Friday, March 28, 2014

Your Apocalypse Arsenal (part 3)

Not actually Erin.
Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission. 
This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of meeting a blog-buddy for the first time (Hi Larry!) and taking him shooting. I seem to be infamous for owning a Mosin-Nagant that I remorselessly modify, and so of course that was one of my guns which he wanted to shoot.

It then occurred to me that I have yet to talk about one of my favorite rifles in this Apocalypse Arsenal series, and that I had better rectify this tout suite.

It has long been a tenet of conventional wisdom that every prepper should have a rifle chambered in .30 caliber for long range work, like hunting and "homestead defense"  (coughsnipingcough), and in that role I have my trusty Mosin-Nagant.

But what Apocalypse Arsenal category does it fill?   I find that hard to determine, so I'm going to have to dance around the issue and see if I can define it by my stumblings.

It's an inexpensive rifle.  I have recently seen them being sold for as little as $100, and I've never seen one for more than $300 unless you count the truly rare variants or the ones that are touted as being "sniper-grade."  That puts it within the same price range as a Ruger 10/22 or Marlin 60.  When is the last time you've seen a big-game rifle that costs roughly the same as a .22?

The ammunition is powerful.  The Mosin shoots 7.62x54R, which is the same caliber as the Dragunov sniper rifle. It's an incredibly robust round, as its operational lifespan proves -- created in 1891, it is still being manufactured and issued 123 years later. If that's not enough, it's also a very powerful round; Russian hunters frequently shoot bears with it.

The ammunition is cheap.  There are cans and cans of this stuff, each one packed with 440 cartridges and hermetically sealed. As of this moment, you can buy a can of 440 rounds for $90. Because they're sealed, the ammo is good pretty much forever, and you can stack the cans alongside your food stores.

Sadly, the cheap ammunition is corrosive.  This means that you need to clean your Mosin thoroughly after using it, especially in a humid environment, or else you're going to have an impressive rust collection in your chamber and bore.

The non-corrosive ammo isn't cheap.  Last I checked, the retail stuff sold for about $1 a round. On the up side, you can re-load that brass, because...

You can't re-load the surplus ammo, either.  I'm SO not an expert here, so hopefully another reader can chime in with an educated response, but I understand it has something to do with the primers which are used. But hey, the ammo is cheap.

It's incredibly rugged. It's a rifle designed for idiots.  No, really; if you were in the military, you know how dumb some soldiers can be, sometimes deliberately so  ("Hey, let's see if I can break this thing that I signed for and will have to replace out of my own paycheck if I do!")  Now, those were trained soldiers. The Mosin-Nagant was meant to be used by illiterate farmers who had been conscripted into the Russian army. If you're new to gun ownership, you can buy this rifle and rest assured that unless you deliberately set out to destroy it, there's nothing you can do to it to accidentally break it short of dropping it a dozen feet onto a hard surface -- and even then, I think it would still work.

It will work in bad conditions.  Again, this was a rifle that has seen action in the muddy trenches of World War 1 and the Siberian winters of World War 2.  The manual of arms for working the bolt when it's frozen to the receiver is, essentially, to get a piece of firewood and hammer on the bolt until it unlocks. As long as the barrel isn't clogged, the Mosin should fire.

It comes with a bayonet.  Some people don't see the utility in one, but I love a bayonet. A rifle out of ammunition is just a club, but put a bayonet on it and you have a spear. Since the most common version of the Mosin is the 48" long M91/30, putting the 18" bayonet on it gives you a  five and a half foot long melee weapon.  And if you don't put a decelerator pad on the stock, there's a steel skull-cracker plate on that end as well.

On the other hand, It kicks like a mule on steroids.  There's a reason that recoil pads and muzzle brakes are popular with Mosins.  In fact, there's a joke among Mosin shooters that the first shot dislocates your shoulder, so you shoot a second time to re-seat the joint.

It only holds five rounds at a time. This isn't a big deal when you're hunting, but if you're in a combat situation, you'll want more capacity. There is a magazine extension which I own and recommend, but that only increases the ammo capacity to 10.  It's not a quick magazine change like with an AR pattern rifle.  On the other hand, you don't have to worry about carrying enough magazines; stripper clips are lighter and easier to carry.

The trigger sucks.  And I mean suuuuuuucks.  It takes about ten pounds of force to move that beast. There are ways to lighten this, from trigger jobs to the aftermarket Timney Trigger (which I also recommend), but some folks balk at paying for accessories which cost as much, or more, than the rifle itself.

It's not as accurate as a purpose-built hunting rifle.  These were front-line issue in WW1 to soldiers whose purpose wasn't to be accurate, but to produce lots of volley fire (again, remember: illiterate conscripts).  It just so happened that the power of the 54R cartridge and the length of the barrel made it far more accurate than it had any right to be, such that the best examples were turned into sniper rifles during WW2.  Keep in mind, however, that those were hand-picked from the best of approximately 17 million manufactured from between 1891 and the end of World War 2. Unless yours is already in sniper configuration, it is not one that was selected for its accuracy.  Of course, that doesn't mean it was rejected, either; perhaps the inspectors never got to yours.  The point here is that your Mosin will likely not be as accurate as an "out of the box" Remington 700.

So while the Mosin-Nagant isn't a light, accurate rifle with ammunition you can get at any sporting goods store or Walmart, both it and the ammo are definitely affordable, so stock up. It's forgiving of new shooters  (excepting the recoil), it's damn effective, and it will work when asked.  So I guess its category is I'm new at prepping and I need a good, inexpensive gun to fulfill a variety of roles. 

And in that role, it's fantastic.

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