Just the other day I was sauntering in a desultory fashion along the well-trodden (by me) byways of Teh Intarwebz, and happened upon Collectors Firearms Cruffler pages. (For my Furrin Readers and others unfamiliar with the term, it stands for guns classified as curios and relics — C&R firearms — and the licencees thereof are known as Crufflers. They are mainly people like me, although I’ve never had a C&R license.)
Anyway, here’s the page; and if you follow the link, you’ll see that almost all the fine old beauties listed show signs of age — e.g. “some frosting in the barrels”, “slight pitting” and “dings and scratches”, to name but some.
Most alarmingly to my eyes, however, are the prices, which seem to be mostly in the > $1,000 stratosphere (and some a great deal more than that).
And yet, amidst all that carnage are to be found some excellent bargains, namely, some of the excellent Swiss Schmidt-Rubin Model 1911 straight-pull rifles and carbines (here, here and here). Note the prices, which are well under that magic one-grand number. Here’s the 1911 (long) rifle (one of which I once owned, and still wish I’d never sold):
Indulge me for a moment while I ramble on about these rifles. Here’s what I said about them in my Great War Rifles post:
First introduced in 1896 and improved in 1911, chambered for the powerful 7.5x55mm Swiss cartridge, the Model 1911 had a straight-pull bolt action, and was unquestionably made to the highest quality standards of any rifle of the time (and higher even than many production rifles of today).
The Mod. 1911 is a marvel of functionality, its workings intricate and precise, its accuracy outstanding.
To work the Mod. 1911’s action is to experience poetry in engineering, and the rifle, even with that forward-mounted rear sight, is more accurate than 90% of the people who’ll ever shoot it. (The later K.31 shortened the action and moved the rear sight back towards the breech.)
Let me be succinct: if one takes into account the quality of workmanship, ease of use, smoothness of the action, efficacy of the ammunition, and finally price, I cannot see a better bargain in the firearms market than these three rifles.
So: what about the ammo?
Sadly, the original RUAG-made 7.5x55mm (or GP 11) ammo ended production in the 1990s, but apparently has since been restarted as of 2016. I say “apparently” because I suspect it’s being made purely for domestic use in Switzerland as I can’t find it for sale anywhere in the U.S. of A. Here’s what it looks like:
It was the only ammo I ever used when I still had my 1911 rifle, so I have no idea how other brands will perform.
“Did you say other brands, Kim?”
Indeed I did. A quick perusal at Ammoseek brought forth these options (click to embiggen):
I know, it’s a little spendy at $1.20+ per pull, but to put it in perspective, that’s cheaper than the current price of .30-30 I’ve been seeing. (I would go with the Czech Sellier & Bellot, just because I’ve had excellent results with their other calibers before.)
Here’s my suggestion:
For just under (or a little over, depending on your choice) $1,000 you can get your hands on one of the best bolt-action rifles ever made, one that still shoots as well as the day it left the factory, along with 200 rounds of ammo to feed it. It will almost certainly outshoot all the other C&R rifles listed at Collectors, and most likely a whole bunch of the other rifles they sell, too, not just the mil-surp ones.
Just in case you have a spare grand burning a hole in your pocket and a desire to own something special.
I don’t have the grand, but the desire to own a Schmidt-Rubin 1911 again is burning a hole in my heart… and I am not lying.
By the way: yes, the later model K.31 was a shorter rifle (e.g. how the Germans changed the Gew. 98 into the K98k), but: the 11’s receiver was forged, and the 31’s cast. I happen to prefer the ring! of the 11 to the clack! of the 31, just as I prefer the sound of the pre-64 Winchester Model 70 over their successors (for the same reason). There’s nothing wrong with the K.31 — and it loses over 2lbs off the Mod. 1911’s 10. Yes, the older rifle is heavy; but you’re not going to go on any route marches or parades — and whether in offhand or bench modes, that extra weight tames the stout recoil of the GP 11 cartridge.