Gunsmithing for Kids

by Home Defense Staffer Pat

A Trigger Job And Safety Knob For Mosin Nagant Rifles

I like to foster all kinds of firearms skills in my kids, even gunsmithing. It is relatively easy to pass on the skills that I actually have, since all five kids are very interested in guns and shooting. Unfortunately, I don’t possess all the skills that have grabbed my kids’ interest. For example, The Hunger Games has inspired my 11 year old daughter to become very interested in Bows and throwing knives. While I am not exactly shooting with kidsdisinterested in these things, they are not things I have ever delved into in more than a superficial way. Similarly, my then 12 year old son has developed an interest in gunsmithing, which is one of my interests but not something I have found a great deal of aptitude for.

So, for Christmas last year I got him some gunsmithing tools. He got a set of screw drivers, a set of both brass and steel punches, a brass hammer, and a gun specific multi tool with a wide range of MacGyver-like tools. His uncle got him the parts for a couple projects on the Mosin Nagant rifle I had gotten him for his birthday, and his Grandpa got him a definitive manual on the Mosin Nagant rifle. He was now ready to rock on his new hobby.

It is amazing how a 12 year old boy, one of the most scattered creatures on God’s Green Earth, can buckle down to study and actually learn something when it takes a notion. He absolutely devoured the manual. With no assistance from anyone he taught himself to strip the rifle, strip the bolt, remove the barreled action from the rifle, pretty much everything there is to know about the basic function of the rifle. When he was done he knew more about the Mosin Nagant than his dad.

I am a big fan of the Mosin Nagant rifle. The Russians may have missed the ball on a lot of things, but when it comes to building a tough, simple, and reliable battle rifle they haven’t missed the mark at all. The Mosin Nagant is virtually indestructible, accurate, and uses a round that packs as much power as you could want.

Some of the things that make it great, however, also introduce some of its biggest flaws. One of the big drawbacks to this rifle is the lack of a practical safety. The safety on this rifle is engaged by pulling back on and rotating the coking knob at the back of the bolt. The firing pin spring is so robust, however, that pulling and turning are very difficult. Although the robust spring and near pencil-sized firing pin add to the reliability of the weapon, they also render the safety virtually unusable particularly if you need to bring your rifle into play quickly.

A second flaw is in the trigger. The trigger pull is quite heavy, there is a lot of slop to take up, and it has a fairly long travel. In light of the issues previously mentioned about the safety, this is not all bad. Since the safety was probably seldom engaged by soldiers in the field a heavy trigger with a lot of play undoubtedly prevented many accidents. It is less than ideal however for accurate shooting.

My son’s very first gunsmithing projects aimed to fix these problems on his Mosin Nagant. He set out to perform a trigger job and to replace the standard cocking knob with a retro-fit that incorporates a finger loop to make it easier to manipulate.

The new cocking knob was a Christmas gift from an uncle, found on EBay. Changing out the cocking/safety knob was the first task. This is a relatively simple procedure, as explained to me by my son. The first step is to remove the bolt from the receiver. Next the bolt is completely taken down, utilizing the firing pin combo tool included in the issue cleaning and maintenance kit. Finally, during reassembly the new cocking knob is substituted for the original.

The trigger job is a bit more involved, but only requires the addition of two new parts. The parts were again supplied to my son as a Christmas gift (EBay again) and consisted of a small spring and a sear spring shim. The first step is to remove the barreled action from the stock. This involves removing the barrel bands and disassembling the trigger guard from the rifle. Once the action is removed, the sear spring retaining screw is carefully taken out (remember that this spring is under tension, and is prone to launching itself across rooms if care is not taken while removing the retaining screw!). The shim, which is nothing more than a small washer curved to conform to the receiver, is placed over the sear spring. The screw is then replaced and tightened. This shim has two effects. First, it reduces the travel required to engage the trigger, and second it slightly reduces the pull required.

The trigger return spring is installed by pushing out the trigger retaining pin. The spring is then placed inside the trigger cavity and the pin is pushed back in through the center of the spring. The barreled action is then re-assembled to the stock. The return spring takes all the slop out of the trigger, and soothes out the trigger pull. No more floppy trigger!

Of the two projects, the trigger job had the best results. The trigger is now smooth and tight, the pull has been reduced by at least a pound, and the travel is more reasonable and predictable. Great results for five dollars-worth of parts! The new knob was le3ss satisfactory, the safety is still very difficult to engage and disengage. We may have to add a trigger block safety, these are available from a number of sources and install inside the trigger guard.

All in all, I am quite proud of my boy. He taught himself just about everything there is to know about the function of his rifle, took on some projects, and came out with a better gun. In this day and age, finding that sort of initiative and determination is rare. Inspiring that in a boy is just another benefit of getting kids involved in shooting at an early age.

How do you get your kids involved in shooting? Let us know in the comments.

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