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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Military Surplus firearms. The Golden Age is gone but you can still find them.

The 1940's and 1950's are considered the real "Golden Age" of military surplus firearms collecting. That was a little before my time.  But there was a second period, from about 1980 -1995, when large numbers of surplus weapons came into the country. There was a wide selection to choose from, they were readily available, and the price was affordable.

Once William the Bastard became ruler of the country, he immediately used his "Executive Orders" to start limiting the importation of weapons and ammunition.  The two Bush Presidents were not very pro 2nd amendment and George I was actually anti NRA, though George II was less so.  At about the same time, stocks of the old weapons overseas began to run out.  Today, you really only find the Mosin Nagant rifles in any quantity and even they are overpriced.

The best place to find the old guns now is pawn shops and gun shows.  These are still perfectly viable weapons, as they were when they were general issue to the most powerful armies on earth.  I own some modern guns, but I really rely on weapons of this type.




Here are a few of the most common rifles available today.


The Model 1898 Mauser. This is the rifle that most soldiers of the German Army were equipped with at the start of World War I.   It's got a very complicated sight, and the rifle is long.  At the time, they were concerned about being outreached by French bayonets.  Chambered in 8mm Mauser, this is a good shooter and a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.  One good thing about the old guns is that they were built to last by people who took great pride in their work.


The Mauser 98K is the German infantry rifle of the 2nd World War.  It's a refined version of the Model 1898.  The rifle is shorter, the sight is simplified.   These are fine rifles. The 8mm Mauser cartridge is full powered, the action is very smooth, and the rifle is superbly accurate.



The Lee Enfield MK.III  holds ten rounds of .303 British.   This rifle is generally acknowledged to have the slickest action of the class,  and someone who has been trained on the rifle can generate a rate of fire as high as 15 rounds a minute of aimed fire.  The "aimed fire" is important, because you really can't "spray and pray" with these guns. They have to be used as they were intended.   The MK.III was the British infantry rifle of World War I.


The Lee Enfield No. IV MK1  was the standard British infantry rifle of World War II.  It is really an MKIII which has been redesigned to require less machining, use more stamped parts, and be produced more rapidly than was possible with the MK. III.   Despite all the short cuts, it is a good rifle and was general issue in the British Army until 1956.



 The British Jungle Carbine, or Enfield V,  is expensive and hard to find.  It's a nice little rifle, but the recoil is fierce. It is for very close in work,  so the extremely fine machined sights on the gun don't make a lot of sense. The rubber butt pads have all harded in the 50 or so years since these guns were built.  The Jungle Carbine is the only rifle I ever fired that gave me a nose bleed from recoil.  It uses the .303 British round, and in that light little frame your body absorbs all the recoil.  Most people who own these don't shoot them anymore because they are too valuable as collectors items.




This is the Enfield No.IV, MK II.  Only a very limited number were made after World War II, and the number imported into the U.S. was tiny.  The MK. II is essentially a Number I that has been redesigned to eliminate some of the flaws the Number I had.  It's a fine rifle.  Most of the one's that came into the U.S. were never issued, so they are just like the day they left the factory.

Collecting these guns used to be a big hobby.  But now, with fewer guns in the country,  none to be found overseas, and more government restrictions it's mainly older men who still pursue it.  The best surplus guns magazine,  Surplus Firearms,  just printed their goodbye edition.  The editor said there wasn't enough interest in the hobby anymore to justify publishing the magazine. Another publisher bought the magazine rights and plans to continue publishing, but it's a sign of the times.

I'll  keep on collecting because I enjoy it.   There are still gun shows and pawn shops, so from time to time I may find something to add to the guns I already have.

This post didn't address all the rifles out there, and didn't look at pistols at all.  I'll try to do that on a follow up.






19 comments:

  1. I remember seeing those Sherwood Arms ads from the 1960s and just drooled, lol - surplus rifles for $20 - such a deal! But the late 80's were great too - Swede bolt guns and Mausers for a C-Note, FR-8s for abou the same price. The last 'Great Buy' was the Swiss K-31s about 6 years ago - less than a $100 for a precision bolt gun.

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  2. Your memory has not failed you. There was a "Roses" general store two counties over from mine that had a fantastic gun counter. They only sold surplus. I did get some of the Swedes, but I passed up M-1 Carbines, Model 1917 Enfields, and Springfield 03's because I already had examples and after all, they were common. Now I could bite ten penny nails in half when I think of that. I got two of the K31 rifles from Southern Ohio Guns, one with a walnut stock and one birch. Hind sight is 100%, I know, but I would sure do things differently now if I could go back. One thing I did do though, I bought 10 of the surplus MK.III Enfields, dating from 1912 to 1918. I also got six of the brand new Australian Lithgow MK. III rifles when they came into the country. But oh, those missed opportunities. :-(

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    1. Anon 2:10 again - durn, I missed that part the 1st time about SURPLUS ARMS deciding to go dark. I have quite a few issues from years past and saw the recent copy on sale but passed it - I guess I should check it out.

      Regrets on possible past purchases - just let it go and be grateful for the models you already own. I feel sorry for the person who is just now 'getting in the game', firearm and ammunition prices are CRAZEE expensive.

      You should consider a post on surplus handguns, there were some great deals as well.

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    2. Well, maybe the new version will be ok, if they go through with it. I am compulsive about collecting magazines if they are on a topic I am interested in. Lately I've been switching over to Kindle subscriptions if the magazine is offered that way, because it's actually easier for me to read on the Kindle with my eyes than reading a print magazine. Yes, I think I'll try the hand guns and also finish out the rifles when I have more energy.

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  3. My Father in Law claimed he had at least one of every Mauser Ever made. I tend to believe him at least caliber-wise as I ended up with all his reloading equipment and dies. What no one got were any of his extensive firearm collection as my drug addict Brother in Law I call Gollum supposedly sold em all "for the family" and handed my wife $600.00 as her share.

    She got scalped and I told her as much because just the firearms he showed me amounted to well into the 20K plus range and I know he had whole rooms devoted to them as kinda a theme thing. Of course my wife is not the type get angry and well it wasn't my place nor good timing either. The next time I was over there helping them clean out the house I packed up all his reloading gear and supplies. Anything I couldn't use I gave away to other shooters. I figured he would have wanted that and I dared Gollum to say a word about it.

    Did they ever chamber those jungle Enfields in .308? Because I swear he had one.

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  4. Mausers were made in a bewildering number of chamberings. That's why you always have to slug the chamber to be sure before you fire one for the first time. They were also rechambered in everything from 30-06 to .308 because they have an incredibly strong action.

    The gun your father in law had was probably a Navy Arms Jungle Carbine 6, modeled on a gun the Australians planned to bring out but the war ended before it went into production. Navy Arms took a lot of Ishapore .308 actions, rebarreled them , restocked them, and produced a beautiful copy of the gun. No collector value but what a fine truck gun or trail gun it is. I bought two and still have them.

    Your brother in law definitely cheated your wife. A collection like you describe might bring 50 or 60 thousand dollars as a rough guess.

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    1. He also had a die that was a 6.5mm 06 - with some select name after it. I never looked it up but one of the guys at the gun club told me it was a custom only caliber. Not a military collectable but one of his deer rifles was my bet. Whatever it was I never saw it.

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    2. Sorry it was a 6.5mm-06 Ackley Improved die. Not something I have even had experience with.

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    3. Me neither. I don't know much about commercial rifles since I'm not a hunter. Some of the custom guns can fetch a good sum, depending on who did the metal work and who made the furniture.

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  5. I have that Mauser book and its wuite the treasure trove of guns...a fella could spend a lot of time and oney trying to come up with an example from every country that ever fielded a Mauser. I used to have an Israeli 98K in .308 and it was a scarily accurate gun with iron sights. Sold it for quick money and have regretted it ever since.

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    1. I have one of those. But I worry that I will forget one day and put 8mm Mauser in it. Even though it is clearly marked 7.62 on the stock.

      There are people who actually do have all of them. Then they die, and one of the big auction houses publishes a nice book of their collection, and it gets auctioned off and that's the end of it.

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    2. If you ever wanna sell or trade off that Israeli Mauser, lemme know. I'm sure I can find something in the safe that would loook good in your collection. (Although cash works, too.)

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    3. Commander Zero, I can only remember a handful of guns I have traded or sold in all the time I've been collecting. I once bid on a lot of 22 different pieces, and got it. In the group there were some little Saturday night specials and I traded all of the low quality guns, about six, for a used M1911. In that deal, I represented myself as the seller, and I represented the gun store I worked at as the buyer, so I drove a hard bargain with myself ! ;-)

      My family has been urging me to start disposing of the collection, since I rarely shoot anymore and can't take it to the "condo" if that's where we wind up. I feel like as soon as I do that, I am admitting I am old and there's nothing left but the run down to oblivion. I will have to do something. I think at some point, I will email my gun list to my blog friends and sell what they want at good prices, then I'll call a couple of big gun companies like Empire Arms, J&G, SOG, and some of the others that buy whole collections and let them take the rest. After that, I guess I will find a nice rock under a tree and sing my death song.....

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    4. You know, this is actually an interesting topic and one I wouldnt mind seeing addressed in other preparedness blogs - what do you want done with your gear when/if you cant keep/use it any more? My wife once said she'd kep some of the stuff but sell off the vast majority of it in a yard sale or something. I was aghast. If I've spent years accumulating gear and food, weeding out good gear from bad, taking steps and effort to preserve it, then I would rather see it go to someone who feels the same way about preparedness as I do. I would rather my cases of Norinco AK ammo go to one of my like-minded buddies than to some college kid who wants blasting ammo to shoot off that weekend. I guess I would want my stuff to go to someone who would use it for the same reasons I originally acquired it - to prepare against the uncertain future...sorta like leaving a legacy to the next fella that wants to carry the torch.

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    5. Well, I can see it both ways. If you died, your wife would probably just want to get shed of the stuff and be done with it. If you belonged to a group, you could apportion it out amongst them, like the old saw "when you die we're splitting up your gear."

      Since I don't belong to a group, I don't know what will happen. My son has no interest in survivalism now but maybe after a few years he will change.

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  6. There are really people who are into vintage stuff and even vintage firearms. I know a few who have a collection of vintage guns. You can really find a lot of great stuff in military surplus stores. Not only firearms but other awesome stuff.

    ShopRobbys.com

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    1. I'll take a look at the link. Sounds interesting.

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  7. Amazing Military rifles can only find on Army Surplus Store . With competitive rate .

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  8. Amazing post. I think it was the latest arms at 1960. But now we can use it only decorate our house only.
    Army Surplus Store

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