Object Title

Mosin Model 1891 rifle and bayonet

Mosin Model 1891 rifle and bayonet


Often known as the 'Mosin-Nagant', this rifle was actually known in Russia as 'Vintovka Mosina' (Mosin Rifle), or 'Trechlineynaja vintovka' (three-line rifle) after its .30 calibre bore. The involvement of Belgian firearms designer Leon Nagant is unclear, but the bulk of the final design is credited to Captain Sergei Ivanovich Mosin. Typically for nineteenth century rifles, different versions were produced for infantry, mounted infantry, and the Russian Cossack cavalry. Like the French, Russia chose to remain with a socket bayonet with a long spike blade. At that time, most nations had moved toward sword and knife bayonets. Other bayonets were designed to double as tools, but the sole intended function of the socket bayonet is to kill the enemy. This reflects the continued faith placed in the bayonet by Russian, French and other commanders.

The rifle was produced at the Russian arsenals of Tula and Izhesvk where firearms manufacture continues to this day. Mosin took into account the lack of industrial development in Russian at the time, and came up with a rifle that would be easy and cheap to produce. This was a definite advantage in producing the millions of rifles needed for Russia's war with Japan in 1902, which along with Britain's war in South Africa provided a glimpse of what modern industrial war might be like. However, when global war broke out in 1914 there were still insufficient rifles to equip the enlarged Russian army and contracts were let to American companies to build more. Developmental changes to Mosin's design were minimal. An upper handguard was added added in 1894 to protect the shooter's support hand from a hot barrel, and the original round-nosed bullet was replaced by higher velocity pointed bullets from 1908. More changes occurred after the First World War but these too were minor.

Use and effect

The Mosin was less accurate and certainly less user-friendly than other infantry rifles of the First World War period. Like the French Lebel, the straight and stiff bolt of the Mosin was difficult to manipulate, as was the safety catch. However, the rifle was very powerful and extremely reliable. Higher quality rifles specially selected for accuracy served Russian snipers well into the Second World War and beyond. Over fifty million Mosins are still in existence, and have been encountered recently in the hands of the Taliban. The cartridge designed for the rifle in 1891 is still in use worldwide in SVD rifles and PKM machine guns.

The Mosin is known for its service on the Eastern Front of the First World War. The rifle pictured here was captured during the little-known 'North Russia Intervention' of 1918. Beginning in the final months of the First World War, this was an Anglo-American led attempt to remove the Bolshevik ('Red') Russian government installed following Lenin's 1917 revolution. Weapons, ammunition, supplies, and thousands of troops were provided The failure of American and Britain to support the 'White' Russians led directly to the rise of communism, Stalin, and ultimately to the Cold War. Both 'White' and 'Red' Russian troops were armed with the Mosin, many of which had been produced in the United States for Russia by the Remington and Westinghouse companies. The American portion of the allied contingent in North Russia also carried these weapons, drawn from the remainder of the now-cancelled Russian contract. An unusual move, this was intended to ease supply problems by making use of local ammunition supplies. This rifle was captured from the 'Red' Russians holding the fortified island of Mudjug in Archangelsk. The allied attack on Mudjug was perhaps the first combined arms amphibious assault in history, and shows the extent to which military tactics had changed during the First World War.


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Mosin Model 1891 riflle being loaded and fired into a ballistic gelatine block


Action / Operating system Bolt
Barrel length 80 cm (3.5 in)
Calibre / Bore 7.62x54mmR (.30 in)
Capacity (rounds) 5
Country of manufacture Russia
Date entered service 1891
Effective range 500 m (550 yd)
Feed Internal magazine
Manufacturer Chatellerault arsenal (France)
Manufacturer Izhevsk arsenal
Manufacturer New England Westinghouse (USA)
Manufacturer Remington (USA)
Manufacturer Sestroryetsk arsenal
Manufacturer Tula arsenal
Muzzle velocity 865 m/s (2838 fps)
Other operators Austria-Hungary
Other operators USA
Overall length 1.306 m (51.4 in)
Primary operator Russia
Rate of fire (rounds per minute) about 15
Weight 4.22 kg (9 lb 5 oz)


Jonathan Ferguson