As I have mentioned in a previous post there are various options for young shooters who wish to take up fullbore rifle shooting whilst working on a small budget. This is going to be the first of a series of posts relating to specific items and rifles, some of which I have mentioned previously other not.
The Russian Mosin Nagant is a minefield of history and variations, collecting them is in itself an extremely rewarding exercise with the number of variants available. Adopted in 1891 the Mosin Nagant or ‘3 line rifle’ became the work horse of the Imperial Russian Army, the Red Army, Finland and after the Second World War it proliferated around the newly formed Warsaw Pact and other Communist Nations. The Mosin’s cartridge, the 7.62x54R is still in use today by any nation that uses a variant of the Dragunov sniper rifle and PKM machine gun, among numerous other designs.
Throughout it’s service life the Mosin Nagant changed in appearance and numerous variants exist, for the purpose of this article we will be focusing on the Soviet-era rifles and carbines. Imperial Russian Army and Finnish are comparatively rare and as such hold a price premium, therefore, they will not be discussed except to provide context to the history of the design. It must be noted that despite their comparative scarcity to their Soviet counterparts, the aforementioned rifles are still a relatively cheap way of entering a collectors market, especially when compared to Lee Enfield rifles.
The overall design of the Mosin Nagant is somewhat unusual; however, it is not outside of what was normal in terms of firearms design at the time. The bolt has two locking lugs at the front and the handle acts as a third safety by bracing itself against the receiver wall. The magazine is of a five round integral single stack design as opposed to the more common integral double stack magazine found on Mauser rifles. Due to the design of the magazine and the large rim of the 7.62x54R cartridge the Mosin Nagant has a magazine cut-off which is used to make sure that the rim of the following cartridge goes not go in front of the round at the top of the magazine. This unique feature prevents jams associated with rimmed ammunition (known as rim lock). The sights are of the conventional no thrills tangent U notch and are marked out in 100m increments out to 2000 yards for 91/30 rifles and 1000 for M38 and M44 carbines. The sights are crude, but practical and if the shooter does their part the carbines can achieve 4MOA if not better, the rifles seem to range between 2 and 4 MOA at 100 yards. It must be noted that the 91/30 rifles and the M44 carbines were designed to be fired with the bayonet fixed, Russian and Soviet doctrine was for bayonet to always be mounted unless the rifle was in storage or transit. This means that the 91/30 and M44 are both zeroed with the bayonet fixed, some will shoot better without the bayonet, however, this may entail some work to alter the sights or practicing some ‘Kentucky windage.’
Now that we have briefly discussed the overall design of the Mosin Nagant we will look into the reasons as to why it is an ideal rifle for young shooters who are a budget. First of all there is value for money, Mosin Nagants vary in price from £120-250 for the basic models, the price will also often include a sling, ammunition pouch, an original cleaning kit, and if you purchase a 91/30 then more often than not a bayonet is also included. Many of these rifles are in very good condition despite being produced under war time conditions, like every other nation, after the Second World War the USSR refurbished the rifles in her inventory, and with their rapid replacement firstly by the SKS and then by the AK series, saw the Mosin Nagant place in store. As a result of the refurbishments and long term storage the vast majority of Mosin Nagants in the UK are in exceptionally good condition.
Not only are Mosin Nagant rifles cheap to purchase but so is the ammunition, surplus 7.62x54R is still readily available for around £30-35 per hundred and can often be bought for a good price in 440 round ‘spam cans.’ The vast majority of this ammunition is of surprisingly good quality for surplus rounds that are in the region of 40 to 50 years old. There is a large variety of surplus rounds, due to the large number of nations who manufactured, and still manufacture the 7.62x54R cartridge, obviously some are better than others but, for general plinking the standard Soviet ‘light ball’ is a very good cartridge. Be warned, the military surplus ammunition is highly corrosive and despite the rugged nature of the Mosin the barrel can only take so much punishment from corrosive ammunition if it is not cleaned properly. The cleaning process does not need any solvents, just boiled water and patches. There is also a selection of factory ammunition available should you choose to use it, there is a large variation in price. Prvi Partizan is obviously on the more expensive end of the scale retailing at around £60-70 per 100 rounds, on the other end of the scale is Barnaul’s ammunition which retails for £40-50 per 100.
Accessorising Mosing Nagants is also a fairly cheap exercise, I am not talking about hacking apart a piece of history (something as a Military Surplus Rifle collector I could never condone) but, instead making it an easier rifle to shoot. Scope mounts can be easily mounted in the ‘scout’ fashion with the rear sight simply being replaced with a scope mount, mounts can be found in the US for a reasonable amount of money. Specialist recoil pads designed specifically for Mosin can also be easily found along with a plethora of different modern style of stock. Magazine reloading can be achieved by the use of stripper clips, these are fairly plentiful and cheap, however, they vary greatly in ease of use and quality.
Ultimately the Mosin Nagant in various forms is an extremely versatile and economical firearm. The M38 and M44 carbines provide a lot of fun, especially for the recoil sadists (an issue that the aftermarket recoil pads adequately cater for) and they provide an excellent fun. There is also with the right ammo on a dull day a wonderful ball of flames that bursts from the muzzle. The 91/30 rifles are just as fun, however, they are certainly more accurate due to the longer barrel and sight radius. There are also 91/30 sniper rifles mounted with PU and PE/PEM scopes, these obviously hold a premium and there are many fakes. Despite this, you can still find unmatched scope and rifle combinations with PU scopes for £6-700, easily the most affordable Second World War sniper rifle, as such you can own an interesting piece of history without breaking the bank. They may not be as pretty as other rifles, nor as accurate or ergonomic they are, however, as stated affordable, reliable and a wonderful way to introduce yourself to fullbore shooting and if you are so inclined collecting pieces of history.