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October 12, 2004

Surplus Rifles: The Best Bang for Your Buck

(This post is a reprint. It was originally written 18 months ago and posted on my first Blogspot blog. Since prices of surplus guns fluctuates widely as large lots enter the market, any prices mentioned in this post have already passed us by. This, of course, just illustrates how you have to be vigilant in order to cash in on the really sweet deals in the surplus gun market. Please accept my apologies if I got anyone's hopes up, and a big hat tip to Heartless Libertarian for bringing this to my attention.)

Right now, just this minute as I type this, I'm staring at an ad in the Shotgun News for a Russian M44 carbine in excellent condition for $44.00 USD.

That's not a typo. I said an almost-new gun for $44.00. Keep in mind that it will probably cost you about $100 bucks more to actually get the gun. But a perfectly fine, working bolt action for less than $150.00?

Most surplus guns are weapons bought long ago by a government to equip their armed forces, and most of them were bolt action. They warehouse most of them, storing them against need. When technology maves on by and renders those guns obselete they usually sell them off to whoever wants them, and they take just a few bucks per gun from the dealer. After all, getting something for them is better than getting nothing at all.

These guns are perfectly fine for either target shooting or hunting. The M44 mentioned above is chambered for the potent 7.62X54mmR cartridge (the "R" stands for "rimmed"). This was the standard rifle cartridge used by the Russians all through WWII, and sniper team still use it today. It's powerful enough to harvest any North American big game, including grizzly or polar bears.

Most of the surplus bolt action rifles on the market are chambered for heavy duty cartridges. You can almost always find great deals on the cartridges they're chambered for, usually in the same ad where you see the rifles. In the ad I'm looking at right now they've got 740 rounds of 7.62X54R for $70.00 USD. Not bad! That would be a pretty productive trip to the range, I'm thinkin'.

Keep in mind two things if you're going to buy one of these rifles. First off, they're heavy. Most hunting rifles are lighter so you won't have to lug any extra weight over hill and through dale. You have no idea how much of a difference this makes until you actually get out there and try to climb the tenth hill of the morning with that damn metal and wood contraption slung on your back. But the extra weight means that the guns are very rugged, and you can usually find light plastic stocks on the market to make your burden an easier one.

The second thing to keep in mind is that you're probably not going to be able to get really good accuracy out of these old warhorses. They weren't made to make the really small groups at really long range. Still, you shouldn't have any trouble at all making a good shot out to 200 yards or more. And there's always scopes that can be attached with some modification so you could take the tricky shots out to 300 yards or so.

Bottom line: these guns are great starter guns for someone who wants to get into shooting full-power rifles. If you have a few extra in your gun safe you can teach the new guys the finer points of either hunting or target shooting, and they're so cheap that you won't care if they drop them a few times. They also make great stocking stuffers at Christmas time.

So go and get a copy of a trade periodical and see what they have to offer. Remember my past posts about gun condition, Curio and Relic FFL's, and how much you'll have to pay the gun shop and the gunsmith. I don't think you'll regret it.

Now let's see what I have stashed in the gun safe.

boltaction.jpg

The gun on the far left is a sporterized Krag-Jorgenson, which was the official US military rifle for a few years before being replaced by the 1903 Springfield. The Krag is chambered for the .30-40 Krag cartridge, which is a reasonably powerful round. The rifle can easily harvest game the size of a black bear, no problem. I'd like something a bit more powerful if I was hunting moose or grizzly, but I bet I could make it do in a pinch. The gun usually sells for $400.00, but I got mine for $250.00. Just another reason why you should try to talk to the owner of your favorite gun store and learn his first name.

So what's next to the Krag? The middle gun is a 98 Mauser that is chambered for the 8mm Mauser cartridge. Although considered an underpowered round by many shooters today, please keep in mind that the Germans equipped many of their fighting vehicles with machine guns that fired the same cartridge in WWII. It wasn't considered an underperformer then.

I bought the 98 Mauser for $100.00 USD, plus the usual extra fees.

The gun on the right is a 96 Swedish Mauser chambered for the 6.5X55mm cartridge. The stock is in very good condition, and the metal parts are in New condition (look how shiny the bolt is!). Still, the gun store was selling it based on the condition of the stock, so I paid $85.00 USD for it. A very good deal.

Well, that's about it. I hope I've helped you trim some of the cost from a new gun. Remember, every dollar you save means more money for ammo!

(Fusilier Pundit gave me some help with identifying a few of the guns. Thanks, Fuz!)

Posted by James Rummel

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