Updated 4/8/00

Njanear's M91/30 Collection

Some consider it ungainly; others downright ugly.  Truth be known, they are not the prettiest of rifles but Mosin Nagants are classic battle rifles.  From the original M91 'three line' rifle to the M44 carbine, the Mosin action spanned a period of over 5 decades as the primary rifle for the Soviet Union and many other nations (both allies and enemies of Mother Russia), and still continues to serve to this day in many of the Third World skirmishes.  Although I profess a love for all Mosins, I am especially fond of the Russian and Finnish M91/30s.  A means of expediency adopted in the 1930s, these rifles can be found ranging from early production 'beauties' to late production 'beasts'.  When you heft one, you can only imagine what its original owner saw, peering through the hooded front sight on one of many battlefields.  If only these rifles could talk and tell you their history.....  Since they can't, I now want to see if I can help you decipher some of it yourself.
1932 M91/30 Russian captured by Finns
My true Russians currently range from a 1932 'Hex' Izhevsk to a 1942 'High Wall Round' Tula.  Ever vigilant for a 1930 as well as a 1945, my goal is to eventually gather one from each year of production to round out the collection.

I am also a great fan of the Finnish M91/30 variants.  Some of these are simply captured/reissued Russian rifles stamped with the property mark of the Finnish Army; others are from the 24,000 M91/30s built up at Tikkakoski (affectionately known as Tikka) in 1943 and 1944.  {Truth be known, these Tikkas were my first Mosins (see my Intro Page)}.

All of my rifles are generally in decent condition.  Many of the Russians are in Fair to Very Good shape; the Finns range from Good to Excellent.  Either is a bargain and will allow you to build a range ready collection of history for little cash outlay.  Although the price on Mosins has risen, they are still an excellent addition to your C&R Collection as well as excellent shooters on the range (The Finns excel here.)  Surplus ammunition is relatively inexpensive and even reloadable cases are here courtesy Sellier & Bellot (or Lapau, if you can find it).  Don't hesitate to buy one; you won't regret it.

Note:  The prices of the Finn Tikkas have finally come to where they belong.  Expect to pay upwards of $100 up to $200 for a nice one, but remember, there were only 24,000 made versus 17,000,000 Russians.  As such, don't rake the dealers too much if they won't sell you a Tikka for a Russian price.  By simply taking the production numbers in consideration, your $60 one-of- 17,000,000 Russian M91/30 would equate to one Tikka M91/30 at $42,500.  That $150 looks good now, doesn't it? :)  So if you are looking for one, be prepared to pay a little more for the scarcity and quality, but rest assured, they are worth it.  (If you can get one for the price of a Russian, consider yourself lucky :)

Now to explain/show some of the differences found amongst the M91/30s (Russian & Finnish):
Note: Numerous photo links abound throughout this page.  Give them a click and see more detail on what is being described.  As more photos become available, I will get them posted for your viewing pleasure
Manufacturers* *Markings* *Receivers* *Stocks* *Handguards* *Front Sights* *Cleaning Rods
(click on the above links to go to a category; click on theBack  to return here)

Manufacturers Back

The Russian M91/30 was officially produced at two arsenals: Tula and Izhevsk, from 1930 to approximately 1945.  Tula was located just southwest of Moscow and during the war, was threatened by German forces enroute to Moscow at one point (It has been said that the smoke from the battlefield could be seen from the factory at some points of the fighting) {Note: They were forced to relocate in 1941 due to the German invasion}.  Mainly concentrating on the SVTs but still producing some quantities of M91/30s and cranking out rifles as fast as they could for the front lines, Tula managed to stay in production throughout the entire war although their rifles started looking 'a little rough' :).  Izhevsk, located in the Ural mountains, never did run into quite such serious threats of being overrun but as rifles were needed at the front in the late war as soon as they could get there, they also had some really rough pieces themselves. Total production between the 2 arsenals was approximately 17 million rifles, and probably would have continued well above that if the Russians hadn't decided to go with the short M44 carbine model in 1944 and then adopted the excellent SKS in 1945.
Want to see how much of a production change was exacted?  Check out the quality difference of the receivers as well as the barrel finishing!  Both were functional; one is just prettier & more complicated ;)
The Finnish produced M91/30 rifles with barrels from the Tikkakoski plant (The Finns didn't produce the receivers; they 'recycled' them from unserviceable Russian rifles - more about that later).  These Tikkakoski M91/30s will bear the 'Tikka' stamp on the barrel shank, generally along with the [SA] stamp.  Total production at Tikka is estimated at only 24,000 rifles in 1943 & 1944.  An early misconception was that 8,000 were produced in 1943 and 16,000 in 1944; through my personal collection and in comparing notes with fellow collectors, I can honestly say that less than 3,950 were actually made in 1943, making this an extremely scarce piece (Evidence? Right here).  The remainder of the Finn M91/30s were simply rifles captured from the Russians and reconditioned as the Finns saw fit; these are generally identified by the presence of the '41' stamp, the PUOLUSTUSLAITOS stamp and/or [SA] stamps.  They will still bear the original Russian Arsenal markings on the barrel but in lots of cases, the other original parts (bolts, front sights, stocks, etc.) will have been separated out during the initial inspection and replaced with whatever happened to be handy at the time. (NOTE: That's why you will probably never see an all-matching Russian M91/30 with an [SA] stamp; if you do, I would be 98% sure that it was a fake)

Barrel/Bolt Markings Back

Here are some of the stamps that can be found on these rifles.  This is what they mean:

ARMORY BARREL MARKINGS: (Click on the drawings below to go to a photo example)
Star with Arrow inside:           Mark of the Tula Arsenal, post-1928 - Russian; on the tang and some small pieces, only the star outline is used (click here for Tula example)

Triangle with Arrow inside:     Mark of the Izhevsk Arsenal, post-1928 - Russian; on the tang and smaller pieces, the same mark is used (click here for Izhevsk example)

T inside point-down triangle inside circle:     Mark of the Tikkakoski (Tikka) Arsenal - Finland; as the remainder is made up of recycled parts, you may find numerous small markings from the various armories of Russia, America, France, and possibly Finland.

Post-1928 Tula ProofPost-1928 Izhevsk ProofTikka Proof

ARMORY TANG/ BOLT/ SMALL PARTS MARKINGS: While true Russian M91/30s should only have post-1928 parts, it is not rare to discover some pre-1928 parts used in subsequent rebuilds.  On Finns, it is very common to have these pre-1928 parts (especially the receivers) on their rifles.

Bow and Arrow:  Mark of the Izhevsk Arsenal, pre-1928 - Russian

Hammer (or small T):  Mark of the Tula Arsenal, pre-1928 - Russian (it can be found alone or in a circle)

Arrow by itself:   Mark of the Sestroryetsk Arsenal - Russian

Pre-1928 IzhevskPre-1928 TulaSestroryetsk

C in circle:  Mark of the Chatelleraut Arsenal, 1892 to 1895 - French (they manufactured the first M1891s for the Russians)

R in circle:    Mark of the Remington Armory, 1915 to 1918 - American (originally manufactured for the Russian Government but at time of default on contract, US Army accepted them as the Model 1916)

H with side arrow:   Mark of the New England Westinghouse Armory, 1915 to 1918 - American (originally manufactured for the Russian Government but at time of default on contract, US Army accepted them as the Model 1916); another mark seen and thought to be N.E.W. is an E with backwards-pointing arrows

Chatelleraut Arsenal ProofRemington Armory ProofNew England Westinghouse ProofSuspected N.E.W. Armory Proof

Star stamp:     Mark of the Tula Arsenal, post-1928 - Russian

Triangle with Arrow inside:     Mark of the Izhevsk Arsenal, post-1928 - Russian

S in gearwheel:     Mark of the SAKO Arsenal - Finland  (although the Finns mainly recycled parts, they did make some new ones as needed.)

Post-1928 TulaPost-1928 IzhevskSAKO


Barrel shank:  Whether it is Russian or Finnish, the serial number is found marked across the barrel shank, underneath the arsenal mark on Tulas & Tikkas (above the mark for Izhevsk).  Pre-1938 Russian rifles and all Tikkas will have serial numbers composed of numbers only; later Russians will be found with Cyrillic letters preceding the numeric serial number.  (Click on the following to see examples:  Tula  **  Izhevsk  **  Tikka)
Side of Receiver:
Mosins originally never had the serial numbers stamped on the receivers.  Many that you currently see are due to ATF laws passed in 1986; at that time, importers were required to stamp the number on the side of the receiver (remember, the ATF considers the RECEIVER as the gun, thereby requiring the serial number to be placed on it).  It is here that you will see English translations for the Cyrillic alphabet so that you can record them properly in your bound book (if you are a Class 01 or 03 FFL holder).

Other side markings are of Finnish origin and in some cases are identified by an S or SS prefix, indicating issuance to a Civil Guard regional unit.  Yet others lack these prefixes and this is currently unexplained by any literature that I have seen.  I make the assumption that these were simply issuance numbers within other units or possibly even just assigned storage numbers, but if I discover something else, I will update the information here.  Click HERE for an example of what I am speaking of.

Russian rifles will have the serial number stamped on the top flat of the bolt body, (see Example) although it may be found electropenciled on some examples (NOTE: All of the electropenciled numbers that I have seen have English letters included instead of the Cyrillic characters; as such, that means that was done as part of the importation and as such, should not truly be considered as All-Matching when you go to buy or sell).  Ideally it will match the serial number on the barrel shank but from experience, mismatched numbers are very common (especially on the recent imports).

Finnish rifles may have the serial number stamped on the top flat of the bolt body, on the left side of the top flat (the portion that faces up when the bolt is closed), or even on the ball of the bolt handle  (see Example).  This number will generally only consist of the last three or four digits of the serial number; again, ideally these numbers would match but as with the Russians, it is not uncommon for them to be mismatched.  As all Finns are reworks, it is normal to see: (1) serial numbers stamped over grind marks (work was done by armorers to match headspaced bolt to receiver) & (2) crossed-out serial numbers from earlier weapons remaining on the body (sometimes the armorers didn't have the time to grind out the older numbers).  If you do see these, rest assured that these are considered normal for Finn M91/30s.  If any stamped number on the bolt matches the receiver, this is considered 'matching' to Finn collectors.

Magazine floorplates:  On both Russian and Finnish rifles, this generally would be stamped with the same number as on the receiver - see Example  (Note: I have seen several Finns with unmarked/ ground floorplates).  As with the bolt, it is extremely common to find this mismatched (especially on the recent imports).

Buttplates:    On the Russian rifles, this would be stamped with the same number as on the receiver and based on personal experience, this is very commonly mismatched (especially on the recent imports) - see Example.  As for the Tikkas, I have never seen a restamped buttplate as the armorers weren't concerned with that.  As such, you should NEVER see a Tikka with a matching buttplate; if you do, I would suspect that was a fake until proved otherwise.

Buttstocks:    On the Russian rifles, this would be stamped with the numbers (no cryllic prefix in my experience) as on the receiver and is very commonly mismatched (especially on the recent imports) - see Example.  [Note: It is not rare to find a stock with NO NUMBERS stamped on it too]   As for the Tikkas, I have never seen a serialed buttstock as the armorers weren't concerned with that.  As such, you should NEVER see a Tikka with a matching buttstock; again, if you do, I would consider it a fake until proved otherwise.

Hammer & Sickle:     Russian property marking found on Izhevsk barrels; consists of the Hammer & Sickle enclosed within a wreath.  See at top of this photo.

AZF:    Found on some of the 'hex' receivers as used by the Finns on the Tikka M91/30s, this mark represents a Austrian Capture weapon from WW1.  In the 1920s, Austria sold these M91s to Finland, who in turn used them in making up their Mosin variants. The stamp stands for: Artillerie-Zeugs-Fabrik.


41:      Found stamped on the right side of the barrel shank parallel to the stock, this is thought to be a Finnish Arsenal mark indicating that the particular rifle was captured during the Continuation War (1939 to 1940) and/or was stored in the Finnish Arsenal for future issue in 1941.  I have only heard of this on pre-1942-dated Finnish-captured Russian pieces (with the majority being M91/30s), which tends to support the theory.

PUOLUSTUSLAITOS:     Finnish Army property stamp used for approximately 2 months in 1942 to signify that the rifle was the property of the Finnish Army; it is generally found stamped across the barrel shank of captured rifles prepared for re-issue but also seen on a few standard Finnish Army rifles (Finn M91s & M39s reported) as well as general issue items such as silverware and uniform equipment.  This was replaced by the [SA] marking below.

[SA]:     Suomen Armeiji - Finnish Army property stamp adopted in early 1942 to signify that the rifle was the property of the Finnish Army.  This exists in different sizes and it isn't uncommon to find rifles with multiple stamps of varying sizes & placement.  There have also been examples noted with a small capital 'T' located to the right of the stamp (See here for 'T' mark)  Per Palokangas, the meaning of this additional stamp signifies the Finnish Ordnance organization, "Taisteluvälinehallinto".

Actual SA StampSA Property Mark - Finnish Army


Acceptance Proof:    Acceptance of rifle into service by Proof Commission (Russian)
Commision Acceptance Proof

Point of Aim Proof:    Firing Proof signifying rifle meets acceptable accuracy level (Russian)

Point of Aim Firing ProofActual Point of Aim proof

Pressure Testing Proof:    Firing Proof indicating acceptance of rifle into service (Finnish)  [NOTE: This is actually not that common; this is the only one I've seen on over 15 rifles]

Pressure proof found on Tikka M91/30

Box with diagonal slash:     Russian rebuild mark; box is also found with vertical slash.  These marks will be found stamped on the barrel (generally the box with vertical slash) and/or on the buttstock (the box with diagonal slash) of the weapon.  I have also seen the box with diagonal slash on the barrel of a 1944 M38 Izhevsk carbine as well as a unique 'segmented diamond' rebuild mark on a 1943 M38 Izhevsk carbine (similar to the 1933 Nagant marking below), so it is possible that these may also be encountered on M91/30s.

Rusian Rebuild MarksAnother arsenal rebuild mark
D:     Found stamped on the chamber on some Finnish rifles (not all by any means):  signifies barrel throat has been relieved to handle the Russian and Finnish 'Heavy Ball' ammo in use. Note stamp between serial number and date.
If I have missed any standard markings, please let me know so that I may add them to the page.  As I can get photos taken and developed or as I complete drawings, I will continue to publish them here for all to see.

Receivers Back

From 1930 into 1936, the Russians continued to use the 'hexagonal'-style receiver as used by the original M91 rifle.  In 1936, they then began to produce the 'round'-style receiver for expediency.  The original style of the 'round' receiver is what Mosin collectors refer to as the 'Low Wall' variant (the receiver is "cut" away along the left side opposite the bolt handle, like the Hex Receiver); then around 1942, as a matter of further expediency, the 'High Wall' variant appeared (the left side is not milled down):  Less milling meant less time producing = more rifles to the front.  For an example of how 'rough' this milling could be, see the comparison photo.  These are the three basic styles encountered in the Russian M91/30 production.  All of these can be further dated by looking underneath the rear tang, where the arsenal mark and year are generally stamped  [NOTE:  These rules are not steadfast and true.  Although I have not personally seen them, there have been reports of round receivers dated 1932 and hex receivers dated 1944, as well as receivers not bearing dates at all; these must be considered the exceptions to the rule]

        Hex receiver  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  Round 'Low Wall'  *  *  *  *  *  *  Round 'High Wall'
Hex M91/30 Receiver'Low Wall' M91/30 Receiver'High Wall' M91/30 Receiver

Comparison of 'Low Wall' and 'High Wall' Round Receivers

The Tikka production utilized whatever receivers were at hand to make all of their rifles, although the 'hex' remained their favorite.  It has been stated that only about 15% of these 24,000 rifles (3600 rifles) had round receivers, although in my experience, out of my several Tikkas, about 50% have the round receivers.  Of those with the round receivers, VERY FEW are found with the late war 'High Wall' receiver; this is probably due to the fact that by the time Tikka began making these M91/30s, they had plenty of Hex and 'Low Wall' receivers filling their bins from previously captured pieces and just continued to use them up first.  Additionally, for a real interesting time, look underneath the receiver tang and see if the armory and date marks are still present:  several of my Tikkas have actions dating back to the 1890s/early 1900s, from various Russian armories (haven't got a Chatellerault yet ;).

Additional note:   Many of the Hex receivers found on these Tikkas and other Finn Mosin reworks exhibit excessive pitting marks on them with evidence of rebluing over the damage.  Not a product of bad storage or an attempt to pass off a damaged rifle to an unknowing buyer, in reality it turns out that in building its arsenal to fight off the Russian Bear, the Finns used whatever they could retrieve.  One interesting tale is that many rifles were recovered from sunken Russian ships; much of the deeper receiver pitting seen could easily have been the result of the submersion of these rifles in the corrosive saltwater but documented substantiating proof is lacking.  Surely others were 'lost' on the battlefield for a period of time or were dumped into piles awaiting inspection and as such, had been rusting away awaiting refurbishment.  Upon final inspection and deemed as having serviceable receivers by the armorers, the barrels and other parts were pulled off and either tossed  (barrels and seriously damaged parts) or used in the rework (bolts, triggers, magazine housings, etc.); the receiver then went through its rebirth, coming back as a M91/30, M91, M39, etc.

Definitely a new twist to the statement: "Waste not, Want not".

Buttstocks Back

All of my Russians have the same style one-piece Birch stock with the two slots for sling loops.  They vary mainly in how the slots were reinforced for these loops:  some have metal inserts (some screwed in, others inletted/pressed in, etc.), others have simple rectangular cuts through the wood.  You may also find remnants of arsenal cartouches on them.

1942 Tula M91/30

The Finns are a different story:  there are (A) one-piece Russian stocks, (B) a two-piece Russian-style stock and (C) the unique Finn two-piece 'potbelly' stock.  These two piece stocks are made with intertwined finger splices.  The wood may be regular Russian Birch and/or Finnish Arctic Birch, although there is even a chance that Finnish Rifles may sport rear sections of American Black Walnut or French Walnut (from reworked M91 stocks).  The sling point attachments also vary greatly:  (A) metal Finn swivels through Russian slots, (B) standard Russian slots, (C) Finn swivels,  etc.  The Finn 'potbellies' also exhibit Finnish manufacturer cartouches (crossed cannons and letters) on their butts (Note:  All of my 'potbelly' Tikkas sport the Letter Z in their cartouches while my non-SAKO stocked M39s and M27 sport the Letter L .  The SAKO stocks sport a 'yin yang' type S inside.  This may be by coincidence but then again, maybe not.)

Finnish M91/30s
Above rifles: A) Tikka 1943, B) Tikka 1944, C) Tikka 1943

View of above stocks from:
(1) Side middle (showing splices and rear of handguard)
(2) Bottom middle (showing fingersplices)
(3) Side rear (showing rear sling points/swivels)
(4) Side front (showing front sling points, handguard & front sight)
click on the above for closeup views

Handguards Back

The handguards can be found with various metal ends: brass, black-painted steel, blued steel and what appears to be steel in the white.  This mixture is found across both Russian and Finn models.  Unlike with the original early M91 rifles, ALL M91/30s had handguards and to find one without a handguard means that it is an incomplete rifle.  See the above rifles for examples of the brass (Rifle A) and blued steel (Rifles B & C).

Front Sights Back

This is where there is a big difference between the Russian M91/30s and most of the Finns.  The Russians had adopted a hooded post for use on their M91/30; it offered more protection over the exposed blade as well as improved combat sighting (put the man in the circle and you are pretty close to having a good bead on him).  The Finns used these hooded post to some small extent but seemed to have preferred their 2-piece front blade the most (the bottom piece was necessary to bring the front sight up to align with the rear sight).  As such, this seems to be the front sight of choice on most Tikka M91/30s and can also be found on many of the captured/reissued M91/30s.

Looking over a Finn Blade Front SightFront sight comparisonLooking over a Russian Hooded Front Sight

All rear sights were the same on both Russian and Finn M91/30s and were marked from 100m to 2000m, in 100m increments.

Cleaning Rods Back

There is a difference between the rods issued by each country.  The standard Soviet rod has a smaller head and generally has not seen much use (a joke among Mosin collectors: it seems the average Russian conscript was never taught what that little rod was for, as many a Russian bore shows ;).  The basic Finn rod generally has a larger head on it, although the slot is still not useful for patches (it is actually used in conjunction with a piece of the cleaning kit to form a handle).  I have also received several Tikka M91/30s with cleaning rods from other Finnish rifle models (M27, M28/30 & M39);  I can only assume that a Finnish Armorer came up with these as spares and threw them on the rifle.  Needless to say, it adds some variety to the collection too.

So there you have it: a little breakdown on the M91/30s and how to tell what you may have.  For additional information on these great rifles, please make sure you check out the following sites:

The Russian Mosin Nagant Page
Mosin Man's Military Surplus Arms Page
Dan Z. Johnson's The Mosin~Nagant Webpage

Also, for your viewing pleasure, here are three 'little brothers' of the M91/30 design that are also commonly encountered, as well as some of the Grandfathers:
1944 Izhevsk M38 Carbine - adopted for use by Support Troops due to its less unwieldy size

1944 Izhevsk M44 Carbine - This is the Russian carbine which replaced the M38 in 1944 as it offered the additional fighting capability of a bayonet (which the Russians felt was essential).

1943-dated M91/59 - These carbines were converted from M91/30s into the handy carbine style.  The original story was that this was done in Bulgaria but is currently thought to have been done in the Soviet Union for issue to support units in the late 1950s.
As well as some of the Fathers:
1897 Tula M1891 Rifle - an early example of the design that culminated into the M91/30

1918 Remington M1891 Rifle - an American-produced Mosin made AFTER the Russian Contract was finished

1941 Tikkakoski M1891 Rifle - the Finns were still making them 11+ years after the Russians went to the M91/30

Now that you know this little bit of info, I challenge you to create your own special Mosin collection and then let me know how it turns out.  Have a great day and come back often to see what changes have taken place in Njanear's C&R Collections.

Now back to the Collections Page....

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