The Obrez and its Cousins

I’m not sure where it started, but the “obrez” has gained a decent bit of recognition among gun folks (particularly gun folks on the internet). The concept is a Mosin-Nagant rifle with the barrel cut down to 4-8 inches and the buttstock lopped off, to make a concealable weapon in leiu of a proper pistol. Mosin rifles were fairly common and handguns much more difficult to obtain, so the obrez was a way for folks who needed a sneaky gun (be they criminals, partisans, or revolutionaries) to conceal under a coat. Recoil is pretty hefty, and accuracy non-existent, but they work well enough in close quarter. There are a number of videos on YouTube of folks shooting obrez’s (I really don’t know how to pluralize that…), and this one is a good representation:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNFsUvh078I

What is discussed less is that this sort of gun was made outside of Russia as well, using donor rifles other than Mosin Nagants. We found several on display at the Belgian War Museum in Brussels:

Cut down "Obrez" rifles - Mosin and Mauser
Two Mausers and a Mosin cut down for guerrilla use (click to enlarge)
Obrez made from a Type 38 Arisaka rifle
Obrez made from a Type 38 Arisaka rifle
Two more Obrez made from Type 38 Arisaka rifles
Two more Obrez made from Type 38 Arisaka rifles

Really, there’s no reason to think this sort of modification wouldn’t have been used by partisans and guerrillas everywhere. You can see the wide range of barrel lengths, stock configurations, and overall workmanship.

Unfortunately (and somewhat ironically), in the US these legally must be registered as short-barreled rifles if they are made from pre-existing rifles. Only a bare never-used receiver could legally be the basis for an unregistered one, as it would then be considered a newly-made pistol and not a shortened rifle. Silly, I know, but that’s how the law is written.

23 Comments

  1. I’ve seen and Obrez made from a cut down 12 guage bolt action shotgun. Philipine made the workmanship was good. The 10″ barrel even had a decent looking muzzle break. It was being used by a village guard somewhere in the southern part of the archipeligo. If I can find the picture I will post it.

  2. There is an illustration in the Men at Arms Book Series, #305 (The Russian Civil War – Vol 2 – White Armies), Plate H, showing a Ukrainian ‘Kulak’ peasant with a ‘Obrez’ tucked into his waistband. According to the text this was a common weapon among the largely unarmed (with Firearms) peasantry who most likely used farm implements fashioned into weapons (as did their counterparts, the Peasant Levies of feudal times); the original owner of the full size M/N most likely was dispatched by such a weapon. I’ve been a military figure painter/collector for as long as – or longer than- I’ve been a firearms collector, thus the large amount of uniform & weapons references on my bookshelves.

    • Sorry, it’s obrezy, obrezov, obrezam, ob obrezach. well, if we skip the inflections, you can use obrezy (обрезы).

      But I really think that if an English-speaking person would decide to use the word obrez and make a plural out of it, you better do it by English rules. Like obrezes.

      These are brutal weapons, with a powerful connotations in Russian culture. Romantic represenation of Civil War period banditry and local resistance always includes these as the weapon of choice: “the black horse and steel obrez” even figures in one of the widely known and loved Cossack song.

      Basically in Russian “obrez” is the same as “sawn-off” in English; it can be applied to a sawn-off shotgun, maybe with a clarification “sawn-off double-barreled”.

  3. A friend of mine cut down a Swedish M96 and turned it into a pistol. At first I was horrified but apparently the barrel was already damaged so the value was toast anyway.

    The recoil of it isn’t that bad and I’ve tried it at ranges out to about 180m and it’s quite accurate. It can certainly hold its own against the TC Contender and other modern rifle-caliber pistols.

    I can understand why it’s an attractive solution for the guerilla/partisan who lacks access to proper pistols.

  4. F W Mann’s “The bullet’s flight…” gives a good explanation of why accuracy can be so poor with some very short barrelled guns.

    Even assuming that the barell is cut off square to the bore axis, and the crown is perfect (the higher gas pressure with decreasing barrel length make this increasingly critical)

    From page 167 in Mann, he shows bullets fired from very short barrelled rifles, due to the gas pressure behind the bullet and the inertia forces due to its very rapid acceleration, the bullet mushrooms as it emerges from the muzzle.

    There’s a link to a free .pdf of Mann, here:
    http://www.nzairgunners.com/nzairgunforum/showthread.php?t=9103

  5. “Only a bare never-used receiver could legally be the basis for an unregistered one, as it would then be considered a newly-made pistol and not a shortened rifle.”

    There is one other legal option. A rifle receiver can be cut per ATF demill requirements (three cuts each removing at least 1/4″ of material) thus rendering it scrap metal (no longer legally a firearm). It can them be welded back together and built as a pistol. Not a great option, but really the only legal way to build an 91/30 Obrez because you will never find a virgin (not built as a rifle) 91/30 receiver.

  6. Little on the name “Obrez”, It is probably connected with the fact that on slavic languages “rez” is “cut” translated on english, so translated to english it would mean something like “cutted” or “cutted one”, refering on its looks and manufacturing/converting procedure in cutting the portions of the barrel and stock.

    • Obrez is literally “sawn-off” or “cut-off” with the male gender. I.e. an object with a male gender which is a result of cutting something down; for example, “otrez” is a cut of cloth; and “rezat'” is “to cut”. The preposition “ob” means that the object was cut down from being whole to something smaller. The best example is a penis: “obrezanie” (an action, noun) means circumcision in Russian.

      The abundance of army-issued rifles in revolutionary Russia is the reason behind the ovewhelming prevalence of sawn-off rifles over sawn-off shotguns.

  7. I believe some WWI sappers (Australian, British and probably Canadian) also used cut-down Enfields in the tunnels that were excavated under trenches in lieu of, or supplementary to handguns.

    • Sappers would often be issued with carbines, but anyone cutting down their rifle would be seriously reprimanded. (at least during that era)

  8. I read, I think in Victor Serge, an important Russian novelist of the Revolutionary period, that obrez were used by the Cheka for informal executions

  9. I’ve seen a rather unique K98k obrez that had an MG42 pistol grip & trigger assembly in lieu of a standard trigger group. It had no stock at all, just reciever, magazine, and barrel from the K98.

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