- Stopping power
The rifle family itself derives it name from its two primary designers Sergei Mosin (a Russian) and Leon Nagant (a Belgian). Both designed competing rifle designs that went before the Imperial Russian Army for evaluation. The Nagant designed rifle initially won the competition, but internal forces within the Russian government forced the Army to adopt the Mosin design. The Russians then modified it with the feed mechanism from Nagant's rifle and viola, the Mosin-Nagant. Interestingly, I never have been able to find out if Leon Nagant ever got more than name recognition for his contribution to the rifle. It is often called the "Three Line Rifle" which seems strange to some. A "line" in this meaning was a length proportionally equivalent to 1/10 of an inch, so a "three line" caliber was the equivalent of a .30 caliber round. A very "Avant Garde" caliber for its time.
By using the info found here, I was able to determine by the presence of these two screws that my M91/30 at some point in its life had been configured as a sniper rifle, cool!
It is chambered for the venerable 7.62x39R cartridge which has been in service for over 100 years and is still the primary round used in the RPK machine gun and Russian SVD sniper rifles. The "R" stands for rimmed as it still uses a rimmed case as designed over 100 years ago before rimless designs were feasible. It is a powerful round comparable to the .30-06 round but with a bit more "oomph" behind it. Generally speaking, most shooters will not have the skill required to use this round out to its maximum effective range using their rifle without the aid of scopes and other accuracy improving devices.
Rounds may be loaded by either stripper clips or singly. I have found that the majority of reproduction stripper clips, like this one, do now work well and as a result just load mine round by round.
Rounds are loaded either singly or by 5 round stripper clips into the magazine through the top of the action. The magazine is a 5 round single stack magazine that protrudes from the bottom of the rifle. It contains a, unique for the time, cartridge interupter which prevents multiple rounds from feeding at once into the chamber and lessens the chances of a malfunction. Removal of rounds is accomplished by opening the action and ejecting any chambered round and then pressing the catch at the bottom of the magazine releasing the floor plate and dropping any loaded ammunition. Surplus rounds can still be found on the market for about $25-$30 per hundred rounds. It should be noted that the vast majority of surplus rounds (read all) of them use corrosive primers in them and will coat the inside of your barrel with salt residue when fired. This will lead to premature pitting and rusting of your barrels lining and will degrade accuracy. It is recommended that you immediately swab out your barrel with water (some people swear Windex with ammonia works best) right after firing and then clean as soon as possible. My thoughts on the matter are this, I doubt any Russian conscript fighting the Nazis in sub-zero weather ever poured water down his barrel and most of those rifles we are using now. I clean mine by running a wet patch down the barrel after I am done firing for the day and then giving the rifle a good cleaning using good 'ol Hoppes #9, which is designed to be used with corrosive residue and smells better than ammonia anyway. I generally do this cleaning shortly after getting home but do not get overly anal about it or the salt issue over all. One thing you may find on a large numbers of these rifles, my M44 included, is that the barrels have been counterbored at the muzzle to provide a new crown for the rifle. This was done routinely by the russians to improve accuracy of rifles whose crowns had been worn or damaged through use or misuse, mostly by improperly cleaning the rifle. While collectors or purists may scoff at these particular rifles, they are still worth owning as they are just as reliable and will shoot better than if they had never been counterbored.
Stocks for the Mosins were mostly made from whatever cheap lumber the manufacturers could secure. They use a full length bottom stock and partial top hand guard kept in place by retaining rings on the front stock. Deep finger groves in the middle of the stock on both sides provide for a secure grip even when wearing gloves in the middle of a Russian winter. There is a slot for a cleaning rod under the barrel. though it is sometimes hit and miss as to whether you will get one included with your rifle. Many specimens on the market today sport laminated wood stocks which are actually the preferred type of stock for this rifle as they are less susceptible to warping or flexing due to temperature and humidity. Most, if not all, stocks you will find show some sign of wear. I don't see these as signs of age but that of distinction. My carbine was manufactured in 1944 and I like to think that maybe one of the dents on it may of been caused by the rifle being jammed into the stonework of some factory in Russia during WW2 as the owner sought to seek cover from German fire. My stocks are both in relatively good shape for 60+ year old surplus weapons that probably spent at least part of their life in some dark, dank Eastern European armory without care for many years. A little sanding and some polyurethane will go a long way to restoring the beauty of these stocks. The stock on my M44 actually turned out quite well, a little elbow grease and some linseed oil and a deep red hue appeared from a worn piece of laminated wood, almost a cherry color - beautiful. Slight dents and indentations may be removed by applying heat and steam to the affected area. There are many sites out there that detail this kind of restoration. Slings are attached by the use of "dog collar" straps that pass through two slots at the fore and aft of the stock and connect with the issue sling.
Sights on the rifles are open blade type sights adjustable for elevation in the rear. The front sights are fixed as the Russians did not incorporate discrete marksmanship for most of their conscripts at the time but rather relied on mass assaults and the like. On the rifles these sights are generally graduated from 100 meters to 2000 meters (the round will travel this far, but can you see what your shooting at?), while on the carbine versions they only go to 400 meters normally, although some are ranged for 1000 meters depending on the date and location of manufacture.
The rear sight on my M44, it is graduated out to 1000 meters.
If you happen to own a M44 carbine version your bayonet is a permanent part of your weapon for all intent purposes. A long grove in the side of the rifle allows it to store along side of the forearm without interfering with the use of either hand to support the front on the weapon on the stock. Of particular note with this carbine in relation to the bayonet is that these were designed to be fired with the bayonet in the extended position. It has something to do with the barrel harmonics being compensated for the extra forward weigh of the extended bayonet. Its true. I find that firing with the bayonet closed and then extended moves the shot group several inches from point of aim. You could adjust the font sight to compensate for this is you wanted too, I haven't and rather enjoy going to the range and having it extended when I shoot. You get a few looks and some chuckles from folks who know what the deal is. Either way you shoot it, extending and storing the bayonet is simple. It just a matter of pulling down on the bayonet by the lug to unlock it from it current position and then move it and let it click back into its locking lug in the new position.
Above all else firing the Mosin-Nagant at the range is the best way to experience these functioning pieces of history.. Please take note, Mosin-Nagants, the carbine in particular, are LOUD!!! Awesomely loud! The big charge of the 7.62x54R cartridge will not burn completely in the barrel on the carbine causing a massive fireball and explosion after the round has left the barrel. I have not had the opportunity to fire one at night but I have read and seen in pics that it is very impressive. If the weather and wind is right I can even feel the heat and shock wave from the muzzle against my face. Recoil is on par with the report. I would not recommend shooting one of these if you are "recoil shy". However if yo are a recoil junkie heaven is only about $100 away if you have these available in a gun store near to you. There is no shame to having a recoil pad on one of these. I use a size small rubber recoil pad on mine and have no shame showing up to the range with it. After the first round rockets downrange anybody looking on usually knows why its there. Russians used to fire these with thick layers of wool and cotton clothing on during the bitter Russian winter and I am sure they still sat around rubbing sore shoulders at the end of a battle.Muzzle blast from a M44 during the day showing the massive blast the 7.62x54R creates
The addicting thing with the Mosin-Nagant (as with most surplus weapons) is that once you own one you open up an entire part of history that you will spend hours researching and learning from. My initial purchase of my M44 carbine was based soley on its low price ($79.99) and looks. Once I got it home I realized I had no idea what this carbine was all about. The importer included a basic instruction manual, but I yearned for more info than it contained. Now almost a year later, and many hours of research and reading later, I can really appreciate what this weapon stood for in the best of times for Russia and the worst. Rather than seeing it as a sysmbol of either a bygone Imperial Army or a communist revolt, I see it as a tool that a common soldier had to use to survive. I see robust and reliable weapon designed to function in some of the worlds most challenging climates. I see a rifle that fought in two world wars and against itself in both sides of a revolution.
I have only scratched the surface of the vast knowledge available on these rifles and carbines. Luckily, there are many outlets available to you to use to research these types of weapons and in particular the Mosin-Nagants.
- http://www.blogger.com/www.wikipedia.com - A good starting place for info on weapons, usually has links to other places you can start expanding from.
- www.surplusrifles.com - Another good sight for info on surplus weapons, some good information on disassembly proceedures found here
- 7.62x54R.net - THE definitive source for Mosin-Nagant info available on the internet in my honest opinion.
Bonus - Here's a vid taken on 4/29/09 at the range with me and my 91/30!