Ian McCollum is a gun expert who runs Forgotten Weapons, a website and YouTube channel dedicated to obscure and prototype firearms, as well as more conventional guns. We asked for his expert opinion on how well six games – from Call of Duty: Vanguard to Escape From Tarkov to Metal Gear Solid 3 – have recreated the legendary bolt-action rifle, the Mosin-Nagant. Here’s what he had to say…
ESCAPE FROM TARKOV
“This looks like a really well rendered 91/30 PU. The rifle looks correct, the scope mount is accurate, the scope looks correct. This was the standard Soviet version of the Mosin Sniper for World War II. It’s kind of cool to see the scope reticle appear and disappear, which goes black when it’s not exactly in line – that’s remarkably accurate to how this sort of thing actually works. Scopes like this, all scopes, have an eye-box where if your eye isn’t in a specific facial area behind the lenses, you can’t actually see through the scope – you’ll see a black arc on one side or the other, the top or the bottom as you come near the edge of the eye-box of the scope, and they actually rendered that, which is kind of cool.
“The reloading is faster than most people can pull off actually reloading one of these, but it’s a heck of a lot more realistic than most games. It has an Archangel stock, which looks like mostly real aftermarket parts. The Archangel stock is either fancy looking and or awful looking, if you’re a fan of historical firearms. They were marketed to people who could only afford to buy an inexpensive Mosin-Nagant and wanted to make it look like a sniper rifle. They did redesign it to take plastic box magazines, which we’ve got in there.
“That’s an NcSTAR laser. As I recall, NcSTAR’s motto is the first shot counts. And I think that’s because you only get one shot with NcSTAR before it breaks. There’s no way that you could actually get your eye in this position on that rifle without it being extremely awkward. Probably about the last gun that I would actually want for this sort of shooting.
“Cycling the bolt here is done properly. Changing magazines like with the Archangel stock – that’s how that is done. We’ve got a pair of lasers there – even that’s done fairly well. A laser like that in daylight is actually going to be really hard to see. It’s a little hard to tell just from one little shot there, but it looks like they modeled it pretty well. Once that laser dot gets more than a few dozen yards away from you, it gets pretty darn dim and hard to pick out.”
MOSIN OBREZ VARIANT
“Oh dear. What did they do? It’s a Mosin Obrez. It’s so much worse than just an Obrez. Obrez is the name that’s been given to a little short pistol version. It’s a rifle that has had the butt stock and the barrel chopped off and this was most typically done by partisan guerrillas – people who had no access to handguns and they wanted something concealable, and didn’t care that it was essentially useless for anything except for a very close range.
“They’ve lost that historical context on this one. First off they have put a front sight back on it, which historically nobody did. And there’s no rear sight on it, so the front sight’s pointless. There has been some talk about Obrez being used by actual military forces for things like troops digging tunnels in World War I and there’s some anecdotal evidence that it happened here and there, but it was never an official sort of thing.
“There’s no way you could ever shoot this thing accurately. Again, we have an issue of the eye-box and where your face has to be relative to the scope, and the recoil on a lightened Mosin like this that is still firing its full power 762×54 cartridge is significant. If you stick your eyeball up close enough to actually look through that scope, you’re going to get a black eye when you fire it. If I were actually going to get into a firefight with someone, I would be thrilled if that’s the gun they brought to a gunfight.”
“When a shot is fired the gun should have recoiled and it did not, because I was able to watch the enemy target go down right through the sight picture. These rifles have a significant amount of recoil and kick, and that is not modeled here. This would’ve been a PU Sniper. The bent-down bolt handle is designed so that it doesn’t hit the scope and so that you have a little more leverage on it. Now, normally the way you would reload this thing is with a five round stripper clip and I notice in Insurgency, they don’t have stripper clips modeled into the game. The guy’s just pulling one cartridge at a time out and loading them into the magazine, which you can certainly do. Mosin stripper clips suck, but they’re still probably better than single loading the thing.
“Once again, the rear sight has been taken off and they mounted a picatinny rail in place of the rear sight, which is a real thing. They then mounted a tall red dot mount and some sort of red dot optic. That tall mount is totally counterproductive – if you are actually going to do that, you would want the red dot as low as possible because it’ll never be at the same height as the iron sights. The height of the iron sights is what the stock is designed for, so that you can actually get the stock in your cheek and get a nice clean line of sight down the sights. So the way this is set up, I want to have my face nice and low on the gun so I can look straight down the sights. If I’m going to replace this with a taller piece of picatinny rail, now I’m going to have to stick my chin on the gun to see through the red dot.
“If I deliberately then raise the red dot even higher, now maybe it’s the bottom of my chin on the stock, or maybe my head just has to kind of float up here above the gun. And if your head isn’t in contact with the rifle, it becomes far more difficult to shoot accurately. The more points of contact you have between you and the rifle, the more consistent you’re going to be, which means the more accurate you’re going to be.
“The laser is not realistic. Tarkov [does] the laser pretty well, where you can see the dot, but it gets pretty dim pretty quickly. Here the laser beam looks like a lightsaber and that’s not how it works. That’s what it would look like best case, in pitch blackness, not during daylight.
“It doesn’t look like a very good representation of the Mosin to me – the basic stuff is properly modeled, it’s just that I saw Tarkov’s rendition first. Tarkov did a really good job and Insurgency did kind of what I would expect with most computer games. The sighting’s not really how it would work, the way the accessories are set up doesn’t really make sense.
“As for a Mosin being in that environment, what I assume is the Middle East, yeah, that’s totally realistic. The Soviet Union made so many millions of Mosin-Nagant rifles, and then the Chinese did as well and half a dozen other countries also made them.”
SNIPER ELITE 4
“Here we’ve got a GI with a Thompson and a Mosin 91-30 PU. He’s done this cool camo wrapping thing, and he has thoroughly entombed the adjustment knobs on his scope with camo tape so that if he discovers he needs to adjust the range – maybe he’s a sniper trying to make a precision long distance shot – he cannot adjust the elevation of his scope because he has wrapped it up. He also can’t adjust the windage should he need to. I’m not convinced that this is in fact an Elite Sniper that I’m looking at here.
“The [PU scope] reticle is wrong. The center post is more or less correct, although it shouldn’t have any hash marks on it, and all three of the bars should be thicker.
“This is much more along the lines of a game where the Mosin is just a sniper rifle and you point the thing and pull the trigger and it does a high amount of damage because it’s got a low rate of fire. There’s no historical connection to the actual rifle, it’s just sort of a totem. The design team clearly put a lot more effort into modeling the testicles than they did modeling the gun!”
CALL OF DUTY VANGUARD
“This is a more interesting pattern of Mosin and is pretty darn well rendered. This is the rifle the Soviet Union had as its actual sniper rifle going into World War II. It’s a four-power scope and it is very much along the lines of what the other major powers were doing for sniper rifles. The Soviet Union actually developed a lot of this technology in cooperation with Germany and it’s a really good setup.
“If you pulled the bolt open, that is what you would actually see. You can see this big upper lug that the bolt handle is connected to, which is mysteriously absent in the game’s rendering. Sorry Call of Duty, you’ve got the good version of the rifle but that modeling is not so perfect.
“I would say the standard pattern of the rifle they’ve gotten 80% right. The static model looks really good. Maybe I’m missing something in the cycling, but it doesn’t look quite right to me – keeping a sight picture while you cycle the rifle is not correct and not accurate.
“[Overall], it’s better than Insurgency but not as good as Tarkov.”
RISING STORM 2: VIETNAM
“This is from 2017 so the model isn’t quite as crisp as current ones, but it looks like we’ve got a 91-30 PU here. Accepting there’s a bit less detail overall, it looks rendered fairly well. You wouldn’t normally put a bayonet on a scoped rifle. There’s a well-known thing that the Russians zeroed their rifles with the bayonet fixed and that is true, but it does not apply to sniper rifles. The idea that you deliberately hang a 14-inch bayonet off the end of the rifle when you’re trying to hold it very steady and make precise shots… You just wouldn’t do that.
“The way the PU [scope] actually works, the top dial is your range. That top dial is numbered from zero to 13, which is 1300 meters. As you increase the range, it actually takes your post reticle in the field of view of the scope and just drops it. With modern scopes, the crosshairs are always centered in the middle of what you’re seeing in the scope – if you adjust it, it’s moving the entire mechanism in the scope, but leaving the crosshairs in the middle. With a lot of older scopes like the PU, when you make that adjustment, the scope stays where it is and it’s just moving your crosshairs inside your field of view. And so at a relatively close range, and what we’re looking at in the game here is a relatively close range shot, you would expect to see that reticle pretty high up, above the center of the field of view of the scope, which they have properly represented because you need to have enough space to drop that reticle enough to compensate for bullet drop at very long ranges.
“However, now that I can see what they’ve done with dials, the two dials are identical and it is currently set to 700 meters, which is totally inappropriate. And doesn’t really fit with the reticle position in that shot. He’s putting rounds in one at a time, that’s appropriate. He’s again doing it awfully fast, faster than most people could actually pull that off with a Mosin, but the idea is correct. You can’t use stripper clips because the scope’s in the way. I would say this is not bad. The problems modeling the rifle are not so serious. It’s just a couple of scope knobs and you don’t see them very often. Other than that it looks pretty decent.”
METAL GEAR SOLID 3: SNAKE EATER
“This is a tranquilizer sniper rifle. They have modified the back end of this rifle and from a brief glance, the front end looks normal. It’s clearly an older game as it’s relatively non-detailed, but the front end of the rifle looks good. You can see some glint off the scope and the reticle looks correct. But normally it doesn’t put people to sleep – there is no actual historical example of a tranquilizer version of a Mosin-Nagant. That’s entirely fictional.
“There are a lot of misnomers about tranquilizers in the first place. You’re going to need some of syringe sort of mechanism to actually inject something – that is difficult to fit into something as small as a 0.3-inch diameter barrel. Then also you’re going to be firing it with regular gun powder. Real tranquilizer dart guns are generally compressed air, because gun powder has a tendency to create a very high chamber pressure and destroy or at least damage the delicate tranquilizer serum-injector. Basically it’s not a thing.”