Finnish Mosin Nagants


The rifle we know as the Mosin Nagant began life in 1889  when 3 rifles were submitted to  Russia’s Imperial Army for trials:

  • Captain Sergei Ivanovich Mosin – “3-line”
  • Belgian Léon Nagant submitted a “3.5-line”
  • Captain Zinoviev submitted a “3-line” design

The Mosin design won the trial, though a few features were borrowed from the Nagant. In Russia the rifles have always been called the Mosin rifle. The loading clip and interrupter are claimed to be by Nagant though this is disputed. Calibre is 7.62x54R, a round similar in design and performance to the British .303”. It is still the standard medium machine gun cartridge of the Russian Army.

Following independence in 1918, Finland inherited many M1891 rifles and chose this type to arm their Army and Civil Guard. After the M91 was accepted as the standard, Finland began to purchase M91 rifles from other nations to add to their inventory. These purchases began in the 1920s and continued into the early 1940s with most of the purchases coming from various nations which captured or were issued Russian M91s during or after World War One. Finnish purchases of the M91 Rifle:

1926 39,900 from Italy
1928 13,000 from Albania
1928 2,000 from France
1936 4,600 from Hungary
1936 2,900 from Poland
1936 10,900 from Czechoslovakia
1939 56,500 from Yugoslavia
1940 300 from Hungary
1941 12,300 from Bulgaria

The Finns felt that though the basic Mosin rifle was rugged and dependable, it could be very significantly improved, particularly in terms of accuracy. The Mosin barrel in particular was considered a weakness, being relatively light and often with poor rifling.

The first attempt to correct the substandard barrel condition was to begin production of a Finnish made barrel to replace the older Russian versions. These barrels were produced by Suomen Ampumataruikehdas in Riihimäki with the production beginning in 1922 and ending in 1924. As this was the first Finnish attempt in such a venture, a number of problems were encountered in production and only 200 barrels were produced. The barrels are marked SAT Riihimäki and are one of the most uncommon military rifles in the world. Low production numbers and losses from various causes have made the SAT M91s possibly the most sought after of all Finnish small arms. There are very few examples of these left in the world with a select few being known in private or museum collections in Finland and the USA.


The next attempts at improving the Finn M91s took two directions, as one was an attempt to salvage barrels by relining, while the other was production of new barrels. Both undertakings created interesting and uncommon versions of the M91 rifle.

In the early years of independence, the Finns sent armoury officials to a number of nations to research arms production and improvements. Officials were sent to Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, and elsewhere to increase their knowledge to assist in Finnish arms production. On one of these fact finding tours, Finnish Colonel A.E. Saloranta was shown an Italian process that would become known as the Salerno method, a procedure of relining old worn out barrels. The Salerno method was undertaken at Arm Depot Number One (AV1) in Helsinki and approximately 13,000 older Russian barrels were reworked. In this technique, older barrels were bored out and a new barrel liner was inserted. This work was done at AV1 from 1925 and 1927. The barrels produced were marked P-26 or P-27, and in most cases also have an S above the serial number.

Relining was not considered a great success.


Another effort to correct the problem of poor barrels was undertaken at the private Finnish firm Tikkakoski. Tikkakosken Rauta-ja Puuteollisuus Oy (Metal and Wood Industry Of Tikkakoski Limited) more commonly known today as Tikka was founded in 1893. Its first work with the Finnish military was the production of 200 Maxim barrels in 1920.

Tikka was contracted for and produced 10,000 barrels from 1925-1927 with the barrels being fitted to rifles at AV1. The production of 1925 was quite limited as testing was not underway until December and known 1926 barrels have serial numbers as low as #100. There are some in Finland who debate if any barrels were produced in 1925 since there are no known examples. Official records seem to indicate barrels were produced in 1925 but it is not clear if this happened or not. The barrels produced in 1926 have the date either on the top of the barrel shank or underneath the shank (not able to be seen unless the rifle is removed from the stock). When the the date stamp location was changed is unknown and it is difficult to state which is more commonly encountered today. All barrels made in 1927 will be stamped with the date on the top of the barrel shank under the serial number.

M24 – Lotta’s Rifle

The Civil Guard headquarters contacted the Swiss firm of Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft (SIG) of Neuhausen am Rheinfalls in the spring of 1923 to investigate the possibility of a production contract to the manufacture of new barrels for their Finnish rifles. The contract was agreed upon and on April 10th 1923, 3,000 Mosin Nagant barrels were ordered from SIG. This initial order of barrels was delivered by SIG to the Civil Guard workshop in Helsinki the following year in April of 1924.

Upon delivery of the primary order, an additional order of 5,000 Mosin Nagant barrels was placed once again with SIG on April 3rd 1924. In addition a separate order and contract was negotiated with a German consortium totaling 5,000 additional barrels. The Finnish company of Ase Oy (Weapons, Inc.) of Helsinki handled the contracts between the foreign suppliers and the Finnish government. These orders called for the delivery of the second batch of contracted barrels to be ready by 1925.

The Civil Guard adopted the Model 24, called Lotta’s Rifle (“Lottakivääri”) after the women’s auxiliary of the Civil Guard, known as the “Lotta Svärd” which was instrumental in raising funds to purchase and repair or refurbish some 10,000 rifles


Not to be outdone by the Civil Guard, the Finnish Army also elected to improve their Mosin rifles and developed the M28 version. The receiver and magazine of the 1891 were retained, but a new shorter-length heavy-weight barrel was fitted. The sights were modified. The receivers and bolts were modified with “wings” being fitted to the bolt connecting bars that fit into slots machined into the receivers. The stocks were initially produced by cutting down 1891 stocks and opening up the barrel channels to accommodate the heavier barrel. New barrel bands and nose caps were fitted and a new bayonet was issued.

The modified stocks proved to be weak, breaking when soldiers practiced bayonet fighting or firing with the bayonet fitted. These and other problems resulted in a slow-down of production in the mid-1930s while solutions to problems were engineered and existing stocks of rifles were modified. Produced from mid-1927 to 1940, the Model 27 was the Finnish Army’s main battle rifle in the Winter War.


The M/28, a variant quickly developed by the Civil Guard, differs from the Army’s M/27 primarily in the barrel band design, which is a single piece compared to the M/27’s hinged band, and an improved trigger design. Barrels for the M/28 were initially purchased from SIG, and later from Tikkakoski and SAKO. M28s gained a repuation for accuracy and led to a number of variants, including the M28/30, an upgraded version of the M/28. The most noticeable modification is the new rear sight design. Same sight was used in following M39 rifle only exception being “1.5” marking for closest range to clarify it for users. According to micrometer measurements and comparison to modern Lapua D46/47 bullet radar trajectory data, markings are matched to Finnish Lapua D46/D46 bullet surprisingly accurately through whole adjustment range between 150 m and 2000 m.

M28/30, serial number 60974, was used by Simo Häyhä, credited with 505 kills.


In the 1930s it was realised that having three different rifles, the M24, M27 and M28, in service was complicating the supply chain. The answer was to have a common rifle for the Civil Guard and the Army. Completely redesigned components included the stock, handguard, barrel band and nosecap. The sling connections, barrel weight and front sight assembly were also new. The bolt, magazine assembly and portions of the trigger assembly were retained from the previous versions based upon the m/91 Russian design. The rear sight was borrowed from the Civil Guard’s m/28-30 but the addition of a shorter battle sight graduation of 150 meters was added.

The barrel of the m/39 was modified from previous dimensions of the earlier Finnish designed Nagants, both in exterior and interior dimensions. The exterior barrel dimensions were reduced from that of the m/27 for a weight reduction and compensation of the slightly heavier stock design as well as for material conservation. The overall length of the barrel remained the same as the previous m/27 and m/28-30. The interior bore diameter was increased from .3082″ of previous models to.3100″ on the m/39. This change was due in part to allow the use of captured Soviet ammunition and machine gun ammunition which often times was of a slightly greater bore diameter than its Finnish counterparts. The rifling twist was also changed to one twist in 10″ rather than one twist in 9.5″ on the M/28-30

Later M28 variants

The M28 was noted for its accuracy and target rifle variants were developed in 1957 and 1966. These, the M28/57 and M2866, were hand built with heavy barrels, usually SAKO, and fitted into a custom stock.

M28/76 Designated marksman's / sniper training rifle

M28/76 Designated marksman’s / sniper training rifle

The M28/76 rifle is an update to the Finnish M28/57 and M28/66 target rifles. While not a true battle rifle, these were used by the Finnish Defense Forces for target shooting and marksman qualification, but were designated for use as a sniper weapon if needed. The M28/76 led on to the last in the line of Finnish Mosins, the TKIV-85.


Mosin-Nagant bolt-actions were modified in 1984 by Valmet who also manufactured new barrels for these rifles. The rifles were assembled in 1984–1985 by Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) Asevarikko 1 (“Arsenal 1”) in Kuopio.

Though the 7.62 TKIV 85 sniper rifle has been modified extensively compared to the standard Mosin-Nagant rifle, the use of the old receivers in these rifles makes them arguably the oldest small arms in current use by any military. Some of the parts used may date back as far as the 1890s.

Another exclusive feature of the 7.62 TKIV 85 is its 7.62×53mmR chambering. No other currently used military firearm is chambered for this unique Finnish cartridge. The PKM machine guns and other Russian firearms in Finnish service are chambered for the 7.62×54mmR cartridge. The standard operating procedure calls for the use of 7.62×54mmR cartridges in 7.62 TKIV 85 rifles only in emergency situations when 7.62×53mmR ammunition is not available. The reason for this is the bullet diameter difference of 7.85 mm (0.309 in) in the 7.62×53mmR versus 7.92 mm (0.312 in) in the 7.62×54mmR. Some 7.62×53mmR rounds were also loaded with an intermediate 7.88 mm (0.310 in) diameter bullet.


Many thanks to Jonathon Ferguson, curator of firearms, and the staff at the Royal Armouries for their assistance for supplying some rare rifles and even rarer telescopic sights  for this lecture.