Files are not for windage adjustment

I mentioned in a previous post here how a previous owner of my Carcano had made a windage adjustment to the front sight blade by means of a file. That blade is driftable. No need for files. At any rate, the POA at 50 yds is off the POI by about 12″.

This blade is next to useless. Grrr
This blade is next to useless. Grrr

If you own a rare military rifle from WW II, please don’t do this to it.

I could try to drift the sight over to compensate, but it is clear that the blade has been filed down beyond where it ought to be. Too much material has been removed and I think its time to get a new one made.

Now I don’t have machine tools sufficient to fabricate my own blade, but my cousin does. So the old sight and a new drawing are in the mail off to him. Hopefully he can do something with it all and I can have a good foresight again.

The internet is a useful tool when it comes to research. However, I have been unable to locate specs on the foresight itself, or a replacement part, for this rifle. This poses a challenge for us in that the Carcano does not use a standard sight picture. The blade and the rear v-notch are not supposed to be in the normal alignment. Normal sight alignment means that the front post covers the target and is centered in the rear sight. The top of the front post and the top of the rear v-notch are aligned as well. In most configurations this gives the shooter a 100yd POA.

Not so with the Carcano. As can be seen in the picture below, the Italian designers had a different idea, and when you get the logic of it, it is rather sensible.

Italians are weird. But we love them just the same...
Italians are weird. But we love them just the same…

In combat, a rifleman doesn’t always have the time to adjust his sights when aiming at targets between 100 and 300 meters. A method of fast target acquisition is needed, and it should be simple.

The solution found by the designers was to make the sights in such a way as to be able to use them unadjusted for shooting out to 300 meters. The rear sight ramp doesn’t even start until 600m. All the shooter needs to do is set the front blade in the bottom of the v-notch for 100 meters, and in the classic alignment for 300 meters. If the shooter (myself, in this case) understands this doctrine, accurate shooting should be relatively easy.

Because I cannot find the part for sale online, I am trying to get one made. Last night I sat down with calipers, paper and pencils. This is what resulted. Hopefully It works.

It may be rough, but all the required measurements are there... I hope.
It may be rough, but all the required measurements are there… I hope.

A rough drawing can be worse than no drawing at all… One of the key things will be to bring the height of the blade back to 0.441″ from 0.358″. If I need to file it down I can do that easily enough, but as far as I can tell, this is the height that it is supposed to be. With a square top I shall be able to get a decent sight picture and drift the dovetail as needed.

By the way, I used the ‘Sight Height Calculator’ on Brownells website to figure the height out. They feature a very handy calculator and I recommend it to anyone who may be interested. The calculator can be found here. For the rear sight height I put in the measurement to the bottom of the v-notch, as that is where the 100 meter zero is supposed to be on this gun. Hopefully all goes well and I will have a functioning gun soon.

I'm not a pro draughtsman, but I like to pretend
I’m not a pro draughtsman, but I like to pretend


Range day

Today I took three milsurps to the range for some fun. The weather was fine, the sun out, and everyone on the range were in high spirits. One fella brought out his young son to shoot his .243. Passing on the shooting culture and the practice of riflery is a fine thing for a man to do. Good on him!

In this post I will cover the Carcano shooting. The Mosin shoot will be discussed as the last installment of the Mosin build series, the latest post in that line can be found here. The Lee Enfield will also be in an upcoming post.

20160312_113145Here they are.

The Carcano is a Mannlicher designed rifle that was adopted by the Italian army in 1891. It fires a 6.5×52 cartridge. Originally the bullet was a 162g round-nose projectile moving along at a modest (but effective) 2500fps. I am particularly fond of this weird little carbine. En bloc clips are very cool. There are reasons why they have fallen out of favor with sportsmen and militaries alike, but they have a real “cool factor”.

To test the chrony and get a baseline I ran six rounds of factory Norma ammo. I was shocked by the results. The six-shot velocity average was 1840 fps! Norma prints on the box that these cartriges are loaded for 2500 fps, give or take.  Between you, me and the fence post, I think something is wrong with Norma’s loads. The chrony gave good readings all day, as such I do not think that the chrony was at fault.

20160312_105447When I ran my handloads through I got very normal velocities. I loaded 140g Berger VLDs with 38.5g of 8208 XBR. The six-shot spread averaged 2416 fps. Felt recoil was up from the Norma loads, but was still very pleasant.

Upon inspection I discovered clear but mild signs of overpressure. The bolt was a tad sticky to open and the primers all had some slight bulging. If I step that load back half a grain, to 38g, I believe the load will run fine.

As for accuracy… what to say. A previous owner of this rifle attempted to windage adjust the fore-sight, with a file! WTF!!!!

The blade has been filed to a point!!! What idiot does that to a rifle???

The effect of such “windage adjustment” is that the point of impact at 50yds is about 12″ right of the point of aim.

Terrible. Just terrible. If I cannot find a replacement, I will try to make this work. That front sight post is driftable. The whole thing is secured by means of a dovetail. No file needed! Sigh…

My next order of business is to fix that front post.



Drill baby, drill

I am a big fan of optic sights. Scopes are God’s gift to the sight-impaired. Mosin Nagant rifles do not come from the factory drilled and tapped for modern scope mounts. What to do…

20160116_102237Aha. Much better.

A scope mount system is available from ATI. I bought mine for 75$ at my local Wholesale Sports outlet. Instructions in the kit indicate that it can be used for round or hexagonal receivers. Mine is round, so I cannot attest to the fit on a hex receiver. Given that it did work on my rifle, I’d guess that it does.

The kit comes with the bits and taps required to mount the rail, screws and the rail itself. It also comes with the parts and equipment for the bolt handle. We will cover the bolt work in another post.

The very first thing I did was remove my bolt. Do not drill holes in the receiver with the bolt in!

Place the rail on the receiver and clamp it in place so that you have room to drill out the holes. 20160116_102150Notice the position of the rail. Do not mount it in front of the machined-out step in the top of the receiver. If you do, you will drill into the chamber and ruin the action. Use clamps or a vise to securely hold the work piece. Check to ensure that the orientation of the mount is correct from side to side, viewed from the t20160206_145259[1]op. An off-centre scope is not going to help our shooting any.

Here is my Dewalt 20v drill that I used to drill the holes in the receiver. I used a clamp to secure the work piece to my bench. Be careful. Off center holes are pretty useless. Using a drill press is by far the best wat to do this job, but I don’t have one of those. McGiver has nothing on me…20160206_145519[1]

Be careful to follow the directions provided. Also, don’t lose any pieces. I won’t get too far into the process, as the kit comes with detailed directions, but I will make a few observations on the way.

First, do not put the tap in your drill for the thread cutting process! Use a proper tap handle. If you don’t have one, then you can use an adjustable wrench. If you go with the wrench, be careful to center the tap in the hole. I remember breaking a 5/8 tungsten tap once… long story.

Turn the tap slowly by 1/4 turns, and then back the tap out by 1/4 turn. Go slowly. If you experience any binding, do not force the tap. A broken tap is a real downer. Use lubrication. On a small hole like this WD-40 works well. Old engine oil or a proper thread cutting oil are fine too.

Once you have the holes cut & tapped, mount the rail. Use blue Loctite. Apply a small dab to the thread on the screw and then torque it down. Usually scope mount screws are torqued to 20 or so inch/pounds, but I just torque everything by guess. I guess I over-torqued them, cuz I over-torque everything. Like that time I snapped the studs off my Honda minivan…

Next post we will examine the scope, rings, and all that jazz. 20160116_102221


Taking stock…

20160116_103059ATI makes a very nice looking monte carlo stock for the Mosin. I picked one up at Bartons’. It was 107$, not too shabby a price. It comes with a cheek pad that has a peel-n-stick backing. You just peel the back off and install it on the comb.

I like the look of the stock. After all is done, the rifle shoulders beautifully. It feels great. But… the fitting process took some doing. 20160116_103236As you can see in the pictures, I really had to get in there, rip-tear-and-pull-hair. I used a file, sandpaper and an angle grinder to work the plastic into good shape. I really wish I had a dremel…

The barrel channel isn’t straight or wide enough.20160116_103248 I had to open it up by about a 1/4″ just to float the barrel. The action sat up on the stock so the action screws cannot even make contact with their threads.

In the top picture I show with the screwdriver a particular spot inside the stock. That spot is of great importance. If that spot isn’t milled out to the proper depth, the magazine interrupter, which is attached to the ejector, will not function. If that part of the stock isn’t inletted properly the interrupter impedes loading the magazine. A single-shot rifle is pretty useless in my view. 20160116_103157

All this to say, I am disappointed that this “drop-in ready stock” isn’t anywhere near drop-in ready. I am doing a second Mosin, and all the same problems occur. I can understand some work being required, but this does seem excessive. For 107$, I expect better quality.

Once the milling is all done, I would recommend bedding the action. Adding epoxy to the receiver lug cut-out and tang slot are a good idea. There is a bit of room in there that can be filled. 20160116_103258 20160116_103305

The idea with bedding the action is that there is some room in those cut-outs. As the rifle recoils, some movement in the action will be expected. This leads to diminished precision in shot placement.

We will examine the process of epoxy bedding in a later post.



Trigger Happy

As we go through each component of our rifle, we find little things can be improved with little or no effort. The trigger assembly in a Mosin Nagant is very simple. Some people prefer the original, unworked trigger in a milsurp gun. I guess a completely “authentic” trigger is part of the experience for purists. As is obvious, we are modernizing and modifying our milsurp. Anything that I can do to improve it, I will. Mosin triggers are not nice. Late WWII productions are particularly rough.

The first thing to do is to remove the trigger assembly from the action.20160116_103418

Use a flat bladed screw driver to remove the screw as shown. This screw holds the trigger spring and bolt stop into the rear of the receiver. 20160116_103441


Once this is removed, remove the trigger hinge pin. I found this came out pretty easily, but there is a lot of variation between rifles. Some pins will require the use of a punch. I used a ball-point pen.20160116_103557



This is what the parts look like when removed.20160116_103629


Be sure not to lose anything! If you do lose something, I have found that these parts are usually available online. That said, losing things is aggravating. If you can help it, don’t.

Next we need to inspect the mating face of the bolt stop. My apologies for the fuzzy picture. Nonetheless, it can be seen where I filed the surfaces down. 20160116_103832 The front and top needed to be shaved by just a hair. One thing many Mosin triggers share in common is that the bolt stop and the cocking piece do not mate to each other in a square manner. This directly causes the rough trigger. One method of determining if your Mosin has this problem is to cock the rifle and then take up all the trigger slack. Watch the cocking piece very carefully as you take up the slack. With an unadjusted trigger you will see the cocking piece slowly creep upward as you continue the trigger pull.

I used a sharpie to mark the mating surfaces on the cocking piece and bolt stop, then cycled the action several times and dryfired the weapon. Then I disassembled everything again, and inspected the cocking piece and bolt stop. Everywhere the ink had rubbed off shows where the surfaces made contact.

Then I took a small file and some 600-grit sandpaper and filed the mating surface square. Apply very little pressure. You do not want to remove too much material. Then I sanded the surfaces to a shine. You can see how the bolt stop and cocking piece go together below. In the second picture I inverted the bolt so it can be seen clearly.

Reassemble the rifle and dry fire it to see if the improvement is sufficient. Repeat the process as needed, but remember not to take off too much material.

There is a test that you can run to see if too much material has been removed. First, reassemble the trigger assembly. Do not put the barrel and receiver back into the stock. Holding the rifle by the barrel with the muzzle up, firmly strike down onto the floor or some other wooden surface. If when the tang strikes the floor, the gun fires, you have removed too much material.

Next we look at the barrel, and how to shorten it…




Mosin Nagant Tear-Down

20160116_102257The very first thing to do in our gun build is to take it down. As we go along, I will attempt to illustrate each step with a picture. Mosins are easy to take down, so it will be easy to learn this process.

Before we get to the process itself, please remember that you will have to strip the cosmoline the first time you take it apart. Cosmoline is a preservative gel-like substance that was used to preserve rifles through long storage. After the gun is broken into its component parts, rinse everything in hot soapy water. Dish soap like Sunlight works well.

As can be seen in these photos, I have already discarded the original wooden stock. The process shown below is identical for taking apart a rifle in that configuration, with the only difference being that you must take off the barrel bands as well.

Lets get to it.

Step 1) Remove the bolt. Draw the bolt to the rear of the action, as shown above. Depress the trigger, and then continue to draw the bolt out.

20160116_102450 20160116_102515Step 2) Remove the action screws. There is one in the rear of the tang, behind the action. The second screw is at the front of the magazine. Remove with a flat-bladed screwdriver.





Step 3) Remove the magazine and action from stock. Pull out the magazine first, as shown.20160116_102830




Then the receiver and barrel assembly.20160116_103034 I usually insert my forefinger into the rear of the action and lift up. This seems to be the least abusive way to get everything out.



Now the rifle is apart, and for a thorough cleaning, nothing more is required.



The Babushka Gets a Facelift… and some new hardware.

20151010_135948Our story begins in 1889. This was the year that the Russian Czar put an order out for a rifle that would be of “reduced caliber” and using “smokeless powder”. At that time the Imperial Army used the Berdan Rifle. The Mosin-Nagant was the rifle adopted in 1891.

Its cartridge was the 7.62x54R. The (R) designates that it is a rimmed cartridge, like the .303 British or the 8mm Mauser. In the late 19th century rimmed cartridges were all the rage. Of all the late 19th century cartridges, only the 7.62x54R is still in regular military use.

As the British, Italians, Germans, Austrians and Japanese had all been adopting bolt-action small-bore, magazine fed rifles in the decade prior, it was felt Russia ought have one too. The final design was an unwilling collaboration between the Russian officer Sergei Ivanovich Mosin and the Belgian inventor, Leon Nagant.

From a design perspective, the rifle borrowed features from most of the main battle rifles of the day. What the Russians got was a slightly uglier mash-up of the Mauser, Mannlicher, Enfield and Carcano. Considering that it was for use by the Russian Army, not famed for professionalism at the time, this rifle turned out to be fantastic.

Imperial soldiers (and their later Soviet counterparts) carried this rifle into many of the main wars of the early 20th century. It developed a reputation for being impervious to most damage. In the right hands it was even a well-considered sniper platform. A Finn named Simo Hayha recorded 505 confirmed kills on one of these rifles during the Finn-Soviet Winter War of 1939-40. He used the standard iron sights. Vassili Zaitsev and Lyudmila Pavlichenko are two of the more well-known Soviet snipers who used this rifle as well.

Some folks in the blogosphere like to hack this rifle on account of accuracy. They clearly weren’t shot by Hayha. Just sayin.

I bought this rifle for 150$ in a local gun shop, and have since made some changes. 20160116_102124And thus we begin! In this series of posts we will look at each step in the process, and comment on each step. Then we will shoot and evaluate our new Mosin. Let the fun begin…

Chop job

20160116_102237As most of you may know, a standard m91 has a 28 inch barrel. That is ridiculous. There are several reasons to cut a Mosin barrel down.

First, a 28″ barrel looks funny on a Monte Carlo stock. A barrel that long is also difficult to manoeuver in dense brush, which is where most of my hunting spots are. Third, longer barrels have more “whip” than a shorter, thicker, profiled barrel.

Lets look at that last point in particular.

When a bullet is fired from its’ cartridge through a barrel several things are happening. We call this “internal ballistics”.

The basic idea is that when the projectile leaves the cartridge mouth it passes into the barrel. The barrel has spiraled grooves cut in it, called “rifling”. These grooves grab the bullet and impart a spin to it, so that when it leaves the muzzle, the bullet is spinning, like a football. This spin aids accuracy. While the bullet is still travelling through the barrel, several forces are acting on it. There is the pressure wave of the explosion in the casing, which pushes the bullet forward. Friction is created by means of the interaction between bullet and the rifling, which gives spin. Air resistance is also present, as the volume of air in the barrel must be displaced, but this is really minimal.

The “whip” in a barrel is a result of the friction between the bullet and the rifling. We know that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. As the bullet spins, the barrel will move in an opposing manner.  To be sure, the barrel posses more mass than the bullet and will not move as much as the projectile, but it moves nonetheless. After the bullet leaves the muzzle the barrel will return to its original position. A shorter, thicker barrel should whip less that a longer one. With less whip comes a higher degree of probability that the barrel will more consistently return to its true position after firing.

All this to say, a shorter, thicker barrel ought to be more accurate, especially over a longer shooting session.

On account of these reasons I shortened my Mosin barrel.

Some other folks are better equipped than I in regards to tooling and such, so I have had to improvise somewhat. Before ya’ll start throwing the blog-o-bombs, hear me out. I cut my barrel down to 22″ with my angle grinder. After using my files and elbow grease, I switched to sandpaper and buffed the muzzle up.

As I do not have a crowning tool, I made use of my drill, a screw, and toothpaste. It makes a decent crown. A crown does not need to be much deeper than the bottom of the grooves. This method works pretty well, and for pennies on the dollar.

20160116_102539Insert the screw into the drill chuck, with the head sticking out. Put a dab of toothpaste on the screw head, and mill out the crown. Toothpaste acts as a grit paste. Move the drill in a circular motion so as not to wear any part of the crown more than another. It is important to get as even a bevel as possible.

We will cover accuracy and results in the final installment at the end of this series. Suffice it to say, the accuracy of this rifle improved over the course of this build. It doesn’t take expensive tools to do a job, nor to do it well. Time, some expertise, and a good idea of the end goal are worth just as much.

In the next post we will examine the drilling, tapping and mounting of the scope rail…