This weekend The Fat Man got to spend some quality time on the range with several rifles, a chronograph, and an assortment of Mil-Surp ammunition.
The rifles: A 91/30 Mosin Nagant ex-sniper, and a Chinese type 53 Mosin carbine. The 91/30 is an old favorite, and has seen many a round down range in my hands. The 52 is brand new... to me anyway... and it was interesting to wring out the carbine next to the full length rifle.
The ammunition.... well..... there's a story. You see, the whole grand plan was to shoot in the Type 53 with some new Bulgarian surplus that found it's way to my door. Then, the 91/30 sneakily chimed in with a 'What about MEEEeeeeski?' that was so pitiful, it got added to the days roster. Then.... a few boxes of Czech 46 grain low recoil training ammunition were added to round out the package, just to see what the Type 53 did with it. THEN...... furthermore.....in addition to that.... all the other examples of Mosin fodder on the shelves spoke up, and suddenly it turned into a Great Big Comparison Shoot.
On the bench:
- Bulgarian 148 grain light ball made in 1954, head stamped 10-54
- Bulgarian 148 grain light ball made in 1971, head stamped 10-71 (silver tip)
- Polish 148 grain light ball made in 1979, head stamped 21-79
- Hungarian 182 grain heavy ball made 1988, head stamped 21-88
- Czech 46 grain hollow core training ammo made in 1965, head stamped BXN-65
I'll save the comparison of rifle to carbine for another article, but the differences were substantial when it came to putting slugs on target. Today, lets talk about the ammunition and how it shot.
Beginning with accuracy.... well.... that's not so easy. The 91/30 ex-sniper of mine is fussy. It likes what it likes, and barely tolerates everything else. The Czech training ammunition it fairly sneers at, while the Type 53 plugged the same bullets into small groups at 50 yards.
I suppose accuracy testing is a wash, as the darned Mosins are as picky as rimfires about what they will and won't shoot well.
Moving on to the ammo itself, each and all functioned and fired perfectly. The Czech training ammo, with it's short round nosed bullet, did not feed as smoothly as the spire pointed battle ammo. All it took was working the bolt just a bit slower, and it was fine.
As for ballistics, here's a bit of Chronograph data to feed the discussion:
Now, the Czech training ammo, with it's light weight 46 grain hollow core bullet, is included just for fun. One of these loadings is obviously not like the others..... naturally..... but it's just WAY too much fun for it not to be included. I am looking forward to taking the carbine and training ammo out for woodchucks this spring! Those velocities and it's 46 grain bullet put it in the .22 magnum class.
Of the other four, the heavy ball is an obvious stand out as it's average velocity was significantly lower, as to be expected. All these are ten round strings, and no obvious bad readings to delete.
Now, average velocities are interesting, but a real clue towards the quality of the ammunition are velocity variations:
These are velocity spreads within each string. Handloaders and ammo makers look closely at such numbers, as they are a good indicator of the load quality and suitability to the rifle. High quality ammunition in a well matched rifle will often show variations under 20 fps.
As the data show, the Com-Block military ammunition may be more about reliability and function than extreme accuracy. Honestly, I can't argue with that thinking. More than any other feature, military ammo NEEDS to go bang every time. 3" groups compared to 4" groups place a might bit farther down the requirement list.
Clearly, the Polish light ball has not aged well. If it ever shot accurately.... well, not so much anymore. I'd happily shoot it all day long, but with full expectations that it's going to show fliers and larger groups.
The real honest to goodness way to judge mil-surp ammo, once it's assured that it functions and fires without issue, is back to that accuracy thing. Along those lines, the silver tipped Hungarian light ball made in 1971 is a shining star, at least in my Mosin rifles. To demonstrate, a fifty yard target shot while my eyes blurred from the frigid wind....
The latest batch of 7.62x54 Mil-Surp showing up on our shores from Europe is looking quite good. In discussing this recently with someone who has reason to study the situation, the point was made that Russia and the other nations that made up the late/great Soviet Union have declining armed forces, and ammunition stores that number in the billions upon billions of rounds. The late 1970's dates we are seeing now are considered the expendable outdated from their standpoint. Add in the fact that they have been upgrading their remaining military to new arms in more modern calibers.
So.... the final word. Any of these are worth having on hand, but the real stand out in quality is clearly the latest Bulgarian surplus.
The 91/30 had no problems showing up the real performer in the batch. This rates further investigation, and tearing down a batch to measure and test.