By Joel Persinger
A few weeks ago I picked up a 1942 Mosin Nagant 91/30. I had just finished teaching a basic pistol class and stopped into the pro shop at the range to talk with the range manager. I never got to talk with the manager, but I did buy a rifle.
While I was waiting for the manager to appear, I noticed the old Russian girl standing in the gun rack next to so many sleek new rifles. When my eyes drifted over the price tag I just had to see it. Once I held it and fiddled with it a bit, I thought... "What the heck!" So, I bought it for $143.00 out the door (including taxes and the California government fees).
After I bought the Mosin I made the mistake of looking on the web to find out about it. What I found was endless opinions about the Mosin Nagant as an "end of days/SHTF" rifle, a hunting rifle or a home defense rifle. The discussions go on adnauseam. After having purchased one, cleaned it up and shot it, I think I've figured out what it can and cannot do. So here comes yet another opinion... mine.
How did it shoot?
After a couple of hours spent cleaning the cosmoline out of the 69-year old rifle, it actually looked like I might have gotten my hands on something interesting. From what I could tell, the rifle appeared to have been refurbished or perhaps simply never issued to a soldier. So, I took it completely apart, checked the function of the gun and the firing pin adjustment to make sure it was safe to fire and went to the range. I had purchased some surplus 7.62x54R ammunition, so I thought I'd start with that.
It was a good day to try the rifle, since my partner and I had just finished teaching a pistol skill builder and the range was not being used. I set up a paper target and launched some rounds at it from 50 yards to see if I was on the paper. Right away I noticed two things. 1) The gun was LOUD! 2) It did not have the punishing recoil I had read about. Sure, it pushed back at me when I pressed the trigger. But the recoil was manageable and actually quite soft for a rifle firing a powerful cartridge. My business partner, Mike Ritz, felt the same way after he fired it.
The sites were a little off, causing my rounds to strike about six inches to the right. I didn't have a mallet or brass punch with which to adjust them, so I had to deal with it the old-fashioned way. After applying a little Kentucky windage, I was able to put three rounds in the center of the target in a group that measured slightly less than 1 1/2 inches. Once I had the sites figured out, the rifle consistently grouped under two inches. In fact, I had two groups which measured under one inch. That's pretty good for a $140 rifle that's almost 70 years old, particularly when firing surplus military ammunition. Suffice it to say that accuracy was good.
Although the gun functioned almost flawlessly, the bolt was quite rough and the trigger was pretty bad. The bolt tended to stick after firing a round. This was probably due to some cosmoline I missed when I first cleaned the rifle. As a result, cycling the bolt was challenging, although the problem seemed to go away after I fired three or four rounds. The trigger was of the standard military variety. I didn't measure the trigger pull, but it was pretty heavy and the trigger had quite a bit of creep. All that having been said, for what it is, the Mosin Nagant is a great rifle. I'm very glad I bought it.
Dependability and usefulness:
The Mosin Nagant is an ugly, simple, rugged and utterly reliable rifle that was designed to be issued to illiterate peasants and conscripts who had little if any rifle training. The rifle is dirt simple and can be used and cared for by anyone given a modicum of instruction (like ten minutes). By design, the rifle is meant to take abuse and still keep shooting. Basically, the Mosin Nagant is an old bolt action battle rifle that was perfect for what it was designed to be. But how does it fit for a home defense, end of days (SHTF, WOROL) or hunting rifle?
As a home defense gun it leaves a lot to be desired. It is too long, too heavy and too powerful to be an ideal home defense gun. You're better off with a short shotgun or a good handgun. The same problems present themselves when you contemplate using the Mosin to hold off a determined group of thugs in an "end of days, SHTF" scenario. With the Mosin's slow rate of fire and limited magazine capacity, you would be much better off with an AK-47 variant, a Mini-14 or a good AR15. Again, similar issues pop up when you think of the Mosin being an ideal hunting rifle. As a hunting rifle, it's HEAVY, long and cannot be easily fitted with a scope. A much better choice would be a light and quick handling modern rifle with a good scope.
All that having been said, not everyone can afford a home defense shotgun, handgun, AR15 or a nice hunting rifle with a scope. When we consider the reality of the pocket book, the problem with the Mosin Nagant is not with the rifle, the problem is people's expectation that the Mosin Nagant should somehow manage to be ideal for any task other than the one for which it was designed. As a result, it is not "ideal" for most things. For example: It's not ideal for home defense. However, I would not want to be on the business end of one! Being hit squarely with a 7.62x54R round will put just about anybody's face in the dirt. It's not ideal for an "end of days, SHTF" gun. Still, it isn't all that bad a choice either. It's rugged, utterly reliable, cheap and supremely capable of killing anything that walks in North America. It's not fast. But when combined with a good quality fighting handgun it doesn't need to be. If the bad guys are up close, transition to your short gun. If they're far away, bust out that Mosin. Lord knows that if you hit 'em, they're not going to fight with you anymore. Besides, if the dude you shoot has a nice AR15, you can take his. After all, he won't be needing it. It's not ideal for hunting. Still, the 7.62x54R round is perfectly suitable for taking both medium and large game anywhere in North America. Actually, I plan on taking my Mosin Nagant 91/30 deer and pig hunting this year. But, keep in mind that if you buy a Mosin for hunting, you probably won't have a scope. I wouldn't let that bother you. Folks were hunting successfully without scopes long before any of us were born. Many people still do. So, there's no reason why you can't.
The bottom line is that the Mosin Nagant isn't the ideal rifle for anything. But, if you're on a budget, it's a darn good rifle for just about everything. You can buy one for around $150 or less and you can buy a "spam can" containing 440 rounds of surplus ammunition for less than $90. What a deal! So, let's recap: the Mosin Nagant is cheap, accurate, strong, reliable, powerful and always goes bang. Works for me!