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How to make a sniper rifle. Part 2: Buying a Mosin Nagant

You can buy a Mosin Nagant either in a local store, or on the internet.

Buying from the store

Big 5 has periodic sales on them for $89-$99, and Cabela's usually has them at $150, or $99 on sale. Stocks in these stores are typically limited to guns built in 1942-1944, which is right in the middle of the war when Soviet factories were churning them out by the million. Considering the rush to production, I would venture a guess that these are not the best rifles. However, the first rifle I bought was from the store, and was made in 1937, so exceptions do exist. Also, rifles sold through the stores are more likely to have the numbers on the receiver, the stock, and the bolt match. (12/16/2011 Update: Mosins are getting somewhat rare these days, and most big box retail stores, including Big 5, do not seem to carry them any more.)

If you do buy your rifle in the store, consider bringing a flexible LED light with you, so you can illuminate the inside of the barrel from the receiver side and take a good look inside. The barrel should have strong and uniform rifling, no rust, and be at least gunmetal gray - the best bores are mirror-like shiny. There should be no pitting on the metal.

Look at the crown (the muzzle side of the barrel). It should be symmetric and rifling next to the crown should be present and not damaged. On some rifles you might find a condition called "counterboring" - the rifling in the vicinity of the crown being removed. This is done when the rofling at the muzzle is damaged. Stay away.

This is what an acceptable crown should look like:

If the crown is not exactly round, or there are chips or scratches on it, as the bullet is leaving the bore the gas will exit around it unevenly and deflect the bullet.

A note about the gun shows...

Gun shows can be great for running into a unique piece of antique weaponry by accident, but they are not good at all for aquiring run of the mill guns. I've gone to quite a few in the recent years, and the prices were atrociously high - a PSL 54c, for example, which can be had - new - for under $600 in most internet shops would consistently go for $800 or more on a gun show. The prices on all other guns - AKs ($600 for something that's $350 on the Internet), Garands ($800 for a $500 gun), and, yes, Mosins, were similarly higher than on the Internet - or in a retail store. Unfortunately I found the same to be true for everything else - from reloading equipment to optics to components to ammunition, so I quit going there a few months ago.

The best way to buy Mosin Nagants is on the internet. This is where you get the best prices, and the widest selection. There is one complication though: weapons cannot ship to an individual, they must arrive at the licensed firearms dealer. So you have to go to a local gun shop, pay them the transfer fee of around $40 (in Seattle area), and have the gun ship to them instead of you.

Paying $50 for transfer and the shipping cost of a $70 rifle is extremely painful (12/16/2011 Update: A recent law in WA state requires the dealers to collect use taxes on the rifles transferred interstate. This includes the shipping cost. FFL is on the hook for collecting the tax - if they fal to do it, they are liable for the amount when state audits them. This means that you would actually be paying $60 in transaction costs on a $70 rifle), and there is a relatively easy way around it: you can get a so-called C&R (collectables and relics) license that allows individual gun collectors buy certain classes of weapons remotely and having them shipped directly. Mosin Nagants, along with almost all other WWII weapons, qualify as a C&R purchase.

The license costs $30 for 3 years, and pays for itself on the very first transaction. Furthermore, it allows you to buy weapons and other gun-related at dealers-only prices at some distributors. It allows certain other benefits, for example, being able to buy guns though Civilian Marksmanship Program. I highly recommend getting it.

The only disadvantage is that it takes quite a while (a couple of months) to get. Even getting the form takes forever, since it arrives by snail mail - there is no internet download. So start early.

Here is how to get it.

Getting a C&R license

Go here: Enter your name, email, the phone number (xxx-xxx-xxxx, the form checks this format!) and the mailing address.

Then on the right side of the form select "F 7CR (5310.16) - Application for License (Collector of Curios and Relics) Under 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, Firearms" and click the "Add" button above. Get a couple of copies in case you spoil the first one. Click the Submit button for the form.

Then wait. When you receive the form, fill it out (it is not very complicated) and send it in.

When you get your license, make several copies. Sign each copy individually (NOT the original), because you will need to send copies with your original (not copied) signature to the internet stores.

For reference, here's the best article on C&R license. The links on it are obsolete, but the information is useful:

Buying on the Internet

Now that you are able to buy on the internet, the horizons are much wider. You are no longer limited to what's available in the store, so - what should you buy?

As I said previously, I would stay away from rifles made during the war. Unfortunately, most of the internet stores do not allow you to pick a year of manufacture. You can, however, - and I strongly recommend that you do - ensure that the rifle was made before the war by buying one with a hex receiver - they were not making guns with hex receivers during WWII.

This is an example of a hex action:

There are 3 basic choices of manufacturers for Mosin Nagants - Tula, Izhevsk, and two factories in Finland.

The differences between Tula and Izhevsk are not huge, although Tula rifles are considered to be marginally better. I don't think the difference is material.

Finn rifles are typically better quality, and shoot better, but they are more expenisve than Russian (usually in $200-$300 range vs. <$100), and the bore of many rifles made before 1939 is narrower - a proper .308 caliber vs .311 that is the case with Russian guns. Which means that if you shoot any factory 7.62x54R ammo (surplus OR newer production) in them, you will have ruined the rifle. Stay away from Finn rifles unless you know what you are doing!

Finally, there are so-called "sniper" rifles that you will frequently encounter on the 'Net. There are two types of them.

First, the "ex-sniper" rifles with the scope rail removed, and the screws which were used to attach it filled. The reason they are "ex" is because they no longer shoot well enough to qualify as a sniper rifle, so I do not recommend buying them.

Second, there are "sniper" rifles with the scope, in $400-$450 price range. Read the fine print - they are not really sniper rifles. They are just regular Mosins with a reproduction WWII scope added to them recently. They don't shoot any better than your average rifle, the scope rings only allow for one particular scope - they do not support modern scopes - and that scope's maximum magnification is only 2.5. That was good enough during the WWII, given the infinite supply of the gun fodder, but not today. You can do far, far better for the money.

When a store offers you a choice of hand selection for an extra fee, pay the fee, otherwise you will be getting the rifle which the hand selection process have rejected. Most of the stores pre-sort their rifles by quality, rather than really selecting them at the time of shipping the order. For extra $10 you will ensure that your rifle is in the top 10%.

One "disadvantage" of buying on the internet is that very likely you will be getting a rifle with the numbers that either do not match, or the numbers on the stock, the bolt, and the magazine were removed and a cheap-looking electric pencil record was made instead to match the barrel. In my opinion, this is OK since we will be modifying the rifle anyway. It would be a shame to destroy a perfectly preserved specimen, whereas these rifles have little to no historical value.

Here's a roundup of the best internet sources of Mosin Nagants.

J&G Sales, This is by far the best place, because they offer, for an extra $30, hand selection for the bore quality. This service is worth its cost and then some - the rifles I got from them had absolutely perfect bores.

AIM Surplus I have not bought a "shooter" grade Mosin from them, but I've bought many other rifles and pistols. All arrived in tip-top shape, better than described, and extremely fast. AIM has fantastic reputation on the internet, probably the best of all online gun stores.

SOG International (AKA Southern Ohio Gun Distributors), They have the cheapest rates, and the worst web site with no browse function. To look for Mosin Nagants, search for MN. Because of the terrible website layout things that would be gone in a day from other stores linger here, so you can occasionally find a diamond in the rough, for the price of a cubic zirconia.

Century Arms International, You have to have a C&R to even see their prices, and the prices are not even that great. They are the main importer of these rifles, everyone else merely distributes them, and so you'd expect that the prices and the quality at the source is great, but it's not. The one big advantage here is that shipping is free. They do occasionally have sales where you can buy 5 rifles inexpensively.


  1. Introduction
  2. Buying
  3. Cleaning
  4. Disassembly
  5. Accurizing
  6. Selecting a scope mount
  7. Mounting a side rail
  8. At the range