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Potentially purchasing a Mosin-Nagant rifle, have some questions

SmokeStacksSmokeStacks The Myth, the Legend, the Bowman, the Dino FuckerRegistered User regular
edited December 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
A sporting good store nearby is having a sale on Mosin-Nagant M91/30 rifles for $99. These are surplus rifles that are in varying condition. I haven't stopped in to see what condition they are in yet, but they are able to be physically examined (but obviously not fired, since it is a sporting goods store) before purchase.

I've been considering purchasing a firearm for some time. Not for defense or anything like that, but mainly because I've wanted to get into shooting, and to learn the care and maintenance of a gun. I'm not a card-carrying gun nut, but I do feel that it is a right I am granted, so I may as well take a look into it. I called the store and spoke with an employee who gave me the run down on how gun purchases work in my state, as well as the name of the importer: Century Arms. He also said that he did not know anything about the dates or locations of manufacture on the rifles themselves, but there is information on the rifles themselves in Russian which is probably that information (the store employee told me there were "symbols" on the rifles, so I am assuming that is what he meant).

I did a search and found this thread, but it's almost three years old. It looks like I'm in relatively the same boat that guy was in, but that thread is fairly general, whereas I am looking for information more tailored toward a specific rifle. One forumer mentioned owning a Mosin-Nagant, but hasn't logged in since mid 2008.

So, my understanding concerning the Mosin-Nagant rifles is that they are extremely rugged, accurate, and cheap since the Soviet Union manufactured like 20 million of them, but I figured I would see if anyone with any gun knowledge could educate me further (at this point all I have in me is the Wikipedia article, a couple of fan pages, and a fair bit of MGS3 playtime). There are the obvious romantic and historical associations with the gun as well, coupled with the low price that have me considering this gun in particular.

Mainly, what kind of care and maintenance will this gun require? How expensive is 7.62 x 54r ammunition? What are my options for locking this weapon? Is there anything I should look for on the rifle itself if I decide to purchase one? What sort of scope would fit this rifle, and where should I look to find one? Is this a good starter firearm to use?

Thanks for any help you can provide.

SmokeStacks on


  • John MatrixJohn Matrix Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    You've said that this is your first firearm purchase, have you ever fired any type of weapon before?

    Proper care of a Nagant shouldn't be too difficult, there should be many online guides with regard to proper cleaning and maintenance.

    I'm not sure what you mean about the wikipedia post and MSG3 play time, are you referring to Nagat knowledge or general use of firearms?

    John Matrix on
  • BoutrosBoutros Registered User
    edited December 2009
    I have a 91/30. They are cheap. Awesome, but cheap.

    Look for one not soaked in cosmoline. If your hands are all greasy after handling it, then it is. Take out the bolt and look down the bore, make sure it is in decent shape.

    I got some Czech milsurp for mine about 2 years ago that was pretty cheap, but that was before ammo became impossible to find, so I have no idea what the going rate is these days.

    Do not put a scope on it. It's not designed for that (there are original scoped mosins but the mounting system is way different than modern scopes), I'm not sure how you would do it. Also putting modern scopes on old milsurp rifles is silly.

    As far as maintenence, if you shoot milsurp ammo with corrosive primers you have to clean it after every shooting session with no exceptions or that shit will eat your barrel. If you shoot wolf or anything brass cased you don't have to clean it as often.

    Mosins are fun, and cool. You should get one. But it is more work to clean, more expensive to shoot, and less upgradeable than something like a 10/22, which is a real "starter gun".

    Boutros on
  • SeeksSeeks Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    I've owned a Nagant. In fact, I think it's the exact type you're looking at. One of the longer types, with a detachable bayonet.

    7.62x54R is (or used to be, two or three years ago when I owned mine) pretty damn cheap if you're buying military surplus, which you should. Comes in little paper, hand-tied pouches and everything, so it adds to the "antique" feel. I think it cost about $4 per 10-pack (maybe 20-pack, I can't recall) when I was shooting it, though that was before the "gas crunch," and all the economy bullshit, plus ammo's just gone up in general, so... who knows? Probably still pretty cheap, though.

    However, one thing to keep in mind with that type of milsurp is that all the old ammo for those Nagants (or most of it, anyway) is corrosive. I should mention that you'll want to pay especially close attention to the inside of the barrel upon inspection at whatever store you're buying from, since it's pretty much guaranteed to be second-hand and you don't know how well the previous owner cleaned his guns.

    As for maintenance, well.... it's a Russian rifle. Treat it like shit all you want, it'll keep ticking. Just make sure to clean the barrel after every shooting, and don't wait all night to do so. You'll probably want to clean it not too terribly long after you get home from the range... hell, I've even heard of people cleaning it right after shooting, pretty much while they're still on the line. This is a bit excessive in my opinion, but still, don't wait forever. As for how to clean it, well, there are a few different methods.

    Personally, going somewhat along with my "treat it like shit" school of thought, I just used soap + water, and then the usual field-cleaning oils/solvents/etc that you'd used for any other rifle, after making sure the inside of the barrel was good and clean of all excess water. You're trying to prevent oxidation, after all. There are others who prefer a 50/50 ammonia/water mixture.

    That's a good site to check out if you're going with a Mosin Nagant.

    Other questions: Can mostly be answered by perusing the link. You'll probably have to just get a generic trigger/action lock if you're concerned about keeping it locked, and keep in mind that the units of measure on the little... whatever it's called (rear sight maybe? It's adjustable, whatever it is) might be Russian (Arshins, or whatever they're called), depending on how old or refitted the rifle is.

    The last question depends heavily on what you're looking for in a rifle. If you're looking for something that's fun to shoot, has that good-ol' infantry heft to it, and can be used to hunt or for self-defense (in a pinch), then you could do worse, given the price range. If this is your first gun ever, and you're trying to get a feel for the whole "shooting" thing and don't care so much about how well it kills stuff, I'd personally suggest a .22 rifle instead. You'll get sooooooooooo much more shooting done, and it's also a good rifle to teach kids with, since it has basically no recoil.

    Seeks on
  • SmokeStacksSmokeStacks The Myth, the Legend, the Bowman, the Dino FuckerRegistered User regular
    edited December 2009
    My previous shooting experience has been comprised entirely of Nerf guns and Super Soakers, but when I mentioned the Wikipedia Article and MGS3 I meant knowledge on the gun itself.

    I wouldn't want to mount a scope to look cool or anything, I'd just want to fuck up soda cans from farther away.

    Also, I figure even if it isn't the best starter rifle in general, it may be the best starter rifle for me in particular, since if I took it out for the day and decided that shooting wasn't a hobby I was interested in, I am only out $100 plus the cost of ammo.

    As for locking, I live alone so there aren't any children in the household or anything like that, but in the unlikely chance of theft it might be a good thing to have. For some reason I don't think many gangbangers would be interested in using Russian military surplus rifles on the street, but it never hurts to be cautious. That, and the possibility of an overly curious friend hurting themselves I guess.

    Thanks for the FAQ.

    SmokeStacks on
  • PracticalProblemSolverPracticalProblemSolver Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    It's a bad first rifle, even at $100, it's heavy, long and old(120 years!), the ammo is either shit or expensive. Manufacturer of the specific rifle is widely variable and it's doubtful you're going to figure out enough on forums to tell a good one from a bad one. The first time you shoot a 7.62 is going to be big surprise, it's not like on a video game that's for sure.

    Good starting rifle: .22 caliber, there are no exceptions to this rule. I like the CZ scout($300 new), but there's tons of other cheap ones, just head on down to the store and try them out. Buy used if you're concerned about losing money, the cheap 22s are always in demand so you can turn it around easily.

    PracticalProblemSolver on
  • SeeksSeeks Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Well, it's not that bad a starter rifle. And they're still plenty reliable, even for being 90 or so years old.

    But I'd also still agree about a .22, if you don't mind spending a bit more. If you do mind spending any more, well, you're only out about $100 I guess, and chances are it'll work just fine.

    Oh, and don't underestimate the importance of hearing protection. Not even just for your hearing's sake, either... the quieter it is, the less harsh the recoil seems. Almost like magic.

    Seeks on
  • SmokeStacksSmokeStacks The Myth, the Legend, the Bowman, the Dino FuckerRegistered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Well, let's be honest, when the dead walk the streets, that .22 isn't going to do shit.

    In all seriousness, I figure if I'm going to get a rifle, I'll get a rifle. Everything I've heard about .22 rifles leads me to believe that you won't really be using it for anything other than plinking cans from twenty feet away. I've seen a few videos of shots being taken from impressive distances using Nagants, and I understand that there is a significant skill level required to do something like that, but it seems like a goal that might be fun to try for. I have a friend or two who shoots as a hobby, so I wouldn't mind learning shooting technique using a .22, I just don't want to have to pay hundreds of dollars to do so when I could just borrow one of theirs.

    It's been a good first rifle for literally millions of soldiers over the past hundred years, I figure a guy like me can probably learn how to shoot it properly.

    Also, since they are sold through a store, they are covered under a one year warranty, so I am not too concerned with it failing on me. That was one of the questions I asked the guy I spoke with. I would take good care of it, and if it became unfirable after a year had gone by, I think I would have gotten $99 worth of enjoyment out of it by then.

    And if it did break, I could always
    mount it in my living room as part of a ridiculously elaborate security measure.

    SmokeStacks on
  • DaemonionDaemonion USARegistered User regular
    edited December 2009
    The Mosin-Nagant 91/30 is one of my favorite rifles of all time. You have excellent taste :^:

    A lot of people are into Mosin Nagants for collecting purposes, and rightfully so ...this firearm has dozens and dozens of variants and iterations, and a fascinating history, obviously with certain models being significantly more valuable and thus more expensive than others.
    Mainly, what kind of care and maintenance will this gun require?
    Don't spill any bore solvent on the wood, ever. The surplus ammo, while cheap, can be corrosive and will eat your gun if you don't clean after every outing. Sellers almost always clearly advertise ammo as corrosive or non-corrosive. Learn how to disassemble your weapon, and how to properly clean a rifle bore (note that, as the video mentions, you will need to get jags and brass/nylon brushes in the correct caliber to clean properly).
    How expensive is 7.62 x 54r ammunition?
    440 rounds of non-corrosive for $100. Great price.
    What are my options for locking this weapon?
    Keep your ammo separate from the gun, and remove the bolt to store somewhere else. Without a bolt, the weapon will be impossible to fire.
    Is there anything I should look for on the rifle itself if I decide to purchase one?

    A few things I look for with Mosin Nagants I want to shoot, not collect:

    -Serial numbers
    Collectors like mil-surps with matching serial numbers, and an all-matching gun is more expensive. If I am buying a non-arsenal refinished (explained below) Mosin Nagant, matching serial numbers on the bolt and receiver insure that the main components on the rifle have received the same amount of wear and tear because they have all been shot together the same amount of times.

    This is also related to the headspace in the chamber. A rifle with too much or too little headspace won't fire correctly or, worse, completely fail and possible hurt you. It is important to ask a seller about the headspace/the last time the rifle was shot, or to check the headspace yourself or have a gunsmith do it before taking it to the range.

    If an arsenal refinished Mosin Nagant has non-matching bolts and receivers, it was most likely because the original bolts had been worn down too much and there were headspace issues. A new bolt with a different serial number may have been put in to insure the weapon shoots safely.

    -Round receivers
    Mosin Nagants with a round receiver are more common and therefore less expensive than those with hex receivers. The guns, however, shoot the same.

    -No cracks in the stock
    Why buy a gun with a cracked stock? Shooting it will only make it worse over time. Dings and scratches don't matter.

    -Russian 91/30 variant
    This is the most prolific of all Mosin Nagant models, and therefor the least expensive. Another popular model is the M44. However, this variant was designed to be shot with the bayonet extended, which I find cumbersome. Shooting without the bayonet extended alters the barrel harmonics and thus alters the accuracy.

    Some 91/30s were captured by Germans or the Finnish and were refinished or counter-bored to shoot their ammo and are therefore more rare. While Finnish Mosin Nagants are considered the most accurate, for most shooters, a less expensive Russian 91/30 will more then suffice.

    -A good bore and counter-boring
    Counter-boring is a procedure where the barrel is re-drilled from the front of the gun towards the rear to give it the quality and accuracy of a brand-new barrel. Counter-boring is used when a barrel is either damaged or the rifling is too smooth (probably from firing in excess of 20,000 rounds) to shoot accurately.

    While this sounds good in theory, I avoid weapons that have been counter-bored which still shoot their native caliber (sometimes rifles are counter-bored in a new caliber) since they have most likely been through tens of thousands of rounds. When the guns are the same price, why not buy one that hasn't seen so much use? In practice, a counter-bored gun will be as accurate as a non-CB barrel in great condition, and more accurate than a non-CB in poor condition.

    A good bore needs to be inspected carefully - use a light source. Is the rifling strong (good), or smooth looking (bad)? Are there any deep scratches in the bore? Is the crown (the part of the barrel that the bullet touches last when leaving the weapon) free of of chips or dings? Is it mirror-shiny or dark?

    Note: Minor rust is not a problem, and darker bores are common with these rifles, but a brighter bore is preferred if available.

    Arsenal Refinished
    Arsenal refinished Mosin-Nagants are less desirable to collectors and are therefore less expensive. An arsenal refinish typically involves wood work, metal work, and new springs or components. Basically, they make the rifle more like-new.
    What sort of scope would fit this rifle, and where should I look to find one?
    The bolt on Mosin Nagants doesn't allow for a scope, really. If you find one where the bolt handle is bent, then a scope can be affixed. Sniper versions were made for the war, however, they run around $400.
    Is this a good starter firearm to use?
    In some ways yes, in some no. It will be very easy to mess up the wood on accident if you are not careful during cleaning, and you can run into potential issues ...but it is dirt cheap.

    There is also, as you have noticed, lot to dig through with this rifle, and a lot to learn about - it can be very intimidated and tedious. However, if you can successfully grasp the Mosin Nagant and its history, variations, how to shoot it and what ammo to use, you will be able to study up and make an informed decision any gun.

    Check out your local gunshows, local sporting stores, GunBroker, JG Sales, Classic Arms , AIM Surplus, and the forums at Good luck!

    Daemonion on
  • Peter PrinciplePeter Principle Registered User
    edited December 2009
    I have a friend or two who shoots as a hobby, so I wouldn't mind learning shooting technique using a .22, I just don't want to have to pay hundreds of dollars to do so when I could just borrow one of theirs.

    If you can borrow one of theirs, then that is probably what you should do. If trainers have their druthers, they start new shooters on .22 rifles. The .22 has little recoil and is much quieter, so you don't develop nasty flinch habits. A flinch makes you the worst shot in the world, and if you learn on a rifle that teaches you that you're going to then have to unteach yourself that. It's not a guarantee that you'll develop one, but shooting a 30 cal rifle vs a 22 rimfire makes that more likely. Also, ammo is much less expensive. Daemonion quoted you a price of $100 for 440 7.62x54R (an excellent price, btw). That same $100 will get you 2500 rounds of 22LR. Which is going to allow you to shoot more? You can buy a box of 50 for $2. You will be able to shoot a .22 more than a 7.62 Russki.
    It's been a good first rifle for literally millions of soldiers over the past hundred years, I figure a guy like me can probably learn how to shoot it properly.

    The Soviet military is not exactly the model that people look to when it comes to training & treating WWI & WWII era infantry soldiers properly. Yes, you can learn firearm fundamentals on a 91/30, but it's harder than on a .22. And a 22 is more fun. I would recommend your first purchase be a .22 as well.

    If you absolutely have to have a center fire rifle then go ahead and get the MN, but do yourself a favor and at the same time borrow your friend's .22 and then put at least 500 rounds through it before you ever fire your Russian rifle. You probably want to have your friend show your shooting basics first, as well.

    Peter Principle on
    "A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business." - Eric Hoffer, _The True Believer_
  • ddahcmaiddahcmai Registered User
    edited December 2009
    I know the $100 price factor for the rifle is important to you, but as the above poster just said, a good deal for 7.62 ammo is 440 rounds for $100. The price of ammo will easily and quickly outpace the price of the rifle if you go that route. .22's aren't recommended solely because they are "weak" rifles and you won't develop a flinch, they are near perfect for beginning shooters because you can purchase 550 rounds of ammo for $10. You will likely be shooting a lot as a beginner, and nothing is better to practice with than a .22 because you won't spend $200 on ammo for a full day at the range. A used Nagant which has likely been improperly cleaned and subject to corrosive primers may be nowhere near as accurate as a new .22, and while it would be fun to have one, being a better shot than your rifle is never a fun thing.

    I strongly recommend a .22, they are deadly accurate out to 50 yards, can easily be accurate to farther distances if you compensate for bullet drop by sighting in at a range, you will get a lot more shooting out of your money to decide if you like it or not, and if after 50 or even 5000 rounds you realize it really is for you, go and buy that Nagant and you will not regret it. I hate to tell you, but a firearm should be purchased for utility and practicality, and not because it looks cool.

    ddahcmai on
  • SmokeStacksSmokeStacks The Myth, the Legend, the Bowman, the Dino FuckerRegistered User regular
    edited December 2009
    You guys have been extremely helpful, thank you.

    I think I now have the information required to make an informed decision.

    SmokeStacks on
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