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The Mosin Nagant M91/59 Carbine

Text: Tuco

Photos: Vic Thomas, LA Steve, Brunskie, & Tuco

Due to recent imports of these carbines into the USA I decided to rewrite this article. More information as come to light in the two years this was first done, so there was room for improvement. The M91/59 is a Mosin Nagant whose history is rather murky and cloudy. There has not been any confirmed information on these carbines, where they were produced, nation of issue, nor production numbers. When these first came in mass to the US they were sold as "Bulgarian made carbines" but to date no facts have been uncovered to point to this being true. In fact there are many factors that point to Soviet production and possible issue in a number of nations.

In overall appearance the M91/59 is similar to both the Soviet (Russian ) Model 1938 Carbine and the Czech cutdown M91/38 Carbine - a proven Eastern European modification.    While the outward appearance of these three carbines are much alike each model is quite unique. The rear sights of the M91/59 are not true carbine sights as they are M91/30 rear sights that have been scrubbed.   The distances from 1110-2000 meters were rather crudely removed making the sights adjustable only from 100-1000 meters.   This is in contrast to the Model 1938 and M91/38 that have true carbine rear sights.   In general these carbines have been fitted in a stock that is much like the Model 1938 Carbine but they appear to be cut-down M91/30 stocks.  There are also a few known examples that are in Model 1944 stocks but these do seem to be uncommon.    The use of laminate M38 and M44 Carbine stocks has also been reported in a small number of cases.


The rear sights of the m/38 carbine left and the modified m/91-30 rear sight on the right to match the range graduations of the carbine. The m/91-30-59  is just a shortened to m/38 carbine length rifle. The picture above is a good indication of this with the simple modification of the rear sight and stock.

tikk91592.jpg (37021 bytes)

An interesting marking from a M91/59 Carbine.  While most of these are Soviet/Russian rifles, this carbine was once a Finnish Tikka M91/30. One can clearly see the 1891/59 proof marking.

These carbines will bear Soviet proofs and manufacture markings in almost every case but also have an added 1891/59 marking - this being the root of the name M91/59 Carbine. Since these are cutdown M91/30's these Soviet markings are to be expected. On more recent imports another version of M91/59 has shown up, these without makers markings nor dates, with only M91/59 stamped on the barrel shank. It is not clear why this was done nor does anyone have a clear number of how many carbines are in this scrubbed condition.  What is clear is that in past imports one rarely heard of M91/59's so marked but now this is becoming much more common to encounter.  Why there has been this sudden change is a mystery.

Dcircle10bulgaria.jpg (53242 bytes)

Double circle ten cartouche - Bulgarian marking. This from a Model 1938 Carbine not a M91/59.

Until recently few to none of these carbines have shown any markings that would lead one to suspect Bulgaria had anything to do with these weapons; however, as more collectors have investigated and examined such carbines it is now known there are indeed at least some examples that have Bulgarian stock cartouches.  The two common stock cartouches are the pinecone or a double circle ten, both such markings have been seen on the stocks of these carbines.  While some will offer this as "proof" Bulgaria is the nation behind these weapons, I do not feel this proves anything.  These markings are not refurbishment markings but are property markings, so these markings alone do not prove that Bulgaria made or reworked these carbines.   All such stock cartouches prove is that at one time some of these were in Bulgaria.   It does not show or prove these were Bulgarian made, reworked in Bulgaria, or even Bulgarian issue. It is known these are being imported for the most part from Bulgaria but this only means the carbines ended up there, it does not mean these were issued or made there.

bulgarianpincone.jpg (30968 bytes)

A known Bulgarian cartouche from a Mosin Nagant M91 Rifle.  This cartouche is commonly encountered on Bulgarian Mosin Nagants but is very uncommon to encounter on the M91/59 Carbine.

There are those in or from the former Soviet Union that state these carbines were seen in service with Soviet "reserve" troops as well as being seen in police reserve units.  These statements have been confirmed by as many as five different people.   While these statements tend to discount Bulgaria, these accounts are also unproven.   These former residents of the USSR might have confused the Model 1938 Carbine with these M91/59 or even mistook the Model 1944 Carbine for something is was not.  It should also be noted that a small number of the M91/59's appeared as Vietnam bringbacks.   One noted collector that has seen one of these bringbacks is Kevin Carney of North China Arms.

It is very hard to state one way or the other just where these carbines were made.  There are many reasons that I have doubts about Bulgaria - 1) These are being imported from nations other than Bulgaria 2) The general lack of Bulgarian cartouches - markings on most examples 3) Accounts of these being issued or seen inside the Soviet Union 4) The Vietnam bringbacks point more towards the Soviets than to Bulgaria 5) There are many later refurbished examples of M38 and M44 carbines coming from the former Soviet Union that are scrubbed in the same manner as the recent imports of M91/59 Carbines.  In fact these look exactly alike when one does a side by side comparison.   This general "uniformity" seems to point towards the USSR not to an Eastern European nation. 5) It is clear that the first information on these carbines, the one that mentioned Bulgarian manufacture - issue, was way off in production numbers.   It was claimed these were quite rare and only a small reserve of these had been located.  This is simply not the case as importation numbers have been much higher than what was stated total production numbers were.  Also the fact these have been imported outside of Bulgaria shows the initial information was flawed.  As such it is very hard to have much faith in what was reported when these first came into the US.

The real facts about the history and use of these carbines may never come to light. While the author tends to lean towards the USSR as the manufacture and user of the M91/59 , there is nothing set in stone. Even with the lack of "known history" the M91/59 Carbine is a popular collector's firearm. The main draws to these seem to be their overall condition ( as most are in almost new condition ), the price ( as they are in the $100-120 range in most cases ), and the overall quality ( they are fine shooters that are well made ). All of these factors make the M91/59 a good buy for the Mosin Nagant collector.


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