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8mm Blindee Converted Mosin Nagants

From Kevin Carney

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At the end of WWI, the arms market was flooded with cheap surplus. The vanquished surrendered their arms and many were destroyed. Even the victors had surplus, which with their victories shrank their armies and surplus was put into storage and also, sold on the open market. Although flooded, there were still many avenues open to sell these vast inventories. The geographics changed dramatically throughout the world with new nations forming. With new nations, new armies were formed and the need to arm them. With the surplus arms market being flooded and new nations with no revenues needing to arm, the arms were being sought cheaply instead of being contracted new.

Surplus arms were being sought in South America and China, along with the new nations of Europe. There was a large variety of arms to choose from; SMLE's, Berthiers, Mausers, Mannlichers and Mosins to list a few. Mausers were always popular and were readily accepted in China and South America. Berthiers and Lebel were going to Africa. SMLE's to ex -British areas and also Africa. Mannlichers to the ex -Austo Hungarian Empire and the Balkans. Mosins to a more limited area of the Baltic nations, with Finland being a country that adopted the Mosin Nagant and started to actively purchase them on the open market. Poland used, as a stop gap weapon, the Mosin Nagant Model 91, converted later to 8mm Mauser and designated Wz 91/98/25.

It is interesting to note the countries of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia seemed to adopt the SMLE's and the .303 round. From of all these arms, the Mauser was the top seller on the arms market and it appears that the others were less desirable. China was the anomaly, using about everything listed above. They actually used large amounts of Mosins in the North of China due to ex -Czarists troops flooding over the border to China escaping from the Communist wrath.

Two Nations, which found a niche in the arms market after WWI, were the newly formed country of Czechoslovakia and Belgium. Both counties had arms manufacturing centers and started to thrive as arms manufacturers. Belgium was a small country, which was involved in arms for centuries. It had ample small arms manufacturers and small workshops in the Leige area. They had been known forever as an arms maker. They produced licensed copies of Mauser rifles and Browning machine guns. By the 1920's they were selling new and surplus to South America and China, usually at a cheaper price than their competitors. Arms were being pushed and Fabrique Nationale was becoming a large, well respected arms concern and with this, Belgium as a country, was becoming one of the larger suppliers in the world market. Still, with the popularity of FN there were other smaller makers and shops trying gain the momentum in the arms market. Belgium also had their share of Mosin Nagants and SMLE's. Some were traded, while others were sold off. In the late twenties into the early 30's some of the Mosins and SMLE's were taken and converted to other calibres. The SMLE's proved difficult to convert and actually to costly. The Mosin and some P14's were somewhat more successful in converting to 8mm Mauser. One of the firms that converted and marketed these was the firm of Soley-Grimard et Cie, which operated out of Liege. This company was formed by two enterprising arms dealers, Captain John Ball of the Soley Armament Company of England, who had ties to BSA and sold arms mostly ex- British stock and Edgard Grimard, a Belgian arms dealer. This company sold anything surplus from small arms to aircraft.

By the 1930's the arms market was ripe for cheap arms. China was in still in turmoil. Lithuania and Poland were clashing. The Gran Chaco War was in full force in South America. Ethiopia was fighting for her life against Italy and the Spanish Civil War was the last conflict before WWII. As these conflicts flared, many countries joined together to put limitations on selling arms to warring factions and although on paper this was agreed, many countries ignored it and sold outright. Other countries used the smaller arms dealers to sell. It was in this period that many companies flourished like Soley- Grimard.

One of the interesting arms that had shown up was the Belgian 8mm conversion. Originally believed to be set up for markets of South Americas and China, these did not sell well. Both counties were set on Mausers more than anything else. As the Spanish Civil War rolled around, the Republicans, in desperate need for arms in the early part of the conflict, were offered these along with some 8mm converted P14's. The Republicans were purchasing arms with gold. These weapons came to light in the 1960's when Interarms brought in many surplus Mosins from Spain. Most of the Mosins were standard 7.62 Mosin 91's and 91/30's that were supplied by Stalin, later on. There were, however, some of these odd 8mm conversions mixed in. Some of these were complete rifles a few carbines and then some, which were barreled actions. In 1998 while up at Springfield Sporters, a few of the barrel actions were found that had been purchased years ago from Interarms. In talking to the owner, he stated that some of these guns were turned into sporters by Interams but,ammunition and safety became a key factor. The sporters were abandoned. This was the reason some of these just had crudely shortened barrels. A few carbines were, however, found with Mauser style front sight and modified Mosin stocks and appeared to be original carbine modifications but,cannot be proven for sure.

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The Belgian modification is quite interesting. In examining a few rifles, it was noted how simple the conversion actually was. The chamber was set back and a notch cut into the front of the receiver to compensate for the longer 8mm round. The rear sight was regraduated and front sight appears to be replaced. The bolt head was modified by taking the rim of the bolt face off and modifying the extractor to compensate for the non rimmed cartridge. The charger bridge was reworked to take a standard 5 round Mauser stripper. The magazine housing was simply spread out at the reinforcing ribs of the side of the housing. The ejector and ejector spring was modified heavily. The ejector was notched and the spring was modified into two pieces with a pivot in the center. To compensate for this modification, the sear had to be notched for it to fit flush. All of these modification could be subcontracted to any of the small Liege workshops. Workmanship seems to be uniform and well done so most likely a standard was set if piece mealed or one place did all the work.


Markings of these conversions are all uniform with the side of the barrel marked with 8x57mm Blindee P.V. just behind the rear sight. The chamber area is marked crown R, star G and the flaming bomb with L inside and is repeated on the side receiver flat with star G and the Liege bomb. Just above these two marks is the serial number, which appear in a definite serial number range. Although, limited in numbers, no more than a dozen were found. The high is 33024 and the low of 30169. All of these markings are on the left side of the rifle. These are all stamped in the same font and all other original markings from Russian production are removed. Markings of the original date and arsenal of manufacture are still on the underside of the tang.

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As with any modification , there are some differences from time to time. Most of these rifles retain original one piece Russian stocks that were mearly refinished. It is interesting to note two examples reported were very early guns, which still retain the finger rest after the trigger guard. Most rifles were modified from fairly early rifles, with the latest production date being 1912. Again, with such limited numbers to work from there can be exceptions.

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Carbines are few and far between and really there is no real way of proving what is. It is clouded by the cut downs of Interarms and as a rule these were just cut crudely and no other work was done to the crown or muzzle. One example has a mounted cheap aluminum sleeve sight that shows up on the Finn Cub sporters. Two examples that appear to be original configured carbines, both sport a Mauser style front sights with a very nicely crowned front end with the front portion of the barrel tapered to fit the sight. The stock is a simply cut Model 91 long stock with refitted front nose cap and both barrel bands retained. The stock is very similar to the Ulaani Carbines that were modified by Finland for the Civil Guard in the 1920's. Barrel length is 21 inches long on both examples and these retain all previous discussed modifications. One example has the bolt bent slightly and the other example has a straight bolt, both serial numbers on the bolt fall into these serial number ranges although not matching.



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The 8mm Blindee conversions are a unique example of the Mosin Nagant Rifle to be converted to another calibre. It probably should fall into the category of the Polish Wz 91/98/25, the German WWI 8x57 Conversion, the Austrian 8x50 Steyr conversion and probably the Bannerman 30-06 conversion. Whether the 8mm Blindee guns actually saw action, one could only speculate. For most examples seem in pretty good condition and one does have to wonder about the safety factor. Records are almost non-existent on these for much of the arms imports to Spain were done in secret or at the least brought in with much details left out. The Mosin Nagant became popular in Spain among the Republicans, most were used in original calibre and were sold by Russia as the war progressed. Again, only small numbers came in from Spain of the 8mm rifles and these have been ignored over decades but,only in the last decade have Mosins been gaining popularity with collectors and the search for other odd unique Mosins were discovered. These have been seen once in a while over the years and usually discounted as junk. To a collector of Mosins it is a rare find.

Kevin Carney - North China Arms

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