If I asked you to tell me what was the most important rifle ever used in Russia, what would it be? Many people might answer: “the AK-47.”
However, it was the Mosin-Nagant rifle that drove Nazis from the Motherland. The same rifle guarded the Czars, and later deposed them.
The AK may be the Cold War face of the Evil Empire, but the Mosin-Nagant was the backbone of a country when their very survival was in doubt.
In a great twist of historical irony, the former Communist country is selling the rifles that guarded the revolution to the very citizens once considered her enemies.
Let me introduce you to the Russian Mosin-Nagant rifle. Adopted in 1891, the Three Line Rifle was first carried by Russian troops under Czar Alexander III. Later, the gun would be known as the Mosin-Nagant rifle.
As might be expected due to the passage of 120 years and various revolutions, many of the original records regarding the origins of the rifle have been lost. However, it is generally accepted that the competing designs of Sergei Mosin, a Russian, and Belgian Leon Nagant were combined to make the rifle that would be the main battle rifle of both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union through World War II.
Did you ever see Enemy at the Gates? Russian sniper Vasily Zaytsev sent many a Nazi to the grave using a standard Mosin-Nagant rifle, and later a sniper version of the rifle. The story is true, though the movie took its fair share of liberties with the events.
After World War II, the Soviet Union ceased production of the Mosin-Nagant rifle, replacing them with SKS and AK-47 rifles.
However, the Mosin-Nagant rifles were held in storage for reserve troops should they ever be needed. Additionally, Mosin-Nagant rifles were used by troops during the Cold War period in places like North Korea, Vietnam, China, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
Believe it or not, the Mosin-Nagant rifle is still used on the battlefield today. An acquaintance of mine has spent far too many years during the past decade in Afghanistan hunting America’s enemies. He tells an amazing story of engaging in a short firefight with a Taliban fighter, and later relieving the corpse of a Mosin-Nagant model 1891/30 rifle.
It would be heresy to suggest that an ugly, cheap Russian rifle might be “America’s Rifle.” I’m not sure I would try to make that argument, but I can make the case that this is a good rifle for a lot of Americans.
I think the Mosin-Nagant is an excellent choice for many people due to it’s relative power, reasonable accuracy, and incredible price. Let me explain…
The Mosin-Nagant rifle is chambered for the 7.62x54r cartridge, which is a rimmed .30 caliber round. The power of this round is frequently described as being similar to the great .30-06 cartridge.
The power in this cartridge is more than enough for most game in North America, and there are various soft-point loads available from 150 to 203 grains.
Of course, handloading is almost always a better solution with a surplus gun, and dies are readily available. I’ve got a set myself.
You will have to slug your barrel to get the right bullets. With factory reconditioning, many of the rifles went into surplus with larger-than-spec bores. Matching your bullets to your bore will increase accuracy.
Brass is most easily obtained by shooting some new brass cased ammo, as there isn’t much virgin or once-fired on the market.
Most of the reloading manuals have recipes for the 7.62x54r, so you can work up a good load for the power level you need.
Ok, the Mosin-Nagant is a surplus rifle. Sometimes the tolerances are a little sloppy. But, many of these guns are surprisingly accurate, with many people reporting groups of 4” or less at 100 yards.
That is not bad at all for a rifle that may be more than 100 years old. It is certainly good enough for hunting hogs in the brush or whitetail in the dense forests of the eastern US where a 75 yard shot might be the longest you make.
I’ve had my M44 carbine Mosin-Nagant out to the range, and at 50 yards I make for 2.5-inch groups with surplus ammo. Not bad, but I know I can do a lot better with some handloads.
The amazing thing about the Mosin-Nagant rifles is the incredible deal they represent in modern shooting. The rifles are extremely inexpensive, often available for less than $100 in very good condition.
Some models command higher prices due to scarcity, but the common 1891/30 model rifle can be had for as little as $69 from some wholesalers. If you have a Curio & Relics license, you can order one today and have it shipped to your door.
Surplus ammo is cheap and easy to come by. Most of the local dealers I know carry some, and all of the online retailers have ample stocks of the cartridge. You can get a sealed “spam-can” of 440 rounds for less than $90 if you do a little shopping around.
Why Don’t You Have One?
For less than $200 you can have a rifle and enough ammo to keep you busy for several weekends. The Mosin-Nagant is reasonable accurate, suitable for medium to large game and is rugged enough to outlast you and me.
Even if you don’t do a lot of shooting, having one of these guns in your closet with a can of ammo is your responsibility. You never know when the king of England might come looking for back taxes.