Mosin Nagant Review: Still The Everyman’s Survival Rifle?

It wasn’t too long ago that the Mosin Nagant was the definitive surplus rifle. Dirt cheap and robust (if a bit crude), the Mosin Nagant was the rifle to have if you wanted an inexpensive, well-made rifle with cool historical value that could also be used to tap targets at long ranges and drop any big game animal in North America.

In the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, surplus Mosin Nagants were flooding the United States by the millions. They became popular with survivalists and everyday people alike seeking a versatile rifle without hurting their wallets.

There was a time where you could literally buy a Mosin Nagant rifle or carbine in good condition for around $50, and as little as a decade ago, Mosins under $200 were everywhere at gun shops, pawn shops, and firearms auction sites. It was literally the everyman’s surplus rifle.

Lately though, the supply of Mosin Nagants has begun to dry up, and prices have begun to rise. A Mosin Nagant in good condition nowadays is likely to fetch over $500, and rifles in immaculate condition can cost well over a grand.

History of the Mosin Nagant
This is a Mosin Nagant M91/30 in 7.62x54r. The stock appears to have been refinished at some point.

This has justifiably called into question whether the Mosin Nagant is still a viable surplus rifle for the everyday person. While it will forever be an important historical rifle and valuable for any arms collector, is the Mosin Nagant still the everyman’s surplus rifle? Let’s find out in this 2024 Mosin Nagant review.

History of the Mosin Nagant

The Mosin-Nagant rifle has a very rich history that spans several decades and major conflicts. While most notable for its use in the two World Wars, it’s still in limited use today in conflicts in the Middle East and the Ukraine. 

Here’s an overview of its development and historical significance:

Development of the Mosin Nagant (Late 19th Century)

The Mosin-Nagant rifle was developed in the late 19th century as a collaborative effort between Russian Captain Sergei Ivanovich Mosin and Belgian designer Léon Nagant. It was intended to replace the aging single-shot Berdan rifles that were then in use by the Russian Imperial Army.

Formal Adoption 

The Mosin Nagant was officially adopted by the Russian Empire in 1891 as the “3-line rifle, Model 1891,” referring to its caliber (7.62x54R) and the fact that it was a three-line rifle in the Russian measurement system. It became the standard issue rifle for Russian forces, and would remain as such for several decades. 

World War I and the Russian Civil War 

The Mosin Nagant played a crucial role in World War I, serving as the primary infantry rifle for the Russian army on the Eastern Front. During the Russian Civil War that followed Russia’s withdrawal from the war and the Bolshevik Revolution, the rifle was used by both the Red and White forces.

World War II and the Soviet Era

After the formation of the Soviet Union, the Mosin Nagant continued to be the standard issue rifle. During World War II, the rifle saw widespread use on the Eastern Front as the main rifle Soviet soldiers took into battle against Axis forces. 

During the early 1940s, the Soviet Union briefly toyed with the idea of replacing the Mosin Nagant with a semi-automatic rifle (specifically the Tokarev SVT-38 and SVT-40), but this never came to full fruition. 

Post-War Use and Global Distribution 

In the late 1940s, the Soviet Union formally replaced the Mosin Nagant with the SKS carbine and the AK-47, both in 7.62x39mm. However, they distributed Mosin-Nagant rifles to their satellite states, contributing to its global presence. It was used by military and paramilitary forces in numerous countries during the Cold War, and it became a standard weapon for the armed forces of Warsaw Pact countries. Even as newer rifles were introduced, the Mosin-Nagant remained in service for an extended period.

Surplus Market in the United States 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, surplus Mosin-Nagant rifles flooded the civilian market starting in the early 1990s. They became enormously popular among firearm enthusiasts and collectors due to their historical significance and affordability.

Surplus Market in the United States 
The trigger pull of the Mosin Nagant would be considered heavy by today’s standards, but it gets the job done. Notice the straight bolt handle as well.

While the Mosin-Nagant is no longer a standard-issue military rifle (despite seeing limited service in conflicts around the world), its historical significance, global distribution, and availability on the surplus market have contributed to its popularity. It still stands as one of the most widely produced and easily recognizable military service rifles ever made.

Variants of the Mosin Nagant 

Surplus Mosin Nagants are available in numerous variants and configurations, including:

  • Mosin-Nagant M1891 – This is the original model that was developed in 1891 and adopted by the Russian Empire. It had a straight bolt handle and a distinctive hexagonal receiver.
  • Mosin-Nagant M91/30 – Introduced in 1930, the M91/30 was an updated version of the M1891, featuring a longer barrel and various improvements. It became the standard rifle during World War II and has a rounded off receiver. This is probably the most common variant on the surplus market today, and is what many people think of when the term ‘Mosin Nagant’ comes to mind. 
  • Mosin-Nagant M38 and M44 Carbines
    • The M38 was a shorter and lighter version of the Mosin-Nagant designed for use by non-frontline troops and equipped with a folding spike bayonet. It was introduced in 1938.
    • The M44 was a further modification of the M38, introduced in 1944. It featured a permanently attached side-folding bayonet, designed for cheaper production.
  • Finnish Mosin Nagants – Finland produced its own variants of the Mosin-Nagant, including the M24, M27, M28, and M39. These rifles often featured unique Finnish design elements and improvements, and are regarded as some of the best and most collectable Mosin Nagants available. A Finnish Mosin carries more prestige than a Russian or Chinese made version, for instance. 
  • Chinese Mosin Nagants – China also produced their own variants of the Mosin Nagant. The Type 53 is a well-known Chinese-produced variant of the Mosin-Nagant, developed after World War II. It is similar to the M44 Carbine, but is easily distinguished by its Chinese markings. This variant was widely used by North Vietnamese forces in the Vietnam War.
  • Sniper Variants – Both the Soviet Union and other countries produced sniper variants of the Mosin-Nagant, equipped with scopes. Notable examples include the Soviet PU scope-equipped sniper rifles.
  • Dragoon Variants – Dragoon models, such as the M91 Dragoon, were earlier versions with a shorter barrel, intended for cavalry and other troops.
  • Post-WWII Mosin Nagants – The Mosin Nagant continued to be produced even after the USSR replaced it with the SKS and AK-47. Some Mosin variants were produced in Eastern European countries and other nations around the world (particularly satellite states of the USSR).

Each of the above variants of the Mosin Nagant are widely available on the surplus market. 

Is the Mosin Nagant Still Viable For Survivalists?

In the 1990s and 2000s, the Mosin Nagant was enormously popular with survivalists and preppers who wanted a cheap surplus rifle that could cover their bases in a disaster scenario.

Other people liked it so they could say they owned the “Russian World War II rifle.”

Is the Mosin Nagant Still Viable For Survivalists?
The markings on this Mosin indicate it to be a Russian-made Izhevsk 1943 production.

The main appeal of the Mosin was its affordability and its neat historical value. But as its prices have risen, it’s no longer nearly as affordable as it once was. And while the historical value of the Mosin Nagant will never go away, is it still viable as the everyman or survivalist’s surplus rifle today?

Here are some things to think about:

  • The Mosin-Nagant is a bolt-action rifle, a design that has largely been replaced by semi-automatic or fully automatic rifles in modern military forces. The manual operation of the bolt limits the rate of fire compared to more contemporary firearms, such as the AR-15. 
  • Since a basic AR-15 can be available for around the $500 mark, the same price as most Mosin Nagants are going for now, why buy the Mosin when you can buy the AR? The question naturally begs itself. 
  • The Mosin-Nagant, especially the longer models, are heavy and unwieldy compared to more compact and lightweight rifles used by contemporary armed forces. Even the compact M38 and M44 carbine variants are very heavy. Just pick one up if you don’t believe me. 
  • The Mosin-Nagant typically has a five-round internal magazine, which is an obvious limitation when compared to modern rifles with larger magazine capacities.
  • While the Mosin-Nagant is known for its robustness, its maintenance requirements may not meet modern standards. This is especially true when you consider that since its an older design, the availability of spare parts for maintenance and repairs has become increasingly challenging.

With those points in mind, I would argue that Mosin Nagant’s time as a viable survivalist or prepper’s rifle has passed. 

But don’t get me wrong, Mosin Nagants are cool. Any one of the above configurations I listed would be great to have as a collector’s gun. I’m just saying I wouldn’t consider one if you’re planning on using it as your primary rifle for a grid down disaster or SHTF situation when there are other, better options that can now be had for less money. 

Conclusion: Mosin Nagant Review

Conclusion

The Mosin Nagant earned its reputation for ruggedness and simplicity. Despite its replacement by more modern firearms and rising costs that preclude it as a viable survivalist’s rifle, it remains an iconic weapon at the very least. 

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