Can You Improve the Ammo for the Mosin 91/30?

Being retired, and not having much to do, I often wonder about things.

A lot of us shoot the Mosin 91/30 and enjoy the rifle. But not many reload for them, as surplus military ammo is cheap and available. It shoots the great 7.62 X 54R cartridge. The “R” means that it is rimmed. It has ballistics almost as good as the .30-06, but not quite as good.

But what if someone wanted to use them to hunt game? What if I wanted to shoot a feral hog and wanted a better bullet than the normal military ball loaded in this surplus ammo?

I pulled a couple of bullets and found them to be different in the way the base was manufactured. I do not know where they were made, but believe it or not, both weighed exactly 150 grains. They sure don’t “look” like they would weigh the same.

Notice that one has a very unusual cone-shaped cavity in the base. The other is a regular lead core with copper jacket.

The bullets were about .3095 in diameter.

I wondered if I could use better powder and bullets and maybe improve the accuracy of this old round, and maybe improve the terminal performance over military ball bullets?

There is only one way to find out.

I started by pulling some bullets. To do this, I needed a set of 7.62 X 54R dies, but I didn’t have a set. I called a couple of buddies that reload but they didn’t have any either. So, I improvised. You know, “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.”

I found that a base shell holder for a .45-70 was a pretty close fit. So, I used that to pull the bullets on my Rock Chucker reloading press. I just raised the bullets through the press and grabbed the bullet with a set of vise grip pliers.

Then I pulled the case downwards, and the bullet was pulled.

The powder was poured out, as I wasn’t going to re-use it. I was surprised to see it was a rod-type powder. I have seen the Russians use a flake powder in some of these loads.

I was also surprised to see that the Rooskies did not use any type of asphalt sealant or sealant of any type. I guess snow doesn’t leak in as badly as water does.

I decided to substitute a more modern powder and choose Varget, as it is a great powder with a reputation for accuracy. I looked on Hodgdon’s site and found a suggested load for this cartridge and Varget. It was 49.0 grains for a 150 grain, .308 caliber bullet.

When I measured the pulled bullets and they were from .310 to .309 caliber. I wondered if I could substituted a better .308 bullet and get satisfactory accuracy?

I will shoot 3 groups of 5 shots today.

The first will be a “standard” using the original 7.62 X 54R surplus ammo, as a baseline.

For the second load, I loaded some cartridges with 49.0 grains of Varget and the original pulled bullets. The only difference in this load is the powder.

For the third load, I used Varget and some good hunting loads, some 150 grain Speer Grand Slam bullets. Here’s the bullets.

Well, time to see what we have.

I will be shooting one of my restored Mosin 91/30 rifles. It shoots pretty well, but as is very common, the bore is “rough”, as Ivan didn’t clean the corrosive residue out of the bore when he was fighting the Nazis.

I chose one of the types of military ball I have, one that isn’t particularly accurate, so I can see if I can improve the accuracy.

I shot the three groups and laid the targets in my trunk as I cleaned up to go home. But a big Texas rain storm came through and it rained like a fire hose and my targets got a little wet before I could shut the trunk. So, you will just have to ignore the ink that ran, because the bullet holes didn’t move.

As you can see, the first “baseline” group was about 2 ½ inches at 50 yards.

The next group with the same bullets but with Varget powder measured 2 3/8 inches.

The third group with the Varget powder and the Speer Grand Slam bullets measured at 2 inches.


1. First, we do not really have “conclusions” as I didn’t shoot enough test rounds to draw any firm conclusions. What I have are some “indications”. That’s all.

2. I see an indication that we could possibly improve the accuracy by substituting better .308 hunting bullets for the .3095 military ball bullets. The .308 bullets seemed to shoot just fine in that rough bore.

3. Just changing the powder didn’t seem to make a lot of difference.

4. The terminal ballistics would definitely be much better with the Speer bullets than with the military ball.

5. It’s fun to shoot stuff

9 Comments on Can You Improve the Ammo for the Mosin 91/30?

  1. Hello,

    First, use 0.311″ bullets. Your accuracy will suffer with standard 0.308″.

    Second, get a die set. It’s worth it. I promise!

    Any Mosin with a good bore and crown, and with proper inletting and/or bedding should do 2.5moa or better with rounds it likes.


    Josh Smith

  2. Why didn´t you try the same you did in #79 to improve accuracy? Or are there no suitable hunting bullets available in .303?

    Greetings from Germany, I very much appreciate your work.

  3. Old_Painless // April 22, 2016 at 10:19 am // Reply

    I appreciate the comments and suggestions. I already knew that substituting .311 bullets would be better. My questions was if .308 bullets would work better and it seems that they might.

  4. reloader762 // April 30, 2016 at 9:49 pm // Reply

    The bullets with the concaved base are probably Bulgarian surplus,I bought quiet a few tins of the brass cased stuff many years ago and pull a couple hundred rds. an Mexican matched them with Speer 150 gr. .311 dia. HotCor bullets to make hunting ammo as none but the expensive Norma loads were available. I weighed the powder charges for a lot of 20 rds. of the original loads and averaged them out and dropped the original factory charge by 2.0 grs. resized the case neck recharged the cases and seated the new bullets to the desired OAL. 5 shot groups from my iron sighted M44 were under 2″ at 50 yds. vs. 6″ groups with the factory ammo,so it will make a difference with the right bullet. You should get yourself a set of dies and shoot some cast lead boolits as well,they shoot even better than jacketed in the old war horses.

  5. Good morning,

    I’ve done similar testing, and wrote up the results at

    Great article as usual. Thanks!

  6. I reload for my 91/30 and have had a lot of success, my barrel is fancy and sharp so I can’t really say how much of that is the loading and how much is the rifle not being a shot out wreck.

    I was wondering for the sake of science, since you did not have proper dies available- would a second “control” group for your testing be un-seating and re-seating the military bullets on top of the factory powder, to determine how much accuracy is lost/change is affected by the unseating and re-seating of the bullets without precision tooling?

    Maybe nothing interesting will be discovered, but I can’t imagine vice grips not doing /something/ to a bullet.

  7. Old_Painless // May 30, 2016 at 4:02 pm // Reply

    You bring up an interesting question. I have pulled hundreds (at least) of bullets with vice grips and reloaded them. I expected “some” loss of accuracy with the slight marks caused by the pliers, but they have always shot just fine. I suppose swedging them through the bore kind of fixes any flat spots on the bullets. I have never seen a loss of accuracy.

  8. Mosin’s can be eccentric. But, the better results seem to come from the heavy .203 grain bullets. The Russian extra match are .203. Lapua is very expensive and hard to find, but they do make the D166 in .203. The old Russian trick of putting the oiled felt into the barrel channel might help as well.

  9. I had done lots of reloading for various Mosins, AK47s and 74s, sks, and many other commie military rifles in the past. I got very good results (2 moa and better) with many of the Mosins using Winchester brass, 180gr ..311 bullets from Speer and Hornady, and IMR4350. Used one to harvest one of the largest whitetails I ever got. I used similar methods to yours in the article to make varmint loads for some AK74s after running some Hornady .224 softpoints through a sizer to size them down to .221 with good resuls.

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