RIFLES PART 1:

Mosin-Nagants of Imperial Russia

 

7,62 mm Infantry Rifle M/91:

(Russkaja 3-linejnaja vintovka obr. 1891 g.)

War experience from Russia - Turkish War of 1877 - 1878 showed the defects of Berdan rifle, which was the main service rifle of Russian Army at that time. Due to not having magazine Berdan rifles had very limited rate of fire and also old 10,67 mm black-powder ammunition used in them proved problematic. So Russian military started looking for a new better, more modern rifle design. Special committee for testing new magazine rifles was established in year 1883 for this task. After very long and complicated development and testing process in year 1889 only two rifle designs remained under consideration, one from Belgian Leon Nagant and another from Russian Captain Sergei Mosin. The rifle selected to production in 1891 was basically amalgamation of these two developments, with Mosin-designed action and bolt combined to fixed magazine based on Nagant's magazine design. This resulting rifle better known as 7.62-mm infantry rifle m/91 in Finland was in Russia more commonly known as infantry rifle m/1891 or three-line rifle.

PICTURE: Finnish version of M/91 infantry rifle. Note wire sling swivels - this was a typical Finnish feature commonly added to rifles of Finnish Armed Forces. Stock discs indicating service unit were also common with Armed Forces rifles of 1920's and 1930's, but were typically removed during World War 2. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (43 KB).

Calibre:

7,62 mm x 54 R

Length:

1305 mm

Barrel length:

800 mm

Weight:

4,3 kg

Magazine:

5, non-removable

Official abbreviations:

"7,62 kiv/91" and "762 KIV 91"

Country of origin:

Russia / Finland / Soviet Union

Prototype:

1890

Production:

Original (Russia/USSR) production 1891 - 1924

Finnish use: This was the standard issue Russian infantry long rifle of World War 1. It was also the most common rifle in Finnish use from year 1918 until 1950's. Due to often-poor condition of M/91 rifles during World War 2 the intent was to primarely issue newer rifles to frontline-infantry, but as there never were enough of newer rifles available, so also M/91 was issued to frontline infantry and all kind of other troops in very large numbers.

Infantry rifle M/91 was manufactured by three Russian arsenals: Tula, Izhevsk and Sestroryetsk (Siestarjoki to the Finns). Early on production goal was set to half-a-million rifles per year. But the manufacturing started very slowly, only about 8,000 rifles were made in year 1891, with all three factories getting production running by the next year and it took until year 1895 to actually reach the intended annual production rate of 500,000. To compensate this slow start Russia bought 503,539 rifles from France, where they were manufactured by Chatellerault factory. These Chatellerault-manufactured rifles were delivered in years 1893 - 1895. Real mass-production started in Russia in year 1893 and increased slow but certain to respectable level. However, Russian domestic production of infantry rifle M/91 did not remain at high level very long and started to decline. Hence by Japanese-Russian war of 1904 - 1905 only about 3.9 million Mosin-Nagant rifles had been manufactured. This war marked again notable increase in Russian rifle production, but once the war was over the production rate started to decline again. Some minor changes were made to the rifle design already before World War 1. The first of these changes, which happened during the first years of production were ditching the finger rest and adding handguard, followed by change of rifle sling attachment points, introduction of cross bolt and new barrel band design. But the most significant practical change was introduction new ammunition design with new bullet design offering superior ballistics. Year 1908 Russians replaced old M/1891 ball-ammunition that used 210 grain / 13.7 gram round nose bullet with new cartridge model 1908, which had spitzer-type 147 - 149 grain / 9.6 - 9.7 gram L-bullet that provided flatter trajectory. This change of bullet-design resulted into need of modifying rear sight to fit into ballistics of the new spitzer-type L-bullet. This modification was made by replacing old sight bar of rear sight with new one designed by V.P. Konovalov and was introduced to these rifles around 1908 - 1910.

PICTURE: Early production version of M/91 infantry rifle. Note original rear sight tangent and early rifle sling attachment. This rifle already has already some features that changed after starting of production. Notice that it has no finger rest and has a handguard. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (89 KB).

July of 1914 Russia had almost 4.3 million Mosin-Nagant rifles (*) for its military, but this soon proved to be too little. Once World War 1 started basically all major countries involved found out that they did not have enough rifles to equip the massive armies that they were mobilizing. Russia was no exception to that. During World War 1 (1914 - 1918) Mosin-Nagant rifle was produced in huge numbers, but also the quality of rifles manufactured in Russian factories deteriorated during the war. One of the methods which Imperial Russia tried to use for solving rifle shortage of its Armed Forces was buying Mosin-Nagant M/1891 infantry rifles from US companies of Remington-UMC and Westinghouse. The number of rifles needed by Russian military at that point was truly massive, hence Russia ordered no less than 1.5-million rifles from Remington-UMC and 1.8-million million rifles from Westinghouse. In 1915 - 1917 Remington-UMC delivered Russia 840,307 rifles and Westinghouse 769,520 rifles. Due to Russian revolution further 280,049 rifles belonging to this contract rifles were manufactured, but not delivered to Russia. Russian revolution and Civil War (1917 - 1922) following it also caused drop in Russian rifle production and caused quality of Russian-manufactured rifles to decline even further. In addition Sestroryetsk Arsenal was apparently too close to Finnish boarder for liking of Bolshevik leadership and its workers possibly not considered politically reliable, so its machines were transported to other arsenals after year 1918. Year 1922 the Soviets decided to concentrate manufacturing of M/1891 dragoon rifle, which lead into production of infantry rifles M/91 ending in Russia in year 1926. By the time that happened Russian arsenals had manufactured about 6.5 million rifles total. From these about 4.4 million had been produced in Tula, while Izhevsk manufactured about 1.5 million rifles and Sestroryetsk only bit over 600,000.

(*) Total number of Mosin-Nagant rifle of all models included.

During World War 1 numerous other countries also started using Mosin-Nagant m/91 rifles. Russia was supplying its ally Serbia with Mosin-Nagant M/91 rifles during the war, but also Germany and Austro-Hungary re-issued captured Mosin-Nagant rifles in massive numbers. And since Germany and Austro-Hungary were also equipping their allies (like Turkey) with them, there were large numbers of Mosin-Nagant rifles spread in all Eastern-European countries after World War 1. The Germans apparently did not like original Russian cruciform spike M/1891 socket bayonet, so they often modified the captured rifles by removing piece of wood from front part of rifle stock and by adding sleeve-like adapter for attaching a new bayonet design. That bayonet-design was German ersatz sword bayonet, a cheap and simple all steel bayonet originally designed for Mauser model 1898. The Germans also modified smaller number of Mosin-Nagant rifles to their standard 7.92 mm x 57 JS service caliber. Austro-Hungarian military on the other hand considered the non-standard ammunition (compared to their own service ammo) type used to be the more serious pressing matter and concentrated their efforts for modifying much of the captured Mosin-Nagant rifles to their standard issue (8 mm x 50 R Mannlicher) rifle ammunition. During Russian Civil War (1917 - 1922) some Western countries sent to Russia expeditionary forces, which they equipped with Mosin-Nagant rifles. During Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939) Soviet Union delivered large number of infantry rifles M/91 to Republican Spain. Later during World War 2 German military listed its captured Mosin-Nagant M/91 infantry rifles as Gewehr 252 (r).

PICTURE: Finnish made cartridge clip for Mosin-Nagant rifles. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (28 KB).

Year 1918 Mosin-Nagant M/91 infantry rifle was the most common rifle in use of Russian troops, which explains in large extent why it also was the most numerous rifle used by both sides in Finnish Civil War of 1918. Both the Russian Bolsheviks and Imperial Germany delivered these rifles to Finland to support the side that they wanted to win Finnish Civil War. The Bolsheviks supplied Finnish Red Guards about 35,000 rifles delivered by rail from Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and almost 18,000 rifles shipped from Tallinn. The Germans on the other hand sold Finnish White Army at least 87,000 captured Russian Mosin-Nagant rifles. In addition to these large deliveries both sides also succeeded acquiring large number of rifles from Russian garrisons located in Finland - the Reds normally from those Russian soldiers who supported them and the Whites by force, when they captured and disarmed Russian garrisons that were in the area that they controlled. The grand majority of the rifles received by Finnish Red Guards and Finnish White Army were Mosin-Nagant infantry rifle m/1891. February of 1919 when Finnish Armed Forces made inventory, it found in its inventory bit over 210,000 Mosin-Nagant rifles (of all versions).

PICTURE: Three soldiers of Finnish White Army wearing their own civilian clothes photographed during Finnish Civil War in year 1918. It took its time to get uniform manufacturing going and White Army was not able to properly equip all its soldiers with uniforms during Civil War, hence rifles and white arm bands are sole visible indicators of their status as White Army soldiers. All three rifles are infantry rifles M/91 equipped with early rifle sling design, which had steel sling loop attached to fixed magazine of the rifle. More information about early Finnish military uniforms can be found here. Photograph part of Jaeger Platoon Website photo collection. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (109 KB).

Hence from the start Mosin-Nagant m/91 was the de facto standard rifle model of Finnish Armed Forces. August of 1918 infantry rifle M/91 become also the official standard rifle type issued to all Finnish troops. Only exceptions to this were cavalry, bicycle-troops, artillery and mine-thrower crews, which were equipped with other rifles. The reasons for this were rather simple - infantry rifle M/91 was clearly the most common rifle existing in Finnish inventory and there were no financial resources for replacing it with new rifles in substantial numbers. However, much of m/91 rifles in Finnish use were from low-quality Russian World War 1 era production and/or had already deteriorated in poor use - weapons maintenance was not exactly well-known among participants of Finnish Civil War of 1918 and apparently the rifles often were not stored in correct in manner right after it.

Finnish modifications of rifle sights:

Hence by early 1920's the percentage of rifles whose condition had deteriorated beyond acceptable had reached such level, that substantial number of rifles in Finnish inventory was no longer fit for service. To battle this Finnish Armed Forces launched large-scale maintenance and repair program. The most usual problems demanding repair were corroded bores of rifle barrels and Russian rear sight, which had range markings in arschen/arshin / arsina (old Russian measurement, about 0.71 meters) while Finland used metric system. In addition the rear sight settings started from 400 arschen - about 284 meters or 309 yards, while in reality grand majority of rifle fire happened from shorter range. Some rifles also still had old rear sight tangents, that were incompatible for model 1908 ammunition - in other words they had not gone through Russian year 1910 rear sight modification. The old range Russian range markings had been marked in left side of the rear sight and have markings 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 (indicating hundreds of arschen / arsin) - often these markings were tooled over to cancel them. The new metric range settings were marked to right side of the rear sight with markings 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 (indicating hundreds of meters). Common Finnish modifications for Mosin-Nagant m/91 rear sight included also adding to rear sight base basic setting notch for 150 meter setting. New higher front sight was often needed for this modification. Aimo Lahti, who was weapons technician of Keski-Suomi (Infantry) Regiment at that time (starting from year 1921), played key role for development of this new fore sight and some other minor improvements for the rifle. They were his first designs for weapons. Around 1919 - 1923 Finnish military modified sights of about 66,000 rifles according these methods.

PICTURE: Russian Konovalov rear sight with its arschen / arshin range markings without any Finnish modifications. This rear sight replaced earlier rear sight model in Russian Mosin-Nagant m/1891 rifles around 1908 - 1910. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (83 KB).

Rifle barrel relining scandal:

As noted by year 1924 the total number of rifles with corroded rifle barrels in depots of Finnish Armed Forces and Suojeluskunta (Finnish Civil Guard) had reached 200,000 while Finnish Armed Forces had no equipment for repairing damaged rifle barrels or financing for replacing them. Only possible repair methods available for rifles with damaged barrels were either replacing the barrel or relining it with Salerno method (which Italy had used during World War 1 for relining of old 10.4 mm caliber Vetterli M1870/87 rifles for 6.5x52 Carcano ammunition). As the Finns had no experience of either, Finnish military decided to test both of these options. In 1925 - 1927 Weapons Depot 1 (in Helsinki) relined over 13,000 rifle barrels, while at the same time also new rifle barrels were bought and used to replace worn out barrels. The relining process with Salerno-method basically included boring the existing barrel and installing a new inner barrel inside it. In addition also cartridge chamber demanded some re-tooling when this method was used. Civil Guard on the other hand decided to replace corroded rifle barrels instead of attempting to reline them - this development lead later into introduction of infantry rifle M/91-24 used by Civil Guard. Another common modification made to infantry rifles m/91 used by Finnish Armed Forces was adding wire swivels for rifle sling.

The relining program created a scandal, as experts that inspected the results considered rifle barrels fixed this way to be poor quality and even potentially dangerous. This lead first into stopping production of relined rifle barrels in year 1928 and in year 1930 assembling rifles with relined rifle barrels manufactured before that was halted as well. Trials followed and reimbursements were sentenced because of this scandal. Before the production of relined barrels was stopped it had repaired some 13,450 rifle barrels for infantry rifle M/91, another 1,490 rifle barrels for cavalry rifle M/91 and 595 barrels for Maxim machineguns. The Committee created to investigate the matter in year 1927 came up with conclusion of only 15 % of the relined rifle barrels were good, 20 - 35 % totally unfit for use and the rest (estimated 50 - 75 %) in need of further repairs. In second more detailed inspection made in year 1930 the Committee came to conclusion that only 14 % of the relined barrels were suitable for use, 51 % were totally unfit for use and 27 % required further repairs. After that the matter was set to rest until suitability of the rifle barrels relined with Salerno-method was again re-evaluated in year 1938 - and this time they got rated as "adequate". During the desperate days of Winter War Finnish military was suffering shortages of all sorts of equipment - including rifles. With more rifles being desperately needed, rifle production was speeded up and ordered to cut corners to come up with more rifles. After that all sorts of already existing parts - including even the relined rifle barrels with worst quality rating got used for manufacturing and repairing rifles during that war. By May of 1940 remaining relined rifle barrels had been used to repair or manufacture about 8,000 infantry rifles m/91. This changed also the legal situation, since back in 1930's several persons had been sentenced to pay financial reimbursements for their part in "relining-scandal". But now that the once rejected relined rifle barrels that they had made reimbursements for had been used in wartime rifle production, there obviously was no longer ground for such financial demands. So in year 1940 they got the reimbursements compensated, but the otherwise the earlier court sentences were not overturned or reduced.

PICTURE: Group of Finnish Army non-commissioned officers photographed among rifle racks that are filled with infantry rifles M/91. Considering uniforms seen the photo this is probably from early or mid 1930's. Most if not all soldier in the photo seem to be corporals (alikersantti) of bicycle troops, since they are wearing bicycle troops version of summer tunics m/22 with fur hats m/22 and leather belts m/30. Photograph part of Jaeger Platoon Website photo collection. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (115 KB).

New rifle barrels and stocks:

Mass-production of rifle barrels was not easy task for Finnish metal industry, which at the time was rather modest in size. First (unsuccessful) attempts for starting a production of rifle barrels was made by SAT (Suomen Ampumatarviketehdas = Finnish Ammunition Factory) followed by first attempt of mass-production made by Tikkakoski factory in 1922 - 1924. Year 1925 Tikkakoski tried starting mass-production the second time and became the first Finnish manufacturer being able to mass-produce rifle barrels for military rifles. However production capacity of Tikkakoski was not large enough for solving the problem alone, hence also State Rifle Factory joined into manufacturing of rifle barrels. In years 1940 - 1944 State Rifle Factory (VKT = Valtion Kivääritehdas) and Tikkakoski factories manufactured tens of thousands of new rifle barrels for M/91 rifles. In those years State Rifle Factory manufactured about 45,300 rifle barrels and Tikkakoski about 33,000 rifle barrels for infantry rifle M/91. By year 1944 over 10,000 of these new barrels for M/91 rifles had been used in rifle production. Later unknown number of unused rifle M/91 barrels were shortened and used for post World War 2 production of military rifle m/39.

Another major component of these rifles that often needed to be replaced was rifle stock. Russian-made rifles M/91 originally had rifle stocks made from birch, while French (Chatellerault) and US (Remington-UMC and Westinghouse) manufactured rifles had rifle stocks made from walnut. Also Finnish-made rifle stocks are birch, it being the best commonly available indigenous wood for the purpose. But the Finns also recycled complete earlier manufactured rifle stocks and in addition used them as raw-material for their rifle stocks. Finnish Army Gun depots and several private companies manufactured rifle stocks for these rifles, during Continuation War over 77,000 rifle stocks were made for them. During World War 2 also over 87,000 rifle stocks were repaired to condition comparable to new. While original rifle stock design used these rifles was single part structure, during World War 2 Finnish industry starting manufacturing two-part rifle stocks with glued finger joint holding the two parts together. Not only were these two-part rifle stocks cheaper to manufacture, but they were less prone to warping.

PICTURE: Finnish sentry with infantry rifle M/91, snow camo suit and fur hat M/39 keeps an eye of open terrain with barbwire obstacle. Notice leather rifle sling with "dog collar" sling hangers. Photographed by Military Official P. Jänis in March of 1942 in Rukajärvi Region. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 123542). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (114 KB).

Economy at work:

Starting this whole repair and improvement process for M/91 can be criticized for a reason. It might have made a lot more sense to put the money in making new better rifles instead of putting so much money and effort to old, long and heavy m/91 infantry rifles, much of which were in need of repairs or even beyond that. But the reality is that Finland lacked financing that would have been needed to replace its rifle inventory and ammunition stockpile reserved for it. Year 1927 Finnish Army introduced new service rifle - infantry rifle M/27, which was shorter and in many respects improved rifle based on infantry rifle M/91. However, the average cost of repairing infantry rifle M/91 rifle was only about 50 Finnish marks, while even (too cheaply made, as we will see) infantry rifle M/27 ended up costing over 290 Finnish Marks per rifle. Not only were financial reasons impeding replacing infantry rifles M/91 with new M/27, but also production capacity would have limited such opinion. Hence also rifles M/91 remained in active service with their repairs maintenance and repair programs being continued at least until end of World War 2. Through 1920's and 1930's Finnish military and Civil Guard got more infantry rifles M/91 to their inventories from rifles that Finland acquired from other European countries. And once the threat of war became a pressing matter in autumn of 1939 Finland decided to re-start manufacturing of infantry rifle M/91 to help with rifle shortage with infantry rifle M/91 production being started first in Weapons Depot 1 (Asevarikko 1) in year 1939 with also Weapons Depot 3 (Asevarikko 3) joining to production in year 1942. Both of these Army depots continued to produce (assemble) infantry rifles M/91 until year 1944. The thing that made infantry rifle M/91 cheap & easy to repair and manufacture was large stockpile of existing rifle parts of this rifle model already in Finnish inventory. These included not only parts originating from rifles that had been in Finnish inventory after Civil War, worn out or broken and disassembled for parts when not longer cost effective to repair, but between World Wars Finland was also actively looking and buying Mosin-Nagant rifles and their main parts from any country willing to sell them for reasonable price. All rifles that were in such condition that it was not cost effective to repair them anymore routinely got disassembled with their usable parts place to inventory for manufacturing of new rifles. This provided cost-effective way of rifle manufacturing. Unlike later Finnish Mosin-Nagant rifle models, infantry rifle M/91 could be almost completely assembled from already existing parts, with typically only new rifle barrel and possibly new rifle stock being needed to produce a working rifle.

Main Finnish acquisitions of Mosin-Nagant rifles:

YEAR

COUNTRY

AMOUNT

1926

Italy

39900

1928

Albania(1)

13000

1928

France/Transbaltic (2)

2200

1929 - 1930

Oy Transbaltic Ab (3)

4200

1932 - 1934

Oy Transbaltic Ab (4)

20800

1932 - 1934

Oy Transbaltic Ab (4)

5500

1936

Hungary (5)

4600

1936

Poland (5)

2900

1936

Czechoslovakia (5)

10900

1939

Yugoslavia (6)

56500

1940

Hungary (7)

300

1941

Bulgaria (8)

12300

TOTAL

173100

Not included to these numbers are tens of thousands of M/91 that had been either bored to use Austrian 8 mm ammunition or had no barrels (these were used in manufacture of Finnish Mosin-Nagant rifles as were also used the large amounts of parts bought with almost every deal). Most of these deals were made using company "Oy Transbaltic Ab" as go-between. Also large amounts of parts of M/91 rifles were bought from abroad and used as spare-parts and in manufacture of Finnish Mosin-Nagant rifles of all models.

  1. Company Benny Spiro from Hamburg as go-between, traded to Japanese rifles, which Benny Spiro sold to Albania. Mosin-Nagant M/91 rifles of this deal originated mostly from Romania and Czechoslovakia.
  2. Oy Transbaltic Ab bought these rifles from French Ministry of Defence, in exchange Transbaltic got 6.7 million rounds of 7,92 mm x 57 JS ammunition from Finland.
  3. Oy Transbaltic Ab got 5.07-million rounds of 7,92 mm x 57 JS ammunition in exchange. Also large amount of rifles parts of M/91 were included to this deal.
  4. Two deals connected to each other made around same time. In First one Oy Transbaltic Ab got about 15,000 Japanese rifles, about 500 bayonets and about 1.2 million rounds of ammunition for them. In second one Oy Transbaltic Ab got 470 "light" machineguns M/08-15 and M/08-18, few MG-08 Maxim machineguns, 8.1-million rounds of 7,92 mm x 57 JS ammunition and 10 German 75 mm mountain guns model 1913 (75 VK L14) with 7,500 shells.
  5. Once again done with Oy Transbaltic Oy, but this time also German companies J. Veltjens Waffen und Munions and Daugs & Cie G.m.b.H of Josef Veltjens and Willy Daugs participated by delivering rifles from Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia to Transbaltic. Originally the deal for Hungarian rifles was to be for about 5,600 rifles, but 1,020 rifles proved to be such a poor shape that Finnish military did not want them. Only 909 of the rifles were in such condition that they either did not require repairs or just one or two small parts needed to be replaced, 1,043 rifles were in such shape that their rifle stocks were ok but they needed some small parts to be replaced and 2,620 rifles that were in such shape that were to be disassembled for parts. From the total of 2,929 rifles bought from Poland 1,700 were good as they were or needed just small part or two replaced, 345 needed small repairs, 673 needed new rifle stocks and 211 were only fit to be disassembled for parts. Many of the Polish rifles had locally made repairs, which included bolts with parts that had been blued. The exact number from rifles bought from Czechoslovakia was 10,942 total - from which 10,731 were infantry rifles M/91 and 211 cavalry rifles M/91. From the those 10,942 infantry rifles 5,657 were good as they were or only needed part or two replaced, 422 needed some small repairs, 4,356 needed rifle stocks replaced and 296 were to be disassembled for parts. Practically all rifles bought from Czechoslovakia had rear sights modified for Austo-Hungarian 8 mm x 50 R cartridge and with them Finnish military also received 8,475 socket bayonets M/91 that had been equipped with metal scabbards. This deal included also large number of rifle parts - among them about 18,100 receivers, 38,500 bolt bodies, 26,300 bolt heads and 28,000 safeties.
  6. Again a deal made with Oy Transbaltic Oy. Finland succeeded striking a deal for 40,000 rifles M/91 from Yugoslavia and got in addition of them additional 16,500 rifles which Yugoslavia had intended to sell to Estonia. Originally when inspected for acquisition from 40,000 rifles only about 12,300 were considered in such condition that they were fit to be issued (and even then most of them only after some repairs), while rest of the rifles were in too bad shape to be repaired but could be used as source of parts for rifle manufacturing. But later report from Weapons Depot 3 suggests that during Winter War it reconditioned 45,071 rifles M/91 received from Transbaltic. Hence it seems possible that these rifles were repaired and issued in far larger scale than what had been intended before the war.
  7. Hungary had captured these rifles from the Polish military in year 1939. This deal was made during Winter War.
  8. The last Mosin-Nagant rifle acquisition made by Finland. Bulgarian offer had had already been considered and turned down before Winter War due to poor condition of available rifles compared to asking price.
  9. It is worth noting that by year 1939 European sources of Mosin-Nagant rifles that were still in usable condition had practically dried up and with Europe preparing for new major war.

Deliveries of M/91 infantry rifles to Finnish Army during World War 2:

Manufacturer

Year

AV3

AV1

Total

1939

0

10000

10000

1940

0

15000

15000

1941

0

3997

3997

1942

11762

6769

18531

1943

5653

10000

15653

1944

12434

11458

23892

1945

0

0

0

Total

29849

57224

87073

Source: Report of Finnish Defence Forces GHQ Ordnance department concerning weaponry belonging to its area of expertise manufactured in Finland 1935 - 1945. Folder T20207/F16 sal, Finnish Military Archives. Notice: The table does not include rifles delivered to Homefront troops. Both Weapons Depot 1 (AV1) and Weapons Depot 3 (AV3) could also well be called "assembly plants", since for example rifle barrels they used had been manufactured by VKT and much of other parts were recycled or made by other manufacturers. Sako made its own rifle barrels and also many other parts.

Finnish military captured unknown number of M/91 infantry rifles from Soviet Red Army during World War 2. While no exact information is available about how many of them were among Mosin-Nagant rifles of various models captured at that time it was nowhere as common as M/91-30.

PICTURE: Finnish soldiers near city of Kemi during Finnish - German Lapland War. Photo taken by Military Official Unto Hämäiläinen in October of 1944. The rifle in middle of the photo appears to be infantry rifle M/91. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 165256). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (115 KB).

Mosin-Nagant m/91 infantry rifle proved to be quite decent rifle in Finnish use, although also somewhat long, heavy and obsolescent for World War 2. Especially the bolt system proved to be almost indestructible, although certain parts in it can be damaged with improper handling or simply worn out with enough use. Finnish industry never manufactured a single receiver or bolt body of the types used in Mosin-Nagant rifles, instead they used recycled parts for all of the Mosin-Nagant rifles ever manufactured or repaired in Finland. Rifle M/91 was the most common rifle model used by Finnish Armed Forces before and during World War 2. Rifle grenade equipment was designed twice for it, first in mid-late 1930's and later in 1942 - 1944, but neither version saw real mass-production. Russian socket bayonet remained as the standard bayonet design be used with this rifle model until bayonets were withdrawn from use during Continuation War. The service arm of Finnish Armed Forces to mainly use infantry rifle M/91 during World War 2 was Army and it was most numerable for all Mosin-Nagant rifles in Finnish use at that time. It was somewhat long and heavy compared to most other rifles of that era and in general not quite as reliable as some of later Finnish built Mosin-Nagant rifles, but it still served Finnish military well. One could very well call infantry rifle M/91 as the unsung hero of World War 2 in Finnish use - it was not as well regarded as Finnish-developed rifle models, but during the war about 45 - 50 percent of rifles issued by Finnish military were infantry rifles M/91. Even when no longer the primary service rifle for infantry after World War 2, it saw large-scale service use at least until 1950's. As late as year 1951 Finnish inventory still contained almost 170,000 of these rifles. Better weapons finally started replacing them in 1960's but large number of rifles remained mothballed for possible further use until 1980's. Ultimately grand majority of infantry rifles M/91 that were still in Finnish inventory ended up being exported to United States in 1970's and 1980's. While there is still a decent number of these rifles Finland, they are not generally as popular among Finnish shooters as some of the later rifle models. This is likely mostly due to having poorer sights, trigger and rifle stock design, due to which they are quite obvious under-dogs in old military rifle competitions of Finnish reservists.

When it comes to collector's value infantry rifle M/91 might well be the Mosin-Nagant rifle model with widest scale of financial value. Most rifles found nowadays have been updated and/or rebuilt, hence early production rifles tend to have bonus value and if they have not been subject to later updates and modifications can be high price items.

Training rifles in .22 rimfire calibers:

In 1920's and 1930's Finnish military acquired M/91 infantry rifles modified to .22 long rifle and .22 short as training rifles in its units. Not only were .22 short and .22 long rifle ammunition notably cheaper than 7.62 mm x 54R, but it required much less from shooting range and particularly backstop used in it. These rifles had .22 caliber barrels installed inside their existing but bore out rifle barrels and bolt heads of their rifle bolts modified for .22 caliber rimfire cartridges. The basic appearance of these rifles is similar to normal infantry rifle M/91. They are single shot only since they have no magazine of any sort. The first production run of these .22 caliber rifles was for 1,500 rifles total, which were modified by Weapons Depot 1 (Asevarikko 1) circa 1926 - 1927. Rifles belonging to this first production run have on top of cartridge chamber following markings: "6 M/M" indicating caliber, new serial number (with serial number range running from 1 to 1,510) and Weapons Depot 1 stylized logo. Year 1929 Finnish Army ordered from Tikkakoski additional 1,000 .22 caliber rifle barrels that Tikkakoski installed inside bore out existing infantry rifle M/91 barrels. Tikkakoski delivered those 1,000 rifle barrels in year 1930 to Weapons Depot 1, which used them to build unknown number of .22 caliber training rifles, which are otherwise similar to first production run practice rifles, but differ in barrel markings. Namely they have large Tikkakoski factory logo, "1930" (year of manufacture) and serial number (with serial number range 1 - 1,000) marked on top of chamber. Starting year 1930 practice rifles that were in .22 short were moved to secondary use, while those that were in .22 LR remained in training use at least until World War 2. Needless to mention these practice rifles made in .22 rimfire calibers never saw any combat use with Finnish military.

 

7,62 mm Dragoon, Cossack and Cavalry Rifles M/91:

(Russkaja 3-linejnaja dragunskaja vintovka obr. 1891 g.)

(Russkaja 3-linejnaja kazacja vintovka obr. 1891 g.)

PICTURE: Mosin-Nagant M/91 Dragoon/Cossack rifle. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (42 KB).

Calibre:

7,62 mm x 54 R

Length:

1237 mm

Barrel length:

730 mm

Weight:

3,8 kg

Magazine:

5, non-removable

Official abbreviations:

"7,62 kiv/91 rv" and "762 KIV 91 RV"

Country of origin:

Russia / Finland / Soviet Union

Prototype:

1890

Production:

Original (Russia/USSR) production 1891 - early 1930's

Finnish use: These were Russian standard issue cavalry rifle models for dragoons and Cossacks for World War 1. Only few thousand rifles saw Finnish use. The main user of these rifles types in Finnish Army were in 1918 - 1919 and 1924 - 1935 were cavalry units. These rifles that Finnish rifle referred as cavalry rifle m/91 saw also use with Finnish Army during World War 2 along other Mosin-Nagant rifles, although their total number was quite small.

These two rifle models were shorter cavalry versions of m/91 infantry rifle. Ordinary Russian cavalry version was known is dragoon-rifle. Compared to standard infantry rifle M/91 it is 6.8-cm shorter and about 500 grams lighter. Cossack-rifle is otherwise similar to dragoon-rifle, but had slightly differences in markings and Russian military issued it without bayonet, although the standard M/1891 socket bayonet would still normally fit into it, as it did to dragoon-rifle and infantry rifle. This difference in issuing of bayonets was due to dragoons being mounted cavalry, which normally fought dismounted, while Cossacks were more likely to fight also while on horseback. This is also a factor, which may explain why this rifle is quite long if compared to notably shorter carbines that most countries issued before World War 1 to their cavalry units - dragoons were expected to be able to fight with bayonets when dismounted, so the extra length of these rifles compared to carbines normally issued to cavalry at that era sort of made sense. Finnish military listed both dragoon rifle and Cossack rifle M/91 simply as cavalry rifles, since that was their use with Finnish Army.

The main manufacturer for dragoon and Cossack rifles M/91 before Bolshevik Revolution was Izhevsk arsenal. Dragoon rifle was produced in much larger numbers than Cossack rifle, but production of both rifle models was only very small scale if compared to huge production numbers of infantry rifle M/91. During their production and service careers dragoon and Cossack rifle basically went through the same changes as infantry rifle M/91. These changes included replacing the old rear sight tangent with new Konovalov M1910 design circa 1908 - 1910. Year 1922 the Soviets decided concentrate their rifle manufacturing to dragoon rifles M/91 and ended manufacturing of all other Mosin-Nagant rifles. Dragoon rifle M/91 was to become the new standard issue rifle of Red Army and replace old infantry rifle M/91 in that role. With production of other Mosin-Nagant rifles ending at that time also Tula arsenal became large-scale manufacturer of dragoon rifles. Production of dragoon rifle continued until early 1930's in Soviet Union. Then military rifle m/91-30 replaced it in production. Just like M/91 infantry rifle also captured dragoon and Cossack rifles were commonly reissued by German and Austro-Hungarian military, but being available in notably smaller numbers in grand scheme of things made them pretty much disappear among vast amount of M/91 infantry rifles. During World War 2 German military referred M/91 dragoon rifle as Gewehr 253 (r).

Just like with infantry rifle M/91, during Finnish Civil War of 1918, also dragoon and Cossack rifles saw use in hands of both sides, but in much smaller numbers. August of 1918 cavalry rifle m/91 become rifle type issued to Finnish cavalry and bicycle troops. However, this proved to be a short-lived decision. Already in summer of 1919 Finland bought German Mauser M/98a carbines from France and used them to re-equip cavalry and some units of horse-drawn artillery. Also bicycle troops briefly used Mauser M/98a carbines, but seem to have returned using cavalry rifle m/91 as their standard service rifle very shortly. The main motive behind this seems to have been small number of M/91 cavalry rifles that were in good condition. Shortly said the total number of dragoon and Cossack rifles M/91 in Finnish inventory was simply too small for equipping all cavalry and mounted artillery units.

PICTURE: Closeup showing cavalry rifle M/91 with bolt open. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (78 KB).

It was fairly obvious that having service rifles in different calibers for cavalry and infantry was not a wise move and for obvious reasons Finnish Army preferred to have all its rifles with same caliber. In 1920's and 1930's Finland was doing its best to gather as much as possible of Mosin-Nagant rifles, which World War 1 had spread to various European countries. This provided the opportunity to try gathering enough cavalry rifles M/91 for equipping all existing cavalry units. Small number of cavalry rifles were received in many deals, most important of which were trade from Poland in year 1924 and acquisition from Italy in year 1926. The trade made with Poland had Mauser M/98a carbines, Mauser M/98 infantry rifles and Maxim MG-08 machineguns being traded to Poland in exchange of 7.62 mm Mosin-Nagant rifles. The rifles received in return from Poland included some 2,151 cavalry rifles M/91. The purchase of rifles made from Italy in year 1926 provided Finland among other things also 2,298 complete cavalry rifles M/91 and another 506 cavalry rifles M/91 with missing bolts. After this sort of deals Finland finally had enough cavalry rifles of this type to equip its whole cavalry with them. Just as infantry rifles M/91 in late 1920's much of the cavalry rifles M/91 were in less than favorable condition. Hence these rifles got included to 1920's large-scale rifle maintenance and repair program, although due to their much smaller numbers in notably smaller scale than infantry rifles M/91. Some 1,490 cavalry rifles M/91 got their rifle barrels relined with Italian-developed Salerno-method in 1926 - 1927 as part of relining program, but after relining-scandal they were not introduced into service until during dire rifle shortage of Winter War.

The original sling system of Russian cavalry rifles m/91 was found to be more poorly suited for cavalry than the rifle sling used in German Mauser 98a carbines. While on horseback Finnish cavalry soldiers usually carried their rifles in a rifle sling across their back. In such situation the original rifle sling system used in cavalry rifle m/91 left the rifle hanging so low, that the rifle butt could make contact with back of the horse and interfere with controlling it. So Finnish Army equipped large number of M/91 cavalry rifles with new sling system copied from German M/98a carbines. These rifles remained as basic weaponry of both Finnish Cavalry Regiments until year 1935, which is when they got replaced with new Finnish-designed and manufactured M/27 cavalry rifles. Even if officially replaced by cavalry rifle M/27, most of cavalry rifles M/91 continued to serve as training weapons in two existing Finnish cavalry regiments until mobilization for Winter War.

PICTURE: Shooting practice with m/91 cavalry rifle while wearing gas mask. Notice sling swivel added to side of the rifle by Finnish military. This photograph taken by unknown photographer was taken in Loimola just before or during Winter War. The soldier in the photo is wearing unusual snow camo suit with helmet cover or hood and has Finnish-manufactured gas mask m/30. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 2365). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (67 KB).

During World War 2 rifles of this type only saw use mainly in home front, where they were issued to training centers and supply units. Finnish Army had organized captured Soviet factory named Äänisen tehdas (Onega Factory) in city of Petrozavodsk as large weapons repair facility. Year 1942 Onega Factory manufactured new kind of front sight protectors for 2,000 cavalry rifles M/91. The front sight protector was made from two kind of steel plates and attached around existing front sight with rivets. The front sight protectors were sent to Weapons Depot 1 (Asevarikko 1), where they were installed to cavalry rifles M/91. Even if Finnish Army captured thousands of cavalry rifles M/91 during World War 2, compared to other rifle models the percentage of M/91 cavalry rifles in Finnish inventory remained minuscule. For example February of 1943 they counted as only 1.44% of all rifles in use of Finnish military. Hence it should be no surprise that they had little importance after the war. Year 1951 Finnish Armed Forces inventory had 18,029 of these rifles, but only 11,625 of them were fit for combat. Most of remaining M/91 cavalry rifles (about 12,600 rifles) were sold to Interarmco and exported from Finland in year 1960, the last of these rifles (the ones that had Finnish sling modifications had been saved last) remained mothballed until early 1980's. Very small percentage of dragoon rifles M/91 in original configuration have survived to this day, which makes them valuable in collector's market, while Cossack rifles are even rarer.

 

7,62 mm Carbine M/07:

(7.62 mm karabin obr. 1907)

PICTURE: 7,62 mm Carbine M/07 (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (43 KB).

Calibre:

7,62 mm x 54 R

Length:

1015 mm

Barrel length:

510 mm

Weight:

3,3 kg

Magazine:

5, non-removable

Official abbreviations:

"7,62 kiv/07 karab."

Country of origin:

Russia

Prototype:

around 1894 - 1895

Production:

1907 - 1917, total production maybe about 300,000.

Finnish use: This was World War 1 era standard issue Russian Army carbine for certain unit types that needed carbine-size rifle. Popular weapon of leaders of both sides during Finnish Civil War in year 1918, which also he high point of its use in Finland. The total number was probably never more than few hundred, due to which they did not see any real use after Civil War.

Early on Russian military saw no need for carbine-type rifle, since cavalry and Cossack rifles seemed to be good enough to fill the need. Captain N. I. Jurlov of Russian Army did some development work about carbine-size version of Mosin-Nagant M/91 rifle around 1894 - 1895, but only production resulting from his research at that time were 11 prototypes. Russian-Japanese war of 1904 - 1905 changed things, since it made apparent that units such as machinegun-crews, signal-personnel and engineers had need for shorter and handier rifle. Jurlov's plans re-surfaced and new carbine went into production in Izhevsk arsenal. Soon also Russian Gendarme got interested, with carbines made for it by Sestroryetsk arsenal, which instead of building completely new rifles apparently modified them from existing Cossack and dragoon rifles.

As the name suggest carbine M/07 is carbine size rifle with much shorter rifle barrel and rifle stock than in other versions of early Mosin-Nagant rifles, in addition it also new smaller rear sight, which was redesigned in 1910 (due to new bullet introduced at that time). Early rear sight tangent made for ammunition with round-nose bullet have settings for 400 - 1,900 arschen / arshin (Russian pace, about 0.71 meters), while version made for m1908 FMJ spitzer bullet have settings for 400 - 2,000 arschen / arshin. As hinted by the model number production of this carbine started in year 1907. By year 1909 some 44,000 carbines M/07 had been manufactured for Russian military, with the production numbers increasing after that and manufacturing continuing until year 1917. Izhevsk arsenal was apparently the sole manufacturer of carbine M/07. It has been estimated that maybe in total about 300,000 of these carbines total were manufactured in 1907 - 1917 - a substantial number, but not much more than drop in the ocean for Russian Army of World War 1. These carbines were mainly issued to machinegun-crews, artillery recon teams and to soldiers of serving in headquarters or artillery weapon crews of Russian Army.

During Finnish Civil War of 1918 handy M/07 carbine was popular among low-level leadership of both sides. This also lead to them ending up as war-souvenirs more often than other types of Mosin-Nagant rifle. Number of carbines M/1907 in possession of Finnish military after year 1918 was too small for this carbine to be even listed as separate rifle model. Due to this none of the carbines that were in Finnish inventory were issued to combat-troops of Finnish military during World War 2 and it remains uncertain if they in fact were issued at all. Year 1951 there were only 20 carbines in Finnish inventory. Those remaining few ended up to museum use in end of 1950's. Nowadays surviving Mosin-Nagant M/1907 carbines are extremely rare and valuable collector's items.

 


SUGGESTED LINKS FOR MORE INFO:

Mosin Nagant dot Net More info about Mosin-Nagant rifles


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)

Markku Palokangas and Maire Vaajakallio: Aimo Lahti, asesuunnittelun suuri suomalainen (= Aimo Lahti, the great Finn of weapons designing)

D.N. Bolotin: Soviet Small-Arms and Ammunition.

Bruno Bogdnovic and Ivan Valencak: Das Groze Buch der klassischen feuerwaffen

Jan Kronlund: Suomen Puolustuslaitos 1918 - 1939 (= Finnish Defence Department 1918 - 1939)

Article: Sotilaskiväärin malli 1891 kehitys by D.N. Bolotin, translated by Matti Ingman in Ase-lehti magazine vol. 3/91.

Military manual: Kivääri 91, rakenne, huolto ja käsittely by Puolustusministeriö (1940).

Finnish National Archives, archive folder T-18465/2

Finnish National Archives, archive folder T-18468/2

Finnish National Archives, archive folder T-18468/8

Special thanks to Sotamuseo (Finnish Military Museum), Helsinki.


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