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Overall length

1.02 meters/1020 mm

40 inches
Barrel length 510 millimeters  20 inches
Weight 3.45 kilograms 7.62 pounds
Sights Front: globe protected post drift adjustable Rear: Tangent graduated to 1000m
Production makers/totals Izhvesk-Tula 2,450,000-approx. 50,000


     In accord with it's western counterparts, the Soviet Union followed the pattern of the United States, Britain, and Germany in discontinuing the production of a long infantry rifle in favor of a shortened all purpose weapon of an intermediate barrel length, usually a barrel length of 24 to 30 inches. The Russians also issued short carbines based on this intermediate length rifle to mounted troops, crew served weapons teams and general support troops. An exhaustive series of trials and field tests lasting almost eight years (1922-1930) were conducted concerning the adoption of a modernized infantry rifle based upon the basic design of the day- the m/91 Dragoon which was nothing more than a shortened m/1891. The Dragoon rifle did have some advantages over the earlier m/1891 design though. Chief amongst these were that the rifle utilized a simplified set of barrel bands and a new handguard. The simple fact remained though that the standard infantry rifle of the Red Army needed to be brought up to date with the current military standards. A modernized version of the rifle was finally adopted on April 28th 1930 and adopted as the m/1891-30 rifle. (4) In short the rifle is referred to as simply the m/91-30. This new rifle was produced with a new tangent rear sight graduated in meters and a fully protected front sight to replace the earlier Dragoons unprotected blade. The new m/91-30 also saw simplified barrel bands and band springs as well as a newly designed handguard. These updates further simplified production and reduced the cost of each rifle. The adoption of the new m/91-30 found the Red Army placed in the awkward position though of having a modernized infantry rifle adopted for service but an antiquated carbine fulfilling the auxiliary and crew served weapons role. The carbine model of 1907 was the standard weapon adopted to fulfill this role for the infantry and support troops of the Red Army. This mismatch in equipment created some problems because the 1907 carbine was not based on the same modernized and updated design of the new infantry rifle and further more had been out of production for some 15 years. As the serviceable condition of the m/1907 carbines deteriorated, it was decided that an updated carbine based upon the modernized designs and upgrades of the m/91-30 was also needed to replace the m/1907 and to complement the new rifle of 1930. (1)

     After the general testing of a short barreled version of the m/91-30, a carbine version was decided on in 1938. The weapon was submitted to the Defense Committee on the 26th of February 1939 for approval and was accepted. (2) The rifle differed only in barrel length, stock, and handguard length, a shorter cleaning rod and rear sight size. The new carbines shortened rear sight is graduated to only 1000 meters instead of the 91-30’s 2000-meter range. The front sight assembly differed slightly in that it was a pres fit sleeve that was retained by a pin while the m/91/30's was a soldered sight base that was part of the barrel. The m/38 was in all respects a slightly modified and shortened m/91-30. It was not intended to accept a bayonet. The weapon was put into immediate production at the Izhevsk weapons manufacturing plant and the first examples were issued to troops shortly there after. The year of design and submittal for testing was done in 1938 and the initial year of production taking place the following year in 1939. This causes some confusion amongst the collectors of the Mosin Nagant family of rifles as the nomenclature of the carbine being the m/1938, it does not reflect the fact that the actual first year of production was done the following year in 1939. This occurrence also took place in production of the Tokarev rifle that same year. The SVT38 was named for the year of adoption and the first year of production actually taking place the following year of 1939 as with the carbine.

The M91/30 Rifle And Below The Model 1938 Carbine

     The initial production of the m/38 carbine used a slightly different stock and handguard as later models. The stocks set back for the rear barrel band and the corresponding handguard step is approximately 3.5 cm further back than on later version produced after 1940.  This first pattern stock is found only on the initial production versions produced in 1939. This stock pattern was changed shortly after production began and by mid 1940 the version most commonly encountered on guns today was in production. It increased the rear handguard step lenght from the rear of the handguard to the step where the barrel band seats from 2cm on the intial production varaiant to 5.3 cm on the revised version. The corresponding forend step of the stock was moved forward as well to match. Finger grooves were added as well to assist in the removal of the rear barrel band. Only a handful of 1940 dated examples are encountered in the first pattern stock. The first pattern stocks as well as any first year production m/38 carbine dated 1939 is considered quite rare and not often encountered by the collector. The initial weapons produced in 1939 amounted to 34,508 guns. (4)

     The year 1940 saw a dramatic increase in production to 162,162 carbines. The carbine served the Red Army throughout the Winter War and WW2 in a support capacity as outlined above. Machine gun crews, Artillery sections, Anti Tank teams, as well as Communications and Auxiliary support teams were armed with this weapon. Its service was first encountered in the Winter War with Finland (1939-1940). Finnish soldiers found the carbines to be a handy weapon and they were quickly put to use by Finnish crews in the same capacity as they were intended by the Soviets. At the close of the Winter War in 1940, the Finnish forces had captured and logged into inventory approximately 489 of these short carbines. By the close of the war for the Finn’s in 1944, approximately 1800 more of these guns had been captured. The official Finnish inventory of weapons in 1951 showed 2291 m/38 carbines in storage. (3) A Finnish captured version is truly a find as the numbers shown indicate a rather small number of guns. These numbers also reflect some m/44 carbines that were included as the same type of weapon-a carbine, so the actual number of m/38 carbines bearing a Finnish property stamping of [SA] is rather small. Tula production of the m/38 carbine began in 1940 and then just as quickly ceased after a few trial wepaons were manufactured. A Tula 1940 made m/38 carbine is the rarest Mosin Nagant carbine in the m/38 line.

[SA]  Finnish Army Property Stamping From A Captured 1941 Dated Model 1938 Carbine.

     The Soviets continued to produce the carbine in a limited production capacity until the summer of 1941 when production was increased dramatically. 419,605 carbines left the factory in 1941 with a 50% increase in the following year of 1942 to over 687,426. 1943 saw the largest number of carbines produced to date. A 100% increase in the numbers produced over the preceding year, to nearly one million guns-978, 297. (4) The advent of the m/44 carbine which employed a side folding bayonet and was being tested in November of 1943 by field troops on the Belo-Russian front, foresaw the end of the m/38’s production run. In 1944 the carbine’s production numbers were scaled back dramatically to 167,000 weapons. Stocks were being discontinued in the m/38 format in favor of the new m/44 configuration with a cut out for the side-folding bayonet. 1943 also saw the front and rear sling slots being changed in a production expediency measure. The deletion of the screwed in sling euscueteons in favor of a simple unprotected slot in the rear and a metal reinforced bottom in the forend to prevent the thinner wood from cracking. Stock production in the carbine form was now almost completely in the m/44 style, as both guns were virtually identical but for the bayonet addition. The m/38 could be used in the m/44 style stock without any modifications. Of note in the stock production of late 1943 and early1944, was the initial use by Soviet weapons factories of laminated stocks. The use of these stocks could be explained in a number of ways. The use of laminated stocks on weapons was common place with the German forces and resulted in a strong, dense stock that was resistant to warping caused by weather conditions. It also was an economical way to make use of scrap wood that was not suitable for a solid style one piece stock. Thus more stocks could be made from the same amount of material and or from inferior blanks that would not be suitable for use as a solid wood stock. It also increased material efficiency with no loss of quality. These new laminated stocks began to appear on the m/38 and m/44 carbines in 1943-1944. They were found in two styles. An unvarnished/unstained version with a very blonde light colored finish and a typical Russian red varnished version. Laminated stocks were not however limited to carbine use; some m/91-30 rifles were being issued as well with laminated stocks-again in the two color variants. Both standard infantry rifles and the telescopically sighted sniper versions can be found in the laminated furniture. Nearly all of these laminated stocks will have the rear wrist reinforcing recoil lug installed to aid in the wrist from cracking and to add some stability to the laminated wood in this critcal area.

Model 1938 Carbine with a m/38 laminate stock (this stock lacks the bayonet releif of the later m/1944 stock stock)

The year 1944 also saw the production of the Tula arsenal produced weapons make a wider appearance on the battlefield. Up until 1944 the full year production of the carbines -both m/38 and 44- was only done at Izhevsk. Both the m/38 and m/44 carbines began to appear in 1944 bearing the Tula arsenal identification stamping of the fletched arrow in a five-pointed star. These carbines are extremely rare and are a result of the very limited auxiliary production of the carbines at Tula. This applies even more so to the m/38 than the 44. 

Tula And Izhevsk Model 1938 Carbines

     With production winding down in the final year of the m/38’s service life-1944 to 1945, the majority of the production of the m/38 was being done with parts assembled from existing stockpile. With the close of the war in 1945, the m/38’s last year of production came to a close. It is not known how many guns were produced in 1945 by both arsenals but by educated deduction of cataloged physical examples and by recorded serial numbers, a guess of less than 50,000 carbines produced can be ventured. No known Tula produced examples dated other than 1944 are known. With combined production of both Izhevsk and Tula in 1945, a total number of 3 million carbines are ventured. It never underwent any significant changes in design during its 7 years of production.

     The gun was issued the same accessories as it’s longer cousin, the m/91-30, but for a bayonet. A standard field tool kit that contained the takedown/assembly combination tool. This tool also allowed the adjustment of the firing pin protrusion and removal of the firing pin from the bolt body. A brass jag and brush were also included as were a muzzle cover/rod guide and a rod collar with a "T" handle for the cleaning rod. The standard two-compartment oilier for solvent and lubricants completed the kit. The weapon utilized three distinct slings. The early pattern slings of an all leather construction utilizing a brass buckle for adjustments and the later web style with leather reinforcements at the attachment points. Leather sling loops for the stock slots were also used. An early to mid war sling of a non-adjustable style was issued as well. It lacked the provision for a buckle and was simply a one-size fit all straps to be affixed to the gun with the standard leather sling loops. Colors of the slings are medium to light brown leather and an olive to khaki green color in the web style. Additionally a standard two-partition ammunition pouch was issued to hold 30 cartridges loaded on stripper clips.

The m/38's tool kit which consists of a firing pin/ take down tool , a patch jag and brush as well as a rod collar and rod cross handle. The muzzle cap rod guide and the oiler and pouch round out the kit. The oiler has two compartments-one for solvent and one for oil.

     Today there can be found two other styles of Russian carbines that in nothing else, share the m/38’s size. The m/91-30-59 can be found that is in reality a post war shortening of full size rifles to carbine length. These guns look identical to the m/38 but for their rear sights. They retain the full size m/91-30 rear sight, but the range graduations from 2000 to 1100 meters have been milled off leaving a maximum sighting range of 1000 meters as found on the original m/38 carbine sight. The stocks have also been shortened to carbine length. The other m/38 clone is the m/91-38. This weapon is a long m/91 rifle shortened again to m/38 specifications. These weapons bear the dates of the earlier m/91 rifle-pre 1926, and utilize the early hexagonal shaped receiver. They also utilize the later second variation/ pattern front sight base and hood as found on later production m/44 carbines. This sight uses a wider base than the earlier m/38 and initial production runs of the successor weapon the m/44. The 91/38 also uses a non Soviet produced stock in the pattern found on many of the lower Warsaw pact countries like Romania, Albania, Bulgaria and Hungary. These stocks used on the m/91-38 are not true m/38 carbine stocks at all. Rather they are m/44 carbine stocks with the bayonet relief found on the right side at the top of the stocks edge. These guns should not be confused with a true m/1938 carbine and are easily identified by the simple modifications and discrepancies as briefly outlined above. While the m/91-59 seems to show no obvious Warsaw pact proof markings indicating that is may well be a Soviet post war modification to carbine length, the 91/38 does show non Soviet proof markings. The m/91-38 is clearly marked with Czechoslovak military markings and proofs indicating possible arsenal work done there. It is not believed that the 91/38 served in any capacity in the Czech military so the indications is that the guns were modified in Czechoslovakia for export to other countries. The predominate use of these two carbines seems to be in Police and local inventory/militia roles as no firm evidence can be found that indicates issue to combat units.


(1) International Armament-G.B. Johnson & HB. Lockhoven

Vol.1 International Small Arms Pub. Cologne, Germany.

(2) Soviet Small Arms and Ammunition-D.N. Bolotin

Suomen Asemuseosäätiö 1995

(3) Sotilaskäsiaseet Suomessa 1918-1988-M. Palokangas

Vol. 3 Suomen Asehistoriallinen Seura ry. 1991

(4) Drei Linien Die Gewehre Mosin Nagant-K.H. Wrobel

Journal-Verlag Schwend GMBH 1999

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