If you missed part 1, the object of this project is to build my own “semi-precision” rifle, and try and keep it on a budget. I started with a surplus, bone stock, nothing fancy Mosin Nagant 91/30 which was still in the cosmoline. I cleaned it, checked it and then shot it so I had a good baseline on which to measure any and all modifications. With the bone stock rifle, I was only able to put about 1/3 of the rounds fired on a 15” square sheet of paper at 100 yards. That was partly due to the gun, but probably more so to my aging eyes.
Part 2 was the addition of a scope and mount, which also necessitated a low profile bolt handle. At the completion of stage two, I was now able to keep all the rounds on paper and managed to put in a best group of just around 7” using Albanian surplus ammo. At the end of this stage, I had $550 invested in the gun.
Side note: As some readers have pointed out after reading the stage 2 article there are quite a few rifle/optic packages available from Remington, Savage and others, that can shoot better for the same price or slightly less than what I already have invested in this rifle. While that is true, and is a much simpler route, I chose this project not only to see how much money it would take me to get an average surplus Mosin Nagant to shoot well, but also because I enjoy the work involved in doing so. It is not only a challenge, but an education process that I enjoy. If you are one of those folks who prefer to buy the complete package and just shoot it, then we already have found that you can do so for less money and far less labor. To those that choose that route, I completely understand, however I just choose to go a different route.
For this stage, I am seeing what effect various trigger jobs or aftermarket triggers have on my ability to shoot this gun accurately. The barrel and stock are still untouched, except for some hollowing out of the stock necessary to fit one of the triggers.
Iraqveteran8888’s Basic Trigger Job
Eric from Moss Pawn and Gun (Iraqveteran8888 on YouTube and Facebook) has an excellent YouTube video where he documents what he calls a basic Mosin Nagant trigger job. He walks the viewer through the process step by step. It is not a difficult or lengthy process, so long as you do not rush it. The real beauty to this option is that is costs absolutely nothing, just your time and some labor.
I dismantled my rifle and set about the basic trigger job. I took my time and followed Eric’s instructions step by step. When it was all said and done, I had the stock trigger, which originally broke at a hair over 6 pounds, breaking cleanly at 3.5 pounds. In addition to the lighter break, the pull was noticeably smoother. The stock trigger, even with the basic trigger job, still has a lot of slop, take up and over travel. Despite those issues, this is definitely an improvement.
If you are thinking about doing this, I encourage you to watch the video all the way through before starting, and to be patient. It is far easier to take a little more metal off to achieve the right effect than it is to try and recover if you take too much off.
C&R Surplus Spring LLC Slack Spring
The “Genuine Mosin Nagant Slack Spring” is simply a small coil spring that fits in the stock trigger and rides on the stock trigger pivot pin. It does nothing at all for the trigger break, but it does improve trigger feel considerably. The whole purpose of this spring is to hold the trigger in its forward position since the stock trigger setup does not do this consistently. This spring is one of those good “bang for your buck” items. It cost me $7.90 shipped and in my opinion, is worth every cent, so long as you plan on retaining the stock trigger or the M39 trigger.
Finnish M39 Trigger
The Finnish M39 is a variant of the Mosin Nagant, and it has a significantly better trigger than the standard Russian rifle. The M39 trigger is a sort of a 2 stage trigger that gives the shooter a better idea when the trigger is about the break. The trigger I purchased was advertised as an original, NOS Finnish trigger, but since I bought it off eBay, who knows if that is accurate. That said, it is true to the Finnish design and has the two separate pins (visible in the photo) that operate the sear spring. This trigger cost $32 shipped to my house, but since that was off eBay, there is no way to know what you might pay.
Everything I read about this trigger said for it to truly work properly, it needs to be fitted to the rifle, but despite extensive internet searches, I was unable to find anything telling me what “fitting” it for my rifle entailed. I can tell you that upon installing the trigger, it definitely had a two stage feel to it, and had less slop than the stock trigger. Without any “fitting”, it had a fairly clean break at 5.5 pounds, which I could have lowered using Eric’s basic trigger job method, but unfortunately I could not do that as I only have the one sear spring and it is already adjusted for the stock trigger. If I were to decide to keep this trigger, I would perform the trigger job again. Perhaps that is the “fitting” that I read about?
Huber Concepts Trigger
Huber Concepts is a company that unless you spend a bunch of time shooting surplus rifles, you probably have never heard of them. I first heard about them roughly 10 years ago when I got my first Mosin Nagant. I purchased one of their triggers back then and still have that same trigger. It is an adjustable design that maintains a completely stock appearance, but it allows the shooter to easily adjust the pull weight with the use of an Allen wrench. In addition to the adjustability, it uses a smooth ball to activate the sear which makes the trigger pull much smoother.
Like I mentioned, I have had my Huber trigger for quite a long time. Since I purchased mine, it appears they have made some minor changes to the design, but the ball adjustment is still the same. It appears they now make triggers for many other rifles, far more than when I purchased mine. The Huber Concepts trigger is available in several variants and starts at $80.
Timney Triggers is one of those companies that most gun people immediately recognize the name. I’ve long known their name, but until now, had never used one of their products. Their Mosin Nagant trigger is by far the largest departure from the stock setup of anything tested. It is adjustable for pull weight and it includes something that none of the other offerings do; a thumb safety. The installation on the receiver is simple and it comes with detailed instructions. The more difficult part of the installation is prepping the stock to accept the new trigger. It requires some significant hogging out of the trigger pocket in the stock, and accommodations must be made for the new thumb safety.
While all of the other triggers tested used the stock sear, the Timney does not. Everything about the Timney is different other than the mounting screw and trigger pin. The trigger pull is significantly different with minimal take up and almost no over travel. The addition of an easily used thumb safety is a huge added bonus. The Timney Trigger for the Mosin Nagant lists for $104, but can be found for a few dollars less if you shop around.
The first thing I wanted to do before any more accuracy testing was done was to find a round that this particular gun likes. The cheap Albanian surplus ammo I have been using thus far has been reliable, but has been far from the most accurate ammo. I took several different loads to test and fired a five round group of each load from 100 yards. This was all accomplished using the stock trigger after Eric’s trigger job was performed. Not surprisingly, the worst of the five rounds tested was the Albanian surplus which came in at 6 ½” , followed by PPU (PRVI Partizan) 182 grain FMJ BT at 5 7/8” and then came standard old Wolf 200 grain in the bi-metal case at 5 ¾”. The next two surprised me with Hornady “Custom” 150 grain SST printing at 3 ¾” and the best of the bunch was Winchester 180 grain FMJ white box target with 3 ¼”.
The Winchester was clearly the round preferred by my rifle, but unfortunately I only had the one box. For this testing, I used the PPU 182 grain FMJ BT because I had enough of it to complete the testing, but from this point on, all testing will be done using the Winchester ammo, if I can find more of it. Once I had the ammo sorted out, I fired two 5-round groups with each trigger. Since I had done all the ammo testing using the stock trigger, which was clearly an improvement over bone stock, I added the slack spring for the next step in testing.
The best group I put down with the stock trigger, with the basic trigger job and the addition of the slack spring to improve feel, measured 3 ½”. That was a vast improvement over stock, and while the slack spring helped with trigger feel, I still had a difficult time judging when the trigger was going to break. If this were the only gun I was shooting, I could probably get used to the trigger and know where it was going to break.
The M39 was the next trigger tested, and to help the feel, I installed the slack spring. While I like the 2-stage like feel of the trigger, I had a difficult time judging when it was going to break also. I was unable to locate the first round I fired with it, having badly jerked the trigger anticipating it breaking long before it did. After that ugly display, I took my time and managed a best grouping of 4” with the M39 trigger. I think with some more trigger time with this trigger, and with a properly fitted sear, this trigger could definitely be acceptable.
The next trigger I tested was the Huber Concepts trigger. The pull with this trigger was ridiculously smooth in comparison to all of the previous triggers, but I still had some trouble judging when it was going to break. Despite that, I put down some decent groups, but both groups had a flier. One group came in at 4”, but dropping the flier it came down to 2 7/8”. The other group measured 4 ¼”, but dropping the flier it shrunk to 1”, which really impressed me. However, for this testing, fliers are included so the best group here was 4”.
The last trigger to be tested was the Timney. While I was swapping out the triggers, a gentleman who was shooting two lanes over came over and started talking with me. Bad move on my part, because I was not paying attention to what I was doing and I neglected to install the trigger pin which is necessary to complete the installation properly with the Timney trigger.
Failing to realize I had forgot the trigger pin, I reassembled the gun and fired it. The trigger felt much heavier to me than when I had tested it in my shop, but I thought it must have just been in my head (it was not just in my head). Still, despite having improperly installed the Timney, I managed a 3 7/8” group. The beauty of the Timney setup is it makes the trigger feel like a modern rifle trigger. The take up is almost nonexistent. The break (when properly installed) is clean and has minimal over travel. It truly is in a different class from the other triggers in this group.
In this testing, the best overall groups were achieved with the triggers on both ends of the cost spectrum. There is a wide variety of triggers in this group, with corresponding costs involved. Prices ranged from $0-104. They each have their own distinct advantages, which may or may not translate into accuracy improvements. The basic trigger job, which costs nothing aside from your time and labor, can indeed result in increased accuracy potential, as was evidenced in this testing. The addition of the inexpensive slack spring does wonders to help the trigger feel. If you are looking to spend as little as possible, that is definitely the route to go.
But, if you are looking for a more defined break, one you can easily get accustomed to, one that is easily adjusted, it is impossible to beat the Timney. If maintaining a stock appearance is not a priority, if you are not put off by removing some material from the trigger pocket in your stock, if the idea of spending $100 on a trigger for a $150 gun does not bother you, then the Timney is what you are looking for. It is just that good.
The real determining factor, as in anything else in life, is going to be you, and what you want from the gun. If you are planning on shooting it in vintage rifle competitions, then you will be limited by the class rules. The basic trigger job can do wonders for the gun, and is free. But for me, I want to see just how far I can take this, and in that regard, my choice is the Timney.
Final Note: In the interest of continued evaluation of the two best triggers from this group, I will continue testing using both the stock trigger with the slack spring and the Timney, at least through the next stage of testing.