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The old Three-Line: still a great value.

What costs less than $70, is machined from steel forgings, is robust, powerful and accurate, and appears in enough models and variations to keep a collector happy for decades?

It's the Three-Line, or what we commonly call the "Mosin-Nagant" Historically, it might just have been a "Nagant." After the Russian trials of 1890 and 1891, the study commission initially recommended Leon Nagant's design over Mosin's. It was not to be. Nagant was Belgium. Sergei Mosin was Russian. With a bit of pressure from on high, the Mosin design was adopted, but with Nagant's feed system and clip design.

The new model was designated the "Russian Three-Line rifle, Model 1891" The reference to "Three-Line" is based on an old Russian measurement, the "liniya," that equals approximately .10" so three linii are approximately 30-caliber. If that's not archaic enough, until 1930 the rear sight of the 1891 M-N was graduated in another ancient measure, the "arshin," a linear unit equal to a pace of approximately 28" or .7 meters. So if you want to impress your friends, just refer to "linii" and "arshini" and watch them roll their eyes!

Long Genealogy

Originally produced during the tsarist era at the Tula, Izhevsk and Sestroryetsk armories, the 1891 M-N was first bloodied during the Boxer Rebellion (1900) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). It did quite well for itself, so well, it soldiered on through WWI, the Russian Revolution, the Great Patriotic War (WWII), the Korean War, Vietnam, various regional insurgencies and still carries on, across the rifle ranges of America.

In fact, the 1891 M-N was also produced in the US. Stropped for domestic production at the beginning of WWI, Russia contracted for a million 1891s with the Remington Arms Co. and another million or so from New England Westinghouse.

Due to the Revolution and the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II, Russia defaulted on the orders. Uncle Sam stepped in with a corporate bailout and bought the undelivered rifles for $30 a piece, and later sold many of them to us for $3.34. One of the all time US surplus bargains!

A whole cottage gunsmithing industry sprang up overnight to groom them into domesticated sporters while Remington kept them shooting with 7.62x54R sporting ammunition and kept loading it right up until about 1950.

If you find a Remington or a Westinghouse Mosin-Nagant, grab it. It is said there were more Russian inspectors roaming the floors of Remington and Westinghouse than there were employees building dries. In short, the Remington and Westinghouse M-N's are outstanding examples of early 20th century arms making. They are stunning rifles, beautifully finished, and beautifully marked with the Tsarist Imperial Eagle crest.

Thanks to the negotiating skills of Century International Arms, the Mosin-Nagants are once again in abundance and can be bought for pennies on the dollar. Most are arsenal reworks, and while they may not look and feel like a Mauser or a Springfield, they're pleasant to shoot and accurate.

What's in the surplus pipeline today are Mosin-Nagants manufactured since 1930, specifically, the Model 91/30 rifle and the Model 38 and Model 44 carbines. Rarely do we come across one of the pre-1930 models, which are easily identified by the hexagonal profile of the front receiver ring. (For pre-1930 model identifications, see Lapin's excellent reference book.)

In 1930, several engineering modifications were made to the original Model 1891, both improving and simplifying it, and reducing its cost of production. The most significant changes were the receiver was now rounded rather than hexagonal, the rear sight was flat and graduated in meters rather than arshini, the front blade sight was replaced by a hooded post, and the barrel bands were now retained with spring catches inletted into the stock.

There was also a sniper model introduced and an improved cruciform bayonet, featuring a spring-loaded socket mount.

The Model 91/30 infantry rifle is shorter and fighter than the original 1891 rifle and is based along the lines of the former dragoon model. Yet, it still measures 48 1/4" long (with the bayonet mounted, 65 1/4"), sports a 28.75" barrel and weighs 9 pounds. By the end of WWII, approximately 17,475,000 Model 91/30's were produced. There's a lot out there!

While improved, the infantry rifle proves to be too long and cumbersome for the cavalry and support branches like the artillery and signal corps. It also proves generally awkward in pillboxes, bunkers, forests and as street-to-street urban combat develops. A fighter, shorter weapon was needed, and it appears in the form of the Model 1938 carbine.

Weighing 8 pounds with a 20" barrel and measuring a handy 40" overall, the Model 38 is slim, trim and almost sporting in its lines. It's a carbine you can take hunting without a single modification. But it is issued without a bayonet.

The Russians missed their bayonets, so the Model 38 was modified in 1944 by the addition of a side-folding, 12" cruciform bayonet bringing the weight up to 8 pounds 14 ounces. The Model 44 carbine is a bit muzzle heavy, but with the exception of the Finnish models, the new Model 44 is the final refinement of the Russian Mosin-Nagant line.

The M44 was not only produced in Russia, but also in much of the Communist bloc countries Poland, Hungary, Romania and even China (Type 53). During the Cold War, it was widely distributed to every corner of the world and makes its appearance in numerous Communist-inspired conflicts.

Which brings up an important point when you go shopping for original Mosin-Nagants. The M44 is typically in very good to excellent condition, in-and-out. The Model 91/30 and the Model 38 are almost entirely arsenal reworks. Old serial numbers on the receivers and parts are ground off or struck out and new numbers stamped in their place.

They sparkle on the outside, but their bores can be well worn and their parts don't always fit and function the way they should. Be particularly wary of "original" snipers. Most were assembled from original parts, but they are still ersatz parts guns. Finally, don't buy or fire any Mosin-Nagant that has been altered to .30-06. A number were years ago.

In short, buying arsenal-rebuilt Mosin-Nagants can be a crapshoot if you can't physically examine them before laying down your hard-earned cash. Work with reputable dealers, always insist on a 3-day inspection period, and digest Lapin's book on the Mosins.

Good Points And Bad?

In average condition, Mosin-Nagants are very accurate rifles and usually sport surprisingly decent triggers. The sight picture generated by their open sights is clear and sharp. The majority of Mosin-Nagants will shoot to their sights in terms of elevation while windage can be adjusted by simply drifting the front sight unit left or right.

The rimmed cartridge feeding system is inspired. The second cartridge in line is retained by a bolt-activated stop or interrupter projecting from the left inner sidewall of the action. As a result, there is no follower pressure on the round being chambered. The top round just floats until the bolt picks it up and chambers it. In fact, when empty and without any follower pressure to contend with, the Mosin-Nagant bolt freely glides back-and-forth by its own weight.

The magazine can be emptied quickly and safely by merely retracting the floor-plate catch. The safety is positive and is engaged by pulling back and turning the cocking piece counter clockwise. It's slow and awkward, but it's utterly secure.


My run-of-the-mill Model 91/30 rework with a fair bore will place three Wolf brand 200-grain soft points into 1/2" at 50 yards and into 1 1/4" at 100. The grooves of my barrel are dark, but the lands are still sharp. It shouldn't shoot that well, but it does, so don't give up on a dark bore.

Firing the same Wolf load, my Russian Model 44 carbine with an excellent bore and with the bayonet extended will group three shots into 1 1/8" at 50 and into 1 3/8" at 100 yards. With the bayonet folded, the group is still centered, still the same average size, but its 2 1/2" low at the 100-yard sight setting.

Add a Huber anti-friction ball trigger to a Mosin-Nagant, feed it quality commercial ammunition, and you'll probably have a real shooter.

Bad Points

The bolt handle is too short, making manipulation awkward. Other than fitting a bent down bolt handle to their sniper models, the Russians never changed that little stub of a handle so they had their reasons. I've just never figured out what they were.

They're too cheap! Folks figure a $69 centerfire rifle has to be junk. Don't believe it. Buy one while the price is right!


When machinist John Huber decided to design a replacement trigger for military surplus firearms, he did it right. Called the anti-friction, ball trigger, the Huber unit is a direct replacement trigger for the Mosin-Nagants, Mausers, SMLE's, Arisakas, Springfields, 1914/17 Enfields, Krags, and Husqvarna HVA actions.

Available in a variety of styles and finishes and adjustable for overtravel and creep as welt, the triggers use the original sear, spring, pins, and safety. Being compact, none, or very little, stock wood has to be removed when installed.

Fitting a run-of-the-mill M38 carbine with the Huber trigger took me 10 minutes, required no wood removal and reduced the pull weight from 7'S pounds to 3 pounds without any adjustment whatsoever. The Mosin model retains the two-stage pull.






There are quite a few neat Mosin-Nagant accessories you should pick up. The 91/30 cruciform bayonet is not that common. Grab one when you find one.

The cleaning and maintenance gear consist of a tin-plated solvent ("III") and oil ("H") bottle, a cleaning rod jag and brush, a steel muzzle protector cap, a cleaning rod handle, and a multi-purpose tool to measure firing pin protrusion, tighten the jag/brush onto the cleaning rod and serves as a general purpose screwdriver.

There's a two-pocket ammunition pouch made from brown leather or pebble-grained artificial leather to hold three 5-round clips in each pocket.

In addition, buy some of those 5-round charger clips while they're available as well as an extra sling or two.


Hold the bolt with your right hand, pull back the cocking knob with your left just enough to turn it counter-clockwise, releasing the mainspring tension.

A) Pull the bolt head forward and remove it along with the connecting bar.


B) Separate the bolt head from the connecting bar.


C) To separate the firing pin from the cocking piece, rest the firing pin on a piece of wood. Press down hard on the bolt body to compress the mainspring and unscrew the cocking piece from the firing pin.


D) The bolt field-stripped.



E) Ensure the end of the firing pin is screwed in flush with the back of the cocking piece and the screwdriver slot of the pin is aligned with the slash mark on the cocking piece.





(561) 998-1997, WWW.CENTURYARMS.COM


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Title Annotation:SURPLUS LOCKER[TM]
Author:Bodinson, Holt
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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