Friday 2 May 2008
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.