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Old February 27, 2009, 12:53 AM   #1
Skrej
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First Curio/Relic purchase?

Hi folks,

I've recently started buying and collecting guns for myself. I've bought a number of pistols and shotguns that I enjoy shooting, and have decided it's time for a rifle.

I'd like to start with a 'historical' rifle, with a bit of character and lore behind it, versus a brand new modern rifle. My problem is, I don't know much about these types of guns, and would like some suggestions as to what to look for. I'd also like to research a bit about the particular make/model I decide on before I go looking for one at shows.

I'm hoping you all can offer some suggestions as to what rifles would be a good fit for my requirements/wishes, listed below. I'd appreciate it if you could offer comments on price, ammo availability, and any special concerns, or even suggest a specific model.

Here is my list of expectations and requirements.

1) I want a gun I can take out and shoot, not just a shelf collector's item.

2) I'd like it chambered for readily available and relatively cheap (as cheap as ammo can be these days...) rounds. I don't want to end up with something that I have to hand load rounds for, due to scarcity of ammo or a high cost per round. I'm talking a couple hundred rounds a month, maximum, for recreational shooting.

3) I'm planning on using the rifle for one purpose only, that being recreational target shooting and plinking. No hunting, self-defense, or other role intended.

4) I'm interested in a rifle that's notable as accurate, or rather that the accuracy is limited by my ability (or lack thereof!), not a quirk of the rifle.

5) I'm not interested in speed of fire, or large magazine capacity. One of the reasons I purchased single action revolvers (both cartridge and black powder) is I enjoy the sense of ritual of loading, cocking, etc. Thus, I'm probably looking for a bolt action rifle.

6) I'm looking for something relatively affordable. I've no idea of the price range of such guns (one reason I'd like some suggestions so I can research fair values), but if feasible, something that would be in the $300 price range or less. This is the most flexible of my stipulations, but I'm not interested in a higher priced gun just for its value, collectability, rareness, etc.

7) Reliable to shoot and easy to care for. I understand that for cheap ammo, I may need to shoot corrosive ammo, which requires dedicated cleaning after each day's shooting, and that's fine. I just don't want anything that's particularly finicky or noted for demanding special conditions. I don't consider dedicated cleaning and oiling as demanding. If something breaks, I'd like spare parts to be fairly easy to come by.

8) Aside from the price/availability factor mentioned in #2, I'm not concerned about caliber, recoil, etc. If it kicks, it kicks.

9) I don't mind if the wood is a bit ugly looking or roughed up. I'd actually expect such from a used surplus rifle, and I'm not adverse to doing a little TLC to restore a stock. As long as the mechanics are sound, that's fine by me.

10) I'd prefer an actual historical rifle from times past, not a modern reproduction, or even a used reproduction.

Since my knowledge of guns from this era is limited, I haven't done a lot of research. What I found so far, as possiblilites, are a Mossin-Nagent, an Enfield, a Mauser, or a M1-Garand (yeah, I know, not a bolt action but that beautiful 'pinging' sound of a spent en-clip and tossing another one in seems to compete nicely with the motions of throwing a bolt). I'm certainly open to more suggestions.

There's another gun show fairly close to me in a couple of months, so I'd like to have my decision made by then, so I can start looking.

Due to lack of research, I realize some of my stipulations (especially pricing) may be at odds with each other. Feel free to point these out.


Thanks for your thoughts and opinions in advance
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Old February 27, 2009, 08:17 AM   #2
Vergeltung
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heya, and welcome to C&R! I have two Mauser 98ks from WWII, which were my answers to your same questions some months ago. you also cannot go wrong with the Soviet version, the Mosin Nagant.

the Mosin is actually cheaper right now, and it's ammo is as well. a nice Mosin can be had for $100 or so, whereas a Russian Capture (mixed parts from different serial-numbered captured Mausers) Mauser with a nice bore & furniture can go for $300 or so.

the ammo for both is relatively cheap (not new ammo, military surplus ammo from eastern block countries (1970s-80s), but the Mosin ammo is a degree cheaper.

for historical reasons and my own personal preference I went with the Mausers, but, you cannot go wrong with either! I plan on hnting with mine in the Fall of 2009, but other than that, we wanted them for the same reasons I believe.

good luck!
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Old February 27, 2009, 08:39 AM   #3
jsmaye
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Quote:
1) I want a gun I can take out and shoot, not just a shelf collector's item.

2) I'd like it chambered for readily available and relatively cheap (as cheap as ammo can be these days...) rounds....

3) I'm planning on using the rifle for one purpose only, that being recreational target shooting and plinking...

4) I'm interested in a rifle that's notable as accurate, or rather that the accuracy is limited by my ability (or lack thereof!), not a quirk of the rifle....

5) I'm not interested in speed of fire, or large magazine capacity....Thus, I'm probably looking for a bolt action rifle.

6) I'm looking for something relatively affordable. I've no idea of the price range of such guns (one reason I'd like some suggestions so I can research fair values), but if feasible, something that would be in the $300 price range or less. This is the most flexible of my stipulations, but I'm not interested in a higher priced gun just for its value, collectability, rareness, etc.

7) Reliable to shoot and easy to care for. I understand that for cheap ammo, I may need to shoot corrosive ammo, which requires dedicated cleaning after each day's shooting, and that's fine. I just don't want anything that's particularly finicky or noted for demanding special conditions. I don't consider dedicated cleaning and oiling as demanding. If something breaks, I'd like spare parts to be fairly easy to come by.

8) Aside from the price/availability factor mentioned in #2, I'm not concerned about caliber, recoil, etc. If it kicks, it kicks.

9) I don't mind if the wood is a bit ugly looking or roughed up. I'd actually expect such from a used surplus rifle, and I'm not adverse to doing a little TLC to restore a stock. As long as the mechanics are sound, that's fine by me.

10) I'd prefer an actual historical rifle from times past, not a modern reproduction, or even a used reproduction.
The $300 cap puts most American (M1, M1a, M1903, M1917) rifles out of reach. You'd need to at least double that.

The lack of readily available ammunition takes out the Japanese rifles and the Steyr Mannlichers - though technically available, there's not a large cache like the others. And some is more available than others; there are boatloads of Mosin Nagant 7.62x54R.

The military surplus rifles are very robust and reliable. The Enfields have to be checked that the proper bolt is matched to the rifle for headspace issues, but this is a one-time check - once confirmed you're go to for the life of the rifle. The various Mausers, Mosin Nagants, Steyr Mannlichers, Schmidt Rubins, and Enfields are nearly indestructible and still pretty available. Narrowing down from here is pretty much a matter of personal taste.

These are all bolt-action rifles, some traditional, some a little different, like the straight-pull M95 or K31.

The rounds (and recoil) are roughly equivalent to a .30-06. The carbine versions would obviously kick a little more. Some of them even produce a nice fireball when shot.

Their accuracy will surprise you, as long as the bore is in good shape. These rifles were designed for engagement at battlefield distances, i.e. hundreds of meters.

I have a Mosin Nagant 91/30 and a somewhat rare 91/38. Both are excellent shooters, although the 91/38 might get relegated to wall-hanger. I would have no problem filling out my collection with more Mosins.

I have an Austrian Steyr-Mannlicher M95 stutzen (carbine). It roars like a cannon and kicks like a mule. Though ammo is scarce, I'd like to get the Hungarian version to round out the collection.

I have a Schmidt Rubin K31. This is a target rifle disguised as a battle rifle. It's Swiss workmanship at its best and somewhat of a sleeper in the mil-surp world.

And finally, I have a Yugoslavian M24/47, their version of the Mauser. I haven't shot it yet, but it's a bargain at $160. The bore looks un-issued.
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Old February 27, 2009, 08:51 AM   #4
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+1 for the mosin nagant's (MN). The carbines (M44, M38, etc) are a bit scarce now, but the M91/30 is still all over the place. Milsurp ammo is still cheap. I really enjoy shooting my MNs. They are solid, simple, accurate, and cheap to shoot at the range. They are addictive. I have one of each mentioned above.
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Old February 27, 2009, 09:54 AM   #5
beeker77
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...Mausers! ...Swede!

The surplus Swedish Mausers are pretty much universally available for right around $300 (M96 and M38, not the M94), especially if you don't care about all matching s/n which can command higher prices. The Swede 6.5mm ammo is also readily availabe, very comfortable shooting (light recoil), and very accurate (typically shoots about 8" high at 100 yards at the lowest rear sight setting). Since Sweden never fought a war, and because they are sticklers for precision and quality, the Swedish rifles have been meticulously maintained, and so generally are in better shape than other surplus rifles of the same era, with the possible exception of the Swiss K31 (another candidate for all the same reasons except ammo availability). Yugoslav M24/47 and M48 8mm rifles are also a possibility, if you don't mind the stout 8mm recoil. All of these mentioned above are bolt actions, and will typically exhibit plenty of 'character' some of which will ooze out in the form of cosmolene preservative when they get warmed from shooting (love that aroma!).

Another factor to consider is to get a 03 FFL (Federal Firearms License, Collector of Curios and Relics); cost = $30 for three-year license. This allows you to purchase and directly receive eligible firearms without paying a 'regular' firearms dealer to do the transfer paperwork. Since dealers typically charge between $25 and $50 for each transferred firearm, one purchase with your new license has just saved you the cost of application!
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Old February 27, 2009, 10:59 AM   #6
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If you want something for enjoyable plinking, there's always a C&R eligible SKS. The Mosin Nagant rifles are very cheap but they're also slight recoil monsters. I can shoot my SKS all day (my girlfriend, too) comfortably but that Mosin Nagant starts to kick my butt after 20-30 rounds.

If you want more power than 7.62X39, any of the 8MM Mauser bolt actions are fairly comfortable to shoot. I think it has something to do with the stock geometry and how it transmits the kick. My K98k weighs less yet kicks less than my friend's Garand.
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Old February 27, 2009, 11:38 AM   #7
jsmaye
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SKS's are a good idea, but finding an old one (condition #10) for under $300 (condition #6) is going to be hard to do. Stamped Norinco's are even getting hard to find at that price.

Correction - Samco claims to have M59/66's for under $300. If they have them in inventory that would be a good choice.
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Old February 27, 2009, 12:35 PM   #8
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The Swiss K31 is probably more accurate than you are and surplus 7.5x55 is roughly $10 per box of 20, which is much cheaper than any commercial .270/.30-06, etc. That gun and the Enfield are my two favorite mil-surps. Mosin Nagant's are hit or miss. I ordered 3 at the same time, 1 of them would do 4-5 inches at 100 yards, the other two would have trouble hitting a sheet of plywood at 100 yards. They kick like a mule and will leave your shoulder sore.
-Dan
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Old February 27, 2009, 12:50 PM   #9
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Under three bills, accurate, and with affordable and plentiful ammo?

Finnish Mosin.

A K31 may (maybe) edge it out on accuracy, but the continued availability of affordable 7.5 Swiss is nowhere near as guaranteed as 7.62x54R. And a good M39 or M28 is probably on par, accuracy-wise, with any Swiss or American milsurp.
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Old February 27, 2009, 01:43 PM   #10
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Quote:
A K31 may (maybe) edge it out on accuracy, but the continued availability of affordable 7.5 Swiss is nowhere near as guaranteed as 7.62x54R.
True, but round-for-round, GP11 is more accurate than 7.62x54R.

There may be a better/best debate for each rifle, but there are no "bad" ones.
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Old February 27, 2009, 03:08 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsmaye
There may be a better/best debate for each rifle, but there are no "bad" ones.
If he hadn't thrown in the price/availability of ammo requirement, my response would have been "K-31!!!" without hesitation. Should Winchester or whoever start loading 7.5 Swiss, I'd shift my vote.
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Old February 27, 2009, 04:39 PM   #12
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Don't forget, the Wolf Gold line produces 7.5x55Swiss, and it falls to about $0.94/round, and GP-11 ammo from ammoman.com went at about $0.67/round. I don't think that's terrible at all.

EDIT: Also, I bought Hornady SST's from sportsmansguide.com at approximately $1.10/round. But I'm saving that for deer season!
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Old February 27, 2009, 05:02 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by BombthePeasants
Don't forget, the Wolf Gold line produces 7.5x55Swiss, and it falls to about $0.94/round, and GP-11 ammo from ammoman.com went at about $0.67/round. I don't think that's terrible at all.
Given the realities of Big Box sporting goods stores (not to mention the current politics in DC) I don't consider foreign-made ammunition to be a "plentiful and reliable supply".

It'd take an act of Congress to shut down Winchester-Olin, but the stroke of an executive pen to cut off military surplus or East Bloc-made commercial ammo.

Don't get me wrong, I own a K-31 and a Gew. 96/11, and plenty of GP-11 with which to feed them, but I'm a lot more confident of my ability to find 7.62x54R this time next year, or three years from now, than 7.5 Swiss.


I like the Swiss rifles better than the Mosins (heck, I like Mausers and Enfields and Springfields and Krags better than Mosins), but he asked a specific series of questions, not "What's your favorite military surplus rifle?"

(And if he can't find a Finn, then he should take the ammo availability hit and buy a K-31 rather than going for a Russian Mosin.)
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Old February 27, 2009, 05:05 PM   #14
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Fair enough, She-who-shares-the-same-name-as-my-wife. I can see it now...Previous Democratic administration bombs the crap out of Serbia, the next one cuts off it's one import to the US. Lovely...

EDIT: In the spirit of the original post, I would say a Yugo Mauser would be my vote.
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Old February 27, 2009, 05:44 PM   #15
jsmaye
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...but he asked a specific series of questions, not "What's your favorite military surplus rifle?"
That's why my original reply stopped with a statement about personal taste, and then a quick list of what I have. Once you narrow it down to four or five, then it's weighing things such as, is Condition X more important than Condition Y, and, of course, personal taste.
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Old February 27, 2009, 05:56 PM   #16
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you're right jsmaye. I would say that there are few "bad" options in the mil-surp world. Enfields, Mausers, K31's, Mosin-Nagants, all are potentially fascinating, and rewarding purchases. I am prejudiced, though, and I tend to gravitate towards Western firearms, and not Communist-bloc ones.
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Old February 27, 2009, 06:40 PM   #17
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I am prejudiced, though, and I tend to gravitate towards Western firearms, and not Communist-bloc ones.
I hesitated at first regarding the Mosins - then I just figured that they're more Imperial (or Tsarist) than Communist. The SKS's I justify because they were developed during WWII when we were all allied. Flimsy justification, but I like SKS's and want one.

AK's, however, I don't like. Too many "death to America!" third-world revolutionaries use them." And, simply put, I just don't like the way they look.
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