Observations on the Russian Rifles

Discussion in 'Curio & Relics Forum' started by Pistolenschutze, May 23, 2006.

  1. As all of you C&R aficionados out there already know, the Russian WWII bolt action rifles, Mosin Nagant models 91/30, 38, and 44, are currently flooding the C&R market and they are extremely inexpensive. I now own one of each of these models and having worked with them and shot them a bit, I've made a few observations about them. I would be curious to see what some of the rest of you think, both concerning the rifles themselves, and the conclusions I have drawn.

    First of all, my initial observation is that they are VERY crudely made by the standards of today, though I don't consider that necessarily a negative. On the rifles I've seen, very little--if any--finishing work was done and tool marks abound on the metal surfaces of the rifles. This lack of finishing does not, however, detract from the functionality of the weapon in any way. If restoring one of these, it is often possible to complete the finishing with a few hand and power tools to create a better look and feel. Comparing the Mosins to even a late-war German Mauser, however, one can easily see the differences in the quality of detail work.

    In terms of functionality, the rifles are very simply designed thus there is little to go wrong with them. They simply work well and perform their function almost flawlessly. Accuracy is well within reasonable limits for a military rifle, though finding a real "tack driver" is pretty much a crap shoot. My only real complaint with the design is the safety on the rifles. In short, it is virtually worthless in a practical sense. It is simply too hard to put on, and too stiff to take off easily, thus it is unlikely to be used in any combat situation creating a dangerous condition. Comparing it to the Mauser's wing safety, is like comparing a stripped down Ford Escort to a Caddy Escalade. They are not even in the same league.

    The stocks on the Mosins, like on most military rifles, leave something to be desired, mostly because they are too short. The length of pull on these rifles leads me to think the average Russian soldier must have had the arms of a 10-year-old! That, of course, is relatively easy to remedy by either replacing the stock or by adding a recoil pad (permanent or slip-on) to the buttstock. The quality of wood in the stocks is adequate for the intended purpose, but certainly nothing remarkable--usually birch or elm. The German Mauser 98s, on the other hand, especially those made before or early in the war, often have high quality walnut stocks which are a joy to clean up an refinish. Once again, the purpose here was obviously to build an adequate rifle quickly and very cheaply, and in that the Russians succeeded very well indeed.

    Overall, I would highly recommend the Russian rifles to those of you who like to "play" with old military weapons. They are easy to get and very, very inexpensive to buy. Of the three models I listed, I think the Model 38 is the best overall, closely followed by the 91/30. I like the 38 because of its short barrel and compact size, and unlike the 44, it does not have a permanently attached bayonet to get in the way and throw off the balance of the rifle. It is possible, I might add, to remove the bayonet from the 44 if one is willing to do a little work with a Dremel Tool and a set of mill bastard files. If you do this, though, you will have to re-zero the rifle since it was originally zeroed with the bayonet in place and fully extended. The 91/30 is a full-length military rifle as opposed to the carbine-length 38 and 44. I think the 91/30 is the better choice if you're looking for greater range. It seems to me that the barrels on the 38 and 44 are too short to take full advantage of the 7.62x54R cartridge they chamber.

    Comment and observations, anyone?
  2. JohnK3

    JohnK3 New Member

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    re: the stocks

    Most Soviet arms of the era were designed to be worn while wearing heavy winter clothing. What you and I think is a LOP that's fit for a 10yo, becomes just about right when you're dressed to fight the Germans in the winter.
  3. John, I think you are probably right about the reason for the short stock, though it does occur to me that summer does come on the Russian Steppes for at least a few weeks. I suppose it was the best compromise they could make for overall utility.
  4. I tend to agree with everything you said, Pop. One cannot help but admire the Russians during this period. They did the best they could with what they had available, and their "best" was pretty damn good as history records quite well indeed. Yes, the Mosins are "clunky" and ugly as a Texas cow pie, but they certainly got the job done, and, as you point out, that, and only that, is the reason a battle rifle exists. My examination of the rifles did point out something that I think is very relevant as well, and certainly on this topic: The care the Russians did expend went only into the utility of the rifle as a battle implement, not into its appearance. The barrels on these weapons are well made where it counts--in the rifling. They shoot where you point them.
  5. JohnK3

    JohnK3 New Member

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    Urban legend has it that the M-N were designed with peasants in mind, which is why they're so rugged. SLAM! the bolt open. SLAM! the bolt back. SLAM! the bolt forward. SLAM! the bolt closed. It's gotta be rugged to stand up to peasant, nyet?
  6. John, you forgot the "glug, glug" of a couple of swigs of vodka in between the "SLAMs." :D

    Actually, I rather think that "design with the peasant in mind" is not merely an urban legend. In that day and time, very few recruits had much of an education, and many didn't even speak Russian which made training them even more problematic. The Russians used the same basic design philosophy in their tank designs, particularly the T-34. They were easy to build, rugged, and almost impossible to break (unless, of course, they got within range of a German Tiger or Panther, Polish :p ).
  7. cpt.bales

    cpt.bales Former Guest

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    well i know i can reach out and touch someone from 600 yards away with my M44. i love that rifle it is an awesome weapon. german weapons were good . but did they win the war? NO . they were made cheap but you cant beat the accurate fire of the rifle.
  8. JohnK3

    JohnK3 New Member

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    I say "Urban Legend" because I have no supporting documentation on the claim. It makes logical sense, as does the shorter Length-of-Pull. Can't back it up with any authoritative source, however.
  9. Neither do I, John, at least not off hand, though I do seem to remember reading something about it somewhere. It only stands to reason though. Even our rifles (Springfield, Garand, etc.) were made fairly simple to operate and maintain. The last thing a combat soldier needs is a rifle with a lot of tiny parts to lose or break, or one which requires a PhD in engineering to field strip! :eek: The process of manufacture also enters into the picture, I think. Complex weapons are expensive and time consuming to make. When you're up to your butt in alligators, the last thing you want is an alligator thumper that takes six weeks to manufacture. I remember reading that the main reason the Army went to the stamped-part M-2 "Grease Gun" in place of the much better Thompson SMG was the time, cost, and complexity of manufacture. The Germans had their similar problems as well. They designed the fine Smeiser SMG but were never able to field enough of them because of their complexity.
  10. Yes, that is certainly true, Pop, and Stalin used them up like water down the Mississippi. Even today no one knows for certain what the Russian casualties actually were during WWII, but even conservative estimates place the figure at around 27,000,000 (KIA and WIA), coupled with about 19,000,000 civilian casualties. Source: http://web.jjay.cuny.edu/jobrien/reference/ob62.html
  11. There seems to be no question of that, Pop, even based on what little is known historically. The Nazis looked upon the Russians, and other Slovanic peoples, as "untermenchen," literally, "under people" or what in English would be termed "subhumans." I doubt anyone will ever know the true extent of the Nazi atrocities against these helpless people. So many records (and the Germans indeed kept good ones) were purposefully destroyed in the final weeks of the war in an attempt to hide what had been done.
  12. You mentioned earlier that you had visited Dachau last year, Pop. That must have been a moving experience indeed. As a teacher of history I've long had a strong interest in the Second World War and a sort of morbid fascination (one might call it) with what the Nazis did--and the thinking behind why they did it--during the Holocaust. I can only imagine the ghosts which must still be present in places like Dachau or Aushwitz or Treblinka. I would love to visit some of these places in the future, though I expect the experience would not be an altogether pleasant one. While I've visited Germany, I've never been in Poland where most of the camps were located. It is at least understandable why men kill each other in war, but something like what happened during the Holocaust is almost incomprehensible to me.
  13. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    Wow, what a discussion I've missed!

    One thing you forgot though is that a "so-so" design does NOT last as the LONGEST issued rifle in History, short of the Brown Bess, but that wasn't a rifle, either...only the SMLE came CLOSE...

    The Mosin Nagant is still used as a sniper rifle in some RUSSIAN units, much less some other Former Bloc nations...it (the M44 was issued until the 1990s in Romania, the Finns used even 91s, besides their own models, until the 1980s or 90s, and the 91/30 is STILL are the competition rifle of top Russian teams.

    And you also have to consider the round, STILL the top Russian/former Bloc/ Chinese sniper AND MMG round. That HAS to be the LONGEST service life of an "original" rifle round in History.

    I'm starting to understand the safety a little more...and I'm coming to believe they didn't REALLY use it as such...I'm starting to think they loaded it holding down the trigger when they chambered the 5th round, and just rocked the bolt to cock it if they were in a hurry, or used the knob as a cocking peice like a hammer if they wanted to be quiet. The only drawback would be dropping the rifle butt first...but now two books on the Russian Army in WWII have stated there were MANY "Accidental" shootings in the Russian Army in WWII, so I'm thinking that would be it...I'm not sure that safety could even be WORKED with cold wet gloves on...or else frostbitten fingers...

    Also you have to take into account the simple bolt design...the Mauser needs a watchmaker and tools to dissassemble, the Mosin was designed to be stripped and put back together by that very same illiterate peasant/conscript.



    Give it a better safety, and MAYBE a ten round mag, and the Mosin would be hands-down the BEST BA battle rifle ever made...as it is now, it's second only to the SMLE...
    Last edited: May 30, 2006
  14. OK, Polish, now you have gone TOO FAR! Watchmaker indeed! :rolleyes: :p I've just finished rebuilding four Mauser rifles and trust me, I'm no watchmaker! Actually, the only rifle I've seen easier to disassemble and reassemble is the Swiss K-31. The Mauser is a snap, especially since the parts actually fit together like they were designed to, unlike certain rifles of the Slavic Russian persuasion. :D Russian soldier to another Russian soldier: "Comrade, how do I get this bolt back in the rifle?" "Easy, Comrade," as he hands him an 8-lb. sledge hammer. ;)

    And if frogs had wings, they wouldn't bump their butts when they jump. :D
  15. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    Typical Freakin' Mauser Guy!

    8 lb sledge......hurrrrumph! :mad:




    ANY self respecting Rifle guy KNOWS it only takes a 20 oz BALLPEEN!!! :D


    But the fact DOES remain that NO country armed mainly with a MAUSER ever WON A WAR, unless BOTH sides used the same wimpy POS rifle.... :cool:
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