Weapon Trivia Wednesday: Harness your Inner Vasily Zaitsev with the Mosin-Nagant Sniper
If there is a surplus rifle that brings more divided opinions than any other, it would have to be one of the incarnations of the Mosin-Nagant.
Some people love them (because they’re cheap) and some people hate them (because they’re cheap). Love them or hate them, while they have not played a key role in small arms development they have sealed their place in military history and are still turning up on the remote steppes of Afghanistan in the hands of insurgents.
Our favorite variants would be the Finnish versions. They were made by men who knew how to build rifles, but the only one that we seem to hold onto is our sniper version: a Russian made M91/30.
There are four distinct variants of the Mosin Sniper, all chambered in 7.62 X 54R. This is a black powder-era round that still sees usage not only in the Mosin-Nagant but in heavy machine guns and the Dragunov Sniper Rifle. Comparable to the 30-06 Springfield in terms of ballistics, the round is capable of decent long range accuracy.
Definitely not a sub-MOA rifle, these are the variants most commonly encountered in the wild:
- True Snipers: These rifles left the factory as a long range rifle with turned down bolt handle and 4X PU scope, and remained that way for decades. They bring big bucks with proper documentation, but shooting them will decrease their value.
- Decommissioned Snipers: Most of the “Snipers” that left the arsenal were returned at the end of the war and had their bent bolt handles replaced and scopes removed, plus the cutout on the receiver and scope mounting knobs were filled in. They were made to look like a rack-grade Mosin and were intended for future service as a standard infantry rifle. They tend to shoot more accurate than most and are best left in this configuration.
- Imported Snipers: When some importers and distributors came across stockpiles of real PU scopes and mounts, they had “snipers” built from them. Most have had the bolt handles turned down professionally, either in their country of origin or stateside. These make decent shooters and may have seen action, just not by the likes of Vasily Zaitsev.
- Bubba’d Snipers: The rest are Bubba guns. Usually the original bolt handle has been cut and either re-welded or screwed on. Sometimes a “scout type” scope with long eye relief was mounted and the stock may be original or some aftermarket contraption. They might make for a cheap deer rifle or something you can bury in a PVC pipe to dig up in the end times, but usually these rifles have lost any value they may have had.
Ours is the third type, bought on a whim when they were still affordable ($300 compared to the $900 they seem to be getting these days). Our best group has probably been 2”to 3” at 200 yards, from a rest with no bipod and a poor cheek weld due to the height of the scope mount.
The trigger is nothing special, but if there is one characteristic we like about this rifle it was something we discovered accidentally. While shooting it for the first time we took our muffs off at one point and neglected to replace them. We fired three rounds before realizing our mistake and noticed something.
Our ears were not ringing.
Thinking of auditory exclusion, we squeezed off another round and again, no ringing in our ears. That is not to say that shooting the long-barreled Mosin is completely hearing safe; we surmised it was due to the long barrel perfectly containing all of the burning powder and minimizing the report of the rifle. If you ever have the misfortune to fire an M44 with a short barrel, you’ll wish you had muffs and plugs.
Modern rifleman may laugh at the limited accuracy and poor triggers of these rifles when compared to their modern day counterparts, but at the Battle of Stalingrad they turned the tide of the war on the Russian Front. The scopes, unfortunately, are a joke and your Mil-Dot master will have to remain in its case for this one.
Urban fighting is not conducive to 1000 yard shots, and while the “duel” between Zaitsev and Koning is more than likely Soviet propaganda, it cannot be denied that Stalingrad proved to be a heat sink for the Wehrmacht in terms of soldiers, supplies and revenue. Zaitsev personally sent over 100 Huns to their graves.
Mosins are definitely interesting rifles to shoot. If anything, they’ll make you marvel at the men and women who brought down the German war machine with awkward rifles sporting sub-par optics and a trigger like a kick start on a Harley. Their victory was as a testament to their resolve and willingness to fight.
The lesson we can take from this is how to prevail in spite of limitations on gear, training or ergonomics. Good gear matters, but so does having the resolve to win.
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About the Author: Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore is half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world (and the half that doesn’t prefer BBWs). He believes in American Exceptionalism, America, holding the door for any woman (lady or whore) and the idea that you should be held accountable for what comes out of your fucking mouth. Swingin’ Dick has been a warrior gyrovague for many years now and is, apparently, impossible to kill — he once had a complete body transplant after an IED hit the gun truck in which he was riding. True story, one of the Cav guys mailed his head and arm home. Swingin’ Dick comes from a long line of soldiers and LEOs (his Great Uncle commanded an Air Cav battalion in Vietnam and his many times removed great grandfather was one of the few original Burt Mossman era Arizona Rangers). Swingin’ Dick detests Joy Behar and Chris Matthews almost as much as he enjoys traveling the world to crush crime vice and evil. He believes the opportunity to lead eeeelight team of Breach Bang Clear minions is the most improbably awesome thing an action figure has ever done and he’s immensely proud of his perfect hair.
Loyalty and respect should start from the top down.