Oh, the days when military surplus guns like a Mosin-Nagant could be had by the armful for about $100 each, along with all the corrosive steel case surplus ammo you could shoot. Those were the heady days back when I had hair, my knees didn’t make weird noises, and I even had some self-esteem.
Just kidding; I never had any self-esteem. But one digresses.
Granted, most people piss and moan about not being able to get an SKS anymore, which is understandable, but the fact of the matter is you actually CAN get some military surplus rifles these days at decent prices. Time, tide and inflation wait for no man, so they ain’t as cheap as they used to be…but they aren’t THAT expensive.
Some of them, however…well just forget it. M1 Carbines? You can get a repro, but not a legitimate vintage model. 1903 Springfields and M1917 Enfields? Dream on. Actual German Mausers from WWII? Vergeßen Sie. And so on.
But which military surplus guns are still out there that you CAN still afford? Rifles that you actually could pick up for not too much money?
Here are a few to look for.
First on the list is still going to be the Mosin-Nagant. While they certainly aren’t as reasonably priced as they once were, they’re not RIDICULOUSLY expensive either. There are plenty of them in circulation. The Russians made more than 30 million of them. Every time I go to Cabela’s, there are about 10 of them on the used gun rack.
For those unaware, the Mosin-Nagant was the service rifle of both Imperial and Soviet Russia, from the end of the 19th century until the adoption of the AK-47 in the post-war period. It’s a tough bolt-action rifle, firing the 7.62x54mmR cartridge.
Some variants used by other countries are chambered for different rounds, such as the 7.62x53mmR in Finnish variants and rifles captured by various other governments that were re-barreled for use with their military cartridges (German captures were repurposed for use with 7.92x57mm Mauser). The rifle holds five rounds in its internal magazine, and it can be used with stripper clips.
7.62 Russian is broadly comparable with the .308 Winchester. Granted, most ammunition you’re going to find is FMJ, so if your thought was to get an iron-sight gun for hunting, you might need reloading equipment to go with it.
Will you pay more than you arguably should for a very old gun? Yeah, but they’re still affordable enough, usually starting at about $250 or so.
While German Mauser military surplus rifles are rare and (too) expensive, there ARE some Mauser rifles that you can pick up for not too much geld. A number of countries started making them at various points for various reasons that we won’t get into (one could literally write a book about the gun) but suffice to say that Mausers of non-Teutonic origin are plentiful and some can be acquired reasonably.
Turkish Mausers are a good example. You can have this Turkish delight on a moonlit night without draining your wallet too much; often they’re priced in the $250 to $400 range, though your mileage will vary. They’re commonly chambered for the 8mm Mauser (7.92x57mm) cartridge, broadly comparable to .30-06 but with a .323-caliber bullet for those unfamiliar.
It’s all the stuff you could expect from a 98k-pattern Mauser: five-round internal box magazine, can be loaded with stripper clips, the safety flips left-to-right and a straight bolt handle.
Fun fact: many Turkish Mausers were actually made in Germany, but given to the Ottoman Empire and converted to their M38 specifications, but many M38 Turkish Mausers were made in Turkey as well and spotting the differences is the devil’s own job.
Why did the older Mausers get the works? That’s nobody’s business but the Turks.
Speaking of Mausers, also keep an eye out for two additional variants.
M24 Mauser rifles were built by Fabrique Nationale (FN) and were sold to various militaries around the world. It’s a licensed copy of the 98k and most are chambered in 7.92x57mm, though you’ll find some that use a different caliber, such as 7.65mm Argentine.
There are a few different variants with differing specifications and barrel lengths, such as the M24/47, M24/30, M24/52C and others. Again, I’m skipping a lot for the sake of brevity because you could – seriously – write a book about all the minutiae involved in all the different Mausers made and sold around the world.
Most common will be Yugoslavian M24/47 rifles, which can be picked up in the $300 to $400 range. Provided the barrel and action is in good working order, they are excellent big-bore plinkers and iron-sight hunting rifles. Expect the stock to have been beaten like a rented mule.
A related rifle is the Yugoslav M48 rifle. The M48, manufactured by Zastava, looks almost identical to 98k rifles but the action was changed to be a little simpler to manufacturer as well as a little shorter, despite chambering the same cartridge. Many are still in excellent condition due to fastidious storage by the then-Yugoslav government, so you could expect to find one for not too much that’s still in decent shape.
If you were to ask me, those two would be my preferred purchase from this list.
These days, some of the cheapest military surplus rifles to pick up are Japanese Arisaka rifles, which were in the service of the Empire of Japan. Two commonly-found variants are out there, the Type 38 and Type 99. The Type 38 chambers 6.5mm Japanese Arisaka and the Type 99 chambers 7.7mm Japanese Arisaka. I don’t know why the ammunition industry named it “Japanese Arisaka” since there’s no other kind, but one digresses.
They’re typical military rifles of the time, bolt-action with a stripper-clip loading internal box magazine holding five rounds. They’re good rifles, being lighter by 1 to 2 lbs than other rifles of the day (easier to carry) and accurate.
The 6.5mm and 7.7mm rounds are a bit weak compared to 7.62mm Russian and 7.92mm Mauser, but on the plus side are a bit easier to tolerate the recoil from. 7.7mm Arisaka is roughly comparable with 7mm08 Remington, though a little bit slower.
However, there’s a reason you can get them cheap, and that’s because ammunition isn’t easy to come by. There are some companies out there making 6.5mm and 7.7mm JA (and you can find in from some of the larger online retailers), but don’t expect to ever find any in your local gun store. Provided you can come up with a source of ammunition, Arisaka rifles have strong actions and make dandy hunting rifles with proper bullet selection.
If you want a surplus semi-automat rifle, you can still get an SKS…but expect to shell out a bit more. It’s not unheard of to find them for around $500, and sometimes a little less. You might as well forget the ones made in Eastern Europe; the Chinese models are going to be the most affordable.
It used to be that you could get an SKS and get all the fun of an AK-47 without as much expense as it’s a semi-automatic rifle in 7.62x39mm. Today, you have to pay a bit more for the privilege.
Not ideal, to be sure, but not completely unobtainable.
Other military surplus guns are just getting too rare or too expensive. Feel like I left one or two out? Sound off in the comments!