The Mosin-Nagant's American History

As the turbulence of the early 20th century unfolded, America played a part in popularizing Russia's ubiquitous bolt-action rifle.

If we agree the Russian Revolutions shifted the course of the 20th century, then the Mosin-Nagant rifle and its unlikely role in the early days of America’s global military influence, make the celebrated rifle more than just a high powered instrument of destruction debuting in Vikendi for Season 7.

The American side to the story of the Mosin-Nagant is what happens when a global power backs out of a commitment, leaving a bunch of guns unaccounted for.

The Mosin-Nagant (referred to as the 3-line rifle M1891 in Russia) was developed by Russia’s Captain Sergei Mosin and Belgium’s Leon Nagant late in the 20th century with the final production model debuting in 1891. It was a five-shot, bolt-action rifle intended to modernize the Russian army’s arsenal after the Russo-Ottoman war and immediately proved to be effective, versatile, and reliable enough to make a difference.

Midway through the Great War in 1915, Russia’s last czar, Nicolas II, had named himself commander-in-chief of the country’s massive but underequipped army. To help his troops gear up he ordered more than 3 million Mosin-Nagant rifles from American manufacturers Remington Arms and New England Westinghouse as the US was sympathetic to the Russian-British-French cause. Remington quickly produced 750,000 Mosin-Nagants.

 

Mosin-Nagant was one of the most ubiquitous weapons of the 20th century, finding its way into battles on nearly every contient.
The 3-line rifle M1891was a viable bolt-action rifle from its debut in 1891 through the middle of the 20th century and beyond.

However, political turbulence reached a whole new level in Russia just as Remington was making good on the first 470,000 rifles. In the middle of World War I, Czar Nicolas abdicated his throne in the February Revolution and the replacement government refused to pay for the weapons ordered from the Americans. A second revolution that year –the pivotal October Revolution– along with a devastating Russian Civil War made finances, alliances, and strategies extremely fragile: Nicolas’ old mail order of rifles was not a priority.

The US military purchased the remainder of the order plus thousands of finished weapons and put the new Mosin-Nagants to good use as training equipment as America became one of the last entrants into the war.

While World War I was the backdrop for all conflicts in Europe at the time, when 5000 or so US troops, known as the Polar Bear Expedition, joined British forces in battles for the Russian port cities of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk, they were intervening in the Russian Civil War. Siding with the “White Army” against the Bolshevik Red Army, the Yankees and Brits were armed with rifles that were originally intended to be carried by Russian troops. Those Mosin-Nagants –that had been ordered by Czar Nicolas and gone unclaimed by the replacement provisional government that followed– were being used against the very revolutionaries who’d brought down the czar and skipped out on payment.

From there, American-made Mosin-Nagants were scattered around to collectors while the European-made models proliferated in most of the major conflicts of the 20th century. If Mosin-Nagants can be found scattered across the battlefields of Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and the Middle East, it should be no surprise to find so many littering the battlegrounds of Vikendi in service of a different kind of conflict.

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