Collecting Military Firearms - The Russian Mosin Nagant Rifle
by Chris Fogle
If you are interested in historical military firearms, the Russian Mosin Nagant rifle is a great place to start. I started collecting military firearms in the late 1990s having been a firearms enthusiast my whole life, whether it was hunting, 4-H Shooting Sports or just plinking at cans with my .22 when I was a kid. I happened onto a website in 1999 called Gunboards. This site focused on the collecting of military firearms with a strong leaning toward the Russian Mosin Nagant rifles. The Mosin Nagant was the Russian and Soviet battle rifle for almost 6 decades and is still being used in some satellite countries.
The rifle design is a collaboration by Russian Sergei Mosin and a Belgian named Leon Nagant. The rifle was put into service as the "3-line rifle, Model of 1891." A line is a unit of measurement equal to 1/10 of an inch, so three line is equal to .30 which is the caliber of the rifle 7.62 in mm. The full cartridge designation is the 7.62x54R for rimmed. Production of the Model 1891 took place at the Russian arsenals at Izhevsk, Tula and Sestroryetsk. Due to a slow start in domestic production, a contract was issued to the French arms company Chatelleraullt, who built about 500,000 M91s.
During WWI, contracts for a little over 3 million rifles were awarded to the American companies of Remington and New England Westinghouse. These rifles today command a premium over their European counterparts, but all original M91s are uncommon today and retain and increase their value well. For an all matching numbers Russian M91 in good condition a collector can expect to pay around $250.00. Few of these rifles are left that are all matching with all Imperial markings intact as after the Russian Revolution in 1919, most of the rifles were torn down and repaired and had the Imperial markings removed. Many of these non-matching rifles assembles from parts, can be found today in the $125-$200.00 range.
In 1930 improvements were made to the original rifle, including new front and rear sights, a shorter barrel length and a redesigned hand guard. This new rifle was designated the M91/30. This variation was produced at Tula from 1930 until 1944 and at Izhevsk from 1930 until 1945. The Soviets made literally millions of these rifles and they can be bought today for around $100.00 and come with sling, bayonet and cleaning items in pigskin leather, double compartment ammo pouch. These rifles are highly accurate, and most are in great condition due to refurbishment in the Balkans after WWII and then being greased up and put into storage until the fall of Communism.
The market is currently flooded with these rifles, but there are a few things to look for that will add value to an otherwise common rifle. Tula arsenal items have higher collector appeal as they were produced in low numbers and for 1 year less. Tula M91/30s are easily recognized by a Star with and Arrow inside it on the rifle's barrel shank. Hex receivers will usually command a premium over round receivers, as the hex receivers are thought to be stronger. A Tula arsenal dated 1941 with a round receiver is a very sought after combination due to low production numbers that year at that arsenal. The Izhevsk arsenal is recognized by a bow hammer and sickle surrounded by grape wreaths on the receiver. These are the more common 91/30ís seen today but a round receiver Izhevsk dated 1935 or 1945 will again bring a premium.
In 1939 a 40" carbine was put into production at the Izhevsk arsenal. This new rifle designated as the M38, was essentially just a shorter version of the m91/30. This carbine does not accept a bayonet and was only in production until 1945, and was only produced at Tula in 1940 and 1944. Obviously, the M38s marked with the arrow in a star mark of Tula are in high demand and command a premium over other M38s. Also, due to low production numbers, these rifles will bring a premium over M91/30s. Prices for the more common Izhevsk early 1940s dated rifle are around $150.00.
In 1943 a new rifle was put into production and battle tested; it was adopted into service in 1944 as the M44. The M44 is essentially an M38 carbine with a side folding bayonet that is permanently attached to the rifle. This rifle was produced until 1948 and as the M38 Tula and hex receiver models are less common and command a premium over Izhevsk produced rifles. Expect a price of around $100.00 for the common rifles with prices of over $250.00 for Tula, hex receiver, and trial year of 1943 production.
From the Russo Japanese War of the early 1900s through the Russian Revolution WWI and II, the numerous conflicts over territory with Finland and on up to Korea and Vietnam, this rifle has served in some of the bloodiest and historical battles ever. Not only were these firearms manufactured and used by the Russians, but also by Finland, Romania, Hungary, Poland, China and several hundred thousand right here in the United States by Remington and New England Westinghouse.
The quality of the rifles available ranges from near pristine condition to rifles that are little more then hunks of rusted metal and cracked wood. The really neat thing for collectors of these is because of the relatively small amount of folks collecting Mosin Nagants they are readily available and still priced under $200.00 for the more common varieties. Additionally, a simple mark such as a Finnish SA stamp can change an $80.00 rifle into a $400.00 or more, rarely seen variation. The informed collector has a very real chance of building a highly valued collection with very little money invested.
There are a few sites that are excellent learning tools including The Russian Mosin Nagant Forum and the aforementioned Gunboards, both of which my company, Trinity Arms, sponsors. These sites are invaluable for the new collector with tons of insight into models, markings, and values and I recommend anyone looking into the firearms collecting field to start at both of these. The countries and variations and stampings that make these rifles more valuable are numerous, and for the informed collector can make a huge difference in the value of a firearm. Obviously there are tons of other firearms to collect and I'm going to touch on some of the more popular ones in coming articles, but for an affordable, well made firearm steeped in history, the Russian Mosin Nagant rifle is hard to beat.
About the author;
Chris Fogle is owner and operator of Trinity Arms, a federally licensed retailer of fine collectible firearms.
His website and contact info can be seen at www.trinityarms.com