Finnish sniper using Mosin Nagant

Rifles of the White Death – A Collector’s Guide to Finnish Military Rifles 1918-1944

A rare collector’s item, Rifles of the White Death is a comprehensive reference on the most accurate military rifles in service during the earlier 1900s. It was during the Winter War when the Russians nicknamed the Finns the ‘White Death’ because of their highly effective snow camouflage and sharp shooting.

The Finnish rifles were developed on variations of the Mosin-Nagant and were notably improved versions, such as the M27, M28/30, and M39. The Finnish versions of the Mosins rifle was a significant advancement in fit, finish and accuracy when compared to the standard Russian rifles.
Back in those years, a rifle firing in a 4-inch group at just over 90 meters was deemed good enough but, not for the Finns. They only accepted rifles into service if it fired three shots in a 1.5-inch circle at 100 meters. In modern warfare, that may not sound impressive but for its time, it certainly was.

The Winter War lasted over three months when Finland capitulated after resiliently protecting Finland’s borders for as long as they could. With an army of nearly 340,000 soldiers, 32 tanks, and 114 aircraft, they were significantly outnumbered by Russia’s +500,000 soldiers, over 6,000 tanks and 3,000 aircraft. Remarkably, the Finnish only suffered 70,000 casualties compared to Russia’s estimated loss of up to 381,000. That’s a staggering show of determination, skill, and defiance.
Rifles of the White Death dives into the fascinating history of the Finnish arms development and includes narratives on Finland’s rich national history. This book is perfect for firearms collectors, as well as anyone with a keen interest in history.
A lot of modern-day gun and rifle enthusiasts aren’t fully aware of Finland’s formidable past and its contribution to rifle development. It’s a history wrought with fortitude, freedom, and resourcefulness. The book is not an epic adventure but rather details the different designs of collectable arms with treasured facts on unique world history.

Finland retained independence despite warring with the Soviet Union in two separate conflicts. The unwavering strength of the Finns enabled them to fight back and cause serious damage to the Russian troops and force the Soviets into making compromises. The courage and tenacity of Finland’s soldiers show us the extraordinary resolve of men who value their freedom. After the Winter War ended in 1940, a Russian general remarked, “We gained 22,000 miles of new territory. Just enough to bury our dead”.
Unfortunately, Finland’s history is not widely known in the West and is definitely worth exploring. Their admirable fight against invasions is inspirational and respectfully noted in the Rifles of the White Death. Ordinary men did extraordinary things to survive while protecting their land. In one incident during the Winter War, a small band of 32 Finn soldiers had to defend against 4,000 Russians, which resulted in the killing of 400 Soviets while only 4 Finn soldiers survived. It is an incredible display of bravery and sacrifice.

But, Finland’s greatest advantage during the war were their citizens who were skilled skiers, riflemen, and woodsmen. They were able to skillfully ambush smaller units of Soviet soldiers using submachine guns and the Finnish Mosin-Nagant rifle. The war lasted until Finland surrendered in March 1940 and it was later recorded that when referring to an assault on the Soviets, a Finn solder said, “I like fighting Russians, they fight standing up”.

The way Finland handled its Russian invader had a surprising and profound effect globally. Hitler noted the ineffectiveness of the Red Army trying to overrun a small country like Finland. As his ego took hold, Hitler and his aides decided the mighty German army would defeat the weakened Soviets within a few weeks. Germany bolstered ahead, making oversights along the way. In particular, the Germans did not pay attention to the preparedness of their soldiers to handle combat in the harsh winters. Hitler went ahead but unbeknown to him, they had learned from the Finns and were much better prepared to fight in the cold. The Germans’ defeat marked the end of the Nazi Party.

The book focuses on the numerous variations of the Mosin-Nagant rifle designed by the Finns. Instead of manufacturing rifle actions, they refurbished military rifles, creating one of the world’s best military bolt actions. Finland’s M39 rifle was so effective that it stayed in the army’s service until the seventies. Even today, the Finnish sniper rifle is based on the M39. Not many M39s were made for the Winter War, but because a lot were produced, they were used in the Continuation War during 1941-1944.

The Mosin-Nagant was designed in 1891 and over a century later, with a few modern adjustments, its legacy lives on as the Finnish army’s choice of rifle. Rifles of the White Death covers military history and the development of the MN 91 sniper rifle, which had several modifications of its own. Like the Finnish M28-30 in 7.62x53R was a bolt-action rifle with a high-quality barrel and stock made from Arctic birch, which doesn’t warp in extreme cold.

Today, the Finnish Mosin Nagants have different variants and these have become valuable for collectors.
It is incredible how resourceful man can be when enduring hard times. We probably wouldn’t find the equipment from yesteryear very useful to us today. We have technology, high-powered and long-range scopes, IR, Starlight, and Laser Range finding. Back then, a sniper had to rely more on skill than his high-tech weapon. This is evident in the heroic stories of ordinary Finnish farmers who bravely defended their country and survived to tell the tale.

One such farmer was Simo Häyhä. He became a civil guardsman in the army and got the highest kill record of any sniper in war history, counted at 505 Russian soldiers, although some claim the number was 542. Other accounts include another young Finn who fatally wounded 400 Russians with his rifle and 200 with his submachine gun. Their targets were further than 600 yards, using only iron sights.

Heroism and tragedy came with the onslaughts Finland had to face. Rifles of the White Death is a collector’s and shooter’s guide to Finnish Military Rifles and the book is enriched with historical detail. This treasured piece is ideal for the discernible collector and an interesting read for curious historians. As you journey through this compilation, the intrigue and admiration for the Finnish nation will have you hunting for more information.

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Hi! I'm Mike, one of the oldest writer of Sniper Country! If you have any feedback or question about my articles, please submit it here, it's always appreciated!

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