It might sound strange that an American lawman would employ a Russian rifle. It’s not so strange when you consider he works with a department that doesn’t have a lot of money and the Mosin is cheap.

That said, the Mosin-Nagant is considered one of the great rifles in history.

It’s also the butt of more than a few jokes, some of which are true. For instance, it’s so long, it could be used a center pole in a tent, or to pole vault over things, or to allow you to bayonet your enemy across the river without ever leaving your foxhole. One joke about it that’s almost true is you can hit the broadside of the barn with it from two counties away.

In the wide open flat places that Will Diaz hunts outlaws in,  it’s not strange at all that he’d like the weapon.

But first, a little history . . .

The Mosin-Nagant traces its history back to the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877-1878. The Russian soldiers, armed with single shot rifles, suffered greatly at the hands of Turkish troops who were armed with Winchester repeating rifles. This told the Russian commanders that they needed to get with the program and get some modern weapons.

In 1889, three different rifles were submitted for evaluation. One was submitted by Captain Sergei Mosin of the imperial army, another by Leon Nagant of Belgium, and another by a Captain Zinoviev.

When the rifles were evaluated, the evaluators were all split on their assessment.  Nagant’s rifle was a rather complicated weapon, and took time to disassemble and needed special tools to unscrew two fasteners. Mosin’s rifle was criticized for lower quality of manufacture and material. Eventually, the committee voted 14 to 10 on Nagant’s weapon, but it was the Mosin that went into production.

It would be safe to say that Nagant “borrowed” from technology of the Mosin, and in particular filing a patent for an “interruptor” that would prevent double feeding, even though it was Mosin’s design. A big scandal erupted, and Nagant threatened to never be part of any trials again, and so on and so forth. Since he usually played nicely with them and shared experience and technologies with the Russians, the Commission paid him 200,000 rubles.

His name wasn’t put on the rifle by the Russians (nor was Mosin’s). It was simply the Russian 3-inline rifle M1891.

Roza Shanina
Roza Shanina was a Russian sniper in WWII.  With 59 kills to her name, her enemies hung the name of “Lady Death” on her.  All her work was done with Mosin-Nagant.

The rest of the world hung the name Mosin-Nagant name on the rifle.

Over 37 million Mosin-Nagants have been made since the weapon came out. It’s not being  manufactured anymore, but the durability and number of the weapons made resulted in it’s being in almost every conflict the world over since it first came out in 1891. Even today, it’s not uncommon for soldiers in Afghanistan or the Middle East to encounter the weapon.

The weapon itself is a 5 shot bolt action rifle. It fires a 7.62x54R bullet that travels at about warp five (okay, a mere 2000 ft per second more or less ). In its factory form, the rifle is a beast. As a factory rifle, it’s simple to operate, but has some serious drawbacks. The bolt handle sticks straight out for several inches making it easy to catch on clothing, fences, whatever you might encounter. The bolt also interferes with any scope you put on it, except for the mount the Russians devised for it. There is a variant with a “bent” bolt that allows for optics. Most people who own a Mosin and want to put a scope on it will either buy a kit that will allow them to install a bent bolt, or send the bolt to a gunsmith and have it “bent” for them.

bent bolt
This is a Mosin with a “bent” bolt so it can accommodate a scope.  The normal bolt sticks straight out, and there’s no way you could mount a scope on it and chamber a round.

The trigger is simply awful. Every instruction I ever received and every book I ever read on the subject of shooting says you’re supposed to “squeeze” the trigger.” With the factory rifles I’ve fired, it took a whole lot of squeezing for the weapon to fire.

Then there’s the kick. The first time I took it to the range, I took 40 rounds of ammo, just like a Russian soldier would have had in WWII. Now, I’d seen picture of Russian soldiers with a leather belt around their shoulder and I always thought it was for extra ammo. I couldn’t have been more wrong.  

I remember chambering a round, taking aim, almost needing a lever to pull the trigger with, and this crack and being jolted back an inch or two. The pain in my shoulder was interesting, to say the least.

I fired again, pulling the weapon in tighter. That didn’t help. That’s when I realized that what the old Russian soldiers had was a rather primitive setup to help protect their shoulders. I fired a total of twenty rounds, and my shoulder turned black and blue. I had to admit, the guys who used this rifle were some serious customers.

The good news, the Mosin-Nagant is a shooter. Using  the iron sights (which are leaf sights, and can be elevated to help compensate for distance), I was getting hits at 600 meters. That was about right since I’d read about Russian soldiers routinely doing the same.

Somewhere, I decided to take the rifle and make it a little more 20th Century. I found a guy who makes custom stocks, and I had him make me one like a Dragunov sniper rifle (another really good piece of Russian heavy metal) would have. I also purchased a Timney Trigger. The trigger is an after market item, of course, and replaces the pathetic factory trigger the rifle came with. The only downside was I had to take a tool to that custom stock and make room to put the trigger in. Also, the Timney Trigger gives the rifle an easy to use safety.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, I put a muzzle brake on the weapon.

Somehow, all this moved into the novel. Unable to afford anything better, Will Diaz set about modifying two Mosins as long range rifles for his SRT team. He still has a long ways to go with them, but they’re close enough to being combat ready for him and Jonesy to take with them on their manhunt.

In the book, they find themselves targeting their quarry at distance of almost 500 meters. That’s right at the edge of being able to successfully hit the target with iron sights. They’re in the cold, the weapons have gotten cold, and now they have to lean on the weapons legendary toughness and range if they’re to bring a murderer to justice.

I won’t tell you the ending.