During WW2, Soviet sniper rifles were basically infantry 1891/30s (and occasionally SVT40 semiautos) hand-selected for accuracy. Other than the accident of manufacture and subsequent addition of an optical sight of 3.5 to 4 power, they were not very different from the run of the mill 3-line rifle. Equipped with the side-mounted scope, these rifles lacked the ability to use stripper clips. By contrast, the German approach had two tiers, the sniper rifle proper with a 4 power scope and a designated marksman weapon, usually fitted with a 1.5x ZF41 extended eye relief scope. Over 100,000 were produced by 1945. Although of limited optical quality, these sights improved hit probability over iron sights. A couple of decades later, Jeff Cooper would call those “scout” rifles.
Brass Stacker “Mosin Scout” is a look into the alternate reality in which the USSR fielded a designated marksman using a forward-mounted scope. As was typical for the Soviet mounts, this one is a see-through, retaining the use of the rear leaf sight at 100 meter setting. The collectors would be happy to know that the mount installs without alterations of any kind to the original rifle, and it can be reverted to stock condition quickly.
The use of stripper clips is retained. The Soviet doctrine had not emphasized sling use for accuracy, but our alternate history warrior has a Ching Sling and knows how to use it. The rifle used was an 1891/30 in its younger days, but had the barrel cut down to 20 inches and its muzzle re-crowned.
My friends and I took it to the range along with a variety of ammunition. The Brass Stacker gunsmiths told us to expect the same accuracy and functionality as with any old 91/30. However, certain refinements stood out.
Schmidt-Rubin style ring safety is the most obvious upgrade. It works just as well as the Swiss original and actually requires less of a turn to lock the bolt on safe. Since the Mosin bolt travels back too far to retain a cheek weld between shots anyway, nothing was lost by this addition, why a great improvement in safety was realized.
A stock cuff holding a loaded stripper clip inside and five individual rounds outside also includes a raised cheek rest. Mosins can be safely single-fed with cartridges thrown directly into the chamber, so an emergency reload or a switch to a specialty round can be done from this ammunition reserve. The cheekpiece is a terrific and necessary addition to make the forward scope viable. Iron sights remain usable for short range self-defense, but a slight canting of the gun may be necessary.
The recoil pad (Hi-viz model SP-S “Small”) makes firing this rifle tremendously more comfortable without the discomfort added by concussive muzzle brakes. It also extends the stock just enough to make it fit most tall American shooters. Felt recoil was quite mild, making the range time a lot more fun than it would have been with a cold, hard, steel buttplate.
Mosin stripper clips aren’t the most user friendly feeding devices. The trick is to use the top round as a ram for the other four. It’s definitely simpler to carry the ammunition in clips than singly. The stock is relieved for the turned down bolt handle.
The 2.5x scope by NcStar is has a non-illuminated duplex reticle. Although pedestrian by the current standards, it’s much better than the WW2 optics were. Contrary to my childhood impressions formed by watching Russian war films, scoping a rifle doesn’t make it any more accurate. It does make target identification easier and aiming much faster than with iron sights. We fired an M39 Finnish Mosin side-by-side with the “scout”. The Finnish rifle is probably more accurate and has a smoother trigger, but I had to aim at large high-contrast targets in order to even get a sight picture. A figure in camouflage at a hundred paces would have been invisible to me once the eyes gained front sight focus.
Iron sights have their place, mainly for snap shooting at close range in good light. For everything else, the scope was very clearly superior. We shot several loads for comparison, but I cite the groups only for comparison between them and not as evidence that the rifle can do no better that this in more competent hands.
- Hornady 150gr match 3.3MOA
- PPU 182gr Match 3.9MOA
- PPU 150gr PSP 3.4MOA
- Barnaul 203gr SP about 6MOA
Your personal rifle may shoot better than that. Brass Stacker staff tell me that they get about 3MOA with good quality surplus ammunition. I wouldn’t be surprised, as my groups were shot during an “off” day for me (I got proportionally poor results with three AR15s, one of which was known to be a 0.5MOA performer). The useful part of that data is that match and some hunting loads shoot almost equally well. The 203gr Barnaul soft point is not all that accurate in this rifle, but its terminal effect is most considerable. We also learned that each of the four loads had a substantially different point of impact, even at 100 yards. It’s best to pick one load and stay with it, which brings us to the reason why this rifle is fairly popular: the availability of inexpensive and relatively high quality surplus ammunition. Surplus ball is available all over the place from 20 cents a round, while 8mm Mauser and .303 British have long since dried up, and 30-06 situation isn’t much better at twice the price.
The Mosin “scout” rifles are occasionally available from Brass Stacker, but they do more business in parts that you can use to upgrade your own rifle. Mix and match whatever components appear useful to you and end up with a historic action full of charisma mixed with safety and sighting enhancements to make it more useful on the trail. While the original sights were mainly good for man-sized targets, the addition of optics makes it a viable game rifle as well.