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The Finnish Issue Of The Mosin Nagant

Model 91/30 (1891/1930) Rifle



From Tuco Of Mosin-Nagant Dot Net

The Model 1891/1930 Mosin Nagant rifle, or M91/30, has been a very important rifle in the history of the Finnish nation. Whether in its standard Soviet form, a Soviet rifle altered by the Finns, or the Finnish produced Tikka version of the rifle, the M91/30 served Finland quite well in combat and peacetime duties. As the Finns reworked, remade, and even produced these rifles, there are a number of "versions" on the market. This article will try and cover these in some detail, so the reader can understand the differences in what rifles were issued to the Finns.

The Standard Soviet M91/30

When the Red Army invaded Finland in November of 1939, starting The Winter War, the Soviet troops were mainly armed with their standard arm the M91/30 rifle. The Finns captured large numbers of these rifles in battle and by the end of the Winter War there were approximately 25,000 Soviet issue M91/30 in the Finnish stockpiles. By the end of the Continuation War (1941-44) the Finns had taken almost 100,000 more Red Army issue M91/30's. Further adding to this already high number were 57,000 M91/30's that were supplied by the Germans in 1944. The vast majority of the rifles supplied by Germany were in fair to poor condition, allowing mainly only for the use of parts.



Three Finnish captured Soviet M91/30s, all having the original globe hooded front sights still in place. The top example has a Finnish re-numbered bolt while the second rifle is all matching with its Soviet numbers intact. The last example has Finnish produced stock while the upper rifles have two versions of the original Soviet stock. One can encounter many different variations of these rifles in various states of Finnish alteration. All rifles are SA marked.




Many of the rifles captured by the Finns were in at least good condition and in some cases in like new condition. The old phrase of only dropped once comes to mind here. As this was the case a large number of these rifles were sent directly into Finnish service during the Finnish wars of 1939-40, 1941-44, and 1944-45. It was not at all uncommon to see M91/30's in the hands of front line Finnish troops, although the M91/30 was not seen in the same numbers as the M91 rifle. A number of these issued rifles were nothing more than standard Soviet versions, as there was no need for the Finns to rework or take action to repair these rifles. Oftentimes if any repair work was needed it was done in field armory positions setup on or near the front lines, as the Finns were in dire need of weapons due to their own losses in battle. These "field-armories" played quite a key role during the Finnish struggle, by keeping many troops on the front line equipped with arms in good working order.



Top is a Finnish capture of a Russian Cossack rifle, which is a rather uncommon item to encounter. On this example the handguard was replaced with one from a M91/30 rifle, but the rest of the configuration is original. It is unknown when this rifle fell into Finnish hands as it could be from the Finnish Civil War, the Winter War, the Continuation War, or even bought abroad. I have another such example with a Finnish stock and handguard in my collection. Below is an all matching Soviet M91/30 dated 1941 captured by the Finns and then reissued for Finnish use.




Top a SA marked 1937 dated Izhevsk Soviet M91/30 and below a Finnish marked and issued M1938 Carcano in 7.35mm. The Carcano was a common issue weapon to artillery units and it was also just as common for soldiers issued the Carcanos to replace them with a Mosin Nagant as soon as the opportunity presented itself. In many cases it was a M91/30 that replaced the Italian made carbine.


The captured M91/30's were also needed to replace the many non standard caliber arms that were in Finnish service, such as the M1938 Carcano in 7.35mm. One reason that might explain the apparent high issue of M91/30's to artillery and like units is that the newly captured M91/30's were used as the replacements for these non standard arms. It was common practice to issue the non standard caliber arms to units like artillery and as such it does seem to fit these units were the ones that would be in more dire need of replacement standard caliber rifles. It was also common to see at least a few M91/30 mixed into standard infantry units during all phases of the Finnish battles against the Soviets.




The Tikka M91/30

In 1943 the Finns began production of their own improved version of the M91/30. While it is clear this decision was made due to the high number of captured weapons parts on hand, the decision to undertake a new rifle production while preparing for a Soviet invasion is still an interesting one. The Finns were producing both the M39 and the M91 rifle at the time, so why the production of a new rifle was deemed necessary is not entirely clear. One would assume the Finns would have stayed with the production of rifles they had made for years, rather than undertaking new production and all the problems that startup might have entailed. It is thought Finns believed that with all the parts in their stockpiles - including the spare part M91/30's from Germany -, coupled with the need for weapons, that the production was a logical step. In reading various Finnish reports it seems the Finns had seriously investigated M91/30 production as early as late 1941, while M91 production was still underway at VKT and Tikka.



The Tikkakoski Works, known as Tikka for short, was to undertake the manufacture of the new barrels for the improved Finnish version of the M91/30. Tikka has long been an important manufacture of weapons and was also producing the M91 up to 1943. The final assembly of the rifles as completed works took place at the AV-3 plant at Kuopio. The rifles were not just to have new Tikka barrels but would also implement a number of Finnish alterations. Included in these alterations were a new stock and handguard, a new cleaning rod, as well as a new front sight.

The stocks and handguards were not made at Tikka, as the work was contracted out to a number of other firms, with there being 20,000 stocks and handguards made in this time frame. The handguards will have blued metal endcaps on the Finnish made examples as opposed to the non blued Soviet examples. As the assembly of the rifles was done at AV-3 one may encounter the AV-3 cartouche on the stocks of these rifles. The Finnish produced stocks are fatter and thicker than the standard Soviet version. These are commonly referred to as "pot belly" stocks as the area of the stock behind the splice is a bit "humped". One may also encounter the Tikka rifles with stocks that use Russian buttstocks with new Finnish forestocks spliced on. The Finnish cleaning rod is the M39 style, which had become the Finnish standard in or around 1940-41, with the cleaning rods being seen blued as well as in the white. Many of the Tikka made rifles will have the Finnish replacement blade front sight but it is not uncommon to locate examples with standard Soviet globe sights in place. This is more than likely due to a smaller number of Finnish sights on hand compared to a massive amount of Soviet sights in Finnish supply. It would make sense and be much more productive to use the Soviet sights in ready supply than to waste them.



Finnish improved raised blade front site with the standard Soviet globe sight on the right. On the right rifle is a Finnish made cleaning rod for the M91/30, which was of the M39 rod style. In or around 1940-41 the Finns went to a standard cleaning rod type just cut to different lengths depending on the rifle the rod was to be issued to. Both rifles are Tikka's one dated 1943 the other 1944.


Tikka produced just over 14,000 barrels to be used on the new Finnish rifles. In the first year of production -1943- approximately 5,000 of these 14,000+ barrels were produced, with the rest of the barrels having 1944 dates. It is interesting to note that approximately only 5,000 of these rifles were listed as being assembled by 1944, the end of the Finnish involvement in the Continuation War. The rest of the rifles were assembled post WW2 in Finnish arms works. There seems to be much conflicting information on the total number of these rifles produced, as well as the serial number ranges. Based on Finnish sources it appears that only around 12,000-13,000 of these rifles were ever completely assembled, even though there were 14,000+ barrels manufactured. These numbers seem to conflict with what some authors have stated on the matter as they have production numbers in the 24,000 range. The production numbers of 24,000 is based on the collection of known serial numbers.  The information that is based on serial number ranges is a bit new since it has only been in recent years these rifles were surplused – so it was only recently that researchers could start to compare serial numbers on a large scale.  What was found in looking at these numbers is there seemed to be no large breaks in the numbers, so it was unclear as to why the serial number range seemed to be much higher than the production totals out of Finland.  In doing some research in Finland I was able to find the answer to this question.  In speaking to Mr. Markku Palokangas in April of 2005, he informed me that the Finns were having massive issues with steel quality in the production of these barrels.  This was such an issue that many production barrels were scrapped as the quality was substandard.  The scrapping was done in complete lots as well as smaller lots, so one might loose 10 barrels in one batch, 100 in the next, 250 in the next, and so on.  Over time these losses added up and this explains why there can be a serial number range that is greater than actual production.  Since the numbers were added to the barrels before finial fitting to a rifle, if a barrel was scrapped or pulled the serial number was already assigned and would not be used again.  This still leaves between 1,000 and 2,000 barrels that were not fitted to rifles but it is known that in Finland one can find Tikka M91-30 barrels (just the barrels not barreled receivers or rifles) at shows as well as certain surplus shops.  It is assumed these are the left over and unused barrels that are now for sale to the public. 





One of the additions encountered in some of the re-worked Soviet and many of the Tikka produced rifles are the addition of Finnish sling swivels. The above example is from a Finnish manufactured stock. This is the same general swivels that one will find on Finnish Model 1891 rifles made at Tikka and VKT during WW2. These swivels are thin and will not take a standard Soviet M91/30 issue sling, as such a Finnish produced sling was issued for these rifles.


Most of the completed rifles make use of a hex receiver, indicating a M91 receiver or an earlier style M91/30 receiver. There are a small number of the Tikka M91/30's that have round receivers, which indicate a later style M91/30 receiver was used. The round receiver was implemented by the Soviets in or around 1937; however, while not the norm one can still encounter hex receiver Soviet rifles with dates past 1937. The exact number of these round receiver Tikka's is not known, but it is clear the numbers are rather low. These round receiver rifles are an interesting variant of the rifle to collect and many collectors have indeed snapped up these more uncommon versions.

Finnish made stock showing the splice used on the Finnish manufactured M91/30 stocks.


As only 5,000 were completed by war's end, the issue of these rifles was on a limited bases. While the Finns did issue these to some extent they would have to be thought of at best as a minor issue. These were not nearly as commonly encountered as the Soviet versions of the M91/30's present in Finnish stockpiles.


The Reworked Soviet Rifles

While a great number of the Soviet captured M91/30's were in issue condition, there were also examples that needed further repair or rework. These rifle ranged from modest repairs to complete need of overhaul. Some problems the Finns encountered were poorly cleaned bores or damaged crowns, broken stocks, hastily constructed rifles, damaged parts, as well as missing parts. For what ever the reason, these rifles could not be issued even with work from Finnish field armories. It was these captures that were sent to Finland for a more complete rework.



Two Soviet manufactured M91/30's that are Finnish captures. The rifle on the top shows a bit of damage as a section of the wood behind the bolt is missing. This is old damage as the cut has been smoothed and somewhat repaired for issue. The lower rifle also has damage to the bottom rear of the stock, also showing signs of an older repair. Both bolts of these rifles have been Finnish re-numbered to match. The top rifle does not have the groves to assist in removing the rear bands while the rifle below does have this stock feature in place. Neither rifle show any Finnish alteration but for the repairs, SA stamp, and re-number.



As these rifles could suffer from any number of problems, one can encounter quite a range of Finnish alteration or repair. Some of these captures will just have new stocks. Others will have new Finnish made front sights. One might also see Finnish sling swivels added to a standard Soviet stock. Cleaning rods can be of Finnish or Soviet origin. It is also clear the Finns counterbored a number of these rifles, to improve accuracy from worn or damaged barrels. There are also those that were in such poor condition they were used simply for parts even further adding to the large total of spare parts in stock. As one can encounter any number of small variations it can get a bit confusing what really could or should be called a "Finnish" M91/30 rifle. That is one reason the title of the article is Finnish Issue Of The Mosin Nagant Model 1891/1930 Rifle, as really that is the only safe way to phrase it.



Top is a captured M91/30 rifle and below a Finnish captured Model 1938 Carbine. Both the rifle and carbine slings are SA marked as Finnish issue. The carbine is interesting as there is a piece of metal embedded deep into the stock. It appears to be shrapnel. The carbines were a somewhat rare Finnish capture and are great collectors items. Both arms are as issued to Red Army troops with only the SA marking denoting Finnish capture.


The stocks on these rifles can also be a bit of mix and match. Some will still have the standard Soviet made stock, others might have the later Finnish made stocks, one can find Soviet stocks with Finnish swivels, and there are still others that use a Soviet rear stock with a new Finnish forestock spliced to it. There are even some examples that have been encountered that have older Soviet Dragoon rear stocks in place with a new Finnish forestocks added. The variations of stocks seen on these, as well as all the other Finnish issued M91/30's, can be quite a range. One can almost encounter anything which makes their collecting quite interesting.




A PI cut into the stock of a Finnish captured Soviet M91/30 rifle. This rifle has seen quite a bit of use and has a Finnish replacement front sight. The rifle is a 1934 dated Tula manufactured example.


There is an interesting marking that appears on these Finnish captured rifles, and it is a marking that has been debated a bit in collector's circles. This marking is a 41 and this marking appears on various Soviet rifles captured and re-issued to the Finns. Many have speculated this 41 represents the year 1941, so it was in 1941 that the rifles were reworked. Others have stated they have seen or own rifles that have dates later than 1941 that have this marking. As such I have never seen one with a date later than 1941. It can be rather safely assumed the 41 is indeed for the year 1941. It could indicate the year of rework or could have another meaning related to the year; however, this is not a common marking and it is possible it was only used for a short time in 1941. The Finns were indeed "experimenting" a bit with property markings in this time period, and this could well just be another example of this. Many that subscribe to the 41 as a date feel that rifles so marked can be identified as Winter War captures. That is not to say that all Winter War captures are so marked, just that some of the Finnish stockpile from the Winter War are identifiable in this manner. Whatever the meaning of the marking might be, the 41 stamped M91/30's are a nice addition to one's collection.




Of all the "Finnish M91/30's" these reworked Soviets are in many regards some of the more interesting to encounter. Personally I have even encountered Soviet converted Dragoon rifles with Finnish replacement M91/30 front sights and also in Finnish M91/30 stocks. I should note the original conversion or update of the Dragoon rifles to M91/30 specs was done by the Soviets and not the Finns. There are no records that I am aware of that shows the Finns directly converted Dragoon M91's to M91/30's. In the case of the rifles mentioned above the Finns just replaced the globe front sights the Soviets added during the original conversion of the Dragoons to M91/30 rifles. It is just about endless what one might come across, and as such these variants do indeed create an interesting sideline in Finnish collecting. It just goes to further prove just how creative the Finns could be with captured weapons. It also opens the door for the new collector as in most cases the prices of such rifles are very reasonable.


Finnish Issue M91/30's

The collector's status of the Tikka manufactured rifles is one that at times has been unclear and often debated; however, the reality is the Tikka M91/30 is a low production Finnish manufactured Mosin Nagant of excellent quality with most being in magnificent condition. As a great number of these were never directly issued, the condition is almost new in many cases. The majority of these were not assembled during the fighting and as such there is no shortcut or let up in the quality of these rifles due to wartime pressures. Simply put they are as well made as any Finnish Mosin Nagant Rifle. It is also quite probable that with some looking a collector can find one of the Tikka's with the original Finnish hangtag still in place, which is always a welcomed addition to any collection. For the shooter the lack of issue can mean a minty or like new bore to take to the local range. As a whole these are very accurate rifles, limited in accuracy only by the ability of the shooter. There are many shooters that favor the Tikka M91/30's over any other Finnish Mosin Nagant. This says quite a lot as the Finnish M28/30 and M39 are considered two of the most accurate military rifles one can encounter.

While some might be able to question the quality of the Soviet made rifles when compared to the Finnish made, there is no doubt of the historical significance of the captured Soviet made Mosin Nagants. The M91/30 was the main battle rifle of the Red Army during the fighting against Finland in both the Winter and Continuation Wars, so it is hard to overlook the history of these captures. Many of these were taken in direct fighting so are true war veterans, whose history should be both remembered and respected. Personally I own a number of the Soviet made Finnish captured M91/30's and think quite a bit of them as collector's items. While not often encountered the older Dragoons updated to M91/30 specs -Note: upgraded by the Soviets not by the Finns- have to rank as a great find for the Mosin Nagant collector. Lastly in regards to the ever-present quality issue, there is the genuine reality that these rifles were reworked by the Finns to indeed be improved rifles. Poor bores or crowns were counterbored, stocks were more carefully fitted, new parts were fitted, and overall more time was paid to the general function of the rifle. As such in many regards these captured rifles are improved versions of the Soviet model in their own right.





Two Soviet M91/30 bayonets that are SA marked, denoting a Finnish capture. While the Finns captured massive numbers of these bayonets, most are not so marked. Those that have the SA marking intact are indeed nice items for the collector.


As stated earlier in the article the added bonus is the fact that one can come across quite a range of rifles that the Finns issued. Each rifle in some regards has its own personality and shows its own traits. It is not at all uncommon for collectors to have a number of these rifles in their collection, and none of them being exactly the same in configuration. One can really get quite the spice of life in these rifles. They also further prove just how proficient the Finns were at making do with what they had on hand during the fighting. The rifles are a testament to the ability of the Finns to get functional and quality rifles into their soldiers hands in a short period of time.

It is very important to remember just what a key role these rifles played in the history of Finland. While many collectors and historians know the role played by rifles such as the M27, M28/30, M39, or M91, there are those that seem to forget the M91/30 rifle. This service was not only in the time of war but also the use in the post war years. At the end of the war the Finns had over 93,000 M91/30's, of various makes, in their stockpiles. As Finland is not a large nation without a sizeable standing army, this number of rifles represents a respectable ratio of their total arms in stock. While over the years these rifles have been released for sale, the largest number of these rifles were still in Finn storage until the 1980's. So yes, the M91/30 rifle was indeed a key in Finland's fight for freedom and should not be overlooked.

Most of the information for this article has come from rifles in my personal collection and from the collections of good friends. Added photos and insight also from Vic Thomas, Kevin Carney, as well as a number of collectors around the world. They all have my thanks. More detailed information on these arms, or any Finnish arms for that matter, can be located in the works of Finnish author/researcher Markku Palokangas. Make sure to see the photo section for more information and photos covering much of what this article discussed.

Arma Fennica Sotilasaseet-T. Hyytinen (Finnish Version)

MHC Vic Thomas

Kevin Carney - North China Arms

Sotilaskasiaseet Suomessa 1918-1991 Vol1-3-M. Palokangas: Vammalan Kirijapaino Oy

Many years of personal notes, interviews, and observations of the author

Photos




Top sling is a Finnish canvas sling used for the M91/30 rifle. This is a thinner sling than the Soviet M91/30 version seen below it. The thinner size allows its use with the Finnish added sling swivels. Below photo is a close-up of the SA markings on a Soviet M91/30 sling. There are other slings made of leather that are Finnish made that one can also encounter on Finnish swiveled M91/30's. In many cases M91 slings were used.




Top is a Finnish stock made for the M91/30 rifle. These lack the grooves seem on some of the Soviet versions behind the rear barrel bands. One can also see how the Finnish stock is a bit thicker than the Soviet example, giving them the name "pot bellied".





Top: A photo of the stock splice on a Finnish made stock.

Middle: A close up of the blued endcaps of a Finnish made handguard.

Lower: The letters PI cut into the stock of a Finnish captured M91/30. Tula 1934.




A good photo from Kevin Carney that clearly shows the 41 stamping that is sometimes located on these captured rifles.



A Tula manufactured M91/30 captured by the Finns.



The 41 marking from the Tula rifle above.




A close-up of the 41 marking from the above rifle. As one can see by looking over these photos, there seems to be a slightly different font of the stamp that is encountered.



The 41 stamping from a 1938 dated rifle.



A last look at the 41. Kevin reports that the earliest rifle he has seen with the 41 was a 1920 dated example of a Finnish capture.


An interesting carbine. This is a so called M91/59 carbine, which is a Soviet postwar cutdown of the M91/30 rifle. What makes this rifle interesting is that it was once a Tikka made M91/30. As such this was a rifle whose receiver was once captured from the Soviets, reworked into a new rifle in Finland, captured back by the Soviets, then later reworked into a carbine. As stated a very interesting carbine of which there are only two such examples that I know of.


Another odd version of M91/30 reworked by the Finns. This rifle from the authors collection has a 1943 Tula made barrel but is fitted on an older M91 receiver. The receiver still has the Imperial Russian eagles intact, which can be seen on the right of the photo. The rifle is SA stamped, has a new Finnish stock, original M91/30 globe sight, as well as a Finnish hang tag. This is just one more example of the oddball rifles that can be lumped into the category of "Finnish M91/30's". It is known that the Soviets in WW2 at times used older receivers and fitted them with new barrels. It is also possible the Finns did this but it is more likely the fitting was done by the Soviets.


 
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