It seems a bit silly reviewing the hunting capabilities of a rifle in service since 1891, but the cold hard truth about hunting is that even a rifle this old is fine for the shots most people take. This is the 3rd Mosin Nagant that I’ve owned, and I bought is exclusively to do this review. Most hunting occurs at 50-150 yards, and so long as your eyesight is OK, this is the most inexpensive rifle you can hunt with. That does mean something, because not all of us can afford Sako’s to hunt deer with. Even the ultra-budget Remington 770 is right around $250-$300, while a Nagant is half of that. This review will be focusing on the capabilities of the Mosin Nagant as a short-medium range, ultra inexpensive hunting rifle. I purchased a Mosin Nagant model 1891 just for this review from Wanstalls. If you’re looking for history or more than just hunting utility, check out Wikipedia or 7.62x54r.
Video Review (for hunting purposes) of Mosin Nagant 1891
In short: terrible. By examples of other bolt actions in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, I guess it’s OK. Better than a Carcano, but completely terrible by modern standards. Bolt close/open on some rifles is extremely rough, the safety is laughably bad and inconvenient from a hunting perspective, and the hinged floorplate is not exactly a paragon of usability. The stripper clips, especially when compared to those that work great like the SKS/AK47 stripper clips, are crap. The length of the 1891 is unacceptable for blind hunting and pretty inconvenient for hunting dense brush, while the muzzle blast and recoil from the M44 and M38 are ridiculous in their own way. You could get a Pro-Mag chassis to improve much of the stock/mag, but that adds cost to our otherwise very thrifty backup/short range hunting rifle. Even adding a $100 cost to this rifle brings it up to compete with much better platforms. If you’re going to be thrifty, be thrifty, but don’t find false economy in adding expensive aftermarket parts to an otherwise economical rifle.
The trigger on some can be complete garbage. It’s long, creepy, heavy, and rough. If you’re a bit handy, you could redo it yourself (I followed this video) or for ~$100, you can buy an incredible Timney trigger that’ll be way better, but that only makes sense if you love the Mosin platform. Otherwise, you could get a Savage Axis and be done with it. Again, these “inexpensive” $100 add-on’s quickly reduce the price difference between the Mosin and a brand new, value priced hunting rifle.
There are 1 or 2 inexpensive add-ons that may make sense and won’t throw the price out the window. A rubber buttpad off Amazon will replace the sting of the steel buttplate, and if your eyes aren’t up to the task anymore, a rear sight mount with a low profile red dot or long eye relief scope may be the ticket. If you’re looking to take the sting and much of the recoil out, check out my review on the Howling Raven Muzzle Brake for the Mosin Nagant.
Quality on Mosins ranges widely. During wartime, machining was typically very rough and fast, and stock work can look like it was done by cousin Cletus just after he finished making up (and testing) a batch of moonshine. One positive I can have on these rifles is that they were definitely designed with durability in mind. You won’t shed a tear dropping one into the mud and it won’t care much either. And while you might have reservations about bringing your Sako through the rough brush where it’ll get scarred and scraped, you wouldn’t mind at all to bring a durable, $150 Mosin-Nagant.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with 7.62x54R. Sure, it’s an outdated design (released with the Nagant in 1891) but accuracy is good enough for hunting purposes, as is take down power for our 100-200 yard range. With soft points, you’re good to go for hunting North American game.
If you’re a Canadian, your inexpensive hunting rifle should be a sporterized SMLE in .303. The bolt is faster, it’s accurate enough, and you’ll at least find 303 at Canadian Tire. 7.62x54R hunting ammunition is still pretty rare in most areas. The stripper clips on the SMLE work better, it comes with a mag that detaches, and the triggers aren’t usually so awful.
If you’re not a Canadian, or if you’d like to plink with cheap ammo on the off-season, the Mosin starts looking attractive. Surplus 7.62x54R is cheap practice ammo, though there are better rifles for building marksmanship. Sorry that I kind of beat up the Mosin Nagant in this review: it’s great for the dollar, but just another $150 buys such a better rifle for hunting. I try not to be a price snob and I try to be sensitive to people who don’t have $300 for a Rem 770, Mossberg ATR, or Savage Axis, but they’re just soo much better as hunting rifles than a refurb Mosin Nagant 1891. The trigger, safety, loading, weight, length, ability to scope, consistency, lack of buttpad, it’s just all bad news on the Mosin where it’s a lot better on a modern bolt action hunting rifle, even the cheapest ones out there. Even other Milsurps like the SKS, M14, etc can be good choices with some limitations. I don’t want to say all this to dissuade the new shooter who can’t afford anything else, but just to inform: there are better hunting rifles out there. If you have to start with the Mosin, start with it and love it.