(This is a reader gun review contest entry, click here for more details.)
By Brian Boonyalug
I fancy myself as somewhat of a casual collector of Mosin Nagants. While I have known of the Wz48 rifles for some time, it was not until early 2013 until I decided to pick one up. A Polish single shot military trainer modeled in the image of the Mosin Nagant M38 carbine (which itself shared similarities with the M44 carbine which Poland actually put into service). The WZ48 is now my go-to firearm to use to introduce new shooters into the world of shooting sports due to its simplicity and accuracy . . .
Produced from 1948 until 1960, the WZ48 was used to train Czech and Polish military cadets. A handful of them have been imported into the states. There are two arsenal markings that I have seen, the Archer and the Circle 11. I believe that both are Radom markings however.
Prices have gone up steadily, as of any surplus rifle really. In 2006, you could pick one up for $170 before shipping and fees. I picked mine up early 2012 for $250, which was more expensive than M44s and M38s during the time (Approx. $200 each on the primary market for IO imports). I have not seen any WZ48s on the primary market since, but they can still be found in the secondary market.
The action, which is exactly the same as the WZ31 Mauser look-alike trainer (which its own action is perhaps based on older 1920’s Mauser design), is very simplistic, but it has some issues which could be potentially dangerous. It has a split chamber, one half being the extractor which supports the round while in chamber and affects headspace. If the extractor is out of spec in anyway, the casing will bulge (or even worse, blow out), sending hot gas rearwards towards the shooter’s face.
From Left to Right: Old extractor Federal Bulk, Old extractor SK STD+, ENM extractor federal bulk, ENM extractor SK STD+
The headspace issue is easily solvable if you have a good condition extractor. If not the issue becomes, where do you find parts? Many parts are actually interchangeable with other Mosin Nagant rifles (certain sight component, barrel bands, carbine hand guards, butt plate), but the parts that are proprietary are rather hard to find. The only new production part that I know of, is the extractor made by ENM Sports.
The ENM extractor is made from two separately machined pieces and welded together. The first one I ordered fell apart, but the second one has held up for the past ten months and a few thousand rounds. Unfortunately they are currently out of stock, but from what I understand, a few batches have been made every couple of years, depending on demand.
One other part commonly needed is the firing pin. I don’t know of anyone selling aftermarket pins, but I have read of a few people creating their own fairly simply.
Design and Ergonomics
I must disagree with the old TTAG review of the Mosin Nagant 91/30, which calls the rifle “aesthetically-challenged” and “ugly”. If anything, it looks generic to those not into firearms. I personally think Mosins look wonderful, even more so carbines, M39s, and 28-76s. They sit in the same stock and share a few parts with other Mosins. It generally looks and handles the same as an M38 or M44.
Many times at my local range, which separates rim fire and center fire, I have been told to move to the center fire lanes when pulling the gun out. The lack of magazine and the longer barrel (24.75” compared to 20.25” of the M38 and M44) with the carbine length hand guard does make the look seem unbalanced however. Mosin enthusiasts who might not be familiar with the WZ48 might also take a glance at it and comment how Ivan must have had too much vodka one day and forgot to install the crossbolt on the stock.
The WZ48 is actually slightly heavier than the M38 at 8 lbs 10 oz as opposed to 8 lb 2 oz. The weight difference is not much, but is noticeable while handling due to the M38 having better balance. The WZ48 is so front-heavy that even a 91/30, which is 3 oz lighter, and M44 which weighs the same as the WZ48, feels lighter. The weight makes recoil feel almost nonexistent and it still balances well enough to not interfere with off-hand shooting.
The grip profile is nearly identical to any Russian straight grip stock, although the comb rises at a sharper angle, almost a semi-pistol grip, which feels a little better to hold.
The safety is much, much easier to engage than an actual Mosin Nagant, since it is a Mauser-based action after all. That said, there is a chance that the safety might flick down just enough while working the action that the tab gets caught on the rear receiver. Although it takes very little effort to correct, it does get annoying when it breaks your rhythm.
I must admit that I am not much of a marksman, nor do I have very good eyesight, so my evaluation of accuracy perhaps is not very representative of the WZ48’s full potential. Also keep in mind that the WZ48 is a surplus rifle used to train cadets. Not only would it have to have endured mishandling and squibs, they have also been refurbished, which also could affect accuracy due to improper part fitment. That being said, the WZ48 is well known for being a very good shooter.
The WZ48 is very simple to operate, like most single shot rifles. As opposed to actual Mosin Nagants, the WZ48 cocks on close. The slow pace of single shot shooting is quite enjoyable to me, and also helps conserve 22LR ammunition in this age. I can only shoot the rifle somewhat decently out to 50 yards with iron sights. This is one of the better groups I have shot, which admittedly is terrible and does the WZ48 no justice.
I only shoot steel silhouettes at 100 yards. With targets about the size of a two liter water bottle, I can hit them reliably with Aguila Super Maximum. The standard velocity of SK Standard Plus shoots a little low to point of aim at 100 yards with the read sight slide set at 100.
Ammo selection with an in-spec extractor isn’t much of an issue, but with one that’s out of spec, I have found that SK Standard Plus will constantly experience failures to fire, perhaps 50 percent of the time. I’m not sure as to why this happens. I can only speculate that the rim of the cartridge sits further out on the out of spec extractor, resulting in lighter strikes.
After changing the extractor, everything has been reliable aside from when the castle nut loosens and requiring retightening.
The sights mimic those of the M38’s and M44’s. The sight base however, does not match any mosin’s I’ve seen. The rear sight leaf is marked for 25, 50, 75 and 100. While they most likely are in meter, they perform just find in yardage distance I have found. The front sight is the exact same as the M38’s and early model M44’s. Windage is non-adjustable, but you can either drift it with a punch or a tool.
The trigger is light and smooth, but with some pretty massive over travel. Some owners seem to have issues with pull weight being very light, in the neighborhood of only 1 pound.
Action removal from the stock is similar to a Mosin Nagant; remove the barrel bands then remove the trigger screws and the one action screw. The action screws are both located on the underside.
The bolt slides off similarly as well. Pull the trigger back and pull the both out. The extractor can easily be pulled out.
The disassembly of the bolt involves the removal of the firing pin by loosening a retaining screw. The firing pin will slide out. After that you can separate the bolt handle to the rear bolt body by holding both apart, and loosening the castle nut. This is actually a very difficult step to do alone, so a helping hand or a vise is recommended.
I have owned my WZ48 for nearly two years now, and I have only cleaned it once about a year ago. The only regular maintenance most will have to do with the tightening of the castle nut on the bolt to ensure proper firing pin protrusion.
There is not much in terms of aftermarket options available aside from the currently out of stock new production extractor. Stocks for the Mosin Nagant will not fit due to difference in inletting. Certain scope mount options may fit. I have seen people set up PU mounts and scopes (requiring permanent drill and tap), while others use mounts that replace the rear sight base with a scope with long eye relief. I personally have not tried any yet, but perhaps in the future.
For the practical minded, there are better value single-shot rifles out there. Best bang for the buck aside though, the WZ48 is a great shooter that always starts a friendly conversation at the range. Just be sure to find one that is in good condition to save yourself the headache of getting it into spec yourself.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * * *
Even with my poor marksmanship, I am still able to shoot rather impressively with these guns. The sight’s elevation adjustment, as basic as they are, is spot on. I can only imagine how much better I can shoot if I scope it.
Style: * * *
I greatly disagree with the past TTAG review of the Mosin Nagant. I find Mosin Nangants generally good looking, so no doubt I also find whatever takes its image nice a well. The WZ48 finish and the plum barrel bands on some make them slightly more interesting than the standard red shellac refurb.
Ergonomics: * * *
Despite being slightly heavier than some Mosins, I find that generally the WZ48 is more comfortable to handle due to its slightly different comb design. Of course, it can’t hold a candle to a Finnish M39.
Reliability: * * * *
Provided you have one that’s in spec.
Nonexistent, with the exception of new production extractors from ENM Sports and some items designed for the Mosin Nagant which might fit.
Overall: * * *
While a very good shooter, there are other modern alternatives which are more practical and cheaper. If you enjoy collecting oddities that also happen to be great shooter, a good condition WZ48 might be something to consider.