The Mosin-Nagant (Russian: Винтовка Мосина, ISO 9: Vintovka Mosina) is a bolt-action, internal magazine fed, military rifle that was used by the armed forces of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and various Eastern bloc nations. Also known as the Three-Line Rifle (Трёхлинейная винтовка, ISO 9: Trëhlinejnaâ vintovka), it was the first to use the 7.62x54mmR cartridge. As a front-line rifle, the Mosin-Nagant served in various forms from 1891 until the 1960s in many Eastern European nations, when the sniper rifle variant was replaced by the SVD (Снайперская винтовка Драгунова, ISO 9: Snajperskaâ vintovka Dragunova). The Mosin-Nagant is still used in many conflicts due to its ruggedness and the vast number produced during World War II.
During the Russo-Turkish War, Russian troops armed with mostly Berdan single-shot rifles engaged Turks with Winchester repeating rifles resulting in alarmingly disproportionate casualties. This emphasised to commanders a need to modernize the Imperial army. The Russian Main Artillery Administration undertook the task of producing a magazine-fed, multi-round weapon in 1882. After failing to adequately modify the Berdan system to meet the requirements, a "Special Commission for the testing of Magazine[-fed] Rifles" was formed to test new designs.
Sergei Ivanovich Mosin, a young captain in the Imperial army, submitted his "3-line" calibre (.30 cal, 7.62 mm) rifle in 1889 alongside a 3.5-line design by Léon Nagant (a Belgian). When trials concluded in 1891, all units which tested the rifles indicated a preference for Nagant's design and the Commission voted 14 to 10 to approve it. However, more influential officers pushed for the domestic design, resulting in a compromise: Mosin's rifle was used with a Nagant-designed feed mechanism. Thus the 3-line rifle, Model 1891 (its official designation at the time) came into being.
Production began in 1892 at the ordnance factories of Tula Arsenal, Izhevsk Arsenal, and Sestroryetsk Arsenal. Due to the limited capacities of these facilities and the newly formed Franco-Russian Alliance, an order of 500,000 rifles was placed with the French arms factory, Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault.
By the time of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, approximately 3.8 million rifles had been delivered to the army. Initial reactions by units equipped with the rifle were mixed, but this was likely due to poor maintenance by under-trained infantrymen used to Berdans.
Between adoption of the final design in 1891 and 1910, several variants and modifications to existing rifles were made.
World War I
With the start of World War I, production was restricted to the M1891 dragoon and infantry models for the sake of simplicity. Due to the desperate shortage of arms and the shortcomings of a still-developing domestic industry, the Russian government ordered 1.5 million M1891 infantry rifles from Remington Arms and another 1.8 million from New England Westinghouse in the United States. Some of these rifles were not delivered before the outbreak of the October Revolution and the subsequent signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which ended hostilities between the Central Powers and Russia. The rifles in Great Britain armed the US and British expeditionary forces sent to North Russia in 1918 and 1919. The rifles still in the US ended up being primarily used as training firearms for the US Army. Some were used to equip US National Guard, SATC and ROTC units. Designated "U.S. Rifle, 7.62mm, Model of 1916", these are among the most obscure U.S. service arms. In 1917, 50,000 of these rifles were sent via Vladivostok to equip the Czechoslovak Legions in Siberia to aid in their attempt to secure passage to France.
Large numbers of Mosin-Nagants were captured by German and Austro-Hungarian forces and saw service with both militaries' rear-echelon forces and the German navy. Many of these weapons were sold to Finland in the 1920s.
Civil War, modernization, and wars with Finland
During the Russian Civil War infantry and dragoon versions were still in production, though in dramatically reduced numbers. The rifle was widely used by Bolsheviks, their allies, and Whites. In 1924, following the victory of the Red Army, a committee was established to modernize the rifle that had by then been in service for over three decades. This effort led to the development of the Model 1891/1930 rifle based on the design of the original dragoon version.
Finland, a Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire until 1917, had long used the Mosin-Nagant in its military. It was used in the short civil war there and adopted as the service rifle of the new republic's military. Finland produced several variants of the Mosin-Nagant, all of them manufactured using the receivers of Russian- or later Soviet-made rifles. Finland also utilized a number of captured M91 and M91/30 rifles with minimal modifications. As a result, the rifle was used on both sides of the Winter War and the Continuation War during World War II. Finnish Mosin-Nagants were produced by SAKO, Tikkakoski, and VKT, with some using barrels imported from Switzerland and Belgium. In assembling M39 rifles, Finnish armorers re-used hexagonal receivers that dated back as far as 1895.
In addition, the rifle was distributed as aid to anti-Franco forces in the Spanish Civil War.
World War II
When the Soviet Union was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1941 the Mosin-Nagant was the standard issue weapon to Soviet troops. As a result, millions of the rifles were produced and used in World War II as the largest army in history mobilized.
The Mosin-Nagant was adapted as a sniper rifle in 1932 and was issued to Soviet snipers. It served quite prominently in the brutal urban battles on the Eastern Front, like the Battle of Stalingrad, which made heroes of snipers like Vasily Grigoryevich Zaitsev and Lyudmila Pavlichenko. The sniper rifles were very much respected for being very rugged, reliable, accurate, and easy to maintain. Finland also employed the Mosin-Nagant as a sniper rifle, with similar success. For example, Simo Häyhä is credited with killing at least 505 Soviet soldiers using his M28 Mosin-Nagant.
By the end of the war, approximately 17.4 million M91/30 rifles had been produced. Increased world-wide use
In the years after World War II, the Soviet Union ceased production of all Mosin-Nagants and withdrew them from service in favor of the SKS series carbines and eventually the AK series rifles. Despite its growing obsolescence, the Mosin-Nagant saw continued service throughout the Eastern bloc and the rest of the world for many decades to come. Mosin-Nagant rifles and carbines saw service on many fronts of the Cold War, from Korea and Vietnam to Afghanistan and along the Iron Curtain in Europe. They were kept not only as reserve stockpiles, but front-line infantry weapons as well.
Virtually every country that received military aid from the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern Europe during the Cold War used Mosin-Nagants at various times. Middle Eastern countries within the sphere of Soviet influence—Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Palestinian guerilla factions—have received them in addition to other more modern arms. Mosin-Nagants have also seen action in the hands of the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan during the Soviet Union's occupation of the country during the 1970s and the 1980s. Their use in Afghanistan continued on well into the 1990s and the early 21st century by Northern Alliance forces.
Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mosin-Nagants are still commonly found on modern battlefields around the world. They are being used by insurgent forces in the Iraq War and the current war in Afghanistan. Separatists have also used the rifles alongside more modern Russian firearms in the ongoing war in Chechnya.