There's been so much written on it that I'll only give
some basic information along with my experiences.
The rifle itself was designed by the Russian captain Mosin, and the magazine was designed by the Belgian engineer Nagant. It's bolt action and has a 5-round internal magazine. Production of the Mosin Nagant started in 1891 and continued well into the sixties. According to Wikipedia, the USSR/Russia produced 37 million of them. They fire a 7.62x54r round, which is rimmed and a bit longer than 7.62 NATO, and is dirt cheap at around 20 cents per round if you buy the 440 round surplus tins.
I got mine from a gun show in Dallas for $100. Mine's a M91/30 manufactured in 1942 by the Izhevsk plant. I later bought a 17" long spike bayonet for $15 from Ebay. I'm a pretty tall guy at around 6'3", and with the bayonet attached and the butt of the rifle on the ground it stands nose height. Carbine versions are a bit shorter and some models come with side-folding bayonets. When purchasing a Mosin Nagant, make sure at least the receiver and bolt serial numbers match. The receiver serial is behind the rear sight and in front of the bolt. This serial and these manufacturing stampings identify what kind of Mosin you have and when and where it was made. These stampings are referred to as "headstamps". The bolt serial is behind the cocking knob. The other serials are located on the buttplate and the magazine. Also, make sure you don't pay extra for the Mosin's accessories, it comes with a cleaning kit, two two-pocket bandoliers, and a sling.
SHTF/Zombie Coefficient: 3/5
I gave accuracy a 4/5 because the way it came was somewhat less accurate than my .22lr. But with a few modifications (as demonstrated here http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/edu63.htm and http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/edu75.htm) and with the addition of a new stock (if you really wish to do so), Mosins in good condition can be made to sub-minute of angle rifles. Of course, you could just buy a Finnish Mosin or sniper designated Mosin (the ones with bent bolt handles), but those are a bit more expensive and harder to find.
Range was given a 5/5 because it uses a high-power cartridge which is probably effective as far as you can hit your target. That being said, the standard iron sights go out to 2000 meters, which is about 1.24 miles! Simo Hayha, the sniper with the largest number of confirmed kills in any major war, used a Finnish modified Mosin Nagant and only iron sights.
Ergonomics are usually quite bad for Russian weapons, Russian military doctrine calls for cost-effective, reliable, and versatile weapons. I find the grip angle to be uncomfortable and the stock to be short, but that can be easily remedied with a cheap butt pad. Recoil is also severe, but also easily fixed with the addition of a butt pad. Hearing protection is a must; I once experimentally fired a round without any and I couldn't hear for a few seconds and my ears rang for an hour.
Value is max because for only around $100 you get an accurate hi-powered rifle, two 30-round bandoliers, a complete cleaning kit, sling, and sometimes a bayonet. Sentimental value is also high; when you hold a Mosin, you feel a piece of history in your hands. Modifications and after-market parts are cheap and common. You could easily and cheaply arm a militia with various Mosins.
SHTF/Zombie coefficient is a factor I added just for grins and giggles. It gets a 3/5 because although ammo is cheap and not too uncommon, the rifle is unwieldy and cumbersome. Although it could be used for a great number of things (javelin, spear, tent pole, boat oar, cooking spit, club, etc.), I'd hate to carry around such a large bolt-action. If I had say, a five man squad, then I'd want one of us to have a Mosin, but other than that the rate of fire just seems too slow to fend off zombie hordes solo. Don't get me wrong though, I can fire off five aimed rounds with it faster than my dad can with his lever action .30-30, and one round would penetrate several zombies, but the idea of reloading frequently under stressful circumstances doesn't appeal to me.
Well, that's about all I've got for now. You can read up more on Mosin Nagants at:
The next post will feature the SKS.
The next post will feature the SKS.