If you are looking for a “sniper” type rifle for use out to 500 yards or so, it may already be in your safe. This is a fun project that gets the gun out of the safe and onto the range.
The Mosin–Nagant bolt-action military rifle was developed by the Imperial Russian Army in 1891. It is one of the most common military bolt-action rifles in history, with over 37 million units produced. Odds are you have one, or know somebody who has one. Or, at the very least, you have seen them lined up on the rack at a gun shop.
This gun can become a viable long range rifle. No, it won’t run with a high end custom precision rifle but it can do a better job that you might think. With a little tweaking you should be able to do head shots at 500 yards and hit a man size target at 1,000. That’s not so bad considering the price.
I have built a couple of these rifles so far and have another one already in the works. It’s a fun and easy do it yourself project.
Any long range sniper rifle needs an optic, which creates some problems as this gun was not designed to use with a scope. Advanced Technology International (ATI) has a scope mount and bolt handle kit that is designed for the Mosin-Nagant. The straight bolt handle will not clear the scope, which is why a new bolt handle comes in the kit. This is perhaps the trickiest part of the project as it requires some light gunsmithing. The most difficult step is getting the scope mount located correctly before drilling holes in the receiver. If you are handy and willing to take your time and follow the directions, it’s a DIY project. If not, just have your local gunsmith install the mount and bolt handle.
Timney makes an excellent drop-in replacement trigger. It comes with a safety which is a knob on the side, much like a Remington 700. This is a vast improvement over the hard to use and perhaps dangerous MN safety where you must pull the bolt back and turn it to lock. Releasing that safety can be extremely noisy, which an issue is if you plan to hunt with this rifle or use it for defense. The Timney safety eliminates all those problems.
Installing the trigger is easy. Remove all the old trigger parts. Slide this new trigger into place and start the screw in front, leaving it loose. (Put a dab of Loctite on it first.) Then insert the retaining pin through the receiver and the trigger. Tighten the screw and check function. My new trigger is clean and crisp and breaks at just under 3-pounds on my Lyman digital scale.
A muzzle brake reduces recoil and just looks cool on any gun. Most brakes require threading the barrel, which is beyond the scope of most hobby guys, but Texas Precision Products makes a muzzle brake that fits over the barrel and indexes on the front sight lug. Then you tighten two set screws and it’s done.
Before I installed the brake I re-crowned the barrel. This is fast and easy to do with a brass 45-degree muzzle lap tool and some lapping compound, both available from Brownells. This step will almost always improve accuracy. This is also a good time to deep-clean the bore. These old guns often have an amazing amount of fouling built up. Clean with an aggressive copper removing solvent like Barnes CR-10 and work until white patches come out with no blue stains. This too will improve accuracy.
I used the Archangel tactical replacement stock. This converts the rifle to take removable magazines. The stock comes with a 5-round magazine and they offer optional 10-round magazines. This stock is a drop in fit and free-floats the barrel. It also has a barrel tension module that you can install so you can tune the rifle’s accuracy.
The stock has an adjustable cheek piece and butt pad. This lets you adjust length of pull to fit the shooter and insures a correct cheek weld with the optic and rings of your choice.
There are pockets in the stock for push button style sling swivels. I also added the included swivel stud so I could mount a bipod. This was as easy as drilling through the guide inside the stock and then screwing in the included swivel stud. You can get the stock in black, olive drab or desert tan.
For my rifle I installed a Weaver Kaspa 3-12X44 Tactical scope in Flat Dark Earth. This affordable tactical scope packs in a lot of features. It has dial up turrets as well as an illuminated Mil-Dot reticle. This model has a side focus parallax adjustment. I mounted it in 30mmWeaver Tactical 4-hole Picatinny rings. One note on that, I tried to use the 6-hole rings, but they were too wide to mount this scope on the short base and maintain the correct eye relief. So, if you order, get the slimmer 4-hole rings, which are more than rugged enough for the application. Or better yet, order Weaver windage adjustable rings. It’s likely that your scope mount will not be centered perfectly, so having a little adjustment for windage in the mount can help keep the scope aligned correctly.
I wanted a new paint job on my gun as well. The first step is to degrease the gun’s barrel and action. Just hang it outdoors and go to work with a brush and a couple of cans of Outers gun degreaser or CRC Brakleen. Once degreased, you can go really high tech and sandblast the metal, but why bother. It’s a lot of extra work and most folks don’t have a blasting cabinet big enough to handle the action and 29-inch barrel. Besides, the metal is rough enough from the Russian machining anyway. Brownells Aluma-Hyde is a good gun coating to use as it comes in a rattle can, air dries and you can get all the tacticool colors.
The gun is an eye catcher and gets a lot of attention at the range. Five shot groups run about 1.5 MOA with factory ammo. With handloads using Norma Brass and Hornady bullets it comes very close to MOA accuracy. I have no doubt that by experimenting with the barrel bedding tension I can improve that even further.
Even now, the rifle can easily keep all its shots on a ten inch plate out past 500 yards, which is not too bad considering this is a 124 year old design, Russian rifle. Mine was probably built during the WWII era to military specifications. Their accuracy standard according to The Soviet Mosin-Nagant Manual is a 4-shot group at 100 meters. Three of these must be in a 15 cm circle, which is 5.9 inches. Given that standard, I am pretty damn happy with the accuracy I am getting.