12 May 2015

Mosin Madness

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This poor girl had no choice of rifle and had to make do.

I get emails from Quora, inviting responses to questions I previously answered or responded to. One common topic they pertain to is guns.

I don’t normally think of Quora questions and answers as blog fodder, but there was this answer today which was so out there that I feel obliged to quote it and comment on it.

Some unidentified fellow asked:

What would be a good, fairly accurate and easy-to-maintain rifle I could buy without breaking the bank?

I’ve been interested in shooting for a while, and shot .22s, .223s and 7.62 at summer camps and a neighbor of my grandfathers, but never owned my own gun. I would like to get better at shooting and buy my own rifle, but none of my relatives know anything about guns, and a lot of advice I have gotten thus far was for either very expensive or very basic guns. I’m not a bad shot, and don’t need an absolute beginner rifle, but something fairly cheap that still has the recoil, heft and feel of a like a Remington 700 or equivalent gun.
I live in NH, if that helps.

and Bradley Peterson replied:

I just wrote out a thorough answer about the Remington 700, Winchester Model 70, Ruger American, etc. and then I said to myself “screw that”.

Buy a Mosin.

Pay around $200 for a run-of-the-mill 91-30, and you buy a ticket into an all inclusive club of Soviet conscripts, Tsarist soldiers, Finnish and Russian super snipers, Chinese phesants, Vietcong Guerrilas, Olympians, Ukranian Rebels, Bubba, and now, you.

I’d say the rifle is “good”. It has a proven track record – is first version was made in 1891, making the M91, and its 7.62x54r cartridge the longest serving cartridge in existance, and the longest serving rifle design on the battlefield. The cartridge itself is powerful enough to take down any North American game animal. The Mosin is probably the most deadly firearm ever invented – I seriously doubt another has killed more people. Its a sobering thought, but its a piece of history, and you have to accept it for what it is – a tool for breaking and killing things that was used A LOT.

Fairly accurate? It depends on which rifle you get. They are basically all used – coming in crates after years of storage covered in a preservative called cosmoline, and accuracy is a crap shoot. My 91/30 infantry rifle has a bright brand new looking bore, and is pretty darn accurate for having fairly poor iron sights. A realistically sized target is easy to hit out to 200 yards, at least. My PU sniper rifle, like the one held by Roza Shanina in the above photo, will shoot ~1-1/4 MOA. I’ve seen some shoot sub MOA – not bad for a 70 year old WWII rifle.

Ammunition is easy to come by. It was made by the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War by the crap ton, and its cheap, at around $.20 a round, or $100 for a 440 round can.

Did I mention it comes with a bayonet?

You can skewer a pig, drive a screw, or roast marshmellows with this thing (I’ve done the latter). Yeah, you can roast hot dogs with your rifle. Try that with a Remington. You can break bricks with the steel buttplate. The rifle has less than 40 parts. In a pinch, you can shoot a 30-30 round out of it, and the action is ridiculously strong. It is nearly impossible, save a bore obstruction, to blow this rifle up.

The drawbacks? The basic rifle weights around 8.5 lbs. With bayonet, sling, and ammunition, count on 10. Even with that weight, it kicks like a mule. When shooting my sniper rifle with high power commercial loads throwing heavy bullets, it hurts. The rifle is also sighted in with the bayonet attached – meaning to be accurate, you need to add an additional pound, and 1 foot to the end of your rifle, which is already hardly manuverable. You can move around the front sight base and re-zero, but its a pain.

In addition, people will look at your rifle, then at you, and think “poor guy, doesn’t have money for a real rifle”. The course of action to take from here is pretty simple. Put the stripper clip of ammunition into the rifle, and pump that target full of steel. They might try going *pew pew* with their glorified .22s while you produce smoke, fireballs, and a TON of noise, but you go home satisfied, knowing you have an awesome rifle.

I have posted previously on the current craze for purchasing and collecting (cheap, cheap, cheap) Mosin Nagants being imported by the container-load from Russia and other former Soviet Empire countries. The obvious foundation cause of Mosin collecting is the fact that Mosins are cheap right now and are bound to go up in price, the same way SKS-es did, once they run out of them, and the fact that the ammo is incredibly cheap as well.

The only real argument for owning a Mosin (they are really too expensive to use as boat anchors or tomato stakes) is they are very cheap to buy and very cheap to shoot.

They are a historic arm, of course, if you want to get in closer touch with the history of red-beet-munching peasants being conscripted and used as cannon-fodder; of purges, mass executions, and innocent people being marched off to Siberia; of totalitarian dictatorship, human life valued as next to nothing, the clash of two barbarous dictatorships and subsequent Third World wars of Revolution. Why! the proud owner of one of these can hold it in his hands, and imagine all the joys of being driven in mass formations into the fire of German machine-guns by commissars with machine-pistols ready to execute on the spot anyone who falters.

Factually speaking, Mosins are a crude, primitive military long-arm, featuring a design dating back to 1891, older than the Krag and not as good. They are ugly, non-ergonomic, ugly, heavy, ugly, and inferior in every way (other than price) to nearly all the best-known bolt-action rifles of WWI and WWII.

Mosins are at the bottom of heap, battling it out for last place and the title of most inferior and repulsive rifle with the Japanese Arisaka and the Italian Mannlicher Carcano.

What I would say to the unidentified author of the question is: Go to a gun show, or look on Gun Broker, for a nice, good quality sporterized 1903 Springfield or 1917 Enfield or 1898 Mauser or 1909 Mauser. I would suggest looking for one chambered in .30-06 Springfield or .270 Winchester. You will have to pay about double what a Mosin would cost you, but you will have a lot more attractive, lighter, more accurate, more ergometric and –in the long run– more valuable rifle.

6 Feedbacks on "Mosin Madness"


As one who has spent many years shooting and reloading for vintage military rifles including Finnish and Russian versions of the 91-30 Mosin, yeah, you’re pretty much on the money with your info. As to Peterson’s claim that his Mosin sniper has 1 moa accuracy, if he doesn’t have pictures, it didn’t happen (2 shot groups though, can display amazing accuracy, lol).
I’ve shot several CMP Vintage Sniper matches at Camp Perry and Camp Butner and could probably count the number of Mosin snipers I’ve seen on the fingers of one hand.


The guy only said he wanted a good quality basic rifle. There are so many good affordable ones today by Ruger, Savage, Remington, etc., the guy would be crazy to do anything but buy a brand new one. With a little online research he can find exactly what he wants and get a very affordable and decent quality rifle–even a rifle/scope combination if he wants–and he can be target shooting or hunting any North American game right away. He never said he was going to start collecting WWII surplus.


A new or lightly used Remington, Savage, Ruger or Winchester in .308 or 30-’06 and he’s all set–especially if he learns to reload.


I agree with the others here. Look for a used .308 or 30-06 and I would add a 30/30 lever action is a good choice for the woods of New England. The more common cartridges are always a good choice.

Lazarus Long

Go to any surplus rifle site (AIM, Classic Arms, etc.) and get a Swiss K31 straight pull. The K31 is the standard for an accurate surplus rifle. Swiss ammo is still plentiful and there are plenty of reloading possibilities.


I agree that a Mosin Nagant is a lousy choice in rifles, especially if one is going to shoot it regularly. But it will do nearly anything needed of a rifle. A man at an Appleseed event (in Douglas, Wyoming, I think) shot expert with one.
I’m with GONEWITHTHEWIND and the rest- any used bolt action would serve this guy well, and better than a MG. I’d offer up the lever action 30-30 as well- reasonable power in a short length, and easy to operate and maintain.
Just my $.02


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