Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday Gunday: Cleaning your Mosin-Nagant

This weekend, two important things happened:
  1. I took Izzy to the 100 yard range and shot nearly 40 rounds of ammo;
  2. A Girl and Her Gun bought a Mosin-Nagant!
Is gun. Is meant to be big, strong like horse.

Therefore, to welcome A Girl to the Mosin Militia, today's post is all about how to effectively clean your Mosin after shooting a bunch of rounds through it.

But first, pictures! You guys want to see what I did to my targets at 100 yards, right? Of course you do!

This is how I set up my targets, one on top of the other, because I didn't know how much my bullets would drop at 100 yards and I wanted to make sure I'd be on paper.  The answer? Not very damn much. Not sure if it was my posture, or the ammo if I was using, but damn if the first few rounds didn't seem like they were rising. Eventually I just stopped worrying about bullet drop altogether and was firing pretty much straight-on, elevation-wise.

As for windage... there was some pretty impressive wind that day, and it was swirling through the berms of the range, sometimes crosswise and sometimes straight at me. I'm not sure if that was the big difference, or if the windage on my scope was off, but either way I needed to aim slightly to the right of the target in order to hit it.

Anyway. My first few shots were higher than expected. You can see two of them at the bottom of the top target, and some others were off-paper. I fired 38 shots, and if you count all the holes you'll find 35 of them. Not bad, I'd say! I was using milsurp ammo, a bipod, and a 7x scope.

This was my first target. 13 holes punched in it. While half aren't in the inner ring, they'd still be hits on a human torso.

My second target, once I'd settled in a bit (still had some windage problems). The very bottom two holes are from shooting at the bottom target. I had 20 shots on paper here. Anything in black is a torso hit, and anything inside the middle ring is a cranial hit.

I'm actually quite shocked at how well I did, as this was my first time with Izzy at a hundred, and there was lots of wind, and 7x magnification with long eye relief isn't what I'd call a good sight picture (but then, I have crappy vision).

So after shooting 40 rounds -- about twice what I've ever fired on previous trips -- Izzy needed a good cleaning. Since A Girl said she had trouble determining how to clean her Mosin, I offered to tell her how to do it.

First, if you haven't already, remove all cosmoline from the gun. I did that after buying Izzy in 2010 and all I used were paper towels and a can of WD-40, but my friend Jeff swears by B-12 Chemtool: "spray the metal parts with it," he says, "and the cosmoline will literally drip off it in about five minutes, even if the barrel is clogged."

I've also been told that Nevr-Dull works great to give your barrel a mirror shine. Pinch off a wad of it, and ram it down the bore like it was a cleaning patch. If it comes out a blueish-gray, you're good; that's just the natural color of the polishing agent within the cotton. But if it comes out tar-black, you still have cosmoline or carbon buildup. Alternate swabs of Nevr-Dull and clean patches until it stops coming out black. I am assured that residual cosmoline within the barrel will adversely affect accuracy.

If you've already shot your gun, then I'm assuming cosmoline isn't an issue.So now let's get on with the post-shoot cleaning.

The absolutely first thing you need to do is neutralize whatever corrosive salts may be lingering inside your rifle from shooting military surplus rounds. (If you're using commercial cartridges, this isn't an issue, but you're paying a dollar a cartridge for the privilege when the rest of us are paying $30 for a box of 100.)  There are various schools of thought as to how best to accomplish this, from the old-fashioned "soap and hot water" technique to various pricey chemical neutralizers. I was told that ammonia works great for this, so I just grab a bottle of Windex a for the task. I live in hot, humid Florida -- aka corrosion central -- and I've never had a problem.

I find that it works best to remove the receiver from the magazine and clean them in three parts: the bolt, the magazine, and the barrel. The first two get sprayed down while sitting on my cleaning mat, and then wiped with a paper towel. Then I take the barrel into the bathroom, and after spraying the receiver I give several good squirts into the chamber, rotating the barrel in my hands so that the Windex coats the entire bore surface before dripping out into the toilet. Now take your bore inspection light (you do have one, right? You can buy one at Wal-Mart for about $7) and make sure everything looks wet & shiny.*

Foreplay is over. Now let's get to cleaning this bad boy!

Take your bronze brush and scrub the heck out of your bolt-face until there's no carbon left. Use a scraper if necessary. Coat with a lubricant of your choice (I prefer Break-Free CLP) and set it aside.

Take the hinge plate off the magazine and give everything a good squirt of CLP. Wipe down the excess and set it aside.

Time to get serious with the receiver and barrel. There are a few tools I swear by that make my life easier:

Take your Otis cleaning rod, select a #30 brush, and pull it through the bore a few times. If you're using the cleaning rod guide, you'll need to affix the additional pistol piece to accommodate the length of the rifle. 

Next, take the cleaner of your choice and spray or squirt it onto the boresnake. I like to put some right at the leading edge, and again after the bristles where it widens. Thanks to the cleaning rod guide you can do the easy thing and clean from muzzle to breach -- which is technically a no-no, but isn't a big deal in this case, because the guide will channel all the crud clear of the gun -- or you can go breech to muzzle if you'd rather. Do that however many times you feel is necessary (I like to do it about 5-6 times) and then run a patch through the bore.

(This is where things can get a bit tricky, because if you aren't using the rod guide then your patch is likely picking up crud from the outside of the chamber and pulling it through the bore. This is not what you want, because it makes your life harder and you think the barrel is dirtier than it actually is.)

Once you're happy with the condition of your bore, having run boresnake and patches down it a few times, and visually inspected it with a light, you're ready to clean the chamber and receiver. The receiver itself is easy: get a bronze brush, the cleaner of your choice, and scrub it until you're satisfied with its cleanliness. Don't forget to lube the trigger and check the tightness of the screw holding the interrupter pin!

Cleaning the chamber is probably the hardest part of all, and I don't have a great technique for it just yet. Fortunately, I am reassured that unless my rifle starts giving me problems with extracting spent rounds, it doesn't have to be pristine. If your 50+ year-old rifle can survive illiterate conscripts and the Russian winter, it can survive you!

My best suggest for cleaning the chamber is to spray it with a strong solvent, like Gunk Out, and then attack it with either the longest bronze brush you have, or put a larger bore brush on it (perhaps .45 cal, or a shotgun brush) and scrub the hell out of it. Then wrap a patch around the brush and wipe it clean. Repeat as necessary.

Before assembly, spray the receiver, chamber, and bore with more CLP. If you have excess, just wipe it on the outside metal of the rifle.

Re-assemble your Mosin, and do a function check. I have found it's very, very easy to over-tighten one of the magazine screws while under-tightening another, and this often leads to failure to feed. Once I get each screw started, I like to go back and forth between the screws in one-revolution increments. Load up a stripper clip, shove the rounds into your rifle, and carefully work the bolt to see if they feed.

At all times during the process, be aware of the rules of firearms safety! Know where the muzzle is pointing and for God's sake, keep your booger hook off the bang switch!

Et voila -- or, more accurately, электронной Вуаля -- your Mosin-Nagant is now clean, oiled, and ready for storage. Make sure it's unloaded, slowly and carefully  take the tension off the bolt, and put your rifle into its case.

Congratulations! You're all done!

*UPDATE:  If you are in the habit of shooting your Mosin with the bayonet attached, do not forget to clean the bayonet shaft closest to the muzzle! Corrosive salts will spray from the barrel and begin to rust your bayonet (don't ask me how I know this) if you don't hose it down with Windex.

I've since discovered an easier way to clean the bore without having to take the rifle into the bathroom:  I attach the bayonet, go into the backyard, and stab the receiver into the ground like a tomato stake. From there I just spray the chamber and barrel and let the Windex work its way down while I clean the bolt and magazine.


  1. LOL! I try to be thorough.

    Even though I am quietly terrified every time I write something like this that I have missed something critical.

  2. I really don't understand how explaining how to clean a gun can make it sound more appealing, but okay! 

    They're fun and they're really cheap. Like, less than a hundred bucks in some places.

  3. Not some bad shooting!  

    One thing to remember about ballistics is that your optic's line of sight is higher than your bore-line, and thus the two lines were set at the factory to intersect at some point.  If you zeroed the optic at 50 yards, there will be some distance farther down the range where it is also technically "zeroed", and then the bullets start dropping off - there are a few programs for that (online, desktop, and smartphone) if you want to play with where to have it zeroed and such.  

    The other thing the boreguide does for your cleaning rod is keep it from impacting the sides of the barrel as much, and, most importantly, keep it from rubbing down that crown we talked about (though, for most M-Ns, this may be already be a lost cause).  

    If your 50+ year-old rifle can survive illiterate conscripts and the Russian winter, it can survive you!  
    That is probably the most important thing - whatever you end up doing to/for it, it is probably better off than it would have been ;).  

  4. Good grief woman...I came here to check tings out and there is a big ol' picture of me...scary!  That is an extremely comprehensive post.  I am printing it out!! Thanks for the post and the morning jolt.  Better than a cup of coffee which I am off to buy right now! 

  5. I will default to the wisdom of others since my own is so rare, why you shouldn't clean old guns as thoroughly as you like.

     Recently on View From The Porch:

  6. Do as you like, but I'm positive there's no cosmoline left on the inside of the barrel, and I don't want the bore to rust and corrode from corrosive milsurp rounds.

    Besides, this gun is neither parkerized nor patinated; it's blued, at least in the placed where the bluing hasn't worn off (like around the muzzle).

  7. Thoroughly cleaning the bore is good, especially after firing corrosive ammo!

    Windex is what I use for neutralizing corrosive salts from priming compunds, too. :)

  8. Tam read one of my posts?

    Tam left a comment?

    Tam approves of my technique?

    *eyes boggle*



    Thanks for dropping by! I hope you like the place.

  9. If you love your Nagant, you're going to want one of these: 

    It's an adapter that allows you to shoot .32 cal pistol ammo in it.  For the times when you don't want a shoulder bruise, or you're at a pistol-cal-only gun range.  Love mine.

  10. I've seen those. They aren't like choke tubes, are they? Wouldn't I have to manually load the bullet into the insert? Could I stack 5 of them to fill the magazine?

    I'm thinking the answer is no, yes, no.

  11. thanks for the tips...  followed you over from TheOlag, stayed for the ponies and the mosins - just got a M39 to add to the 91/30, and have been considering corrosive, it's cheap!  but the cleaning... oiy :>  salts.  who knew.  whee.

  12.  Gun Bronies represent! We are a small but strange minority. :)

    Despite all of the write-up, it's really not hard to clean a Mosin. Once I've flushed the barrel with Windex, I just set up my kit in front of the TV and put on something suitably brainless, like Saturday Night Live or any of the various docu-dramas on Discovery Channel, and I clean & watch. The time just flies by. :)


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