Gratuitous Gun Pic: Last-Ditch Rifles

As the above post recommends, it’s during times of plenty when one lays in stocks of the necessary stuff, in anticipation of Dark Times.  (And having lived through the Urkel Regime quite recently, and the Chinkvirus right now, I think everybody understands what I’m talking about here.)

Let me also be clear about what I’m suggesting in this post.  I think that everyone needs a rifle that could be regarded as ugly / awful / not wanted when one has, say, a couple AR-15s or AK-47s, or even a smart-looking hunting rifle or two.

By “ugly rifle” I mean the gawdawful Mosin M44 carbine or its older and taller brother, the 91/30 rifle, respectively:

Rugged as all get-out, these rifles have survived Russian winters and worse yet, Russian soldiers.  The only problem I have with them is their ammo.  While cheap and plentiful, 7.62x54mmR cartridges are not what one would call “common” ammo — i.e. available at Bubba’s Guns ‘N Bait Store in Bumfuck, Nowhere.

The same is true for just about any of the “ugly” rifles out there — even the not-so-ugly ones (which are still relatively cheap) like the excellent Swiss K.31 rifles in 7.5x55mm Swiss:

Fantastic rifles, usually only a couple-hundred bucks more than the Mosins, but that ammo… highly effective to be sure, but is it on the shelf at Bubba’s?  No?  Aahhhh…

See my point?

Here’s what I think is the rifle which checks all the boxes:  ugly, cheap, reliable, BUT found in a chambering which is so common, it makes Miley Cyrus look classy:  the rebuilt Spanish small-ring Mausers, in 7.62x51mm NATO.  This is the 1916 model, derived from the 1893 model (not  the ’98), which was made from 1916 till after WWII in 7x57mm, and later rechambered into 7.62 NATO:

Best of all, these old warhorses are seldom found at a price higher than $500 — and it’s usually less than $400, with a decent bore and iron sights which will still deliver at minimum a “minute of 6-inch paper plate” at 100 yards, if the shooter knows his stuff.

It’s not pretty, it’s not a rifle to be proud of owning, it has a severe recoil (like the M44), and it’s not even worthy of a place in your safe:  trunk of the car, semi-annual cleanings timed to coincide with range visits, you get the picture.  But it’s the ammo  which sets these battered old ladies apart from their newer, semi-automatic and sexier cousins.

And yes, the 1916 small-ring Mausers can handle modern .308 Win cartridges — those will be the ones that kick like hell, btw — but even that can be avoided by shooting lighter bullet sizes (<150gr).   If you look up the rifles and hear warnings about “soft Spanish steel” and “use only the light 7.62 CETME loads”, you are in the presence of major league bullshit.  I know this because I myself used to own one, and after well over a thousand rounds of commercial .308, I had it checked out and it passed with flying colors.

I’m not saying you should run out and buy one of these right away;  but on one of those occasions when you feel the need for another rifle, but have less than $400 handy, I am saying that one of these rifles deserves some serious consideration.


  1. Well, in that caliber and category, I’ve got a Spanish FR-8, which has probably never fired a shot in anger…and and Israeli Mauser 98, which most likely has, at Commies and or Jew hating towel heads. Both categories of barely human primates undoubtedly were thoroughly deserving of having been shot.

    1. The FR-8 was a Mauser 98 action, and the Izzy Mauser was modeled on the Yugoslav 48. I left my Izzy back in South Africa before the Great Wetback Episode Of 1986 (sob), and miss it to this day. Both are excellent rifles.

  2. I would recommend the Finnish variety of Moisin Nagant. You can pick up a m39 model for around 400 bucks. Pretty much agreed that the Finns reworked the weapons favorably. Nice thing about it is these were used to kill commies. That is always a good thing.

    Nice website on Finn weapons..

    1. And the Russian Mosin Nagants were used to kill Nazis, so they’ve got that going for them.

  3. I think I’d put the SKS is this category too, AK’s are popular enough that you can generally find 7.62×39 to feed them, they’re as ugly as Rosie O’Donnell with a hangover, but they’re simple (that whole Russian Winter and Russian Soldier thing), and they WORK. They may not have the reach-out-and-ruin-someone’s-day ability of the Mauser, but with iron sights (especially at my age) the practical range is about equal.

    I haven’t priced an SKS lately, I know the heyday of $99 SKS’s is over, but I can’t imagine a Yugo would go for more than the Mauser above.

    1. I would actually go so far as to say that for a civilian / self defense shooter, the SKS is superior to the AK in almost every way.

      In terms of a MILITARY weapon, the AK is of course the better choice. But the things that make the AK superior to the SKS as a military weapon are things like the fact that it’s made of cheap stamped steel (easy, quick and cheap to make), is physically smaller (smaller stature soldiers can use it) and has fully automatic capability and interchangeable magazines (soldiers can use it for suppressive fire or as an automatic weapon, etc.)

      For the most part, those factors don’t really apply to civilian or self-defense shooters.

      Advantages of the SKS:

      1. Almost all the “working” parts of the SKS (receiver, receiver cover, most of the trigger group parts) are made out of forged or milled steel, not cheap stampings.

      2. The longer barrel = longer sight radius which makes it easier to shoot over longer distances.

      3. The 10 round magazine can easily be loaded with a cheap stripper clip and clips of SKS ammo can be carried in a coat pocket, which you can’t really do with a 30 round AK magazine.

      4. The safety on the SKS is very similar to the safety on the M1 Garand or M1 carbine, located on the trigger guard. The safety on the AK is an abomination.

      5. Unlike the AK, the SKS will lock the bolt open on an empty magazine.

      6. If you don’t like the trigger group on an SKS (the one on my ChiCom model is excellent, but not all of them are) you can swap it out in seconds. You can’t do that with an AK.

      I may be in the minority here but I’d take a good quality SKS over an AK any day of the week. The AK may be superior as a mass-produced weapon that can be issued to illiterate recruits but the SKS is a superior RIFLE.

      1. A further advantage to the SKS, this one political: unless you turn it into a TAPCO covered abomination, it has a traditional wood stock and a fixed magazine, and thus generally ignored when the Usual Suspects start their screeching about Evil Black Rifles. It flies even further under the radar if the bayonet is removed.

    2. The Yugos are robustly made (like all their weapons), but the are the only country that didn’t hard chrome the bore and chamber. This is only important if you can’t get anything buy corrosive primer ammunition.

  4. Kim,
    This post warmed the cockles of my heart … a GGP where the first pic is that of my beloved Russian Blunderbuss, aka the Mosin Nagant M44 carbine. Brings back some memories …
    The rifle has lots of positive attributes as you point out. For me, finding ammo is not much of a problem. I’ve seen many places both near me and online which sell new manufacture steel-case fodder with boolits in the 150 grain range, routinely, for the paltry sum of about ten bucks for a box-o-20. And because of the muzzle blast, the recoil, the steel butt plate, etc., a range trip rarely results in discharging more than two or three boxes.
    And then there’s this “strategic reserve” you talk about. Reserve, you ask? I have plenty. Two unopened spam cans of nasty dirty foul smelly corrosively-primed 1970’s vintage com-bloc shit. But do not trash-talk this Fine Fodder. It has one redeeming quality – reliability. Over the course of ten years, I’ve probably shot at least 4 or 5 spam cans of the stuff, and each and every round discharged without fail.
    As for recoil … which is, noticeable … I can deal with it. The only person I know who can’t handle the recoil is a buddy who’s a bit older than me, is a cardiac patient, and takes some sort of blood thinner. Because of the meds, he bruises VERY easily, and just avoids the punishment, but I digress. The most I’ve shot in a single day … was somewhere between 100 and 120 rounds. Shoulder was bruised for almost a week, but it was worth it every time I looked in the mirror.
    Speed / accuracy? Well, back in the day, when I was the only shooter on the range, I did an exercise roughly analogous to a mag-dump … 25 rounds on stripper clips, as fast as I could cycle the bolt. My target was a 12″x 18″ piece of cardboard, 75 yards down range. I started w/ 5 rounds in the rifle, and four clips on the bench … About 45 seconds later, the gun was SMOKING HOT, cosmoline vapors were wisping from the front stock, the echo in the valley had cleared, and I managed to put 24 of the 25 rounds on the cardboard. Were the cardboard a goblin, many of those hits would have been one-shot, one-kill strikes. All would have certainly ruined the opposition’s day. And if the shots didn’t kill the bastard, I could always skewer him and/or set him ablaze 😉
    A while back, I was toying with the idea of selling the old Ruskie Beast … but I’ve reconsidered that position. Sorry Kim. And … seeing that common fodder (9mm, .223/5.56, .40, .45, etc.) is in short supply and when available is only there at nosebleed pricings … I may lay in another couple hundred rounds of 7.62x54r … you know, for posterity’s sake.
    Targets at 100 yards are out for me, because I’m sporting 50-something year old astigmatic myopic eyes. Damned genetics. And come to think of it … once my Wisconsin rifle club reopens, hopefully soon, I’ll have to drag the Old Russian Lady out of mothballs and take her dancing.

    @MarkD … Your comment about the SKS is spot-on. I’ve been seeing Chi-com variants at a couple online vendors for about $300. Not terrible pricing these days.

    And lastly, to all your readers who like me are Members of the Tribe … I wish you all a meaningful Pesach. Next year in Jerusalem !!

    Now … where did I leave that bottle of potato vodka? I think the time has arrived to toss back a drink in honor of the Le Grande Olde Dame.

  5. You can pick up some models of the Mossberg MVP series for $400 or so, if you shop around a bit – and not only does it use common ammo (like the 5.56 or .308), it’s a bolt-action rifle that uses AR magazines.

  6. I really like the Butt Ugly old military rifles and have several including the Mosin big long old battle rifle, my son went through a whole rack of the things at Cabela’s about ten years ago when they were selling them for about $150 or less and he picked one from me with an excellent barrel and decent stock. Since son already had one we bought a spam can of commie ammo which is so nasty that between the recoil and clean up the gun has not been to the range for the last 1/2 dozen years. I like my old battle rifles and with time they have been going up in value so I am kind of taking care of them to pass on to kids and grand kids. As for ammo, I have some for every rifle but as stated above you won’t find much 7.65 Argentine on the shelf of a local gun store. I consider old battle rifles investments.

    However as for a When the Shit Hits the Fan instead of getting one of the old ugly guns I would suggest looking at the great selection of tight shooting modern bolt action entry level rifles, starter Mossbergs and Winchesters ready to mount a scope can be purchased for under $400, some even with a decent basic scope and they will do a great job shooting .308, 30-06, .270 or pay $100 more and get a .300 Win-mag. Most of these will be ugly, plastic stock rifles with all of the charm and beauty of a Ford Pinto but they will shoot, affordable with easy to find ammo and a person can mount all kinds of fun sights on the already installed rails.

    But for an old man like me I maybe don’t need one of those because I maybe already have a go to gun of some sort with a few bullets or something, maybe.

  7. I’ve been a machinist since I got out of High School back in 83, and one thing that annoys me quite a bit, is when people who know nothing about metallurgy go on about how various guns can’t be used with modern ammo, or are “weak” in some unspecified way.
    As you said this is major league bullshit. If your firearm is an antique and was made for black powder cartridges, then yes you should be careful. On the other hand back in 1894 Winchester started using nickle steel for their rifle barrels (and marked them as so for marketing purposes) which is quite different from the plain steel used previously.
    Twenty or so years prior to WW1 metallurgy was advancing quickly and during the war took right off. All manufacturers with war contracts would have been using the latest technology and the steel used would have been a high quality alloy.
    As for “soft Spanish steel” soft and hard have more to do with wear resistance than strength. If the ductility is enough that the pressure of firing doesn’t exceed the modulus of elasticity the rifling will wear out long before a catastrophic failure, if any.
    Firearms made after 1900 have more than enough strength to handle the cartridges they’re chambered for. (Factory ammo not hot handloads)
    There are things one should not do such as using 7.62×25mm Tokarev in a C96 Mauser or .38 super in a 1902 Colt or any +P cartridges in guns not made for it. While those cartridges have the same dimensions as what the guns are chambered for they have significantly higher pressure than what the guns were designed for.
    And don’t get me started on the whole 5.56 vs .223 chamber debate that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

  8. Had some “honey – do’s” to take care of this morning so I’m getting in a little late.

    Its interesting to consider that many Latin American countries banned civilian ownership of firearms – mostly pistols – in “military” calibers. The thinking was to prevent the next election being held with .45 or 9mm ballots presumably from military supplies. Hence the popularity of the .38 super cartridge south of the border for those the governments trust with pistols.

    While commercial ammunition in common calibers may become scarce its still a good idea to have firearms chambered in .308, 5.56, 9mm and maybe .45. Should times get really hard ammunition in military or police calibers will be available from somebody’s stock. I’ll let you fill in the details of such transactions.

    As a lesson in ingenuity I recall reading how the guerillas in the Philippines reloaded 7.7mm Japanese rounds with powder from dud aircraft bombs or salvaged naval mines, used strike anywhere match heads for primers, and cut down brass curtain rods for bullets. Surprising what you can do if you don’t have any alternative.

    My vote for a hard times rifle would be a lever action Winchester 94 or Marlin 336 in .30-30. You can find beat up but perfectly functional examples for very reasonable prices and Bubba’s Beer, Bait and BBQ almost always has a couple of boxes of .30-30 on the shelves. The old .30-30 is a great short range cartridge with plenty of killing power. You are limited a bit by magazine capacity and speed of reloading but those old lever guns will do the job. “Grandpa’s old deer rifle” may be more politically correct should you ever have a conflict with the legal system.

    1. That “no military caliber” thinking was probably what drove the development of the 9 x 18 Makarov when the Russians got tired of the Tokarev.

      You know, in case Dimitri inadvertently brought back a German souvenir from Great Patriotic War in 9mm Parabellum, 9mm Kurz, or .32 Browning, he wouldn’t have an ammo supply for it.

  9. Oh and WRT ammo availability, I’m not sure .308 is much of an advantage there. I know when the 7.62×51 cartridge was introduced after WWII it was hailed as the successor to the venerable .30-06 but the widespread adoption that the gun industry “assumed” would happen – never really did.

    In the small town gas/bait and tackle/sporting goods stores around here, .308 is often not available while the “old reliable” calibers like .30-06 and .30-30 usually are (along with .300 Win Mag which seems to have become the de facto “standard” for big game out West.)

  10. I’ve got several of the rifles that you (and other commenters) mentioned, and the one I’ve got in 7.62×51 might warm up your heart cockles a little bit – it’s an Indian rifle Mk. 2A – the good old smelly chambered in a modern cartridge. And I’ve got a reasonable supply of ammo for all of them.

  11. THIS is why you are the Grand Master of Small Arms, Kim! A reliable Mauser action chambered in 7.62×51 NATO/ .308 Win! This is why I miss your old site with its encyclopedic firearms section. I never would have stumbled upon this gem anywhere else.

    I roll my own ammo, so my fave is another of your listed guns, the Swedish K-31. But for those who need readily available ammo that they can affordably stockpile, that gun is just about PERFECT!

    *executes respectful martial arts bow*

  12. My FR-8 fills the discussed niche nicely.

    Another advantage for it was the cheap and easy availability (at least back a few years ago) of accessories such as slings, sight adjustment tools, cleaning kits, bayonets etc. from vendors selling CETME rifles.

    And the (again, a few years ago, haven’t checked lately) availability of Mauser stripper clips.

  13. That Spanish M1916 looks interesting. I’ve shot an M44 as well as an M91/30, and you know it when you shoot one! I’ve also shot the K-31 as well as its predecessors that use the GP11 ammo. GP11 is like a hopped up .308, but the recoil was less. I wonder if a semi pistol stock like the K-31 or the C stock on the M1903 Springfield wouldn’t reduce felt recoil somewhat. Various M91’s are, to use Tam’s phrase, “Tomato stakes” and restocking them wouldn’t destroy much value in exchange for more utility.

  14. Back in the 80’s I owned both an M1916 Spanish Mauser and an FR-8. At that time importers were bringing them in by the boatload and they were being sold dirt cheap at discount stores. I think I paid around $60 for the M1916 and probably the same for the FR-8.

    There was a discount store in Fayette-Nam (Fayetteville NC) in the early 90’s that literally had a large open box that was just filled with these old bolt action military rifles sitting out on the floor of the sporting goods area. None of them were more than $100 and some were as cheap as $50.

    Basically cheap enough to qualify as “impulse buy” items. This was prior to the Brady law and NICS so no background check, just fill out the 4473, show a driver’s license, pay your money and go.

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