Modern rifles have a lot of advantages over the old stuff, clearly. But that doesn’t make those old surplus rifles any less awesome!
While the heyday for surplus rifles might have passed us by, you can still find several of them not only for a good price but also in great condition and with ammo available as well.
We’ll take a look at some of the best, and keep in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list, of our favorite military surplus rifles (that are still available)!
Best Military Surplus Rifles
Mechanically, there really isn’t anything interesting about a Mosin-Nagant.
It sports design features found in the Mauser, Lee-Enfield, Carcano, and Mannlicher rifles–who came up with these design features first is a debatable topic…
… since some of them could have been “borrowed” from one another, while others were state secrets, and some could have just been thought of independently at roughly the same time.
The Mosin-Nagant as we know it is actually a mashup of two rifles that were submitted to the Russian trials, Russian born Captain Sergei Ivanovich Mosin’s 3-line caliber rifle and Belgian born Léon Nagant’s 3.5-line rifle. (1 line = 1/10th of an inch or 2.54mm, 3-line = .308cal/7.62mm. 3.5-line = … a little larger, you do the math).
If you’re looking for nation marks on rifles, you can collect half the map with Mosin-Nagants since Poland, Finland, Austria, Germany, Hungary, China, and many, many more put their crests on captured, bought, or produced versions of the rifles.
However, the vast majority of the production you’ll run into was built by the Tula Arms Plant or Izhevsk Mechanical Plant–both located in Russia.
The Mosin-Nagant is one of the most widely produced firearms of all time with around 37,000,000 produced.
These rifles have seen combat in every form and in a long number of major conflicts in the past 130 years–including both World Wars, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, the Winter War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Soviet War in Afghanistan, the American Invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and a couple dozen other wars or conflicts.
They are even still used to this day, though more as a rifle of availability than of choice. Still–not bad for a rifle designed in 1891.
It is a rugged, proven design that doesn’t quit. I can respect that in a rifle.
American M1 Garand
The M1 Garand is the most American rifle ever… or maybe it’s the AR-15… or the Winchester ‘94…
Okay, the M1 Garand is one of the most American rifles ever.
Iconic, legendary, and just so much fun to shoot–the M1 will forever be a favorite for Americans and the world at large.
If for no other reason than that, it deserves a place in your gun safe. But if you still need more convincing, then let’s take a look at just what sets the M1 apart from the rest.
While the M1 wasn’t the first, or even the only, semi-automatic rifle fielded in WWII–it was the only one produced in such massive numbers.
Sure, the Russians produced a little over 2 million SVT-40 rifles, but those had major reliability issues. And that 2 million sounds a lot less impressive when you remember that production numbers for the M1 were almost double that of the SVT-40.
My favorite, the ping. The ping associated with the M1 is caused by the ejection of the en-bloc clip used to feed ammunition. This wasn’t the only rifle of the time to use an en-bloc clip, nor was it the only one to self-eject.
But it was the only one to self-eject with a loud noise letting the shooter know that it was time to reload.
Last but not least, the manufacturing of the M1. This is a highly underrated part of the story.
Mr. Garand didn’t just invent the rifle, he also invented over 30 machines that helped produce the rifle in mass fabrication. This would be a common theme in the war–the USA simply produced more than anyone else. This would play a major role in the allied victory.
If you don’t have one yet, get one.
The design of this rifle isn’t what really wins most people’s hearts, the ammo isn’t cheap, there isn’t a lot of cool collector variations to get, and since the Swiss don’t tend to get into many wars or conflicts–the interesting provenance that other rifles might have can’t be found in the Swiss K31.
But what the Swiss do have is some of the most amazing machining work of the 20th century. And the vast majority of these rifles are going to be found in amazing condition!
That isn’t to say that the K31 design isn’t interesting. One of the few bolt-action rifles of its time, or any time, to feature a straight-pull bolt system the K31 is very cool in many respects.
If I had to choose just one rifle to become a wall-hanger, I think I would pick a K31.
Short Magazine Lee-Enfield (SMLE)
The Lee-Enfield saw a lot of modifications and revisions over the course of its service, but the one most people think of when they think of it is the No. 4 Mk I seen in WWII. While that is a nice Lee-Enfield, it isn’t the one I want to talk about right now.
There are dozens of different flavors of the Lee-Enfield, made by the British, Canadians, Indians, Austrians, and even us Americans.
Wait–you didn’t know about the American SMLE? Well, I’ll bet you did, you just didn’t know that you did. During the run-up to the war to end all wars, England found itself with a shortage of arms not only for the homeland but also to supply to their colonies around the world.
Since the United States was officially neutral in the conflict, several American companies agreed to make and sell the SMLE to the British, namely Remington, Eddystone, and Winchester.
Once the Americans joined the war, the rifle would be rechambered in .30-06 and produced as the M1917–one of the most respected and prized bolt-action military rifles ever fielded.
While these aren’t the only awesome mil-surp rifles on the market right now, these are the ones we love the most and feel should be a part of anyone’s collection.
Honorable mentions would go to the German K98, the Mexican Mondragón, and the French MAS 36. If you can find these for within your budget, get them!
What military surplus rifles do you have in your collection? Want to know more about these and other awesome mil-surplus firearms? Let us know in the comments! Check out another classic–the 1911! We have the best 1911s for every budget.