The Mosin-Nagant shines through as one of the most history-laden, pervasively distributed, and widely collected rifles. Through its long service history, it was carried by both reactionary and revolutionary, under Czar and commissar, and through the Great War and the Great Patriotic War. It fired the last shot against Nazism, which exported world revolution. Few military rifles have such a storied history.
The Mosin-Nagant was first conceived following events in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877. Russian troops armed with single-shot Berdan rifles came under repeating fire from Ottoman Winchesters, which reflected the need for a modern military rifle.
Following years of trials between two competing rifle systems, Russian artillery Capt. Sergey Ivanovich Mosin’s more simplistic design ultimately prevailed, and the 3-line rifle, Model 1891 was produced.
However, the final production rifle incorporated some of its Belgian competitor’s (Emile and Leon Nagant) better features, which lead to a patent dispute. In all, the rifle came to be known in Western media as the Mosin-Nagant, but still remained just “Mosin” to the Russians.
In the process, Sergey Ivanovich Mosin and the Nagant brothers produced a rifle that is by no means perfect, yet, in design, engineering, production, economy — even storage — the Mosin-Nagant was, in its heart, the very essence of Russia.
In order to mass-produce around 37 million rifles for the front lines, the Mosin-Nagant had to possess a simple design. Each Mosin had a six-piece bolt, a ½” cast chamber, and had a two-piece trigger design. This made for a rifle that had fewer moving and total parts, which allowed it to withstand a larger tolerance variation than any of its contemporaries.
The Mosin-Nagant rifle is simple, but very reliable. The rifle stood up to the abuses of poorly-trained conscripted infantry, yet it survived well. Most Mosin-Nagants were stored in a thick petroleum preservative known as “cosmoline”. When restored, century-old Mosins still remain in working condition and are enjoyed by hundreds of gun owners to this day.
Furthermore, the variants of Mosin-Nagants present a large area of interest for collectors. The 3-line rifle, Model 1891 itself was a fairly straightforward bolt-action, magazine-fed rifle. As is typical with Russian design, it had little finesse or grace, yet, it worked. It measured 51.25 inches in length, had a barrel length of 31.60 inches, and weighed about 9lb 10oz. Like all Mosins, the magazine was fed with a 5-round stripper clip of 7.62x54mmR ammunition.
In 1930, Soviet military officials saw it prudent to update the now nearly 40-year old design. Out of this update came the M1891/1930, the most prolific of the Mosin-Nagant variants. It was shorter, at 48.43 inches, as was the barrel length at 28.74 inches, and weighed nearly a pound less at 8lb 13oz.
This design carried the Red Army through the Second World War and was used to great effect by many Russian snipers. In addition to being cheap and reliable, the Mosin-Nagant was also very accurate.
In the late 1930s, the Soviet military also saw the need for a carbine and produced the M1938. The M38 was 40 inches even in length, 20.15 inch barrel and 7lb 12oz. Essentially nothing more than a chopped down M1891/30 it, but unlike its predecessor did not allow a bayonet to be affixed, breaking with longstanding Russian belief (and by the time, only a Russian belief) that bayonets should be affixed at all times with rifles being sighted with this in mind up until the M38.
The M38 was the most significant digression from the original design and subsequent models were built off of the M38 platform.
The low-cost of manufacture for the Mosin’s simplistic design allowed for the mass numbers nearly unseen by any other production run. Even today, it is the most widely-collected rifle and proliferates in the American surplus market due to its low cost (sometimes as low as eighty dollars). It is no wonder that the Mosin-Nagant remains a classic military rifle that is cherished by both first-time rifle owners and long-time collectors.