Boyds Gunstocks Mosin-Nagant Classic (with Timney cutout)
Timney Mosin-Nagant Trigger $108
Mosin-Nagant Sight Adjustment Tool
Most of us think of the Mosin-Nagant as a cheap gun. The rifles are still relatively cheap. The ammo is, again, “cheap” relative to other calibers. And it is a rare day that you go to the range and someone is not there shooting a Mosin just for fun. What many people never realize is that in the world of firearms, it is rare that a gun both **never breaks** and is cheap. But when it comes to using the Mosin outside of the range, for real world applications, there are four problems with the Mosin.
- There is no manual safety.
- The trigger sucks.
- The accuracy is battle quality and acceptable for hunting, but not great.
- The gun is just plain fugly.
So assuming we can cure those three things, which as you’ll see we can very easily, and roughly at the same price of the gun, why would we want to upgrade a cheap rifle? Two words. Express Rifle!
The term Express Rifle was first used by fine gun maker James Purdy in 1856. It was originally meant to delineate a new class of rifled musket that shot a high velocity heavy bullet for dangerous game hunting in Africa. The Wikipedia page has more if you care to read it, but these days the term Express Rifle generally applies to a heavy caliber weapon with iron sights.
IRON SIGHTS! Blasphemy you say? Well let me share something with you. I love high quality optics as much as the next guy, but they are nearly always the source of failure on failed expensive hunting trips. Any African guide worth his salt will always have at least one backup rifle with iron sights for when the the scope all of a sudden won’t zero, or gets completely smashed.
These days, “value” is measured in time as much as dollars for most us. We are all working way too hard to make it in life, and being able to sneak away for a weekend to hunt pigs is just as valuable to us tax slaves as a $200,000 African safari is to the CEOs and bankers, perhaps more valuable. So while I think it is great to save up for a high quality scope for your armchair commando sniper rifle, when you manage to break off time to go plain old deer or pig hunting in terrain that rarely offers a shot over 150 yards, I strongly suggest that you consider an Express Rifle.
Savage and Ruger both make great inexpensive rifles with open sights on them. But if you want something that is bulletproof rugged, and that you already most likely own, it is pretty easy to put a new stock and trigger on a Mosin-Nagant. The result, as you can see, is a gorgeous and elegant rifle that is both bulletproof reliable and reasonably accurate at normal hunting distances.
I chose a walnut stock from Boyds Gunstocks because of an old picture of Ernest Hemingway that graces the cover of the book “Hemingway’s Guns.” I have included it here and as you can see, Hemingway is shooting his famed 1903 Springfield that was sporterized by Griffin & Howe. You can see that on the left of that receiver, there is a standard Griffin & Howe detachable scope mount, similar to the one that was commissioned for the M1C Sniper Garand. Hemingway never used the scope with that rifle, and he took most of his famous African game with that very rifle, in .30-06 caliber. These days I would never sporterize a 1903 due to the collector potential of the originals, but the Nagant 7.62x54R cartridge is very similar to the .30-06 ballistically, and those rifles are so bastardized already that they will never be worth more than utility value if they have import stamps on them.
The rifle you see here that I converted is a hexagonal receiver type that has Century Arms import marks on both the barrel and receiver. It is a nice historical gun, but the collectible value of the gun was sucked out long ago, and it is ripe for converting. Not that the changes I made are not reversible. On this particular gun I had to hammer off the barrel bands, but if I had used one of my guns that had the clip type barrel bands I would be able to return the rifle to standard configuration very easily.
My Boyds stock was $114, and I got it with the Timney Trigger cutout. We first took a look at this $108 trigger when I added it to a Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle, so take a look at that if you would like to see how easy they are to install. For that article I had to cut out the hole for the trigger block, but the Boyds stock comes with everything pre-cut. I didn’t have to inlet the Boyds stock at all. The action just dropped in, and my only difficulty was getting both action bolts in at the same time, because though they visually lined up with the holes in the stock, the actual position was probably a millimeter or two off so I had to jiggle and wiggle the action until I got both screws to grab.
The result is staggering. Not only is the rifle gorgeous now. I also have a crisp, light trigger, a manual safety lever that works, and after about 20 rounds of settling the rifle in, I am able to keep 5 rounds into about an inch circle at 50 yards with the stock military sights. For my old eyes that is about as good as I can shoot, which is why I didn’t even try accuracy tests at 100 yards.
I would also like to share with you one of my Mosin scores I found on Ebay some time ago. It is a sight adjustment tool. For under $20, this tool saves you a ton of knocking the sight back and forth with a rubber hammer. I walked the sight over as I settled the gun in to demonstrate how easy and effective this tool is. But beware that it only works with one type of Mosin sight, the one without ears or a hood.
Mosins 91/30 rifles go for $200-$350 these days, depending on demand and condition. Right now demand is pretty low for any guns, so grab one if you can, if you don’t already have one. For about $250 more you can outfit your rifle as a genuine Express Rifle, and we all know that the gun will never break down on you. You’ll have a rifle that you can shoot cheap, that people will ooh and aah over at the range, and that you’ll take home a lifetime of game with. I think building a Mosin-Nagant Express Rifle is a no-brainer.