From Brent Snodgrass - Mosin Nagant. net, Gunboards.com , Co-author Finland At War
Intro: In November of 1939 Finland was invaded by their massive neighbor, the Soviet Union. The Soviet's planned on quickly overwhelming their smaller adversary relying on strength of numbers and mass of fire. Finland was to counter with speed of movement and a heavy reliance on accurate small arms fire. The Finns knew they could never match the Red Army in numbers but understood that an army of marksmen would be able to take a heavy toll on the Soviet invaders. As such the Finns worked to improve their versions of the Mosin Nagant rifle to be much more accurate than those produced in the Soviet Union. Today the accuracy of Finnish Mosin Nagants are seen as the standard that all other Mosin Nagant rifles are measured to. One of the most famous and most accurate of all the Finnish rifles is the Model M28/30 and the tradition of the M28/30 lives on in the later M28/76 Marksmanship rifle.
Finn Target & Marksmanship Rifles: After the Wars Finland began the task of developing a number of special marksmanship and target rifles. These rifles were to be used in general training, marksmanship qualification, military competition , sniper training and other such duties. These rifles were to be made for both the Finnish Army as well as the Frontier (Border) Guards. The first such rifles manufactured were designated the M28/57 with these being produced in 1957-1958. The M28/57 was a M28/30 barrel with added diopter sights (the diopter sights on these rifles was very much like the Suomen Leijona or Finnish Lion .22 LR target rifle ), having a bent bolt, and made use of either M28/30 stocks or M39 stocks. The M28/57's were designed not as a standard military rifle but more as a competition or target shooting practice rifle. By the 1970's a new stock had been designed which was in the style of a biathlon rifle being shorter than a standard stock. These new stocks were made as fitting a biathlon sling to standard M28/30 and M39 stock was problematic. The stocks were made shorter as it was felt the added length would suffer the effects of humidity. The work on these new stocks was done at AV1 and rifles fitted with these were stocks were given a new designation of the M28/57H.
The next stage of development came in the mid 1960's as there was a need for the Finns to manufacture a marksmanship rifle that would meet the standards of international military competition rules. The rifle that was to come from this work was the M28/66. Chief of Ordnance Department Major-General Allan Hallila approved the making of these new rifles but insisted that if such a rifle was to be made as a part of the work a new sniper rifle would also have to be developed. The m28/66 was categorized as a "standard" rifle as the rifle and all the components were standardized - not made for individual shooters. Like the M28/57 the M28/66 used a M28/30 barrel, had diopter sights, but did not use a normal rear sight as was seen on earlier or later marksmanship rifles. These rifles also had a bent bolt but many had an added ring added to the cocking knob (this is common to see on Finnish made Mosin Nagant sporter rifles today). The triggers of these rifles were also reworked making the triggers into match quality. Most of these rifles were manufactured at Valmet Oy Tourula and while total production is unknown these rifles were made in very small quantities The only Finnish soldiers that made use of these rifles were those taking part in actual shooting competitions as there were not enough produced for other uses. The stocks of the M28/66's were made of walnut which is a change from the more standard birch wood seen on most Finnish Mosin Nagants. Even though it was supposed to be a requirement of development there was not a sniper rifle produced from the M28/66.
The M28/76 - The Finns were not totally satisfied with the M28/66 so yet another project was undertaken in the 1970's. This venture would lead to one of the most exceptional Mosin Nagants ever produced, the M28/76. There were two designs of the M28/76 manufactured, one being a standard target/marksmanship version and the other being a sniper rifle. The only real difference between the two models is the addition of a base on the sniper version that allowed the use of a scope and mount. In many regards the M28/76 is just an update of the M28/57 and M28/66 but there are some differences. The main difference between the M28/76 and the M28/66 is the rear sights as the M28/76 uses a standard rear sight (these can be either M28/30 or M39 sights). There are also internal differences as well which means that stocks from the M28/76 and M28/66 are not interchangeable, even if externally these stocks look much the same. The M28/76 also uses a birch stock not a walnut stock as seen with the M28/66 and the stocks for the M28/77 were manufactured by AV1. There is also a difference in the configuration of the front sight as well. The main differences between the M28/76 and the M28/57 are the stock, slight differences in the diopter sights, the bolt, and other internal alterations.
Two versions of the sights as seen on the M28/76 rifle
Information on the M28/76 (in fact on all of the Finnish marksmanship rifles) has been scarce outside of Finland and it was not until recently that it was known by those of us in the West that the M28/76's used a number of barrel types. It was thought that M28/30 barrel were the only barrels used but it is now known that is not the case. There are standard M28/30 barrels that can have dates from 1934-1940 but there are also rifles that have the so called "late date" M28/30 barrels - these bearing 1968 or 1969 dates or no date at all. M39 barrels were also used on M28/76's and it seems that all of the M39 barrel are also later dates - from 1968 to 1970. The last main barrel type is a specially made barrel for these rifles bearing the date of 1977 or no date. There are like barrels that can be found on the M28/66 rifles. These specifically made barrels are of the same spefications of M28/30 barrels.
Markings of the various barrel types can be seen below. These are just some examples
as it is possible there are even more variations that will be located when more rifles are examined.
Note - The D166 marking is rather interesting as it shows the rifle was used with the D-166 round. There is another example of such a barrel marked D47 another Finnish bullet type (Thanks to Gunboards.com members for sharing some of these markings on our Collectors Forum board)
The bolt of the M28/76
In later service these were the rifles used by Finnish soldiers and officers used to qualify in their training(keep up to standard). These soldiers had to qualify with a pistol, a rifle, and an assault rifle. For many years the rifle used to qualify was the M39 but these were phased out by the M28/76's as in recent years these rifles were used more often than not in such shooting. The M28/76 was made to be an excellent shooting rifle, one that could perform in military competitions or be used as a sniper rifle. As such all work done in regards to these rifles was of the highest quality.
Here are statements from Finnish shooters in regard to these rifles.
"All M/28-76 were carefully hand-fitted and I would expect their triggers to be as good as M/28-30 triggers can get and their actions to be as slick as Mosin-Nagant action can ever be."
"I was able to shoot a few versions of marksmanship rifles and liked the M28/76 better than all others but for the TAK85"
"Sad to see most were sold to the USA as many Finn sporting shooters value these."
"In 1991 I saw members of a sniper squad firing these rifles in practice during a training session"
For US Collectors - For many North Americans that collect Finnish rifles it has always been a dream to own a TAK85 Sniper rifle, which is the last of the Mosin Nagant line; however, due to import/export issues in Finland this might be a dream that goes unfulfilled. As the TAK85 is still being used (even if mainly as a trainer) by the Finnish Defense Forces it might be years before these become available for export to the US. So in many regards the next best thing we can own is one of the M28/76's. While there are many differences between the M28/76 and the TAK85 they are both exceptional rifles that should be capable of true match accuracy. The Finns had a high standard when it came to accuracy and they demanded much from their marksmanship rifle, so in most cases these rifles will only be limited by the person behind the barrel. The M28/76 is also one of the last production versions of the Mosin Nagant and that fact in its own right makes the rifles interesting. In my personal examination of these rifles I was amazed at their quality and could not wait to add one to my collection. I tested the triggers on at least 80 rifles and each trigger was smooth and sharp.
There was also only a limited import of these rifles by TGI with the total number of rifles being less than 900. For those that are target shooters these rifles should fit your needs quite well and for those that fire in military matches these rifles should qualify in many cases as they are indeed military rifles. The M28/76's were never sold or designed as a civilian rifle but were made for the use of the Finnish Defense Forces. They should meet the standards of many clubs that run military only style matches but then again some clubs are very strict when it comes to the use of a foreign weapon. It is odd in that they will allow many US rifles that never saw any issue or military use but hold rifles made outside the USA to another standard.
TGI has a special offering of these rifles listed on the Gunboards.com Trader - At this point 10/20/08 they are the only outlet for these rifles. TGI bought all the rifles the Finns had for sale so there will be no more imports in the future. As a Finnish collector this is the chance to own an uncommon and very well made Finnish military rifle. There are no snipers for sale at this point but these will be for sale at a later date.
TGI SALES LINK
Photo Section - Note There Will Be An Added Section Of Shooting Tests Of These Fine Rifles - Photos, Report, And Even Some Video.
Two versions of the sights as seen on the M28/76 rifle
Slot for sling on the underside of the rifle
Slot for sling on left side of the rifle
Sight with the single stack
Sight with the double stack. Both are correct for the M28/76 rifle as these came with the rifles direct from import in this manner.
It is possible one version is from the earlier M28/66 or M28/57 - Still both sets were made for use on the M28/76.
One set of sights does not seem to be more common than the others based on what I saw at the import of the rifles.
Front section of the sights
Rear of the stock showing another sling slot
Rifles in their packing crate. Brent Snodgrass was allowed access to the import and took shots of these rifles just as they were being sorted for import. This allows the members here to get a first look at how these rifles came into the country. My thanks to TGI for the access.
This was an interesting rifle as it still had Imperial Russia Eagles, was SA marked (Finnish Army), and also had the later Finnish Defense Forces marking of the castle. Quite a collection of markings.
TGI had the collector in mind when they marked the receivers of these rifles. When the bolt is closed these numbers can not be seen.
TGI put their import marking under the barrel so it does not take away from the looks of the rifle.
Sources - Thanks
Sotilaskasiaseet Suomessa 1918-1991 Vol1-3-M. Palokangas: Vammalan Kirijapaino Oy