COLLECTORS CORNER: Finnish Mosin Nagants
By Robert J. Wos, Past President, OGCA Past President and Current NRA Director

Current NRA Director and OGCA Past President Robert J. Wos
Current NRA Director and OGCA Past President Robert J. Wos

I originally began collecting prewar to early postwar Smith and Wesson revolvers and their accessories (boxes, catalogs, tools, cleaning kits, and other related items). It has come to a point in time where these weapons rarely become available at our meetings. Many of the accoutrements are actually more difficult to find and on many occasions, higher cost than the weapons themselves. If one does happen to run across a well-known collectable weapon in this manner, it is usually with a hefty price tag and thus, limiting, or possibly eliminating the new or novice collector. It can also be discouraging to a seasoned collector.

With the high cost and difficulty in assembling a collection of Colt, Smith & Wesson, Winchester, Springfield or any other well-known firearms; there are alternative weapons that have not peaked out in value or accessibility. The key is to get the jump on finding them by doing your research and thinking strategically in order to uncover which firearms are growing in value and collector interest.

Three years ago I purchased a new publication by Doug Bowser and Powers Dunaway from Jim and Carolyn Alley (IDSA Books) titled Rifles of the Snow, a Collectorís Guide to Finnish Military Rifles 1918-1944. A subsequent edition came out a year later titled Rifles of the White Death also by Doug Bowser. Both publications dealt with the collecting of Finnish Mosin Nagants. The interest generated by these two publications began a new collecting field that has been educational, enjoyable, and rewarding. I have acquired many other books on the subject over the past two years, while collecting Finnish Mosin Nagant rifles.

Finnish military rifles are historically significant and many of them are the rarest military rifles in the world. Production was unbelievably low in comparison to its Russian counterpart. They were either manufactured or rebuilt from existing Russian Mosin Nagant rifles that had been captured, bought, or traded to the Finnish Government. Availability of the weapons was limited until the collapse of Communism throughout Europe. It is easily recognizable that Finnish Mosin Nagant rifles are equipped with significant improvements over the Russian 1891 Mosin Nagant rifle. In addition, the Finnish rifles are generally more accurate.

Some fellow collectors laughed when I began collecting these rifles. However, what some people once considered a junk, surplus weapon has become extremely collectible. Over the past two years, I have personally experienced a decrease in availability of the Finnish Mosin Nagant rifles and the steady increase in cost. The result is a great investment. Today, I remain an avid Smith & Wesson collector, yet I do not expect to realize the return on investment that is possible with the Finnish Mosin Nagants. I am very fortunate to have been able to assemble my own collection of these fine rifles and look forward to uncovering future collecting opportunities.

I hope this one example of collecting interest is evidence that it is possible to collect firearms presently available, being historically important, unique, and through all this, increasing in collector interest and value very quickly.

Background

When the Finnish Army selected the Model 1891 Mosin Nagant, as itís standard rifle in 1918, the country had over 180,000 rifles inherited from the Imperial Russian Army. Most of these rifles were in poor condition and in the 1920ís, all Model 1891 rifles had their barrels changed and sights converted to metric measurements.

A Finnish Mosin Nagant

Originally, the sights were gradiated in arshins (a Russian measurement). The Model 91 was made during World War II with over 25,000 produced in this period. After the war, many of these rifles were stored in arsenals; most were brand new. The Model 1891 was still being taught to NCOís in 1987 and was still being stored in Finland in 1988.

The 91/30 was a Soviet weapon. The Finnish during the Winter War (when USSR invaded Finland in November of 1939) captured 28,000 of these rifles. During the Continuation War (June 25, 1941-September 5, 1944), the quantity of rifles grew immensely. Finnish factories assembled 10,000 rifles as late as the 1960ís. These were in Finnish inventory as late as 1988.

The Model 91/24 Infantry Rifle was equipped with a thicker barrel compared to the standard Model 91. Many were machined down at the muzzle end to a thinner dimension allowing for the earlier Model 91 bayonet to slide over. About 26,000 Model 91 rifles were converted to the 91/24 during the years 1925-28.

The Model 91/27 Infantry Rifle was an improvement over both the original Models 91 and 91/24. It was equipped with a new safety mechanism and trigger, improved sights, better ergonomics, and design features resembling the German Mauser rifle. 55,000 91/27ís were made during 1928-39 with 1,000 more during the Winter War. In 1951 there were only 27,000 Model 91/27ís left, and these were then used in Finnish military training throughout the 1970ís. In 1986, the 91/27 was retired.

The Model 91/28 Military rifle was an improved version of the 91/24 design. Some improvements were a new, thicker but shorter barrel, and protected gun sights. Approximately 40,000 were made during 1927-35 and by 1951, only 17,000 remained in Finnish inventory. This model was retired in 1986.

The Model 28/30 had a few improvements over the Model 91/28, with the main enhancement involving the sights. 40,000 were made from earlier models during 1932-41. By 1951, only 22,000 remained in the Finnish inventory. In the 1980ís, the Finnish Government sold 17,000 of these rifles.

The Model 39 was a further improvement over the 91/27 and 91/28 rifles and the final model to be based on the 1891 design. Over 101,000 Model 39ís were made during 1941-45 and by 1951, 78,000 were in inventory. By 1978, the Model 39 played a reserve role. In 1988, they remained stockpiled but in recent years have found their way to the collector. It is evident that this model is still being imported from Finland at the present time.