Rifles we'd like to have

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Rifles we'd like to have

Post by timmy » Thu Sep 08, 2022 1:17 pm

The revolvers of interest were discussed in a thread on the handgun board recently. I thought I'd add a similar post here on rifles.

As some know, I admire the Russian/Soviet Mosin Nagant rifle. I have a few of them, and one type I enjoy is the original M1891 version, with the long barrel. They look very ungainly in a picture, but to hold and swing one, they are quite nicely balanced -- surprisingly so.

The rifle I'd like to have is a special M1891. When World War 1 broke out, two Tsarist armies were crushed in the first month of the war. This sacrifice pulled several corps out of the German line sweeping into France, and it is said that this caused von Kluck to pull his 1st Army east before Paris, rather than sweeping around Paris to the south to encircle the French Armies. This allowed Gallieni to strike the German flank at the 1st Battle of the Marne and save France.

The destruction of two Russian armies with most of their equipment did the Tsarist cause little good, however. The Russians ordered 3.3 million M1891 Mosin Nagants from Remington and New England Westinghouse in the USA. Remington and New England Westinghouse set up extensive assembly lines and began delivering rifles on their contracts, but soon Lenin's Bolsheviks took power in Russia and defaulted on the loans. Both Remington and New England Westinghouse were faced with ruin, since their production had not yet paid off their extensive investments in setting up manufacturing.

The USA government stepped in and bought substantial numbers of these Mosin Nagant rifles, sufficient to keep both companies afloat. Then, the USA issued some of these rifles to the "Polar Bears," USA troops used to intervene against the Bolsheviks through Archangel. Some were used by the US Army as training rifles. Many were sold on the market through the Director of Civilian Marksmanship for only a few dollars, and these were popular for converting to sporting weapons for a time.

Meanwhile, big things had been happening in Mexico from before World War 1 broke out. The Mexican Revolution began, and Mexico was convulsed in a series of bloody wars between rival factions. Finally, a faction took hold which was headed by Plutarco Elias Calles when he was president and after, when he was called the "Jefe Maximo," or great chief. He appointed a man, Lazaro Cardenas, to be president under his control, and Cardenas was elected. But Elias Calles had made one mistake: Cardenas was that rare politician who was scrupulously honest. He bided his time until he had brought most of the Army leadership to back him, and then he deposed Elias Calles by arresting him, putting him on an airplane for Los Angeles in the USA, getting rid of him for good.

Cardenas then took on the USA Doheny oil company, which at the time controlled the majority of the great Mexican oil fields. Between Doheny and Lord Cowdray of the UK, which owned Mexican Eagle Oil, the Mexican oil fields were part of the USA's and UK's strategic supplies for the US Navy and the Royal Navy. But, when Cardenas sat down with the oil barons and demanded that Mexican workers be paid the same as American workers, they laughed at Cardenas.

This was when Lazaro Cardenas nationalized the Mexican properties. It is said that Mexicans lined up in Mexico City to pay off the nationalization debt, with women giving their jewelry and farmers, their chickens. But, there was one problem. A secret chemical compound was used in the refining process, and the Americans refused to give this formula up. Cardenas then called on every scientist in Mexico to participate in discovering the formula, and this was accomplished in six weeks. Why didn't the USA intervene? Cardenas said that he had the good fortune to hold office and do these things while FDR was president of the USA.

During these days, The Spanish Civil War broke out, pitting the Republicans, backed by the Soviet Union, and the Nationalists under Francisco Franco, who were backed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The Soviet Union took Spain's gold reserve aboard a naval vessel as security for the military aid provided to the Republicans, and this gold has never been returned to Spain unto this day.

However, Lazaro Cardenas wanted to help the Republicans, as well. He sent agents into the USA, who bought up all of the Remington and New England Westinghouse M1891s they could obtain, and these were shipped to Spain to help the Republican cause. Such rifles were stamped with Republican markings, and are not common.

One of the great attractions for me of old guns, and especially rifles like these, are the histories they could tell if they could talk. I would love to have one of these Russian rifles, made in the USA, smuggled into Mexico, and shipped to Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

What sort of rifle would you really like to own?
"One constant about the elements of 1914 - as of any era - was the disposition of everyone on all sides not to prepare for the harder alternative, not to act upon what they suspected to be true"

Barbara Tuchman, "The Guns of August"

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