I recently reviewed the Russian Mosin Nagant 91/30 bolt action rifle, and while I really like the old rifle, I did see some problems with using it in today’s world. Fortunately, there are so many of them out there these days that there is a market for improving them and some savvy folks stepping up to the chore.
The thing I really hated was the safety, but I doubt if the Russian Army ever had the same concerns that we have today about negligent discharges. While the safety is effective, it is very difficult to apply and release. You have to pull a knob on the end of the bolt back against a very powerful spring and turn it. This is so difficult that many simply ignore the safety and carry the rifle with it off, relying on the heavy trigger pull to sidestep disaster. If one is really perfect at following the “finger off the trigger” rule and branches cooperate, I suppose that that can be safe, but I, for one, am uncomfortable with milling about with a cocked, loaded, and unlocked weapon. Another option is to carry it with the bolt handle up and push the bolt down as you ready for the shot. This works, but I fret over the handle getting pushed down at the wrong time, particularly if the rifle is slung. There is also a chance the bolt could be pushed out of battery and eject your chambered round at your feet. This is a particularly clever stunt when Bambi is watching. Another approach is to leave the chamber empty and work the bolt before make the shot, but as well as slow, this is noisy; however, Bambi will be appreciative of your warning of the shot to come. One final suggestion someone made to me was to keep the bolt open, but this leaves the action open and dirt could get into it, which is less than optimal in my book.
I saw a suggestion in my research to weaken the firing pin spring, which might be acceptable, but this still leaves you with a lot of tension to overcome unless you take it past what I think is safe for positive ignition. The better plan I discovered is to attach a ring to the cocking piece. This allows you to insert your index finger and pull back and twist the safety on and off. One of the variants of this trick is made by Brass Stacker– a North Carolina, family-owned company that makes a number of useful products for an assortment of weapons here in the U.S.
Their version of the ring safety for the Mosin-Nagant runs $48 and is available in black or polished and requires no modification of the firearm. It slips over the cocking piece knob, and you use an Allen wrench to secure it. You have to get it quite tight– something I failed to do at first. They use a brass screw to help prevent marring of the cocking piece, which is a nice touch.
This attachment makes the safety usable, which is something I couldn’t say about the stock setup, and that makes me a lot happier with the rifle. It is still stiff, but my nine-year-old can operate it, which wasn’t possible before. It does extend the length of the cocking piece by a bit more than 1 ½ inches, which I found disconcerting the first few times I shouldered the rifle. I don’t like things close to my face when I’m shooting, and I was a bit put off by this, especially on the bench, but I had no problems, so I might be a bit too touchy on this point. The safeties on many (but not all) modern rifles have better ergonomics, but this now works and does not compromise the function of the rifle.
My second issue with the Mosin Nagant is the sights. The biggest problem with my rifle is that it is about eight inches high at 100 yards, and it seems I am not alone. I’ve seen some information that indicates the Russians zeroed them at 300 meters, and if so, my ballistic software says it should be around six inches high at 100 years, so we aren’t far off. Additionally, they zeroed with the bayonet fixed, and hanging that heavy sticker at the end of the barrel has to have an effect. I haven’t been able to work up nerve to try it like that at any of the ranges I go to, so I can’t speak to what effect it really has. What I would like, however, is to be able to zero it at 200 yards. That should keep it within 2.5 inches of the aiming point from the muzzle out to 225 yards or so, which is probably farther than I would want to use it on game. While the sights have a rudimentary adjustment, it doesn’t allow you to zero it where I want without lengthening the front sight post.
The other problem with the sights is that they are iron and I like optics better. While we all need to be able to use iron sights, I think pretty much everybody can do better with a scope or red dot sight. Increasing the problem is that the Mosin Nagant’s iron sights are a long way from the best on the planet. The rear sight, with its tiny open notch, is very hard to acquire quickly. It simply can’t compare with the superb aperture sight found on the US M1 Garand.
Now that we have resolved that the Mosin Nagant needs help in the sight department and we want optics, what do we do? There are a number of alternatives. The Russians used the rifle for sniping and had several scope mounts, which today are available as reproductions. I hope to get to those at some point, but I also found modern options that merit a good look. Brass Stacker has a couple that should be able to handle most any Mosin Nagant variants.
Their mounts allow you to use the iron sights as backups, which I think is a good thing. They mount the scope forward of the receiver, which I also think is a good thing, though you have to get a scope that has enough eye relief to be mounted that far from your eye. The Brass Stacker mount has enough latitude that you can use a handgun scope, which is often called an extended eye relief scope, or an intermediate eye relief scope, which is often called a Scout scope and has less eye relief than a handgun scope.
The Scout concept, with the forward mounted scope, was popularized by Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper, USMC– a member of the NRA Board of Directors and noted educator of shooters. The basic idea is that if you move the scope forward, you can maintain far more situational awareness than if the scope is close to your eye and consuming its view. This makes it easier to keep both eyes open and scanning the rest of the world as you take aim. It works well for most of us. It requires a relatively low-powered scope that is no more than three or maybe four power, but it still gives us enough magnification to easily hit targets within reasonable distances. Since most of us really don’t have the ability to be shooting beyond 300 or 400 yards, we really don’t need as much magnification as is fashionable today to see that far. Further, if we go beyond about four power, most of us have to have a very solid rest or things become a wobbly blur. Eye relief gets fussy at high magnification, which makes the scope harder to use. All this is to say that in the real world, a four power scope can do most of what we need to do other when at a bench rest.
Getting back to the Brass Stacker mount, we find three variants. The first is their See Thru Scout Scope Mount. It is mounted to the rifle by using the included punch to tap out the pins that retain the rear sight base to the rifle and then using the supplied screws and nuts through the pin holes to attach the mount. In the event the pin holes are not aligned or have other issues, they provide a drill to clean them up. The instructions are excellent, though I would have appreciated some photos, as I am a visual sort of guy. They have some videos on their site, but I wasn’t able to find one for this specific model. I would also have appreciated torque settings for the screws that hold the mount to the rifle. I’m what could be called ham-fisted at times and having torque settings keeps me from doing harm. That said, I easily got it together without breaking anything, and it is staying together.
Despite the lack of photos and torque settings, the only glitch I encountered was when a pin flew from the rifle and landed in the tiny crack between my work bench top and the wall. I wound up having to take the bench apart to retrieve the pin. Big sigh. I wish I could blame Brass Stacker, but that wouldn’t be fair. It did amuse my wife despite the fact she attempted to portray an air of sympathy.
Once the mount was on, I fitted a two power Burris hand gun scope that I plan to review in the near future and bore sighted it at 100 yards. This, alas, didn’t get me on the paper at 75 yards at the outdoor range, where I help as an RSO. With a fit of hubris, I persisted and wasted about 20 rounds before it was time to head home. I next went to an indoor range with the spiffy motorized targets and started at 15 yards; I worked it out to 100 yards and got a satisfactory zero with far less expenditure of ammo. I was pleased to obtain better groups than I had with the iron sights using Privi Partisan soft point ammo. I got four-inch groups that were eight inches high with irons, and I got slightly less than three inches with the two power scope at the desired point of impact. That is acceptable hunting accuracy, and I was pretty happy. A better shooter might do better, and from a bench, more power would be nice, too.
Brass Stacker also sells what it essentially the same mount but one intended for the carbine variants of the Mosin Nagant.
Brass Stacker warns that due to the production variances during the 50 some years the rifle was made, you might hit a rifle that the Scout mount will not work on, but they will refund your purchase price as long as the mount isn’t damaged. To deal with this, Brass Stacker makes their universal mount. This one is designed to work on most variants of the Mosin Nagant, from carbine to rifle to Finnish, Russian, or Chinese. Besides the variations, sometimes the pins that hold the front sight base on the rifle have been soldered on, which makes it really hard to get them out without using heat. Heating rifles makes many of us uneasy, and pounding on things hard enough to break silver solder probably makes the rest of us cringe. The universal mount avoids that by using what Brass Stacker calls their anchor point system, which replaces the recoil lug bolt and the pin that holds on the rear sight blade with fittings that retain their mount. These pins and bolts usually are not soldered. To install it, you use the included tools to remove the recoil lug bolt and tap out pin that holds the rear sight leaf. You then use the parts from the kit to hold the mount and rear sight blade in place.
I did not try this mount, despite having a sample in hand. We are trying to get in a hog trip, and my son REALLY wants to use the Mosin Nagant. That cut down on the amount of experimenting time I had. Since I had good results with the first mount, it was really hard to make myself take it off and try something else. Why tamper with success? I think, however, that this mount will work as well or better than the Scout Scope mounts. It looks like a more solid mounting system. The major advantage I see with the Scout Scope mount is that you can mount a scope further forward– something that helped with using the handgun scope I had. On the other hand, I think the universal mount might be a bit more solid than the Scout version, thanks to mounting on the recoil lug. All this is moot, as I think either mount is solid enough to maintain a good zero.
One of the advantages of these mounts, over the reproduction mounts that place the scope over the receiver, is that they work with the issue bolt handle. When you move the scope over the receiver, you have to find a bent handle. Thankfully, the Mosin Nagant bolt handle can be replaced without affecting the rest of the bolt, but it is still a bother to do so. You can also use stripper clips if that appeals to you, which can’t be done if you mount the scope over the receiver.
Both style mounts are made of 3/32 inch thick steel and laser cut to shape. Lightning cuts are made to keep the weight down, and the mounts are then pressed into shape and given a black oxide finish. The various bits needed to attach it to the rifle are installed and a Picatinny rail is fastened to the top.
The Scout Mount for the 91/30 rifle runs $59.00 and the one for the carbines is $63.00. The Universal Mount goes for $98.00.
The only disadvantage I found with these mounts is that they place the scope rather high, so it is hard to get a comfortable cheek weld. Brass Stacker has a solution, however, in the Rick Lowe Ammo Carrier. This is a nicely made leather ammo carrier that attaches to the butt of the rifle. It has loop holders for five rounds of ammunition as well as a pouch for other small items which could be more ammo or spare parts. More importantly, it has a cheek rest that gets your eye high enough to see through a scope on one of the Brass Stacker mounts. I will admit that my original plan had involved some high density foam and gaffers tape (a low-residue product photographers use to stick stuff most anyplace), but the Brass Stacker option was far more elegant, though at $95, a bit pricier. It is available in both left and right hand versions. I did have trouble tightening it enough to keep it from sliding on the Mosin Nagant’s a straight stock, but it has openings for the Russian sling that mounts through the stock. If you use this sling, it will hold the carrier in place. Lacking the sling, you can tie some of the cord that secures the carrier through the hole or use a short leather or web strap to prevent the slippage.
One of the advantages of all this Brass Stacker stuff is that it doesn’t require permanent alteration of the rifle, as long as you remember where you left the original parts. This might be a problem for the memory deprived among us, but I do like the option of going back to original.
Brass Stacker has a couple of other parts that look like fun, even though I didn’t see them in person. You often get a bayonet with your Mosin Nagant, and they give you a way to use it. Their Brass Stacker Model BA-S-BO Bayonet Adapter allows you to mount the bayonet onto a piece of ¾ inch steel conduit, fashioning a rather nifty spear. They suggest using if for hog hunting, but I haven’t told my son about that. I don’t want to put any more ideas into his almost 10-year-old mind.
In a similar vein, you can get the Brass Stacker Model MNBH Bayonet Handle with Pommel, which allows you to convert the bayonet into a short sword. They also suggest that you could use it for hog hunting, “if you’re brave enough to get that close to the hog …” Again, that’s a recommendation I’m withholding from my son.
Brass Stacker also has scope mounts for Mauser, SKS, and AK rifles and an assortment of other products for shooters. There are a number of helpful videos about their products on the website.
Recently, a #10 can of Mountain House Beef Stew emerged from behind something that was dated 1979. I was curious about what it might be like, so out came the can opener. I don’t recall ever eating any of this vintage stew, but if I had, I’m sure I have forgotten what it was like. Regardless, what came out of the can was just fine. I have no means of measuring the nutritional value and can’t speak to that, but the taste was comparable to fresh products. The carrots were not as bright in color as I suspect they might have been when the can was new. The can spent most of its life stored in air conditioning, but I know it spent about five years in the garage in a warm climate. I found all of this reassuring, as it relates to our prepping food, and I thought you might too. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Erie