The Ultimate Mosin Nagant: Transforming a Legend
Major Pandemic 02.05.14
Part of the attraction of the cold war Mosin Nagants is that they are excellent rifles for the typical $70-$100 street price, but the even bigger draw is that the ammo, which is comparable ballistically to the .308 or 30-06, can easily be had for a stunningly low $.25 a round. At this point in time there is no other large centerfire rifle that is this inexpensive to shoot.
When you first get your hands on a Mosin, you’re just thrilled that you’ve found a powerful centerfire rifle that only set you back around $100. Then you’ll dance until you got a leg cramp after buying an entire SPAM can of 400 rounds for only another $100. Honestly, in that initial ownership period, you really don’t care how it shoots, when it was made, or by which European factory. You’re just thrilled that it goes bang each time you pull the trigger.
Once you get over the initial fun factor, you’ll probably start looking at upgrades for the rifle. Upgrading a Mosin Nagant is an amazingly fun project that nets a gun that can hunt any North American large game easily out to 300 yards and beyond.
Before I get into the details of my upgrades, I’m sure you’re dying to know if any of what I did was worth it. So, what kind of accuracy did I achieve? My best was a 2.23” 5-shot group at 300 yards with Hornady’s 7.62x54R ammo, which is seriously impressive. Also note that I am still able to consistently manage 3”-4” groups with the surplus SPAM can ammo. Let me tell you, it’s something unlike anything you can imagine when you know that you’ve transformed a $100 rifle into a precision long-range tool that lets you vaporize clay pigeons at 300 yards.
The Major Pandemic Mosin Nagant Build
This build started when a friend presented me with a 1930s 91/30 Mosin Nagant just because he wanted to see what I could do with it. On the 100 yards range, the stock Mosin managed to keep all the bullets within the 10” pie plates used as targets.
After a little research, I learned that all the Mosin nerds seemed to have the highest regard for Rock Solid Industries, so I placed a call. What I received from the owner, Ken, was much more than “What’s your credit card number?” Ken downloaded about three years of Mosin R&D into my head in about ten minutes. In the end, I not only ordered the Rock Solid Mosin Scope mount, but also their bedding pillars, hex receiver bolts, and their bolt weld service, which transforms my bolt handle into a scope clearing bend. I sent in my bolt and about a week later, I received my old bolt back with the handle rewelded to a scope friendly position, along with the other Rock Solid Parts.
The Rock Solid mount requires drilling and tapping for installation, which was something personally I had not done before. This sounds rather intimidating, but it really involves no more than buying the appropriate $5 Irwin drill and tap combo from your local hardware store, aligning the mount on the receiver, and taking your time drilling and tapping each hole one at a time. Another option is Devcon 2-Ton Epoxy for those that fear the drill. At that point you have a Rock Solid scope mount.
You can reuse the old stock by just inletting a place for the improved bolt to drop into with a Dremel tool. My Mosin did not require any inletting for use with the Rock Solid scope mount, but some do require just a bit for clearance.
You could also go nuts and bed the barrel and drill the old stock for bedding pillars and/or an inlet for a Timney trigger. However, I decided that the more fun route was to look to a new company now serving Mosin owners with kick-ass, affordable stocks. Bluegrass Gunstock Company actually began by working with Rock Solid Industries on a target stock for Mosin Nagant rifles. The Bluegrass Tactical Gunstock is an outstanding deal for $118 ($170 with trigger inletting)
The Bluegrass Tactical Stock is a TRG sniper style stock made from solid hard rock maple. It features a deep palm swell with a comfortable grip material added on the grip and handguard. The stock also free-floats the barrel, which maximizes the accuracy of the Mosin Nagant. Currently the stock is available in black, OD green, a beautiful natural finish, and upgraded custom woods, as well.
Just by slipping on the stock with the Eotech, my groups shrank to the low end of the 4” range at 100 yards with surplus ammo. My rifle was transformed into a modern looking sniper rifle. A huge bonus of this stock is that the rifle stops kicking like a shoulder bruising mule and more like a soft shooting .223. Due to the recoil reducing palm swell design and cushy buttpad, you can pound through 100 rounds easily without feeling a thing. With this stock the rifle become a painless plinker.
Taming the Trigger
There are many things great about the Mosin Nagant, but the triggers sucks in a mighty way. There are tuning techniques out there to improve the feel, but after talking with more than a few very happy Timney triggered Mosin owners, I sprung for Timney’s Mosin Drop-In Match Trigger Group.
Like all Timney triggers, this Mosin version is spectacularly crisp and mounts as a drop in replacement for the stock trigger. This trigger group not only delivers a world class match grade trigger, but also adds a thumb safety. Yes, this means you do not need to use your Jeep with a winch just to pull back the ridiculous bolt safety on the Mosin; a simple and civilized thumb actuation will kick the rifle on and off safety.
If you are using the Rock Solid bedding pillars, then you will need to notch the aluminum pillars for clearance of the sear before they are bedded. Otherwise you will not get your trigger or action to seat without modifying the rear pillar first. This upgrade enabled my groups with the Eotech to drop under 3” at 100 yards with the same SPAM can surplus ammo I had been using.
With the Bushnell 5-15X LRS Tactical Elite 40mm Mil-Dot Scope bolted up to the Rock Solid mount, I was greeted by my familiar Mil-Dot reticle and super clear optics that allowed me to deliver consistent 1.25” 100-yard groups with surplus ammo and sub-1” groups with the Hornady 7.62x54R Custom Ammo.
Crown Me, Baby
More than a few folks have noted that old rifles should always be re-crowned, and I certainly saw that after recrowning an old 10/22 barrel, it delivered groups half the size it did originally.
I placed an order with Pacific Tool and Gauge for a 308 caliber 11 degree crown tool and a tube of their Snake Venom cutting oil. Typically, recrowning involves a $6,000 lathe and a fair amount of expertise on how to use it. The PTG crowning tool works with any larger 1/2” chucked hand drill. Place the drill in your vise with the bit pointing skyward, and lube the bit liberally. Lube up the barrel and slip it on the crowning tool. The tool and guide should fit snugly, but not tight in the barrel. Use slow drill speed to recut the crown. This entire process will probably take around five minutes. Just don’t rush. To finish the crown, use a large brass screw ($1 from hardware store) and spin it on the crown forward and reverse in an oscillating movement to remove any machining burrs on the rifling… done.
If you want a shorter barrel, just chop the barrel with a hacksaw and recrown the barrel. After the recrown, I saw a 30% improvement in accuracy, with a few .7” 100-yard groups with Hornady Custom 7.62x54R ammo and most surplus ammo grouping right in the 1” range at 100 yards. Yes, in fact your standard, off-the-rack Mosin is sub-1” capable, it just takes a little tuning.
The finish is a simple OD green Krylon finish that I applied after plugging the breech and barrel. After I allowed it to dry for 10 days (Krylon recommends 7 days for full hardening), I then coated everything with a spray lacquer.
Krylon by itself is not oil- or solvent-resistant and will pretty much come off as soon as solvent hits it, but lacquer is surprisingly tough stuff. With only a couple coats, it will make your Krylon finish more durable and highly solvent resistant. The lacquer finish is really aggressive going on, so make sure you do angel light coats with an hour drying time minimum, or you will buckle the entire Krylon finish. I did about four or five light coats. Recently, I was told that Dupli-Color high-heat enamel with ceramic spray paint (available from your local automotive store in a Cuming Deisel tan/beige) is solvent resistant, but colors are limited to glossy finishes.
The bolt was cleaned and steel wool polished, then hand rubbed about ten times with Perma Blue to produce the black pearl finish shown. The paint does not affect functioning, and I have had no problems with heat distortion.
So here we have a $1,000 Mosin Nagant that some would say I am nuts for building and putting this much money into. Still others would claim that I have perverted the purity of the historic Mosin, but I would say to those people that you’ve missed the point I am striving for. The question that I asked and answered is, how accurate can a Mosin really can be? A set of 3”-4” 300-yard groups would make me smile with my high-end 308, and doing it with circa 1950 surplus ammo that only costs $100 per 400 rounds is just amazing.
- Mosin Nagant 91/30: Free from a friend (regularly $70-$100)
- Bluegrass Gunstocks – Full Tactical Package Gun Stock: $167.99
- Rock Solid Industries – Round Receiver Scope Mount: $100
- Rock Solid Industries – Bolt Handle Welding Services: $50
- Rock Solid Industries – Bedding Pillars & Hex Action Screw: $20
- Timney Trigger – Mosan Nagant Match Trigger: $94.99
- Bushnell 5-15X LRS Tactical Elite 40mm Mil-Dot Scope: $449
- Pacific Tool & Gauge 308 11 degree crowning tool: $66
- Approximate Total: $1047.98
- Bluegrass Gunstocks
- Rock Solid Industries
- Pacific Tool & Gauge
- Timney Triggers
- Bushnell Optics