Sawed-Off Rifles – Mosin-Nagant Part 2
From the Old West, to Prohibition, to the battlefield
By Dennis Adler
If necessity is the mother of invention, than war and crime is the mother of necessity. Most of the firearms developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries were built for offensive or defensive use in war; certainly many were also designed and built as target and hunting rifles, and even target pistols. There is, however, a fine line that separates that distinction, and everything needs to be viewed in the context of the times; we simply cannot subject 19th century thinking to 21st century interpretation.
Shortening the barrel and cutting the stock off at the wrist, as was done with older Mosin-Nagant bolt action rifles around 1917, perhaps even earlier, was done during desperate times in war by men whose very lives were at risk for having such a weapon. With the Model 1891 this was done most famously during the Russian Revolution, which began on March 8, 1917 and ended with the abdication of Czar Nicholas II, bringing an end to Czarist ruled Russia. Mind you, this all occurred in the midst of World War I, a war in which Russia was taking heavy loses in the fight against Germany. Within a matter of months Russia’s post-Czarist government was foundering, which led to the October Bolshevik Revolution and the beginning of the Soviet Union. However, the rise of Lenin as head of a new government was not entirely successful, and multiple factions arose leading to a Russian Civil War in the middle of a World War. The Great War ended in 1919 but the Russian Civil War lasted until 1923 with Lenin and the Red Army victorious. A year later Lenin died and Joseph Stalin rose to power as leader of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic. All very interesting politically and historically, but also very much intertwined with the archaic weapons still being used in Russia during WWI and throughout the Civil War, the Mosin-Nagant in particular, which was developed during the reign of the Russian Czars and then used to overthrow them.
Even though the Mosin-Nagant was designed before the turn of the century, it was so well built that, with later improvements in 1930, it remained in use by Soviet troops throughout WWII (rather famously), and well into the late 20th century. Primarily the design of Sergei Mosin, Leon Nagant’s designs were also employed in the bolt action and other parts of the gun when it was manufactured and eventually both men were paid equal sums for the rifle’s development, though neither of their names would be officially tied to it. The Mosin-Nagant label is simply preferred over the military designation “3-Lineyaya Vintovka obr 1891g.” What exactly is 3-Lineyaya? It translates to 3-line, a reference to the caliber, 3-line being 7.62mm.
The rifles employed the Sergei Mosin and Leon Nagant designs for the bolt handle and safety, which was engaged by pulling the cocking piece to the rear and rotating it left, allowing it to hook over the rear of the receiver, a very simple but reliable means of putting the gun on safe with a chambered round. The horizontal position of the turn bolt handle might seem awkward in appearance today, compared to more “elegant” bolt action designs with curved bolt handles that rest against the side of the stock, but Mosin’s design proved remarkably quick to operate in the field.
As noted in Part 1, the Gletcher M1891 uses a removable box magazine that holds the CO2 cartridge and a load of 16 BBs. The original M1891 had an integral magazine with 5-rounds fed through the open action using a stripper clip, which was very common at the time. Unlike the Obrez models, which often had the sights removed and were not aimed so much as “pointed”, the Gletcher version uses the ruggedly-designed M1891/30-style sliding tangent rear and hooded front post sights, the /30 indicating the improved version of the M1891.
The wood-grained stock is synthetic but has a nice appearance and smooth reddish-brown finish. It also has the correct style finger grooves set along the sides of the forend. With an overall weight of 5.6 pounds it is a hefty little gun but an accurate copy of the Obrez variations, right down to the operation of the action, trigger, and the removable bolt. Gletcher has done an excellent job copying this somewhat obscure variation of the gun.
BBs and velocities
Since the Gletcher M1891 was introduced four years ago there have been two developments in .177 caliber BBs, copper-coated lead Smart Shot, which is heavier than steel BBs and thus delivers lower velocities but allows shooting at reactive metal targets, and frangible composite .177 caliber Dust Devils, which are lighter than steel or lead BBs and can be used with metal targets. Neither Smart Shot nor Dust Devils always reliably work in all magazine-fed CO2 pistols and rifles. So, first up is a velocity and function test of Dust Devils in the 16-shot, bolt-action pistol.
One of the problems Dust Devils have is feeding and with the easy loading of the Gletcher M1891 magazine (through the firing port) light follower spring and the unique angle of the BB feeding column of 45 degrees, function with Dust Devils should be excellent. There were zero failures to feed from the magazine and average velocity was 380 fps.
Next up, I shot Umarex Precision steel BBs which averaged 366 fps. To give some balance to the velocity test I switched my steel BBs to Remington brand plated steel, which delivered an average of 368 fps, and then Hornady Black Diamond black anodized steel BBs which clocked 378 fps average. The factory specs say “average velocity 427 fps” but not with anything I have been able to find.
As a pistol (this is hardly what you could call a carbine without some form of shoulder stock) the Obrez Gletcher model is not a typical BB gun, but with its short barrel, very solid heft, slick bolt action and good sights, at ranges from 21 feet to 10 meters or so, it can keep .177 caliber BBs close enough to make shooting this unique airgun an interesting experience.
In Part 3 we’ll find out just how accurate the Gletcher is and how easy to handle on the range.