My first centerfire 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.
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 worldwide 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.
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 delivered good performance. The method of bedding the stock, as an example, was ahead of its time and gave good accuracy.
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:
Average of two, three-shot groups from a solid bench rest at 100 yards.
|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 a Mosin Nagant? Tell us about it in the comment section.