Military surplus guns are cheap, fun to shoot and make great additions to almost any gun collection.
Armies of various different countries adopted these guns because they were rugged, easy to use, and well-built. Since most of the military surplus guns on this list are over 50 years old (some individual guns may even be more than 100 years old), they also offer great opportunities to possess a piece of history.
Because millions of these guns were produced, most of them are still widely available in the United States for a reasonable price from used gun shops and individuals who've acquired them over the years. While they aren't all as affordable as they used to be, there are some good deals on this list.
Many of these firearms have also left their mark on the world by heavily influencing firearm design for future generations.
If you're a serious shooter who wants to own some history, continue reading to see the eight military surplus guns every shooter should own.
The Mosin-Nagant is perhaps the most reasonably priced military surplus gun on this list. These rifles go for $100-250, depending on the individual model and its condition. Russian soldiers and communist forces used these rugged, inexpensive and easy-to-use rifles were in dozens of third-world countries during the Cold War.
The Mosin-Nagant is chambered in the potent 7.62x54mmR round, which owns a reputation for its fierce recoil. The 7.62x54R cartridge is powerful enough to hunt most species of big game short of buffalo. Additionally, soft- or hollow-point ammo is available in the United States, which makes this rifle a good choice for a hunter on a budget.
Usually retailing for more than $400 in the United States, the Lee-Enfield rifle is slightly more expensive than the Mosin-Nagant. However, it's a great military surplus rifle, and it's still a good buy. These rifles are very common in countries with a lot of British influence, like Canada, South Africa and Australia.
Chambered in the excellent .303 British cartridge, the Lee-Enfield rifle is another good choice for a hunter on a budget. Many deer, bear, moose and kudu have fallen to bullets from Lee-Enfield rifles over the years.
The SKS is the first semi-automatic rifle on this list of military surplus guns. And, along with the Mosin-Nagant and the Kalashnikov, it's another Russian contribution to conflicts all over the world. The SKS has also been produced (with varying quality) in China, Yugoslavia, Romania, Albania, East Germany, North Vietnam, North Korea and, of course, the Soviet Union.
Though it's still very reliable, the SKS isn't quite as rugged as the AK-47, though it is slightly more accurate. Depending on the condition of the rifle and the country it came from, an SKS will go for $200-600.
Like the AK-47, the SKS also shoots the 7.62x39mm cartridge. Comparable in power to the .30-30 Winchester, the 7.62x39mm cartridge is wonderful for short-to-moderate-range shots at many species of big game. Similar to the 7.62x54R cartridge, some manufacturers produce soft- and hollow- point 7.62x39mm ammunition suitable for hunting. While it wouldn't be my first choice for a hunting rifle, many hunters all over the world have successfully used the SKS for hunting a wide variety of game.
Millions of M1 Carbines were produced in the United States during World War II. Since then, many of those rifles have made their way into the hands of gun collectors and shooters all over the country. Though it shoots the anemic .30 Carbine cartridge, the M1 Carbine is very popular because it's lightweight, easy to shoot and carry and has mild recoil. These traits make the M1 Carbine a very popular military surplus gun for small-framed shooters like women and children.
The little .30 Carbine cartridge is certainly on the light side for hunting deer. However, when using soft- or hollow-point bullets at shorter ranges, it can take down deer, hogs and coyotes pretty easily. Finding one of these long guns in excellent condition is tough, but when you do, you've struck gold.
Immediately after its introduction, the Mauser 1898 revolutionized the firearms world. Since then, it's been the standard that all bolt-action rifles have been measured against, and many modern sporting bolt-action rifles incorporate a Mauser-style controlled feed system. The Germans used the Mauser 1898, and its subsequent variants (such as the Karabiner 98k), in World War I and World War II.
Most of the military-surplus Mauser rifles on the market today are chambered in 7.92x57mm (8mm Mauser), which is a great cartridge for hunting medium-sized game, such a deer, bear and hogs. However, "sporterized" Mauser rifles chambered in a wide variety of calibers like 6mm Remington, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield and .35 Whelen have spread all over the world and turn up in gun collections in virtually every continent.
Mauser is still in business and produces a modernized version of the Mauser 1898 (the M98) that incorporates many of the features that made the Mauser 1898 such an iconic rifle. It was one of these rifles, chambered in .416 Rigby, which knocked professional shooter and hunter Ron Spomer over on video.
American Soldiers armed with Krag-Jørgensen military rifles chambered in .30-40 Krag received a sobering lesson on the effectiveness of the Mauser rifle during the Spanish American War. As a result, the Army selected the 1903 Springfield (named after the Springfield Armory) to replace the Krag-Jørgensen a few years after the war. The new rifle incorporated many of the features that made the Mauser such a revolutionary rifle. In fact, the rifle was so similar to the Mauser that Springfield ended up having to pay royalties to Mauser for patent infringement!
However, like the Mauser, the 1903 Springfield was a very successful rifle and was widely used by American Soldiers in World Wars I & II. Chambered in the ubiquitous .30-06 Springfield cartridge, the Springfield is a very accurate rifle and, with a competent shooter, is capable of hitting targets at long range. For this reason, it was used by American snipers in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.
These same characteristics make the 1903 Springfield a great choice for hunters and shooters. I'll wager that hunters using surplus 1903 Springfields have taken virtually every species of North American big game. Unfortunately, the biggest problem with the 1903 Springfield is that it is probably the most expensive military surplus gun on this list, fetching prices over $800 in most cases.
Produced in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s for their forces, the CZ-52 fires the extremely potent 7.62x25mm Tokarev round. The CZ-52 was replaced by the CZ-82 in the 1980s. As a result of this, thousands of surplus CZ-52 handguns eventually flooded the American market. At one point they were so common that you could purchase a CZ-52 pistol in pretty good condition, 2x magazines, and a military issue holster for less than $100.
Among other countries, the Soviet, Chinese, Czech, and Yugoslavian military and/or police forces used firearms chambered in 7.62x25mm. So, military surplus ammunition is also relatively common and inexpensive as well. Prices have gone up since then, but they are still a pretty good buy for a shooter on a budget.
The big downside to the CZ-52 is that it is a difficult gun to shoot accurately. By my account, it has a terrible trigger, poor sights, a sharp recoil, and a fierce muzzle blast. However, it's still a unique and fun gun to shoot, especially considering that it is one of the least expensive military surplus guns available these days.
George Patton called the M1 Garand "the greatest battle implement ever devised." He was right: the semi-automatic M1 Garand with its eight-round "en bloc" clip was a quantum leap ahead of the standard bolt action rifles used by the other belligerents in World War II and the Korean War, giving American Soldiers a significant advantage on the battlefield.
Chambered in .30-06 Springfield, the semi-auto rifle combined hard hitting power with a tremendous rate of fire. Additionally, the M1 Garand is also a very accurate rifle. The rifle has excellent sights and an outstanding trigger, allowing a good shooter to accurately shoot at ranges of several hundred yards.
Though it is heavy and has a stout recoil, the M1 Garand is still one of the most popular military surplus firearms used by shooters and hunters in the United States. M1 Garand rifles are also pretty reasonably priced: the Civilian Marksmanship Program sells used (but still "shootable") M1 Garand rifles for as little as $650. You'll have enough left over for a few ammo cans!
What do you think about our choices for the best military surplus guns every shooter needs to own? Did we miss any of these famous collectibles?