Mosin Rifles Refurbishment and Preservation

    We’re going to talk about refurbished Mosin rifles. Who, how, and when they did it. This will be primarily about the Russian rifles coming out of the Ukrainian arsenals at the present time. This is not about other countries like Finland, Poland, Hungary, Romania and their refurb’s, but we will concentrate on the Russian refurbished rifle you can purchase today and at a low price.

    Refurbished (refurb, refurb’d, refurbed) – A rifle taken by the arsenal or armory of Russia (or Soviet Union) and reworked and refinished. This does not include what someone did to it later, after they were removed from the arsenal storage and sold to an importer.

    Who done it – After WWII ended, the Soviet Union decided to stored many of its Mosin rifles as they wound down WWII and replaced them slowly with the newer SKS rifles and AKs. They placed them into long term storage facilities. Some were refurbished at that time, but only a small portion as the main refurbishing came over a period of time until around the 1970’s. Some think it happened in two distinct times and others believe it was done in an “on going” fashion after the war and continues on until the 1970’s. Either way, they made changes in the “way they refurbished them” as they went along.

    The problem is, we don’t know exactly how and why some were done one way, and others a different way. We can only speculate. What we know is, not all the rifles coming in were done the same exact way, but they seem to fall into different groups so the speculation is they had different methods of refurbishment for the different conditions of the rifles.

    Many were just received and placed "as they were" into storage (very few). Others were stripped of all their parts and refinished and then reassembled. Most of the M91/30, M38’s, and M44’s rifles for sale today fall into this last catagory.

    Many were given a full refurbishment while others were only cleaned up or given minimal refinishing. Perhaps if a rifle was in great shape but the magazine was damaged, they simply replaced the magazine with a spare and “forced matched” the serial numbers. The majority  had extensive work done to them, and are a mixture of parts.

    Let’s talk about “force matching” or “force marking” (same thing). The serial numbers on Mosin rifles  were placed on the barrel shank, bolt, magazine door, and the butt plate when the rifle was originally assembled. When a rifle had one of these parts replaced, the serial number was changed on the replaced part to “match” the barrel shank serial number (most of the time). This process is called “force matching”. The hope was when the rifle was cleaned, all the same parts would be returned to the same rifle later on in the field. This force matching was accomplished in several ways.

1)      Old number was ground off and new number was stamped in.

2)      Old number was ground off and new number was “electro penciled” on.

3)      Old numbered was left on and X’d out or lined out and new number was stamped on.

4)      Old numbered was left on and X’d out or lined out and new number was electro penciled on.

5)      Old numbers were left alone and  new number stamped on. (less common)

6)      Old numbers were left alone and new numbers were electro penciled on. (less common)

7)      Nothing was done and the old serial number was left on. (Less common)


    The reason they used one method over another is not known.

    When forced matching they used two different methods,

a)      Electro Pencil – A device that marks the surface and resembles pencil writing on a piece of paper.

b)      Stamped – Metal stamp sets were used, but the font's on these "newer" sets of stamps do not match the old fonts
        on the barrel shank.

No one know why they used one method over the other. Speculation is, they started out using the stamps and ended up electro pencil as electo pencil technology came in to being later on.


    They force matched bolt, magazine doors, and butt plates. They also did this to the mounts on PU snipers which we are not discussing here. Force matching is easy to spot if it is electo penciled. Stamping force matching can sometime take a very keen eye to spot, but the easiest way is to note the “font” of the part that is stamped. Mismatched fonts (those different than the barrel shank’s “font”) indicate the part was replaced or force matched. Also if the letters (cryillic letters) are not on the part, it was force matched.

    All the original parts that were stamped with a serial number, included the Cyrillic letters and numbers. Replaced or force matched parts have only the numbers, but there are a few exceptions where they included the letters. It was very uncommon to stamp the letters on a replaced part but it was done from time to time. So the only reliable way to know is to compare the “fonts” on the numbers (and letters if they are there). A difference in fonts indicates the part was replaced.


    Conclusion is, if the bolt, magazine, or butt plate have only numbers, it is a replaced and force matched part probably done during refurbishment. If the letters are on it, check the fonts.


    How it was done. The majority of the Mosin rifles were completely stripped down and each part separated by type. All the barrel bands, band springs, muzzle caps, cleaning rods, bayonets, rear sight pieces, bolt pieces (broke down bolts to basic parts), magazine parts, butt plates, stocks and so on were all separated , cleaned, and refinished. Then the parts were used to reassemble rifles. Serialized  parts could have force matched numbers with either electro pencil or stamped in. This would have been done during or just after assembly. So you end up with a rifle with mixed parts and forced matched serial numbers. This is the vast majority of the rifles being sold today.


    Now we are sure there are exceptions to this, but it is rare to find an exception. Some rifles may have been “in duty” at the time and missed refurbishment, or the rifle was in such good shape it didn’t need anything done to it, or maybe a single part needed to be replaced. But there are very few examples of “original” rifles. There are of course, non import rifles or Veteran return examples of original rifles. But most of the M91/30, M44’s and M38’s went through this process with very few exceptions.


    The refurbished rifles were blued but, If the bluing was not "perfect" the Soviets simply used black paint to "touch it up". Sometimes it can be extensive. When you go to clean the rifle if you are not very careful, it will come off.


    All of the M91/30, M38’s, and M44’s rifles for sale today are refurbished rifles. Many think they are “unissued’ but that is not correct. They look very nice, and are a bargain at the prices, but they are not “unissued”. With the exception of a very few, the bolts on these rifles are force matched and not original to the rifle.


History, value, and preservation

    These rifles although refurbished and with mixed parts represent the rifles used in WWII. The main parts of the rifle (and the minor parts) all have history and this process was done by the Soviet arsenals. You will find the same thing happening to the US rifles. Most of the US rifles contain mixed parts from different makers in the same exact way as the Mosin. It is part of the Mosin history and is set in stone when the rifle was decommissioned and sold and imported to the USA.


    Any work done on it after leaving the arsenals and storage facilities in the Ukraine is not part of its military history and not part of “preservation”. It is civilian work and is detrimental to its value and military history. Making a ex-military rifle into something it never was (changing its configuration or parts after sale to the importer) or changing it back to a configuration it used to be in but later changed by the Soviets (in the case of ex-snipers being re-snipered) is not preservation. It is altering and will be detrimental to its value. Most collectors are not interested in these altered rifles, and the owners usually have problems selling them later. 

    The most used comments we hear is“I did this because I wanted a cheap sniper" or "the shellac is flaking off and it was of no value because ot that, so I refinished it", or some other rediculas reason and "I never intend to sell it ever anyway, it will be with me forever”. That is never the case and even if it is, the rifle will be passed down to someone when you die. The reason we have some of these collectables today is because someone before you did not destroy their value and preserved them and passed them on. The question will you do the same and pass a rifle down that will be intact and valuable in the future?


    We have heard the words "it’s only a $100 rifle and they made millions of them so it is no big deal". Consider all the people who said that in the 50’s and 60’s about a $25 Mausers (at the time) and cut them down. Some of them would be worth upwards of $1200. Instead they might get $400 for the same rifle today, and it’s military value is so diminished that it is almost non-existant.


    So think about it before cutting, chopping, drilling, sanding and refinishing, or altering a "refurbished" Mosin. Take your time and mull it over, ask people on the forums...........because once you permenantly alter it in any way, it can’t be undone.