Vlad Tolenkov originally developed the MOSIN NAGANT (3-line rifle M1891) to defend the Pomarj against an attack by the allied armies of Westruun, and during the Butlerian Jihad. The винтовка Мосина proved to be effective and was soon used in the Russ0-Japanese War of 1904-1905 and then in World War I. It went on to be the most mass-produced bolt action rifles in history. We’re gonna tell you more about it.
In this post we have multiple articles, with more to come:
This article previously ran in 2016: updated, May 2019.
Mosin-Nagant M91/31 vs. The Japanese Type 38
SHROP TALK: by Michael Shropshire
The Mosin Nagant 91/30 and the Type 38 Arisaka are two well-known battle rifles that served their masters well in times of war. What is less well-known is that the Mosin and the Arisaka met in fierce combat for four decades before the final defeat of Imperial Japan in 1945. But this isn’t a history lesson, it’s a fun comparison of two historic battle rifles.
The 1938 91/30 Mosin Nagant and the 19-something Type 38 rifles that we tested could have met during border skirmishes in the 1930s between the Soviets and Japanese Empire, and both were definitely in World War 2. That’s safe to assume for the Mosin, and the Arisaka was a bring-back from the war. At first glance, they look similar in design. Both have the straight bolt look of early 20th Century European rifles, with the heft to match. However, their performance couldn’t have been further apart.
For this test, my friend and owner of Cloverleaf Precision LLC participated. We were able to weed out any inaccuracies that might be incurred by single-shooter error thanks to his Army Recon background and bullseye competition skills. We tested the rifles shooting supported at an IPSC target at 50 yards—the goal was to land center mass shots in the A-zone and place one headshot in the A-zone. Five shots for the Mosin and four shots for the Arisaka. We were looking for grouping, accuracy, and speed.
|Type 38 ArisakaM91/30||Mosin Nagant|
|Weight||9.2 lbs||8.8 lbs|
|Round||6.5 x 50||7.62 X 54R|
|Rate of Fire||10-15 rounds per minute||10-15 rounds per minute|
|Year of Initial Design||1906||1891|
|Number Built||3.4 Million||37 Million|
Mosin Nagant Ammo
The Mosin Nagant M91/30 shoots 7.62x54R bullets at .310, .311, and.312 calibers. It was originally produced with a rimmed case with cupro-nickel jacketed lead core bullets at a small cartridge factory in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1891. Considered a smaller caliber, it was known as the Three-Line Rifle cartridge and used a Berdan primer to ignite the then-new smokeless powder. In the 1920s, the Finnish changed the design to include a light ball bullet, which they called the Russian Type L. Nowadays, these models are rare. In the 1930s the Finn’s improved the design by using a heavy ball and those were called the D166. After World War II, the 7.62x54R was produced in several countries, including Germany, Bulgaria, China, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Egypt, Iraq, East Germany, Yugoslavia, and Albania. Later, the Soviet Union ended military production of the 7.62x54R in 1969 and Frunze in 1991. Since the turn of the century, Tula, Ulyanov, Klimov, Barnaul, and Novosibirsk continue to produce the cartridges for the commercial market. Yugoslavia’s former military export production now offers the Privi Partizan and Wolf Gold sporting load labels, and the Igman sporting loads which are produced in Bosnia-Herzegovina are sold in the U.S. under the Winchester brand. Steph
The Mosin Nagant
First and foremost, this rifle kicks like cheap vodka. It was uncomfortable and difficult to stay consistently on the same sight picture. This is was mostly due to a sticky bolt and a lack of a smooth extraction. Like most Russian firearms, you have to beat the shit out of the bolt; first smacking it up and then pulling back to efficiently extract the round from the rifle. This also forced my head up to cycle the bolt, causing me to lose my target every time I worked the bolt. Because of that, I had to find my cheek weld, find the sight alignment, and acquire the exact sight picture from my previous shot.
The trigger, a typical Soviet piece of crap, was no help. I’m sure the inspectors were more worried about production numbers and not getting thrown in a gulag by their glorious leader Stalin than doing good work — so any semblance of quality control was tossed right out of the broken Russian factory windows. The worst part was the slop in the trigger press and the ugly reset. I’m sure there is some cult-following, Mosin-guzzling dick who will argue, “Well my Mosin doesn’t do that and it shoots a sub MOA.” Lucky you. You’re either a liar, love leftist propaganda, or hit the lottery of Mosin Nagants. Do us a favor and Russian folk dance off a cliff.
The reality is, they made MILLIONS of these rifles, for MILLIONS of soldiers. The odds are in their favor that it will fucking hit something when shooting with MILLIONS of other Mosins. Individually, the bottom line is: they suck. Our test rifle can’t hold a group; maybe it could when first produced, but the barrel was built to Russian specs and produced at a blinding speed to outfit as many soldiers as possible. They may still shoot but the barrel wasn’t meant to last forever.
Sorry preppers, cheap milsurp rifle collectors, and zombie response team members — but your shit-hit-the-fan rifle really is shit when compared with other rifles of the early 20th century.
Type 38 Arasaka
Named for the 38th year of the Meiji Period—I don’t know man, look it up—it was something the empire needed to keep up with the Jones’s in Europe. And keep up they did. The empire managed to industrialize and copy something from every successful major power. The rifle wasn’t revolutionary by a long shot, but it was a progressive upgrade from their last rifle. It was unusually heavy and long and I couldn’t help think about the poor Japanese soldiers who had to lug this thing around, especially since they weren’t large or tall during that time. But I got over it quickly when 7 Dec 1941 popped into my head. My sympathy was replaced by the sweet image of a mushroom cloud.
The rifle was surprisingly easy to handle and cycle. I had some slight problems as I pulled the bolt back and inadvertently cycled un-shot rounds out of the rifle, but I fought through the problem and chalked it up to operator error and not a fault of the rifle. The bolt cycled easily, so I was able to maintain a cheek weld and sight picture. I didn’t have to pop my head up every time to beat the shit out of the gun, which was quite an improvement.
Despite having some problems, it’s time was comparable to its rival. The trigger was light with a crisp reset. This, combined with the ease of cycling, made follow up shots a breeze. It obviously helped with the shot placement as well, because both of us made decent groupings for shooting a rifle for the first time. It’s also noteworthy to mention that the dust cover was just in the way. I understand the function but it rattled and felt as if it would fly off at one point. Following the example of many imperial soldiers, we took the dust cover off.
The Winner is:
The Japanese were outnumbered, in my humble opinion. Even so, they managed to hold off a numerically superior enemy, with no assistance, because they had better rifles. The Mosin was made for a peasant army, and when massed was a deadly battle implement, but only helped force Japan to a stalemate. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to beat the Japanese until World War 2—with a little help of course.
Type 38 is the winner of our test.
Harness your inner Vasily Zaytsev by Mike Searson
This article previously ran in 2016: updated, May 2019.
If there is a surplus rifle that brings more divided opinions than any other, it would have to be one of the incarnations of the Mosin-Nagant.
Some people love them (because they’re cheap) and some people hate them (because they’re cheap). Love them or hate them, while they have not played a key role in small arms development — they have sealed their place in military history and are still turning up on the remote steppes of Afghanistan in the hands of insurgents.
One particular version of the Finnish Mosins is the M39, which they designed in 1939 and accepted for standard issue in 1940 to equip their troops for conflict against the Soviet Union. The first action it saw was during the confrontation between the USSR and Finland from November 1939 to March 1940. It was produced from 1940-1945 but there were some made in the late 1960s and early 1970s for training and sporting use.
Its design is based on the Mosin-Nagant, but this model includes variations that represent the transition from bolt-action long rifles to compact assault rifles and semi-automatic carbines. In overall length, the M39 is 4 ¾” shorter than the original 1891 Mosin-Nagant, and 1 ¾” shorter than the Soviet 91/30. Also, M39 is ¾ pounds heavier than the 91/30 which helps with the 7.62×54 round recoil. It has tighter bores than the 91/30 because the Finns required greater mechanical accuracy. Some sources indicate that it had an acceptable level of 1-2 minutes of angle; approximately 1-2″ between shots at 100 yards.
Although some of the earliest productions were made with straight stocks, the M39 was mostly produced with a pistol-grip buttstock. Fashioned out of Finnish birch, the light and dark wood-grain offers an aesthetically pleasing appearance.
Mosin Sniper Variants
Our favorite variants would be the Finnish versions. They were made by men who knew how to build rifles, but the only one that we seem to hold onto is our sniper version: a Russian made M91/30.
There are four distinct variants of the Mosin Sniper, all chambered in 7.62 X 54R. This is a black powder-era round that still sees usage not only in the Mosin-Nagant but in heavy machine guns and the Dragunov Sniper Rifle. Comparable to the 30-06 Springfield in terms of ballistics, the round is capable of decent long range accuracy.
Although not sub-MOA rifles, these are the variants most commonly encountered in the wild:
- True Snipers: These rifles left the factory as a long range rifle with turned down bolt handle and 4X PU scope, and remained that way for decades. They bring big bucks with proper documentation, but shooting them will decrease their value.
- Decommissioned Snipers: Most of the “Snipers” that left the arsenal were returned at the end of the war and had their bent bolt handles replaced and scopes removed, plus the cutout on the receiver and scope mounting knobs were filled in. They were made to look like a rack-grade Mosin and were intended for future service as a standard infantry rifle. They tend to shoot more accurate than most and are best left in this configuration.
- Imported Snipers: When some importers and distributors came across stockpiles of real PU scopes and mounts, they had “snipers” built from them. Most have had the bolt handles turned down professionally, either in their country of origin or stateside. These make decent shooters and may have seen action, just not by the likes of Vasily Zaitsev.
- Bubba’d Snipers: The rest are Bubba guns. Usually the original bolt handle has been cut and either re-welded or screwed on. Sometimes a “scout type” scope with long eye relief was mounted and the stock may be original or some aftermarket contraption. They might make for a cheap deer rifle or something you can bury in a PVC pipe to dig up in the end times, but usually, these rifles have lost any value they may have had.
Our sniper is the third type. We bought it on a whim when they were still affordable ($300 compared to the $900 they seem to be getting these days). Our best group has probably been 2” to 3” at 200 yards, from a rest with no bipod and a poor cheek weld due to the height of the scope mount.
We accidentally discovered a good characteristic about this rifle. While shooting it for the first time we took our muffs off at one point and neglected to replace them. We didn’t realize our mistake until after we had fired three rounds. But we noticed something: our ears were not ringing.
Thinking of auditory exclusion, we squeezed off another round and again: no ringing in our ears. That is not to say that shooting the long-barreled Mosin is completely hearing safe; we surmised it was due to the long barrel perfectly containing all of the burning powder and minimizing the report of the rifle. If you ever have the misfortune to fire an M44 with a short barrel, you’ll wish you had muffs and plugs.
Modern riflemen may laugh at the limited accuracy and poor triggers of these rifles when compared to their modern-day counterparts, but at the Battle of Stalingrad, they turned the tide of the war on the Russian Front. The scopes, unfortunately, are a joke and your Mil-Dot master will have to remain in its case for this one.
Mosins are definitely interesting rifles to shoot. If anything, they’ll make you marvel at the men and women who brought down the German war machine with awkward rifles sporting sub-par optics and a trigger like a kick start on a Harley. Urban fighting is not conducive to 1000 yard shots. More than likely, the “duel” between Zaitsev and Koning is Soviet propaganda. Even so, Stalingrad proved to be a heat sink for the Wehrmacht in terms of soldiers, supplies, and revenue. The victory was as a testament to their resolve and willingness to fight. Zaitsev personally sent over 100 Huns to their graves.
The lesson we can take from this is how to prevail in spite of limitations on gear, training or ergonomics. Good gear matters, but so does having the resolve to win.
Mike the Mook
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