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The 7.62 x 54mmR chambered Mosin-Nagant M38 was the 20.5” barrel and 40.0” overall length carbine version of the firm’s earlier bolt-action Model 1891 rifle. The M38 was designed in 1938 but entered service in 1939 and remained in production through 1945 though production tapered off starting the year before. It thus neatly overlapped the years of World War II.

The M38 lacked a bayonet. It also has plenty of kick. With plenty of hand-to-hand combat befalling Soviet troops, the M38 soon evolved into the more famous M44, which had a permanently fixed side-mount folding bayonet. M44 production started in 1943, and it entered Soviet Red Army service in 1944, hence the M44 moniker.

The M38’s and M44’s dimensions made them handy for those needing a backup gun or for use in confined environments. Thus, they were ideal for Soviet artillerymen, T-34 tankers, combat engineers, etc. The M38, however, remained mostly relegated to second-line service while the M44 saw use by many front-line troops. The M44 certainly benefited them as they swept through forests, cities, etc. as they fought the Germans on their way to Berlin.

All three (M1891, M38 and M44) models have a 5-round capacity, and ammunition is manually top loaded singly or via a 5-round stripper clip ahead of the action into the fixed box magazine below.

These Mosin-Nagants all have a spherical bolt knob. They have wooden stocks with a typical Russian shorter length of pull than is typical on Western guns. The wood shows the utilitarian military nature of the gun while metal surfaces are blued.

All three models have a tear-drop shaped trigger guard. It’s accentuated by a long front face that conceals the aforementioned fixed box magazine. There’s also an ammunition drop gate on this front face.

The M38’s safety is unusual. Pull and turn a large glove-friendly sized round knob at back to change the gun between safe and fire settings. Another unusual feature is how the strap passes directly through the wood stock in both front and back instead of using sling swivels. This makes perfect sense given the epic shortages the Soviets faced during World War II and the urgent need for expedient production. However, this clever design feature was already on many of the first Model 1891 guns.

It’s worth noting that the Mosin-Nagant was never the official name of this famous Russian designed and Russian-made gun. Its earliest ancestor was called 3-line Rifle, Model 1891. The Model 1891 was the M38’s direct longer-barreled ancestor and was named after the year it started production. Its main designer was Captain Sergei Ivanovich Mosin. Belgian designer Léon Nagant was tangentially involved, and thanks to legal imbroglios and good PR, his last name became part of the West’s name for the gun. In Russia, it’s still Mosin’s Rifle.

The gun has a front post sight circumscribed by a circular hood. In back is a tangent rear sight marked for up to 1,000 meters (about 3,300 feet).

Getting an M38 will make you feel like you grabbed a bit of history.

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