Mike Morton prepares to storm the Reichstag – or at least his back garden – with AirForceOne’s BB-firing Second World War-themed Mosin-Nagant M44 Carbine…
UK distributor: The Shooting Party
Action type: Bolt-action
Calibre: .177 (4.5mm)
Ammo type: BB
Power supply: 12g CO2 capsule
Magazine: 16-shot removable
Sights: Fixed front sight, rear sight
The Mosin-Nagant is one of the most mass-produced and longest-serving military rifles in history, being adopted by the Imperial Russian Army in 1891. But this five-shot, bolt-action rifle is best known for its service during the Second World War, it being the standard issue weapon for Soviet soldiers serving in the largest army ever to be mobilised.
With more than 37 million Mosin-Nagants being made it has become a rifle legend – and AirForceOne has delivered a BB-firing Mosin via its CO2 Rifle Legends series. The Mosin was brought to the masses via the Stalingrad-themed 2001 film Enemy At The Gates, in which Jude Law plays Soviet sniper Vasily Zaytsev.
Anyone hoping to satisfy their inner Zaytsev is in for a minor disappointment, though, because his rifle was the longer Model 1891/30, while AirForceOne’s Mosin is the Model 1944 Carbine, which entered service in late 1944. Nevertheless, this is a good choice for the airgun shooter as the more compact M44 is much handier to carry around and shoot than the long-barrelled M91/30.
Any replica will stand or fall on how well it reproduces the look and feel of the original, and AirForceOne has done a great job of replicating the features and controls of the M44. The first thing that strikes you is the stock, which is made from a synthetic material rather than wood. I would have preferred the M44 to have come with a real wood stock, but the synthetic version is of very good quality, being solid and stiff, and features a good wood grain pattern. The fake wood effect is very pale, but this is accurate as Mosin-Nagant stocks were produced in numerous shades from dark to very light brown and everything in between. It’s just such a shame it’s plastic though.
One potentially controversial feature is the inclusion of a folding cruciform spike bayonet. But, again, this is an accurate feature as real M44s all left the factory with the bayonet permanently attached, and there’s even a cut-out in the stock so the bayonet can lay flush. The tip has been blunted, but you could still do some damage with this bayonet, so I essentially opted to retain it on the review rifle for reasons of historical accuracy. Another realistic accessory is the inclusion of a leather and canvas sling.
The real M44 was a bolt-action rifle and so is the CO2 version. While we now have toggle handle, sidelever and straight-pull cocking, there’s something inherently satisfying about operating a bolt, and the AirForceOne M44 definitely delivers the goods. Like many bolt-action systems it’s enough to just rotate the bolt 90 degrees on its axis to cock the rifle, but in this case the BB is now ready to be fired as well. Nevertheless, while there was no actual need to draw back the bolt completely I still found myself going through the complete cocking cycle for every shot, even though I wasn’t trying to chamber the 7.62x54mm R cartridge used in the original.
Just like the original, the safety catch is applied by pulling back on the large knurled ring at the rear of the bolt and twisting it anticlockwise. When you’re ready to shoot, pull back on the ring to take up the spring tension and twist it back clockwise.
Once familiar with the bolt and safety, it’s time to look at the magazine, ammunition and power source. The M44 features an internal magazine which drops out of the magazine well once the release catch has been pulled back. The magazine features a removable hex key, which is used for piercing the seal on a 12g CO2 capsule when it’s time to gas up. As always with CO2, use the minimum force necessary to pierce the capsule and make a gas-tight seal. Less is more.
The magazine takes a maximum of 16 BBs, but I chose to load and shoot only five at a time so as to better reproduce the feel of the original. The BBs are fed into a tube and are held in place by spring tension. Make sure you use steel BBs as lead ones may deform under tension and not cycle properly.
The gassed-up and loaded magazine can then be fed back into the magazine well. The instruction booklet would have you put the rifle on safe before inserting the magazine, but this means the gun has to be cocked in order to apply the safety. I always prefer to load a mag into an uncocked rifle where possible.
When shooting a rifle such as this it pays to be realistic about what you have in your hands. It’s not a precision pellet-firing air rifle. You’re not going to win competitions with it – and you’re definitely not going to use it to shoot German officers taking a shower at their field HQ! Being realistic means shooting at a realistic range and having realistic expectations. With this in mind I set up a Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C target (birchwoodcasey.com) at 10 yards. My initial results were disappointing, with BBs splattering all over the place, but this was due to my shooting too rapidly.
When I slowed down and paused between shots, letting the CO2 settle, the M44 responded in kind. I was able to shoot a 17mm centre-to-centre five-shot group with four BBs through the same hole with the fifth just outside. I extended the range to 15 yards and, as expected, got a wider dispersion of 25mm c-to-c, which isn’t bad for a smoothbore plinker. The trigger was pretty good. It did have some creep, but broke at 2lb 13oz according to my Lyman Trigger Pull Gauge (www.lymanproducts.com). The M44 is a bit of a gas guzzler, though, and I got only 30 good shots per CO2 capsule.
The sights are of the notch and post type, and adjustable for elevation but not windage. My rifle shot 20mm to the left at 10 yards so I had to hold off. The rear sight can be adjusted, and the 8 setting was just about right for elevation over this distance.
The AirForceOne Mosin-Nagant M44 Carbine is a good facsimile of its bullet-firing counterpart, but in a garden-friendly plinking package. It’s not cheap, but is well made. Shame about the plastic stock though.