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Chrysanthemums in the Snow: Finnish Arisaka Rifles

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When Finland took its independence, the most common type of firearms in the country was the Mosin Nagant – and the second most common was the Arisaka. An assortment of Type 30, Type 35, and Type 38 Arisaka rifles and carbines were left to the Finns by former Russian occupying soldiers. Where did they come from? Well, a few were captured by Russian during the Russo-Japanese War. But most of them were rifles purchased by the British from Japan early in World War One to free up scarce SMLE rifles for front line infantry. Once British production caught up with demand, the now-unnecessary Arisakas were sent to Russia as war aid.

The Russians tended to give Arisakas to second-line troops like the British had, using standard Mosin Nagants for the fighting infantry wherever possible. One of the duties that required armed troops but didn’t involve much actual shooting was maintaining the Russian military presence in Finland to guard against possible German attack (Finland being a Russian province at that time). When the newly independent Finland disarmed Russian garrisons, many of the rifles they got were Arisakas.

The Finnish military standardized on the Mosin fairly quickly, but the Finnish Civil Guard used Arisakas into the mid 1920s. Not all of the Arisakas originally captured were actually turned over to the Civil Guard; many were kept by individuals. Those that did enter Civil Guard inventory will typically have Civil Guard district numbers (with “S” prefixes) on the stock or barrel. The Guard did perforce regular maintenance of Arisakas, and a batch of 500 new barrels was purchased from SIG in the 1920s to replace worn-out barrels – these are marked with SIG’s name on the side of the chamber, and are very scarce to find today.

The only typical mechanical modification found on Finnish Arisakas are Russian in origin – changes to prevent the magazine release from being accidentally pushed by a heavy glove. Some examples have the magazine release button ground down, and some have a small sheet metal clamp fitted to prevent accidental pressing of the release. These rifles will also have a Tokyo Arsenal insignia overstepped on the chrysanthemum, done when the rifles were originally sold to the British.

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