Since I'm no expert on guns, when I decided I probably needed a rifle for Alaskan bush living, I turned to the experts I know. My friend Gary, a tattoo artist, does a lot of shooting and hunting, including big game. I asked him what he thought I should look for in a rifle. He suggested a "scout rifle." The scout rifle concept is the brain child of shooting guru Jeff Cooper. He described a "... a general-purpose rifle is a conveniently portable, individually operated firearm, capable of striking a single decisive blow, on a live target of up to 200 kilos (440 lbs) in weight, at any distance at which the operator can shoot with the precision necessary to place a shot in a vital area of the target."
The scout rifle should:
- weigh between 6.5 and 7.75 pounds
- have an overall length of 39 inches or less
- have a forward-mounted scope of low magnification power
- have a Ching- or CW-style sling
- be chambered in .308 Winchester or comparable power cartridge
First, I bought a Russian surplus Mosin Nagant M44 carbine. For the princely sum of $90, I get a bolt-action rifle manufactured sometime between 1943 and 1945 in the Izhevsk arsenal. It's a carbine length with a folding bayonet. It is chambered for the 7.62x54R cartridge, which is in the same power class as the .308. Although this is a surplus WWII rifle, there are soft-point hunting loads currently made for it, as well as lots of cheap surplus full metal jacket ammo on the market. It needed a good cleaning to get the cosmoline grease that it was stored in out of all its mechanical workings.
Although the M44 started out with a oiled wood stock, the weight requirement for a scout rifle called for a fiberglass stock. Thankfully, there is a nice one made by ATI available for about $50. I also added a sling, and a forward-mounted BSA 2x20 pistol scope. (Pistol scopes have the long eye relief necessary for forward-mounting.) I also installed an adjustable trigger, which makes a nice improvement over stock.
Already a huge improvement, as you can see. Looks much more like a lightweight hunting rifle. The sling is only mounted in two places at this point, though. That's not a Ching- or CW-style sling. The bayonet has been removed, but the mounting lug is still there. So the next step was to add another sling swivel stud just forward of the magazine, and cut up the sling to make it a Ching-style. That provides two loops, with the middle portion of the sling sliding on the longer portion which attaches at the foregrip and buttstock. To use a Ching sling, one puts his arm in the front of the sling up to his bicep, and then loops his arm back around and grabs the foregrip. The sling stabilizes the gun by pulling against the bicep.
Now, the bayonet lug is pretty unpleasing to the eye, not to mention heavy. It also incorporates the front sight, which is no longer necessary with the scope installed. One can sometimes hammer out the roll pin that holds it all to the barrel, but it wasn't possible in my case. That's okay, though--I wanted a shorter barrel anyway. The stock barrel was 20.25" long. I cut it off just behind the bayonet lug, for a barrel length of 17.25". That's definitely a short barrel (although not short enough to make it a "short-barreled rifle" under the National Firearms Act!) but it shouldn't affect accuracy significantly out to 100 yards. I don't plan to need to make any shots farther than that!
Shortening the barrel required re-crowning, but that's easily accomplished at home with a round grinding bit, a carriage-head bolt and some valve grinding compound. Good enough for a military surplus rifle, anyway!
So it ended up looking like this:
Not a bad-looking rifle, and it fits the scout rifle definition pretty well. The weight is still too much at 8.5 pounds, but that not something that can really be helped when starting with a heavy military surplus rifle like this. The overall length is 37 inches. It has the forward-mounted, low-power scope, and Ching sling. The 7.62x54R cartridge fits the power class for Scout rifle cartridges. It remains to be seen if I'm very accurate with it, but I plan to find a shooting range and practice a bit!
Possible future projects include a bent bolt, since the Mosin Nagant bolt is a straight bolt and harder to operate. A bent bolt provides better leverage. The safety is also odd on the Mosin Nagant rifles. To operate it, you have to pull back on the rear of the bolt and rotate it to one side. This is somewhat difficult to do and leads some folks to simply not chamber a cartridge until they're ready to fire. However, that limits you to 4 cartridges in the magazine rather than 4 in the magazine and one in the chamber. An alternative is to add a "finger ring" to the rear of the bolt to make the safety easier to operate. I may give that modification a try as well.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with this project. It gave me something to tinker with (besides cars) while I study for the Kentucky bar exam, and perhaps I'll actually get a chance to use it in Alaska, even if it is just on paper targets.
(And in case you were wondering about the title of the post, Samara edited it to add the "gun gun gun" part. Apparently when I talk about cars, or now guns, I am pretty boring.)