|Rifle||Mosin M91/30||Manufacturer||Tula, Izhevsk|
|Action||Rotation Bolt||Barrel Length||28.8″|
|Magazine||5 rnd charger fed||Weight||8.8 lb|
All right, I’m sure everyone reading this site is familiar with the Mosin-Nagant M91/30 rifle. It is easily the most common surplus arm available in the U.S. and for those overseas I’m sure you see us posting plenty of images of these things. But the M91/30 does have its own history and despite how many you might run into, there are still some rare and unusual variations out there.
We have covered the original Mosin M1891 rifle before. Take some time to read there if you want an overview of the history of the action because we’re just going to cover what makes up this particular variation. With the adoption of the Model 1891 the Tsarist Russian infantry were rearmed with a modern rifle, but the Cavalry (in the form of Cossacks) and the mounted infantry (Dragoons) were in need of a handier rifle for horseback use. Recall that the first 1891 rifles did not feature handguards over the barrel, had sling swivels hanging from the forestock and magazine, and were over 51 inches long. These were not very well suited for maneuverability.
So two near-identical variants were released in 1893 and 1894 from the Izhevsk Machinebuilding Plant, first a Dragoon and next a Cossack. Both guns measured only 48.5 inches in overall length, saving a just over two inches from the infantry rifle. More importantly they were fitted with full handguards which ran all the way behind the rear sight, not unlike the later vz.24 Mauser. Instead of the screw-tightening barrel bands these guns were initially fitted with solid, simple rings held in place by springs in the stock. Later the rings would evolve to have a “button” styled base and many would be replaced with 91/30 interleaved bands during rebuilding. The sling swivels of the standard rifle were replaced with simple holes in the stock with metal ferrule reinforcements. These allowed a “dog collar” sling attachment, easing carry on horseback. The Dragoon was fitted with a standard socket, cruciform bayonet and sighted with it attached. The Cossacks carried swords and thus did not need bayonets, so their rifles were sighted without. Rear sights were initially the same flat, Belgian-style as the early 1891’s but were updated to the slightly rounded form we’re more familiar with (see 1891 article). These guns were produced in Izhevsk until 1932 and by Tula from 1923 until the same.
While these shortened rifles were much more manageable than the standard infantry and proved to be just as accurate, they did have one major failing. The thin handguard extensions were prone to breaking and nearly all of them eventually did. Their clips and the barrel bands proved to be more than enough to hold them in place though, so once cracked these were usually just cut away completely, leaving a handguard that sits in front of the rear sight.
During the Interwar Period many countries turned to standard short rifles for infantry use. In 1930, the now Soviet government did the same. They took a hard look at their inventory and decided that the Model 1891 was just too long and awkward to continue as the standard rifle. The Dragoon, however, had been reliable and handy. So they took it ever so briefly to the drawing board. The handguard issue was well known and easily solved, they just left it trimmed right from the factory. Another problem with all Mosins up to this point was that the rounded rear sight was prone to being deformed too easily when dropped or treated harshly. So a flat, squared up, and heavy adjustable rear sight was adopted. Because this would be a standard rifle, bayonets would be proved and accordingly the guns were sighted with them attached. The original cruciform was retained but updated to use a push-button instead of a screw-on collar. Theoretically this should make attaching and detaching easier, but anyone with a 91/30 and bayonet has likely spent an hour trying to get the damned thing back off.
That means the first Mosin M91/30 rifles retained the original hexagonal receiver, front sight blade, and “button style” barrel bands. They had stock ferrules which were screwed in. During 1935 in Izhevsk and 1936 in Tula receiver manufacture was simplified and the complicated hexagonal cuts were replaced with a plain round shape. The regular bladed front sight was replaced with a plain post set in a robust, round sight protector. While these did not present such a fine sight picture, they were very strong and resisted being deformed or chipped. During WWI the stock ferrules were eliminated and instead a simple steel strip was placed in the stock hole to help prevent cracking. During post-war refurbishment the ferrules returned but were now press-set into place without screws. Barrel bands were also simplified during the war into simple springs that interleave and do not lock into shape.
Most Dragoon and Cossack M91 rifles were eventually converted to the M91/30 standard, making originals rare. These are recognizable by their pre-1930 dates (although some 1930, 31, and 32 Dragoons and Cossacks were made). You can also find what appears to be a 91/30 with the older ladder sight, these would also be former Dragoon or Cossack rifles. Almost all examples will actually be the Dragoon but if you find the mark “KA3” on the barrel, congratulations on the former Cossack.
Production of the M91/30 carried on until 1944 at Tula and 1945 at Izhevsk, although both plants would do smaller runs periodically until the 1950’s. Other producers of the rifle include Hungary, Romania, and Albania. Users include those countries plus wartime Germany, East Germany, Spain (during the civil war), Latvia, Mongolia, and Finnish refurbs. This list does not include users of Mosin carbines and other variations, these are just the 91/30’s! Russian production alone totaled in the millions, making this particular model (although not certain variants) one of the most common milsurp rifles in the world.
Now, time for some unfortunate truth. Almost all of the Mosin M91/30 rifles in the collector’s market are post-war refurbished pieces. They feature deep-red shellac-covered stocks, shiny bolts, and deep black metal parts. Wartime Mosins were more blond with poorer finish. Press-set ferrules (as mentioned) are post-war and so are the laminate stocks. Refurbishment during the Cold War era was practically 100% complete so non-refurbs are usually from Spanish Civil War or other non-Soviet country imports predating the current “new” batches. They are very rare and command strong premiums due to the strong Mosin collector market.
But it is hard to complain when these guns are so inexpensive and so very fun to shoot.