I blame Jeff Cooper.
Shortly after achieving awareness as a pupal stage shooter, strapped for cash and already owning a decent .22LR rifle and an original condition #4 Lee-Enfield, I read the following:
Have you noticed in recent advertisements that the excellent Enfield No. 4 battle rifle is now available in the larger stores for $70 a crack! This is a very superior utility weapon, and you should snap it up while it lasts. If you have a safe place to store your weapons you ought to buy at least two of these pieces, together with a satisfactory supply of ammunition. As it comes out of the box, the piece will do (“for government work”), and if you want to play around with customizing it, you can turn it into a pretty nice approximation of a Scout. Take heed!
Well now!, thought I. I am both poor and interested in a utlity scout rifle, (For doing what I did not know). I also have an inflated sense of my uniqueness and a great overestimation of my mechanical abilities! This sounds like a project for me!
I bought a stockless but otherwise complete #4 Enfield at a gunshow. Then I bought a plastic ATI stock set, and a scope mount (replaces rear sight! No gunsmithing required!), and some sling sockets (for a Ching Sling!), and a buttstock cartridge cuff, and then another ATI stock set because I filed way too much material off the first set to make it fit and now it was loose, and some cheap rings and a cheap Chinese scope, and then another scope mount because the first one seesawed a good 1/16″ when mounted, and then I gave up.
And thank #DEITY that I did, because even if I got the gun to shootable condition, it would have been a complete and utter piece of shit compared to an off the shelf sporting rifle that I could have bought for less. I sold the parts piecemeal, then the rifle lived in my closet for a couple years waiting for me to get around to buying the parts to restore it, then I sold it off to some other sucker and got on with my life.
Experienced shooters will immediately recognize two failures with my approach, one fundamental and one practical. The root issue is undertaking a customization project without defining any requirements or goals, but even then my undertaking was cursed from the beginning because you really can’t make as good a rifle for less than the major manufacturers already offer.
[Image used without permission from Oleg Volk. Like I could take a picture this good.]
Don’t get me wrong. Your rifle is yours and you can do whatever you want with it. I am not offended by this contraption, one single fewer original condition Mosin in the world is no big loss, and if I actually owned any, I would encourage such activities because they would make mine increase in value marginally. No, the big problem here is that it’s dumb, if you actually expect to use the rifle for anything other than a tinkertoy. I caveat this because to modify a gun to learn how to modify a gun is in itself a perfectly valid educational experience, but when done without goals in mind other than “make it different!” your results will be, well, this:
To understand this, you need to understand the history of sporterizing military rifles. When commercial rifles retailed for five to ten times the price of a surplus military rifle it made some economic sense, especially when such excellent base guns like 1903s and Mausers were available for $10 out of a barrel. To turn a military rifle into a deer slayer, our forefathers added lightness by cutting down or replacing the stocks, replaced the coarse sights with precise models or scopes (requiring considerable gunsmithing to do so), and sometimes replaced the heavy banded barrel with a lighter profile tube that was floated from the stock. When you paid $10 for a Mauser, these modifications were achievable for less than the cost of a $110 Winchester M70.
However in these times, the cheap Mausers are gone and we are left with the Mosin. Not to say that you can’t improve them at all:
They are adequate rifles as they come and with a lot of effort and a plan, improvements can be made. But trolling through the catalog picking out the cheapest “accessories” that fit your rifle is not a plan nor an improvement.
I’m going to zero in on one particular problem with EP’s rifle.
This is a Chinese “no-gunsmithing” aluminum mount that replaces the rear sight and comes with a set of aluminum rings and a Barska 2-7x scope for $50 from Amazon. One could write post after post about the problems with cheap scopes (and I will), but the biggest issue here is the mount. Given the crude wartime expedient machining of the Mosin, the nature of the mount and the lowest dollar Chinese quality control, there is no way this system will hold zero or even withstand a mild knock. It is decidedly worse than the original sights, which while dim, slow and tiny, were at least robust and reliable.
But here is the real killing word to the concept of the sporterized Mosin:
This is the Ruger American bolt-action rifle. It is built in the USA and comes out of the box with an adjustable trigger, a scope mount, a free floated light profile barrel, a tang safety, a detachable magazine and a bedded synthetic stock. Did I mention that it’s available across the counter for $350? It’s also available in common sporting calibers and reports are that it’s quite accurate (for a few shots, until that barrel warms up. For Zulu Dawn, you’re going to want a varmint profile barrel).
I am quite sure there are more than $350 of parts hanging off Pallete’s Mosin, yet she managed to end up with something worse. A nitpicker may point out that the Ruger American doesn’t come with a scope, but I would reply that her rifle doesn’t have a scope or mount either, rather a cheaply cast Chinese lie that looks like one. Cheap scopes are a false economy, because they will rarely announce they have failed before you are putting lead downrange. You will only notice a broken scope when your shots are missing wildly and you have lost the match or the deer. Hunters who have been around a bit know, the gun and scope are the cheapest part of the event! It makes no sense to skimp here.
Again, if you regard your rifle as a project rather than a tool, than a project is what you will get, and it doesn’t matter that it is less useful for practical shooting than the alternatives. However, if you are buying a rifle to get things done, even if it’s just punching paper, then put down the Cheaper Than Dirt crackpipe and hie yourself down to your local friendly merchant of death and see what he’s got on the shelf. You might be surprised, and you will definitely save money and frustration.