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When is a Mosin Nagant not a Mosin Nagant?

By Mark Wheeler

In 1917, after the Russian revolution, Finland seized an opportunity, declared its independence from Russia, and after a brief war in 1918 the Russians retreated.


Newly independent, and expecting Russian retaliation, the Finns needed to arm themselves. They brought some rifles from Japan and other places plus they had a heap of rifles left behind by the Russians, so being strapped for cash, as well as having no real manufacturing capability of their own they adopted the Mosin Nagant as their primary battle rifle.


While many of the captured rifles were serviceable there were a lot of “parts guns”, and from these they began to assemble “new” rifles. No effort was made to re-serialise these parts-based rifles, so bits from several guns could and often did end up in the one rifle.


“Newly independent, and expecting Russian retaliation, the Finns needed to arm themselves. They brought some rifles from Japan and other places plus they had a heap of rifles left behind by the Russian...”


The term for these mismatched numbered guns is “Finn matched”. The earliest serious rebuild program was undertaken by the Civil Guard (Suojeluskunta).


Useable parts from scrap rifles were assembled and fitted to new barrels made either by SIG in Switzerland, or three German firms collectively known as Bohler Stahl. These barrels were purchased with funds raised by the Women’s Auxiliary (think of the CWI but with guns) known as the Lotta Svard.


SIG makers' mark that has been over-struck with a Finnish serial number.


Because of this, although officially identified as the M24, in the year after the program began the rifles became known as Lottakivarri (Lottas rifles). The rifles were assembled in workshops run by the Civil Guard with the grand name of Civil Guard Weapons & Machine Shop Companies.


In total approximately 26,000 barrels were purchased for the program, 8000 from SIG, 3000 in “pencil” profile, and 5000 in stepped profile, with the remaining 18,000 from the German Bohler Stahl industrial collective.


S 8175 denotes the Civil Guard district the rifle was allocated to (Helsinki). The Finnish Army acceptance stamp (SA) shows the rifle was transferred to the army when they absorbed the Civil Guard in 1942. On the hex receiver is an indistinct star-like mark, which is the Civil Guard's acceptance “proof mark”.


These are parts rifles and the bare barrels were fitted with sights taken from damaged rifles. The original sights on the 1891 rifles were calibrated in Arshins, an antique Russian measurement that is about 250mm in length.


The progressive Finns struck out these marks and renumbered the notches in metres on the other side. Many rifles, like this one, also had another step cut for 200 metres as the Finns realised that 300 metres is a bit high for a battle zero when most shooting is done well under that range.


A stepped barrel. Approx. 5000 of these were produced by SIG after the initial 3000 thinner barrels were assessed as being too flexible for good accuracy. The step was necessary to allow the original cruciform socket bayonet to be re-used.


The blisters on the woodwork (see image below) are caused by the pine resin and linseed oil mixture the Finns used to seal the stocks. The hexagonal receiver bears the Czarist double eagle. On the underside of the tang is the small date “96” and the Tula arsenal hammer mark.


A small “D” stamped underneath the sight pivot pin signifies that it was rechambered for the Finnish made ball ammunition although standard Russian ammunition could also be fired.


CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: The “S” in the shield with three fir sprigs is the Civil Guard's crest. The triangle mark shows that to correct the sight alignment the barrel threads needed to be shortened and the chamber re-reamed; the slings on Russian rifles were secured via slots cut in the stock and a “dog collar”. On their larch stocks the Finns fitted swivels and side plates instead; this Finnish rifle has a replacement stock. The Finns made these from two sections of larch finger-jointed together.


There is one more piece to this story regarding the Civil Guard Weapons & Machine Shop Companies - in Finnish that’s Suojeluskuntain Ase ja Konepaja Osakeyhtio. If you take the first letter of each word it spells “Sako”.


So these rifles are the first Sakos ever made. Who would have thought that a bunch of patriotic Finnish grandmothers selling cakes and home preserves would be responsible for founding one of the world's foremost firearms manufacturers!


As an interesting aside, during WW2 the Finns were at war with the Russians, and Russia was our ally, so New Zealand along with the rest of the Allies was technically at war with Finland.




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