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When Estonia declared independence from Russia in 1918, it had no formal military. After winning a 2-year War of Independence, the nation needed to set up its own armed forces. The rifles available in Estonia were a mix of Mosin Nagants, Arisakas, Pattern 1914 Enfields, and German Mausers. The most common were the Mosins, and Mosins would form the bulk of Estonian arms until World War Two.
The initial Estonian military work was to refurbish, repair, and clean the Mosins it had, which resulted in about 40,000 good-quality rifles, plus another 64,000 purchased from the UK in 1922. Extensive military training took its toll though, and by the late 1920s many rifles were once again in poor shape. At the point, a project was established to make some improvements while still retaining the basic M91 Mosin form. This escalated to a major modification and rebuild program in the early 1930s.
The first model to be made was a marksman’s rifle, which a shorter and heavier barrel, better sights and a better trigger. Lessons from this work led to the development of the Model 1935 military short rifle, which is what we have today. Between 1935 and 1940 a total of 6,790 of these rifles were produced. Like the Finns, the Estonians only manufactured a few parts for the guns, taking receivers, bolts, magazines, and other small parts from their inventory of spares leftover from scrapped rifles in the early 1920s.
Unfortunately, the M1935 rifles never had a chance to see significant use, as Estonia had no real choice but to submit to Russian occupation in 1940.
Thanks to Texas Guns and Ammo for the loan of this rifle to film, and to my Estonian friend Aku for research assistance!
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