkish troops equipped with Winchester repeating rifles, particularly at the bloody Siege of Pleven. This showed Russian commanders the need to modernize the imperial army.
In 1889, three rifles were submitted for evaluation: Captain Sergei Ivanovich Mosin of the imperial army submitted his "3-line" caliber (.30 cal, 7.62mm) rifle; Belgian designer Léon Nagant submitted a "3.5-line" (.35 caliber, 9mm) design; and a Captain Zinoviev submitted another "3-line" design (1 "line" = 1/10 inch or 2.54 mm, thus 3 lines= 7.62 mm).
When trials concluded in 1891, the evaluators were split in their assessment. The main disadvantages of Nagant's rifle were a more complicated mechanism and a long and tiresome procedure of disassembling (which required special instruments – it was necessary to unscrew two fasteners). Mosin's rifle was mainly criticized for its lower quality of manufacture and materials, resulting in a slightly larger number of stoppages. The commission voted 14 to 10 to approve Nagant's rifle. However, the head of the commission, General Chagin, ordered subsequent tests held under the commission's supervision during which Mosin's rifle showed its advantages, leading to its selection over the Nagant.
Like the 1898 Mauser rifle, the 1891 Mosin uses two front-locking lugs to lock up the action. However, the Mosin's lugs lock in the horizontal position, whereas the Mauser locks vertically. The Mosin bolt body is multi-piece whereas the Mauser is one piece. The Mosin uses interchangeable bolt heads like the Lee–Enfield. Unlike the Mauser, which uses a "controlled feed" bolt head in which the cartridge base snaps up under the fixed extractor as the cartridge is fed from the magazine, the Mosin has a "push feed" recessed bolt head in which the spring-loaded extractor snaps over the cartridge base as the bolt is finally closed similar to the Gewehr 88 and M91 Carcano or modern sporting rifles like the Remington 700. Like the Mauser, the Mosin uses a blade ejector mounted in the receiver. The Mosin bolt is removed by simply pulling it fully to the rear of the receiver and squeezing the trigger, while the Mauser has a bolt stop lever separate from the trigger.
Like the Mauser, the bolt lift arc on the Mosin–Nagant is 90 degrees, versus 60 degrees on the Lee–Enfield. The Mauser bolt handle is at the rear of the bolt body and locks behind the solid rear receiver ring. The Mosin bolt handle is similar to the Mannlicher–Schöna is right turning (clockwise looking down the rifle) 4-groove with a twist of 1:9.5" or 1:10". The 5-round fixed metallic magazine can either be loaded by inserting the cartridges singly, or more often in military service, by the use of 5-round stripper clips.
Refinement and production
The 3-line rifle, Model 1891, its original official designation, was adopted by the Russian military in 1891. There have been several variations from the original rifle, the most common being the M1891/30 (commonly referred to as "the 91/30" by shooters), which was a modernized design introduced in 1930. Some details were borrowed from Nagant's design. One such detail is the attachment of the magazine spring to the magazine base plate. In Mosin's original design the spring was not attached to the base plate and, according to the Commission, could be lost during cleaning. Another detail is the form of the clip that could hold five cartridges to be loaded simultaneously into the magazine.
Another detail is the form of the "interrupter", a specially designed part within the receiver, which helps prevent double feeding. The initial rifle proposed by Mosin lacked an interrupter, leading to numerous failures to feed. This detail was introduced in the rifle borrowing from Nagant's rifle. Although the form of the interrupter was slightly changed, this alteration was subsequently borrowed back by the Commission for the Model 1891 Mosin–Nagant. During the modernization of 1930, the form of the interrupter was further changed, from a single piece to a two-piece design, as the part had turned out to be one of the least reliable parts of the action. Only the clip loading cartridges and the attachment of the magazine spring to the magazine base plate in subsequent models were designed by Nagant. Considering the rifle could be easily loaded without using a clip, one cartridge after another, the magazine spring attached to the magazine base plate is the only contribution of Nagant to all rifles after 1930.
Nagant's legal dispute
Despite the failure of Nagant's rifle, he filed a patent suit, claiming he was entitled to the sum the winner was to receive. It appeared that Nagant was the first to apply for the international patent protection over the "interrupter", although he borrowed it from Mosin's design initially. Mosin could not apply for a patent since he was an officer of the Russian army, and the design of the rifle was owned by the Government and had the status of a military secret. A scandal was about to burst out, with Nagant threatening he would not participate in trials held in Russia ever again and some officials proposing to expel Nagant from any further trials as he borrowed the design of the "interrupter" after it was covered by the "secrecy" status given in Russia of that time to military inventions and therefore violated Russian law. Taking into consideration that Nagant was one of the few producers not engaged by competitive governments and generally eager to cooperate and share experience and technologies, the Commission paid him a sum of 200,000 Russian rubles, equal to the premium that Mosin received as the winner. The rifle did not receive the name of Mosin in order not to provoke further debates with Nagant. This turned out to be a wise decision, as in 1895, Nagant's revolver was adopted by the Russian army as the main sidearm. However, for the same reason and because of Nagant's attempts to use the situation for publicity, the "Mosin–Nagant" name appeared in the Western literature (the rifle was never called this in Russia). The name is a misnomer from the legal point of view (taking into consideration the legal provisions of Russian law at that time, i.e. the law of the country to adopt the rifle) and from technical point of view, as none of the details borrowed from Nagant's design, even if removed, would prevent the rifle from firing. Moreover, from the technical point of view the rifle that came to be called "Mosin–Nagant" (or "Nagant–Mosin") is the design proposed by Mosin, as further amended by Mosin with some details being borrowed from Nagant's design.
Production of the Model 1891 began in 1892 at the ordnance factories of Tula Arsenal, Izhevsk Arsenal and at Sestroryetsk Arsenal. An order for 500,000 rifles was placed with the French arms factory, Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault.
In 1889 Tsar Nicolas ordered the Russian army to meet or exceed European standards in rifle developments with "rifles of reduced caliber and cartridges with smokeless powder." The new weapons would entail high velocities, exceeding 600 meters per second (2,000 ft/s) and would result in land battles both commencing and being capable of being fought at longer ranges, nearly two kilometers. The new Mosin rifles would replace the Berdan rifles then in use by the Russian army.
The Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) was the Mosin–Nagant M-1891 rifle's first major "blooding", and by the time the war broke out in 1904, approximately 3,800,000 Mosin–Nagant M1891 rifles had been built, with over a million and a half in the hands of the Russian cavalry and all of his reserves when hostilities commenced. However, few M-1891s saw combat in the conflict. Most Russian units in the Far East were still armed with Berdan rifles.
Between the adoption of the final design in 1891 and the year 1910, several variants and modifications to the existing rifles were made.
World War I
With the start of World War I, production was restricted to the M1891 dragoon and infantry models for the sake of simplicity. Due to the desperate shortage of arms and the shortcomings of a still-developing domestic industry, the Russian government ordered 1.5 million M1891 infantry rifles from Remington Arms and another 1.8 million from New England Westinghouse Company in the United States in 1915. Remington produced 750,000 rifles before production was halted by the 1917 October Revolution. Deliveries to Russia had amounted to 469,951 rifles when the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk ended hostilities between the Central Powers and Russia. Henceforth, the new Bolshevik regime of Vladimir Lenin cancelled payments to the American companies manufacturing the Mosin–Nagant (Russia had not paid for the order at any time throughout the Great War). With Remington and Westinghouse on the precipice of bankruptcy from the Communists' decision, the remaining 280,000 rifles were purchased by the United States Army. American and British expeditionary forces of the North Russia Campaign were armed with these rifles and sent to Murmansk and Arkhangelsk in the late summer of 1918 to prevent the large quantities of munitions delivered for Czarist forces from being captured by the Central Powers. Remaining rifles were used for the training of U.S. Army troops. Some were used to equip U.S. National Guard, SATC, and ROTC units. Designated "U.S. Rifle, 7.62mm, Model of 1916", these are among the rarest of American service arms. In 1917, 50,000 rifles were sent via Vladivostok to the Czechoslovak Legions in Siberia to aid in their attempt to secure passage to France.
Many of the New England Westinghouse and Remington Mosin–Nagants were sold to private citizens in the United States before World War II through the office of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship, the predecessor to the federal government's current Civilian Marksmanship Program.
Large numbers of Mosin–Nagants were captured by German and Austro-Hungarian forces and saw service with the rear-echelon forces of both armies, and also with the Imperial German Navy. Many of these weapons were sold to Finland in the 1920s.
Civil War, modernization, and wars with Finland
During the Russian Civil War, infantry and dragoon versions were still in production, though in dramatically reduced numbers. The rifle was widely used by Bolsheviks, Black Guards and their enemies, the White Russians (counter-revolutionary forces). In 1924, following the victory of the Red Army, a committee was established to modernize the rifle, which had by then been in service for over three decades. This effort led to the development of the Model 91/30 rifle, which was based on the design of the original dragoon version. The barrel length was shortened by 7 cm (2.8 in). The sight measurements were converted from arshins to meters; and the front sight blade was replaced by a hooded post front sight less susceptible to being knocked out of alignment. There were also minor modifications to the bolt, but not enough to prevent interchangeability with the earlier Model 1891 and the so-called "Cossack dragoon" rifles.
Finland was a Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire until 1917, so Finns had long used the Mosin–Nagant in service with the Tsarist military. The rifle was used in the short civil war there and adopted as the service rifle of the new republic's army. Finland produced several variants of the Mosin–Nagant, all of them manufactured using the receivers of Russian-made or (later) Soviet-made rifles. Finland also utilized a number of captured M91 and M91/30 rifles with minimal modifications. As a result, the rifle was used on both sides of the Winter War and the Continuation War during World War II. Finnish Mosin–Nagants were produced by SAKO, Tikkakoski, and VKT, with some using barrels imported from Switzerland and Germany. In assembling M39 rifles, Finnish armorers re-used octagonal receivers that dated back as far as 1894. Finnish rifles are characterized by Russian, French or American-made receivers stamped with a boxed SA, as well as many other parts produced in those countries and barrels produced in Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and Germany. The Finns also manufactured two-piece "finger splice" stocks for their Mosin–Nagant rifles.
In addition, the rifle was distributed as aid to Republican anti-Franco forces in the Spanish Civil War. Spanish Civil War Mosins can be readily identified by the wire sling hangers inserted in the slots in the forearm and buttstock meant to take the Russian "dog collars" for Russian-style slings, so the rifles could accept Western European–style rifle slings.
World War II
At the beginning of the war, the Mosin–Nagant 91/30 was the standard issue weapon of Soviet troops and millions of the rifles were produced and used in World War II by the largest mobilized army in history.
The Mosin–Nagant Model 1891/30 was modified and adapted as a sniper rifle from 1932 onwards with mounts and scopes from Germany at first and subsequently with domestic designs (PE, PEM) and from 1942 was issued with 3.5-power PU fixed focus scopes to Soviet snipers. It served quite prominently in the brutal urban battles on the Eastern Front, such as the Battle of Stalingrad, which made heroes of snipers like Vasily Zaitsev and Ivan Sidorenko. These sniper rifles were highly respected for being very rugged, reliable, accurate, and easy to maintain. Finland also employed the Mosin–Nagant as a sniper rifle, with similar success with their own designs and captured Soviet rifles. For example, Simo Häyhä is credited with having killed 505 Soviet soldiers, many of whom fell victim to his Finnish M/28-30 Mosin–Nagant rifle. Häyhä did not use a scope on his Mosin. In interviews Häyhä gave before his death, he said that the scope and mount designed by the Soviets required the shooter to expose himself too much and raise his head too high, increasing the chances of being spotted by the enemy.
In 1935–1936, the 91/30 was again modified, this time to lower production time. The hex receiver (actually octagonal) was changed to a round receiver. When war with Germany broke out, the need to produce Mosin–Nagants in vast quantities led to a further simplification of machining and a falling-off in finish of the rifles. The wartime Mosins are easily identified by the presence of tool marks and rough finishing that never would have passed the inspectors in peacetime. However, despite a lack of both aesthetic focus and uniformity, the basic functionality of the Mosins was unimpaired.
In addition, in 1938, a carbine version of the Mosin–Nagant, the M38, was issued. The carbine used the same cartridge and action as other Mosins, but the barrel was shortened by 21.6 cm (8.5 in) to bring the weapon down to an overall length of 101.6 cm (40.0 in), with the forearm shortened in proportion. The idea was to issue the M38 to troops such as combat engineers, signal corps, and artillerymen, who could conceivably need to defend themselves from sudden enemy advances, but whose primary duties lay behind the front lines. Significantly, the front sight of the M38 was positioned in such a way that the Model 91/30's cruciform bayonet could not be mounted to the muzzle even if a soldier obtained one.
An increase in urban combat led directly to the development of the Model M44 Mosin. In essence, the M44 is an M38 with a slightly modified forearm and with a permanently mounted cruciform bayonet that folds to the right when it is not needed. In terms of handiness, the M44 was an improvement on the Model 91/30, particularly for urban warfare; but few M44s saw combat on the Eastern Front.
By the end of the war, approximately 17.4 million M91/30 rifles had been produced.
Increased world-wide use
In the years after World War II, the Soviet Union ceased production of all Mosin–Nagants and withdrew them from service in favor of the SKS series carbines and eventually the AK series rifles. Despite its increasing obsolescence, the Mosin–Nagant saw continued service throughout the Eastern bloc and the rest of the world for many decades to come. Mosin–Nagant rifles and carbines saw service on many fronts of the Cold War, from Korea and Vietnam to Afghanistan and along the Iron Curtain in Europe. They were kept not only as reserve stockpiles, but front-line infantry weapons as well.
Virtually every country that received military aid from the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern Europe during the Cold War used Mosin–Nagants at various times. Middle Eastern countries within the sphere of Soviet influence — Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestinian fighters — have received them in addition to other more modern arms. Mosin–Nagants have also seen action in the hands of both Soviet and Mujahadeen forces in Afghanistan during the Soviet Union's occupation of the country during the 1970s and the 1980s. Their use in Afghanistan continued on well into the 1990s and the early 21st century by Northern Alliance forces. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mosin–Nagants are still commonly found on modern battlefields around the world. They were used by insurgent forces in the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. Mosin–Nagant rifles have even been seen in the present conflict of the Syrian Civil War, in the hands of rebels. Separatists have also used the rifles alongside more modern Russian firearms in the Second war in Chechnya. In addition, scoped Mosins continue to serve as issue sniper rifles with the Afghan Army, the Iraqi Army, the Finnish Army, and with a micrometer sight as a sniper training and precision target rifle with the Finns. Mosin–Nagants have been used by both pro-Russian separatists and pro-Ukrainian forces in the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Considering sniper rifles as part of a national army's weapons, the Mosin–Nagant is the longest continuously serving rifle in history, at more than 120 years. However, the Mosin–Nagant is not the longest continuously serving firearm used in combat issued by a government, as the Brown Bess musket was in use from 1720 through about 1865 within the British Empire.
After the Estonian War of Independence, Estonia had around 120,000 M/1891s in stock, later the Kaitseliit, the Estonian national guard, received some Finnish M28/30 rifles, a few modernised variants were also made by the Estonian Armory;
Most Finnish Rifles were assembled by SAKO, Tikkakoski Oy, or VKT (Valtion Kivääritehdas, States Rifle factory, after wars part of Valtion Metallitehtaat (Valmet), State Metalworks). The Finnish cartridge 7.62×53mmR is a slightly modified variation of the Russian 7.62×54mmR, and is considered interchangeable with 54R. However, the older version of the Finnish military cartridge was loaded with the S-type bullet that had nominal diameter of .308. In 1936 the Finnish Army fielded a new standard service cartridge intended for both machine guns and rifles. This new cartridge was loaded with a new bullet designed in 1934 - the D-166, which had a nominal diameter of .310. The new service rifle m/39 was designed from the start around the D-166 thus it had nominal barrel diameter of .310.
Handloaded cartridges for Finnish rifles should however use a 0.308 inches (7.8 mm) bullet for use with other Finnish Mosin–Nagant variants instead of the 0.310 inches (7.9 mm) one which gives best results in M39, Soviet and most of other Mosin–Nagant rifles.
During the interwar period, the rifles which had been taken over by the US military were sold to private citizens in the United States by the Director of Civilian Marksmanship, the predecessor agency to the current Civilian Marksmanship Program. They were sold for the sum of $3.00 each. If unaltered to chamber the US standard .30-06 Springfield rimless cartridge, these rifles are prized by collectors because they do not have the import marks required by law to be stamped or engraved on military surplus firearms brought into the United States from other countries.
Mosin–Nagants have been exported from Finland since the 1960s as its military modernized and decommissioned the rifles. Most of these have ended up as inexpensive surplus for Western nations.
In Russia the Mosin–Nagant action has been used to produce a limited number of commercial rifles, the most famous are the Vostok brand target rifles exported in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s chambered in the standard 7.62×54mmR round and in 6.5×54mmR, a necked-down version of the original cartridge designed for long range target shooting. Rifles in 6.5×54mmR use a necked-down 7.62×54mmR cartridge and were the standard rifle of the USSR's Olympic biathlon team until the International Olympic Committee revised the rules of the event to reduce the range to 50 meters and required all competitors to use rifles chambered in .22LR.
A number of the Model 1891s produced by New England Westinghouse and Remington were sold to private citizens in the United States by the U.S. government through the Director of Civilian Marksmanship Program between the two World Wars. Rifles from this program are valuable collectibles. Many of these American-made Mosin–Nagants were rechambered by wholesalers to the ubiquitous American .30-06 Springfield cartridge; some were done crudely, and others were professionally converted. Regardless of the conversion, a qualified gunsmith should examine the rifle before firing, and owners should use caution before firing commercial ammunition.
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, a large quantity of Mosin–Nagants have found their way onto markets outside of Russia as collectibles and hunting rifles. Due to the large surplus created by the Soviet small arms industry during World War II and the tendency of the former Soviet Union to retain and store large quantities of old but well-preserved surplus (long after other nations' militaries divested themselves of similar vintage materials), these rifles (mostly M1891/30 rifles and M1944 carbines) are inexpensive compared to other surplus arms of the same era.
There is serious collector interest in the Mosin–Nagant family of rifles, and they are popular with hobby shooters and hunters. The notched rear tangent iron sight is adjustable for elevation, and is calibrated in hundreds of meters (Arshins on earlier models). The front sight is a post that is not adjustable for elevation. Sight adjustment was made by the armory before issue by drifting the sight left or right in its dovetail.
The limited sight adjustment leaves some hunters with the desire to add a scope, leading two companies to make adjustable sights for the Russian version of this rifle, Mojo and Smith-Sights. Several companies also make scope mounts for pistol scopes that can be mounted to the rear sight of the Model 91/30 without drilling or tapping.
Not generally viewed as highly accurate, these rifles typically show a capability of 4-8 inch (10-20 cm) 10-shot groups or worse at 100 yards (90 m) when used with good ammunition. They are capable of taking any game on the North American continent when correct ammunition is used, assuming the user can close to a range where the rifle's limited accuracy still allows for an ethical shot. Sniper models, or 'former sniper' models without scope but with obviously covered scope mounting holes, can be obtained that display accuracy ranging from 2-4 inch (5-10 cm) 10-shot groups at 100 yards (90 m). The typical Finnish M39 model, which the Finns fitted with their own superior barrels, typically display accuracy averaging 2-3 inch (5-7.5 cm) 10-shot groups at 100 yards (90 m).
In addition, at least three American companies manufacture aftermarket rifle stocks that come inletted so a Mosin can be dropped directly into the stock without additional modification, for shooters who would prefer their ex-military rifles look more like civilian-made hunting rifles.
Along with aftermarket stocks, there have also been a growing number of aftermarket parts, and add-ons designed for the multiple variants of the Mosin Nagant battle rifle. Non-permanent optic mounts, such as the JMECK bracket or the Mankave rear sight adaptor have made it possible to mount a traditional optic to the rifle without the need to drill, or tap receiver/barrel of the weapon.
Other, more contentious modifications are version specific muzzle breaks, which are designed to prevent the barrel from rising (and consequently ruining the sight picture of the shooter), as well as lessening the recoil felt while shooting.
Other companies are experimenting with detachable, and semi-permanent magazine extensions which would increase the magazine capability from five rounds to ten rounds.