More Options on Guns

With this week marking the the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, there have been a number of stories about the event — and some interesting stories about Communist consumer goods making a comeback. One “commie good” that has largely gone unremarked in press reports, however, is surplus military firearms and ammunition. The Eastern Bloc produced a lot of really nice weapons, and these are now available in the West at quite reasonable prices. Many gun shops only focus on newer-type firearms, and only carry the Eastern Bloc stuff if a customer sells it to them or consigns it — but, if you know where to look, picking up an old Commie gun can literally yield a lot of bang for the buck.

First, I’d like to provide a more general update about firearms. Several months ago, I put up posts with thoughts about basic guns that are useful on a farm or ranch, and about the remarkable surge in gun / ammo sales that followed the previous Presidential election. I will reiterate: every farm should have a good pump-action shotgun, preferably a 12-gauge, for home defense and predator control. A longer range rifle can also be very useful, for varmint shooting or hunting larger game, but many find they can can do just fine with a basic .22 rifle. (They are cheap, and so is the ammo.) It all depends on your circumstances, and what you think you might need to shoot. I’ve personally found that a handgun is nice to have as well; it can be easily grabbed and carried to the barn, and either mounted with a tactical light or used with one hand while the other hand holds a spotlight.

Although ammo in some popular pistol calibers, such as .380 ACP, is still quite expensive and extremely difficult to find (our local Wal-Mart and Meijer stores have been sold out for months, and our gun shop imposes a limit of one 50-round box per customer, and that box costs $26), it appears that production of semi-auto rifles and ammo has caught up with demand. The gun shops I’ve visited tend to have a good supply of both AR-style and AK-style rifles, and online dealers are again stocking bulk packages of ammo in popular calibers (other than .380 ACP, of course). One online retailer, which just a year ago was “sold out to the bare walls,” has lately been offering outstanding cut-rate deals because they are so overstocked. As they admit:

OKAY FOLKS. HERE IS THE DEAL. AFTER AN INCREDIBLE FALL AND SPRING SEASON IT HAS SLOWED DOWN HERE A GREAT DEAL. IT IS NO SECRET THAT IT GETS SLOW IN THE GUN BUSINESS IN THE SUMMER AND EVEN WITH THE THREAT OF NEW LEGISLATION, THIS YEAR SEEMS TO BE NO EXCEPTION.

TO COMPOUND THE PROBLEM OF THE SLOWNESS, WE HAD SUCH A BIG WINTER AND SPRING THAT WE HIRED EXTRA STAFF AND WE WANT TO CONTINUE TO KEEP THEM ON STAFF. AS SUCH, THE ONLY THING WE KNOW TO DO TO KEEP OUR NUMBERS UP IS TO SLASH PROFIT TO THE BONE AND SELL, SELL, SELL.

— and they are even offering 7.62×39 ammo by the pallet load, something that would’ve been unheard of just a few months ago. Yep, you can get 40,320 rounds for $7,600 (plus freight), which works out to about .19/round. Since most of us aren’t resellers, or preparing for TEOTWAWKI, they also offer 1260-round cases for $250 each. That’s not quite as cheap as buying by the pallet, but still considerably cheaper than prices earlier this year.

Which brings us back to Eastern Bloc weapons. One good source for such firearms is gun shows; one can find a dizzying array of items there that a typical gun shop would not be able to stock. But if gun shows are an impractical option, there are other sources. Classic Arms, the online retailer mentioned above, updates its website daily — and usually offers a fascinating array of firearms. They tend heavily toward AK-variant rifles, but carry the whole spectrum. I usually browse their site once a day, just for the entertainment value and to see what’s available.

One of the more interesting firearms they’re currently offering is the Draco pistol; think “sawed-off, semi-auto submachine gun version of the AK-47.” It’s not terribly accurate, and I have no need of one, but for just $350, you can get what might be the ideal survival tool if you’re ever stuck in an urban riot situation. It can be fitted with a 30 or 40-round clip of powerful 7.62×39 rifle ammo, but is as compact and maneuverable as a large pistol.

In most cases, if you want to buy a firearm from them, it is necessary to have it shipped to a FFL (Federal Firearms License) holder (typically, a local gun shop), who will complete the background check and record the transaction. This usually entails a fee of about forty bucks, but it varies from shop to shop. However, many of Classic’s guns are legally classified “Curio and Relic” — meaning anyone who has a C&R FFL can purchase such guns from them directly and have them shipped right to one’s door. I don’t have a C&R FFL, but they are fairly easy to get and not very expensive. Basically, buying one C&R firearm with a C&R FFL saves enough money on the transfer fee to cover the cost of the license.

And what kind of Eastern Bloc bang can you get for your buck? I recently picked up a MosinNagant M91/30 rifle for $80, plus $20 shipping and $40 for the transfer. The MosinNagant is one of the most popular battle rifles of all time, and was used in the Soviet empire up until about 1960. It’s a five-shot bolt action rifle that is as powerful as a 30-06 — but uses military surplus 7.62x54r ammo that comes in a 440-round metal tin and costs about a fourth of what 30-06 ammo does. It comes with iron sights, but optical scopes and mounting kits run about $110 total and can be installed without gunsmithing. Presto: instant deer rifle or long range varmint gun. I haven’t yet invested in a scope; I’ve been basically breaking the thing in, shooting in my back yard.

Actually, what I’ve been “breaking in” is my shoulder: the MosinNagant kicks like a mule, and it takes some practice to learn how to handle it properly. But this beast is in great shape and is as cool as can be. Mine has “1941” and various Cyrillic characters stamped on it — and comes with a wicked looking bayonet that’s about as long as my forearm (and doubles as a flathead screwdriver when disassembling the rifle). One can only imagine the stories that this rifle could tell. Most remarkable, IMO, is the following that these rifles have attracted; one quick Google search reveals a great many user groups, support forums, and sources for parts/accessories.

And there are lots of similarly powerful Eastern Bloc surplus rifles you can get, also at reasonable prices. How about a Yugoslavian-made M24/47 that fires 8mm Mauser ($.29/round military surplus) ammo? Sometimes they also carry ex-Nazi Mauser rifles, which the Soviets captured at the end of WWII and then shipped around the world to their proxy armies. Or, if you’re looking for a powerful semi-auto handgun that uses inexpensive ammo, it’s hard to do better than a Romanian TT-33 pistol; the list price is $209, and the 7.62×25 Tokarev ammo is around .11/round. Classic also carries CZ-82 ex-police pistols, chambered in 9×18 Makarov, for around the same price; the Makarov holds more rounds, but is not as powerful as the Tokarev, and 9×18 ammo tends to cost more.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: if you’ve been looking for a powerful but affordable bolt action rifle, but have been discouraged by the high prices for brand new American-made 30-30s and 30-06s at the local gun shop (not to mention the cost of ammo), take a look at Eastern Bloc military surplus weapons. Ditto if you’ve been trying to find a good semi-automatic handgun. These Eastern Bloc firearms are very good; the Soviets may have made lousy consumer products, but they did know how to make effective weaponry. And with the Berlin Wall down, these guns are available here for reasonable prices.

That, to me, is one of the most remarkable legacies of the last 20 years: I can buy in the free market, and own, a rifle that for decades was employed by those who sought to destroy our freedom and way of life. And how can one put a price on that?

2 thoughts on “More Options on Guns

  1. My son Gabriel bought a Mosin-Nagant two years ago at Big 5 sporting goods for $89. He calls it “The Gun That Won World War II.” He looked up the markings on his and found that it had qualified in test firing as a sniper rifle, although it was not issued with a scope.

    It is a exceptionally good rifle, and extremely accurate. I can group all 5 shots in a 2-inch circle at 60 yards, despite my extremely weak eyes.

    It is a bear to use though. Kicks like a crazy mule and bolt action to boot. It weighs a LOT and I'd hate to have to pack it any distance. And WEAR CANS when you fire it if you want to have any hearing in your right ear.

    As a testament of the quality, accuracy and reliability of the Mosin-Nagant, I can offer Simo Hayha, a Finnish farmer who in the course of 3 1/2 months of the Winter War of 1939, sniped over 500 Russian invaders with his trusty Mosin-Nagant. With iron sights. In the Finnish winter. And survived 2 artillery barrages that were aimed directly at him, he having killed the entire platoon sent to kill him, as well as a squad of snipers sent specifically to take him out. The Russians called him The White Death.

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  2. Danby – great comment. Thanks. And I'd definitely “second” what you said about using quality ear protection when firing this beast. The little foam earplugs are not enough.

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