One of the most plentiful surplus bolt action service rifles in the American market today, the Mosin-Nagant has gained a large and loyal following among American shooters for its cost effectiveness, ruggedness, and dependability.
The Mosin-Nagant also holds the distinction for being the most mass produced bolt action service rifle in history, with nearly forty million units built between 1891 to the late 1950s. During this time frame, several different variations of the Mosin-Nagant were released.
Brief History of the Mosin-Nagant
The Mosin-Nagant served as the standard issue infantry service rifle for Russia (and later the Soviet Union) from 1891 to 1947. The Russian military realized it would need a new rifle after they found themselves outgunned in the Russian-Ottoman War in the 1870s. Whereas the Ottomans were armed with Winchester lever action rifles that had a high rate of fire, Russian soldiers were equipped with antiquated single shot Berdan rifles.
Russia began its search for a new domestically produced rifle in the 1880s. The military narrowed their search to two rifles: one designed by Belgian firearms designer Leon Nagant and the other by Russian designer Ivanovich Mosin. Between the two rifles, Nagant’s design was refined but complicated, while Mosin’s design was simpler but also crudely manufactured.
The two designs were essentially combined into a new rifle (the simpler Mosin design was mated with the more refined advancements of Nagant’s weapon) and it was appropriately christened the Mosin-Nagant in the 7.62x54mmR caliber.
The Mosin-Nagant rifle went on to serve as Russia’s standard issue rifle throughout World War I and World War II, until it was finally replaced by the AK-47. Mosin-Nagants were then distributed to Soviet allies in the Eastern Bloc, used against American forces in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and continue to see limited frontline service in modern conflicts.
In the 1980s and 1990s, millions of surplus Mosin-Nagants began to become imported into the United States. The rifle became very popular with American shooters looking for an affordable and dependable rifle that was also a neat piece of history.
At the time, it wasn’t uncommon for Mosin-Nagants to be available for around $50 to $100 each. Today, prices have risen as the market begins to dry up, and a Mosin in good condition can typically fetch much more depending on a variety of factors.
Besides the appeal of their military history, Mosin-Nagants serve very practical purposes in today’s world as well. They are extremely durable, and the 7.62x54mmR round is very similar in terms of ballistics to the .30-06 Springfield, which makes the Mosin suitable for bringing down North American big game such as deer or elk.
Popular Mosin-Nagant Variations
Here are the primary versions of the Mosin-Nagant rifle:
The Model M1891 is the original issued version of the Mosin-Nagant that served as the primary Russian military rifle from 1891 to 1930. In 1910, major modifications were made to the rifle before it saw action in World War I, including more durable barrel bands, improved sights, and the use of slot sling mounts in the wood furniture as a replacement for the swivels.
Besides Russia, the M1891 was also highly influential in Finland, where it served as the basis for Finnish military service rifles such as the M17 and the M39 (both of which bear more than a passing resemblance to the Mosin-Nagant).
Designed for Dragoons (mounted infantry), the Mosin Dragoon rifle is two and a half inches shorter than the M1891 and nearly a pound lighter. The Dragoon is today highly prized by collectors, as few of them were made and production halted in 1917.
However, the Dragoon is notable for serving as the basis for the most popular variant, the M91/30. Indeed, most Dragoons were reworked into M91/30 rifles later.
The M91/30 is the most common variant of the Mosin-Nagant. It was developed in 1930 and served as the standard Soviet infantry rifle throughout World War II. Most Mosin-Nagants available on the surplus market today are the M91/30 variant.
The M91/30 is essentially the same as the Dragoon model, with the same length and weight, but the biggest difference is the fact that the front sight is hooded.
MODEL M91/30 SNIPER
Many M91/30 Mosin-Nagants were reworked into sniper rifles. Originally introduced in 1932, the M91/30 rifles feature a more traditional turned down bolt with the use of German-made Zeiss scopes. The sniper variants also cannot accept the use of stripper clips for faster reloads.
The M1938 Mosin-Nagant is a carbine length version of the M91/30. These were originally intended for non-combatant troops, and did not see nearly as much combat as the M91/30 did. They are highly sought after by gun collectors today, and for this reason will usually fetch a higher cost.
In 1944, the M1944 carbine was released. This was the same carbine as the M1938, only with the addition of a permanent side folding bayonet. This bayonet added nearly a pound of weight to the rifle, so the M1944 is actually not any lighter than the longer M91/30.
Both the M1938 and M1944 saw greater military service after World War II when they were issued to Soviet allies throughout the world. China later produced their own copy of it called the Type 54, which was widely used throughout the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Finding the Right Mosin-Nagant Variation for You
Affordable, dependable, and rugged, Mosin-Nagants are most likely never going to be as cheap (or as widely available) as they once were. Buying a Mosin not only as a solid piece of military history but also as an investment, regardless of which variation you choose to go with.