Gletcher Mosin-Nagant Model 1944 Part 1
The Russian sharpshooter is back
By Dennis Adler
History gives us many choices in military firearms because almost every gun, at one time or another has been used by an army somewhere in the world since the 15th century. Almost every handgun and rifle has some military lineage, whether it is a flintlock, caplock, rimfire, centerfire, or CO2 model.
For CO2 powered air rifles one of the oldest patterns used today is the Mosin-Nagant bolt-action rifle, which dates back to the original 1891 design by Russian Army Captain Sergei Ivaonvich Mosin, and Belgian armsmakers Emile and Leon Nagant. The hyphenated sharing of names, however, wasn’t exactly intended, in fact, back in late 19th century Russia it was never known as a Mosin-Nagant, but rather the Model 1891 or the “3-Lineyaya Vintovka obr 1891g” (3-line rifle, model of 1891). In point of fact, the bolt action rifle was almost entirely designed by Sergei Mosin. The Nagant part, however, is quite significant; Emile and Leon designed the magazine follower, the bolt, an interrupter (a specially designed part within the receiver, which helps prevent double feeding) and the charger or stripper clip that was used in the final production models. Originally these key pieces were part of the Nagant rifle design presented to the Russian military at the same time as Sergei Mosin’s in 1890.
Throughout late 1890 and into 1891, both rifles were field tested by three regiments and one battalion of the Russian Army. The opinion in the field was that the Nagant design was superior, but politics being what they were (a constant throughout history) it was decided that the military should have a rifle designed by a Russian, and a Russian Army Captain no less. The Nagant’s were Belgian, which held little sway with Czar Alexander III, although they would be in favor four years later with Czar Nicholas II, when the Nagant brothers began selling their Model 1895 revolvers to the Russian military, as well as licensing the manufacture of the 7-shot models in Russia.
The Mosin-Nagant, as the name implies, was a compromise design combining the better elements of the Nagant with Mosin’s design for the final production version in 1892. The rifles were manufactured at the Russian ordnance factories in Tula, Izhevsk, and Sestroryetsk. Mosin rose through the ranks to become a Major General and ended up director of the Sestroryetsk arsenal until his death in 1902. The Nagant brother’s armory, Fabrique d’Armes et Leon Nagant, in Liege, continued as a successful arms manufacturer until the early 1930s. Nagant had also ventured into manufacturing automobiles at the turn of the century, and in 1931 was bought out by Belgian automotive manufacturer Imperia. Their namesake would be the 1895 pistol and the 1891 Mosin-Nagant rifle.
The Mosin-Nagant Model 1891 and subsequent improved models and variations were used by Russian (and later Soviet) soldiers through WWII. The original M1891 rifle was built in three versions, Infantry, Carbine and Dragoon (or Cossack), which had shorter 28.8 inch barrels for mounted cavalry and did not have a bayonet. All three utilized the same bolt action with a straight Mosin-designed bolt handle, and five-shot internal capacity magazine loaded using stripper clips. Early models all used the same graduated rear sight, blade front sight, one-piece beech stock with a full handguard on top, a cleaning rod, sling stock slots, and a rudimentary safety engaged by twisting the large cocking piece slightly counterclockwise. Different barrel lengths, changes to the sights (such as a hooded front sight), and use of bayonets were principal differences between the Mosin-Nagant variations.
The original chambering for the rifles was a new smokeless powder 7.62x54mm R cartridge with a 212 gr. round nose bullet. The 212 gr. round nose ultimately proved inadequate at the distances the Mosin-Nagant was designed for, and was replaced in 1908 with a lighter grain weight, higher velocity 147-gr. Spitzer (pointed) bullet. The rear sights were also recalibrated to meters from the Russian arshin, a unit of measurement equal to 28 inches that had been the Russian standard since the 16th century. The arshin was dispensed with (along with Czar Nicholas II) following the 1917-1918 Russian Revolution. The Mosin-Nagant rifle and Nagant pistols survived the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Lenin, the Russian Communist Party, and Lenin’s successor, Joseph Stalin. Not to mention two world wars.
The Mosin-Nagant design was updated in 1930 and designated M91/30 which was famously used by the Red Army. Among changes was a switch from the hexagonal receivers used on the original rifles to less-labor-intensive and expensive to manufacture round receivers (such as those used on the Gletcher Mosin-Nagant M1944). The 91/30 Mosin-Nagant also introduced a shorter 28.7-inch barrel, replacing the earlier 31.6-inch barrel. A new hooded post front sight replaced the original front blade and a new tangent-type rear sight, graduated from 100–2,000 meters was added.
An improved carbine version, known as the M38, was issued during World War II, and the M91/30 Sniper rifle with telescopic sight. This model used a modified longer handled bolt design (or “bent bolt”) to accommodate the optics and is the most famous Mosin-Nagant in current memory thanks to the 2001 film Enemy at the Gates starring Jude Law as legendary Russian sniper Vasily Zaytsev. The film was loosely based on the true story of Zaytsev’s role as a sniper during the 1942 Battle of Stalingrad. More than anything else, the film brought the Mosin-Nagant unprecedented recognition. It remains one of the most famous rifle designs in history and even 70 years after production ended in Russia , Mosin-Nagant rifles are still being used in some corners of the world!
In Part 2 we will look at the Mosin-Nagant M44 carbine (Model 1944) upon which the Gletcher model is based.
 The Mosin-Nagant design was manufactured by Eastern European and Chinese armsmakers into the 1950s and as late as 1973 in Finland.