Colonel S.I. Mosin was serving the Czars in the Imperial Russian Army when he designed the bolt-action rifle that bears his name. The original Mosin-Nagant rifle entered service in 1891 firing those ancient 19th century round-nosed rifle cartridges. The M91 Mosin-Nagant rendered fine service through World War I, but by the Second World War, it was fairly obsolete.
The classic Mosin-Nagant was produced in a number of guises, but in 1944, a carbine version titled the M44 entered service with Soviet forces. Sporting a 20.4-inch barrel—a full eight inches shorter than its older parent rifle—the M44 was designed to be handier and incrementally lighter than its WWI forebear. The M44 also included a permanently attached cruciform bayonet that folded alongside the forearm when not in use.
HISTORY MEETS THE INFORMATION AGE
American gun laws are a labyrinthine amalgam of disjointed regulations sufficient to induce the vapors in a neophyte. The nitnoids concerning barrel length, forward hand grips, sporting purposes, and import criteria are adequate to vex me even after a literal lifetime of study. But some salient aspects of American firearms law are actually pretty neat.
Curio & Relic (C&R) firearms are by definition guns whose value is determined predominantly as a result of their collector status rather than their martial function. A gun declared a C&R weapon by the BATF is exempt from many of the contemporary restrictions that affect more modern iron.
It is a remarkably simple exercise to apply for and receive a Federal Firearms License from the BATF to receive C&R firearms at your home. C&R eligible guns are prominently labeled on most dealers’ websites.
The application is available on the BATF website and is only three pages long. It is easy to submit and only costs $10 per year. In my case, the turnaround was blisteringly fast as well. The information packet that accompanies the license includes everything needed to begin collecting C&R firearms legally, to include a roster to record serial numbers and vital firearms data.
Once received, a C&R FFL allows its holder to receive C&R guns at their home address without going through a conventional firearms dealer. The license is designed specifically for individual collectors rather than someone doing business in firearms.
Military technology has fully eclipsed the M44 design, and now untold thousands of these classic rifles sit disused in wartime stocks overseas. While it would cost a holy fortune to tool up and produce this rifle today, as there is no military market for these antique weapons, they perfuse the American collector’s market at absurdly low prices.
The rifles for sale today have decent bores and have been arsenal refinished to appear nearly new externally. With few exceptions, these venerable old guns are cool to look upon but have few practical applications compared to modern offerings. Archangel Manufacturing breathes new life into these classic old guns.
Archangel made its name in top-quality aftermarket firearms accessories. I have used several of their stock sets for years and have found them to be remarkably functional and fairly indestructible.
Their basic chassis is available for a variety of platforms and includes an ergonomic stock adjustable for both height of comb and length of pull. Their pistol grip fits the human hand perfectly, and the stocks are festooned with sling sockets and swivel studs. There is a small storage compartment in the pistol grip, and construction is of a robust synthetic material impervious to most everything.
The Archangel stock comes with one of their proprietary single-stack magazines. It is easily inserted and retrieved and manages those large rimmed cartridges with ease. Feed is positive and reliable.
Leaving the magazine in place, the rifle can be reloaded with stripper clips. Putting one of the flat clips in the back pocket is much easier than packing an entire magazine when out for a walk or while hunting.
When the World War II-era M44 Mosin-Nagant Carbine meets the 21st-century Archangel stock, the most extraordinary things ensue.
THE SCOUT RIFLE
The legendary Jeff Cooper coined the term Scout Rifle to describe a carbine-length bolt-action rifle suited for quick action in brush.
The archetypal Scout Rifle mounts a long-eye-relief optical sight well forward on the weapon to facilitate an uncluttered view for engagement of moving targets in heavy cover. Several modern manufacturers produce these guns de novo even today, though they are often spendy.
AIM Sports produces a kit that includes everything needed to turn a surplus M44 wearing an Archangel stock into a splendid Scout Rifle. While Cooper’s ideal Scout Rifle possessed a few features that the Archangel M44 lacks, it is a close facsimile at a fraction of the cost.
The AIM scope mount replaces the rear sight. Removal of the original rear sight requires nothing more than a punch and a hammer. The AIM scope mount is designed to be secured via a pair of included hex screws. I could drill out the mounting holes on the mount to accept the original sight retention pin and get a more solid result.
There are several adjustment screws to configure the sight at the optimal angle for your optics. Secure all screws with thread locker and they stay put under recoil.
The scope is adjustable from 2 to 7 power, and the eye relief when mounted forward on the rifle’s rear sight is perfect for my anatomy. The Nazis experimented with a similar optic called the Zf-41 on their bolt-action Kar98k rifles during WWII for the same reasons Jeff Cooper did. So configured, such a rifle is exceptionally handy and maneuverable.
The resulting rifle is as effective as modern bolt guns that are not nearly so old and cost many times more. The original military trigger on the old M44 is fairly long and creepy, but aftermarket triggers offer world-class performance. As the rifle is designed for quick engagements while on the move, the stock trigger doesn’t bother me much.
The long folding bayonet is removable with a little effort, and AIM Sports makes a cool muzzle brake that affixes to the mount if this compact rifle’s recoil is intimidating.
I initially intended to remove the bayonet, as it is kind of bulky. Removing it would have reduced the weight of the rifle and made it a bit handier. But the mount seems to be an integral piece of the barrel assembly and the retaining screw was heavily peened in place. I would have had to do some serious grinding or drilling to get the thing off. Short of refinishing the barreled action, it would have looked ugly.
But the bayonet is unobtrusive when folded and who knows when you might need it in the field? They don’t call them pig stickers for nothing.
The truly extraordinary aspect of this rifle system is that, once you take the plunge into a C&R FFL, the entire shebang can be built from components that the UPS Brown Truck of Happiness delivers straight to your door.
The tricked-out M44 Mosin-Nagant Archangel Scout Rifle is fairly heavy compared to the aluminum and plastic rifles that populate modern American gun shops. It is no heavier than a comparable modern Scout Rifle, but to throw bullets this large without brutalizing your shoulder requires a little mass. The 7.62x54mm cartridge is an antiquated rimmed design eclipsed by more modern rimless offerings, but its innate power puts it in the .30-06 category.
Most of the benefit of modern rimless cartridges arises from their ability to function in automatic and semiautomatic weapons. In the single-stack five-round detachable magazine of the Archangel M44, the rimmed cartridge functions just fine.
With a bullet weight of 174 grains and muzzle velocity of 2,500 feet-per-second (fps), the 7.62x54mm cartridge is proof against pigs, mule deer, black bear, and elk with appropriate modern expanding bullets. Several commercial ammunition manufacturers produce quality expanding rounds in this chambering, and cheap surplus ammunition means practice is only pennies per trigger squeeze.
On the range, the Archangel stock tames the handy WWII-era Infantry rifle nicely. The generous rubber recoil pad takes much of the pain out of long strings of fire, and the ergonomics of the system make time behind the rifle a fairly comfortable experience.
The heavy bullet is relatively immune to wind and remains flat shooting at appropriate Scout Rifle ranges.
American shooters looking to acquire a nice Scout Rifle without selling a kidney can get there with the Archangel M44. Even considering all the component parts, the Archangel M44 Scout Rifle costs about half what a modern version might, and you get a serviceable bayonet to boot!
Building the system at home is half the fun. Cheap surplus training ammunition means you can kill an afternoon at the range without feeling economically violated. A Curio & Relic FFL is a neat addition for any firearms enthusiast ready to add a new dimension to his hobby. The C&R FFL holder doesn’t give up any rights, and it is a thrill having these extraordinary old guns shipped straight to your door.
Drop by the Archangel website to drool over their nifty Information Age accessories, and download a Curio & Relic FFL application from www.atf.gov. Soon thereafter, you’ll find yourself on a first-name basis with your local UPS driver, and your gun collection will grow like never before. It might surprise you just how far your gun-buying dollars can go.