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(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)

By Kurt M.

The Past
Some rifles are iconic. The M91/30 PU sniper is one of those rifles. When you see a photo of a Syrian rebel holding one, you instantly know what he has in his hands. Men and famously women have fought and died with these rifles in hand since the Second World War. They often are found in the hands of our enemies. A friend took a hit in his body armor by one in Iraq; he still refuses to hold mine. These rifles have a power to them.

In 1942 this rifle and scope setup was state of the art; overall a Russian sniper likely had a better setup than his American counterpart. The American sniper program had lapsed after the end of World War One; the Russians continued to invest heavily in their program. In the 1920’s and 30’s the Germans and Russians collaborated in arms development. The Leningrad optics plant, Progress, was founded using Zeiss quality and assistance.

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Combat feedback improved the design. The scope used in the Spanish Civil War, the PE, let in humidity and clouded the sight picture. The Russians simplified the design and eliminated the fogging problem. American snipers of World War Two by comparison had to live with the problem of fogging with their scopes. The Russians simplified the design further due to the outbreak of war and the 1942 PU was the ultimate result. The PU was a substitute standard, a setup that met the needs of the war by being faster and quicker to produce.

They produced hundreds of thousands. To place that in perspective it’s a very small number compared to the standard 91/30 with production in the millions, but on a different scale compared to any other nation’s sniper rifle production. They produced so many that the PU remained the standard sniper rifle into the 1960s. Just like the standard rifles the Russians refurbed the 91/30 PU rifles and placed them in storage for another war that never came. My rifle is one of those refurbed rifles.

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As a combat rifle the 91/30 has advantages. The scope is a force multiplier; it is a marked improvement over just iron sights. The optic is tough and doesn’t let water in. The optic is mounted high which poses problems, but as a combat rifle it allows to very quickly transition between the optic and iron sights. If a target enters your field of view within 300 yards or so you can quickly place a shot. The barrel is long and I suspect that the muzzle flash would be minimal. Its heavy compared to modern rifles but balances well.

It certainly has disadvantages too. The scope mount blocks stripper clips; you have to load each round individually. It’s a slow system and the stress of combat could make that challenging. The bolt has the same problem. It is bent low and down to clear the scope. It gives you more mechanical advantage but the bolt is so close to the stock that you have to use your fingers to work the action. Under stress that might be hard. Also the bolt exaggerates your body movement, that movement could give your position away in combat. Finally since the scope is so high you’re sticking your head up quite a bit. You make yourself an easier target when you’re in the prone position. Still in 1942 this was a great improvement over the standard 91/30.

The Present
The rifle is still a refurbed 91/30 at heart. If you’ve had the chance to handle more than a few 91/30s you’ll know what I mean when I say that each one is really an individual. There is definitely a range between rifles and that’s just as true with the refurbed PU snipers. That said these rifles were held to a higher quality standard than the standard 91/30. What that standard would have been I don’t know but the existence of so called ex-snipers, PU 91/30s that no longer met the sniper standard but still met the standard rifle specs shows that’s the Russians were pickier with these rifles. They had so many to choose from after the war they kept the best.

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The best is still within the range of regular 91/30s. I’ve seen regular 91/30s in better shape that shot better than a PU. Every rifle is an individual. Online I’ve seen talk that the PU snipers might have an improved trigger, my small sample size of a half dozen I’ve handled will tell me that it’s not true. The trigger pull on mine is crisp but very heavy. It’s so heavy that it really makes accurate target shooting a huge challenge. If you can picture the range of 91/30s triggers, from the long creepy bad ones to the actually relatively ok ones, take the bottom third out of your range and that is what you can expect from a 91/30 sniper.

Beyond the trigger there are a few reasons why this rifle would be a poor choice for someone wanting an MOA capable target rifle. The stock on the PU is the same as on the standard rifle and the scope is mounted very high. To use the scope you have to use a chin weld. That’s makes it very difficult to replicate your hold each time. Getting a proper sight picture places the buttstock in an awkward place in the shoulder which can make it really uncomfortable to shoot, more so than the standard rifle. I notice it at a bench sitting down and especially if I’m lying down in the prone position. If I was in combat with this I would want to get as low to the ground as possible and I’d live with it. Just for fun I don’t shoot from the prone position, it’s just no fun. If I’m shooting for more serious accuracy I shoot from the sitting position.

I’m not an excellent shot by any means; I’ll manage about 3 to 4 MOA at 100 yards. I’m sure a better rifleman than me could tighten those groups with my rifle. Really though you’re fighting against the rifle to get better accuracy than I do. Shooting at range is an amplified challenge. The scope was state of the art in 1942 but today its age shows. The scope is narrow and dim compared to modern scopes. It uses a European style reticle. The thick reticle can obscure the target given the small field of view. Oddly the reticle is not fixed; you move the reticle to adjust range. At short ranges your reticle will sit about a third of the way up your field of view. Adjustments are not made in clicks; there are no stops, the adjustments are silent. Subtle adjustments are an art not a science.

I have shot the rifle out to 400 yards and the target is pretty tiny at that range. That’s about what I can do. I think for most shooters 500 to 600 yards would be it with this rifle and setup. I still think that’s a great result, but if you demand that your rifles be the best at what they do go get a modern rifle and scope. The advantage of the modern scope really shows. If those Syrians using this rifle for a serious purpose had a Cabela’s down the road they would go buy a Savage. That’s the truth of it.

That’s not why you should buy this rifle though. When I go to the range this old rifle is the one everyone wants to check out. The savage doesn’t get a glance. This is a cool rifle with history. This is the kind of rifle you can hold and really know you have something important in your hands. I can tell a southpaw used my rifle because of a wear mark right where your chin weld would be. A savage is never going to be like that. This is a rifle you own to shoot and get a real feel for history with. It’s an experience you can’t beat.

The Future
I purchased this rifle for $550 a few years ago. A large sum of money especially considering I could get a regular 91/30 for about $100 at the same time. Today both rifles have gone up in price, 91/30s are selling for around $300 and PU 91/30s are up to $800 in my area. Still compare that to the sniper rifles from any other country in World War Two. A reproduction 1903a4 can set you back a grand. A real one will set you back a lot more. For under a grand you can get the real thing. A rifle used as a sniper rifle and then refurbed after the war. The value on these will only go up with time. As a utilitarian rifle you can do better, as a historic rifle these can’t be beat.

SPECIFICATIONS: Mosin Nagant M91/30 Sniper Rifle

Caliber: 7.62X54R
Action: Bolt
Capacity: 5 rounds
Manufacturer: Russia, Hungary, Poland
Price: $800 or so

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Style * * * *
People recognize the rifle from its silhouette alone.

Ergonomics * *
The rifle kills from both ends. This is even more apparent when shooting from the prone or a bench. You’re fighting the rifle when you try to get smaller groups.

Reliability * * * * *
The rifle itself is very reliable. The scope is well built and tough. High marks in reliability.

Customize this *
The standard rifle is much cheaper and can be just as good of a rifle.

Overall Rating * * *
Modern rifles will do what this does better. They can’t do it with more style. A harsher critic would give two stars but I think three is right just as it sits. Add one star or two if you think it looks cool or value its history. You won’t be disappointed.

33 Responses to Gun Review: Mosin Nagant M91/30 PU Sniper Rifle

  1. Nice review. I have a 1939 91/30 (non sniper) and a ’43 K98. There really is something fun about shooting those old guns.

  2. Good read. But really, if someone wants an accurate WW2 rifle is there anything better than a K31? I think not.

    • The swiss rifles are excellent quality. But they were never used in the war. Some of us that are into milsurps want the ones that were actually in the dirt.

      If i just wanted an accurate rifle there are newer designs that serve that purpose quite well.

  3. Thanks for the review. I always enjoy reading about Mosins.

    Still, I think saying that a 91/30 was “state of the art” in 1942 is a bit of a stretch.

    I love Mosins, have two (M44 and M38), and like them a lot. Still, I think the Garand, Enfield, Mauser, K31, and Springfield were generally superior firearms for the most part.

    Also, what is the deal with the lack of blueing on the rifle barrel? Is it just worn off or something. I hope it wasn’t “Bubba’d” by anybody.

    • I wish people knew enough about Mosins to call the hundreds of thousands of 91/30 PUs what they (mostly) are – replicas. (Really, just blatant fakes sold as real to guys who don’t do their homework.)

      Izhevsk made about 50K PUs in 1942 and a total of ~250K before production ended in 1958. Tula made under 10K total. Of which, the vast majority were de-snipered when re-arsenalled. You are ten times more likely to find one that has been undone than you are to find an intact one. The real ones have been in the safes of collectors for the last 20 years.

      The (really) rare bird (and best quality of them all) is the Hungarian M/52. That’s the only one that I have yet to see faked.

      The Ukranians have been “refurbing” 91/30s into PUs for a decade, once they learned Americans would pay money for them. They even have someone making plausible optics.

      Caveat Emptor.

  4. I was lucky to snag my PU sniper for $550 last year, but it needed a lot of work. Followed the IV8888 Mosin trigger job video closely. Replaced the garbage Chinese Fireforce scope with a nice Ukrainian repro made in 2008 from Apex. Then I had to break out the blue Loctite. After many hours of fiddling, I finally have it sighted in at 100 yards. Mine is MO marked 1933 refurbished in the 50’s. While not historically accurate, as PU’s were only built on wartime receivers, I can shoot it often without feeling bad.

    Sepp Allerberger used a captured PU during his early tours as a sniper on the Eastern Front in WW2. Lots of gory details in his memoir, easily the most chilling personal account of combat I’ve ever read. The original German edition, “Im Auge des Jägers” even has a couple of kill photos.

    • People shoot mosins. They bang them around in trucks and drag them thru bad weather. People are afraid to do that with their Springfields and Mausers cause they might detract from the value of their collectibles.

      Mosins and Lee Enfields are farm girls. Mausers and Springfields are Kardashians.

      • Correction: Most people don’t want to shell out the cash for a Mauser made by Germans, for Germans. I lucked out and snagged my RC K98k when they were still $250. Yugoslavian M24/47 and M48’s can still be had for that price. Spanish examples rebarreled to .308 Winchester are also affordable. Czech Vz-24’s have climbed a bit, but they’re still <$400. Either way, the two or three extra Benjamins you'll spend get you higher quality machining and tighter tolerances than most Mosins.

        • If you want a really nice Mauser, shell out for one made by the Belgians, not the Krauts.

          When you look at the Mauser production from ’44 and ’45 in Germany – some of them are pretty rough. Some were deliberately left full hardness after quenching. They’re often a mixed lot.

          This is what happens when slave labor is employed to make a product.

          The pre-war Belgian Mausers, the Swede Mausers – they have very nice workmanship and excellent steel.

          And I’ll give a plug to my favorite down-market Mauser, the VZ-24. Unloved by collectors, this is a great piece of workmanship without a collector price.

        • How do you feel about the pre-war 24/47’s out of Yugoslavia? Supposedly their a copy of the FN rifles.

          I have one in damn near flawless condition, all matching stamped SN’s with a low SN too somewhere in the low 2K area. It’s not a refurb and likely was never issued to anyone. It’s interesting because I can’t find any import stamps on it at all. It’s almost like it was shipped directly from the factory to me.

        • Strych9.

          You’re thinking of the original M24 Mausers, early ones made by Belgium for the Serbs with the FN crest on the receiver ring. There’s also the M24/52C, which is a Yugoslavian rework of Czech Vz-24 rifles they obtained/captured. These ones tend to be in less stellar shape than the M24/47 and M48, the latter examples were often built, greased up, and thrown into storage. I don’t know much about Yugo markings beyond receiver crests, but yours sounds like a real keeper.

          I fired an M24/52C last summer and loved it. All these mausers are built like tanks and the history of Yugo arms industry since the 20’s is very interesting.

        • waffen:

          I was curious because this particular rifle is easily the best example of a Mauser that I have personally handled. Based on it’s stamps it’s certainly a Yugo made rifle copying the FN rifle that were purchased by the Yugo government.

          The others I handled and shot just don’t compare to that 24/47. It seems like Yugo engineering and machining was top notch pre-war. The Germans supposedly stole most of the Yugoslavian equipment because it was as good or better than what they had in the Reich which I found shocking.

          German made ones that I’ve had the opportunity to play with are comparatively… well bad. Ditto the Turkish Kirkkale. My copy of that rifle has a great trigger but the rear sight is terrible and the bolt is pure slop.

          I’ll see if I can’t get some pictures of that 24/47… she’s literally my best Mauser and she “shouldn’t” be. Unless of course they just took an FN rifle and restamped it as their own, which I rather doubt because the rifle shows no signs of ever having been reworked at all.

        • The Yugo pre-war 24/47’s are usually nice, smooth-cycling rifles. I’ve got absolutely nothing against them other than they’re an “intermediate length” action – ie, not the full-length, large-ring Mauser action that gunsmiths have been using to convert to sporting rifles for the last, what, 70+ years? As such, you can’t exchange the bolt or bottom metal from other full-length action Mausers into the 24/47, the stock inletting will be different, and so on, but that’s a downside from my perspective – that of someone who takes apart old Mausers just to get at the receiver, bolt , magazine/bottom metal – and that’s about it.

          To non-gunsmiths, my objections are utterly irrelevant.

          If you’re planning on keeping it in original condition, and that rifle is in the condition you state, I’d think really, really hard before I ever let it go. It might not be the hot lick in collectible firearms now, but nice, pristine examples of almost anything become collectible in time.

        • DG:

          Thanks for your input. I’ll see if I can get some pictures of the rifle when I have better light as I’d like your opinion. Honestly, I really think I’m probably one of very few people to have ever shot this rifle. Even the stock is stamped with the same SN as all the other parts (though that’s an easy force match). When I got her she looked brand new. I picked it up five or so years ago off a clearance/milsurp shelf at a gun store where the attitude was “Meh, another Mauser”. I paid something like $250 for her. At the time I noted that all the SN’s matched but I really didn’t know what the rifle was until I got it home and did some research.

          Near as I can tell the rifle was built, soaked in cosmoline and forgotten about (too bad there’s apparently no way to know when exactly she was built). I disassembled and did my due diligence cleaning and was shocked to find it had no import stamps. I was expecting a “CAI [insert SN here]” on her somewhere but didn’t find anything other than original factory markings. Either way, the only ding she has I put there. I distinctly remember doing it and thinking “Shit, there goes her 100% rating”.

          Can these milsurps be imported without a stamp like that? I didn’t think that was legal? Could it have been imported years back and just kept in storage before being sold?

        • strych9, A few of my M-Ns and my Kar98a have no import stamps – just means they were here prior to GCA-68.

          That’s the best way to ensure authenticity – back then they were $10 in a barrel near checkout at the hardware store. An impulse purchase if you will. Very few people gave a rip about collecting them back then. It was a surplus rifle, go shoot it.

          Alternatively, some guy went on a cruise of Europe, bought himself anywhere from a box, to a trainload, and sold them here without a care in the world.

        • 16V:

          Good info. Those of us who were born in the mid 1980’s have no concept of this idea that a firearm could be imported without an assigned SN!

        • strych9, Pre-GCA ’68 nothing was required to have a serial number by law. It was up to the maker of the gun if they wanted to number it or not.

          (Egads, I’m only 50. How the hell am I some old salt?)

    • I have a K98 my grandfather picked up on the battlefield and brought back. It’s a much nicer rifle than the Mosin, but I like having them both.

      It’s in storage right now while I’m selling my house and moving, but perhaps I’ll submit a review on it sometime.

      My end goal is to add a Lee Enfield, Carcano, Arisaka and Springfield to the collection and perhaps do a nice WWII bolt action rifle comparison piece sometime.

  5. Nice review. A stark contrast to one that was done over at BB&C a few weeks back. (To be fair that was a regular old plain Jane 91/30.)

  6. I love to shoot Mosins (especially my M44), and while they are all “minute of Nazi,” none of them are target guns — but one PU sniper rifle I used held 1.5-2.0 MOA until the barrel got really hot. Which happens quickly in temperate weather.

    The Mosin 91/30, M38 and M44 were built to handle the brutal cold of the Russian winter. In that climate, they simply outperformed the otherwise superb German K98k. BTW, based on American experience in the Korean War, especially the Chosin Reservoir battle, the Garand rifle would have held up well on the WW2 Russian battlefield; the M1 Carbine would not.

    All in all, the Mosin family provides a lot of bang for the buck.

  7. I have a non-refurbished 1944 ex-sniper “Garbage Rod” and bought a 44 date coded original scope for it. I’ll going to re-mount the scope. The SNs are actually fairly close to each other for a random buy. The trigger pull on it is a crisp 3.5lbs. Of my three Moist-Nuggets, it has the best trigger and shoots the the most accurately. My counter bored, 5lb trigger (fairly crisp), 91/30 shoots 6-10 inch groups at 100 yards. My m44 shoots a bit better but has a 7lb garbage trigger. It’s so bad.

  8. My first rifle that I bought is a matching, arsenal refurbished ’29 hex Tula. I picked it up from Dragonman’s in Colorado Springs, and it has the smoothest bolt & nicest trigger that I’ve ever encountered on a Mosin Nagant. I thought they were all like that until I got an Izvehsk M38, and started handling others. I’ve even been able to run it next to a late-war Mauser and an SMLE, and my Mosin still had a smoother bolt and trigger. It rapidly became apparent that my 91/30 is quite an exception to the rule; whoever it was that made that particular rifle, certainly knew what they were doing & put extra care into the job. I suppose that since it’s ’29 dated, he didn’t have the wartime pressure to churn as many out as possible.

    • I have a 1938 izzy that is much smoother and better finished than the wartime production guns. It has a really nice trigger on it, also.

    • Ha! I had a similar experience. My 91/30 was made in ’42, after the Nazi invasion but it’s bolt is smooth like a woman’s ass. Nice crisp trigger too. I never got why people talked trash about Mosin’s until I got to handle some other examples that were terrible. That’s when I discovered that Mosins run the gambit from great to junk.

      All my friends who own Mosins and have shot mine want have tried to buy it from me. No sale on that one. My M44 has a decent trigger but the bolt is rough as hell.

      • Almost all the mosins in the US are refurbished. The rifles were broken down to parts. Stacks of barreled actions buckets of bolts etc.Parts made originally made decades apart reassembled by post war soviet union workers.
        Finlands mosin’s were built from parts also it’s not uncommon to have an antique dated receiver. But the finns had high quality standards. The mosin is a 1891 design not a modern cnc design it needs some hand fitting . How the interrupter and the magazine and bolt is fit makes a big difference how well it feeds. For example the finns shimmed the action for accuracy and the magazines for feeding.

  9. Ah, a neck trainer, as we call it. Whoever can shoot forty or so rounds prone with a scope in Kochetov’s mount AND stock “delelerator pad” gets my props for endurance.

    Excellent collector item, though, and tough piece of hardware.

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