Sniper Rifles of
The Red Star
Nagant M91/30 and Variants
principal task of the sniper is the destruction of the most
important enemy targets he can find. Officers, observers,
scouts, liaison officers, enemy snipers, gun crews, trench
mortars and machine guns, anti-tank rifleman and motorcycle
skirmishers are to be his primary targets. He shall blind
enemy armored car and tank drivers by firing at their vision
visors. He is capable of independent action under the most
difficult conditions of battle. (2)
statement was from an official Soviet military publication
dated October of 1943. It clearly shows the importance the
Red Army gave to the sniper in its ranks. The Soviet Union
more so than any other combatant in W.W.II, used the sniper
in the greatest numbers and capacities. The sniper was a key
element in the doctrine and actions taken by the Red Army
on a platoon or company basis. He served as the eyes and ears
as well as the unseen soldier that bogged down and created
fear amongst the enemy. No other nation involved in W.W.II
fielded as many snipers as the USSR. Both men and women served
in this capacity to a devastating effect.
were often given on the platoon or company level to directly
support the actions of the group. Whether it is for scouting
or the elimination of key enemy personal in preparation of
an attack or in defense, the sniper was always involved. In
a defensive position, as the Soviets found themselves so often
in the early portion of Operation Barbarosa, the sniper served
as an observer to enemy movements. These observations were
quickly relayed back to the company commander and up the chain
of command. When need be the sniper used his hidden position
to slow the enemy advance and to hamper armored vehicles with
aimed fire at the drivers slits with 7.62mm AP rounds.
The Soviet policy was to operate the sniper in pairs
or teams, a shooter and an observer to record necessary data
or scout for targets. Many times the snipers formed small
groups of 3-5 to bring concentrated fire upon advancing troops,
resulting in slowing the advance with a devastating effect
on morale not to mention manpower. Often times the Soviet
sniper allowed the advance to pass by his concealed position
in order to bring fire upon the officers directing the attack
from the rear. When operating in these groups it was not uncommon
for the observer or other team members to be armed with a
sub- machine-gun to provide close quarters support should
they be detected.
PE and PEM (1932-1940,1942)
Soviet Union took the task of telescopically aimed riflemen
very seriously early on. The use of snipers to tie down
enemy troop concentrations was not lost on the Soviets in
their brief experiences in the First World War. In response
to the use of snipers by both sides in the conflict, the Soviets
began testing and obtaining optical sights from aboard, primarily
from the Carl Zeiss company in Germany. The serious experimentation
with telescopically sighted rifles began in the mid 1920s.
Initial experimentation began by mounting commercial scopes
then military contracted optics upon the m/91 Dragoon. (photo
During those early years of the Russian sniper program, the Soviets did not have the ability or equipment to mass produce optical lens's and so forth. Partly due to money nd partly due to facilities. So in the infancy of the Soviet sniper program of the early 1920's the Red Army had to look elsewhere for optical equipment and mounts. The primary source of fine optics in that day was Germany. So orders were placed for several different optical sights from makers such as Zeiss, Busch, Hensoldt and Voightlander to name a few.
The purpose of these scopes was to conduct trials with various mounting systems provided. The spit bridge tube by Zeiss was tried but found to be over complicated. The version that drew the most attention was a side mounted bracket with base developed by the Gustav Genschow company known as "GECO" commercially by the logo for "Genschow Company". This mounting system was a large dovetailed base that allowed a mating split ring one piece mount to be slid on and affixed with a large thumb screw. The rings were solid and required the scope to be silver soldered in place.
After many trials and errors the decision was to proceed with roughly 170 of these types of mounts fit to Mosin Nagant rifles model 1891 (dragoon length as this was the standard length in 1926). Two types were used. The first had no provision for the range plate on the side of the mount. That was because the scopes were made with range graduations that were not based upon the 1907 cartridge in 7.62x54r. The shooter was supposed to "memorize" the correct adjustments. This style of scope and mount was known as the Dynamo 2. This system used a large thumb screw that was attached to the base by use of a small chain attached to the front of the mount and to the thumb screw itself so it would not be lost. This system was used on rifles assembled at the "Dynamo" shooting facility run by the NKVD at the time and became known as the D-2 system. The scopes used were the Zeiss manufactured optics whose components were made in Germany and assembled then shipped to the Zeiss affiliate Nedinsco located in the Netherlands. This allowed Germany to circumvent the restrictions placed upon them by the Versailles treaty that ended WW1. The scopes sold through this outlet are marked with the Nedinsco logo and such a marking was to indicate that they were purchased "commercially" and not under a militray contract.
These mounts are reproductions of the originals and can be purchased if any remain from the seller. If you are interested in a reproduction D2 or D3 mount and scope please contact "Feldscher" at email@example.com and see the review of these mounts on the sniper forum located at
Gunboards.com Sniper Forum
The second system produced at Dynamo had an improved scope that allowed lateral adjustment for windage on the side of the tube and a slightly modified mount. The mount now had a ballistic plate attached to the side that allowed the shooter a quick reference as to the proper setting of the range on the elevation dial for the 54r cartridge. Also the chain was removed from the mount as it proved bothersome in snagging on clothing and items..
the 1930s the Soviets had adopted a style of mount and
scope based upon Zeiss designs, and had begun production.
The adoption of the model 91/30 fitted with a telescopic sight
of Soviet manufacture but based upon Zeiss designs, and reportedly
manufactured with machinery purchased from Zeiss, was in 1931.
By the following year of 1932 the first rifles were in production
and being distributed to the Army. The rifles were fitted
with a unique over the bore mounting system that incorporated
a base that mimicked the hexagonal shape of the receiver.
The base was retained on the rifle with 6 screws, 3 per side
and often times silver soldered as well. The mount
was a uniquely Soviet design. It was a two-ring set up with
a rectangular shape. The center being open to allow use of
the rifles iron sights should the need arise. It was retained
upon the base by two large thumbscrews. These screws when
tightened forced a triangular wedge against the angled rail
of the base. A block retained in the rear of the mount provided
the correct placement in regard for forward seating of the
system was fairly effective in providing a reasonable self-zeroing
effect. The scope was of a 30mm tube diameter and initially
was focus adjustable by means of a knurled focus ring on the
rear ocular. Some transitional versions are known and have
been examined that use a focus ring set in front of the rear
lens housing. These examples are dated between 1935 and 1937
and seem to bridge the gap in PE production changes between
the PE and the PEM. A standard European three-post
reticule was used.
scope with focus capability was referred to as the PE and
in Soviet nomenclature is "unified model"(3).
There are some references which refer to it as a VT; however,
no other documentation can be found that explains this use
so in this reference the scope will be referred to as the
PE scope. The rifles to be used for snipers were specifically
selected and a more precise polishing of the bore and chamber
area was undertaken as well as a trigger tuned for smoother
operation and lighter pull. The fitting of the stock and bolt
were held to a better tolerance as well. A small amount of
stock relief was needed to accommodate the base when seated
upon the receiver. Production of the PE sniper rifles of the
Red Army began at the Tula arsenal in 1932 when 749 rifles
were produced and remained there until 1940.
bolt of the new sniper rifle was turned down and elongated
to allow clearance of the mounted optics. The PE scope was
an improved Zeiss design according to the Soviets and the
initial production version with focus capability-the PE- remained
in production from 1932 to 1936. These initial production
versions utilized brass lens fittings, which were later replaced
with aluminum or steel. In 1936 a simplified version was produced
and the earlier model discontinued. The new scope was referred
to as a PEM, "unified model-modernized"(3) . It
was identical to the earlier model but for the lens fittings
and the lack of the focus adjustment capability.
Top PEM Bottom
at this time the base for mounting the scope was changed as
well to correspond to the newly modified receiver shape of
the Mosin Nagant m/91-30 in the later half of 1936. This new
base was changed from the earlier hexagonal shape to the round
interior needed to fit upon the new round receivers.
was retained in the identical fashion as earlier and the mount
was not changed at all. This version of the rifle, top mounted
scope and round receiver remained in production for approximately
1.5 years, until 1938. Another version of the round receiver
base also appeared at this time, 1936-1937, in extremely limited
numbers. This base utilized only two screws-front and rear
of the base on each side. This base was used with the transitional
version of the PE/PEM scope with the tube mounted focus ring.
This base and configuration is the rarest of the PE/PEM styles
and only a few are known. It was produced in extremely limited
numbers prior to the return of the six screw version as reported
by my friend and colleague Karl-Heinz Wrobel, author of Drei
Linien Die Gewehre Mosin Nagant.
1938 the PEM was again modified to a newly adopted mounting
system. This system moved the base and the optical mount to
the left side of the receiver in a long side rail
configuration. This new system used a raised wedge shaped
rail upon the base to retain the mount. A protruding pin mated
to a slot in the mount indicated full seating of the mounted
optics. The mount itself was retained in place by a lone thumb
screw that was conically shaped at the tip to provide a self
seating capability when screwed into the corresponding hole
in the base. Again a self zeroing system was attained.
The new mounting system incorporated the PEM scope again and
was used until the rifle was discontinued as a sniper in the
spring of 1940. The rifle was discontinued in favor of the
self-loading SVT 40 fitted with optical sights that were specifically
produced for the rifle. These short optics would later be
redesigned and fitted to the venerable Mosin Nagant in a sniping
role only two short years later. The side mount
PEM is a respectable sniper but its weight was increased dramatically
by the large base and mounting system. It is the heaviest
of the Mosin Nagant snipers at 10.5lbs compared to 9.5lbs
for the earlier versions using the top mount system.
the 1930s the Soviet Union possessed a considerable
number of sniper rifles. A Soviet document indicates that
54,160 rifles were produced in the PE form between 1932 and
1938. Production of the PE was very slow at first due to the
complicated and time consuming nature of machining the mounts.
Production in the first year of 1932 was only 749. In subsequent
years, recorded numbers are as follows. 1,347 in 1933, 6,637
in 1934 and 12,752 top mount hex and round receiver PE/PEMs
in 1936. No data is given for production in 1935 as all Mosin
production was slowed considerably that year. 13,130 top mount
round receiver PEMs were produced in 1937 and 19,545
of the new long side rail mounted PEMs were made in
1938. No production numbers are available for the final two
years of PEM production. (1) While many rifles were randomly
selected for accuracy potential, there is an indication from
my research and that of a friend/colleague (4) that blocks
of snipers were produced at Tula. This is supported by a sampling
of PE snipers all in the same letter prefix and serial number
block indicating a planned production and not a random pull
of rifles off the line. All Tula produced snipers, including
the later version produced during wartime in 1943 and 1944,
bear an accuracy mark above the five-pointed star logo of
the factory. This proof is a C and an upside down
U for lack of a better description of Cyrillic
letters. This marking is the designation of sniper
on Tula produced guns. The marking literally translates to
" Snayperskaya Provernnaya" meaning tested for use
as a sniper. .
markings of a sniper rifle manufactured by the famed Tula arsenal.
Note the "cn" marking above the star indicating
manufacture as a "snipers" rifle. This marking is
only found on Tula produced rifles.
did not mark their rifles in this unique way to differentiate
them from standard rifles. The production of Mosin Nagant
snipers was halted at Tula in 1940. By October of 1942, the
SVT40 proved to be a failure as a consistently accurate sniper
rifle. Manufacture of the Mosin Nagant m/91-30 was again ordered
back to full production capacity at both Ishevsk and Tula.
The need for a capable, accurate snipers rifle was urgently
needed. Ishevsk began production of the Mosin Nagant side
mount PEM in early 1942. This production was a stopgap
to provide optically sighted rifles for the front until the
newly designed and still in its infancy, m/91-30 PU,
could be swung into full production. A 1942 dated PEM is an
extremely rare rifle. Only one is reported in US collections.
Tula did not produce any snipers of Mosin Nagant configuration
from its last PEM in 1940 until its resumption
of production with the PU in 1943.
use of the PE/PEM scope was the Finnish army during W.W.II.
On every occasion that presented itself the Finnish army captured
and reissued any m/91-30 sniper rifles they had. Most were
returned to front line service immediately upon capture but
those that suffered damage were returned to the arms depots
for either repair or cannibalization of the optical components
and mounting hardware. The rifles captured by Finland and
in use were given a special code designation of TJ34 to hide
the use from enemy spies (4). The number of rifles that were
captured during the Winter War was rather small due to the
Soviets doctrine trained snipers. These soldiers were not
normal conscripts but highly trained professional
soldiers and thus they did not tend to surrender easily. The
bulk of Finnish captured sniper rifles came from positions
quickly overrun. Soviet snipers were trained to damage or
destroy their equipment in the event of defeat or imminent
capture. The other problem encountered was the propensity
of Finnish soldiers to keep the captured rifles as war booty
and not report them. An inventory in June of 1940 indicated
that 213 sniper rifles of almost exclusively the top mount
PE design was in store.
m/91-30 PE sniper rifle bearing the capture marking of Finnish
forces. This gun was more than likley captured during the
105 days of the Winter War as very few sniper rifles of any
kind were captured during the Continuation War or WW2 by Finnish
illustrate the difficulty in capturing these rifles and the
lack of reporting to company commanders, the inventory of
rifles from the Continuation War declined dramatically. In
1941-1942 the first year of the Continuation War, only 32
rifles were reported captured to divisional HQ. The following
year of 1942-1943 only 24 more were reported captured and
finally in the last year of hostilities a meager 11 were reported
captured. That gives a total of only 67 the entire three years
of the Continuation War. (4) A veteran of both Finnish wars
reports to me that number is truly a fabrication as he had
some 6 in his unit alone for some time and knew of many, many
more. He reports that these guns were prized hunting rifles
and often disappeared quickly! (5). Initially
the captured units that were damaged were kept for repair
of other rifles that were captured and required parts, but
the inability of the Finnish war industry to meet the demands
for sufficient quantities of optical sights soon found these
mounts and scopes being fitted to the m/39 rifle.
mount and base arraingment
match of Soviet mounts and optics as well as bases to the
m/39 created the Finnish armys m/39SOV sniper rifle.
Supply of captured optics and their mounts soon was not meeting
the demand for sufficient numbers and the Army placed an order
with the State Rifle Factory or VKT, to begin production of
a Finnish version of the Soviet over the bore mount for the
PE as well as bases. VKT did begin production and approximately
150 units were produced to be used on the m/39SOV in conjunction
with captured PE/PEM scopes from 1943-1944.
order was also given to begin production of 2000 telescopic
sights and parts were obtained from abroad to begin this project
but it was never realized and abandoned. The bolts of the
m/39 were elongated and turned down to provide clearance of
the mounted optics and some minor stock relief was done to
accommodate the mounting of the base. Only 200 or so rifles
were produced during the war. This rifle is one of the rarest
snipers of W.W.II, as well as all Finnish used sniper rifles
owing to the extremely small numbers produced and or captured.
new model 91-30 PU sniper was hurried into production in 1942
as the field reports regarding the SVT40 sniper were not promising.
Even after various attempts to remedy its first shot
inaccuracy; they were not corrected sufficiently for the SVT40
to remain the primary sniper rifle of the Red Army. In October
of 1942 the SVT 40 was no longer produced in a configuration
that would mount an optical sight. The PU sniper rifle was
an attempt to update and lighten the earlier PE/PEM and restore
to the sniper the first shot accuracy that is so crucial .
The Red Army was pleased with the new 3.5x short scope that
was designed for the SVT series of rifles and decided to continue
its use with the new PU in a slightly altered form.
The new scope was to do away with the raised seating portion
of the scope in its center that allowed proper placement in
the SVT mount. It also streamlined the tube to a consistent
diameter from front to back to simplify manufacture. The initial
PU scopes though did however have some design features of
the earlier PE/PEM scope. These early scopes were constructed
using some prototype patterns, materials and design. The earliest
of the scopes produced for use in 1942 had an elevation and
windage housing very much like the earlier PE scopes.
close up of the aluminium or "Silium alloy" scope windage and elevation housings.
Alloy early scope for the PU sniper rifle. Many of the features
were hold overs from the earlier PE series of scopes like
the tureet housings and brass lens retainers.
lens fittings were also made using the earlier brass fittings.
Some tubes were manufactured using a lightweight alloy, presumably
aluminum, to lighten the weight. These scopes are extremely
rare. These features were quickly abandoned in favor of the
final result that emerged in late 1942-early 1943. These scopes
utilized a steel tube and fittings. The tube was now streamlined
to an even diameter from front to back. The windage and elevation
knobs now protruded directly from the tube. A new mount and
base was also developed for the rifle. A side-mounted base
on the left of the receiver was agreed upon as the last previously
produced PEM was. This mount was again simplified to provide
a basic self zeroing feature. A small knob in
the anterior acted as a ball and socket for the
mount and the rear of the mount was held in place by a large
knurled thumbscrew through pressure. Vertical rough elevation
was done with the use of an upper and lower set screw on the
base as well.
And Socket arraingment of the PU scope mount and base.
base was affixed to the left side of the receiver by means
of two locating pins and two screws. The screws were retained
and prevented from loosening by two setscrews. (see above
photo) The receiver of the new rifle also was different. The
left wall of the receiver was not milled out to an angle sloping
towards the wood line as in previous standard infantry rifles
to reduce weight. It remained high to provide
a high wall to affix and support the scope base.
This feature was also used in the lean mid-war years as a
time saving production procedure. This feature can also be
observed on the carbine variants. After rough elevation was
attained the screws were either staked or noted in a notebook
of their position and not touched again and conventional zeroing
was undertaken. The earliest versions of the new mount, which
rose vertically then at a right angle to place the scope over
the bore, utilized two small cutouts in the center portion
to reduce weight and bulk.
proved to time consuming and the feature was dropped in favor
of two dished out slots and one large cutout. The mount incorporated
two split rings that allowed the scope to be slid into the
mount from the rear and then tightened by four screws, two
in each ring. It was a simple and effective design. The snipers
were initially not impressed with the new rifle and scope.
They favored the earlier 4x scope, which provided a larger
field of view and an easier eye relief. The new rifles
scope is placed higher up so slight adjustments needed to
be done before becoming comfortable with the arraignments.
The rifle soon won over its users and became a favorite
owing to its smaller scope which eased handling and
the reduced weight from the earlier PEM. The rifle proved
to be deadly accurate. Range estimation was taught by placing
and measuring the amount of target mass between the horizontal
cross hairs which were as before on the PE, a typical European
three post design. Typical target engagements were 200-400
meters but many were undertaken at its extreme range of 900
production was undertaken at five different optical firms.
Each of these firms stamped the logo of the factory on the
scope tube as well as the date of production and the serial
number. Many scopes do not exhibit a date and it is not known
as of yet why this is so. It is possible that these scopes
are replacement or inventory models. One maker did not use
a traditional date as the others did. They incorporated the
year of production into the serial number of the scope. The
first two digits identified the year of manufacture. An example
of this would be the traditional marking of 1943 - 23455,
while the other maker would mark this scope as 4323455. The
dating of the scopes began in 1932 and ended in 1945 with
the close of the war. PE scopes were initially dated on the
rear inside the optical makers rectangular logo. Later
PEM scopes were dated on the side of the elevation turret
with the makers logo appearing on the rear bell.
Many PU scopes exhibit an "inspection/refurbishment
date upon the tube below the optical makers logo. The
diagonal slashed box proof of the refurbishment often splits
these. Dates observed are often in the 50s through late
60s. Some are marked POM 59 indicating an inspection
repair in 1959. The PU remained the Red Armys primary
sniper scope through 1962 when the self-loading SVD or Dragunov
is not unusual to see some SVT scopes used in a PU sniper
mount. The quantity of SVT scopes on hand at the close of
production was considerable and these scopes being useable
in the new PU mount were fitted until existing supplies were
exhausted. These scopes are often the 1942 and 1943 dated
examples, early 1943 being the last year of SVT scope production.
of the PU sniper began at the Ishevsk arsenal in early 1942
and remained in production there through 1944. No known examples
recorded or observed are dated 1945. In the excellent book
Drei Linien Die Gwehere Mosin Nagant by Karl-Heinz
Wrobel, he reports that 2483 rifles were produced at Ishvesk
in 1946. An example known in the authors collection is dated
1947. A small batch of 150, 50 in 1948 and 100 in 1958 were
produced at Ishevsk. (3) Total Ishvesk production of the PEM
and PU sniper rifles from 1942 through 1958 amounts to approximately
275,250 rifles. Ishevsk in its first year of production
in 1942 produced 53,195 alone. (1)
began production of the Mosin Nagant sniper rifle again in
1943 and 1944 . This brief production was of only the PU variant.
The production totals are not known for the Tula produced
weapons that can be differentiated from the combined totals
recorded. There are some small production deviances
between the Tula produced guns and the Ishevsk made guns,
such as stamped magazine covers that can be found on some
Tula produced snipers. Fit and finish seem to be more consistent
on Ishvesk made guns in comparison. The Tula made PU is by
far the rarer of the two makers.
PU sniper and PE/PEM were issued with some specialized accessories
specific to a sniper rifle. The primary accessory would be
the scope/breech cover. This cover was used to protect the
optical package both mounted and dismounted from the rifle
of dirt, debris and field wear. There at least 12 different
versions of this cover depending on time frame and country
of manufacture should you consider the post war Warsaw Pact
makers. The earliest versions for the PE have two variations.
One with an exterior pocket and one without.
are constructed of a rough khaki colored cotton weave material
trimmed in leather for reinforcement. The end caps of the
cover that were placed at each end of the scope were also
reinforced with leather. Some of these covers had exterior
pockets to hold the optical cleaning tools and field bore
sights for scope calibration. A leather strap and buckle
attachment secured the cover over the mounted optics by passing
through the trigger guard. A separate buckle was sometimes
fitted to the top of the bag on the exterior to allow the
cover to be rolled up and secured to protect the mount and
scope while dismounted from the rifle. The scope was issued
with a set of lens caps connected by a leather strap. These
covers were then twisted around the scope to tighten them
securely. Later versions of the scope cover for the PE /PEM
were of darker green cotton and used a tie string to secure
it to the rifle.
Later light weight cotton cover
early version of the PU cover mimicked that of the PE/PEM
and SVT covers but without the exterior pocket. The pocket
was instead moved to the interior of the cover and any cleaning
materials or optical records were placed there. These covers
have a wide range of variants. At least 12 alone in the PU
range from the earliest version described above to a simple
tie string pattern introduced in 1942. There are variation
in the strap and its length, short to go through the
trigger guard and longer to go around the magazine and back
up to the buckle. Post war Warsaw Pact versions are of different
material from a rough weave as the Soviet version but of a
deep olive green used by Poland. And bordered in white cloth
and tie. A light buff color cotton cover marked 0/2 on the
interior with an ink stamping identifies a Hungarian made
cover for the m/52 sniper rifle. The lens caps have also as
many variants as the covers. The standard Soviet lens covers
are a light brown to dark brown mixture of leather. The Hungarian
lens caps tend to be a very light almost whites leather while
the East German covers were made of plastic with a plastic
cord connecting them. No unusual varianances are
know in Polish caps as no large grouping of them have been
observed. The Poles used refurbished PU snipers and it is
an educated guess that the covers were not different in any
substantial degree. The covers on the authors Polish made
PU are of dark chocolate brown leather.
were the standard issue m/91-30 slings for the Soviet sniper;
both web and leather versions. The Polish produced slings
for the sniper and all long rifles are identified by a bright
green color and green painted buckles. Often a P-1 within
a diamond will appear as an ink stamp on the slings interior.
The Hungarian sling was a light tan colored sling of all leather
construction and polished steel riveted fixtures. Markings
on the interior will include possibly a date as well as a
of the snipers were primarily of a hardwood construction.
A Soviet gun exhibiting the standard red/orange hue and varnish
finish. The Soviets did however experiment with a laminated
stock for the Infantry rifles beginning in 1943. This included
the m/38, m/44 and the m/91-30 including the PU sniper. These
are extremely rare variants and rarely encountered.
Two variants seem to be evident, varnished and unvarnished.
These snipers in this type of stock are all reported to be
Tula made guns. It is evident that the Soviet experimentation
with the use of laminated stocks began in 1943 as no known
weapons dated prior to 1943 are reported to have this type
of stock. A matching set of unvarnished laminated Mosin Nagants
are in the authors collection m/38 ,m/44, m/91-30 and m/91-30
PU all dated 1943. These stocks have an additional rear cross
bolt/recoil lug installed in the wrist area.
With the conclusion of heavy fighting during the Second World War, precise aimed gunfire proved to be extremely effective and demoralizing on enemy troops and proved to be of great importance, particularly on the eastern front. After the war, the Czechoslovak Army was interested in several types of scoped rifles and had several different versions to examine and try of both Soviet and German production. A decision was made to develop several sniper rifles based upon the standard caliber of the Czech Arm at the time-the 7.92mm cartridge in an effort to unify the equipment of Czech design and production. A promising trial design was the ZG49 Sn that was built in the 7.92 caliber. The requirements of the army soon changed after Soviet intervention and the caliber of the rifles in development were changed to the Russian 7.62x54rcartridge of the Red Army. Design changes also were undertaken to the stock and sights of the rifle to become the ZG51 Sn. The designator of “sn” apparently indicating a trial rifle that is of a scoped version of the weapon. These developments and trials were undertaken at the production facility located in Brno Zbrojovce in eastern Czechoslovakia.. With the new caliber designation of 54r, a final production model was presented to the army in December of 1953 and would be soon adopted as the Vz 54 sniper rifle. This production project was undertaken and completed again at the arsenal located at Brno and overseen by the designer Otkar Galase
VZ54 sniper rifle
Czech Army also produced a variant of the m/91-30 PU sniper
rifle. The rifle was produced at Povzske Strajirny Narodni
Podnik in Slovokia. This translates to the Povazska Engineering
Peoples Enterprise and is abbreviated on the weapon as SHE.
This version initially called the Vz-51 but was later refined and produced in greater numbers
as the Vz54. This weapon outwardly resembles a Mosin mated
with some Mauser style features. These include the front and
rear sights as well as the lock screws that Mausers utilized.
The stock on this gun is only a half stock, being cut to expose
the barrel just in front of the rear barrel band. The bolt
knob of the rifle was designed to allow the tightening and
loosening of the scope mount retaining screws. The head portion
of the screws had a raised slot that corresponded to a recessed
slot in the bolt head. While the initial production versions
used a Soviet PU scope the later versions incorporated a Czech
designed scope of 2.5 power marked Yal 2.5x and the crossed
swords marking of Czech military acceptance.
rubber eyecup was also issued with the scope as a sun shield
for the rear ocular. This scope was affixed to the rifle on
the left side by an angled rail that allowed the scope to
be centered over the bore. The mount was also swept back to
improve the scope position in terms of eye relief.
buttplate on this model is also similar to a Mauser style
and is checkered. The rifle stock is the only version that
utilized a pistol grip design in the wrist area. The bolt
on the scope was designed to also allow the tightening and
loosening of the scope mount retaining screws. These screws
passed vertically through the mount and base then tightened
securely. The head portion of the screws had a raised slot
that corresponded to a recessed slot ion the bolt head. Thus
the bolt could be used to remove or tighten the mount. The
gun was issued with a unique breech/scope cover as well. It
again was reminiscent of the Mauser design with a full coverage
of the mounted optics and action from the rear sight to the
wrist of the rifle.
was affixed with two leather straps and buckles. Inside the
cleaning rods, oiler, jag and brush, as well as the colored
lens filters in their fitted bakealite case. These filters
were gray for sunny days, red for dusky times and yellow for
low light conditions. Also a rain shield that snapped on the
end of the scope and of a wire grid design in the end was
stored in the cover. These rifles are considered extremely
rare and not often encountered in the US.
The Vz54 served in the Czech Army from its adoption in 1954 to the 1970’s where the weapon was finally replaced with the Russian semi automatic snipers rifle, the SVD-63. The Vz54 was then removed to serve in secondary units like the SNB which was the initial name of the National Security Corps. This unit would later be renamed the URN. The Vz54 would serve 14 more years alongside the SVD-63 in such service before an updated design was required. In the early 1990’s some refinements and improvements to the rifle were done to improve its performance and update its abilities. A new wooden stock was designed and fit to the rifle which incorporated an adjustable cheekpiece for a proper sight picture and the addition of a removable adjustable bipod to provide stability in the firing position. The rifle was also reequipped with the scope (4x25) and mount of the SVD-63 rifle. This optical package added a range finding reticule and an illuminated reticule for low light conditions. The optical sight could be safely removed as well without losing its zero. This new rifle was designated the Vz54/91 and would continue to serve in the URN and other provincial police and security agencies until its eventual replacement a few years later by the SSG-3000 rifle.
The rifle now retired from military serve have found their way into the surplus market was they are prized rifles in shooting sport clubs and with military and police competitions. Exact numbers of the Vz54/91 rifles are not known but the rifles command a high price on the Czech sport markets and are highly sought after by shooting enthusiasts. Heavy weighted bullets are preferred to be used in this rifle such as the Czech Tz bullet of 11.75gr.
the Finnish Army did not produce the m/91-30 sniper rifle
of the PU version, they did use them when captured. Small
numbers were captured during the Continuation War and, as
before, put back into service immediately. Those that required
repair were often returned to the arms depot were necessary
work was performed. In some instances the guns were modified
to some Finnish specifications either by order or just by
availability of parts. The author has two Finnish captured
PU snipers; one is a typical Soviet gun made at Ishvesk in
1942 that exhibits little change if any. The other is a first
year production gun from Ishvesk dated 1942 that has undergone
some major modifications. Its stock has been replaced
with a Finnish made version and the front sight changed to
the Finnish style high blade. The bolt also has been renumbered
to match. These snipers are again extremely difficult to obtain
in original shape. It is not known exactly how many PU snipers
were captured by Finnish forces, the numbers reported are
insignificant quantities numbering less than 100
(4). Unfortunately Century International Arms built many replica
PU snipers using Finnish captured m/91-30 rifles they had
on hand. These guns are easily detectable though as they are
often ,if not always, in the improper date ranges. Almost
all are 1930s production were an authentic PU sniper
would not be dated prior to 1942. The stock relief for the
base is freshly cut and the bolt handles show a hasty cut
and weld job.
recent imports of many of these fine snipers have made them
finally available to the US collector. 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. These guns are in unissued
condition and show matching of the mounts to the guns by means
of an electro-penciled serial number on the mount. These numbers,
scope serial numbered to mount and mount to gun, were placed
by the Soviets to prevent a mismatch of mated optics to the
numbers were placed on the mounts by the Soviet arsenals and
not by the US importers
final fitting of the mount to the base entailed an adjustment
of two small pads on the rear of the mount. These were ground
down slightly to bring the mount to a parallel relationship
to the bore. Unground/unissued mounts not fitted to a particular
rifle will appear to be canted to the right of the bore line.
These numbers were placed on the mounts by the Soviet arsenals
and not by the US importers. The optics with inspection papers
included in the scope pocket was packed with covers on and
cosomline paper to seal against moisture on the lenses and
turrets. Guns were packed ten to a crate with optics mounted
in a muzzle to butt fashion-alternating direction.
crates were lined in a desiccant oilpaper and folded over
and sealed. The crate was then closed on a rubber gasket and
latched shut and pinned. A banding strap is then added with
a wire lead seal to prevent opening. The number of PU sniper
rifles imported into the US number less than 5000. Many rare
and unusual maker and variants can be encountered in these
guns such as Tula made guns and late and early models. The current importer of these fine rifles is R-Guns a Gunboards.com sponsor. You can find the link to the store at our home page at www.Gunboards.com
Crated rifles as they arrive from Russia in thier long term storage transport crates of 10 guns per crate.
Inspecting some of the fine PU Sniper rifles from R-Guns
hope that this article is informative and helpful to the collector
in identifying and recognizing the Soviet snipers built on
the m/91-30 rifle from 1932-1963. As with all references this
article is not meant to be the definitive end all word on
the Soviet snipers as many variants unknown or unobserved
can and will be revealed. Production numbers for some years,
Tula as an example, are impossible to ascertain due to loss
of the archives or simple refusal by Soviet authorities to
release the information without substantial payment. Information
can and will be added to the text if and when it becomes available.
Good hunting and collecting!
Saturday, 19 February 2000 19:50
- Soviet Small Arms and Ammunition
(Both Russian and English versions)-D.N. Bolotin
- The German Sniper-P.R. Senich
- Drei Linien Die Gewehre Mosin-Nagant Vol 1 and 2 -K.H.
Wrobel with some personal additions from this fine author
- Soltiaskäsiaseet Suomessa
- Lt. Umro Al Lehikihoinen-Veteran
of both Finnish wars and an invaluable asset in transcribing
and translating of Finnish documents as well as personal
- Brian Johnston- Advanced
- International Armaments by
George B Johnson and Hans B Lockhoven Vol 1-2
- Guns of the World by Ed Ezell
- Odstřelovačská puška vz. 54 - http://www.strelci.com
- Many unnamed/unaccredited
bits and pieces of information and data as well as 17
years of accumulated data and all of the physical examples
pictured from my personal collection.