The Scoped Mosin-Nagant M91/30, Currently
ImportedBy Mitchell’s Mausers, Was One Of The
Most Successful Sniper Rifles Of All Time.
Soviet-era snipers currently imported by Mitchell’s Mausers are possibly the last original Mosin-Nagant M91/30 Sniper rifles we’ll see on the surplus market.
We’ve covered the many models of Mosin-Nagant rifles in these pages from its inception in 1891 through its many iterations culminating in Chinese-made versions made in the mid 1950s.
These particular WWII-era snipers have remained in Russian possession since they were made. As the Russian army modernized and upgraded their sniper rifles, the 91/30 mounted with the PU 3.5X scope were put through the armory, cleaned, rebuilt and warehoused around the country as war reserve and for use by Russian police departments.
Under pressure from the UN, Russia and other countries around the world have been destroying their surplus small arms rather than selling them on the world market. This is one of the reasons the stream of surplus arms has been drying up recently. It was lucky these turned up.
Found in the one forgotten warehouse of war reserve were a huge lot of 91/30 Snipers all ready for issue. Many of these rifles may have matching scope, mount and action with their original numbers, and a new number assigned during the rebuild. All have another new number put on by Mitchell’s and the Mitchell’s Mausers name and address added discreetly underneath the barrel to comply with US law. Most will have new numbers on the bolts, buttplates, triggerguards and the like with the old numbers struck out on some parts. The barrels of these snipers were all gauged and selected piece by piece by Mitchell’s representatives.
The one in this test was built at Izhevsk Arsenal in 1944. Although some of the original markings were removed, it has matching serial numbers on the barrel and scope, with the new number stamped on the barrel shank, bolt, and other parts. The scope mount has its original number and the new number electro-penciled on its side. The scope has the arsenal mark for refinished metal.
The bore of the 7.62x54mmR is pristine, measuring 0.313 inch (slugged at the muzzle, and a second slug pushed all the way through). The slug pushed all the way through the barrel went down with even pressure the whole way, leaving me to believe the barrel was carefully chosen when the gun was built, and cared for over the years. As a late war gun, it may not have seen much service. The barrel has been carefully crowned. The Hornady and Lyman loading manuals lists a groove diameter of 0.312 inch, so this one is right in the ballpark. Because the Mosin-Nagant was made for so long under many trying conditions, groove diameters can be all over the map.
Jeff shot the 91/30 from a rest at 100 yards for accuracy. The scope’s limited field of view makes you hold your head almost exactly in the same place for each shot. This aids in accuracy, oddly enough, since the low comb makes a good cheekweld impossible.
Mitchell’s Mausers Mosin-Nagant 91/30 rifles have been in Russian hands since they left the factory. After becoming obsolete in service with the Russian Army, they were rebuilt and stored as “War Reserve.” The poster says: “Each Stroke Of The Hammer Is A Blow Against The Enemy” and is a reproduction purchased from allposters.com.
I acquired two loads from Graf & Sons for this test. The new Boxer-primed Prvi Partisan 7.62x54R 182-grain Match has a FMJ boattail bullet of 0.311 inch in diameter. The other 1970s-era Soviet 182-grain Match ammo with Berdan corrosive primers. Mitchell’s Mausers cautions against shooting corrosively-primed ammo, but if you clean the gun right after shooting, you’ll never have any problems. I shot plenty of cheap surplus corrosively-primed ammo when I started shooting. I learned to always clean my guns at the end of the day and have never had a problem. This time I cleaned with Birchwood Casey No. 77 first to remove the corrosive priming residue.
Speaking of cleaning, you’ll need a 44-inch rod to clean the rifle from the breech because of the long barrel. Cleaning from the muzzle can cause damage to the crown and damage the rifling right where you can least afford it. This would be a good time to add such a rod to your cleaning equipment. Mine is 1-piece rod from Pro Shot.
The Soviet army issued these guns with a cleaning rod in the stock, a muzzle protector, T-handle for the rod and a jag for the patches, as well as a tool for adjusting and measuring firing pin protrusion. These are included by Mitchell’s Mausers along with a pair of cartridge boxes and an oil bottle. The canvas sling is included along with both leather “dog collars” for attachment to the stock. The leather was dry and stiff and I rubbed in a generous amount of Lexol Leather Conditioner.
A host of serial numbers is on these rifles (above). The original serial number, here filled with white paint, is on the barrel and scope. The receiver sports the new serial number Mitchell’s applies to comply with US law. The scope mount has the original serial number electro-penciled on it, likely during the rebuild, as well as the new number assigned the gun after rebuilding. Other extras included with the 91/30 are a pair of leather cartridge pouches (below), and the odd sling featuring “dog collar” leather attachments. Clips for the ammo are not included with the gun and Jeff’s were purchased at a local gunshow.
I hadn’t shot a Mosin-Nagant for a couple of decades, and I discovered the way to jam the gun severely through careless loading. At the shooting bench I reached around the scope to load the magazine, so my view of the magazine was blocked (the sniper must be loaded with loose ammo rather than chargers). If you place a round in the magazine and don’t push it all the way back and then down past the interrupter/ejector, the next round will cause the rim of the first round to jam between the interrupter/ejector and the side of the magazine box. It took several minutes to clear and I badly dented the jammed round getting it free. Upside: I had zeroed the scope, and then had to remove it to free the jam. The scope returned to its zero upon reinstallation.
The trigger on the Mosin-Nagant never won any awards or accolades, but is manageable if you concentrate. Compared to a Finnish-captured Russian Nagant in my collection (which I haven’t shot in 20 years), the trigger on the Mitchell’s import seems modestly tuned and lets off at 5-1/2 pounds compared to the Finnish rifle’s 8-1/2 pounds. The pull itself of a Nagant is long with an even, “springy” feel and then lets off in a surprise break. Once you get used to the pull, productive hits are possible.
The original scope is a WWII optic, and it is a bit like looking through a sand storm. When your head is in exactly the right position, the target becomes clear. The upside is you will have your head in exactly the right spot for each shot since the scope is high and there is not much of a cheekweld. The downside is it takes time to find the target. For shooting from a rest, it wasn’t a problem.
The rifle was capable of fine accuracy with both loads tried. The 7.62x54R is of moderate recoil and a real pleasure to shoot. The Privi Partisan delivered five shots in 2-1/2 inches and three of those into a 1-inch group at 100 yards. One shot pulled the group out. Although the group doesn’t look as good, the Soviet Match ammo was the accuracy winner placing five shots in 2-1/4 inches with three shots in 1-1/4 inch.
The year 2013 marks 68 years after the end of WWII. Most WWII collectible rifles are in private hands now and must be searched out at gunshows and on the Internet. Mitchell’s Mausers Mosin-Nagant 91/30 sniper rifles may be the end of the once seemingly endless stream of military surplus arms imported, and the way the poitical climate is, we may see no more (see Rights Watch this issue). I’ll keep this one.
On Both Sides In WWII
The Mosin-Nagant Sniper model was used by Vasily Zaytsev, one of the best Soviet snipers in WWII. It was estimated he shot more than 400 German and Axis soldiers with both models of scoped 91/30 rifles. Awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union for his actions, he is the sniper portrayed by Jude Law in the movie Enemy at the Gates. A DVD of the film is included with the Mitchell’s Mauser Mosin-Nagant.
Women played a big role in the defense of the Soviet Union in WWII. One of many, sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko had a total of 309 confirmed kills during World War II including 36 enemy snipers.
The Firefield PU 3.5X Scope
The Firefield PU 3.5X scope is a reproduction of the Soviet scope used on the Mosin-Nagant 91/30 rifles. It comes complete with base and detachable rings and is shown here fitted in the Russian base. The scope comes with leather scope covers.
An option if you plan on doing a lot of shooting, is to replace the Russian scope with the reproduction from Firefield. Made in China, it comes complete with base and scope in detachable rings. I was able to fit the scope in its detachable rings on the Russian base. With this style of mounting, coarse elevation and windage is controlled at the base, something doable at home, and a task made easier if you have a laser bore sighter. The elevation is adjusted by two opposing screws in the base, but windage is adjusted by shimming the base at the front or rear as necessary.
Since the reticle in the Firefield moves in the focal plane as does the original, it is best to level and adjust the scope in the base. The Russian-installed scope had been centered and zeroed at the arsenal. Installing the Firefield scope and rings to the Russian base was easy, but zeroing it and truing it was another matter. I used up all the scope’s turret adjustments just getting on the paper at 100 yards, which gave me a dilemma. Do I readjust the Russian base for the Chinese scope?
The Russian base’s two opposed elevation screws were staked in place when the gun was refinished at the arsenal. In the end, I went back to the Russian scope because it is numbered to the gun and was factory zeroed. Not to mention it would certainly devalue the Russian gun to refit with the Chinese scope. If the Russian scope wasn’t numbered to the gun, I wouldn’t feel so bad swapping it out.
The body of the Chinese scope is smaller by a few thousands of an inch than the Russian scope body, so installing it in the Russian rings would require shim stock and all that entails. The Firefield optics are much, much clearer than the original. Still, the technology is WWII in origin and labor intensive to fit. If you build a late-war Nagant sniper from scratch or need a scope for an existing sniper, the Firefield would be worth the effort.
Story And Photos By Jeff John
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