As one of my previous articles shared, I love the Mosin ‑Nagant surplus rifles. The Mosin is not my only surplus rifle. I also have a good collection of Carl Gustavs Swedish Mausers in 6.5x55SE.
I must confess theses are my favorite rifles. The 6.5x55SE is a fairly easy load that I or my wife and kids can shoot all day long and not need a shoulder replacement. It is effective at taking game up to the size of a Moose. More Moose have been taken in Sweden with this caliber than any other. Back to the rifle. The one I hunt with when I am hunting in Canada was made in 1898 and it still functions perfectly. I have one with a fancy maple stock from the factory that was cleverly hidden by the factory finish. Now I digress, so let me get back on the topic.
There are many surplus rifles available for the prepper and for the most part they are a good weapon capable of home defense or hunting. There are Egyptian, Argentine, Swedish Mausers, Mosin-Nagants, Chinese, Czech, Yugoslavian AKs and SKS or some variant thereof. Of course in the last few years the price has gone up due to a supply and demand inversion. As I have said most of these are a good deal. If you do not know anything about surplus rifles please do yourself a favour and visit one of the sites dedicated to the rifle you are interested in or bring along a knowledgeable friend or gunsmith.
One of the problems with using a surplus rifle as your primary or even secondary defense weapon is the availability and the price of ammunition.
- 7.62x54R surplus FMJ can be had 880rds for $137.00 and Wolf Gold hunting ammo can be had for around $20.00 per box.
- 6.5x55SE can be had for around $20.00 for a box of 20
- 7.62 Argentine is up around $40.00 for that same 20 rounds
- 7.62x39 runs around $30.00 for 100 rounds
- 8mm Mauser is running around $30.00 for 20 rounds.
These prices are just an example to show that even if you get a great deal on the rifle the price of the ammo may be too high to stock enough ammo to make you happy.
So now that you have a decent surplus rifle you wake up one day and realize it is ugly. Either the finish is horrible or the stock is damaged. Of course I am making the assumption that you checked the bore and action before you bought it, at least you should have.
So lets address the ugly finish syndrome.
I have found a lot of very nice wood under those ugly brown finishes. Now there are a lot of commercial stripping agents out there that will do the job but lets face it I am cheap. So what I do is disassemble the rifle completely and break out a sharp edge and just scrape the finish off. I use a Dremel type tool to clean out the little nooks and crannies I could not get with the scraper. I then proceed to hand sand the stock until I am happy. I then apply some stain that will compliment the wood and finish with a paste furniture wax. Why wax you say? Wax will waterproof the stock and it is easy to reapply as opposed to varnish. I know somebody will say that the wax will melt off or stick to your cheek but I have been using this method for 20 years and never had any problems. I just refinished a Mosin Nagant stock and start to finish was less than four hours.
The broken stock
I have another Mosin Nagant that I put onto an ATI Monte Carlo stock and that took around two hours. I know I should be able to just drop it in but for the eight of these I have done, not all mine, not a single one dropped in perfectly. So out comes the Dremel again and I grind a little bit off the sides of the stock so it just fits in. As soon as I can get it to slide in I put a drop or two of nail polish on the bottom of the rifle and check to see if it seats correctly. If not grind a little more. I did a Dragunov stock on an SKS once and it did drop right in. There are numerous stock options available right now and every one of them can be gorgeous, relatively, if installed properly.
The sights on just about every surplus rifle are iron which are just fine by me. I was taught to shoot on iron sights to 500yards and that is how I trained my family. As far as I am concerned people have gotten lazy and rely far too much on that scope to do the work for them. Besides, adding a scope will drive up the cost of that low priced rifle. Figure you can get a decent Mosin Nagant 91/30 for $150 and 880 rounds for another $150. $300 and you are good to go if you can shoot with iron sights. Now add a scope mount. I recently used the Brass Stacker scope mount on a rifle and got it on sale for $50, now add a long eye relief scope with rings for$100, and that is a low value scope a really good one will run you at least $200 and another $50–100 for rings. So for $450 you can get that Mosin set up with a scope. Oops forgot to add the synthetic stock, add another $100 so now that is $550 for that Mosin. Oh you do not want a LER scope, better add another $100–200 to the price because you are going to need a gunsmith to add the scope mounts. So now your $150 rifle is a $750+ rifle but you do have 880 rounds of FMJ to shoot. You can see how easy it is to go from a great deal to OMG I spent what?? Of course you can get some awesome deals on stocks, scopes, mounts etc if you have the time to shop the internet and can do the work yourself.
A word of caution here regarding the surplus rifle with the already mounted scope. If you did not buy the Sniper version with the factory mount be careful. I test fired a rifle once that had a mount and when I took out the cartridge there was a hole in the side. Stupid gunsmith had drilled right through and created a potentially deadly situation and did not want to tell anyone.
Where to get the surplus rifle.
Go buy a copy of Shotgun News and or Guns & Ammo Surplus Firearms magazine, yes there is such a thing, and see who advertises. There is also Armslist which I have used with minimal success. The best deals I have found lately have been on Facebook, yeah thats right the thing your teenager spends all day updating. Search for something like your town guns and more, or yourtown sporting goods.
I am sure by now somebody has noticed that I did not mention any US made surplus rifles. What can I say, they are just to few and far between which makes them expensive. They are out there you just need to keep your eyes open. I had a chance to buy a beautiful M1 about four years ago for a really good price but I just did not have the spare cash in the time frame the owner needed it.
There are countries other than what I have mentioned that have surplus rifles available in the US. Again it comes down to rifle + ammo + accessories = how much do you want to spend?
Trust the Russians to manufacture an obsolete, ugly, but thoroughly rugged and absolutely dependable military rifle. The 7.62X54R cartridge is comparable to the .30–06. The rifle was carried by Russian and communist armies from WWI through the Viet Nam era. Good soft point hunting versions of this cartridge are manufactured by Winchester, PRVI Partizan, Lapua, and Wolf. I purchased an original standard issue military carbine in unfired condition for a mere $120, then went to the range and shot a three-inch, 100 yard group using Barnaul Russian military surplus ammunition. Expect to pay from $80 to $200 for good examples. I have seen some scoped sporter conversions with custom stocks listed for up to $600. Mosin Nagant carbines can be easily converted to scout type configurations at low cost. I have not seen a Mosin-Nagant in a caliber other than 7.62X54R, except for one single shot conversion in 7.62X39, but the ammo is cheap and there is plenty of it.