In light of the approaching Finnish Brutality: The Winter War match, I though we could take a look at the two rifles associated with the world’s most successful sniper: Simo Häyhä. Häyhä was born in 1905, joined the Civil Guard at the age of 17, and did his mandatory military service from 1925 to 1927. He was first issued an American-made New England Westinghouse M91 Mosin as a Guardsman. After being discharged form the Army in 1927, he returned to active Civil Guard membership while living and working on his family farm in Karelia. He developed a reputation as an excellent marksman, both in competitive shooting and as a hunter.
When the Civil Guard developed the M28-30 pattern of Mosin, Häyhä was once of many who opted to pay a part of the cost to have his own personal rifle to keep at home, and it is with his personal M28-30 (serial number 60974) that he went to war when the Soviet Union attacked in November 1939, starting the Winter War. The 28-30 featured a new style of sights to replace the Russian Konovalov pattern. Henry Chan from 9 Hole Reviews will give us some insight into why these sights were so excellent. In addition, the barrels were free-floated and the stocks made from two spliced pieces of wood to prevent changing temperatures and humidity from impacting rifle zero.
In his 95 days of active service during the Winter War, Simo Häyhä was credited with 542 enemy soldiers killed – mostly with his M28-30 Mosin Nagant (although he did also use the Suomi SMG and LS-26 LMG at times). He finally ran out of luck on March 6, 1940 when he was hit in the face by a Soviet exploding bullet. He was in a coma for 6 days, and spent several months in hospital, where some 26 surgeries were necessary to reconstruct his jaw – and he was permanently disfigured. His name is permanently linked to snipers worldwide, and also to the Winter War legacy “Kollaa kestää” – “Kollaa holds”. He lived a quiet bachelor life as a farmer after the war, breeding hunting dogs and occasionally doing things like taking the President of Finland moose hunting. He passed away peacefully in 2002 at the age of 96.
For much more detail on Häyhä’s life and practical shooting advice, I recommend “The White Sniper: Simo Häyhä” by Tapio Saarelainen: