I have this old gun: Mosin Nagant 91/30 – Pt 1

Posted on July 3, 2010 by

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It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t go in there meaning to do it, but I’m not sorry I did. As many impulsive decisions as I have made in my life that I have regretted, this most certainly was not one of them.

My little bit of unbudgeted license began with what in retrospect was probably setting myself up for “failure.” Just as an alcoholic ought not walk into a bar to “have a look around”, so someone who shouldn’t be spending money on firearms shouldn’t take a trip to Military Gun Supply on a lark with a friend “just to have a look around.”

We started innocently enough, fondly caressing the Sigarms 556’s and the other Evil Black Rifles we knew we couldn’t afford. Gradually we worked our way up to an RPK and a Barret .50 Caliber rifle. Also out of our price range. Once the ogling and drooling was over, we moved onto the combat shotgun section, breezed through the always-interesting military surplus rifles (some of which did NOT look safe to fire), and from there to the modern hunting rifles. After a brief glance in the general direction of the Tactical Tupperware aisle (Glocks and etc.) we were headed out the door. And this is when the impulse buy section caught my eye.

You know the section I’m talking about. At a grocery store it’s where they keep all of the odds and ends that you would never have thought about buying and probably don’t actually need. At least until they catch your eye. And then you need them.

So there they were. A whole rack of cosmoline-soaked Mosin Nagant 91/30’s. Long story short, my friend and I both failed each other as morale support, and we both walked out with one and 80 rounds of ammunition.

According to Wikipedia, the Mosin Nagant “is a bolt-action, internal magazine fed, military rifle used by the armed forces of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and various other nations.” That’s the textbook definition. The reality of it, though, is that this old rifle has a lot of heart and a lot of soul to it.

Mosin Nagant 91/30

The Mosin Nagant 91/30

Originally a combination of the designs of Sergei Mosin and Emile Nagant (who was from Belgium – and the Belgians have produced some fine rifle designs over the years), the rifle was designed as the battle rifle for the Russian Empire and first began service in 1891. This rifle and its variants saw continued service up until the 1960’s because of the ruggedness and dependability of the design, coupled with the large numbers available. It has continued to see limited use since in various legitimate and illegitimate armed forces throughout the world, making it the longest-serving military rifle in history. Unfortunately, it often gets a bad rap from so-called gun snobs, because of its old design and because it lacks the same slickness and smoothness associated with modern precision rifles.

There’s more to this old rifle than I can cover in the scope of one blog post. It has seen use in every major military conflict since WWI. It also has the distinction of having fought against itself multiple times – and won. The Mosin-Nagant fires the powerful 7.62x54r cartridge, which is considered a large enough caliber for any game on the European and North American continents, up to and including a Russian grizzly.

Among the other highlights of this venerable old gun’s history, it was a variant of the Mosin Nagant that Simo Hayha, – AKA the “White Death” – used in the Winter War, scoring more kills than any other sniper in military history – almost all of them without any scope and in -40 to -20 degrees Celsius weather. So it is a serviceable old lady, and we shouldn’t be duped by the low price tag (mine was $110, ammo, strap, and cleaning kit included) into disrespecting her.

Receiver Stamped "1943"

The Receiver is Stamped "1943"

My particular rifle is an M91/30. This particular model of the rifle is the most prolific and was issued from 1930-45. My rifle is stamped “1943”, so it is obviously a later model and was built and issued during the midst of World War II. There is a good possibility it was issued and carried into battle, and in that case I can only imagine what stories it might tell if only it could. It is a strange thought, that this rifle may have been places that I will never go and it may have seen things that I have no desire to ever see. It’s one thing to own a serviceable rifle. It’s another thing entirely to own a piece – even a very small piece – of history.

Mosin Nagant 91/30 with its favorite food - 7.62x54r FMJ

Mosin Nagant 91/30 with its favorite food - 7.62x54r FMJ

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