Friday 2 May 2008

Mosin Nagant M44

Few rifle owners are not familiar with the venerable Mosin Nagant rifle or carbine. I will not write about the history of this wonderful firearm here. There is much more information than I can possible say on this subject on MosinNagant.net, Wikipedia and SurplusRifle. What I will tell you is my personal tale…

It all started about three years ago at an outdoor shooting range. One of my friends brought his uncle’s Polish M44 carbine to the Spring Valley shooting range on a fine summer day. I had never shot a bolt action firearm before, and the Mosin was a pleasant surprise. The rifle looked gorgeous: light blond stock, deeply blued barrel and action and minimal wear on the bolt. It even had a rubber recoil pad, which I appreciated very much after just a few shots.

Summer 2006 I purchased my own Russian M44 from Aim Surplus. Date of manufacture is 1948 and it is from Izhevsk, well after the Russian army stopped using Mosin’s as their main battle rifle. It has close to 90% blueing on all the metal parts, and no stock damage except for a few nicks and dents from handling and storage. Unlike some other rifles, this one was not covered in globs of Cosmoline. The carbine had to be completely disassembled and cleaned. All the metal parts I thoroughly cleaned with acetone and Hoppe’s bore cleaner. There was minimal wear on the bolt, and barrel had nice deep rifling. There is no pitting on the barrel, so I believe this gun was manufactured and put away into storage without ever being used for training or combat.

I stripped the stock using aerosol Oven cleaner. This takes patience and dedication.

First, I cleaned as much Cosmoline from the stock as possible using rags and acetone. I then laid the stock in a bathtub and sprayed all the surfaces with oven cleaner. This stuff foams and smells terrible, so turn on the exhaust vent or open a window. Let the cleaner do it’s work for about 10-15 minutes, and rinse off. Repeat if necessary. Wood will swell from oven cleaner and water, so the stock has to be dried for a few days. Let it sit in your house, out of direct sunlight for a few days. When the wood is completely dry, it can be re-finished. For this project I chose Minwax oil-based stain. There are several types of Minwax finishes, and I used plain stain without varnish. After the first coat, I let the stock dry for 24 hours, and put on a second coat. Waited 24 more hours, and put on a third coat. After the last coat was dry, I put on clear varnish. To make it extra durable, I used four coats of clear varnish. End result is beautiful. I was afraid that heat from the barrel may start melting the varnish, but that has not happened.

By nature, Mosin rifles and carbines are very accurate. In fact special accurized versions of the Mosin Nagant rifle were used by Russian snipers in WW-2, before the SVD rifle was invented. In order to achieve good accuracy, the rifle has to be bedded properly, have good ergonomics and a good trigger. Bedding on my gun is fine, the barrel does not touch the stock anywhere but the action. One of the things I improved was the trigger. Original Mosin trigger is very “scratchy” and inconsistent. Huber Concepts makes excellent replacement triggers for many surplus rifles. They sent me a die cast adjustable ball trigger. A free-floating ball engages the sear, and can be adjusted to let off at various trigger draw weights. This improved accuracy tremendously. I am shooting much tighter groups than ever before.

Another improvement I made was a bent bolt handle. Michael Battersby of MosinParts, LLC will extend and bent your bolt handle to look like the Mosin Nagant sniper variant. If you plant to install a drill-and-tap scope mount, this mod is essential. Even if you do not plant to use a scope, the extra length and position of the new bolt handle makes it much easier and smoother to operate. Extra leverage means I can open the bolt with one finger and minimal effort.

June 30th:  New pictures added.  Some were taken with a flash, and color corrected using Adobe Lightroom.  Some are without flash, and look darker.  True color is close in all the pictures with a flash, especially in sunlight.


17 Responses to “Mosin Nagant M44”

  1. Konstantin Says:

    Those rifles are awesome. I like what you did with the wood.

  2. Jonathan L. Says:

    I am actually in the process of refinishing an M44 myself, just “started” today. Stripped the stock and used mineral spirits to remove the rest of the stripper, and buffed it down with 0000 steel wool to smoothen it out some. Tomorrow the mild sanding begins with 220 grit and up. My question is this: did you have any problems with the minwax being blotchy on the stock? I’ve heard from one of my woodworking buddies that it will be as my rifle (a 1944 M44) has oil in the wood and that will make it stain unevenly; or some BS like that. I’m gonna try it anyways though, if it isn’t up to snuff I’ll bleach it out and start over.

    Oh well, just wanted to say that you’ve got a great looking rifle and I like the stock.

  3. dmitry Says:

    My stock did not have any oil in the wood. I did have this problem with another stock, there was about a 3×3″ spot of cosmoline saturating the wood near the end, by the cheek. There was nothing I could do about it, so I just rubbed several coats of Tung Oil on, and finished off with Minwax finishing wax. The spot is visibly darker then the rest of the stock, but it is what it is.
    Woodgrain is “uneven” in nature, so unless you have an obvious dark spot from over saturated cosmoline, it should be fine. Good luck.

  4. Stewart Says:

    What color of stain did you use?

  5. dmitry Says:

    I used Minwax Sedona Red 222, with matte poly on top. I would really recommend stain of your choice, followed by Tung or Linseed oil on top to seal the wood. Dilute the tung oil 50/50 with mineral spirits for the first two applications. This will allow it to penetrate into the stock better, and easier. Then do one or two more pure Tung oil applications. If you really want to make the stock waterproof, get finishing wax, and hand-rub it on. After it’s set, use an old shirt to shine the finish.
    I did this on another gunstock, and this finish is better then stain+polyurethane. In the future, this is what I will use again.

  6. dmitry Says:

    I will try to post more pictures of both gunstocks next week; check back then if you are interested, and compare the results.

  7. Ken Says:

    with regard to cosmo on the stock, I have heard that it can be removed fairly effectively by placing a wet, thick towel (scrap) on the stock over the offending portion. Place a clothes iron on top of the wet towell and steam it. The steam “rehydrates” and softens the cosmo, and it soaks into the towell to a certain extent. It will raise the wood grain so you will have light sanding to do.

    I have also personal experience with excessively oily stocks placed them in a smaller box and filled it with claysorb. This is a kittly litter type of product designed to throw down on the floor for gasoline/oil spils and the stuff really sucks it up. Try packing claysorb around the stock for several days.

  8. jacksdad Says:

    Old thread but I thought I’d chip in anyway. My M44 wouldn’t take Minwax (Sedona red) evenly. I would load up the stock over and over again, let it sit, then wipe off the excess only to find the same places as white as before. It was frustrating because the rest of the stock was taking on the beautiful red color I was looking for. I called a local woodwork supply store and found out that it was because they used birch back then, and it’s notorious for being “patchy”. The solution was to strip the oil based stain, lightly sand it again, and use a water based dye made by Transfast (I believe it was antique cherry). It worked like a charm first time – the color was even, and I finished it by wiping on several coats of Formby’s Tung Oil Finish, which is so easy to apply. I had to replace the missing rear escutcheons – probably lost about the time it was rearsenaled and slathered in shellac – but a dealer in Arizona provided some that I straightened and reblued. The rifle looks beautiful now, and never fails to draw compliments at the range.

  9. dmitry Says:

    That’s awesome! I have put several coats of clear polyurethane on top of the stain, and I wish I had used Tung Oil instead. The poly ‘dents’ when it hits anything hard, and does not look as nice over time. Once the time comes, I will strip the polyurethane coating and redo it with Tung Oil and beeswax sealant.

  10. david Bibby Says:

    Nicely done! I have an M44 that I am building for a deer rifle. I have done some work to smoothe the trigger and fashioned a makeshift trigger block safety.

    Love the fireball!

    Semper Fi

  11. Nomad Says:

    Real quick shellac removal. Accidentally over sprayed brake cleaner from walmart on it while trying to clean bore. Instantly gone so I grabbed some paper towel and sprayed the rest of the wood wiped it down with mineral spirits to get the last thin spots. Then I started working on floating the barrel as the wood was extremely rough couldn’t do the dollar bill slide at all. Now i’m reading up on which finish to replace a reddish shellac.

  12. Jeff S Says:

    If you want a truly authentic finish, use Red Garnet shellac flakes. This product is generally not available in stores, but you can get it shipped directly to you from Rockler Enerprises. They make a nice kit with a mixing vial that sells for under $20. Shellac may seem archaic, but it is actually a very durable and oil-proof finish. And-did I already mention this?-it’s AUTHENTIC.

    Having just finished refinishing one M44 and starting another, here is my method:
    1. Strip the stock by rubbing _gently_ with a 0000 steel wool pad soaked in a 50/50 mixture of denatured alcohol and mineral spirits. Rinse and resoak the pad often. This treatment will dissolve both cosmoline and old shellac. You should use only enough rubbing pressure to slowly loosen encrusted grime-you do not want to remove any wood if you can help it. Take your time and be careful in the thin areas around the reciever. Don’t neglect the handguard, either.
    2. Allow the cleaned stock to dry out for 48 hours. This gives you time to dissolve the shellac flakes in denatured alcohol. You want to use a 1-pound cut (i.e. the thickest shellac you can make; see the Rockler site for more info)
    3. Apply the shellac in 1-3 thin coats. 1 coat will approximate the “light” finish applied by the Russians after WW2, while 3 coats will give you the dark finish common on wartime guns. Shellac dries quickly, so you can recoat within 15 minurtes. Thin coats prevent runs and sags (although many M44s have unsightly runs and sags in thier original finish-Ivan could be quite a sloppy woodworker, but that is what having a Nazi army knocking at the front door will do for you). Feel free to apply shellac over the end caps on the handguard and the crossbolts through the stock-the Russians coated them, too.
    4. If you want to give your gun some “extra” protection, follow up the Red Garnet shellac with a coat of clear Zinsser spray shellac. It will not change the appearance of the stock but will give it an extra layer of protection. Because it is a spray, it will also level nicely and conceal brush strokes and minor dings. You can spray it on as soon as the Red Garnet shellac is dry to the touch (about 15 minutes).
    5. Let the stock dry for at least 24 hours before reassembling the gun. You’re done!

  13. Karl Says:

    I have refinished numerous surplus rifles and found that across the board the following steps can result in a well finished, very functional rifle at little or no cost to the owner.

    Disassemble the entire rifle.

    To strip that unsightly Varnish the Russians use on these rifles,use 100 grit sand paper and goto work, the stuff literally flakes right off, or use the oven cleaner as mentioned above, both work very well. Stripping the varnish prior to removing allows the wood to purge the deeply soaked in cosmo and oils.

    Place all wood parts in direct sunlight for 30 min intervals and wipe with a clean cotton cloth, repeat until little or no cosmolene seeps from the wood. This process can take awhile, up to a day, but costs nothing, an alternate to this is to place parts in the oven when set at the lowest temp.

    Heavy Cosmo on the metal parts can be removed in this way also, simply wipe down after prolonged exposure in the sun, clean as normal with Hoppes or other gun solvent.

    Next stain the stock as desired, I use minwax and seal either with a 50%-%50 mix of boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits, or with a 50%-%50 mix of Minwax SPAR Urathane, and Mineral Spirits.

    Bedding on a Nagant is very easy and numerous web sites on the web covers this, I have seen Hubert Concepts triggers, but can not justify spending $70 on a trigger for a rifle that costs $75, These rifles are what they are and are capable of MOA, but normal is 2″-4″ at 100M. The bent bolts are nice,but again cost almost more than what one pays for the rifle.

    Surplus ammo for these rifles is cheap and runs deep here in the US, but better accuracy can be obtained with Winchester White box, or simply reloading surplus brass with modern bullets and powder if one reloads.

    Just my 2 cents.

  14. Fluffylumps Says:

    I’ve found out that if you want to re finish the rifle all you need is a can of brake cleaner and some paper towels, takes about 30 min to an hour if you want to make it immaculate.

  15. dmitry Says:

    Funny that you say that… I re-finished the Swiss K-31 stock recently, and brake cleaning fluid did not take off my original stain+tung oil finish. Some of the finish faded away, but I had to apply Oven Cleaner three times, over a period of several days before ‘most’ of the stain and finish came off.
    I keep reading great things about shellac finish and will have to try that on another gun stock refinishing project. There are several laminated stocks I would like to see on a rifle.

  16. Bruce A. Forster Says:

    I don’t know the dates of these comments, but they are very interesting, nontheless. I’m considering buying an M44 at a local gun shop for $125.00.
    Can anyone tell me if there is an after-market Plastic stock available for this weapon?

  17. dmitry Says:

    Yes, I think ATI makes one. Check out http://www.surplusrifle.com, they have a bunch of write-ups for Mosin and other rifles.

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