Sniper Rifles

M91 30

Russia/USSR Mosin Nagant

General Specifications Sniper Rifle General Description:

Weight -- 8 3/4 lbs.(4.0 kg)
Length (over all) -- 48 1/2" (123.2 cm)
Barrel Length -- 28 3/4" (73.0 cm)
Stock length -- 45" (114.3 cm)
Magazine -- 5 Rounds Integral box
Muzzle Velocity: -- 2850 fps
Effective Range: --1000 meters

  • Still commonly found on modern battlefields around the world
  • 3.5-power PU fixed focus scopes
  • Production of the Mosin Nagant sniper rifles began in 1937 and ended in 1963
  • Featured a turned down bolt to clear the optics

The Mosin–Nagant Model 91/30 was adopted and modified to be a sniper rifle in 1932. It was adapted for sniper use by adding a telescope. The telescopes were somewhat similar to those used on US hunting rifles at that time. The Model 1891/30 PU was issued with 3.5-power fixed focus scope to what the Soviets then called sharp shooters. It served quite prominently in the brutal urban battles on the Eastern Front, such as the Battle of Stalingrad, which made heroes of the Soviet snipers many of which were women.

The 91/30 PU sniper rifle is an upgrade of the standard Model 91/30 rifle. The functional and robust bolt and magazine remained essentially unchanged except for the bent bolt which allowed it to clear the scope so a round could be easily chambered. The sniper rifles were highly respected for being very rugged, reliable, accurate, and easy to maintain.

The 91/30 PU's were generally built to more exacting standards than their standard issue counterparts. The standard M91/30's were thought to have been fired and the best of the lot were selected to become sniper rifles. Once selected the triggers were reworked and the finish on the later PU snipers were better than the standard infantry rifles.

Unlike the other combatants, Soviet Russia had a well established sniper rifle manufacturing and training program in place when Germany forced its entry into World War II with the launch of Operation Barbarossa invasion in 1941.Based on the low wall 91/30 rifle with a hexagonal and round receivers, there were at least three sniper rifles using different chamber and bolt body scope mounts. Ironically, the Soviets received the bulk of their sniping expertise from military exchanges with the fledgling Nazi regime in the 1930s. Thus in 1942 work began on a sniper rifle that could be mass produced.

A few rifles were used with 26mm (1.02in) diameter rubber baffle silencers weighing about 480gm (1lb 1oz). Silenced weapons could only fire subsonic "partisan" ammunition with green marks on the bullet, case or primer otherwise the baffles were destroyed after a few rounds.

The first examples of the 91/30 PU came from the production lines in Tula and Iszevsk late in 1942, and the weapons remained the front line sniper rifles for the now-defunct Eastern Communist Bloc. Both the rifle and the sniper rifle were standard issue in some Soviet satellite armies into the 1970s until they were superseded by the infamous self-loading SVD Dragunov which is chambered for the same caliber round and remains in service today.

It has been believed that that 185,000 sniper rifles were produced during the war but because of the secretive nature of the Soviets during the Cold War era, the subsequent manufacture, and re-manufacture of the weapons by numerous satellite states, and the chaotic state of the former USSR since the Iron Curtain finally came down, definitive manufacturing figures for 91/30 PU sniper rifles are hard to come by.

The Mosin Nagant Sniper rifle has been used by third world countries after the conclusion of World War II seeing service in the Korean Conflict by the North Koreans from the beginning, and Chinese Communists about a year later, during the Korean War. They were also by the North Vietnamese in the Viet Nam War. American soldiers brought back several Mosin Nagant Sniper Rifles after they were used against American and South Vietnamese forces.

The 7.62 round is still being used as efficient sniper ammunition. In 2007 an American Sniper in Iraq using the standard issue M24 Sniper Rifle firing 7.62x51 NATO rounds which have a muzzle velocity of 2800 fps. The rifle and round were rated as having a maximum distance of 875yds (800m). The Sniper was tasked with removing an enemy sniper who thought he was out of range of the US Sniper as he was 7/10 of a mile away, 1230yds (1130m). Once the US Sniper made his calculations he sent the round and it became the longest Sniper Kill ever with a 7.62 round. This puts into perspective what the Soviet Snipers were able to do with the Mosin Nagant Sniper Rifle over 50 years ago.

Sniper Variants

PE Snipers :

The first series of Soviet sniper rifles used the Model PE scope (VP in the Soviet designation) which was produced by the company Emil Busch AG and was basically a copy of the Zeiss optics used on the first prototypes. Russian sights were made in a factory equipped by Carl Zeiss of Jena. The 4 x4 PE type had a 30mm objective lens, a field of view that is 8° 30' azimuth and elevation adjustments were internal. It gave good optical performance for its day but it was comparatively heavy. The earliest sights were mounted in a single piece, twin split ring mount held on the receiver ring above the chamber but this was replaced by a twin split ring mount fitted to a dove tailed base plate on the left side of the receiver.

This series of rifles ran from 1931 to 1939 with some evidence indicating that the production run went into the early 40's to use up surplus parts from the official production run. The PE scope is identified by its length which extends from just even with the iron sight base back to just beyond the cocking piece on the bolt and the use of an adjustable objective or eyepiece. The PE was a 4 power scope that featured adjustments for elevation and windage as well as the focus ring. The first mounting system was a hex shaped affair that mated with the hex receiver and mounted the scope on the center line of the bore. This center line mount was later adapted to the round receivers. Later mounting systems for the PE and PE/PEM series were side mounts that attached to a base affixed to the left side of the receiver.

  • Mosin Nagant PE Sniper Rifle


PEM Snipers :
The Soviets received the bulk of their sniping expertise from military exchanges with the fledgling Nazi regime in the 1930s, and the PE and PEM 4-power scopes mounted on the first 91/30 sniper rifles was a direct copy of a design by the famed German optical manufacturer Zeiss. However, as fine as these earlier Soviet sniper rifles were – to the point they were prized items often pressed into service when captured by the German invaders, who often had to rely on civilian target and hunting rifles pressed into service as sniping weapons – Russia could not produce them in the quantities demanded by a massively expanded military, fighting with its backs to the wall against a professional and determined enemy. Thus in 1942 work began on a sniper rifle that could be mass produced.

In 1938 the PEM received the side mounting system that attached to the left side of the receiver in a side rail. This mounting system allowed better access to loading the weapon and gave more clearance for the use of the iron sights on the weapon finding one of these examples today is extremely rare.

  • Mosin Nagant PEM Sniper Rifle


  • PE/PEM Defined :

The two early models of scopes mounted on the 91/30 were referred to as PE and PEM which stands for "unified model" and "unified model modern" respectively. The difference between the two are significant as the early PE allowed for focus adjustment whereas the PEM did not. The move away from the focus ring was to simplify production and to attempt to stem reported problems with the scopes "leaking" due to poor seals. There is some confusion over the designation PE/PEM which according to the source you read designates a transitional production series from 1937 through 1939 or the entire series of rifles produced after the introduction of the PEM.

PU Snipers :

By far the most commonly encountered 91/30 PU sniper rifles were manufactured at Izsevsk, and they are readily recognized by the arsenal’s hammer and sickle within a wreath on top of the chamber, and a number with at least seven digits and Cyrillic characters stamped into the left side of the chamber. Iszevsk manufactured components - right down to the barrel bands and butt plate - have a triangle with a fletched arrow inside stamped into them.

In keeping with Soviet war time austerity, the PU scope is basic, but robust and effective. With a magnification of 3.5-power and 169mm (6.7 inches) in length and weighing 270 grams (9.5 ounces), the PU is a simple design with a European three post reticule, and it was quicker to manufacture. With the scope fitted, all 91/30 PU rifles were issued with an roughly woven cloth action shroud with a leather strap which passed through the trigger guard, which doubled as a case for the scope when it was removed with the detachable mount. Each rifle also had a set of leather scope caps, although examples in East German service have been encountered with plastic caps linked with black elastic cord.

Like the rifles, there are huge variations in the optical sights, with wartime dated markings varying from the Soviet hammer and sickle in a pentagon, through to later examples with just a serial number, and new and refurbished scopes with multi-coated lens elements. The windage dial, on the left of the scope is calibrated plus and minus to 10, and the elevation dial is marked out to a (very optimistic) 1300 meters. As with many European scopes of the era, the cross hair does not remain centered, but shifts with adjustment. The PU scope has been adapted for a variety of heavy weaponry, including 14.5 anti-aircraft guns and 12.7mm machine guns, and these can generally be recognized by extra increments on the elevation dial – 91/30 scopes stop at 13, whereas heavy machine gun scopes often go up to 22 - although they have an identical three post reticule.

Russian M91 30 PU
                              Sniper 003.jpg

Photo donated by Empire Arms:

  • Other Countries Mosin Snipers :

The Soviet Union wasn't the only country to use Mosin Nagant Sniper Rifles during World War II. Shown below are some variants.

  • Finnish Mosin Nagant M91/30 Sniper Rifle

During World War 2, the Finnish Army captured and reissued any M/91-30 sniper rifles they encountered. Almost all of them were returned to front line service immediately upon capture but those that were damaged were returned to the arms depots for either repair or stripped for parts and the optical components and mounting hardware. The number of rifles that were captured during the Winter War because of Soviet trained snipers was unknown, these soldiers did not tend to surrender easily. Most Finnish captured sniper rifles came from positions quickly overrun. Soviet snipers were trained to damage or destroy their rifles in the event of defeat or imminent capture.

Finn M91 30 Sniper PU 001.jpg

Photo donated by Empire Arms:

  • Polish Mosin Nagant M91/30 Sniper Rifle


Photo courtesy of Forum Member martin08

  • Hungarian M/52 Sniper Rifle

Hungarian M/52 sniper rifles are among the rarest examples of the PU family, and, since standard Hungarian 91/30 rifles are even rarer than their scoped cousins. They are readily recognized by their higher standard of manufacture, a deeper blue/black finish of all metal, and a profusion of “02” (apparently the Eastern Bloc designation for Hungarian manufactured weaponry) stamps on just about every component of the weapon - right down to the shaft of the cleaning rod. The scope mount components also display finer attention to detail during manufacture and are generally unmarked, save for customary “02” stamps.

The marking on the rifle’s chamber are utilitarian. An 02 above the year of manufacture and then the serial number which is generally two letters followed by four digits. There is also evidence of “blond", almost yellow timber on unissued rifles. Like the Russian rifles, the Hungarian stocks have a brass-reinforced “dog collar” sling mount slots. M/52 rifles can be fitted with an all leather sling or webbing varieties in varying colors, again the 02 marking readily denotes their origin. Hungarian scopes are identical to the Russian PU optics except for the markings, all markings are in white with the scope number being a "41" that is apparently an indication of Hungarian manufactured optics that is also seen on military binoculars above a four digit year of manufacture, then the serial number.

There is also another four digit number, indicating the serial of the rifle the scope was issued with. Hungarian M/52 rifles have been encountered with Russian manufactured scopes or mounts, but whether these came together in the various countries the weapons were exported to as military aid during re-build programs, or the components were fitted to rifles without optical sights by civilian collectors can only be conjecture.


Article written by JoeR, Wiki Contributor,
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