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What’s the Appeal of Mosin-Nagant Rifles?

Mosin-Nagant rifles have been around for a while; are they a good firearm choice?

If you’ve never seen a rack of low priced Mosin-Nagant rifles in a sporting goods store, you need to get out more.

These guns are as common as cordwood – something to which they often bear a striking resemblance. They’re not pretty, but at one time or another just about every rifle crank feels the need to pick one up.

Thinking back, I’ve had six of these guns pass through my hands over the years. While I didn’t hang onto any of them, they were all fairly good deals for the price, so long as you look on the bright side of things.

Mosin-Nagants are commonly referred to simply as Nagants, which is slightly incorrect since Mosin invented the bolt and receiver and Mr. Nagant only contributed the magazine design. These rifles were adopted as the official Russian Military arm in 1891 and remained the standard arm for the various incarnations of the Russian government through both World Wars until they were replaced by the AK-47.

Oddly enough, these rifles were first introduced to the American shooting public circa 1920, when the October Revolution left Remington and Westinghouse with a large number of Nagants they had manufactured for the Tsarist regime, but had no Tsar to pay them. Some sources claim as many as 600,000 Nagants were sold off to the US Army and civilians through the NRA.

As these rifles are rarely encountered, my guess would be that the number was lower, so if you bump into an American-made Nagant it will make an interesting collectable, and will likely be a better-finished rifle than any of the Russian variants.

Most of the Nagants you’re liable to see are of Russian manufacture and were pumped out of government arsenals in tremendous numbers. When purchasing one, it’s important to check the date of manufacture, which is usually stamped on the forward receiver ring. Guns produced during WWII tend to have many issues — probably due to the stressful environment created by invading panzer tanks — and should be avoided. Post-war guns tend to have far better tolerances, better finishes and offer considerably better accuracy.

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Chambered for the 7.62×54 cartridge, the Nagant makes a reasonably useful hunting rifle, especially now that soft-nosed ammo and reloading components are available. If the rifle has one major mechanical flaw, it would be that the safety requires considerable hand strength to operate. This is not a gun on which you can simply “pop” the safety off when you’re brush hunting.

Other than that particular hang-up, the Nagant can make for an effective hunting arm. The 7.62×54 has ample power for big game and many of these old Russian guns shoot very well once their sights are properly adjusted.

Over the years the price of Mosin-Nagants has risen rather slowly. I bought my first one in 1999 for $20. A few years later you could purchase them for about $40, and now the price is slowly creeping towards $100. If I was in the market for one of these guns, I would spend some time cherry-picking the racks, find the best looking one I could, and start the bidding at $80 regardless of what the price tag reads.

From the point of view of a sporting goods store, there is a seemingly endless supply of these guns, so there’s no reason not to sell them cheap.

With a little dickering you can get a rifle that will always be interesting, and possibly of significant use if it grows on you.


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What’s the Appeal of Mosin-Nagant Rifles?