Timney Mosin-Nagant Trigger
One of the best war movies ever made was “Enemy at the Gates.” It is about the WWII Battle of Stalingrad, and a Soviet sniper named Vasily Zaytsev. In the movie Vasily becomes a national war celebrity, and is then pitted against a top German sniper. The victor will, seemingly, carry the hearts and minds of the soldiers in the field, thereby swinging the war in the favor of the victor. Yes there are some stupid relationship and love triangle moments, but the movie doesn’t stray too far from the brutality of a war that was literally about survival.
Jude Law, who plays Vasily, is not the biggest star in the movie however. He is far outclassed by his rifle, a Russian Mosin-Nagant Sniper model. Since the movie’s release, America has seen thousands of these really nifty rifles make it through importation into the hands of US shooters. They generally go for $600-$900 on GunsAmerica. Most supplies at the wholesale level have now dried up though, and the prices are surely to rise. We bought two of these rifles, and installed the Timney Mosin-Nagant trigger in one of them to shoot side by side with a stock gun.
First of all, don’t be fooled that there is any historical correlation to the way these rifles shoot in the movie. As you will see from our accuracy tests, they shoot well, but not all that much better than a standard 91-30 Mosin with iron sights. My guess is that these are not actual issued sniper rifles, but instead an entrepreneurial exercise by some smart Russian, or even smart Americans, who converted the rifles on our shores. The Russian PU scopes and mounts you see on the rifles here have been on the market for years in seemingly unlimited quantities.
Today you can buy them on GunsAmerica and Ebay for $150. Carve away a bit of the stock, tap two holes in your 91/30 receiver, bend the bolt and whalla! You now have a “genuine” Russian Mosin-Nagant sniper. A 91/30 is going for about $200-$250 these days, and the mount is $150. The scope itself has been pirated by China, so you have to make sure you are getting a real one. They go for about $300. A gunsmith will probably charge you $100 for the work, so you can’t easily make one for less money than you can buy one. If you make one you’ll have to completely sacrifice the illusion that a Russian sniper actually used the rifle, though. I prefer to live the lie and let someone else put the scope on.
That is why you shouldn’t even think twice about “defacing” your “original” stock by putting a Timney trigger in it. I strongly suggest having a gunsmith with a proper milling machine make the cutout for you. I tried to do it with a chisel and it was a mess, as you can see in the picture. I find that Dremel tools tend to walk on me, unless they are clamped down and the material is clamped down, but if you forgo the milling machine a Dremel would probably be a better option than the chisel. The chisel was brand new and sharp, but tended to bang pieces out of the bottom of the stock, which looks really bad.
Do you need a Timney trigger? That depends on what you want to do with the gun. I put the Timney in the gun with the black scope that you see here, and the green scoped gun I shot with the stock trigger. It seems to me that someone had cleaned its trigger up some, and it broke just under 5 lbs., similar to the Timney as it came from the box. This was 3 lbs. under some of my stock 91/30s that I measured at about 8 lbs. Nonetheless, the Timney was crisp and had no creep, while the stock Mosin trigger has about an inch of mild resistance before breaking in a slightly spongy fashion. The Timney can be adjusted down to 1.5 lbs. as well, so if you plan to shoot service rifle matches for old folks who need optics, it is a pretty good investment. The Timney also has a trigger block safety if you plan to use the gun to hunt. If there is a way to capture that Vasily moment for me, it is going to be hunting hogs or coyotes in the Florida back country. The Timney safety does have a click to it, but I was able to shave the wood down gradually so it is a little sticky, which allows me to ease the safety off with no sound.
The Russian PU scope is very different from commercial scopes we see here in the U.S. It is bright and clear, and at 3.5 power, the PU is perfect for most sniper work in urban and sub-urban environments, as well as most North American hunting. The reticle is a pointed post, and the point is very fine. This allows you to aim out to beyond 1000 yards with some precision, because there is nothing to blot out the target. Though one of our scopes was black and one green, through the lens they are indistinguishable. One thing you may or may not like about these scopes is that they have no clicks on the turrets. If you zero your scopes by viewing the target then counting off MOA clicks, these scopes will frustrate you.
There is an alternate method of zeroing a scope that usually only requires 2 or 3 shots and it is preferable for the PU. First you bore sight the rifle. On both of our test rifles, the open sights pointed almost perfectly 3 inches high at 100 yards as compared to zeroing the scope at 100 yards, so it was easy to get the first shot on paper. If your first shot is rested on a very solid rest, you rest the rifle in the same manner before the 2nd shot, and aim at your previous point of aim. Then, while holding the rifle steady, adjust the turrets to bring the point of the post to where the bullet struck on the target. Take the second shot, then fine tune a bit. By the 3rd shot you should be dead on. The PU click-less scope works great with this method, and unlike many commercial scopes, you can see the reticle moving to your exact turns. Once your rifle is zeroed, you can unscrew the cap and lock it to the 0 measurements for both windage and elevation. The rifle can then be dialed in for distances to 1000 yards, and to cross winds of up to 10mph. It is set to the ballistics of the standard military ball 7.62x54r cartridge. Like many things Russian, including the Mosin-Nagant itself, the PU seems very crude, but it is elegant in its sheer simplicity.
I am slightly embarrassed to say that I purchased some very expensive “7N1” sniper ammo for this article, at inflated prices. You can get it now on LuckyGunner.com at less than half what I paid, currently at $260 per 440 round spam can (it doesn’t come with an opener btw). They are the only ones I have seen with this ammo, and it really seems to be nothing special. Head to head in the same guns with standard Silver Bear ammo, the 7N1 performed only marginally better.
Marginal performance is what I would call the order of the day with these two rifles. The green scoped one was sold to me by a guy claiming that he had shot 1/2 MOA with it. I don’t know if it was an outright lie, or if the guy just hit a batch of ammo that the rifle really liked. I lean toward the former, but you never know. Personally 1/2 MOA is about the limit of my shooting ability using the Lead Sled you see here in the photos, and neither of these rifles were even close to that. One Minute of Angle is roughly an inch of dispersal at 100 yards. These rifles averaged about 1.5-2 MOA throughout the course of 200 rounds over both rifles. I did have many 5 shot groups that showed 3 or even 4 rounds in under 1 inch, so I would have to say that with finely tuned and tested handloads in brass cases, you could probably get the gun into a solid MOA, if you wanted to shoot service rifle competition.
The accuracy of the Mosin-Nagant is maligned by a lot of people, but it is mostly off base. Besides some obvious problem rifles, or rifles with completely shot out barrels, the Mosin is not a terrible rifle. If I had to lie down behind a dirt berm and pick off opposing soldiers at 300 yards, I would much rather have one of these Mosins than a fancy 13 lb. U.S. sniper rifle. This rifle has wooden handguards top and bottom for the entire length of the barrel, and it is light and fast. You would think that even 2 MOA would be impossible with full length handguards, especially when “real” sniper rifles are glass bedded or free floated, and their barrels don’t touch the stock. The Nagant sniper has barrel bands for heavens sake! The Nagant is a crude, simple weapon that just works, no matter what. That’s is what you want in a real battle, and these things will even take a bayonet. I’d take that over an M40 or M24 any day!
From a firepower standpoint, the 5 round magazine is one downfall of the Mosin. I personally don’t think an aftermarket stock and high capacity magazine are worth the effort though. It is essentially turning a Mosin into an American style rifle, and it just ads weight for no real reason. The Pro-Mag stock only comes with a 5 round magazine anyway. The ten rounders are extra. I would just go out and buy the Savage 110 variations that have detachable magazines. We have tested them and they are generally MOA guns out of the box. You can’t make a Mosin something it isn’t, but you can waste a lot of money trying.
How much of the Vasily Zeytsev story is true? If you read the Wikipedia we linked to you’ll find that very little of the movie was based on actual facts. He was a famous Russian sniper, and he did have over 400 confirmed kills, some past 1,000 yards. Once you see the movie, if you are a red blooded American gun nut, you’ll be trapped in the romance of the Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle forever. I even bought some burlap for this article then decided it was silly. My gunshop that took the gun in for me asked it they could buy it when I was done with it, and the answer was a firm NO WAY. You can’t escape the romance of the Russian Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle, and though these guns may not actually be the real McCoy, they sure look like they are, and that’s quite enough for me.