Saturday, April 6, 2013

Basic Guns Part 4: Rifles

So far we have a quality .38, a pump shotgun and a .22 rifle. The big boy comes last. A centerfire rifle is really the way to go for hunting medium to large game at anything but under 50 meter jungle/ brush distances. Yes I know you can sling slugs a bit further than that to 100m or so but lets not get distracted. Between it's ability to reach out and touch somebody and go through soft body armor/ walls/ cars a rifle is the best option for fighting people outside of CQB range.

The rifle is last because they are a pretty specific tool and tend to be fairly expensive to buy and equip. Also in most realistic situations you can get by fine with a shotgun. Anyway here we go.

The cheapest option is a Mosin Nagant. These are really the cheapest rifles out there. Pretty much the worst of the WWI-WWII bolt guns. Fit and finish is terrible and ergonomics equally so. While theoretically capable of decent accuracy their abysmal sights make turning that into reality an iffy proposition. Honestly the only strong point of the Mosin is availability at cheap prices because the Commies made approximately eleven billion of the things then went broke and sold them. To be fair these guns are pretty rugged and reasonably reliable. Guns made to be used by illiterate teenage conscripts need to be. Some spare parts are available and the guns are cheap enough to potentially have spares (though that leaves the point of this series a bit). In my area you can get a Mosin for $150. If I recall some online seller (Aim or J&G I can't recall) was selling them for $129 a couple weeks back which probably equates to $160 all said and done at your local FFL.

Though it's spiked recently in general 440 round spam cans of old commie ammo are available at good prices. Since it hasn't been made in forever I suspect that surplus ammo will eventually dry up. Granted some modern commercial ammo is available it just eliminates the ammo cost advantage of these guns.

The Mosin is definitely the cheapest option. For a person who wants a rifle in case something happens but doesn't do much with it in the meantime (granted not training is a bad plan but I'm being real here, some folks do this) has a good pump shotgun for home defense, as a Mosin is 5 feet long, weights 35 pounds and is bolt fed from a 5 round magazine, that's on a really tight budget a Mosin and a few spam cans of ammo is a valid option.

For not that much more money in the $300-400ish range you get a lot more options. Bolt action deer rifles (go .308 or 30'06) and lever action 30-30's are available in this range. As to specific models I would get one of the many common manufacturer/ common model rifles like the Winchester model 70, Remington model 700, Ruger model 77 or the Savage 110. Sure I missed some but you get the idea. For lever guns I will focus on the Winchester model 94 and Marlin 336 both chambered in 30-30 Winchester. Mossberg has stepped up to the plate with a good entry but it's too soon to tell and parts availability could be problematic. The Rossi/ Puma type lever guns are questionable when it comes to ruggedness/ reliability and long term support in my opinion.

(Note I lumped the various MILSURP rifles such as the Enfield, Springfield and various Mausers into this group as it better represents the cost to purchase and equip those weapons. )

Both have plus sides and minuses. I discussed these recently in another post. To recap: Both are good options. The first question I have would be about the range you are looking at taking game from. If you plan to take shots past 125-150 meters I would go with the '06. On the other hand if closer shots in the 30-100 meter range are the norm and you want a light fast brush gun a 30-30 is hard to beat. My second question would be about what this rifles secondary goal(s) are. If you want a long range/ 'precision' rifle the obvious answer is the '06. On the other side of the coin the 30-30 is a solid choice (for non mag fed military rifles) for up close defensive stuff and makes a great "truck gun". Third would be what other rifles do you own; sort of dovetailing with the last question if this gun needs to fill another niche that must be considered.

Personally if I had to get by with one gun that was not magazine fed (AK, AR, PTR-91, etc) it would be a lever action 30-30. That's just me. Many folks would say the same about a bolt action .308/ 30'06 which is fine too.  As to models the Marlin might arguably have some advantages and is cheaper than the Winchester. That being said I prefer the Winchester 94. They feel better in my hand and nothing says 'Merica like a Winchester lever action rifle.

While I prefer a good deer rifle or a lever gun to a Mosin the cost to feed your rifle is a consideration. One of the downsides of both these options is ammo is expensive. 30'06 ammo is available cheaper MILSURP if you jump through the CMP hoops but otherwise we're looking 75 cents to a buck a round.

As to equipping whatever rifle you decide to buy:
Cleaning Kit
Something to carry ammo
500 rounds of ammo *minimum*

I say this to be realistic for folks who go the deer rifle or lever gun routes. Somebody on a basic gun budget isn't going to buy 3,000 rounds of 30-30 ammo at .75c-$1 per round. Honestly I like a lot more ammo but this is really more of a regional disaster/ economic collapse type setup than Mad Max or fighting a war. If I had this setup in a bad scenario I would only use the rifle for defense or dangerous game. Hunting would be done predominantly with the .22 rifle. 



AM said...

I agree you don't need a bolt action rifle for a "survival" scenario since hunting big game is going to be a rare thing (how many times do you really want to leave your home to shoot a 100 lb + animal?). The lever rifles make a lot of sense, the Marlin 336 makes more sense than a Win 94. There are so many Win 94 variants out there that unless you know exactly which generation you have, parts can be difficult. LeverEvolution ammo really helps out the lever guns in the ballistic department.

For what it is worth, a "pipe zero" of a 30-30 that is +/- 6 inches from point of aim is 260 yards with a 150gr bullet. That is plenty flat shooting even for big game. You'll find that most modern hunting ammunition has a "pipe zero" between 260 and 340 yards. You gain 80 yards on a pipe zero by going to a 7mm Rem Mag or 300 Win Mag, which is not very useful for actual hunting unless you happen to hunt in an area where long shots are very common.

All that being said, I don't own a levergun anymore, but have plenty of bolt action rifles. Matter of personal preference, but I would have no problem stocking up on 30-30 ammo and a Marlin 336 if I had to have "one gun" for survival.

Anonymous said...

7.62x39 will do everything that the 30-30 will do. A SKS will do evrything a 94 or a 336 will do--only easier. Stripper clips are still cheap and plentiful. Scope.mounts are common now. Poor man's deer rifle=SKS. If you can live without the range of the '06, it's a better choice than a lever gun for a BASIC first rifle. Especially if you should ever find yourself with two legged targets.

Ryan said...

AM, The Marlin being cheaper certainly helps for the basic gun scenario. They pop up for a bit over 3 bills pretty regularly.

@4:13, If/ when SKS prices come back down to reality you could have a point. Personally I don't like them but that is just me.

Archer Garrett said...

Anybody fans of the old Cooper scout rifle setup? I'm a sucker for iron sight bolt guns, so I like that it has that as a backup.

Ruger has a sweet scout rifle but the price point is high.

Aesop said...

It is a truism among FFLs that the primary difference between a lever-action 30-30 and a venereal disease, is that you can usually eventually manage to get rid of the disease.

And I think anybody who plans on hunting anything too big for a .22LR, unless they live deep in the woods 20 miles from the next neighbor, is being wildly optimistic, if this degenerate to chaos.

A suppressed .22, OTOH, would take anything smaller than deer, including 2-legged varmints, without announcing your presence to the universe.

highdesertlivin said...

I daresay there are plenty of mod 94 in both con figurations out there for parts availability (never mind they are like glocks/aks for long term reliability) to keep them as a viable option.That being said I horse traded to have a 336 and a mod 94.I very recently (2 mo.s ago ) picked up a decent sks for 200. they do pop up, and are definately a option for the right price. There are more ammo options for 30 30 that are more appropriate to bigger game.One overlooked cal. is the 270, I see a lot of ammo available in this ammo crisis time.As I am a 308 guy I dont have any but per my reading its up there w/ 06,and 08. As ryan mentioned a couple posts back(and how I roll as well)get a good quality used as opposed to a lesser new.As always thanks for the read ryan.

Ryan said...

Archer, The general idea of a light .308/ 30'06 with iron's and a scope yes. The narrow and arbitrary requirements to make it a 'scout rifle' I am ambivalent about.

Aesop, To me the hunting angle is more in case things keep on keeping on or there is an economic slow slide, not so much a total Mad Max scenario. Lots of folks fed themselves that way during the great depression.

I'd bet if there were a tally .22lr would be within the top 2-3 in terms of deer killing rounds. Granted those shots occur at very close range but it is done.

Anonymous said...

No one likes them exactly--but until I got to the point in life where I could split functions between an AR and a .308, it was nice to have it in the closest, at the range, or when invited to go kill Bambi. And in my neck of the woods (bought ammo and fantasy shopped at Moss Pawn yesterday}, they're still cheaper than a good condition Winchester. Heck, that could be the SKS slogan: "The rifle you need until you can afford an AK or AR. Then, you can trade it for a case of decent ammo." Of course, with current conditions, they'd have to edit case or decent to avoid being sued for false advertising. Going further we could rename it from SKS carbine to Pre-A carbine.

And Aesop, hear hear on the .22 thing, but this series presumes that you just bought a .22 and are looking for a rifle; though, we could argue, I guess, about whether you should spend the money on a rifle or a two hundred dollar tax stamp for a piece of metal that should never require a two hundred dollar tax stamp. I can, however, imagine scenarios when I'd be happy enough having people know that I was shooting at them. YMMV.

Ryan said...

Highdesertlivin, The model 94 was made for over 100 years. Parts aren't an issue.

As to the SKS, I would evaluate an SKS at $200 very differently than an SKS at $500.

As to the .270. Personally I would put it in the second tier in terms of commonality. That tier would be 7mm mag, 300 win mag, 7.62x54R, .243 and maybe another commonish round or two. Personally not the way I would go for a 'just 1 rifle' scenario but not a bad option all the same.

Ryan said...

@8:45, Sort of like I said to Highdesertlivin. My evaluation of an SKS for $200 is very different than my evaluation for an SKS @ $500.

In my neck of the woods (southern AZ)you can get a good used Marlin 336 for $300-325 and SKS's are running over $500.

Anonymous said...

". . . SKS's are running over $500."

We're all going to wake up in a second laughing at this weird dream we're having, right? I'd have figured my kids might pay $500 for an SKS one day. Sheesh.

highdesertlivin said...

Its weird times we live in.Right now at wally world in my neck of the woods there are maxed out shelves w/30 06, 243, and 270.with unopened backup cases on the floor behind the counter.Not much else though.

Anonymous said...

There were plenty of lever Savage 99s made over nearly 100 years of production. You could probably find one in .308 Winchester in used shape for around $400 or so.

For lever gun evaluations over long term, check out the web sites which cater to Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS), those guys shoot a pile of lead during their practice and competitions.

Plenty of good - great bolt guns, lotsa choices. One in military pattern in common round would be an asset.

Anonymous said...

A couple-three points from my world-view:

Your scope-sighted bolt gun should also have iron sights. Period.

Your scope-sighted bolt gun should have quick-detach scope mounts, and a spare scope with QD rings that has already been sighted in on that rifle, tucked away and ready to swap out. Yeah I know, me neither, but that don't make it right or prudent.

I was exposed to the SKS in my formative years, and they still scare hell out of me. Anyone who discounts their ability to bring fire and smoke within the effective range of the rifle does so at their peril. Ballisticly, they absolutely do not have the horsepower of a 30-30 with heavier bullets, but that won't make no never-mind for most purposes.

Your mileage, vary it may.


Ryan said...

@4:16am, The Savage 99 is an interesting option. Does have some potential.

Personally I am quite confident in the Winchester 94 and Marlin 336. Known enough folks where one of those lever guns was the family hunting and plinking rifle for MULTIPLE GENERATIONS to make this guy very confident.

H, I think that is the ideal situation. From my foxhole a $150 Bushness scope as a backup certainly isn't a bad option.

My personal hesitation with the SKS is that 1) right now they are really overprices. At $200 for a good (relative term) SKS that's a lot of gun for the money. At $500 not so much. 2) A significant fraction of the SKS's I have personally come across had significant issues failing to feed or fire. Like need to get mothballed or go to a serious gunsmith that specialized in SKS's type problems. The issue was probably more systemic of later imports than the SKS platform but all the same is problematic.

Chris said...

It is all METT-TC dependent but I'd lean against the lever gun.

The lever gun is like the cowboy era assault rifle: higher rate of fire, intermediate cartridge, quick handling. The biggest downsides are (1) slower to reload than a bolt gun with strippers (or a hunting bolt gun with even 4-5 round mags) and (2) hard to work the action when prone and (3) somewhat range-limited.

We already are assuming that a shotgun is in the arsenal. The pump gun is rapid firing and excellent for defensive work inside 50 yards. There is a lot of redundancy there with the lever gun.

In contrast a bolt gun has a higher sustained rate of fire, is chambered in cartridges which are flatter shooting and harder hitting, and most importantly can easily be used prone.

Even in a suburban or urban AO, getting prone behind hard cover is a big deal. And if you lack a semiauto then a stripper fed bolt gun can get you some sort of decent rate of fire in a sustained engagement that a lever gun just can't match.

Obviously there are some places where the lever gun shines. Mounted ops, and those in very dense terrain, for example.

I love my lever guns. They are light and handy and quick handling. If I had to choose between an Enfield and a 30-30 I'd grab the Enfield every day. There's a reason militaries went to bolt guns and largely skipped levers with the exception of some cavalry units.

We are also blessed in a world of great cheap bolt guns. There are still milsurps out there for reasonable prices. Entry-level commercial hunting rifles like the Savage Axis or Marlin XL7 are quality rifles. You can get good deals on pawnshop bolt guns of a tier higher in quality too.

Ryan said...

Chris, Solid points. From a civilian standpoint range wasn't much of a consideration to me. Have a hard time seeing myself shooting past reasonable lever gun range anyway.

I would lean against the new flavors of budget bolt guns, at least until they have several years or a decade to work out the kinks and get enough history to judge durability. An older popular model bolt rifle would be the way I would go.

Mintu Das said...


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