2-Gun Action Match: Mosin & Nagant vs Trapdoor & SAA

No vintage photo today – instead I have a vintage rifle match! I’ve had had a bunch of people asking to see a Mosin-Nagant in one of these matches, and decided to oblige – but with a twist. I coupled a Westinghouse M91 with an 1895 Nagant revolver, and went up against Karl, who was armed with a Single Action Army and a Trapdoor Springfield carbine. Why? Because these two sets of guns actually had their active service lives overlap briefly. The Mosin and Nagant were both adopted as the US was slowly transitioning to the Krag and 1892 DA Colt. I figured it would be interesting to see how well Karl could keep up using a single-shot rifle, and also how much of a disadvantage the Nagant revolver would be for me compared to the SAA, which is superior in almost every way.

The video, including expectations and ending conclusions, is posted on Full30 – check it out, and create an account there to subscribe to the channel to receive notifications when we post new videos!



  1. “how much of a disadvantage the Nagant revolver would be for me compared to the SAA”
    Remember that in Russia (and Europe) at the time revolver was “officer weapon” which would be used only in critical situation. Nagant 1895 was smaller and lighter than previous S&W Model 3 revolver, but it has fixed frame unlike top-break S&W so the reloading require more time.

  2. Very fascinating match. While I agree with the idea that the Mosin and the Trapdoor being fairly equal in the hands of good users, but the changing of time was shown when the US met the Spanish Army in Cuba – both the Trapdoor and the Krag were totally outclassed by Paul Mauser’s 1893 rifle which was itself significantly inferior to the improved model of 1898 as adopted by the German army.

    Of course Cuba caused possibly the single most rare occurrence in American military history – that the US Army actually drew some right lessons from a battle and began the process leading to the adoption of the M1903 Mauser clone.

    • The right lessons being learned may have been helped by Theodore Roosevelt having a) fought in Cuba, b) been a shooting enthusiast, and c) being the commander in chief when the 03 was adopted and Vice President during its development.

      He did overrule the Army on the type of bayonet the Springfield was to use (the original being too flimsy for him). Not sure what his role, if any, was in the rifle other than that, but surly no one at ordinance would have done less than their best with a combat veteran shooting enthusiast in the White House.

      • TR had several objections to the original M1903 bayonet, which was a rod type that was held either retracted or extended by a setup similar to the “Officer’s Model” Ferguson breechloader of a century before. Among them was that it was easily bent, and could jam in its recess.

        However, his single biggest objection was that it was utterly useless as a camp tool, as was the epee’ pattern bayonet used on the rifle-musket during the Civil War.

        He held that every soldier would need a sheath knife in addition to the bayonet, meaning that that was just more weight on the already-overburdened infantryman.

        History shows he was correct. Most soldiers in the American Civil War who were issued rifle muskets with epee’ bayonets quickly acquired fixed-blade sheath knives for camp use. The proliferation of “Bowie” knives on both sides had more to do with this than it did with their use in combat, which was quite rare, no matter what bloodthirsty inscriptions were on the blade or what oaths to “strike until the last foe expires” were sworn when they were given.

        The epee’ bayonet was of almost zero use in a camp. According to the journal kept by one of my ancestors during his service with the 1st Ohio Volunteers (Infantry), the epee’ bayonet had exactly three practical uses in a camp; as a roasting-spit, a candle-holder, or as a tent peg.

        To add insult to injury, the bayonet was of almost zero use in battle, as well. The affair was usually decided by gunfire long before anything go to bayonet range.

        The denouement’ of Pickett’s advance at Gettysburg, in which some bayonet work occurred at the Union line, and Chamberlain and the 20th Maine’s fixed-bayonet advance down Little Round Top at the same battle, were unusual events. In the case of the 20th Maine, the order to fix bayonets in the advance was given because they were basically zero on ammunition.

        TR had good grounding for his preference for a knife bayonet. It would spend more time opening cans of pork and beans than it would opening an enemy’s guts.



  3. Very interesting comparison as usual! I see Ian didn’t even try to use the somewhat fiddly ejector rod of the Nagant, and that seemed to make the reloading relatively fast. I wonder if there was much difference in per cartridge reloading times compared to the Colt SAA when done that way. The video didn’t show Karl reloading his pistol. Naturally the whole reloading process would still take more time with the Nagant due to higher capacity.

    About the 7.62 Nagant being “weak”: Russian military loadings had a muzzle energy of about 240-250 ft-lbf, so it was very similar to .38 Special or 9mm Makarov and slightly more powerful than .380 ACP. Noticeably it was much more powerful than .32 S&W Long, which was its close contemporary. I suppose Ian was shooting Fiocchi, which at 135 ft-lbf is definitely a mild target load designed to be safe even with the oldest worn-out Nagants.

  4. Another pair of rifles that would be interesting to compare would be the Lee Metford (the Lee Enfield is derived from it) and the Martini-Henry. Both were in service at the same time, and in fact both saw action together with the British at the Siege of Mafeking. Mafeking of course is where Lord Baden-Powel made his reputation during the Boer War. Front line units had the Lee-Metfords, while colonial units had the Martinis (some of them dating back to the Zulu Wars).

    As a substitute for the Lee Metford, you could use a Lee Enfield, which was also in service at the time of the Boer War, although I don’t think any were at Mafeking. It is possible that they were both used side by side in other battles.

    Alternatively, you could put the Martini-Henry up against a Mauser. The Boers were armed with 7mm Mausers, although I imagine it would be reasonable to substitute the more common 7.92mm version for the match.

    The lever action of the Martini may make it an even closer match up than the than Trapdoor Springfield, as it may be faster to reload.

    One problem noted with the Martini at Mafeking is that the lever action was more difficult to fire through holes in the fortifications as the rifle had to be drawn back to operate the lever. That may not be a problem in your matches though, as your barriers are pretty thin.

  5. Thanks Ian as always!
    The only things I’ve learned about firearms is to keep it simple, and don’t make a caliber too weird to reload.
    I’d buy a Nagant in a second, but what does that say about me?

    • When people ask me what sort of “home defense” gun they should get, they’re often surprised when I tell them that a .357 Magnum or .38 Special fixed-sight DA revolver with about a 4″ barrel is pretty hard to beat.

      At inside the house range, it will get the job done, and there’s very little that can go wrong with it. A stainless-steel one can survive even lack of maintenance for years tucked in a dresser drawer.

      As for “stopping power”, the .357 has about all you’ll ever need. And even the .38 Special will get it done, especially if you use the whole cylinder.

      The KISS rule is a good one to go by in most things, IMHO.



      • I believe that .357 Magnum is way too hot for someone who is not an experienced handgun shooter. It also penetrates a lot even with expanding bullets, so you might end up hitting something unintended.

        • That’s where the .38 Special comes in. Less recoil, blast and flash, and given the right loads it’s still a serious item at normal engagement ranges.

          My definition of the right load is the old 158-grain LHP +P “Chicago” or “FBI” load. It’s more powerful than the 158 grain LRN standard load, but milder to shoot than any standard .357. And at across-the-living-room range, it hits, expands, and doesn’t overpenetrate.

          Another favorite of mine is the old and unjustly-maligned 200-grain “Super Police” lead double-end cylindrical wadcutter. No expansion, low velocity, but once it enters, it starts turning over and over and doesn’t stop until it comes to a halt (after about 8″-10″).

          It’s a variant of the 0.380in load the British Army developed for the Webley and Enfield revolvers in the interwar years to bring their hitting power up to the level of the old 0.455in they replaced.

          In actuality, the 200-grain .38 was probably a better “manstopper”, just on grounds of wound channel alone. I’ve fired the .38 Special version into ballistic gelatin, and the avulsed permanent cavity bears a striking, and disquieting, resemblance to a wound from a bayonet used in the old approved “Thrust-Twist-Extract” manner.

          No something any sensible person wants to get hit with.



      • A person could have acquired a .38 Special 4″ Colt or S&W and a supply of 158 gr lead semi-wadcutter hollow points in the 1920’s or 30’s (may have had to find a hand loader for the ammo, but the molds were available back then). And for a self defense “house gun” that sort of gun and that load would be about as good a choice as one could make even today for most people. But then what would gun and ammo manufacturers and gun writers have done over the last 80 years?

    • “don’t make a caliber too weird to reload.”
      If you don’t want to bother about ammo supply you can buy cylinder for alternative cartridge – I see .32 S&W Long; .32 Auto version but if you search you probably can find more.

      “As for “stopping power”, the .357 has about all you’ll ever need. And even the .38 Special will get it done, especially if you use the whole cylinder.”
      If we are considering the early 20-century cartridge notice that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.32_S%26W_Long states that: “When he was the New York City Police Commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt standardized the department’s use of the Colt New Police revolver [chambered in .32 S&W Long].”

      • Remember, at that time the .38 Special hadn’t been developed yet. The .38s in use were the .38 S&W (aka 0.380in Revolver after WW1) and the .38 Long Colt and Short Colt.

        TR had used a Colt M1892 in .38 LC in Cuba, and had not been impressed with either its accuracy or its stopping power, notably at San Juan Hill.

        I suspect his reasoning in adopting the .32 was that considering the low level of training NYPD officers had when he took over, he’d rather give them a lightweight handgun that fit easily in an overcoat pocket, that he was fairly sure they could actually hit something with.

        Only hits count, and a hit with even a .32 is a lot more discouraging than a miss with anything bigger.



  6. Great match Ian and Karl. Did this match have the 3 minute per stage time limit? there were a couple places where you almost hit it.

    I thought an early Russian weapons would be an interesting choice for a two gun match. I was going to suggest a Winchester M1895 and no 3 revolver vs, Arisaka and type 26 revolver. What is the preferred method for sending match equipment ideas?

    • Yes, it did have the 180-second limit. I came really close on the last stage!

      The best way to suggest match ideas is just like you did – in comments. Before we could do that one, though, we’d need to acquire the Winchester 95, Type 26, and S&W No.3. 🙂

      • Well, if that’s the preferred method, how about the Type 99 Arisaka and the Nambu automatic (any easily-available version) vs. The Enfield No.5 “Jungle Carbine” and a Webley or Enfield 0.380in revolver?

        Incidentally, the Jungle Carbine showed up in some interesting places after the war. See National Geographic, July, 1957, p.99, in “Flight To Adventure”, Tay and Lowell Thomas Jr.’s account of their year-long journey ’round Africa in a single-engined Cessna 170. They were in Kenya during the Mau Mau emergency, and took photos of Kikuyu local defense militia at shotgun practice at the butts. The Kenya Constabulary officer acting as rangemaster has a No. 5 slung across his back.

        On p.79 of the same article, a photo of desert police in French Morocco shows they were armed with Mle1892 Mannlicher-Berthier carbines; the distinctive “pot-belly” stock housing the three-shot magazine is clearly visible. These had the stacking swivel that replaced the cleaning rod in 1927, but had not received the 1916 five-shot magazine extension.

        I think we arms aficionados often overlook the usefulness of the magazine librarians call “the yellow peril” as a research tool. I use it all the time for photographs of aircraft, ships, etc., for model-building purposes.



    • And a long shooting range, since you can’t really test volley fire with rifles meaningfully at short ranges. You would also need paper cutout targets to represent enemy soldiers or something like that. Seems like a job for some re-enacting group.

  7. Courtesy of Ian’s gesture with the Nagant at the end of the video, I need a new keyboard as mine is now covered in Pepsi.

    Well done video, fun to watch. Makes me want to get into two-gun matches where I live.

  8. What is the normal margin between Ian and Karl, using the same guns? Is the nagant an equalizer? Is the SAA an equalizer versus smokeless powder?

    Often in military arms, the ability to have a high “fighting level” with very large numbers of soliders will be the real advantage. If we recruit two groups of 1000 people off the street, and one group had nagants and the other trapdoors, which group will likely prevail in an actual firefight?

    By the way, I’ve seen SAAs used with smokeless powder in cowboy action matches (very light loads at very close ranges) with outright stupifying speeds – it’s clearly quite the gun.

    • Karl is no question a better shooter than I am – he has more experience and more practice. If we were to both use modern guns (ie, AR + hi-cap 9mm pistol) he would typically be in the top 10-15% of the match and I would be at 40-50%.

      • So we can surmise that nagant + smokeless powder in some sense “raised your game” to be very close indeed to Karl’s.

        We can also surmise that this “game raising” matters most with the well trained – it likely won’t move the 99th place shooter up to 50th, but it seems to move the 50th up 15th or so.

  9. How about an Arisaka(either type 38 or 99) and type 14(if possible) v.s. a Mauser (standard modell, or K98) and C96 broomhandle. It would be a great way to get a sense of the advantages and disadvantages the Imperial Japanese Army and the Chinese Nationalist Army had during the 2nd Sino-Japanese war.

    • Another interesting matchup along the same lines would be the Mosin rifle and Nagant revolver vs. the Arisaka and (don’t laugh) a Navy Arms S&W Schofield.

      During the Russo-Japanese War the Japanese Army used substantial numbers of S&W topbreaks in .44 as officers’ sidearms. Their exact provenance is debatable; some sources state they were captured from the Russians (OM Russian), while others state they were bought from S&W directly in the 1880s (American Model). Examples of both types were captured from Japanese forces in the Pacific during WW2, so who really knows?

      A two-gun match like this could be defined as a recreation of the conditions prevailing at Port Arthur in 1904.



  10. What I notice is challenges that involve weight lifting advantage Karl : he manages to do it quicker and also seems to have a bit more agility than Ian for other moves, so I could assume general physical condition and training does count along with shooting skill & weapon reliability.

  11. That was the coolest thing I’ve seen the FW/InRange team do! I’d love to see old military rifle action shoots like that become a thing.

  12. Great video! I really enjoyed it. It’s very cool to see these old guns used in dynamic shooting competitions.

    I’m quite fond of my M39 Finnish Mosin and shoot it as often as possible.

    I’d love to see a match like this shot with cap and ball weapons. Although reloading might be too slow for the 3 minute limit you mentioned.

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