by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Why this rifle?
• I’m impressed!
Today’s blog begins our look at Gletcher’s Mosin Nagant 1891 CO2 BB Rifle. For starters, it isn’t a rifle at all! It’s a gun, the difference being that this one has a smoothbore barrel for steel BBs. Anything that isn’t rifled is properly called a gun. The manufacturer calls it a rifle because that’s what it copies, but this is really a smoothbore BB gun.
While the barrel is obviously very short (I’ll get to that in a moment) what you see isn’t really the barrel. The actual barrel is about 6 inches long and is enclosed by a metal shroud that looks like a Mosin Nagant barrel.
Just because you read the word shroud, don’t think this gun is silenced in any way. This shroud is just a hollow sleeve with no constrictions at the muzzle.
Why this rifle?
One look at this gun, and most people ask what it is? The actual 1891 Mosin Nagant rifle is 48-3/4 inches long, and is one of the 19th century military rifles that had extra-long barrels. That was before smnokeless powder was discovered to burn so fast that the long barrels were not needed. But the trend had taken effect in the blackpowder era and had several more decades to run.
My Mosin has a UTG Scout Scope attached in place of the rear sight, but you can see the similarity with today’s BB gun. Only, my rifle is much longer.
What’s the purpose of this sawed-off little rifle/gun? During the Russian revolution, various irregular forces cut off their rifles this way. Criminals also used them — often without sights. They were a kind of pistol-rifle that could be hidden under clothing. The official name for this variation is the Obrez, and it’s among the rarest of all Mosin variants known. It would be classified as a Class III weapon in the United States because of the short barrel and would require a tax stamp to own. But the point is that this is a legitimate variation of the 1891 Mosin and extra rare!
The 1891 Mosion Nagant rifle was one of the first military rifles to chamber a cartridge that used the new smokeless powder. And it had a very long production run! From 1891 to 1945 for just the Soviet-made rifles, and I’m not certain of the actual ending date because some Soviet-bloc countries continued making them into the 1960s in various configurations. It was the principal battle rifle of the Soviet Army during World War II and some excellent footage of the rifle’s use can be seen in the movie, Enemy at the Gates. Use of the rifle continued until after Vietnam, and it’s one of the most recognized military rifles of all time, having been produced in numbers exceeding 35 million.
The Mosin Nagant uses a cartridge that we call the 7.62X54R (R=rimmed) today. It holds a .30-caliber bullet that in the Russian measurement system of that time was called 3-line. A Russian “line” was very close to 1/10 of an inch. I’m Americanizing all the spellings of the words to keep this report simple — the actual Russian spelling is liniya (and I may have that spelling wrong, as well).
The rifle contains design aspects from both Russian Army Captain Sergei Ivanovich Mosin and Belgian arms designer Léon Nagant. It’s mostly Mosin’s design but with Nagant’s feed system employed. Nagant wanted a 3.5-line caliber, but Mosin’s 3-line caliber won out. I find it interesting that many armies around the world were coming to very similar conclusions for the calibers of battle rifles at this same time.
The Russians contracted with Remington and Westinghouse to make over one million of these rifles, and some that were never delivered were used to train American troops for World War I, when Springfield and Enfield rifles were in short supply. I own a Russian-made and Soviet-altered model 91/30 that was a common WWII conversion of the earlier model 1891. My rifle has a very early action with flats on the sides that people call the hex action. Over time, the arsenals removed the original markings, which were czarist, and overlaid them with much later marks. I own this rifle because of the rich history that surrounds it — fully exceeding that of our own Springfield rifle of 1903.
If you’re interested in military history and the arms that were used, the Mosin Nagant is one you have to learn about. There are plenty of excellent books on the subject, so I urge you to start searching today. Now, I’ll return to the airgun at hand.
This lookalike airgun is a gorgeous piece of work! It’s heavy, at 5 lbs., 10 oz., and it feels like even more. The stock is synthetic and covered with contact paper that has a dark walnut grain, but you can’t tell that without a very close examination. It looks like wood, even upon close inspection. And everything that isn’t the stock is metal. It’s very well done! Those of you who like airguns that have a rugged feel are going to love this one!
The overall length is 22.5 inches, and the “barrel” takes up 9.5 inches of that. I’ now referring to the exterior barrel — the actual barrel is hidden deep inside.
There are both a front and a rear sights on the gun, and they’re separated by just 7 inches. The rear sight adjusts for elevation just like the firearm sight. The front sight looks very similar to the firearm sight, but does not move sideways in a dovetail in the same way. Thus, there’s no windage adjustment for the sights.
The bolt looks and operates like a Mosin firearm bolt, though it is much easier to work. The BB gun cocks on opening, just like the firearm.
The owner’s manual is lacking in some details. One detail that’s lacking is how to apply the safety. To do that, you pull back the mushroom end of the bolt as far as it will go and twist it to the left. The firearm safety is applied in the same way, although it’s EXTREMELY difficult to do on an arsenal-refurbished rifle like mine! Until this report, I’d never applied the safety on any Mosin Nagant firearm. The airgun safety goes on and off quite easily.
The CO2 cartridge, the spring-loaded BB magazine and the gun’s valve are tucked into an insert that slides into the rifle’s magazine. Normally, you never remove a Mosin’s mag — the magazine is either loaded singly from the top or via a stripper clip of 5 rounds — also from the top. The firearm’s floorplate swings out easily for cleaning, but that’s the only time it’s ever dropped, and even then it doesn’t separate from the rifle.
The hex wrench that’s needed to tighten the CO2 cartridge in its place is also contained in the part that drops free from the magazine. Everything you need to operate the gun is contained in the gun, itself.
The BB magazine is linear and contained inside the magazine insert. It runs on a slant that can be seen through a cutout on the left side of the insert.
The manual is written by a non-English-speaking person. Parts are given strange names that you have to convert before you understand what they mean. For example, they mean to tell you to not dry-fire the gun, but they say, “Don’t cock the shutter a few times for shooting.” I’ve read enough manuals written by foreigners to know what they mean. But will a newer shooter?
Guys, you know I handle a lot of airguns. And, I’m a little jaded by all that exposure. When something comes along that makes me take a second look, I know it’s special. The Colt Single Action Army is such an airgun, as is the Webley Mk VI. I nearly bought a Webley revolver because of that exposure. And I did get a Luger after being exposed to the Umarex Legends P08.
Even the way this gun is presented in the box when you open it is special. I want you to see what I saw.
Will I buy this gun? I don’t know yet, but I will tell you this — I’m impressed and that doesn’t come easily!