Mosin-Nagant Model 1891/30: Russia’s World War II Sniper Rifle

Browse any local gun shop, and the chances of coming across a Mosin-Nagant 1891/30 is fairly certain. In the market of military surplus weapons, these lengthy relics of the Second World War are relatively common and relatively affordable, with a price of around $250.00. However, as with other surplus rifles like the German Mauser, British Enfield, and the American Garand, these prices will invariably climb as the supply fails to meet increasing interest and demand.

Adopted by the Russian Army to replace the single-shot Berdan rifle in 1891, the original configuration was a compromise between competing designs offered by Sergei Mosin, a Russian Army captain, and Leon Nagant, a Belgian weapons designer. Initial production in Russia was handled by the arsenals in Izhevsk, Tula, and Sestroryetsk; however, due to internal delays supplementary contracts were issued to Chatellerault in France, as well as the American arms manufacturers New England Westinghouse and Remington. Throughout the production life of the design, additional producers included Poland, Hungary, Romania, and China, with Finland being the last producer in 1970. An estimated 37 million of these rifles had been produced in several different variations of the basic design during this 79-year span, and though no longer made, this weapon has served in every major conflict since its creation and continues to be employed today.

The appeal of this simple bolt-action rifle possibly has something to do with the substantial history of the weapon, as well as the stories associated with it. A mention of the name “Mosin-Nagant” or “91/30” brings conversations of Finnish sniper Simo Häyhä – the most number of kills of any sniper throughout history – 542 during the “Winter War” between Finland and the Soviet Union, the hero of the Battle of Stalingrad – Vasili Zaitsev with 300 kills during that battle alone, or Ukrainian-born Lyudmila Pavlichenko – a successful female sniper who managed to dispatch 187 of her 309 confirmed kills within the first 75 days of her career.

The stories of the Mosin-Nagant are still far from complete. With current use in regional conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, and Ukraine, the post-war stockpiles of these ubiquitous rifles will provide a supply for conflicts and collectors for years to come. Likewise, 7.62x54R – the round used by nearly all variants of the 91/30 – has the distinction of being one of the most abundant calibers found throughout the world.


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