The Mosin Nagant Rifle is great piece of historical machinery. The first design hit the field in 1882 by Russia and it was utilized into World War 1, through World War 2, the US military still comes in contact with them in Afghanistan today, and they will probably be used in World War 3. This rifle has been used by about 50 countries [according to Wiki], including the United States. With more than 38 Million of them built around the world, they have been used in so many battles and wars that the ‘Mosin is widely regarded as being responsible for more death than any other single rifle (sans the AK-47).
…And I’m gonna cut one up and build something fun and accurate out of it. Now, the MN has stood the test of time from the last century, but now, shooters expect more. As an example, the MN has a steel buttplate and a relatively short stock. It makes a modern shooter above 5’2 feel somewhat uncomfortable under recoil. For some thinner shooters, the edge of the metal plate digs into the shoulder causing bruising and pain. The bolt action is basic and the trigger is a challenge to get used to. The rifle, in total, is extremely heavy and most of the weight is out front due to the 28 inch barrel. It takes muscle to hold this thing up and to accurately engage targets while standing up. I couldn’t imagine doing so when the Nazi’s were shooting back at you during, say, The Battle of Stalingrad.
Now, one issue that must be addressed; is that Some people believe the Mosin Nagant is a treasure and not to be altered in any way because of what it has accomplished in its history. All of that is true! It is a great and historic rifle. This one was purchased as a military surplus rifle in 2007 for the massive price of…. 89 Smackeroos ($89) from the sports chain, Big Five, in California. It actually hung on my office wall for 3 years untouched, but now I’m gonna cut it up because MOSIN NAGANTS ARE NOT SACRED. They are just another rifle. I own this one and can do what I please to it. All that said, I still feel a little twinge in my stomach at the thought. Now, there are some rare ‘Mosins that are NOT to be touched – such as the PU Sniper variants [shown in the picture] and well, any Hexagonal receiver variant. This one was built in the Izhevsk factory in 1941 and is extremely common with little historic value.
So why would I cut it up? Simply, to see if I can make a $90 rifle fun to shoot. Basically, for the same reason people modify cars like the ’57 Chevy. Just to see what will happen! What am I gonna do to it?
I’m going to do what rifle owners have been doing as long as there have been rifles. I’m going to –modify the barrel, –modify the trigger, –update the sights, and follow it all up with the –installation of a new stock.
What are we starting with? A rifle that has thoroughly been cleaned of all the Cosmoline [storage grease] and has been shooting well. At 50 Yards (with steel sights), I was able to get the rifle sighted in to the best reasonable compromise. It’s not perfect, and it’s not going to be! The rifle has proven itself capable of shooting 5 round groups within an inch (usually with one shooter-based flyer). Now, Obviously, you’ll see this grouping and understand that this rifle is capable of shooting rounds into the same hole with a better shooter. I haven’t had to use open sights since I was a Security Forces/Military Police and had to carry M-16 A2’s, prior to the optical sights of the modern M-4’s. What I’m saying is… I suck and am way out of practice and I know it! But I do have something to suggest to you. We’ve all heard the stories about wildly inaccurate ‘Mosins shooting 12-inches at 100 meters (which has to be due to the shooter), but I suggest this Mosin Nagant is likely capable of 1MOA shooting with a better shooter and I’d be lying if I said I expected that to be the case.
First item to address is the trigger. Not only is it the first thing to address, it is also the most simple. The Mosin Nagant trigger was NEVER the height of technology. Even when it was designed, there were far better triggers being produced. The stock ‘Mosin trigger works by dropping a sear out of position and allowing the firing pin to slip forward, and contact the primer [bada-bing-bada-boom]. The trigger utilizes a long flat piece of metal to apply trigger tension and as one can imagine, the trigger operation varies greatly based upon temperature, build factory, materials used to make it, and even the spring tension of the bolt itself… Yes, it is annoyingly vague and some ‘Mosins require 8-10 pounds of pressure to fire. This may not seem like much, however, it does tire out the trigger finger after repeated shots because the shooter is not merely pulling the trigger, but applying pressure slowly and evenly in an effort to make an effective shot. All ‘Mosin shooters tire of this crappy trigger whether they admit it or not.
This Timney Trigger that will be installed requires pulling off stock trigger parts and replacing them with a singular “drop in” trigger unit. 10 minutes and you’re done. Voila! Timney has been around for a century making triggers, and because they listen to their customers, they created a trigger assembly for the ‘Mosin. This is a direct bolt-in trigger system that is fully adjustable and makes for a predictable, match feel. It makes aiming a breeze and you become more effective merely because you can actually engage your target when your eyes and brain tell you that the perfect moment has arrived. The Timney trigger is a must and will probably be the main factor in improving overall shooting accuracy on the MN. Seriously!
The Fringe benefit of the Timney Trigger is also the fact that you get… a real safety! The Safety built on the Mosin Nagant, was for all intents and purposes… non-existent! You get a modern thumb safety that ensures the rifle won’t fire without your choosing to do so. Safety was a suggestion to the Russians. They just felt that if you didn’t want the rifle to shoot, you shouldn’t put your finger on the trigger.
After pulling the Timney Trigger a few times; I have no words! It is like a new rifle. The difference is amazing. I already know that I’ll be more accurate because of this singular component.
The stock Mosin 91/30 (which is the variant I’m cutting up) barrel length is 28 inches long. Long barrels were believed to be necessary for accurate rifles when the Mosin Nagant was designed; and it has proven true for much of the world’s firearms history and it is 100% measurable. For my purposes, 28 inches just won’t do. I’m cutting this barrel down to 21 inches. With a quick bit of elbow grease, and a hacksaw this task is done. Now file the end of the barrel to ensure that it is square, smooth the barrel edge so you don’t slice your finger off on your new edge. With this 7.5 inches gone, there is no longer a front sight, which means optical sighting (a scope) will be the only means of aiming from now on. With the front sight gone, the rear sight can also go bye bye. Removing the Rear sight is a pain that requires a trip to Home Depot. First you’ll drive the pin out holding leaf sight into position. Once that is gone, you remove the leaf sight itself and its tension spring. Use a hammer/mallet and punch to coax the front sight forward off of its base. Save the weight and remove all unnecessary items and remnants [That is craftsmanship].
one of the most important parts of this barrel cutting process is crowning. Now many “Experts” (yes them) believe that accuracy is determined largely by the last couple inches of the barrel and its crown. Although, I have no idea who those experts are, I’m not one to question them. I’m just gonna do it and believe that “They” know what they’re talking about [just like global warming, there is a “consensus” so it must be 100% correct… Yea Right!!]. You can buy a specific tool for it (11 degree crown tool)… or you can buy a grinding stone, use some valve lapping compound and go to work on the barrel with an electric drill gently ensuring that a bullet leaves the end of the barrel with even, equal pressure as it engages the surrounding atmosphere. Once you’ve spent a few minutes slowly giving the end of the barrel that smooth transition, you’re all done and can apply some bluing to protect the metal.
There’s one name in Mosin Nagant scope mounting, and that is Rock Solid Industries. I ordered up one of their mounts and despite a temporary back-order (no doubt, brought about because of the new Archangel stock being introduced), I read the directions and said my prayers and grabbed an electric drill, a Home Depot drill bit and tap kit for $4.95. Installation was simple and requires the heaviest bit of “actual” gunsmithing you’ll be expected to undertake for this project. I drilled into the receiver and a threaded the holes for the three bolts that you will need to lock the scope mount in position, thus giving you the “Rock Solid” mount. Two holes on top of the receiver and one on the left side, rear, of the receiver. Just take your time and follow your directions, measure twice, drill once, and you’ll feel like you actually know what you’re doing. When the sight goes on.
A turned down bolt handle is required for Mosin’s because the standard bolt handle rotates directly at/to the top of the receiver and this will not allow a user to use a scope without modification. The bolt handle will need to be redirected facing downward so when you cycle the bolt, the handle does not extend upward — because this is where your scope will now be located. To get this bolt handle work done, I referred back to Rock Solid Industries for their Bolt welding service. for $50 bucks, you send them your bolt, they cut off the old bolt handle and weld on their new bolt handle. The bolt is milled to perfection and machined to a polish and Rock Solid sends it back to you. This was a quick process that took them less than a week. The job was done as expected; gorgeous! Using them also ensures that you get the same bolt that you know, or should know, works with your rifle already. Saves you some worry and helps you avoid any possible headspace issues that might occur if you were to use a bolt from a different rifle. You also get to keep your numbers matching… if you’re nostalgic like some of us.
Now, iron sights are a thing of the past. They are great when you have to use them, but due to technology, they are quickly going bye bye for anything other than .22’s, shotguns, and pistols (yes they are; Sorry!). Given the opportunity, any Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, Guardsman, Police, Revolutionary, Terrorist, Assassin, Hitman, Citizen, and even your Mother, would choose some sort of optical sight over the iron sights on their rifles because everyone recognizes they will become more effective by using a scope.
For this rifle, I chose a Pentax Ultimate Zoom. (Nope: NOT SO FAST – go to update 3) This is partly due to the price of $159 (plus $10 shipping), new-in-box via eBay. Pentax has been making optics for Cameras and Binoculars for years and they are trustworthy. Another fun benefit of the Pentax scope is that it adds a bit of technology to what is an otherwise archaic rifle. You have a switch that allows you to zoom-in or zoom-out the scope magnification power from 3X though 15X without having to remove your hand from the stock. How much does it actually help the shooter? Not much, but it may allow for better scanning of targets in some hunting situations. Now, there are, no doubt, some great rifle scopes out there, including some that are more reminiscent of a sniper rifle, but since this rifle will only used against paper (unless, I don’t know, Tyrants, Zombies, Werewolves, or Aliens attack), this Pentax scope will add a bit of “Techno-Ninjitsu” and curiosity. Being from Pentax, the glass is clear, the coatings are perfect, it is nitrogen-filled; Lots of light comes through and it looks promising. I may switch to something more basic later, but we’ll have to see how this one goes!
Once you throw on a couple of rings from Amazon for $22 and some flip-open scope covers from Butler Creek for $25. You can see a rifle transformation is starting to take shape. All we are waiting for now is a stock to tie it all together.
UPDATE: Don’t buy this scope for the Mosin. It is not up to the task of dealing with 7.62×54 recoil. After, dislodging the reticle after about 160 Rounds, the reticle rotated by 45degrees, rendering the scope useless. After utilizing the warranty for the scope once. After another 200 Rounds or so, the rear lens became loose and in need of being returned. It was a great idea, But No!!!
Where We’re At So Far
So far, we’re looking very good! The Barrel looks great, the scope mount is attached to the receiver, the Timney Trigger is in place, and the scope is in place. What have we spent thus far??
— Timney Trigger $110
— Pentax scope $169
— Rock Solid scope mount $104
— Turn Down bolt $59
— Scope Rings $22
Altogether, we have less than $475 out-of-pocket. I’m not adding in the price of the Mosin Nagant itself, because I had the rifle prior and I didn’t buy the rifle FOR this project and I would’ve had it even if I didn’t initiate this project. Nor am I gonna add in the $25 bucks for the Butler Creek flip open lens covers because the scope came with bikini lens covers that work fine. But lets also take off the $70 bucks I sold my excess parts on eBay for. So for $400 in, we have an interesting rifle on the way.
See you in a couple of weeks for the conclusion of this rifle project. I expect to receive the Archangel Mosin Nagant Stock (or from Amazon) that I pre-ordered quickly and when it arrives, we’ll put this project to bed.