You can feel the difference between a Finn Mosin and a Russian Mosin when you pick them up and you can darn well feel the difference when you shoot them. I always ask my friends to fire my m/39 after the Model 91/30—all agree that the m/39 shoots better, looks better and just feels better. The m/39 is one of the best rifles available on the surplus market for its accuracy and reliability. The m/39s that I’ve owned have consistently been the most accurate out of my collection and many other collectors can attest to that fact.
With regards to ammunition, be aware that all surplus 7.62x54R ammo is corrosive. That’s not something to be afraid of. You’ll just need to pay special attention to your rifle’s bore, bolt head and face, chamber and muzzle afterwards. Hoppe’s #9 solvent and a good bore snake have never disappointed me, though there are many other methods posted online that will work too. How soon you should clean after shooting corrosive ammo depends largely on the humidity of the environment you’re shooting and storing your rifle in. The drier the climate, the slower the corrosive salts will wear down the gun. The more humid the environment, the sooner you’re going to want to clean your gun as the corrosive materials will quickly go to work on your rifle.
Often the best deals on ammunition will come in the form of big cans and crates of surplus ammo from of the former Eastern Bloc. Aside from new production Prvi Partizan brass-cased ammunition, my personal favorite is Russian military surplus silver-tipped light ball. It’s got less recoil than heavy ball, produces more accurate groups at 100 yards and feeds reliably. Not to mention the fact that it’s cheap—at the time of this writing, a sealed case of 440 rounds goes for $80. That’s a lot of bang for a little bit of money. It’s corrosive, but it’s worth it.
Any kind of Mosin rifle can be loaded in one of two ways. Both involve opening the bolt and sliding it all the way back. With the bolt back and the chamber open, you can either load five cartridges individually or with five round stripper clips. Put the clip in the slots on top of the receiver, in front of where the bolt head rests when it is fully pulled back.
Loading with stripper clips is almost always faster. Surplus clips do a great job, but new(er) production ones work as well. After loading five rounds into the internal magazine, remove the clip and push the bolt forward and down; a round will be chambered and ready to shoot. The magazine can be unloaded by pressing the floor plate release latch on the bottom of the magazine – all rounds (except the one that is chambered) will then easily drop out.
The only bad experience I’ve had with ammunition has come from Wolf’s new production cartridges. The 147 grain light ball round has always had feeding issues in my rifles, with many frustrating mid-magazine removals on the range.
Always remember when you’re at the range to follow the basic firearms safety rules when shooting. Treat every firearm as loaded. Keep the rifle pointed in a safe direction and keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. The safety on a Mosin is usually more trouble than it’s worth, requiring a lot of torque to turn. When the rifle is cocked, rotate the bolt handle counterclockwise until it locks onto the left hand side of the receiver. The safety will then be engaged.
With the right ammo and the right knowledge, Mosins can be a blast to shoot. Just remember that you’re dealing with a surplus firearm that was probably built over fifty years ago. Always have new-to-you surplus firearms headspaced and checked by a qualified gunsmith before you shoot.