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Surplus Rifle!


I started collecting military surplus rifles years ago, not really knowing what I had stumbled into.  I innocently purchased an M1 Garand from a local gun shop. Like most male Americans of my age group and older, I grew up seeing Garands and a plethora of other battle rifles filling the silver screen. I think I watched every war movie ever made.  I played “war” and “army” with the neighborhood kids. Even my first BB gun was a copy of the M1 Carbine. You could say I was infected and did not even know it.

 The first fix

I had always wanted an M1 Garand. I thought they represented everything good about America. The first Garand I finally ended up with had very little rifling in the barrel and when fired, sent rounds tumbling down range, creating keyhole silhouettes in the paper targets. I sent it off a couple of years later to have a new barrel installed, reparkerized, and just an overall reconditioning performed. The day it returned was a day that lives in my memories. It was beautiful! Everything about it was brand new; the look, function, smell and accuracy.  I needed knowledge and purchased one of Scott Duff’s Garand books and read it cover to cover. I was hooked.

 Oh, the history!

By the serial number I could tell it was manufactured in 1943. Maybe it had actually seen action in Normandy or even Iwo Jima? Maybe it marched freezing with a GI in the Chosin Reservoir, in Korea, facing god only knows what? It was just amazing to me to hold such a historical device in my hands.


After a time, I purchased another Garand from the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) that was in surprisingly good condition. Next came a German Mauser 98k, then a Yugoslavian M48, and then another, and so the story goes.


The quest

I have different rifles with different histories, different calibers to reload, and all kinds of facts and knowledge to learn and absorb.  Researching each rifle has become a hobby of itself. The internet and other publications help greatly in this endeavor. For little to no cost, you can find out the “when”, “where”, and “who” made your rifle.

 You really need to learn how to properly disassemble and reassemble your new friend. Even cleaning and oiling can be a differing task from rifle to rifle. Operations and general maintenance are also other important responsibilities you need to become proficient at. What I am describing is not all that different from getting a new pet and having to learn to take care of it.

 The dollars and sense of it

One of the primary reasons I gravitate towards military surplus rifles is the availability and lower prices. What other rifle can you purchase in almost 100% condition for $50 and up? Watching Shotgun News has become almost a religion, in learning what is new and available on the market and in great numbers. Today it could be a Finnish M-39 Nagant, tomorrow a Romanian M44 Nagant Carbine, or a Yugoslavian SKS M-59. You never know what lurks over the horizon, what gems are wrapped in cosmoline waiting in a warehouse for some American importer to snatch them up and sell in the US for some ungodly low dollar amount.


If you are going to collect firearms and wish to stay married, then surplus is really the way to go. I don’t know about you, but it is a heck of a lot easier to get a $100 rifle past the wife than a $500 one. If you are anything like me then surplus is just simple marital salvation.

 Are Surplus Rifles Junk?

A good question; some are, but most are examples of fine engineering, excellent workmanship, marvels of modern manufacturing techniques, and simplicity in form and function, all rolled into one mechanical device. When I hold a Swedish Mauser m96 rifle in my hands, manufactured in 1921, I am amazed at the quality of workmanship and overall fit and finish. These guys really knew how to make firearms and they made them to last. The mere fact that there are so many of them in existence today pays homage to their craft.


I have a friend who is an avid benchrest shooter and he says, “They are all pieces of junk!” referring to military surplus rifles.  I understand his point to a certain extent; surplus rifles when compared to benchrest rifles are probably pieces of junk. But, I would like to see someone get teary eyed over a benchrest rifle. Where is the history, dignity, human nature and conflict? Who ever died defending one’s country carrying a benchrest rifle, and for what causes?


Last and final; I believe that military surplus rifles bring newcomers to the sport. I have seen many a shooter at the range with a Mauser or a Schmidt-Rubin that they picked up at a local sporting goods store and are out at the range for the first time in probably a decade or more. All because they just wanted a piece of history or just to get back in touch with their youth.


Just Starting Out: Selecting Your First Military Surplus Rifle or Carbine

jlm ;)