In the recent past we featured an article on the top 5 best mil surplus pistols that were available on the market at the time. Now on the website we decided to dive a little deeper into the subject and tackle the issue of military surplus long guns and why at least one should be in everyone’s firearms collection.
There was a time not entirely too long ago that I refer to as the “Golden Age” of military surplus firearms sales and trust me when I say this that those days were glorious. Sadly those days are gone and never to return again. In the early 1990’s a person could walk into any gun mom and pop style gun shop and for under $200 could walk out with a huge list of firearms that were still packed in cosmolene. Not just .22 caliber plinkers or old pump shotguns, but rifles in heavy hitting center fire calibers like .303 British, .30-06, 7.62x54R and 6.5x55mm.
I have stated that it is in my opinion as a writer, collector and enthusiast of almost all things related to firearms that I think that everyone should own a military surplus long gun. That fact is well established, but some people might ask why do I think that way? And if someone was going to get a military surplus rifle what should they get. Those questions are going to be answered in this article.
Why Collect Mil Surplus?
There are several reasons for collecting or owning at least one military surplus rifle and I will try to address them as best I can. The first reason is supply and demand. The total numbers of available rifles on the market shrinks each year, which drives the cost of these rifles up accordingly. If you don’t believe me just go into Gunbroker.Com or some other firearms sales page and type in Lee-Enfield and look at the prices. The prices you see are considerably higher than the $79=$99 I use to pay in the early to mid-90’s. These guns in decent condition are becoming scarcer as each day passes.
A second major reason to collect and own mil surplus rifles is the historical connection aspect of the firearms. When I hold my 1943 M1 Carbine it’s made of wood and steel and has a patina to it that in uniquely its own. The weapon was part of an arsenal that defeated Fascism and Nazism, and is a direct connection to a historical era. TO many of us in the firearms community it’s a major point of interest. The weapon connects us to the era of our grandparents, and was made on machines that relied more on manual operations than computer controlled CNC machines and three axis mills and lathes.
I could go on for days for the reasons why I am so big on everyone owning functional and working pieces of firearms history, but in the interest of time management I will move to the an important part of this article “What mil surplus rifle to get?” In order to be the reader friendly website that strive to be, we decided to make things easier and give you The Arms Guide recommended list of military surplus rifles that everyone should own. We aren’t saying you should own all of the rifles on our list but one or more of them would help complete your collection. We took into consideration ammunition availability, historical context, and price while compiling our list. So without any further delay, we present in no particular order, Our List of recommended military surplus long guns
#1 Mosin Nagant 91/30 or M44
We listed two for one on this particular rifle because of their connection to each other, and they are essentially the same rifle just in two different sizes. Mosin Nagant’s are still cheap and ammunition is still widely available for the 7.62x54R rifle. The round offers plenty of stopping power and has a long lethal history behind it. Combine that with affordable prices and often times amazing combinations of wood and steel construction and it’s an instant classic
#2 M1 Garand
The M1 Garand has to be on any collectors list. The problem with M1 Garands is that with the release of many WW2 based TV series the prices for functional models has shot up in recent years. In my opinion if you don’t have a M1 Garand and want one, strike now because prices will only go up. The Garand is heavy and holds a relatively small amount of rounds by today’s standards, but it’s an amazing and gorgeous piece of shootable history. I can’t put it any simpler.
Any of the variants of the Lee-Enfield can go in this spot. The rifle was used by the British Empire for nearly a century and once you work the action on one you can easily tell why many collectors love this rifle. While the .303 might be frowned upon by some, there are great numbers of dead people who would argue with you about its lethality. Many Lee-Enfields come feature amazing blonde colored wood stocks and amazing grain patterns, especially prewar models. These rifles like the M1 Garand are going up in price daily so if you want one grab one.
#4 Mauser 98K
The Mauser 98K is a rifle that has been around for over 100 years and has no intention of fading away. Originally chambered in 7.92 mm the Mauser 98 series has been rebarreled for just about every centerfire caliber on earth. It also has a huge rabid fan base that is always willing to help if you run into issues. The great things about the Mauser 98 is that it was made by dozens of countries and half the fun of collecting them is getting ones manufactured in countries outside of Germany.
#5 M1 Carbine
The M1 Carbine like the M1 Garand has seen a surge in interest the last few years. The handy lightweight rifle isn’t a thumper with its 110 gr bullet but it’s a great gun. Ammunition is coming down in price somewhat but the prices are going up for the guns. When looking for a M1 Carbine be sure to research the brands and components. In ww2 almost everyone made parts for rifles including Rockola, International Business Machine and General Motors. Also stock up on quality non Korean magazines if you dive into the M1 Carbine. I’m speaking from experience on the topic of M1 Carbine magazines.
#6 Fabrique Nationale FAL
While not as old as the other rifles on this list a good surplus FAL is always a great talking point and connects us more to armed conflicts of the later part of the 20th century. The FAL is an oddity to many because the part of the rifle that requires a FFL to transfer is the barreled upper and not the lower. I have seen South African and Zambian FAL lowers at local gun shows and if person was to have one built from the parts kits, it’s definatly a conversation piece.
Honorable Mention & Closing Thoughts
Honorable Mention: Springfield Model 1903 & 1903A3
The available quality examples of any of the listed rifles is getting thinner and thinner, if you want to own a shootable piece of history the time to grab one is now. If you are in the market for one or might be, reach out to the collectors groups and grow your knowledge base before purchasing anything. Like many things in the firearms world, it’s the details that can matter the most when researching any firearm. The Who, What, When, Where and Why about a particular firearm is part of its mystique. If we here at the web site can be of any assistance just reach out and ask, we will try to help the best we can. If you do grab a Mil Surplus rifle post some pictures in the comments section below.