Improvised Sniper Rifles, even nation states start out pressing something into service

American Mercenary

The Mosin Nagant is the longest continued service serving sniper rifle in the world, even if the longest continued manufactured rifled is the M98 Mauser.

The Russians, then Soviets, literally built millions of them, and spread them out across the world to arm Communist Guerillas from Vietnam to Central America. Beyond that, other countries used them as they wound up in the inventory for some reason or other, such as Poland, Finland, and the United States.  

The Finns created what I consider to be the pinnacle of excellence when it comes to a Mosin Nagant based sniper rifle, the Tkiv-85.

PU and PE Soviet Sniper Rifles

The familiar PU Sniper rifle is the worlds most common because it was the most common Soviet sniper rifle that was spread around the world in mass quantities. A PU configuration will cost between 400 bucks for a parts gun, and on up for authentic configurations.

The PU sniper rifle is what I consider a “first generation” sniper rifle in that it was originally a standard issue rifle that was simply modified to use an optic. The problems of cheek weld come up quite a bit when you actually use them, but the Swedes used their M41B for decades without upgrading the stock, so it isn’t that big of a deal in terms of having effective snipers in the military.

Syrian Rebel with Mosin Nagant Sniper Rifle
Copyright Getty Images

You see this with other sniper rifles of the same era, K98, Swede M96, Lee Enfield, and 1903 Springfield sniper rifles from the same era that retain the stock designed for iron sight use all suffer from the same lack of good cheek weld.

When you get to the “second generation bolt action” sniper rifles, you see specific rifle builds on commercial sporting actions such as the M40 and M24 in the US. The Parker Hale M85 for various commonwealth countries. Other examples include the SSG 69, Mauser 2000, and FN 30-11.  Now the actions are designed to be used with optics instead of iron sights, stocks are designed with ergonomics in mind, barrels are intentionally thicker.

I don’t know if all these images of Syrian Rebels, ISIS members, and Kurds using modified Mosin Nagants with what appears to be cheap Chinese scopes (although they could be Russian scopes as well, such as a VPOI)

Whatever the case may be, someone in the middle east has made a cottage industry of turning old bolt action rifles into the functional equivalent of a first generation sniper rifle.

It is telling that every nation in WWII except for Germany and Great Britain had to slap together a sniper training and equipping program. The equipping solution turned up looking a lot like what you see in Syria, but with fixed powered scopes.

I started studying insurgent sniper techniques because of Iraq. The Iraqi sniper insurgents generally used rifles that were available in their area (modified AK rifles in 7.62×39, PSL and SVDs in 7.62x54r). The techniques used there were often dictated by operators who did not have any formalized marksmanship training and more guts than brains. Some with more brains than guts did study open source material and become quite sufficient at harassing US forces.

An interesting mental experiment is to ask yourself if you could make a sniper system out of:

A lever action 30-30 with top eject (Winchester) or side eject (Marlin).
A bolt action skinny barrel hunting rifle.
A 22 long rifle of any variety.
A pistol caliber carbine.
A shotgun with rifled barrel.
A falling block or break action single shot rifle.
A semi auto AR-15, SKS, or AK variant.

What would you need to do that? How much would that cost? Would it look out of place in a sporting/hunting setting? How would you determine your max effective range? How would you stock ammunition? Spare parts? How would you maintain marksmanship proficiency?

Now with the results of that thought experiment, what would be more important; the training or the equipment?

One thought on “Improvised Sniper Rifles, even nation states start out pressing something into service

  1. The point is rebels use whatever is available and yes, your old hunting rifle can double as a sniper so long as you know its, and your limitations. Most battle field sniping is done within 300 yds according to what I have read. If true, then any decent rifle and scope combo will suffice until purpose dedicated weapons are available.

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