What’s a ‘Sporterized’ Rifle? – Guns for Beginners

Sporterized Mosin Nagant

You might occasionally run across a few guns on the surplus rack or an auction site that are “sporterized” military surplus rifles. They’re getting fewer and farther between as bolt-action rifles have all but disappeared from military use outside of sniper roles. And modern sniper rifles don’t really need the sporting treatment.

Plenty of Springfield rifles – both 1903 and 1917 – Mausers and the odd Mosin Nagant has been given the sporterizing treatment after finding their way into civilian hands. So if you search for a Mosin Nagant, or a Springfield or M48 and find a sporterized model, what that really means is it’s an old military rifle that’s been converted into more of a civilian configuration.

Two sporterized Springfield 1903 rifles courtesy icollector.com

Two sporterized Springfield 1903 rifles courtesy icollector.com

Why would anyone do that? What the modern shooter may not appreciate is that getting a reliable, functioning gun wasn’t always the easiest proposition back in the day. The POTG of today are spoiled rotten. A plethora of reliable, accurate firearms are available for reasonable prices at every gun store in the country.

However, finding a reliable, accurate-enough rifle for a decent price point wasn’t that easy. One way to get one was to convert a military surplus gun.

The procedure was simple enough.

sporterized mosin nagant stock pro mag archangel

courtesy tz-case.com

Stocks were usually the first modification. The cheap method was to just chop the stock, sand and shape so it looks like the typical bolt gun and refinish it. Or, if you were willing to throw a little more money into it, restock the action. In some instances, the barrel would be chopped as many military rifles had barrel lengths close to 30 inches.

Brass Stacker Scope Mount courtesy amazon.com

Second was upgrading the optics. Some folks opted to keep the iron sights as they were and some choose to upgrade them. Or, the receiver would be drilled and tapped so a scope could be added. Due to the lack of real estate on the receiver, Mauser-pattern rifles would often have a scout scope installed over the tangent sight on the forend of the rifle.

Third, which was a little less common but still common enough, would be caliber conversions if so desired. Ammunition supplies in past eras not being what they are now, finding surplus ammo for military guns wasn’t always assured. Many guns were be re-chambered and re-barreled for .30-06, 7x57mm Mauser or .270 Winchester and other more popular chamberings of the day.

So, should you get a sporterized rifle?

Well, that depends. If you’re just looking for a ranch gun, something for your truck or a fun plinker, they can be great and inexpensive options. If, that is, you’re looking for a beater gun or something with some history. Some sporterized models can have cool stories behind them, if that’s your thing, and they can make for interesting pieces.

If you want an inexpensive, quality hunting rifle…honestly a Savage AXIS combo isn’t that much more. And it’d be tough to do better.

Do you have any cool old rifles in your collection? Or do you have a better recommendation for a newbie collector or rifle shooter? Let us know!

comments

  1. avatar Old Region Fan says:

    I have a 03-A-4, 2 grove barrel sporterized in 1960 by a gunsmith in Detroit. Belonged to my uncle, it will shoot 1 1/4 group with any 30-06 ammo in any bullet weight, Awesome machine

  2. avatar Ralph says:

    As long as the milsurp rifle wasn’t sporterized by a guy named Bubba, you might be GTG.

    1. avatar Bubba says:

      What the … ????

      1. avatar Geoff "Mess with the Bull, get the Horns" PR says:

        Now, calm down, Bubba. You and I both know you do good work (as long as the work being done isn’t when you’re drunk off your ass. So that means, oh, nevermind…)

  3. avatar New Continental Army says:

    Can’t really find surplus like you used to. Those were the days. You used to be able to pick up an entire crate of rifles and a pallet ammo on one paycheck and outfit an entire militia in a weekend.

  4. avatar RCC says:

    Australian $65 for Swedish Mauser in the 80’s with bayonet, sling and cleaning kit that included cleaning rod.
    But to put a scope on you had to cut off and bend the bolt handle before reattaching.

  5. About 12 years ago I picked up a Yugo Mauser for $99.99. Did the following mods:

    1) Cut the stock back, added a recoil pad, bedded the action and free floated the barrel. Hollowed out the buttstock and painted it in digital camo. Added QD swivels.

    2) Cut the barrel back to 19 inches. This is important because soldiers frequently used steel cleaning rods damaging the last few inches of the barrel. Cutting it back can really help accuracy. Drilled lightening holes in the magazine box. Bought a longer sporter bolt handle and had a smith weld it on (the only thing I did not do myself). Added a nice adjustable trigger.

    3) Added a 2-7 scout scope using a mount that replaces the rear sight.

    Not counting the optics, I have less than $250.00 into the rifle. I shoots 1.5 moa all day long. I can load it with stripper clips. I had a lot of fun building it and I love to shoot it.

    Would I do it again? Nope. For one thing, finding a nice base rifle for under $100.00 is impossible. It makes more since to start with a civilian rifle.

    I do have an Israeli Mauser that is in poor condition. I may build another rifle on that action – or I may just turn it into a wall hanger. One thing that you get with a Mauser is controlled round feed and a huge, very reliable extractor. You certainly can by a new rifle with a Mauser action, but they are not cheap. Again, I like to tinker with these things.

  6. avatar Dave Lewis says:

    About 20 years ago I found a MK4 No2 (F) Enfield at a gun show for $75. The rifle was very late production – 1954 I think. I already had a WW2 vintage MK4 in my collection so I decided that the later rifle wasn’t worth much. I did a Bubba conversion into what sort of looked like an L42 sniper rifle. I cut the stock back and added the wooden cheek piece to the stock which wouldn’t fool anybody but looks okay. I found a B-square scope mount that fit the original ladder sight holes and I used an old steel tube Weaver K3 scope that came from my parts box. I didn’t rebarrel the gun so it still is chambered in .303.

    The rifle shoots really well. Its obviously not an L42 (which I guess is a fairly rare gun) but it looks pretty good and is different enough for people to ask me about it. If I was able to go back in time I probably would have left that nice low mileage example of the late production MK4 intact and saved up to buy a nice commercial deer rifle.

    In the days following WW2 – probably up until the 60s or 70s – guys bought surplus military rifles and cut the stocks down and tried to figure out a way to mount scopes because those old Mausers and Enfields were dirt cheap and available. They weren’t “collectible” or valuable – they were just klunky old rifles that somebody pulled out of the mud and sold for $49.95. I remember seeing South American Mausers – probably in 7mm – in the sporting goods department of Sears (in New Jersey no less!) for around $50 in the mid 60s. $50 was a lot of money in those days, way more than I could afford as a high school student, and my other excuse is that I wasn’t a shooter back then. When the old military rifles were cheap, making a sporting rifle from the action and barrel was perfectly acceptable. Lots of those converted rifles are still around. I’ll still take a good 1930s vintage Mauser action over the plastic and aluminum junk that’s out there now.

  7. avatar el Possum Guapo Herr Standartenfuher "they think we're making pizza's" Oberst von Burn says:

    I’ve got an 03-A3, thank goodness she hasn’t been fcked with,. Yes Baby I know, I saved you from the hands of those Missouri ruffians

  8. avatar Bubba’s cuzzin says:

    I can sporterize that sucka fer ya… hold my beer…

  9. avatar DJ in FL says:

    I have a 1936 Mauser that I bought from Cabelas after a previous owner sporterized it. It’s chambered in .35 Whelen (AI) and it shoots very well. I think someone put over 1k of custom work (custom stock, jeweled bolt, timney trigger, custom barrel w. target crown) into a rifle I bought for $400.

    1. avatar Ed Schrade says:

      Have a ’93 ” Spanish Mauser , 7 x 57 that was sporterised , target crown, timney trigger, bolt handle turned down to clear scope. My go to gun, very accurate and fun to shoot.

  10. avatar jwm says:

    My first center fire rifle was an 03 Springfield that had a decent sporting job on it. I was 13 and bought it at a yard sale and rode it home on my bike with a can of surplus 06 ammo.

    I had attempted to buy a No. 5 Lee Enfield, in issue condition, out of a local gun shop but my father had objected. The price was 40 bucks, which didn’t bother him cause I had earned the money. His objection was it was a foreign gun and he had no knowledge of the rifle or its ammo.

    My father was a bit of a fudd. He saw the benefit of shotguns and rim fire rifles but he wasn’t a gun nut. Like me. He banned outright handguns in his home. But he was tolerant of my gun habits so long as I was earning the money. Handguns that I bought had to be stored and used off site from his home.

    I like mil surps. And I don’t get butt hurt when someone alters them. It’s their property. It’s their choice.

    1. avatar New Continental Army says:

      I remember those days, when fudds were real fudds. Today’s “fudds” have nothing on the ones from 20/30 years ago. I still remember all the lines, “what the hell do you want that old military shit for?” Or “why do need THAT!? You can’t hunt with it.” Or “what do you need a pistol for? You gonna carry it around like some wanna be cop?” And my favorite, “what the hell do you need one of those for? you gonna come back and shoot the place up?” For them guns literally had only one purpose, to hunt. I firmly believe those types wouldnt even think to reach for a gun during a home invasion because that’s not what those guns were for.

  11. avatar M1Lou says:

    I de sporterized a Swedish M94 Carbine and a Remington 03-A3. They turned out pretty good. The only real lasting Bubba damage are holes in the receiver for a scope rail for the M94 and holes in the side of the receiver of the 03-A3 for a Lyman sight. In this age of budget sub MOA rifles, there is no reason to sporterize an old gun anymore.

  12. avatar Texican says:

    One other reason to own one is that the are typically more durable than just about any commercial rifle due to the fact that they sometimes doubled as a club. 😉

  13. avatar Kalvin in WI says:

    I’ve had a 1924 mauser for a while. 7×57 is expensive, but worth it for deer hunting. Comparable to 30 30, but flatter trajectory.

  14. avatar Tom W. says:

    Inherited my Grandfathers Argentine Mauser Tanker Carbine in 7.65×53. He sporterized it and made it look like an all American bolt action. Kept the iron sights as is.

    Kept the metal butt plate and its still very very accurate.

  15. avatar Vlad Tepes says:

    Sportsitizing Military rifles was and today certainly is the most ignorant thing someone can due to a rifle. First off you have destroyed an historical military rifle that will never be made again. Would you paint a mustache on the Mono Lisa or turn a Stutz Bear Cat antique car into a modern one with wide tires and a computer in it?

    1. When one butchers a military rifle the value of the gun is cut below half and today is cut 90 per cent. As we speak the price of military surplus guns has already reached astronomical levels because the days of surplus rifles ended when Nato Countries agreed to destroy all surplus arms so that civilians would no longer have the chance or right to purchase them. Even the lowly Russian Mosin rifles that once were a drug on the market and sold only for a few dollars a piece have now been selling for $450 and up especially for the scarcer models. I saw two ordinary ubiquitous WWII models last week both go for $450.00 at my local gun store simply because they are now scarce and they were untouched originals in original condition and like new

    2. When you convert a military rifle the future rise in price it totally trashed because its no longer a collectible item.

    3. The money you used to convert the gun is never recovered in a resale and the cost of trashing it is pushed higher than the price of even a brand new mass marketed rifle.

    4. Even building a custom gun on a surplus action is a financial disaster because if you go all out and spend several thousand on building it the simply fact that there is no blue book value on it usually means the buyer has no idea who did the conversion or how much it cost to do the work and the result is you usually take a bath on it if you ever have to sell it. Take it from me I went that route years ago when using a commercial Sako Action to build a custom rifle and got only half of what I had in it when I sold it. That was a bitter lesson I never forgot.

    If you do not believe me go to any gun show and see what trashed converted military rifles bring. I bought a converted WWI Military Mauser Rifle in 22-250 complete with scope for only $250.00 and if the gun that was dated 1913 had been in the original military configuration I would not have been able to touch it for less than 4 times that price and in today’s military surplus market where prices are rising so high it has gotten to the point already that the workingman has bee pushed right out of the market when even thinking about buying so many of them that were once so common you could buy them for only a few dollars. Those days are gone forever and now part of the dead hand of the past.

  16. avatar GeorgiaBob says:

    After Dad got out in early ’46, he bought a couple of ’03s from the base logistics/disposal unit. One of the rifles was actually a British Enfield rifle, not a Springfield model 1903 as listed (the paperwork clearly lists the “Springfield” serial number that can easily be found on the Enfield, but never appeared on any Springfield rifle). Dad “sporterized” both rifles by hand shaping, staining and sealing new stocks, shortening the barrel about an inch and a half, smithing complete new iron sights with very effective range and windage adjustments, and completely reblueing both rifles. I have the “03 in my gun safe right now. It still shoots very well, looks great and is easily identified as a rebuilt Springfield 03. One of my brothers has the Enfield in his gun safe but hasn’t fired it in decades.

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