7.62x54mm R ammunition. At the left – a loaded stripper clip; at the right, from top to bottom: original 7.62x54mm R cartridge of 1891 and two post-1908 cartridges (middle with steel case, bottom with brass case).
|M1891 and M91/10 infantry rifle||M1891 and M91/10 Dragoon rifle||M1891/30||M1891/38||M1891/44|
|Action||manual operated, rotating bolt|
1738 mm with bayonet
1666 mm with bayonet
1666 mm with bayonet
|1020 mm||1020 mm|
|Barrel length||800 mm||730 mm||730 mm||510 mm||510 mm|
4.6 kg with bayonet
4.28 kg with bayonet
4.18 kg with bayonet
|3.45 kg||~3.9 kg with non-detachable bayonet|
|Magazine capacity||5 rounds in integral magazine|
The Mosin-Nagant rifle, known in the Russia as a "Vintovka Mosina" (Mosin Rifle), was developed under the government commission in the late 1880s and early 1890s, and was officially adopted for service by the Russian Tsar in 1891 as a "Trechlineynaja vintovka obraztsa 1891 goda" (three-line rifle, system 1891; three line means caliber of three lines; one line is an 0.1 inch, so it's an .30 inch, or 7.62mm). Along with the rifle, a new, small-caliber cartridge was adopted. This cartridge had a rimmed, bottlenecked case and a jacketed, blunt nose bullet. The rimmed case design, which at that time already started to became obsolescent, was inspired by the low level of the Russian arms industry, and also as intention to keep the price of the rifle as low as possible, since the rimmed case, which headspaces on rim, allows for much looser chamber dimensions, unlike the rimless ones, which required headspacing on the case shoulders, so chambers must be machined much more precisely (that means – on better machinery and for much money). This decision, while probably worked as a savings measure, caused a major PITA for Russian small arms designer, since for different purposes this obsolete, rimmed cartridge is kept in general service with Russian army for more than 110 years!
The history of the development of M1891 rifle is somewhat shady and controversial. During the official trials, two designs were selected for final – one by Russian army captain Mosin, and another, by the Belgian designer Nagant. Final design, adopted by the Commission, utilized features from both, and Leon Nagant was paid for his part for some very serious amount of money. Mosin received a rank promotion and worked on the Sestroretsk arsenal, trying to set this rifle for production. The exact amount of influence of each designer is still unclear for me, so at this moment I'll leave this for further research.
Since the Russian arms industry was not ready to produce this rifle at the moment of adoption, the first batches of the M1891 rifle were purchased from Chatelleraut Arms factory of France, and a full-scale local production began only in 1894 – 1895 at two major Russian state arms factories, at Izhevsk and Tula. Foreign contractors were used once again to manufacture this rifle in 1916 and 1917, during the First World War, when Russia was in desperate need fort more rifles. Contracts were signed with two major American companies, Remington and Westinghouse, which manufactured large numbers of the improved pattern M1891/10 rifle. During the local clashes and revolutions in 1917 most of these rifles were not delivered to the Russian government and later were used in USA for training and sold for civilians. Russian production of this rifle continued until the 1948 or so, when the machinery was sold to Poland. The Mosin rifle in different variations was a standard military arm of the Russian and Red army for some 60 years, and also was adopted and used by China, Finland, Hungary, Poland, North Korea and some other countries. It is still popular in Russia as a civilian, hunting rifle, due to relatively low prices and a readily available ammunition.
The M1891 rifle was originally issued in three versions: Infantry rifle, Dragoon rifle and a Cossack rifle. Two latter were intended, obviously, for issue to cavalry units. The Infantry rifle was a standard, long rifle issued with bayonet. Dragoon rifle was slightly shorter and with different sling mountings, and also was issued with bayonet. Cossack rifle was similar to Dragoon one, but issued without the bayonet. Original pattern rifles are easily distinguishable by the lack of the upper handguard. Circa 1894 the pattern was slightly changed by addition of the upper wooden handguards, and rifles remained unchanged until the 1908, when new type cartridge was adopted. This cartridge featured the pointed jacketed bullet with better ballistics, so new type rear sights were adopted. Other minor changes introduced in this pattern were: different handguard bands, sling swivels were replaced by cut-through holes with steel surroundings. This rifle was standardized as in 1910 as a Model 1891/1910 and was used by the Russian army (in all three flavors) through the First World war and later through the Russian Civil war. Since 1923 Red Army decided to abandon all but the Dragoon rifles of 1891/1910 pattern, so production of the Infantry and Cossack rifles was ceased. In the 1930 Red Army adopted next pattern of the Mosin rifle, obviously called the M1891/30. The M1891/30 rifle was an upgrade, but only slight. New sights were installed, that were graduated in meters instead of older 'arshins' (arshin – old Russian measure of length, circa 71 cm). New bayonet mount, more rigid, was adopted. New handguard bands used. Improved cleaning rod fixture was applied to the stock. In all other respects this rifle was similar to older patterns. In 1938, Red Army finally adopted a carbine version, called M1938, which was shorter, lighter and much more handier than a basic rifle. M1938 carbine was issued without a bayonet. During the Second World War, a new pattern of carbine, called M1944, was adopted as a main service rifle, that replaced both M1938 carbines and M1891/30 rifles in production. M1944 carbine was similar to M1938 except that it featured non-detachable, side folding, spike bayonet with "+"-like cross-section.
The Mosin-Nagant rifle was relatively modern when it was first introduced, but continuous trend for "economy solutions" and minimal possible upgrades lead to the outdated and not too comfortable weapon by the standards of the first half of the XX century. The positive aspects of the Mosin rifles were the reliability and simplicity of both manufacture and service – a paramount for generally poorly trained, low-educated and poorly funded Russian army. This rifle also offered a decent ballistics and an acceptable accuracy, it was even used as a sniper weapon with the addition of the telescope sight and some minor modifications. But, on the other side, this rifle had some serious drawbacks. First of all, in all patterns prior to M1938 and except for Cossack rifles, all rifles were intended to be carried and shoot only with the bayonet attached. This caused the already long rifle to be almost as long as an average mans' height, awkward to maneuver and carry, especially in the woods and trenches. All rifles were zeroed in with the bayonet in place, so removal of the bayonet seriously affected the point of impact and effectively required the rifle to be re-zeroed. Original pattern bayonet mounts were prone to loose during the time, decreasing the accuracy. The horizontal bolt handle was short by necessity, so, in the case of the cartridge case stuck in the chamber this required a lot of strength to extract it. Horizontal bolt handle also was uncomfortable to carry and slower to reload, than bent down handle, which appeared only on the sniper versions. Safety switch, while very simple in construction, was uncomfortable to operate and required the rifle to be removed from the shoulder to apply or disengage the safety. Overall, this was somewhat typical example of the Russian mass produced weapon – cheap, simple, reliable and adequate for intended mission – but that's all.
The Mosin-Nagant rifle is a bolt operated, magazine fed rifle. It used an integral, single stack magazine, loaded from the clip chargers, with capacity for 5 rounds. Magazine protruded below the stock just ahead of the triggerguard, and had a hinged floorplate, used to unload magazine at once and to clean it. Due to the single stack design and a lack of the feed lips, a special device – second-round cutoff, was built into the magazine, to avoid double feeds. On early pattern rifles this device also worked as an ejector, but since the M1891/30 model, a separate ejector was introduced. Rotating bolt featured the dual frontal locking lugs that were located horizontally when bolt was locked. Rifle is striker-fired, striker was cocked on the bolt open action. Safety was incorporated into the bolt and locked the striker. It was applied by pulling out and rotating a knurled cap at the rear of the bolt. To disengage the safety, reverse operation was required. The bolt could be removed from the receiver without any tools, simply by pulling bolt to the open, then depressing the trigger and removing the bolt. It could be further disassembled without any other tools and contained very few parts. Original spike shaped bayonets featured a rectangular cross-section and a point shaped as a flat screwdriver, so it could be used to as a disassembly tool when removed from the gun. Bayonet was always carried in the battle-ready position. Some late pattern bayonet mountings featured a front sight protection hoods. All bayonets were attached directly to the barrel. Stocks were usually made from birch, except for American-made M1891/10 rifles, that featured an walnut stocks and were thus slightly heavier.
Sniper rifles, based on the M1891/30 rifles, hand-picked for accuracy, were issued with scope mounts on the left side of the receiver and with bolt handles bent down.