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Everything Wrong with the Sniper Rifles in “Enemy at the Gates”

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One of the very few blockbuster American movies about the Eastern Front in World War Two is Enemy at the Gates, a film about the Soviet sniper Vasily Zaitsev. The movie is based around a duel between Zaitsev and the fictional German sniper Erwin König during the Battle of Stalingrad. There are lots of points of contention surrounding the historical accuracy of the film overall, but today I want to look at specifically the small arms.

Enemy at the Gates really has just one problem when it comes to guns: it portrays a lot of things before they would have actually existed. However, it portrays them quite accurately besides the chronological issues. The Soviet snipers are all shown with M91/30 PU rifles – which were not in production until just after the film’s events take place. Zaitsev actually used a PEM model of Mosin sniper, dating from before the war. Major König is similarly shown with a single-claw Mauser K98k sniper, which was only introduced in mid/late 1943.

Overall, I would give the film a pretty solid grade for its small arms. The PU was the most common and recognizable Soviet sniper rifle of the war, and it really doesn’t have a noticeable impact on the story of the film unless you are really obsessive about historical details.

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