The Mosin Nagant — A Must Own Rifle

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms

My first center fire rifle was a Mosin Nagant. I think quite a few of you may be able to say the same. The rifle cost $65, and it was a poor example of the type having suffered the indignity of having the original military stock cut short and an odd-looking pistol grip nailed to the stock. However, in 1970 money, the Nagant cost more than a nice example costs today. The rifle was made by Westinghouse. This was a rifle the Russians contracted to the American maker to produce because the Czar was short on rifles during World War One. Remington also made quite a few.

Right side of the Mosin Nagant with a wood slat fence in the background

This is the Mosin Nagant—a most interesting piece of history.

If a refrigerator company can make a rifle, a typewriter company can make a pistol—and Remington Rand did so later. The Remington Nagants were made by Remington Firearms Company. The American Nagants were sent to Russia, supplied the White Russians and the Czech Legion after the two Russian revolutions, armed U.S. National Guard units after the Russians defaulted on payment to Westinghouse and Remington, and generally saw action around the world including China. When you heft a Nagant rifle, you are holding a piece of history; a rifle that has been in the thick of battle and politics world-wide since before 1900.

Today, good quality Mosin Nagant rifles are available for less than $200. That is a pittance for Old World quality. Ammunition is also readily available. There was one maker in 1970 and the ammunition was hideously high—for a 12-year-old. It was over $15 a box, and I glad to find it! It was all very exciting at the time.

Close up of the Mosin Nagant sight bar

The Nagant sights are highly capable from short to long-range.

The Mosin Nagant rifle has been produced in more quantities, over a longer period, than any other bolt-action rifle. The rifle deserves a book-length study. There are a number of tidbits of information that are helpful to the beginning shooter. As an example, the Russian ball load for machineguns was a 200-grain bullet at approximately 2,300 fps from the 27-inch Mosin Nagant barrel. This bullet is heavier and slower than our own .30-06 but undoubtedly hit hard.

The receiver will often be stamped with a “D” indicating the rifle is calibrated for this round. The rifles are often found with mismatched serial numbers, but don’t let this concern you. They were often hand fitted and deliver good performance. The method of bedding the stock, as an example, was ahead of its time and gave good accuracy.

Bolt know safety on the Mosin Nagant engaged to the rear

In this illustration, the rifle is on safe. The bolt knob is pulled to the rear and twisted to make the rifle safe.

The 7.62×54 cartridge features a rim for headspace, much like the .303 British and our own .30-40 Krag. The cartridge is in the .30-06 class and responds well to a handloader. The sights are quite interesting, originally intended for firing on troop concentrations at 1,000 yards. The rifle is sighted for 300 yards and will impact high at shorter ranges. This is the reason you will see rifles that have been retrofitted with a tall front sight for sport shooting and hunting.

It is helpful to use 150-grain bullets for practice as they are likely to allow a 100 yard zero. How do the rifles handle and shoot? The bolt-action is smooth and while the straight bolt handle isn’t as handy as the more modern Mauser, it works just fine.

To engage the safety, the rifle is loaded and the knurled knob on the end of the bolt pulled and the bolt twisted out of line. To take the safety off, the knob is pulled over and back into line—simple, but not handy. It is when the rifle is fired from a solid rest that the advantages of the type come to light. I had the opportunity to use a rifle from the collection of a young military intelligence officer who appreciates Russian history. Stripper clips are nice to have, but I single loaded the rounds into the magazine without any problem. Accuracy results are interesting and are as follows:

Accuracy Results

Average of two, three-shot groups from a solid bench rest at 100 yards.

Handloads

Load fps Group Size
Hornady 150-grain JSP, 47.0 grs. Varget 2788 fps 3.0 inches
Hungarian 150-grain 2788 2.8 inches
Wolf FMJ 2550 4.0 inches

The rifle weights nine pounds, so recoil is not a problem. The barrel is 27 inches long, the rifle is 46.5 inches overall and holds five rounds. This is a piece of history that will not always be available and cheap.

Do you have or want a Mosin Nagant? Tell us your tale in the comment section.

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Do you have a Mosin Nagant? Tell us about it in the comment section.

SLRule

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (63)

  • KN

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    I’ve made two customs out of mil-surp rifles that still had good bores. Both are highly modified, sporterized, and have optics installed onto the billet scope bases I made for them. I can hold 1″ groups at 100yds all day long with just about any ammo…including mil-surp. At long range, I can hit the 1k gong about 80% as often as with my modern .308 target rifle.

    Reply

  • Dave P.

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    One of the most unique Mosins was recently at a gun show in Burch Run, MI. A hex head Remington with completely sportorized cut down barrel, modern sites, re-blued, nice walnut stock. And priced reasonable. The customization is endless.

    Reply

  • Dan

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    I have owned up to 10 of these rifles and all were great. I still have the first one I bought and would never sell it. It is a real tack drives and it’s easy to get 2 to 3 inch groups at 100 yards.

    Reply

  • James H

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    The Mosins are not to compete or compare with modern Russian rifles nor can they. They were high tech and made for peasant soldiers at the time. The thing about them is they are very trustworthy, simple and cheap to shoot. They are also great fun to restore and customize. It is incorrect to say they aren’t good for anything. They are great for large game hunting not to mention target shooting. The Mosin was designed and manufactured at a time before select fire or semi auto was widely available or easy for the military to operate or maintain. After the Mosin, the Russians designed the SVT-38/40 which was of the same caliber as the Mosin but was capable of semi automatic fire. The AVT-versions were capable of full auto fire. After the SVT/AVTs the next generation of Russian battle rifle was the SKS you are fond of (as am I). Now, the infantry soldiers are equipped with AK-47/74s which can be had in semi or full auto, There are many newer rifles deployed but the Russian ones by generation are those listed here. I appreciate the 91/30s and 44s (Chinese 53’s) are great for what they are. A magnificent piece of history and as much fun as you can have if you enjoy guns. The development of battle rifles in the U.S. followed similarly to the Russian ones e.g. 1903s, M1 Garand (and variants), M14/M1A and now the AR platform. There are other light machine guns separate from the standard infantry rifle such as the BAR, M60s and many others. But I digress. Some people appreciate the Mosins and some don’t, but what people like and for what reasons are of individual preference.

    Reply

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