September 18, 2019
By David M. Fortier
In the hands of Soviet snipers, both male and female, all the various models of M1891/30 sniper rifles racked up enormous kill tallies. As an example, at the end of the war the Soviets claimed their ten highest scoring snipers had a total of 4,200 confirmed kills. Compared to all the other participants of World War II the Soviet Union made use of snipers on a scale never seen before or since. This required the production of sniper rifles on a huge scale. The most prolific of the Soviet designs was the M1891/30 with 3.5x PU scope.
Chambered for the 7.62x54mmR cartridge this model was based upon the simple yet rugged Mosin-Nagant action. As such it was a five-shot manual repeater with Nagant’s single-column magazine. Barrel length was a fairly long 28.7 inches with a 1-9.4 inch twist and a bore diameter of .310 inch. At 48.5 inches long and weighing 8.7 pounds it resembled a child of the 19th Century rather than 1930. Rifles were selected for conversion to sniper rifles from regular production lots during their initial test firing. For a M1891/30 to be selected it had to put all four rounds into a maximum group size of 30mm (1.18 inches) at 100 meters. Rifles that met this standard were then set aside and modified with the addition of bent bolt handles and optics.
The 3.5x22mm PU (Universal Scope) was a very compact fixed power optic developed with mass production in mind. It featured a heavy post reticle and an elevation turret with Bullet Drop Compensation marks out to 1,300 meters. A dedicated military scope, windage adjustments were delineated in Mils. Very utilitarian in profile, it resembled a simple short tube with turrets. Field of view was on the narrow side at 4 degrees 30 minutes. Simple and rugged it was mounted to the rifle by a very robust side mount. Unfortunately the mount placed the optic fairly high to allow use of the standard iron sights. This combined with the relatively short eye relief (2.7 inches) made for a fairly uncomfortable package.
Despite the lack of a cheekweld many Mosin-Nagant snipers shot surprisingly well. The action may look archaic but it’s capable of excellent accuracy. One difficulty facing Soviet snipers though was the lack of dedicated sniper grade ammunition. Even so German wartime reports are filled with references to the effectiveness of Soviet sniping. Over 220,000 PU scopes were produced during its service life and over 100,000 snipers fielded during WWII. While the PU topped M1891/30 may not have been the best sniper rifle of the war, it certainly had the greatest effect. As an example, Ludmila Mihaylovna Pavlichenko became the top scoring female sniper of all time using a M1891/30 with a tally of 309. The PU topped M1891/30 sniper rifle soldiered on long after Berlin fell. It saw service in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Chechnya. Even today it continues to turn up in back water places around the world.
Mosin-Nagant M1891/30 PU Sniper SpecificationsAction Type
: Manual rotating bolt with dual opposed lugs and controlled round feedingCaliber
: 5 round single-column box magazineBarrel
: 28.7 inches 1-9.4 inch twist Overall Length
: 48.5 inchesWeight
: 8.7 pounds without opticStock
: Laminated or hardwoodFinish
: standard military two-stageIron Sights
: Hooded post front, tangent rear graduated to 2000 metersOptical Sight
: 3.5x22mm PU