A few weeks ago, I successfully secured an M1891/30 rifle for my collection. To the untrained eye, this rifle would be nothing spectacular, but the educated collector would quickly recognize its value according to the finer details.
I am a very demanding collector and I take pride in acquiring excellent examples of wartime rifles from the Second World War. Simply put, I am ecstatic to have added this rifle to my collection. While others have posted detailed articles on "bring-back" K-98k rifles or Type 99 carbines, there seems to be a lack of information regarding M1891/30 rifles in original condition. It is my hope that in writing this short article, other collectors on this forum will have a short reference to study and aid them in their own collecting endeavors. The basics...
This rifle is an M1891/30 manufactured in 1939 by Izhevsk. Every part on this example is original to its factory production and it goes without saying that the parts are matching. While most M1891/30 rifles of the Second World War were eventually refurbished, this one has remained entirely in its original condition. Intact M1891/30 rifles are few in number; perhaps it is even more interesting that this rifle remains in its original state considering the obvious history which it has witnessed. This rifle was captured by Finland at some point during the early years of the war, most likely during the Continuation War. It bears the "SA" stamp on the receiver and features its original pre- to early-war Soviet sling, a rarity in itself. Collectors are well aware that many Finnish-captured rifles were refurbished to some degree, evident in their unique finger-grooved stocks, replaced front sights, and renumbered or mismatched parts. In this point, the M1891/30 rifle featured in this article really becomes intriguing. The stock and its components...
Izhevsk-produced stocks bear the circular C.C.C.P. stamp and frequently have a circular letter proof as well (in this case, "MK"). The absence of these markings is usually the first indication that the stock has been sanded or replaced.
According to the year of manufacture, variations in the stock can be used to identify it as correct and original. The screwed-in sling escutcheons are typical of pre- and early-war stock production. For this rifle, produced in 1939, the escutcheons are correct. Moreover, they provide a useful piece of information to the collector: on a sanded stock, these escutcheons may appear to be slightly raised out of the stock and will lose their gray "patina" as well as the fine "lines" which appear on their visible surfaces.
Also correct to 1939 production, the thumb grooves behind the rear retaining band are absent. Also, take note of the brass endcaps found on the handguard; while 7.62x54r.net suggests that the use of brass endcaps was uncommon, most rifles of this period that I have studied - whether Izhevsk or Tula in manufacture - will bear this feature. Additionally, the use of rivets seems to be more common as well to the brass than the site indicates.
In the photographs above, the brass endcap and rivet is visible. The finish of the brass is also a good indicator of a replaced or cleaned handguard; just like the patina found on the sling escutcheons, brass endcaps should appear "dirty" or slightly tarnished rather than bright.
Finally, the retaining bands and springs found on the stock should be uniform in wear and finish; that is to say, a stock should not have a perfectly blued retaining band spring and a well-worn retaining band. Rather, the wear should be uniform in appearance, as one might expect. If the parts are original to each other and have not been cleaned or replaced, then the best indicator of this point is a similar finish between the parts.
The finish on the stock is a difficult topic to precisely describe, since the wear and damage sustained by each stock varies. However, it is certainly safe to say that an original stock should not appear glossy and new when the metal components provide evidence of moderate to heavy use. On the other hand, although a weapon may have been used in combat, it may not necessarily be rough in appearance; this particular M1891/30 has seen its share of service but was clearly cared for. Dings and dents are present and the finish is matte in tone, but the overall feel of the stock is smooth and solid.
Verifying that the stock is original to the rifle can be accomplished through several "tests." Foremost, the features of the stock should be correct for the year of manufacture as well as the manufacturing arsenal; Tula-produced stocks will bear the same date stamped into the stock as found on the receiver. Izhevsk-produced stocks generally are not dated (exceptions typically have the year of manufacture stamped into the wood underneath the buttplate). As noted above, proper features and uniform wear are the best indicators of original stocks.
Depending on the year of production, the holes of the buttplate and buttstock should not be countersunk, as shown correctly in the photograph below.
If a stock has remained with its original barreled receiver, it will usually show the proof marks of the metal pressed into the wood opposite of the marks. Take note of the "1939r" date and Izhevsk arrow-in-triangle marking shown below.
Another example. There is no lack of proof marks on this rifle:The barreled receiver and other metal components...
When considering the purchase of an M1891/30 rifle that is said to be "all-matching," it is necessary to study the details closely.
The receiver is stamped with a serial number which may include letter prefixes (1937 saw Tula's introduction of letter prefixes to M1891/30 rifle production while Izhevsk introduced the prefixes in 1938). Take note of the shape of each letter and number; every minute line and mark that makes up a letter or number must be the same on the other numbered parts of a rifle (serial numbers were stamped into the barrel, bolt handle, buttplate, and magazine floorplate). Many refurbished rifles have matching parts, some with prefixes as well, however the font of the letters and numbers may show variations which would indicate that they are not original to the barreled receiver.
The numbered parts of this article's M1891/30:
Receiver serial number. It is safe to say that the serial number which is stamped into the receiver is part of an early import-marking process. The "D" prefix is the English equivalent of the Cyrillic "Д" prefix found on the rifle. I have not found sufficient data or information to provide a better explanation, except to say that this serial number location is not unique to this rifle; I have come across this feature on quite a number of "non-refurbished" examples of the M1891/30.
Features of metal components...
Simply put, there is a dizzying array of variations which may be found on the M1891/30 rifle. It is necessary to study each part's markings and features to determine whether it is correct and original to the rifle. Once again, uniform wear and finish, proper markings, and the proper features of the parts can all provide very good indicators as to their originality.
On this rifle, the metal components are correct. All of the parts are Izhevsk in production, consistent in wear, and are appropriate for Izhevsk manufacturing of 1939.
Another view of the rear sight. Take note of the absence of the retaining pin on the rear sight base (a feature which was added to rifles produced later by Izhevsk). Additionally, the rear sight buttons feature the same "grain" pattern; although wartime production of the M1891/30 utilized several variations of rear sight button patterns, an original set of buttons should have the same grain pattern.
A flat stock nosecap and the original Izhevsk-marked cleaning rod.
The complete bolt. Foremost, the serial number of the bolt handle should match according to the guidelines listed above. The other components of the bolt should be of the same arsenal manufacturer (in this case, all parts are marked with the Izhevsk stamp). Finally, bolt parts should have the same overall wear and patina when compared with each other.
The receiver is not serial numbered to the barrel and to the other components of the rifle, but it is dated. An original receiver will bear the same date as the barrel.
Unknown markings and proofs.
Here is a perfect example of "correct" wear. The exposed metal of the magazine has clearly seen some use, while the metal protected by the stock is in relatively good condition.
Take a look at the sling. Although it is nearly impossible to see in the photograph, the canvas is actually "caked" with grime and dirt, and the leather has a worn appearance to it, molded in such a way that one can easily see how the rifle was carried with it. The general dirty condition of the sling also testifies to its originality to the rifle and is appropriate to the rifle's early production year of 1939.Some concluding thoughts...
I am ecstatic to have added this rifle to my collection. It is a fine example of an M1891/30 which saw service during the Second World War and remained in its original condition from production all the way to my "war room." However, it was necessary for me to be able to identify it as such a valuable piece of history when I found it in the first place; this meant being able to verify the originality of its parts. In the five years that I have spent collecting, many M1891/30 rifles have passed through my collection. I have studied each piece very carefully, progressively upgrading my rifles until I was satisfied that they were genuine, original examples. At times, I had what I considered to be entirely original rifles, only to find incorrect parts or markings which contradicted my beliefs. There is a learning curve to collecting, but it is enjoyable and worthwhile. I had posted this previously on the forum but it is relevant to this article; below, find my "guidelines" to acquiring an M1891/30 rifle. 1. An entirely original rifle will have matching serial numbers on the barrel, magazine floorplate, and buttplate. The numbers - and Cyrillic prefixes, if applicable, must be stamped on each part with the same font and style as found on the receiver. This is an important point, as refurbished rifles will sometimes bear the same numbers - often with prefixes - but will not have the same font and style as the stamped serial number on the receiver.
2. If a rifle's receiver and barrel were manufactured by Tula (Star or Hammer stamps), then all of the parts on the rifle should bear the same Star or Hammer stamps. Here is where you, the buyer, need to determine what you consider to be original to the rifle....read on. These were combat rifles; consequently, few are found in their original condition. At times, you might find a rifle which meets the guidelines for matching serial numbers on the parts (correct font and style) and most of the parts are Tula or Izhevsk in manufacture, respective to the receiver and barrel. What happens if one or two parts are manufactured by a different arms plant? In my opinion, this is not unusual. Remember that parts were replaced constantly because of damage, wear, or loss. If you should find a part that is not "correct" to the manufacturer, do not turn down the rifle because of it. Instead, move on to the next guideline...
3. The finish of the rifle should display appropriate wear for a weapon of six or more decades in age; the metal should have a "silvery" appearance. All parts should be evenly and appropriately worn. A buttplate will exhibit more wear to the part and finish than the underside of the rear sight, for example. Look at the areas which would have been held by the soldier's hands or would have sustained more wear during the rifle's service; does the muzzle area show signs of a mounted bayonet? Does the rear sight show signs of use and adjustment (for that matter, do the "buttons" on each side of the rear sight match or are they of a different pattern, as these generally should match)? Use common sense, too: if the magazine body is very light and silvery in its finish but the floorplate is "like-new" or much darker, then you might suspect that the floorplate has been replaced. A stock band should have the same finish as the part which holds it in place. These are clear ways of identifying whether parts are recently added or if they have been with the rifle for quite some time. Perhaps a seller added a part with a worn finish and correct manufacturer's mark? How can you be sure the part is original? You cannot. Since every part was not serial numbered as can be found on many original German K-98k rifles, for example, we must use our judgment in determining how original a part is. "Correct" is often as close as we can get on non-serial numbered parts.
Remember to look at the small details, too. An early- to pre-war 91/30 stock should have screw-in escutcheons. An early- to mid-war stock will generally lack an escutcheon at the rear sling slot and will have half of an escutcheon on the lower portion of the front sling slot. Late- to post-war stocks will have stamped escutcheons placed into both sling slots. The stamped type is commonly found on refurbished rifles. Does the rear sight base have the added retaining pins in it? These pins were added by some manufacturers during the war, while many were added during the refurbishment process. Is the nosecap on your rifle correct (rounded or flat)? Have the buttplate screw holes been relieved on your stock and buttplate?
4. The stock should have defects of some form or another (dents or scratches, though these should not look to be recent damages. An "original" dent will be as dark as the rest of the stock. A "recent" dent will be much lighter than the rest of the wood and may be a little more rough, since time and wear have not softened the damaged edges of the dent or scratch).
Keep in mind that a dent located at the area where the forestock meets the upper handguard should "flow" from one part to the other. If there is a dent in the lower edge of the handguard, make sure that it continues downward through the forestock, if appropriate. Basically, the forestock should not have ten thousand dings and dents while the handguard is flawless. Both should show even signs of mutually-sustained damage and wear.
If the stock was manufactured by Tula, then expect to find a Tula star and date matching to the receiver's date on the right side of the buttstock, behind and slightly above the rear sling escutcheon.
It has been said that a box with a diagonal line through it (found on the stock) indicates Ukrainian refurbishment. On the receiver, a box with a vertical line indicates refinishing of the metal, while a box with a diagonal line through it indicates parts were replaced during the refurbishment process.
How do you find an original M1891/30?
1. Educate yourself. Read up on everything that you can so that you know what you are looking for or looking at.
2. Handle weapons. Get to know every inch of a rifle. Learn what the markings mean and learn how to identify an original finish as opposed to a refinished part.
3. Make mistakes. Purchase rifles that you are certain are "correct" and original. Then, find out that they are not. Be picky about what you buy. If you go to a gun show and find "the one," inspect it, look it over. Pick apart the bolt if you are permitted to. Examine every feature of the rifle. If it doesn't check out correctly, move on. If it does, ask the seller to put it aside for you. Take a few minutes and return to the rifle. If you are still pleased by what you find, purchase it. Then, if you get home and find that you overlooked some feature that is a clear indication of refurbishment, don't despair. Keep it as a shooter or sell it and trade up. Having made a mistake, you will be that much more knowledgeable when you go to buy your next rifle.
If it turns out that you did find "the one," then you can enjoy having the rifle in your collection. Remember to thank yourself for having done the necessary research to have made it happen.