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A Rifle For Preppers: The Mosin-Nagant

Mosin-Nagant rifles

Every prepper should strive to own a center-fire rifle of some kind. This rifle should also be of sufficient caliber and power to take big game cleanly. You can spend hundreds (even thousands) on a nice, big game rifle, but most preppers are budget-minded and would rather put that kind of money into other types of preps. So what is a prepper to do?

There are a few commercial big game rifles for the budget-minded, but for a weapon that can be used, abused, neglected and still perform its intended duty, look at military surplus.

The hands-down best deal in military surplus rifles even today in this crazy environment is the ubiquitous Mosin-Nagant. Some dealers still have them in stock, and private sales have not gone through the roof like so many of the evil-looking black rifles.


Russia adopted the Mosin-Nagant in 1891. Two models were in production in those early years: the M1891 and the Dragoon rifle 1891. These were in use until 1930, with the addition of the M1910 carbine added in 1910. They are characterized by hexagonal receivers (newer ones are round) and sights graduated in arshins (an arshin is equal to 0.71 meters or 0.78 yards). These guns are collectable, and you probably won’t find one for sale.

In all, Russia (including USSR) has produced at least seven models of the Mosin-Nagant, with the Chinese making a copy (type 53) and the Finns doing the same (M39). The Finnish M39 is considered the top-of-the-line for a quality Mosin-Nagant (I had to pay $49 instead of the $29 the regular ones sold for years ago). Some satellite Soviet countries produced the standard Soviet types also. Remington and Westinghouse made Mosin-Nagants for Russia during WWI.

All models utilize an attached five-round magazine that can be loaded with stripper clips. All of these rifles also fire the 7.62 X 54R (7.62 Russian) round of ammunition. This round is still in use as a Russian machine gun and sniper round. It is very similar in performance to the 7.62 NATO or .308 Winchester. I even had a reloading manual that said to just use the loading data for the .308 to load the 7.62 x 54R.

Common Variants

M91/30: These are upgraded M1891’s. They are lighter, have a one-and-a-half-inch shorter barrel, and have the sights upgraded to read in meters. These are common and usually sell with the original accessory packs (oiler, sling, ammo pouch, bayonet, and disassembly tool). Some of the early ones also have hexagonal receivers since many of the original M1891s were taken apart and rebuilt as a M91/30.

M1938:  These rifles are basically a M91/30 with eight-and-a-half inches of barrel removed. They are a handy carbine length, and at seven-and-a-half pounds, they are over a pound lighter than the M91/30. This model does not have a bayonet.

M1944: The most recent issue of the Mosin-Nagant rifles. They are similar to the M1938 but have a side folding spike bayonet permanently attached. This makes them shorter and quicker handling than the M91/30 but slightly heavier.

Things to Look For

Matching Numbers: The bolt, barrel, floor plate of the magazine, stock, and bayonet all have serial numbers. Non-matching numbers is not a deal killer, but try to find one that matches if possible. Good luck finding a matching bayonet, since these were just tossed in a crate when they were packed up.

Hexagonal Receiver: The hex receiver was most likely made in peacetime and therefore probably made to a higher quality standard. Again not a deal killer, as I have two non-hex guns that are both super nice.

Barrel Riflings: Look down the barrel. These guns shoot corrosive ammo (more on that later), and it can really mess up a gun if the shooter doesn’t clean it well. Many of the bores will appear dark and some will look like a sewer pipe. If you see pits in the barrel, you will want to see what kind of group it can shoot before you buy it. If the owner won’t let you shoot a pitted bore first, walk away. Most people will tell you to walk away from a pitted bore anyway, but I have seen pitted bores shoot remarkably well, so if you have the chance, at least try it out. (I would try to get a discount in any case.)

Headspace: This is actually the most important thing to look at. Too much headspace is a dangerous thing. A gunsmith should be able to check it for you, and many stores that carry these guns have a gauge to check it.

How to hide your guns, and other off grid caches…

Advantages For Preppers

Price: In the last year, you could still buy a M91/30 with accessory kit for $89.95. With all the madness of late, they are getting a little harder to find, but that should pass (albeit with a likely price hike). Some of the larger chain sporting-goods stores still have some in stock, and I even recently saw a regional ad for Chinese-type 53s for $159.

Availability: Even with the current scarcity of firearms, a quick check of online auction sites shows there are several available for under $200. One online firearm classified search for “nagant” yielded fifty-eight pages of results. These rifles have been and will continue to be fairly common.

Power: As I touched on earlier, the 7.62 X 54R is similar to the .308 Winchester. Since this round is also used in Russian machine guns, I think it is slightly more powerful. I have shot both, and the fireball from the 7.62 Russian is many times more impressive than anything I have seen from a .308. Surplus ammo with a silver tip utilizes a bullet with a steel penetrator core. Certain manufacturers make soft-point hunting loads that will take any game in North America. This cartridge is a well-rounded one that will serve many functions.

Accuracy: The sights on the Mosin-Nagants are graduated out to 2,000 meters. Folks, that is one and a quarter miles! During WWII, a Russian sniper named Vasily Zaytsev made an estimated 400 kills with many shots over 1,000 yards in a four-month period. He was involved in the siege of Stalingrad, where he killed eleven German snipers along with over 200 officers and troops. (This story is told in the movie Enemy At The Gates.) The gun Zaytsev used was the standard-issue Soviet sniper rifle, a standard M91/30 with a scope attached. Many of these guns, in competent hands, are capable of this kind of accuracy.

Politics: With politicians wanting to take away rifles that look evil, the Mosin-Nagant is a relatively benign-looking design: a simple bolt-action that holds five rounds in a fixed magazine. The only problem is that these are imported guns, so they could conceivably be banned from import somewhere along the line. This goes for the cheap surplus ammo as well.


Recoil and Muzzle Blast: Some of the surplus ammo available for these guns is pretty powerful. As a result, the recoil and muzzle blast can rival that of a magnum rifle. For those who are recoil sensitive, this is a real drawback and can affect your accuracy. However, if you are willing to practice and get used to shooting it, this will be a non-issue.

Ammo: While cheap surplus ammo is still widely available for these rifles, it is invariably corrosive in nature. This comes from the “salts” used in the priming of this older ammo. If not cleaned properly, it will rust your bore and ruin your gun. Ammonia is said to neutralize the salts, so cleaning with window cleaner and then regular solvent and oil is how most owners handle it. Otherwise, you can clean and oil it like you would a regular firearm for three consecutive days after shooting it. This should remove the corrosive salts and protect your firearm.

Another problem with some of this ammo is that it can have lacquered steel cases. This is not a problem in and of itself, but on many guns, this ammo is very difficult to cycle into the chamber. There is a joke about Mosin-Nagant about needing a 2×4 to cycle five rounds of ammo.

Safety: Many owners think there is no safety on the Mosin-Nagant, but that is not the case. To engage the safety, the gun must be cocked. Grasp the knob on the back of the bolt and pull it (hard) toward the rear of the rifle and turn it to the left. The striker will catch in a notch and be unable to move forward when the trigger is pulled. To take the safety off, pull the knob back and turn it to the right.  Your gun is now ready to fire. As you can see, this is a pain. It is really hard to pull back the knob to put it on safety, so most people simply carry it without a round in the chamber.


There are all sorts of aftermarket accessories for the Mosin-Nagant.

Stock: Several manufacturers make fiber-reinforced hunting-type stocks. These stocks will make the Mosin-Nagant feel like any other high-dollar big game rifle when you throw it up to your shoulder. I have a Hungarian M44 that has wonderful metal and looks brand new, but the stock looks like it was used as an oar on a rowboat for a few years. This is a common thing, so new stocks are a popular item.

Bolt/ Scope Kit: Mosin-Nagants have a bolt handle that sticks straight out to the side. When you cycle the action, the bolt turns straight up and pulls back. This is a problem if you want to mount a normal scope on your rifle. They make a kit that cuts off the existing bolt handle and bolts on a new down-turned one.

Bent Bolt: You can get a replacement bolt with a handle that is bent so it will miss a scope that is mounted normally.

Forward Scope Mount: Manufacturers have come up with a mount that goes on the back sight. They have two styles now. One replaces the rear sight and allows you to mount a long eye relief (pistol) scope. The other clamps on the rear sight and allows you to use the same type of scope but also retains the use of the standard open sights.

Trigger Kits: I have to admit, most Mosin-Nagants have a trigger like a barn door latch. On the other hand, Vasily Zaytsev, who I mentioned before, didn’t seem to be bothered by it. I don’t even notice how bad it is any more since I have gotten used to it.

Stripper Clips: A stripper clip is a small piece of spring steel that holds five rounds of ammo and allows you to load it quickly into your gun’s magazine. A few years ago these were hard to come by, but they have become more common of late. It is a good idea to get several and practice loading with them.

Safety Ring: If you want to be able to easily use your safety, this is a good investment. It replaces the rear of your bolt and has a large ring to grasp when you are putting your safety on or off.

Ammo Pouch: The standard-issue ammo pouch that comes with some guns is the perfect size to be packed with a small survival kit. Even if you don’t get a Mosin-Nagant, one of these pouches is just the ticket to build a lightweight kit.

As you may be able to tell, I like the Mosin-Nagant rifle very much. I think the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages if you prepare for them. They are inexpensive to buy and shoot; they have ample power for any type of game; with the numbers sold in this country, spare parts should be easy to come by for a long time; and their accuracy is on par with any other big-game rifle. With all that going for it, I can’t think of a good reason not to buy one.

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  1. The question is: can one reload (or handload) rounds to fit?

    I assume so, but, being a neophyte to the reloading world, and wholly unfamiliar with this one (and all 7.62mm), I can’t tell. Someone out there is likely to know, so please put up the answer.

    Reloading and handloading can eliminate the corrosion issues, and could hardly cost more than buying imported rounds that may destroy the rifle. ‘Sides, it seems unlikely that a diligent prepper would want to be dependent on a supply that may (likely) disappear at the whim of a politician.

    • A quick check on ixquick (better than Google) shows that, yes, reloading is possible. It’ll work with .308 (but not as well as slightly larger sizes for most M-N rifles) bullets in standard 7.62x54r cases and uses standard primer, etc. This obviously eliminates the corrosion issue (as far as can be expected).

      If (when) I owned a Mosin-Nagant, I’d make handloading for this cartridge a priority. Too many potential problems (as I see it) to use the “standard” cartridge.

      • Only caveat is that most Eastern block surplus ammo is steel cased. These cases are not reloadable, so please don’t try!

        There are a number of commercial manufacturers producing this round. It will cost you more up front than the surplus stuff, but will provide you with reloadable brass.

    • My concern is it is steel case and berdan primed ……availability once SHTF, you will have a bastard cartridge…….so why step back in time?

      • I agree. If a SHTF occurs (or WHEN it occurs), it would be easier to pick up .308 from ‘enemy forces’ that use 7.62 NATO or 5.56. Though a M/N is a great, inexpensive shooter, a good .308 bolt action- maybe a Remington or Savage – may be the better ticket. They are a few bucks more, but you will indeed get what you pay for with the end result being a better, newer rifle that also won’t be in the ‘ban list’ that socialist politicians are hounding over now.

        • These other rifles could also make the banned list, since they fire a round that was originally designed for military use (one taboo criteria of the UN small arms treaty).

          Nagants are also about the toughest gun going, say what you want about the eastern block but they built peasant friendly weapons that take more abuse and keep shooting than any other nation of the world. Ammo is not likely to dry up soon, the cartridge is still in use in some LMGs and in the dragunov sniper rifle, it is still cheap enough that 2 or 3 hundred bucks will lay in a good supply, which you should have for any caliber of rifle anyway

      • Since this is a bolt gun, 4 or five hundred rounds will last a very long time. A couple of 440 round spam cans of surplus ammo and a few boxes of quality commercial hunting rounds is enough to get you through a very long crisis.

    • I reload my 91/30, steel cased cartriages, have retapped berdan primers and use boxers. it works best with.311 projectiles and 38gr of tack powder. i have gotten 7 reloads on steel cases. no problems.

      • Great to know.

        My problem is, as I stated above, I’m a total neophyte when it comes to hand loading, so much of what you said left me scratching my head. I have researched it, so I’m only “dangerously ignorant” now, not “woefully ignorant”.

        Thanks again.


    • Yes, Lee makes a loader and you can buy reloadable brass or a box of winchester

    • I have reloaded for this cartridge. RCBS dies. Full length resizer. I got a bunch of steel cased stuff from a guy that pulled the bullets for his 303 British. Leaving me with 440 cases already primed. 45 grains of IMR4895 and a Sierra .311 150 gr psp worked great. I also have a number of win white box brass shells for it that are boxer primed and are reloadable. As stated before. Reloading is fine but at the current price of 440 ct tins there is no reason to not have a couple of those anyway. And after all the thing is a bolt gun that kicks and honks like a friggin Buick! How many rounds do you need on hand? I have in excess of a thousand and don’t feel like I need any more now. My 556 is a different story. I can shoot the AR all day long and sling Ammo down range for weeks. The mosin is good for about 25-30 rounds before my shoulder screams STOP !!!!!! Fun gun but dang. Get a butt pad for them. Lee reloading manual has good loads for it
      Remember to check your Powder charges frequently.

  2. There are a couple other good things to know about Mosins.
    1. Most are rearsenalled and stored in cosmoline for WWIII. Cosmoline must be removed before firing. Ensure thoroughly removed from the chamber before firing, or else you may have a problem called “sticky bolt”. It is easy to remedy, but not at the range. Watch videos on youtube about how to correct, iraqveteran8888 has a good one. The wood stock has cosmoline in it too, use mild heat to remove, like baking in a closed up car to act like solar oven, or use a hair dryer.
    2. Next, the 7.62x54R (R stands for rimmed), is a rimmed round and is prone to a condition called “rim lock”. When this occurs it is easy to empty the magazine by dropping the floorplate. Usually people are just careful not to load the mag in a way that causes rim lock. If the magazine interrupter spring is not strong enough or bogged down by cosmoline then the mag must be dumped for quick fix. If the interrupter is properly functioning then it is not necessary to pay attention to how the rounds are loaded as the interrupter prevents rim lock from occurring.

    Mosins are incredibly rugged and worth the money. Do a little research before buying to get to know them. I love them and have several. In fact they are my only centerfire rifles.

  3. I love my Mosin. However, it does kick like a mule. It’s a great SHTF rifle. I purchased a Lee Classic Loader for my Mosin and have the funniest time reloading with it. All you need is a rubber mallot, primers, powder and bullets to load with the Lee Classic Loader. There are plenty of great YouTube videos that show you how to do this. I shoot surplus inert tracers. You can get these for 13 cents a round. 3 cents for the primer. 3 cents for the powder. 19 cents to reload your own brass. I use Prvi Partizan brass that I purchased new for 80 cents a round. I just purchased another Mosin from Bud’s for around $140. A little steep, but get them before the gov’ment gathers them up and cremates them.

  4. I’ve been touting the MN rifle here for sometime. After selecting a good bore I suggest checking for a counter-bored muzzle. This means that the bore at the muzzle was wallowed out by the cleaning rod. To improve this the muzzle is bored out until there is good rifling. Generally they will shoot good enough but I just don’t like it. The price of 7.62X54R surplus ammo has skyrocketed. With boxer brass and a supply of primers, powder and bullets this caliber can certainly be reloaded. The simplest way to reload is with a Lee Loader in the appropriate caliber. .

  5. I am beginning to read,, some of my own comments, coming back to me!!! I like it!! The MN is an OK rifle, and even though it is old (so am I) it will still do the job… the reality of our coming conflagration is not that we will get into firefights…. get yourself a good rifle and a fair scope and practice,,, if you are caught in a firefight remember what I said: “Fight a bounding and covering retreat to 500-1000 yards” Gain time and distance from your foe, then use scoped rifles if you have to fight. You dont want to be upclose!!
    The Col

  6. I own plenty of mosin nagant 91/30’s I enjoy collecting them while they were cheap and came with the bayonet and kit I grabbed a standard model round receiver every time I had some extra $ I think I have around 10 from 1942, 43, 44 mostly 42 all cleaned I grab one when testing new rifles because I know for sure I have an sll day shooter with me ammo is still chreap 880rds for around $170 sell then in them still in crates in spam cans not one time was I dissappointed no prior sighting 5 times so far 200yrds iron sights set 200 meters 16″ by 12″ target 40rds all in the rings shot 300yrds 40rds vary from rifle to rifle some drift left or right 50 to 75% of the kill shots you also have to factor in shooter error wind and from that distance the front sight covers the tatget lol so it takes a few shots to find your groove if I spent more time I am pretty sure I could make 90% kill shots but I usually go first to make sure all is well with the function and sights and next for quick delivery not bullseye rapid delivery and bug out super reliable a bit rough great buy corrosive ammo was also used originally and it did nothing then it is not going to kill it now you think in Stalingrad they had windex and hopps lol it is made so that anyone could use it and it would work mission accomplished the prices are rising Russia just destroyed 10, 000, 000 and are raising import cost they have jumped for standard models by 30-70$ already ammo remains stable $170 I would do it now for about $300 rifle & 880rds still a great deal that is a lot of hunting good luck hope this helped

  7. please ignore spelling and grammar it is 3am I am sleepy lol good night and I do highly recommend this puchase seriously if the shtf 880rds really will last you and nothing else touches the price the corrosive ammo is over dramatized they are mostly re- arsenaled and ready to go again good luck to all Very Kind Regards Rob

  8. To clean your mosin after shooting surplus ammo is simple: first UNLOAD and CLEAR rifle,remove bolt.
    I use a 3/4 standard canteen cup of water brought to a boil,
    next I use a small funnel with attached tubing from any hardware store and pour the boiling water down
    the barrel, (gasp!!, it’s a battle rifle it will survive quite well),
    then I spray clp into the barrel,(or your oil of choice),
    scrub the bore, with bore brush, run a bore snake through (or a cut tshirt, works great)
    then inspect barrel you will see a brite and shiney bore ( amazing!!)
    if not then repeat, wipe down rifle and oil your rifle and your good to go.

  9. I am looking for information on a 1942 MN
    What does ATI Rochester NY R004485 mean? Any assistance would be appreciated.

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