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Monday, July 25, 2016

Archangel OPFOR Stock for the Mosin-Nagant

Today I'm doing something I really should have done sooner, but I felt I needed to test it thoroughly before I reviewed it. That feeling of "needing to test it a bit more" lasted for over a year. During the course of that year, not only did I shoot it extensively, but I allowed other people to shoot it as well and they all had good things to say about it.

As I am not a hunter I did not take it hunting, nor did I deliberately abuse it as I do not believe in testing to destruction. However, it is my opinion that this stock is rugged enough to take whatever punishment you dish out, as the plastic is definitely not flimsy.

[This space is reserved for all the purists who will undoubtedly object to modifying an old rifle. Consider your opinions voiced, noted, and ignored.]

The Price: 
$205.75 MSRP, $174.95 Amazon, $152.99 MidwayUSA
I'm going address the elephant in the room first: Why would anyone buy a stock that costs as much as the rifle it goes on?

The first and best reason is "Because of the magazines." Archangel has created a 10-round detachable box magazine for the Mosin that is still reloadable from the top via stripper clips. The sheer convenience of this is not to be underestimated:
  • Do you have a scope over the action that prevents you from using stripper clips? This solves your problem permanently. 
  • Do you get tired of loading via clips and wish there was a faster, easier way to reload? This is your answer. 
  • Would you like to double the ammunition capacity of your Mosin and you haven't been able to get in touch with Riflemods to order an extended magazine? Not only does this answer your prayer, you get a more convenient way to reload your rifle. 
A word of warning: Archangel makes both 5-round and 10-round magazines. If you buy the stock, make sure you get one with the magazine you want! I believe the stocks on Amazon are 5-round magazines only. Price at MidwayUSA: $13.79 for a 5-round magazine, $16.49 for a 10-round.

The other two reasons are "Better ergonomics than any other Mosin stock out there" and "It automatically floats the barrel." Combine this with being lighter than the typical wooden Mosin stock and the ability to pick the color you want, and it's a winner.

Now, if you were to ask me "But is it WORTH paying the cost of a second Mosin?", then I'm afraid I can't answer that, as worth and value are not the same thing as price and cost. What I can tell you is that for about $350 to $400 and some elbow grease, you can buy a surplus rifle and turn it into a really nice shooter. It may not perform as well as a $1,000 Remington 700, but you'll also end up paying half that Remington price.

What You Get
The basic package comes with a single magazine and a stock that "Fits most M1891 rifles, hex / round receivers on 91/30, Soviet M-38 / M-44 / Chinese T-53 carbines" and "Fits Finnish M39 models with some modification". However, given the large variation in styles and manufacturing standards of Mosin Nagant rifles (especially WW2 era), some mild fitting may be required.

The stock also comes with two action screws, a wrench for same, and a barrel tensioner (in case your barrel doesn't shoot properly while floated and needs to be seated).

Other than one issue explained under "Cons" below, installation was drop-in simple for me. I understand, however, that this is not the case for everyone, and some fitting may be required. 

The stock comes pre-inletted for a Timney trigger and bedding pillars, so no extra work is required to install those either initially or later.  

The stock does NOT come pre-inletted for a bent bolt, which will require modification. This is nothing that a Dremel tool won't solve, but it is both annoying and a strike against the product in my book, because 
  1. A notch for the bent bolt should have been part of the design from the beginning, and
  2. There is a hex screw for a completely pointless "OPFOR" plate right where the bolt goes, and
  3. The plate covers an even more pointless hole into the action of the rifle. Simply removing the plate would not be a good idea. 
So not only will you need to Dremel out a notch for your bolt, but you will also need to remove one of the screws. Fortunately, the OPFOR plate is just plastic, so a single screw will hold it in place. 

This is where the Archangel stock shines. The gooseneck pistol grip with palm swell feels great in my hand and makes reaching the trigger far more comfortable for my Hobbit-sized hands, and the adjustable comb riser allows me to achieve a proper cheek weld instead of my previous chin weld. 

Similar to the comb, the buttstock also extends for anyone who desires an increased length of pull (for my readers who don't speak Gun Lingo, length of pull or LOP is the distance from the trigger to the butt of the gun. If you're a short person with short arms, you want a short LOP; taller people with longer arms will be happier with a longer LOP).

There's also a groove for you to place your support hand under the rear of the stock, sniper-style.
Everything feels comfortable and natural, which helps improve accuracy.

If you are kind of person who needs to elevate the comb for a good cheek weld, you had best memorize how many clicks you need to get there, because after 15 there is no way you are removing the bolt for maintenance without lowering the cheek pad.

Other Features

The stock comes with a half-inch thick rubber recoil pad already installed. However, the 7.62x54R cartridge can weary a shoulder quickly after a day of shooting (especially if you're shooting more often due to the convenience of magazine changes), and so I am pleased to report that a large (one inch thick) Limbsaver pad will fit over the buttstock for added comfort. 

There is also a small storage compartment within the pistol grip itself, suitable for holding things like hex wrenches, lens cleaning cloths and broken shell extractors.
Notably absent, however, is a rail system for mounting accessories like a bipod. For that you must separately purchase and install a forend rail. At $16 and Prime shipping from Amazon it's not a major dealbreaker, but (aside from the principle of the thing) installation requires you to remove the action from the stock. If you think you will want the rail, get it along with the stock and install it at the same time to save yourself the hassle.

Neither good nor bad is the sling attachment system. Rather than providing eyelets for traditional sling swivels, the stock instead sports three cups (one in front, 2 on either side of the buttstock) for quick-detach push-button swivels. If you have these kind of swivels lying around, that's great; if not, you're going to have to buy a pair before you can sling your rifle. 

I know I talked these up earlier, but I want to address a curious feature about how the magazines interact with the rifle. I may end up horribly butchering firearm terminology while explaining this, so please forgive and correct me if I do.

The Mosin-Nagant has an internal magazine, and because of this there is a feed interrupter inside the action which prevents all of the cartridges from ejecting up and out every time the bolt pulls back. However, this feed interrupter has made devising detachable magazines for the Mosin tricky at best.!AA76R 02/zoom/c188b/image_1v34
Archangel gets around this dilemma by making the feed interrupter in integral part of the mechanism instead of trying to bypass it. When a magazine is inserted, the feed interrupter interacts with the magazine and causes the top cartridge -- which had been held in place with a retaining loop --to come out of the magazine and advance upwards until it is stopped by the ejector.

If you aren't certain what I'm talking about, watch this video starting at the one minute mark for a better explanation.

What this means is that when you insert a magazine, that top round is going to pop free regardless of whether or not the bolt this closed. If you then decide to remove the magazine without chambering that top round, it's going to be loose and will fall away. This can result in lost ammunition.

There is a way around this, however:
  1. Move the bolt fully to the rear. 
  2. Apply downward pressure to the topmost round until it fully depresses into the magazine. 
  3. Eject the magazine before re-seating the bolt. 
The magazine is ejected via an AK-47 style release lever that is easily worked by the thumb of your supporting hand, but the magazine does not need to be "rocked" in or out like AK mags. Here is a video of the magazines being swapped

My Grade: A
I would have given the Archangel Mosin-Nagant OPFOR Stock an A+ if it had an already inletted notch for a bent bolt and came with a forend rail standard.

I think that this stock is definitely a worthy upgrade to an already dependable rifle. Having detachable magazines that can still be top-loaded via stripper clips is worth the price alone; that fact there are other ergonomic features and performance improvements (like the floated barrel) make this stock worth getting.

As an example, here is the tightest shot group I have ever made with this rifle, and it was made with this rifle stock installed.

I cannot say how much of this grouping is due to the performance increases made by the stock, and how much is simply my shooting technique improving over time. The answer is likely some degree of both. What I can say is that the Archangel OPFOR stock is incredibly comfortable, and that makes everything about operating the rifle easier.

Stock costs as much (or nearly so) as the rifle.

The stock improves the rifle immensely. The entire magazine system is, in my opinion, enough to justify buying the stock.

I recommend this stock to all Mosin-Nagant owners, despite its price tag. 

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