If you have a limited budget and would like to shoot high-powered rifles, military surplus firearms can be a great place to start. While classic American military rifles like the M1 Garand and M1903 Springfield Rifle are quite expensive, you can still find some great bargains among foreign military surplus rifles. When I was getting into shooting over twenty years ago, the 6.5 millimeter M96 Swedish Mauser was a very common and fairly inexpensive surplus rifle. But, today other classic bolt action rifles are more common.
This article presents a guide to some of today’s best bargains in military surplus firearms. The ammunition costs are for a 20 round box of the most inexpensive regularly priced ammunition available online at MidwayUSA.com in March 2014.
Russian Mosin M91/30 Bolt Action Battle Rifle (J&G Sales $129.99). Ever since American shooters saw the sniper duals of Stalingrad dramatized on the big screen in “Enemy at the Gates,” they have been crazy about the Russian Mosin-Nagant bolt action battle rifle. For $129.99 at J&G Sales, the bolt action Mosin-Nagant rifle remains one of the best values in the military surplus market. The rifle fires 7.62x54mm Russian ammunition. Ammunition Cost: PRVI Partisan – 20 rounds – $17.79
Russian Mosin Nagant M44 Carbine (J&G Sales $199.95). Most of the battle rifles of World War I had very long barrels. That may have been a good thing for bayonet charges and long range shots from trench to trench. But, it makes them heavy and unwieldy by modern standards. Fortunately, many countries issued shorter carbines for cavalry and specialty troops. The M44 is the short 20-inch barrel version of the popular Mosin-Nagant rifle. It fires the same 7.62x54mm Russian round as the M91 Mosin-Nagant rifle.
Mauser 98 Karbine (Mitchell’s Mausers $299 and $399). The 1898 Mauser was one of the world’s most popular military firearms. It was made well into the 1940s. You can get one in immaculate, unused, condition from Mitchell’s Mausers. They sell a Serbian-made, late 40s, 7.92mm (8mm Mauser) Mauser 98 carbine for $399 in unused condition. Ammunition Cost: PRVI Partisan – 20 rounds – $18.29
M24/47 Yugo Mauser (Samco Global Arms, Inc. $229) The last bolt action Mauser rifles were produced in Yugoslavia just after World War II. They are beautiful rifles with less wear and tear than some of the older Mausers in the marketplace. They fire 7.92mm (8mm Mauser) ammunition.
Schmidt Rubin K31 (Samco Global Arms, Inc. $269) Surplus military bolt action rifles tend to make their way into the civilian market as governments retire old rifles from their reserve inventories. One rifle that has recently made its way into civilian hands is the Swiss K31 Schmidt-Rubin. It’s an affordable and unusual rifle to take to the range. According to Samco Global Arms, these rifles are very accurate and have sights that are adjustable for 100 to 1500 meters. Ammunition Cost: PRVI Partisan – 20 rounds – $18.79
M1916 Spanish Mauser (Samco Global Arms, Inc. $169.95) One drawback to surplus Mauser rifles is their use of relatively obscure and expensive ammunition. However, some countries modernized their arsenals by converting their old Mausers to fire more modern calibers of Ammunition. For example, the Spanish M1916 Mauser fires common 7.62 NATO (.308 Winchester) ammunition. This means that you’ll be able to more regularly and affordably buy ammunition for your surplus rifle. According to Samcoglobal.com, these Mausers have minor cracks in their stocks. However, they should still be quite shootable. These Mausers have a 21-inch barrel for an overall length of 44.3-inches. Some surplus rifles are far longer. Ammunition Cost: PRVI Partisan – 20 rounds – $15.41
Chinese Mosin-Nagant Type 53 – (J&G $99.95) If you are on a tight budget and you want a high-powered rifle to shoot, the Chinese Mosin-Nagant is an even more affordable alternative to the Russian version. Like the M44, the Chinese Type 54 is a carbine with a 20-inch barrel. It fires 7.62x54mm Russian ammunition.
Mosin M91/30 w/Sniper Turn Bown Bolt (R Guns.net $155) It’s very popular to turn Mosin 91/30 rifles into Sniper rifle variants. The Red Army developed the cult of the sniper during the siege of Stalingrad and revered its snipers as heroes. Standard Mosin-Nagant rifles have a simple straight bolt. However, this Mosin-Nagant from Guns.net has the “turned-down” bolt used on Russian sniper rifles. If a buyer wanted a “sniper” rifle, he would simply have to get a Mosin scope mount and a period-appropriate scope. For $155, this Mosin-Nagant is a good starting platform at a nice price.
This article should give you a basic idea of the costs of buying and owning a military surplus rifle. This article doesn’t include shipping fees or the cost of processing a background check and transfer at a gunship in your area. To lower ammunition costs, shooters can get into reloading their shells or shop other online ammunition outlets and brick-n-mortar gun shops. Before shooting any military surplus rifle, you should thoroughly clean it and have it inspected for safety by a competent gunsmith.
Shotgun News, February 3, 2014 Advertisements
McNab, Chris. Twentieth Century Small Arms, Almost 300 of the World’s Greatest Small Arms. Barnes & Nobles, New York, 2006.
Philips, Craig. The Worlds Great Small Arms. Barnes & Nobles, New York, 1995.
Samco Global Arms website.