The Mosin-Nagant was adopted in 1891 by imperial Russia. The action of the rifle was developed by Colonel Serge Mosin of the Imperial Russian Army and the magazine by the Emile Nagant of Belgium. It was manufactured chronologically in France, Russia, the United State, Finland, China, and North Korea where it is still in production.
The rifle, by nature of its 30 inch barrel, was the longest carried on the European battlefield of the First World War. It stood as tall as the men who carried it and was tipped with a 23 inch steel spike bayonet (which most modern armies of the time took to be an inefficient design). The rear sights were graduated in Arshins, an old Tsarist imperial measure of roughly 0.75 meters that was phased out in the twentieth century. Mosin-Nagant rifles are characterized by their massive action whose simplicity of design and operation almost completely soldier-proofed the weapon. It was an excellent design and would serve the Russian 'Frontovik' conscript drafts of world war one and the subsequent Russian civil war well. It would continue on in the service of the winner of that war, the Red Army, for decades to come.
With the modernization of the Soviet Red Army in the 1930's the old reliable M1891 Mosin design was modified and designated the 1891/30. This redesign (based on the little known M1891 Dragoon variant of the mosin produced from 1892-1927) -shortened the barrel to a more manageable length and changed the sights to a much better design graduated in meters. With the concept of having dedicated snipers assigned down to the platoon level, the Soviet Army needed a supply of sniper rifles. The 1891/30 was further redesigned to produce this creature. During the test firing steps of the manufacturing process used in making the standard 1891/30, rifles that shot particularly well were set aside for further conversion into the Soviet Army's first dedicated sniper rifle. The rifle was expected to shoot 10 shots into 3.5 cm (1.38") at 100m, 7.5 cm (2.96") at 200m, 18 cm (7.09") at 400m, and 35cm (13.79") at 600m. A special machining and tapping process permitted the installation of an ingenious scope mount that is rock solid and preserves the use of the iron sights. The bolt handle was lengthened and bent nearly strait down to prevent it from hitting the attached scope. Two different scopes (the PU, and the PE/PEM) were used by these rifles, with the PU being the most prevalent.
Note the side by side difference between the two primary optics, the PE on top and the more common PU on the bottom
Both the PU and PE scopes were issued from the 1930's through world war and remained in use postwar. The front and rear iron sights of this rifle are not removed when the telescope is attatched and these sights may still be used with the PU scope at ranges up to 2000 meters (2200 yards). The PU scope is 3.5 power fixed, with a 4 degree field of view at 30 feet, a 2.8 inch eye relief, is 6.59 inches long and adds 0.59 pounds to the weight of the rifle. A thumbscrew for lateral corrections (windage, drift and lead) is located on the left side of the scope. It has a thumbscrew on the top of the scope for setting angles of elevation. The elevation thumbscrew has 13 graduations, each one for 100 meters, allowing the PU scope to be dialed in anywhere from 100 to 1300 meters (110-1420 yards) for accuracy.
-The PU. These are often found as very good reproductions. Don't be confused.
The PE scope was much the same as above, being constructed with a tube that was some four inches longer, having a diopter adjustment added, and a slightly higher magnification (4 power rather than the 3.5 of the PU). Some 54,160 of the PE design were made 1932-1938, with the PU design numbering some 220,034 being produced 1942-1958. The original design of both scopes was by the German firm of Zeiss based on an older Kahles design although actual production was by no less than 12 different Soviet firms. They both used a three bar 'German' reticle instead of the duplex reticle most modern scopes have.
Use of the Mosin
Female Soviet snipers were extremely common on the Eastern Front 1942-45
Note the female snipers with canvas covers over their scopes in the front
The Russian M1891/30 Sniper rifle was issued down to the platoon level. The top twenty ranked soviet snipers (by number of confirmed 'kills") of the Second World War have 7400 confirmed kills. The weapon was a favorite of these 'sniper aces' of the Soviets with Noble Sniper Ivan Nikolayevich Kulbertinov of the (23rd separate ski brigade -499 kills) Fyodor Matveyevich Ohlopkov (of the 1243rd rifle regiments-424 kills) and Vasiliy Grigorievich Zaytsev (1047th rifle regiment-248 kills) almost always being shown pictured with either PU or PE equipped M1891/30's. The recent Hollywood hit 'Enemy at the Gates' portrayed Zaytsev during the Battle of Stalingrad. The Soviet army arguably had the most snipers in history with more than a hundred thousand carried on their roles, including over a thousand female snipers who were credited with a total of 12000+ confirmed kills during the war. The highest ranking female sniper (in history of any army) was Ludmila Mihaylovna Pavlichenko (of the 54th rifle regiment) with 309 kills while mainly using a Mosin 91/30 sniper. Intrestingly The first Soviet citizen to be received at the White House was Pavlichenko, who made a tour of the U.S. and Canada in 1943. It was used by the Communist Chinese Forces in the Korean conflict with Sniper Zhang Tao fang allegedly scoring 214 hits on UN troops in 32 days in 1952.
Being put into production in 1932 it was the standard issue sniper rifle of the Soviet Army and its allies until the introduction of the Dragunov SVD in 1963.. The Dragunov was not fully adopted by all units until as late at the 1980's with scoped M1891's still being carried in arsenals and war reserve stocks until just recently being liquidated. All of the recent imports are of the Soviet manufacture guns. These guns were rearsenaled than packed away for long-term storage should the situation arise that they be needed again. No doubt many of these old veterans are still held in armories of former Soviet bloc countries. These weapons are available for collectors in the United States.
The SVD (right) replaced the venerable Mosin sniper (left)