Sawed-Off Rifles – Mosin-Nagant Part 2

Sawed-Off Rifles – Mosin-Nagant Part 2

From the Old West, to Prohibition, to the battlefield

By Dennis Adler

The Gletcher Obrez version of the Mosin-Nagant Model 1891 is nothing if not interesting looking. The removable box magazine allows the combining of CO2 and BBs in one, and with spare magazines, quick reloads. The bolt action is impressively quick to work.

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.

The Mosin-Nagant was a series of rifles that were produced in Russia from 1891 through 1948. Many original Mosin-Nagant models are still in use today around the world. With millions having been manufactured they are readily available and affordable for military arms collectors. The Gletcher Mosin-Nagant CO2 rifle is based on the late WWII era model produced in 1944, a variation of the M38 version with a folding bayonet. Any of the models could have been used to make an Obrez.

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.

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). The bolt is removable just like the actual guns by having an empty magazine (or in the case of the Gletcher with the magazine removed), pulling the bolt to the rear, depressing the trigger, which releases the catch and allows the bolt to be drawn out the back of the receiver. It is replaced the same way, depress the trigger and slide the bolt all the way forward. The seating screw key, which stores in the front of the magazine, provides all the torque needed to seat and pierce the CO2.

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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.

Gletcher followed the design of the Mosin-Nagant for the M1944 rifle. It is very easy to see how the guns were cut down for the Obrez when compared together (inset).

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.

The seating key fits into an opening in the magazine, which is pictured facing opposite of how it loads to show the recess for the key.

CO2 version

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 magazine has a light follower spring and a locking follower (arrow) to make loading easy. Rather than a loading port in the channel, BBs are inserted though the large firing port one at a time. This is a slow but easy process. An extra magazine or two will make shooting sessions more enjoyable.

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.

For the velocity test I used four different BBs, Remington plated steel, Umarex Precision polished steel, Hornady Black Diamond black anodized coated, and Air Venturi’s frangible composite Dust Devils.

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.

Not exactly a pistol, nor a carbine, the Obrez was simply a sawed off bolt action rifle that could be a formidable weapon at close range, as they were intended. Heavy, but small enough to be hidden, or with a lanyard attached to the stock and slung over a shoulder, and left resting along the side hidden under a coat. With the Gletcher’s sights (most Obrez had no sights) the gun should prove fairly accurate at air pistol distances out to 30 plus feet.

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.

7 thoughts on “Sawed-Off Rifles – Mosin-Nagant Part 2”

  1. I originally wanted a M1941 but they were no longer available at the time so I got the M1891. I prefer having a rifle and not the cut off. So I checked around many stocks and found that an Airsoft HK MP7 collapsible stock fits the M1891 perfectly. You need to with a razor or thin flat blade screw driver slowly work the crease of the back of the stock to break the glue seal. Once the seal is broken the end cap pops right off. The HK MP7 collapsible stock fits perfectly upside down into the back of the M1891. I added a layer of cloth tape to the HK MP7 stock before inserting so it would not slide as much because of plastic on plastic. Once pressed in good the HK MP7 stock is pretty sturdy but can be knocked loose if bumped. It is easily removable if desired to go back to sawed off form. With a full stock the gun is much easier to shoot standing or benched as you can rest it steady against your shoulder. As far as looks go it looks pretty funky or a Love/Hate thing. Personally I like it because of the added length and stability. The original sights the gun shot at 10 o’clock about 6 inches from point of aim at 20 feet. I took a punch to push the pins out and took off the rear sights and put on a cheap Dovetail Crosman Red Dot I had laying around. Once sighted in at 10 Meters now the BB Gun shoots exactly where you point it. Group sizes now are about 2-3 inches but more importantly centered. I’m sure if I put a better Red Dot or Scope on it would get even better.

    The gun shoots very good for a 5 1/2 barrelled BB gun at 10 meters. There is plenty of power and the bolt action is super smooth and fun to use. Shot count on a single CO2 cartridge is around 120 shots. My stock modification is not as sturdy as I would like as a medium bump will loosen it. I looked at drilling and bolting the stock to the gun but did not want to ruin the original stock. I have not tried different material to wrap around the inserted stock either yet as another material may work better.

    • Interesting modifications. I wouldn’t update a vintage style gun like the M1891, it is made to be what it was at its time in history, but that’s me. As for adding the MP7 stock, that’s pretty ingenious if you want to make it into a carbine. I think the sights on the Gletcher are very good but others have complained that the rear sight wobbles. Mine does not. A little elevation adjustment is needed depending upon how you are shooting. Mine tends to hit left of POA but elevation is good. It is not a target gun by any means. Your mods have made it into one but also not in an historically correct way, but if it works for you and you’re happy with it, that’s all that matters. I enjoy shooting the vintage style weapons as they are, warts and all. As for barrel length, if you measure from the breech to the muzzle you will find the external barrel length is 10.5 inches. The .177 barrel liner is recessed 4.5 inches from the muzzle, so the actual internal smoothbore barrel is 6 inches, every little bit of barrel helps. The M1944 rifle is now available again, so you might want to get that one while it is in stock.

        • In Enemy at the Gates, Jude Law, playing Russian sniper Vasily Zaitsev, uses a sniper modified M91/30 with a PU scope and turned down bolt handle (to clear the scope). This gun is historicaly documented, so it was not made up for the movie, which is based on a true story.

      • My sights wobbled and were way off for my liking. The Red Dot solved my issue there. A scope would have possibly been period correct with a Daisy 4X15 but I chose the small Crosman Red Dot instead. The stock works for me but is not for everyone for sure especially in the looks department. I thought carefully on how to mod my gun as I didn’t want to permanently modify or destroy anything. If I choose to I can put it back to original setup in 10-15 minutes. The changes I made are for how and where I shoot the gun to make it more enjoyable.

        A few months later I did see that the M1944 became available again. I am still considering it but I am enjoying this one a lot more with the mods over it being more a less a big pistol.

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