By Paul Helinski
“This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine.” Do you remember that line from the movie Full Metal Jacket? The movie was lame but the point of that line should ring true for anyone who considers long term survival against all odds. Many gun writers have said this over the years, but something that many new shooters do not know is that there is no such thing as a powerful handgun. Even the whopping .44 Magnum pales in comparison to even a light rifle cartridge like the AK-47 round. In the game of survival, you have to at some point accept that fact that force will eventually meet force. You may be armed, but two weeks into any major disaster, everyone still standing will also be armed, and they won’t be that afraid of your .45ACP Taurus semi-auto pistols. Pop, pop, pop won’t be the sound that people fear. But a thundering BOOOM, coupled with their available cover being either seriously rocked or completely shot through, will put anyone and everyone on notice that the force they face is not worth facing, and it may be better to move on. A rifle is firepower like a handgun can never be, but the problem with rifles is that they are expensive to own and expensive to shoot. There is however one lowest common denominator with rifles, and for as little as $100, if all you own is a pistol, I strongly suggest that you go out and buy one of these powerhouse rifles today.
No, you can’t get an AR-15 for $100. In fact you can’t one for $500 that works reliably. Likewise the venerable AK-47, and even the lowly SKS, which fires the same cartridge as the AK-47. Even a grease-covered 10-shot SKS hovers in the $300 range these days. To old time gun nuts, these prices are absurd. ARs have always been higher priced, but before the Clinton semi-auto ban you could get a Chinese AK-47 out of the Shotgun News for $239. SKS’s were $99. If the gun banners have accomplished anything in the last 20 years, it has been to raise the price of owning all firearms, but especially guns that dramatically increase your personal firepower.
It won’t be any surprise to all of our certified gun nut readers that the gun I am suggesting is the Mosin-Nagant. It is a bolt action five-shot battle rifle that dates back to 1891 and that was used as a main infantry rifle by Russian and other Eastern bloc forces for both WWI and WWII. If you care about the history of the gun, check out the Wikipedia page. For our purposes, we are talking about affordable firepower, and believe it or not, these old warhorses are still extremely reliable and relevant to modern urban self-defense. You can pick up a Mosin for anywhere between $75 and $250, depending on condition and venue. Online, most Mosins you’ll find are in fairly new and unissued condition, and they run $175 and up. At that price, the gun is still more firepower than you will find anywhere else at that sum, but even that is too high a budget for a lot of people. GO TO THE GUN SHOWS! It is not uncommon to still find private sellers selling rough but working rifles in the $75-$100 range.
Why do an article on such a simple subject as the Mosin-Nagant in a prepper series? This after all GunsAmerica, and we are obviously a gun buying and selling website, in addition to this wonderful editorial. You’d think we are preaching to the choir here right? Not necessarily. Since 2008, a ton of new shooters have come into the gun world, and to some degree they have taken it over. That is why you won’t see a print magazine without a black gun on the cover, and why handguns have dominated the new products for many years now. I have had “the rifle conversation” with dozens over people over the years, and almost universally, there are two issues that people have with expanding their shooting horizons.
- Rifles are too expensive, and expensive to shoot. I agree, and this is why I opened the article with the issue of cost. Right now you may feel like ammo is still hard to get, but the Mosin-Nagant caliber, 7.62x54R, is plentiful and cheap. As you can see in the pictures, I used Silver Bear ammo, which is really just Russian military production boxed for the American commercial market. At about $10 a box, the Mosin-Nagant is not much more expensive to shoot than some pistol calibers. That isn’t to say that you need to shoot this rifle a lot to be able to count on it. I have never met a Mosin that didn’t work, and once you figure out where your rifle’s point of impact is at 50 or 100 yards, you never really have to shoot it again. It may be blasphemy to say this in most shooting circles, but I would venture to say that if you buy a Mosin from a trusted seller, either someone online with a lot of sales, or a friend, or a decent gunshop, YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO SHOOT THE RIFLE TO BE ABLE TO DEPEND ON IT. In my experience with dozens of Mosins, your point of impact will be about a foot high at 100 yards, and it will rarely be more than 6” left or right from center. This is a HUGE issue for many people who live in urban environments with only an indoor range to shoot at. My advice is JUST GO BUY A MOSIN and 200 rounds and don’t worry about shooting it for now if you don’t have a proper range.
- I don’t have a safe for it and my wife/husband doesn’t want it in the house unlocked.
The merits or faults of locking up all of your guns is beyond this discussion, but none of us want a gun that we own to be stolen and end up on the street. That is the beauty of bolt rifles. You can lock up the bolt with your handgun and if it is stolen, all they have is a very intricate club. Most Mosin bolts are hand fit to the action, individually, so even if a thief knew what they had and found a bolt online, it would still have to be fitted by a gunsmith, a task which is as expensive as the full cost of the gun.
Here is where I have to interject what I consider to be an important point, and that is the subject of “upgrading” the Mosin-Nagant. My opinion is don’t waste your money. A Savage Axis and Ruger American are going to be head and shoulders better rifles than any sporterized Mosin, for probably less money than you will spend on a replacement stock and trigger alone. Is a Mosin a great gun nerd project to see how cool you can make it? Yes, of course, but that is for fun, not for survival. The bottom line is, buy as much rifle as you can afford to own, including ammo. If your starter rifle is a Mosin, sell it to buy the next gun up. Don’t upgrade it. At its heart, a Mosin-Nagant is the most painfully simple infantry rifle you can buy, and for cheap. Even though there are Mosin sniper rifles (which we’ll be reviewing here soon), the gun was never really made for precision. This is a rifle that was created to be placed into the hands of conscripts with little or no training, and that is all it will ever be.
For our dedicated GUN NUT readers, this is also why I strongly advocate each of you buying a minimum of five Mosins for your gun safe, along with 1,000 rounds of ammo. “Come the day,” you may need to arm a team of friends to protect your neighborhood or a hideaway bugout location. If you can afford a rack of ARs or AKs, great. But at $1,000 each, it cuts into your gun budget quite a bit. Most of us go to gun shows a lot, and of course troll GunsAmerica daily, and $100 Mosins pop up all the time. Guns will always go up in value, so they are a sound investment, and there is nothing like being able to arm 5 to 20 of your neighbors with a gun that you can’t screw up, that has no safety to remember to flip off, and that goes boom every time no matter how ugly it may be.
Ballistically, a Mosin is roughly the same power as a 30-06. Standard military ball ammo will penetrate all soft body armor, and even at 200 yards will stop an automobile engine. A 7.62x54R has roughly twice the energy at 500 yards that a 44 Magnum has at the muzzle. This is a serious cartridge for serious self defense. Is a Mosin for fighting government storm troopers? No. Your rate of fire is very slow and against multiple targets with their own heavy firepower, you will have no chance against an organized attack. If you can afford a semi-auto battle rifle, even an SKS, don’t bother with a Mosin. But if all you have right now is a Kel-Tec pistol, or a Ruger LCP, Smith & Wesson Bodygaurd, Springfield XD-S, etc., great, at least you are armed with a reliable gun, but you really should invest in a Mosin and some ammo just in case your force should be met with force.
The performance of a Mosin-Nagant is nothing to write home about. I’ve seen people claim that they got sub-MOA with careful handloads and a replacement stock that free floats the barrel, but in general most Mosins are 3 MOA rifles. This means that, with careful, rested shooting, you will be able to keep most shots within a 3” circle at 100 yards using steel cased Russian ammo. Your biggest challenge will be with matching point of impact with point of aim. The front sight of a Mosin is in a dovetail, and has to be “drifted” to adjust point of impact. If you search Ebay for “Mosin front sight tool,” you will find that several people are selling variations of the same idea for $20-$25. If you are a gun nut buying an arsenal of Mosins, it is a good investment.
Reliability is something you can usually take for granted in a Mosin-Nagant. There a few caveats though. Make sure you buy the gun from either someone who has personally shot it or a reliable gunshop that has purchased the gun through normal distribution. Generally, if the serial number that is scratched into the bolt matches the receiver, that bolt has been tested to fire in the gun. If they don’t match, it still may be and probably is fine, but you should try to shoot the gun before you rely on it. Once you shoot the gun, clean it, because a lot of Mosin ammo has corrosive primers. Then Rem-Oil spray it, and she’s good to go, for the foreseeable future. I have never seen a Mosin break down once you know it runs.
If there is one consistent problem to be aware of that I have seen, it is with the M44 variation. This is the one you see here in the pictures that includes a folding bayonet. They are extremely handy and great-feeling guns, but the chambers are tight on many of them. The only time this matters in my experience is with hot machinegun ammo. I have some ammo from Romania with silver tips that always sticks in my M44, so badly that I have to use a mallet to open the action. This Silver Bear ammo works fine in them though.
Here in gun nut central, it may seem redundant to make sure that everyone is properly armed, should doomsday rear its ugly head. But here is South Florida, you would be amazed at how many young people I see at the indoor ranges who only own that one handgun. I’ve asked many of them if they also own a rifle, and overwhelmingly they have never considered it an option, because they don’t feel like they have a place to shoot, plus the cost and security concerns I explained above. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A POWERFUL HANDGUN. A 9mm, shot at a sharp angle to a sheetrock wall, will most often skitter down the wall rather than just shoot through it. A Mosin will shoot through two walls and keep going. Pop, pop, pop is great if you have nothing else and can afford nothing else, but as we get closer to the inevitable collapse of life as we know it, a little more firepower is a decision you should make today. Don’t wait for the next 2nd Amendment crisis, which is coming as sure as the sun rises in the morning. Nagants and the Russian ammo is really cheap right now. Arm yourself with a rifle.