Category Archives: Firearms

Fun Firearms Friday — First Look: Ruger® AR-556® MPR


We’re finishing up “M” Week at the blog. Monday was Mosin. Wednesday we ran with Marlin. Today’s “M” is for Ruger’s MPR version of their AR-556.

I finally gave in to the AR-style rifle bug. But give in I did, after a lot of research. I had no desire to ever travel this road again, and I didn’t want to make a mistake, so I studied for months. Along the way I discovered a lot of information that directed me towards today’s subject — the Ruger AR-556 MPR (Multi-Purpose Rifle).

What were the other contenders, and how did I finally arrive at the AR-556 MPR? Let’s explore that for a moment, bearing in mind that my choices won’t necessarily align with your choices.

I’ll start with a brief look at the original AR-15 designed around the .223 Remington round. The .223 Remington was developed for the commercial varmint rifle market back in 1957, and by 1963 the first rifles chambered for this round became available. Eugene Stoner got involved when Remington invited him to scale down his existing ArmaLite AR-10 to handle the .223. The result was the ArmaLite AR-15, which like the AR-10 uses a unique direct gas impingement design (okay, not technically correct, but “direct impingement” is the popular name for it) that directed gas directly into the bolt carrier to cycle the weapon. Mr. Stoner set the barrel length at 20 inches/50.8 cm to make full use of the propellant in the .223 Remington, as barrels shorter than that length resulted in incomplete ignition of the propellant before the bullet exited the muzzle. That 20 inches also allowed for an optimal “rifle length” gas system, which would reduce recoil, thus lessening the stress on the bolt and buffer, and introduce less gas-fouling into the bolt carrier. Keep that in mind, as shorter barrels result in a shorter gas system, more recoil, faster bolt speeds causing more stress, and hotter gases getting introduced into the bolt carrier.

About this time the U.S. Air Force were looking for an alternative to their M1 and M2 carbines, and the Army were considering something easier to handle in full-automatic than their M14. This led Colt to purchase the rights for Mr. Stoner’s AR-15 from ArmaLite (contrary to myth the “AR” in “AR-15” stands for ” ArmaLite Rifle, not “Assault Rifle”). Colt then further developed the now “Colt” AR-15 into the M-16 chambered for the M193 cartridge. The M193 (not to be confused with the later similar NATO 5.56 mm round developed by FN in the 1970s) is basically a 55-grain/3.56 gram version of the .223 Remington. After some trial and error, Colt settled on 6-groove rifling with a 1:12/ 1:30.48 cm right-hand twist optimized for the lightweight 55-grain round.

Yeah . . . just  try to find a rifle-length gas system on an AR-style rifle today. There are some out there, but you’ll pay for it. The rage today is to go tacti-cool and get the barrel length down to the legal non-NFA minimum of 16 inches/40.6 cm barrel. That’s because the military’s current M4 version has a ridiculously short 14.5-inch/36.8 cm barrel and, hey, everybody wants that military look regardless of how the rifle performs in most civilian applications. (Again, don’t take offense; I’m describing my preferences here, not necessarily your preferences.)

Ruger AR-556 MPR comes in one 30-round magazine

But remember what you give up for the modern Battle-of-Fallujah look — that rifle-length gas system goes by the wayside. That gets you incomplete burning of propellant; which in turn results in a reduction in muzzle velocity and energy; increased muzzle flash from the still-burning propellant blasting out the muzzle; increased bolt speed with the additional wear-and-tear that entails; and more fouling in the receiver from hotter, unburnt gases. Sorry, but I’m just not seeing any real advantages here for civilian applications. It’s not as if I’ll be using a shortened AR-style rifle with a carbine-length gas system in an urban warfare environment, or even to protect the homestead. In an AR-style rifle I’d rather have the longer range, lower recoil, and all the other advantages that a full-length gas system affords.

Again, that’s my choice meeting my needs. When you go shopping for an AR-style rifle, you need to evaluate what works best for you. And if you like what I’m about to describe on the MPR version of Ruger’s AR-556 but want a shorter barrel, you’re in luck. Ruger also makes the MPR in a 16.1-inch version (Model 8542). You can also get the MPR chambered for .350 Legend (Model 8532) and .450 Bushmaster (Model 8522). Unfortunately, if you want .300 AAC Blackout, you must go with Ruger’s standard AR-556 (Model 8530) or get the “pistol” version (Model 8572) with an even sillier 10.5-inch/26.7 cm barrel.

Here is the list of contenders that in the end were vying for my dollars:

  • SIG Sauer M400 Tread: SIG has discontinued anything longer than a 16-inch barrel; you pay for the SIG name.
  • FN 15 Military Collector M16: 20-inch barrel available; but lacked a lot of features for an MSRP of $1,749.
  • Colt: The original; you can’t go wrong with the Prancing Pony, but only the expensive M16A1 Retro Reissue offered a rifle-length gas system . . . at $2,499 MSRP!
  • Springfield Saint: Barrel maxes out at 16 inches.
  • Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Competition: This one comes closest yet to the MPR:
    • Pros: 18-inch barrel; rifle-length gas system; two-stage match trigger; 15-inch free-float M-LOK compatible handguard; full-length rail; adjustable buttstock.
    • Cons: Heavier than the MPR; MSRP is $700 higher than the MPR with nothing to show for the additional cost.

First, the relevant technical statistics for the Ruger® AR-556® MPR (Model 8514):

  • Caliber: 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington (other calibers available; see text)
  • Length: 35 to 38.25 inches/88.9 to 97.2 cm
  • Length of pull: 11.1 to 14.4 inches/28.2 to 36.6 cm
  • Weight: 6.8 pounds/3.1 kg
  • Gas system: Rifle length
  • Buffer: Mil-Spec (Military Specification) buffer tube
  • Barrel: 18 inches/45.7 cm
  • Barrel twist: 1:8, 5-groove, right hand
  • Barrel forging and metallurgy: Cold hammer-forged; 4041 chromium-molybdenum alloy steel; nitride lining
  • Barrel attachment thread pattern: ½”x28
  • Lower specifications: CNC-machined 7075-T6 aluminum forgings; Type III (Mil-Spec) hard coat anodization
  • Sights: None included in keeping with the free-floating barrel design
Barrel on the AR-556 in 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington comes with a 1-in-8 twist

Other included goodies:

  • Trigger: Ruger’s Elite 452® two-stage trigger (a huge plus for this rifle) with a claimed 4.5-pound/2-kilogram pull
  • Accessory Rail: Full length Picatinny M1913 rail
  • Handguard: 15-inch/38.1 cm free-floating Magpul® handguard with:
    • M-LOK® Slots at 3, 6, and 9 O’clock (eight slots per O’clock position)
    • Additional single M-LOK slots at 1:30, 4:30, 7:30, and 10:30 positions
  • Buttstock: Magpul MOE® (Magpul Original Equipment) SL® (Slim Line) collapsible buttstock
  • Pistol grip: Magpul MOE grip
  • Capacity: The MPR comes with one 30-round Magpul PMAG® Gen-2 MOE magazine (a pet peeve of mine; come on, Ruger, you can do better than just one magazine)
  • Owner’s Manual: Of course
  • Safety lock: Cable type key lock
  • Box: Cheap cardboard, of course
Ruger AR-556 MPR

Now let’s take a look at the rifle.  First off, that scope you see mounted does not come with the AR-556 MPR. Indeed, since this rifle has a free-float barrel, it does not come with a sight of any type — not even the usual combination gas block/front sight most associated with this type of rifle. As such, you’ll have to cough up some money upfront to fix that. The scope you see mounted here is a Vortex Crossfire II 1-4×24 with Vortex’s V-Brite red dot.

Barrel is free-floating

Also not included was the two-point sling you see pictured, nor the M-LOK Quick Dismount (QD) rail attachment. The MOE SL buttstock does however have a QD attachment point, in addition to a slot for your sling if you prefer.

Magpul MOE SL collapsible butt stock
Magpul MOE SL collapsible butt stock

But no matter what sight you choose to mount, there’s nearly 20 inches/51 cm of slot “rail” estate along the rail atop the MPR’s flat upper receiver. Go with iron sights, red dot, red dot with magnifier, low-power scope, high-power scope, night scope, or even optics co-witnessed with iron sights if you wish. The options are limited only by your imagination and your wallet.

Nearly 20 inches of rail for lots of customization options

Now, what about Ruger’s claimed 4.5-pound/2.04 kg Elite 452 trigger? Turns out they fudged on that one. The pull worked out closer to 4.17 pounds, but I’m not going to quibble when it’s to my advantage. The actual five-pull average came in at a mere 4 pounds 2.7 ounces/1.89 kg. Trigger reset is so miniscule I had trouble measuring it, but my best eyeball guesstimate puts it at around an eighth of an inch, or about 3 mm.

Magpul MOE pistol grip

I’ve yet to fire the AR-556 MPR, so I haven’t even had the opportunity to sight in the Crossfire II. But I can tell you how I perceive the handling characteristics thus far. The MPR is well balanced and easy to handle. It’s both light and comfortable to carry, and quick to get on target when the sling is properly adjusted. All controls are just where one would expect on any AR-style rifle, so there are no surprises here and they are all easy to manipulate . . . if you’re righthanded; none of the controls are ambidextrous.

No ambidextrous controls on this rifle
Controls

Fit and finish I would rate as good. The MPR certainly looks good. There was one minor flaw in the hard coat anodization on the edge of the magazine well (see below). But that’s a quibble. It’s not worth the time and effort for a trip back to the mothership for a rifle that is meant to be used.

A word of caution: make sure you disassemble your MPR and check for copious amounts of lubrication. One of the things I really appreciate about Ruger is that they way overengineer nearly everything they make, but they also love to overlubricate. In the case of this MPR, there was far too much lubricant inside the bolt carrier and on the tail of the bolt. I hate to think how much carbon would have cooked onto those surfaces if I hadn’t wiped them down. Other areas were positively dripping with lubrication as well, but that’s been remedied.

Ruger’s fit and finish almost got an A+, except for this

Overall, I’m impressed. But then I’m also a novice in the AR market, so there’s that. Perhaps I’m just easily impressed. But I don’t believe that’s the case here. For all the features Ruger threw into this AR-556 variant, the MPR is an impressive rifle at a price point hundreds less than anything comparable in a nationally known and respected brand.

Ruger AR-556 MPR

That concludes this week’s firearms series. If you’re not a fan, do not despair.

Next week this blog returns to travel the photography. That series will start in Ireland, head transatlantic with a stop in Ponta Delgada in the Azores, continue into Key West for some sunset photos, then head over to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza on the Yucatán Peninsula.

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Western Wednesday — Marlin® Model 1894C


It’s still “M” Week at the blog, and today’s “M” stands for that classic American maker of lever-action rifles — Marlin.

Marlin Model 1894C in .38 SPL/.357 Magnum

Yes. It’s true. I have a soft spot for Old West-style firearms, as you may have surmised by now with my numerous articles on them (Winchester Rifles — Part 1; Winchester Rifles — Part 2; The Rifleman’s Rifle; Firearms — Television Westerns from the 1950s; A Tribute to Mike DiMuzio and a Look at the Interarms Rossi M92 in .45 Colt; USFA Rodeo; AWA Peacekeeper). Today we’re going to look at another firearm with roots in the 1800s. It’s a lever-action rifle, but this time it’s neither a Henry nor a Winchester. It’s a Marlin Model 1894C pistol-caliber carbine chambered in .38 Special/.357 Magnum.

Marlin 1894C Particulars:

  • Length: 36 inches/91.4 cm
  • Barrel Length: 18.5 inches/46.7 cm
  • Length of pull: 13.7 inches/34.7 cm
  • Weight: 6 pounds, 8.55 ounces (104.55 ounces)/2.96 kg
  • Caliber: .38 SPL/.357 Magnum
  • Capacity: 9-round tubular magazine
  • Trigger pull (measured by author; average of five): 2 pounds, 14.8 ounces/1.328 kilograms

My impressions upon handling the rifle: The lever action is stiff, bordering on mediocre. The rifle appears little to have been very lightly used, so this may be a break-in situation. The 1894C has a superlative, crisp trigger with no take up whatsoever, and it breaks consistently at just under three pounds. The crossbolt safety (if you’re into such things on a lever action) is easy to manipulate, positively blocks the hammer, and allows for safe decocking of the rifle. I may very well decide to take the Marlin out to the range and compare it against my Rossi R92 (Winchester Model 1892 clone) in the same caliber.

Marlin 1894C — Stiff lever; exceptional trigger

A little history on Marlin and the Model 1894: John Marlin founded the Marlin Fire Arms Company in 1870 in New Haven Connecticut (the company would in 1968 move to nearby North Haven). In 1881 Marlin expanded from single-shot rifles into the lever-action market, and in 1888 Marlin engineer Lewis Lobdon “L.L.” Hepburn revolutionized the concept with a lever-action rifle that ejected cartridges through the side of the receiver rather than via the top.

Marlin 1894C

In 1893 Mr. Hepburn continued to improve and strengthen his design, resulting in two new rifles — the Marlin Models 1894 and 1895. The Model 1894 with its solid-top/side-eject concept was an immediate hit in cold inclement environments such as Alaska and Canada, as the absence of an open-top ejection port prevented snow, rain, leaves, dirt, and other contaminants from dropping into the rifle. The design had the added benefit of being much stronger than the competing Winchester designs of the era.

Marlin 1894C

The Model 1894 differs from Marlin’s Model 1895 in that the 1894 is chambered in pistol calibers, while the 1895 was designed for more powerful rifle cartridges. In the Winchester world, it would be like comparing a Winchester Model 1892 (pistol calibers) to a Winchester Model 1894 (rifle rounds — although some past 1894 rifles were chambered in .44 Rem Mag and other pistol calibers).

Marlin 1894C

As a quick aside, today’s Model 1895 rifle is not quite the same as the original, which was discontinued in 1917. The reintroduction of the Model 1895 name in 1972 is based upon the Marlin 336 rifle dating from 1936, which further improved upon Mr. Hepburn’s 1893 developments.

Marlin 1894C

Marlin’s history has been a bit convoluted since 2007. It was in that year that Marlin fell into the evil clutches of the equity firm Cerebrus Capital Management via their holding company Freedom Group. Freedom Group would eventually try to hide this evil nature by changing its name to Remington Outdoor Group. But true to form, Remington collapsed into bankruptcy last year, taking with it Marlin, which had already been mismanaged into oblivion beginning in 2008 (more on that shortly).

Marlin 1894C

We’ve seen this scenario playout before with the iconic American brand Colt’s Manufacturing and Colt Defense. Then we have Winchester Repeating Arms Company; lever-action rifles bearing the Winchester brand are now manufactured in Japan. Yes, I despise predatory equity management firms, and I feel that’s with good reason.

Marlin 1894C

Fortunately, Remington’s recent (and entirely too predictable) bankruptcy has resulted in Marlin coming under the umbrella of my favorite U.S. firearms company — Sturm, Ruger & Co. If anyone can rescue and restore this historic brand, it’ll be Ruger.

On an unrelated side note: we can all breathe easier knowing that Colt’s Manufacturing now belongs to Česká zbrojovka Group (Czech armory Group — CZG), a company that understands the firearms business. It would have been better in my view if Colt had remained an entirely U.S. company, but at least this way Colt shall survive and prosper.

So, what has all this to do with a Marlin 1894C that dates to 2009? A lot if you’re a collector. Remington (a.k.a., Freedom Group, a.k.a., Cerebrus Capital Management) purchased Marlin in 2007, and took over both ownership and management the following year. Production initially continued at Marlin’s North Haven, Connecticut plant, using experienced Marlin craftsmen who understood the designs they were handcrafting, and who collectively had generations of experience among them.

“91” serial number should mean this rifle was made in North Haven in 2009

Marlin’s workers were also unionized. See where this is going now? Yep. In March 2010 Remington announced it would be closing Marlin’s historic North Haven plant, ending 141 years of continuity and experience. In April the following year, the Marlin plant was closed. The unionized craftsmen were terminated. The manufacturing equipment for the lever-action line was boxed up and shipped to a Remington facility in Ilion, New York. Manufacture of other Marlin rifles transferred to Remington’s Mayfield, Kentucky facility. And inexperienced, non-unionized workers began misassembling firearms they had no clue how to put together.

Quality collapsed, of course. Marlins went from being coveted rifles to a bad joke, with unsuspecting consumers supplying the punchline. Eventually, Remington employees would start to turn things around a few years later as they gained experience with the nuances of the designs. But Marlin rifles never fully regained the quality they once exhibited, and the reputational damage was by then complete.

Which brings us to today’s Model 1894C. And this is a weird one. The serial number indicates that the rifle was made in 2009. Production continued at the North Haven Marlin plant at least through the end of 2010, with the doors being locked one final time in April 2011. The barrel displays the North Haven roll mark. The fit and finish, particularly the mating of the walnut stocks to the receiver and barrel, scream Marlin quality. So, too, does the deep, rich bluing of the metal on both the barrel and the receiver.

North Haven roll mark on the barrel

But then there’s the proof mark. If you have a Marlin with a “JW” proof mark, then you have a true Marlin-made Marlin. If your serial number doesn’t start with “RM”, then you have a true Marlin-made Marlin. On the other hand, if you have a Marlin with an “REP” inside an oval-shaped stamp, or the serial number starts with “RM”, then you supposedly have a Remington-made Marlin.

But what if your rifle’s serial number isn’t prefixed with “RM”, the “91” at the beginning of the serial number indicates the rifle was made in 2009, the rifle has a barrel displaying the North Haven roll mark, the fit and finish all give the appearances of a clean, well-made North Haven example, yet your rifle bears the dreaded “REP” on the right side of the barrel? What do you have? Is it a Marlin, a Remlin, a Marlington, or an insidious Remington cleverly disguised as a quality Marlin?

REP-in-Oval is a Remington proof

So, what exactly is going on here? Well, there are several possibilities. Toward the end of production, North Haven produced receivers with serial numbers in the “92” (2008) “91” (2009), “90” (2010), and even a few in the “89” (2011) range.

Notes for determining the manufacture date from the serial number:

  • For serial numbers starting with 27 through 00, just subtract those first two digits from 2000; example: 2000 – 22 = 1978
  • For numbers 99 through 89, subtract the first two digits from 2000 then change the first two numbers in the result from “19” to “20”; example: 2000 – 91 = 1909; change 19 to 20; final result = 2009
  • Manufacture dates prior to 1973 used various other schemes)

Sometime in 2011 serial numbers changed from “89” to the “RM” format. “RM” stood for “Remington-Marlin”. Marlin barrels may have changed prior to that, and it appears Ilion still used the North Haven roll mark for a time after Ilion took over at least some of the manufacturing. As to when precisely that occurred, I’ve not been able to discern. Additionally, some North Haven receivers and barrels were shipped to Ilion for final assembly, which would explain very neatly the “REP” on today’s example. There is also the possibility that North Haven sent completed rifles to Ilion, whereupon the “REP” stamp was then applied, but I somehow doubt that is the answer. I believe it’s probably more likely that North Haven transitioned to the “REP” stamp prior to operations moving to Ilion, but I cannot substantiate that as fact.

So, bottom line for the collector:

  • “JW” is the proof mark you want for maximum value.
  • Pre-crossbolt safety is also a big plus among lever action purists. For that you must get a Marlin made in 1982 or earlier.
  • “93” on the serial number (2007 manufacture) gets you out of this who-made-what-when mess altogether. Freedom Arms made the purchase of Marlin that year, but it wasn’t finalized until 2008.
  • “92” (2008) means you still definitely have a North Haven rifle, and it most certainly will have a “JW” proof as well. But that’s also the year Remington stepped into the mix. Things started getting dicey, I’m sure, and morale probably started falling at North Haven.
  • “91” (2009) — You’re probably still good, but watch out. Hopefully, you have a “JW” proof, but even so quality will be hit-or-miss with the decline in morale. Inspect that prospective acquisition carefully before laying down cash.
  • “90” (2010) is the year Freedom Group decided to eviscerate whatever was left of North Haven morale by telling the workforce to train their replacements and prepare for unemployment. At this point any incentive to provide a quality build had long since evaporated.
  • “89” (2011) — By now I’m going to say you might as well have an “RM” serial number. Who the heck knows what was going on in North Haven by then?
  • “RM” means you’re too late. You may have a shooter, or you may have a major gunsmithing project.

I’m not disappointed in this “91”. Not even close. It appears to be a quality rifle. Most, if not all, the parts are North Haven. I do wish it sported the “JW” proof, and if I knew then what I know now that “REP” stamp might have given me a bit more pause. I balked at the time only because the consignee didn’t bring into the gun shop the original box. He said he didn’t know where it was. I passed to the consignee through the shop owner a low-ball offer for the rifle without the box, and a slightly higher “incentive” offer if he located it. The incentive worked. The owner found the original box and took the latter offer, which was still below his initial asking price.

A Colt Cavalry (7½-inch barrel) Single Action Army just like Paladin’s and I’m all set

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Military Monday — A trio of Mosins


A 1938 Mosin Model 91/30 (bottom) and a 1943 Model 91/30

Travel and photography resume next week. Until then:

Welcome to “M” Week at the blog: Mosins, Marlins, and MPRs.

First it’s Military Monday, and we’re going to spend some quality time looking over a trio of Mosin’s 3-Line Rifles Model 1891. Russian versions only today, because there are just too many other variants out there to cover in one short blog article — Finnish, Polish, Chinese, Czech, Estonian, Hungarian, Romanian, and there are even two U.S.-made variants, Remington Arms and New England Westinghouse. Two of the rifles presented today are of the type with which most of you are probably familiar — The so-called “Mosin-Nagant” (more on that later) M91/30, which is short for Model 1891/1930. The other may surprise you, but we’ll get to that shortly.

But first, a little history:

This rifle goes by a lot of names. Most people here in the U.S. incorrectly refer to these bolt-action rifles as Mosin-Nagants. The official Russian designation however is translated as Three-Line Rifle Model 1891. The Russians also call these Mosin’s Rifles, with not a hint of “Nagant” to be found anywhere. As for “91/30”, that’s shorthand referencing the major 1930 redesign of the original Model 1891 Mosin’s Rifle.

The “Nagant” in Mosin-Nagant derives from Belgian firearm designer and manufacturer Émile Nagant. When the Imperial Russian Army issued a bid for a new 3-line rifle, Émile Nagant put forth a 3.5-line design that competed against true 3-line designs from Captain (later Major General) Sergei Ivanovich Mosin and Captain (later Colonel) Ivan Dmitrievich Zinoviev. At the time of the competition Captain Mosin was working at Imperial Russia’s Tula Arms Plant.

Captain Zinoviev’s design did not make the cut. Neither in the end did Émile Nagant’s. It was Captain Mosin who won the day; but not initially, and only after he “borrowed” some ideas from Émile Nagant’s 3.5-line entry. Specifically at issue was an “interrupter” that prevented the double-feeding of bullets stripped from the magazine. Émile Nagant held the patent for the interrupter, even though he himself “borrowed” the idea from Captain Mosin. The only reason Mr. Nagant was able to file an international patent on it was because Captain Mosin’s design technically belonged to the Russian government, and neither Captain Mosin nor the Russian government bothered to file. Also, Captain Mosin’s interrupter was officially a Russian military secret at the time Mr. Nagant claimed the design as his own. The other two Nagant designed features “borrowed” by Captain Mosin were a five-round clip for loading the magazine, and an attachment on the magazine base plate to hold the magazine spring.

Émile Nagant sued for royalties. The Russians settled, paying Mr. Nagant the same fee granted to Captain Mosin for winning the competition. But Émile Nagant’s name was never officially attached to the rifle. Neither was Captain Mosin’s as it turns out. Thus, the true designation of the so-called Mosin-Nagant was “3-line Rifle, Model 1891”.

By the way, that “interrupter” never even made it into the 1930 redesign. It proved both troublesome and unreliable, and it was replaced with a completely new two-piece design. As for the clip, the ease with which the magazine is loaded made it redundant. So, the only thing “Nagant” about the 91/30 “Mosin-Nagant” is the way the magazine spring is attached to the base of the magazine. And now you know why “Mosin-Nagant” is not a thing except in the U.S.

Okay, now you’re wondering what the heck is a three-line? This may shock you (I know it shocked me), because it goes back to the Imperial Russian way of measuring the diameter of the rifle bore back in 1891, which was in “lines”. Lines were measured in (are you ready for this?) tenths of an inch!

So:

  • 1 line = 0.1 inches = 2.54mm
  • 3 lines = 0.3 inches = 7.62mm

Since Mosin’s rifle technically had a bore of 0.3 inches, or three “lines”, it became the “Three-Line Rifle, Model 1891”.

However, even though the cartridge for this rifle is designated as the 7.62x54mmR (for Rimmed), the actual diameter of the bullet is .312 inches/7.92 millimeters. If you’re like me, then right about now you’re completely confused as to how a 7.92 mm bullet received a designation of 7.62 mm. I guess it’s sort of like the 7.5×55 mm Swiss (see: Military Monday — Swiss K31 “Straight-Pull” Bolt Action Rifle), which actually comes in at 7.78 mm/.306 inches.Now you may be wondering how a military rifle designed in 1891 has any relevance to today beyond the collector community. Mosin’s rifles were manufactured from 1891 until 1973, with the last of Mosin’s rifles being made in Finland. As previously mentioned, design was modernized in 1930, hence the designation 91/30. Russian-produced 91/30 rifles were manufactured at the Imperial Tula Arms Plant and the Izhevsk Mechanical Plant (now part of the Kalashnikov Group). All three rifles presented in today’s article came from Izhevsk and are known colloquially here in the U.S. as “Izzies”. Total production numbers are not available, but it is assumed that over the rifle’s 82-year production run some 37 to 38 million examples were made.

These rifles are built like tanks, and many are still used today in armed conflicts around the world. That makes the Mosin probably the longest serving military rifle ever produced. Here are the particulars on the Model 91/30 Rifles you’re seeing today:

Mosin “Three-Line” Model 1891/30:

  • Length (without bayonet): 48.5 inches/1,232 mm
  • Length (with bayonet): 65.6 inches/1,666 mm
  • Approximate Weight (without bayonet): 8 pounds 13 ounces/4 kg
  • Approximate Weight (with bayonet): 9 pounds 10 ounces/4.36 kg
  • Barrel: 28.7 inches/73 cm
  • Capacity: Non-detachable 5-round magazine

This first rifle is an “Izzie” (Izhevsk) from 1938. Serial numbers are a true match, not a “forced” match, which is unusual for an arsenal refurbished example. The arsenal refurbishment stamp on this 1938 Izzie is the square with the diagonal line through it stamped on the butt of the weapon, which indicates that this rifle was refurbished at the 1st GAU (later GRAU) Arsenal in Balakleya, Ukraine.

1938 “Izzie” Mosin Model 91/30 with separately paired bayonet
GRU Arsenal Refurbishment Stamp

Being imports, these rifles have two serial numbers. The one BATFE are concerned with is the U.S. importer’s serial number, which in this case was assigned by Century Arms International (C.A.I.) in Georgia, Vermont. The important serial number for collectors however is the one in Cyrillic. On this rifle the Russian serial number is НН1308. And, no, those are not the letter “H”. They are the Cyrillic characters for the English “N”.

Russian serial number is НН1308
U.S. importer-assigned (Century Arms Int’l) serial number

The next Model 1891/30 on display today is another “Izzie”, but this one was manufactured in 1943. It, too, contains matched serial numbers, but in this case it’s the more common “forced” match that frequently occurred during refurbishment. Typically, during refurbishment, these rifles were disassembled with little regard toward keeping serialized parts together. So, when it came time to reassemble the weapons, if the part numbers did not match then the magazine number was struck through, and the magazine was restamped with a serial number matched to the rifle. Oddly enough, this rifle does not bear an arsenal refurbishment stamp, but we know it went through the process because of the forced matching of the serial number.

1943″Izzie” Mosin Model 91/30 with serial matched bayonet
Matching serial number on bayonet

In this 1943 example the rifle has the Cyrillic serial number ДХ4849, but when you look at the magazine you’ll note that part was originally serialized to a different rifle. The importer’s serial number, the one with which BATFE are concerned, was assigned by U.S. importer PW Arms of Redmond, Washington.

Cyrillic serial number ДХ4849
U.S. importer-assigned (PW Arms) serial number

Now let’s peek at the third of today’s Mosin trio. It’s a bit of a rare beast, although not that rare. This is a carbine version that was first produced in 1943, but which did not enter broad service until the following year. Officially, this 91/30 variant is a Model 1944. Preceding the M44 was another carbine version known as the Model 1938. Both the M38 and M44 have 39.9-inch/1,013 mm barrels.

1944 “Izzie” Mosin 91/30 Model 44 carbine

While ladder sights on the 91/30 are graduated from 100 to 2,000 meters, the maximum range on the M38 and M44 sights are halved. Whereas the 91/30 went to frontline troops, where maximum range was considered a plus, the M38 went to rear echelons such as artillery, radio operators, and combat support.

M44 reduced-range rear leaf spring sight

The M44 however was designed for another job altogether. And that goes back to the brutal urban warfare that broke out in the later stages of World War II. The considerable length of the original 91/30 proved too cumbersome in that environment, so 8.6 inches/219 mm were shaved off the rifle.

M44 folding bayonet locked into extended position

Unlike the M38, the M44 came with a bayonet. And on the M44 the bayonet significantly improved upon the major shortcoming of the 91/30 design by mounting a pivoting bayonet affixed to the rifle via a special barrel bayonet lug. This allowed the bayonet to be folded to the right alongside the forestock when it was not needed. I call this a huge improvement because the 91/30 bayonet is notoriously difficult to dismount once it’s affixed to the barrel. Removal may require any or all combinations of the following accessories: a hefty hammer, a sacrificial flathead screwdriver, Hercules, and a prodigious four-letter vocabulary. At any rate, having heard firsthand some of the horror stories, I’ve avoided actually trying to install and remove a bayonet on either of today’s 91/30 examples.

Let’s look at the particulars for the Mosin M44 carbine:

  • Length (bayonet folded): 39.9 inches/1,013 mm
  • Length (bayonet extended): 52.4 inches/1,330 mm
  • Approximate Weight (if the bayonet is missing): 8 pounds 9 ounces/3.9 kg
  • Approximate Weight (with bayonet): 9 pounds/4.1 kg
  • Barrel: 20.2 inches/514 mm
  • Capacity: Non-detachable 5-round magazine
1944 “Izzie” Mosin 91/30 Model 44 carbine

This particular example dates from 1944 which, despite the “M44” designation, was actually the second year of production. As with the two 91/30 rifles above, this one is also an “Izzie”. The Cyrillic serial number is ГФ4900. Like the 91/30 from 1938 in today’s article, this M44 is another C.A.I. import. Parts are matched, but as with the 1943 91/30 the magazine is an arsenal refurbishment “forced” match.

Cyrillic serial number is ГФ4900
Arsenal refurbishment magazine “forced matched” to the rifle
U.S. importer-assigned (Century Arms Int’l) serial number

There is one other carbine variant that I’ll bring up now, and I’ve held one and briefly considered purchasing it. That is the Model 1891/59. These carbines began life as full-length 91/30 rifles that were sent to Bulgaria. There, the rifles were cut down into what was basically a Model 1938 clone. Being clones of the M38, they do not have the M44’s bayonet.

Some collector points:

  • Any 91/30 variant made prior to 1945 almost certainly saw combat. Extensive combat in most cases.
  • As such, many 91/30s have seen a lot of rounds, and WWII-era Russian ammunition was notoriously corrosive. Check for corrosion damage.
  • The exception to that “saw combat” rule is the M44. These did not see wide use during World War II. They were however considered frontline equipment during the early stages of the Cold War.
  • Almost any 91/30 you get will have gone through post-war refurbishment, regardless of whether or not the butt displays an arsenal refurbishment stamp.
  • If the rifle you’re looking at was refurbished, chances are the magazine will be force-matched to the serial number of the rifle. This is not uncommon and doesn’t adversely affect value. Indeed, finding an example with a non-forced matched magazine is the exception.
  • Most refurbished rifles have been counterbored to mitigate wear at the muzzle. Done properly, this does not adversely impact accuracy, nor does it greatly impact value. Most examples were done properly.
  • A good friend, fellow collector, former Green Beret, and salesman at my second favorite local gun shop showed me this neat trick without using a borescope or looking down the barrel to see if that gun store find is counterbored, and if so, how deep:
    • Take a 7.62x54r round and insert it bullet first into the muzzle.
    • If bullet stops at the widest part, the muzzle has not been counterbored.
    • If the bullet slides in beyond the widest part, the muzzle has been counterbored.
    • The depth at which the bullet slides in beyond the widest part will give you a clue as to how deeply the muzzle was counterbored. If it goes in easily all the way to the casing, you may want inspect further, or pass on that particular rifle altogether.
Family Portrait (from top): 1944 M44; 1943 91/30; 1938 91/30

A great site for collector information is 7.62x54r.net, but be advised that it is an unsecured website. Some of the pages at that site relevant to today’s examples and other mentioned variants:

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