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Collecting Guide

Collecting Mosins can be a very enjoyable pastime. The Mosin offers a firearm that was made in great numbers and by many different countries. Because of their large numbers, they are readily available on the market and easy to find. The downside is that because of their large numbers, it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff to find truly collectable rifles. To begin collecting, you need to have some knowledge about what you are going to collect, how you are going to do it and where the item can be found. After all of that, it would be a good idea to have some ability to appraise the rifle you are after and a method to keep your collection organized and on track.

Knowledge

Knowledge is power and in the case of collecting, money or value. A quick review of my website or others, and you get the idea that there is a ton of stuff you should know about Mosins before you collect them. Fortunately, there are a lot of good resources available to you to help you learn. When I first started out collecting, no one I knew had any idea of what a Mosin was. I went down to my local library but drew a blank. They had very little to offer in the way of historic firearms. Of course this was before the days of electronic inter-library searches. My next stop was the computer. I wore out the search engines looking for material. I came up with two hits - Mosin Nagant Homepage and Tuco's Mosin Man's Military Surplus Firearms .the precursor to Mosin Nagant dot Net. It literally took me months to learn the basics of the Mosin Nagant. In just the last couple of years, the resources have expanded tremendously. There are books, websites, chat rooms and forums dedicated to the Mosin Nagant. Where there was once a lack of information, there is now almost too much. Sorting it all out can be a challenge. So where do you start?

There are two books to start with that will provide a good overview of the major Mosin Nagant families:

For the Russian models I would recommend Terrence Lapin's books. His books are comprehensive but not boring or dry. He touches on most of the Mosin variants and describes them well enough for you to recognize them at a dealer or gun show. If you want more detail and can read German, the most comprehensive book on Mosins outside of Finland or Russia has be "Mosin Nagant Three Line Rifle" by Karl-Heinz Wrobel. K-H covers every Mosin ever made that a record exists on. His in-depth reviews of the Mosin covers their inception, the arsenals where they made and the geopolitical climate at the times they were made. He provides information about prototypes and accessories that is not found anywhere else. There is a trio of books concerning the Mosin Sniper. All three are military manual translations and are equally good. Lapin's translation reads a little easier as he has presented the material using western grammar and sentence structures. Paul Tamony's translation is more faithful to the original and Major James Gebhardt's lies somewhere in between.

For the Finnish rifles, Doug Bowser's Rifles of the White Death is the definitive US produced work. He does a very comprehensive review of the Finn Mosin and some of the history behind their development. The most definitive work in the world was done by the Finnish author Markku Palogankas in a three volume set that sells in the $300 range and can only be obtained in Finnish.

Tuco's Mosin Nagant dot Net is another site on the net totally dedicated to the Mosin Nagant. For very comprehensive information, you might want to visit 7.62x54r.net. However, there are other sites as well that mention the Mosin in some detail or feature photos of the various Mosin rifles. Most of these sites can be found in the links section on this site. My favorite resource on the web is the various search engines like Google, Yahoo and Lycos. I hit the search engines at least every other week.

Web forums are the best things to happen to collecting in years. With the click of your mouse, you can interact with collectors who have been at it for years and know all the ropes. However, be prepared to get your share of people on the fringe who seem to lurk around the forums just to take occasional snipes at other posters or to further their own political agendas. The better forums are closely moderated and flames and attacks are dealt with swiftly. Using a forum is an excellent way to benefit from the success and failures of others and to learn from their experiences. Depending on your comfort level, you might actually enjoy being able to ask those questions that you have always had in a non-threatening environment. I haven't found a news group that can stay focused long enough to be truly beneficial but there are some gems of wisdom to gleaned from them as well.

Chat rooms also provide a good opportunity to interact with other collectors. It has the benefit of providing real time feedback to your questions and comments.

Tools

A good collector uses all the tools he or she can to build on their collections. Because the military surplus firearms market is so wide spread and good local resources are rare, a C&RFFL is almost an essential tool. The C&RFFL or Curios & Relics Collectors Federal Firearms License is issued the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. The ATF is part of the US Treasury Department and is tasked with the oversight and enforcement of Federal firearms regulation and taxation. A C&R license provides the collector with a method to purchase firearms for the sole purpose of collecting any where in the United States without having to go through dealers to handle out of state transactions. The license is only good for specific firearms proscribed by the ATF and does not negate state and local laws regulating the purchase, sale of possession of firearms. It is not intended as a license to sell firearms as a business, although you may make occasional sales to balance out your collection. Just be aware that your definition of occasional may not be the same as the ATF's. The license costs $30.00 and is good for three years. I can almost guarantee that you will recoup that money on your first out of state purchase.

How to apply:

You can order the application form from the ATF's website at: http://www.atf.gov/  or contact the National Licensing Center. Their address is:

Federal Firearms Licensing Center
244 Needy Road
Martinsburg, West Virginia 25405 USA
Voice (866) 662-2750 (Toll Free)
Fax (866) 257-2749 (Toll Free)

When you receive the forms, fill out two copies. Send one copy to your "Chief Law Enforcement Officer" and the other along with a $30 check to the address on the form. To find out who your CLEO is in your community, call your local police and sheriff's department. It will be one of the two.

It will take several weeks to process the license application. If you haven't received it after 8 weeks, start contacting the license center for a status. Once you receive the license, DO NOT SIGN IT. Make several copies, sign only the copies and start sending them out to the various vendors and distributors. At the same time, obtain a bound book to record your acquisitions and dispositions. Make sure you keep good records as they are subject to inspection upon the request of the ATF.

If you choose not to go the C&RFFL route, you are left with doing a dealer transfer for your entire out of state purchases or sales. Dealers typically charge $20 to $30 for each transaction plus any applicable fees and taxes normally associated with a gun sale. This adds a healthy overhead to the costs of collecting. Many distributors will not offer a single individual the same pricing or service as they would to a license holder. When doing dealer transfers, they are legally selling your dealer the firearm and he is then free to charge you what ever he wants.

Acquisition 

It's a good idea to stay current on the market values for the firearms you collect. Part of that process is recognizing the differences in market prices locally, regionally and nationally. I generally take an average of all three to establish what I think I should pay for a particular firearm.

Distributors and Importers handle large volumes of firearms and deal with overseas exporters, shippers, US Customs and the ATF. They receive the firearms through Customs, grade them and sell them in bulk to other US distributors, large retail outlets and select dealers. They operate in what is called the primary market. The distributors are not really going to loose any sleep if you as an individual buy from them or not. They will give you the best service they can but their whole focus is on the reseller. They do not have the time, resources or personnel to adequately inspect each and every firearm they sell. Houses like Century and Inter Ordnance may have some very knowledgeable sales representatives. However, your rifle is ultimately selected by some guy working in the warehouse. He doesn't know squat about arsenal marks, grade or rarity. A distributor will not deal with a non-license holder as that violates their association with their resellers.

Dealers and Resellers are two different types of businesses. A dealer may be a traditional "bricks and mortar" establishment or the dealer may be a virtual business located on the web and working out of a small shop or part of their home. Most dealers that handle any volume of military surplus firearms are well known in the collector's community. It is always a good idea to ask about a dealer that you have never used on a forum. There are good and bad dealers like in any other line of retail sales. A dealer's prices will generally be higher of that of the distributor's. He is handling smaller volumes and has to tack on his costs and profit. I also include gun show vendors in this class. Most people believe that they can get a good deal at a gun show when in fact they are paying about 40% more for the very same rifle that Century Arms sells to C&RFFL holders for less. As a matter of fact, I don't know how many times I have seen a table of rifles at a gun show that were so fresh out of the box from Century that they still had the cosmoline on them and the Century trigger tags.

Auctions are not the best deal in town. The goal of an auction is to get the most amount of money over the threshold established by the seller. It never works to the advantage of the buyer. I have seen $30 rifles sell for three times their value. I will not sell on the auction market because as a license holder I must be cautious about my dispositions. The C&RFFL regulations specifically address that the license is not for business purposes and I won't run the risk of my excess profits being viewed by the ATF as not being within the spirit of the law.

Buying from individuals either direct of through an auction can be risky. My advice is not sell or buy from an individual unless you know him or her or they have been strongly recommended by other collectors.

Disposition

Buying leads eventually to selling Mosins as you thin out your collection to acquire better examples. I won't go into the complexities of the bound book required for licensed collectors except to say that you must log all of your dispositions regardless of how the firearm was disposed. If you aren't sure if you need to record a disposition, record it anyway. Better safe than sorry should you ever have to endure a compliance audit from ATF. 

When you sell a rifle, get as much information from the buyer as possible. If it is a casual sale, meaning informal transactions between private citizens as allowed by state law, ask for at least two forms of identification showing a current address and date of birth. One form of I.D. must be a driver's license or Sheriff's I.D. Make sure you record the information complete with the license number.

When dealing out of state, remember that you can only ship to a C&R license holder or licensed dealer. Do not listen to any stories about how someone "knows" that it's o.k. in their state. It's a federal law. Make sure that you receive payment and a copy of their license before shipping the rifle. Only ship to address listed on the license.

When shipping the rifle, you have a couple of alternatives. One is to ship via UPS (United Parcel Service) and the other is through either FedEx or the US Post Office. When shipping via UPS, you must go through a depot and have a copy of your license and the license of the person receiving the rifle. If the transaction is going through a licensed dealer, you will need a copy of the dealer's license. Remember that when you are handling the transaction through a dealer, you use the dealer's information in your bound book not the buyers. You will need the same documentation when shipping through other carriers. UPS outlets such as Mailbox Whatever ( you know who I mean ) will not accept firearms for shipping. You must go through a depot. Should you encounter any difficulty at the depot, ask for a manager and show him a copy of the UPS tariff. A .pdf version is available here: UPS Tariff   . The tariff clearly states the UPS policy on shipping firearms.

Remember that if you are a C&R license holder, you may not give the appearance of dealing in firearms. That means you should avoid frequent sales of firearms or sales of large numbers of firearms. I know a lot of folks ignore this but ATF does audit license holders upon occasion and frequent sales will bite you in the long run.

Shipping Tips 

(Courtesy of Mark, aka The Brat)

Tape -- This is the most misunderstood component. For sealing cartons, do not use masking or duct (or duck) tape. Neither is designed for grabbing onto the surface of paperboard packaging and doing a good job. Same goes for most filament tape. It is designed for strapping, not carton sealing. It isn't a bad idea to strap a carton, but strapping tape makes for a lousy seal.

Clear and brown tape are the same, other than color. It is cheaper to use one piece of quality tape over a seal than several pieces of cheap stuff. Tape is designed to not stick to the back of other pieces of tape. This is done so it will come off the roll. When sealing a carton, a little overlap is as good as complete overlap. Tape all the edges the UPS recommended style.

Cartons, aka boxes. Corrugated cartons, which we all call cardboard boxes, are not made from cardboard. Cardboard is a solid fiber. The roundish seal you see on a carton will normally tell you that a carton is either 200 pound test or 32 ECT.

200 pound test does not mean the carton will hold 200 pounds. This is a figure derived from an old railroad burst test. That said, the bigger the number, the tougher the carton.

32 ECT means that the material will support at least 32 pounds in an edge crush test. To you and me, basically meaningless, except that 200 pound board and 32 ECT board are essentially the same.

Box makers lie. Just because a carton guarantees a certain burst test or ECT doesn't mean it will pass the test.

Bubble Wrap: Almost all bubble today is non-barrier film meaning that it will slowly leak the air out of its bubbles. For protection, a material called poly foam works much better. Poly foam and foam rubber are not the same. Poly peanuts will migrate in a carton to an area where they will do the least amount of good. For peanuts, you must over pack the carton so there is no possibility of the contents moving around. In a long carton that is likely to get a hole in it, peanuts are worthless.

All plastics gas off chemicals. If you put poly film, bubble or foam next to wood or metal, expect it to leave impressions and likely surface damage.

Paper: I suggest you wrap your firearm in plain craft paper prior to rolling it up in poly foam and placing it in a good corrugated carton. Wrap the bolt separately.

Labeling: cover all labels with clear carton sealing tape. Put an extra copy of the address label in the carton in case the original is ripped off.

A final bit of advice: Use plenty of cushioning on the ends of those long cartons. When packing a firearm, pack it snuggly to reduce movement in the carton.

The long cartons most C&R rifles come in are junk from the get-go. If you decide to reuse one, it is important to use plenty of inner packaging to make up for the weakness of the carton.

Source Chart

Outlet Plus Minus
     
Distributor Cheapest source Inconsistent grading and poor customer service
Retail Better grading Cost goes up
Dealer/Vendor Best grading Cost is even higher
Auction Good source for rare firearms Very costly
Individual Good balance of price and quality Can be very risky

Collectable Gems

Here's a simple list of models that are sought after the most. These are rifles that are highly prized by collectors and that are not easily found in every case. In the course of adding to your collection, it's a good idea to keep a sharp eye out for these models. 

Russian Models
   
Model 1891 American manufactured 91's.
  Pre-1895
  Serbian Contract
  Chatterault
 
Model 1907 Carbine  
 
Dragoon Type I
  Type II
 
Kossack  
 
Model 91/30 Converted Dragoon
  East German
  Hungarian
  Chinese
  Korean
 
Sniper PE
  PEM
  PU
 
M38 Original stock
 
M44 Tula
  Laminated stock
  Hex Receiver

Most sought after Finnish rifles. Note: Any of these with "hang tags", unit disks or Civil Guard numbers is a plus!

Finnish Models
   
Model 1891 Finn Tikka M91's
  P-Series
  VKT M91
   
M24  
 
M27 Ski Trooper
  Standard without reinforcement
  Standard with reinforcement
 
Model 91/30 Tikka - round receiver with "pot belly" stock
  Tikka - round receiver with standard stock
 
M 28 Ski Trooper
  Standard
   
M28/30
   
M39 SkY
  Sako 1941 straight stock
  1943 VKT

I did not mention Finn sniper rifles as they are so rare that it is highly unlikely to see one imported. This listing is not all inclusive but rather a general guide to what is considered as the gems of any collection.

Collecting these old rifles can be an educational and fun experience. Just take the time to learn as much as you can about the riles and where to get them and your experience will be much more rewarding!

Collecting Directions

Sometimes as an advanced collector, I forget about what it was like just starting out to explore these great firearms. The new collector is faced with a bunch of questions with regard to what direction their collecting activity should take them. Occasionally, I will receive an email on this very subject and I respond without giving it another thought. It has occurred to me though that more and more people are beginning to collect the Mosin rifle and they might benefit from some ideas about directions to take their collections in.

The first thing you want to consider is why you want to collect Mosins. Are you interested in their history, their design or do want to salt them away for a possible future nest egg? Having an idea of what it is that makes you want to collect goes a long way in determining where you want to go with your collecting.

Collecting for Value

One thing that needs to be said is this - there is no guarantee that these firearms will be worth anything in the future. Even though they are currently popular and you as a starting collector are excited about them, twenty years from now, military surplus rifles might be considered an oddity or unusual but they might be desirable. As long as you are aware of that distinct possibility, collecting for value is not a bad thing.

The first thing you need to do in collecting for value, is to determine which of these rifles are the most value or have the most potential future value. That sounds simple but really is a complicated process because it involves learning as much about these rifles as possible. In collecting for value, you are looking for rifles that are unique, produced in smaller numbers, hard to find and have qualities and characteristics that separate them from the rest of the rifles in their type. One way to consider this is that if you posted that you found one of these rifles on a large forum, you wouldn't find more than 20 percent of the people who would post that they have one just like it. I won't get into specific models because that could be a whole section on its own but I will mention one or two.

Rifles that are dated pre-production or end of production can fall in this category. Consider, for instance, the 1943 dated M44. There were only about 50,000 of these rifles produced that year for trials and testing. An end of production might be the 1945 dated M38 as very limited numbers of those were ever produced.

Scarce examples would go into the value category like the 1907 Carbine or a Cossack or Dragoon in original configuration.

Rifles having characteristics that separate them from other rifles of their type might be the B-barrel M39 and M91 or a Straight Stock M39.

I think you can get the idea by now and you can also see that a great deal of study goes into collecting in this direction. It also requires a great of money and it is not for the faint of heart!

Collecting For History

Collecting for history can either involve collecting rifles connected to a single event in history or rifles associated historically with one nation or group of nations. This includes rifles used in WWI, the Spanish Civil War, the Finnish War of Independence and the Continuation War and of course WWII. Rifles associated with other nations might include the Polish examples or the Bulgarian and Hungarian Mosins. Last but certainly not least are the Finnish Mosins. The rifles you would collect would either have markings or dates that would associate them with these events or countries.

Collecting by Type, Country and Year

Many collectors collect by type and year. They might start out collecting Russian M44's from 1943 to 1948 and then they move on to third country M44 by year. You might also collect M44's from every country they were produced in and then expand out by year. After that you might move on to 91/30s, M1891s and narrow your collection down to Russian M91s, Finn M91s or Serbian marked M91's.

The whole idea is focus and organize your collecting activity so that you don't end up with a hodge-podge of different Mosin rifles that would be hard to catalogue and later dispose of. At the same time, you get involved with the history of these fine rifles by researching what best compliments your collecting direction. I hope this article helps you to get started!















  
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