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Shooting a Mosin Nagant Sniper Rifle – A Piece of Armament History

March 15, 2015
Bill Waugaman , Ohio Valley Outdoors

Every summer, shooters from all over the tri-state area travel to Hidden Valley Sportsmen's Club in West Middlesex (PA) to compete in an event limited to military issued rifles. As the shooters walk around and chat, the gun racks are a common gathering point as they admire the variety of rifles.

However, none of the rifles are ARs, AKs, IWIs, M1s, FALs or HK416s. What you see are historic military rifles such as Springfields, Mausers, Enfields, Arisakas and Mosin Nagants, all of which are as-issued bolt action, open sight pre-1950 vintage.

If you didn't have one of these rifles and wanted to participate, you would need to purchase a bolt action military rifle that is over 60 years old. This is not like buying a used modern bolt action hunting rifle. With old military rifles, you really need to know what to inspect and they're almost always sold 'as-is, where-is and with all faults'; in other words, buyer beware.

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I contacted a trusted acquaintance with extensive knowledge and expertise in old military rifles at Mitchell's Mausers. Within a week, I was holding an actual 1944 Mosin Nagant PU 7.62x54R Soviet Sniper rifle. The scope is a relic with its huge crosshairs, fixed magnification and leather lens covers. The wooden stock and forearm are nicked and scratched; the bluing is far from ideal; the bolt, receiver and scope mount have grinding and machining marks. It's beautiful.

This particular rifle was in a batch of rifles purchase July 2012 from a Russian police warehouse. The rifle came into the U.S. through proper channels and was taken to the Mitchell facility in California where it was inspected as part of their quality control procedure. Since many Russian Mosin rifles are still kept in 'battle ready' condition, most of these rifles only need to be checked for functionality and safety. If there are any problems, the rifle is disassembled for any needed maintenance or repaired. Following BATFE guidelines, the rifles are stamped with a Mitchell serial number on the receiver within 15 day of clearing customs.

In my research about Mosin sniper rifles, I found an excellent article by Denis Prisbrey that appeared online and in the Military Surplus Collectors Guide 2014. After reading Prisbrey's article and examining the rifle, I am confident the rifle received from Mitchell's is the real-deal, not one pieced together from parts and sold under the guise of being a sniper rifle. Yes, there are individuals that will do this to an unsuspecting buyer.

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Mosin Nagant Sniper Package

Using Prisbrey's article for reference, I was able to match the scope serial number to the same serial number stamped on the barrel of the rifle. The scope is a genuine PU scope with the stamping of an 'X' in a box and the scope mount Cyrillic serial number matching the Cyrillic serial number stamped on the rifle. The scope mount and base have the rough grinding marks consistent with the article's references.

*** About the Rifle

This rifle is hefty weighing in at 9.3 lbs. with the scope base and 10.5 lbs. with scope/mount/lens covers. While standard issue Mosin 91/30 rifles have a straight bolt handle, sniper rifles have a bolt handle that is bent downward to allow for cycling of the bolt when the scope is attached. The barrel is approximately 28 1/2" and the overall length just under 49". The wood fore end covers all but last 4 1/2" of the barrel.

The trigger just dangles inside the trigger guard. There is about 1/3" of travel from the time the trigger mechanism is engaged until the sear releases, and it's far from smooth. The sear breaks right at 6 lbs. which is an improvement done by the Russian armorers for the sniper rifles.

The front sight is a hooded front post with alignment hash marks on the base and the hood/post. Windage is adjusted by moving the front post/hood left or right. The notched rear sight is adjustable for elevation with hash marks from 1 to 20. Even with the scope mounted, the open sights can still be used.

The scope base is attached to the left side of the receiver and required the wood stock to be notched out for clearance. When the scope mount was attached, the Russian armorers made coarse windage adjustments by filing the scope mount and coarse elevation adjustments by turning two adjustment screws on the base to raise or lower the rear of the mount. After these rough adjustments were made, the scope turrets were used to fine tune the point of impact. This set up was designed so the scope could be removed and put back on with very little, if any, change to the point of impact.

The scope that came with this sniper rifle was manufactured in 1942. It is 3.5x and does not have a focal ring. The reticle crosshairs are thick. The horizontal crosshair come off the sides and leave the center open. A vertical crosshair comes up from the bottom with a triangular point at the top. While they may look archaic, the crosshairs were designed to allow a sniper to use them for estimating distances. The elevation dial is adjustable for distances from 0 to 1300 meters and the windage dial adjustable from +10 to -10. When the turret dials are turned, the crosshairs actually move. Believe it or not, this made my preliminary zeroing super easy (I shot a grouping, kept the point of aim; moved the crosshairs to the point of impact; done).

*** At the Range

Mosin 91/30 rifles were mostly produced at the Tula or Izhevsk arsenals. Only the best ones were converted to sniper rifles. These rifles had to be capable of shooting a 10-shot group of no more than 3.5 cm (1.38") at 100 meters (109 yards) with service ammunition. For this review, non-corrosive ammunition was used as recommended by my contact at Mitchell's Mausers Hornady Vintage Match (174 gr. BTHP), Winchester Target (180 gr. FMJ) and Wolf Polyformance (174 gr. FMJ). Due to weather conditions (dark, overcast, windy, cold, snowing) and other factors, range testing was limited to 50 yards in order to have a reasonably good sight picture.

When I left the range that morning, I was absolutely impressed with both the rifle and the ammunition.

All three cartridges shot surprisingly consistent with comparable muzzle velocities. I will attribute this to ammunition being made to very specific tolerances by these manufacturers and the long barrel of the sniper rifle. The slightly heavier bullet in the Winchester ammunition would account for the slightly slower muzzle velocities.

MV Average267026092661
MV Spread595562
3-Shot Groups*

* Five 3-shot groups (15 consecutive shots). Wolf - the thumb screw on the scope mount worked loose during this string of shots causing the .7" group. After tightening the thumb screw, the last group shrank to .5". Winchester - the most consistent 3-shot group measurements of the three. Hornady - the most accurate of the three (the .1" group was one ragged hole .4" in diameter). Extrapolating out to 100 meters, this rifle in the right hands is capable of what the Russian armorers intended.

Mitchell's Mausers put together a nice package with the Mosin 91/30 PU Sniper rifle that includes: a DVD movie (Enemy at the Gates), a book (Notes of a Sniper by Vassili Zaitsev), a display stand, accessories (2 ammo pouches, sling, tools, oil can), an Owner's Manual and a Letter of Provenance. This Mosin rifle also comes with Mitchell's Mausers Satisfaction Guarantee. For more information, availability and current pricing, check out their website at, or call 800-274-4124.

Footnote: Recent actions of Vladmir Putin have resulted in sanctions by the U.S. and many other countries against Russia, Russian businesses and key influential people in Russia. These sanctions have affected the importing of Russian firearms and ammunition which, in turn, drives supply down and prices up. Unless there is a dramatic change in the international relations with Russia, the collectability, value and price of any Mosin Nagant rifle will only go up. If you are a speculator, collector or just a person who likes to shoot, now may be the time to get one of these pieces of history.



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