Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Restoring a Mosin Nagant Sniper

As mentioned in a previous blog entry, one of the types of Mosin Nagant 91/30 sniper rifles out there is the “restored” sniper. I actually went through the process of restoring a Mosin sniper (with some help from a friend), and the results are awesome! Restoring a sniper isn’t an easy process, and some collectors prefer that decommissioned snipers remain decommissioned. I have examples of both in my collection.

The key is to start with an actual decommissioned sniper rifle rather than normal M91/30. A decommissioned sniper rifle will have the four holes for the scope mount plugged (two for the mounting pins, and two for the mounting screws). It will also generally have a normal stock, or a plug filling the cut out in the stock for the scope mount. A decommissioned sniper will also have a scope serial number crossed out on the receiver. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find a former sniper with the pins remaining and the holes drilled and tapped, but these are hard to find.

Assuming you’re starting from scratch (a plugged receiver with a normal or patched stock), the first step in the restoration is disassembling the rifle. This isn’t too hard to do on a Mosin Nagant. You have two barrel bands to remove and two screws connecting the receiver/barrel to the trigger guard/magazine housing. At that point, you’ll be able to remove the barrel from the receiver.

Next you’re going to need to open back up the holes for the mounting pins and screws. The weld used to plug these holes is generally very hard, and it takes very good cobalt bits and a good vise to do this correctly. Bit sets and tap sets are available to do the job. Once you have the holes drilled, you’ll need to tap the holes for the mounting screws. I goofed the first time I drilled one of the holes, so we had to rebuild some of the receiver with weld. Second time was the charm (with substantial help from a buddy of mine). Once you get the holes drilled and tapped you’ll end up with something like what you see below:

On my rifle, I had to do some re-bluing where we had to rework the mounting holes. After giving it a quick hot blue (most of the area is going to be covered by the scope mounting block), the next step is actually attaching the scope mount to the receiver. This is accomplished through the use of two screws and two pins. You’ll need a good punch and hammer to get the pins to go as they’re fairly tight. The screws also have capture screws, so once you get the whole assembly tightened down, make sure you can insert the capture screws. My scope mount and scope had steel hardware – be careful, there’s a lot of aluminum reproduction hardware out there and it is a lot more fragile!

Mosin Nagant sniper rifles all have turned down bolts as the scope blocks the normal bolt configuration. These are difficult (if not impossible) to make from a standard bolt effectively. Many ex-snipers are available with the turned down bolt. Services are available to turn down standard bolts (to retain a matching rifle), or sniper bolts are available for purchase. Mine came with a matching sniper bolt, so I didn’t have to expend any calories on this part of the restoration. If the stock is not cut for the scope mount, then this is the time to cut that slot. Some will simply have that area plugged so it’s a simple matter of removing the plug. On others, the slot must be cut – consult good reference data before proceeding!

At this point, all of the pieces are together, and all that’s required from a mechanical standpoint is to reassemble the rifle. Simply put the barrel / receiver and trigger guard / magazine into the receiver and screw them back together. Then replace the handguard and barrel bands. At this point the rifle itself is back together – now add your scope to the scope mount and you’re ready to sight it in!

There are lots of references out there for sighting in a Mosin Nagant sniper rifle. You may need to add some shims to the scope mount to ensure a reasonable zero. The PU scope isn’t a bad little scope – it’s not incredibly sophisticated, but it gets the job done. The actual restoration was alternately frustrating and exciting – but the end result was very satisfying!

Until next time!!!

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