Produced in figures of no less than 48 million by at least a dozen countries from 1891 through 1973 the Mosin-Nagant rifle was robust, accurate, and reliable. The Mosin was the bread and butter of the Russian and later Soviet Armies and in the hands of Warsaw Bloc proxies from Spain, North Korea, and Vietnam to Nicaragua and Grenada. It is still found in almost every third world country's arsenals to this day. For a design that is 121-years old and predates the Ford Model T by a generation, that's not too shabby.
One of the last incarnations of the Mosin was the humble M44, was a cut down version designed to be carried by Soviet Frontoviki in the last years of World War Two. These were made in Polish, Hungarian, Rumanian, and Russian M44 versions, as well as by the Chinese 53.
I had acquired a few Russian M44's back when they ran for about $79 a couple years ago. Now they are pretty hard to find except from individual sellers. However, Aim Surplus and J&G are still selling the Chinese version for about $149.
The worst of my M44s has a dark but serviceable bore with acceptable rifling. Its stock is ugly, with lots of scuffs and a few light splits and gouges. It's a 91/30 cut down job with mismatched serials that mainly came from Tula Arsenal. It's not a collector so let's not pretend I ruined something here by doing this build. With this in mind, I spent a weekend making a Mosin 44 Scout. For more of a challenge, the all-in price for this was set as low as possible.
One rough old M44. These are often found floating around gunshows for the $100 cash mark.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Scout Rifle concept, in a nutshell it's a small and handy but hard hitting rifle in the .30 caliber range equipped with an extended eye relief scope.
At 9 pounds flat, and 40" overall with a 20 1/4" barrel, the Mosin already surpassed the desired specs for length and weight. To help alleviate this, I removed the bayonet and most of its assembly with that most dreaded of all weekend gunsmiths, the Dremel tool. Amazingly almost 24 ounces of weight came away with the bayonet and the bracket knurl that held it on. By doing a full strip down of the stock, a sand job with fine grit sandpaper, and pulling what seemed like a half gallon of goop out of nooks and crannies, I was left with a rifle that stood at just a hair over 7-pounds. Without the bayonet, it also became much handier and less muzzle heavy.
I refinished the stock, mount, and scope in typical bubba style with inexpensive exterior paint in an urban camo pattern.
To pick a basic extended eye relief scope that is readily available I chose one that is readily available from the a dozen sources, the NcStar. The NcStar 2x20 LER scope is probably made in China by 11-year olds and inspected by political criminals. Hey, the M44 was undoubtedly built under the same circumstances in the motherland so how can I complain. Nevertheless, it came with the mount and was bought for $32 that included the rings. The companion import weaver-ish mount added another $14. All told, this added about 13 ounces to the firearm when mounted.
Finished project with LER scope, standard sling, muzzle break, and refinished stock.
In a variable package, the UAG outfit sells a Mosin Nagant 2-7x32 Long Eye Relief Scope with a new generation weaver rail mount, lens covers, and rings for $49. If I would have come across it before I bought the set I used, I probably would have tried it out.
I was wondering about the durability of the small inexpensive scope so I ran a small test before I mounted it. I call it the big-gulp test. Taking the largest plastic tumbler cup in my house, I filled it with tap water then placed the scope without rings or mounts into said cup. For two days, it remained the monster in the lagoon, drawing stares and comments from all that came across it. At the end of the test, the humble chicom product did in fact prove to be nitrogen filled tube and was in fact waterproof as described.
When mounted in place of the rear sight, it proved functional and was able to sight it. It's not iron cross accurate, but it will still enable hits at 100-200yards with reasonable accuracy.
Going for the bottled wine over boxed wine bubba build, there are several minor differences you can make in the process. These, while slightly more expensive than what I went with, could offer a better end product.
Leatherwood/Hi-Lux makes a 2-Plex Leatherwood 2-7x32 Long Eye Relief Scout Scope that runs about $130 and will undoubtedly hold point of aim better. Better yet, it has a lifetime warranty. You can get a B-Square Long Eye relief mount for about $50.
To help tame the huge ball of fire and stout recoil on the light rifle I added a clamp on muzzle break for a $10 investment.
According to Jeff Cooper's To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth, the following are the seven defining characteristics of the scout rifle and how close the build came to it:
1. An unloaded weight, with accessories, of 3 kg (6.6 lbs); with 3.5 kilograms (7.7 lbs) the maximum acceptable. Check, at total build weight of just under 8 pounds with optics and muzzle break.
2. An overall length of 1 meter (39.4 in.) or less. With the muzzle break length overall is 42.9 inches, without it, the M44 is just at 40 so this is close.
3. A forward-mounted telescopic sight of low magnification, typically 2-3" main lens diameter. This preserves the shooter's peripheral vision, keeps the ejection port open to allow the use of stripper clips to reload the rifle, and eliminates any chance of the scope striking one's brow during recoil.- Check.
4. Ghost ring auxiliary iron sights: a rear sight consisting of a receiver-mounted large-aperture thin ring, and typically a square post front sight. This allows the rifle to be accurately aimed and short to medium ranges even if the scope becomes damaged. (Nope, but I'm working on it)
5. A simple sling- Check, the mosin's original sling is as simple as it gets, but it works.
6. A standard chambering of .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO/7mm-08 Remington or similar.- Check, the 7.62x54R is ballistically similar to these rounds and even more commonly available, although premium loadings are scarce.
7. Should be capable of shooting into 2 minutes of angle or less (4") at 200 yards/meters (3 shot groups). Check, with Sellier and Bellot 180-grain 7.62x54r SP's this ugly gun shot about that.
My Scout M44 build in the wild. I often go on feral hog hunts in the scrubs of South Mississippi and the size and hard-hitting caliber of this build works for me. The camo pattern, while far out unless holding off zombie hordes or aliens in the ruins of Chernobyl, actually works well in the fall where everything turns to shades of gray and brown in the bayou.
While it is not pretty, the build took my existing M44 and modified it into a workable scout concept for less than $100. Total investment with the rifle is $180-ish. If I drop it off a boat into the river or smack it against a tree trunk while chasing hogs in the Mississippi swamps, I won't cry. In short, it is a Jeep gun. It shoots and holds to most of the Colonel's guidelines and I dig it.