Oldie Military Firearms For Prepper Survival

m1doesmytalking_smIf you read the modern prepper press and peruse the current prepper websites, you would be convinced that unless you have a modern tricked out M-4 or an upgraded AK with all the bells and whistles, then you are simply out of luck when it comes to surviving a SHTF situation with WROL or even TEOTWAWKI. Guess what? They are lying to you.

My serious social firearms that I can rely on for SHTF with WROL all the way up to TEOTWAWKI include a Glock 19 in 9mm, a custom 1911a1 in .45acp, two upgraded AK’s, one in 7.62x39mm and one in 5.45x39mm, and a Remington 11-87 SP 12ga semi-automatic combat shotgun. That’s just the first team. I have a rather large gun selection because I am a firearms instructor, occasionally still do selective armed security assignments and, well, I just like guns. Like I keep telling my wife “You can never really have too much fun or too many guns”.  I grew up collecting the WW2 surplus guns when they were still reasonably priced and have a fairly representative collection of the bullet launchers that fought that war. There are literally millions of these old war horses floating around. And some of them are still pretty usable.

Survival preparation is not, and should not be, the domain of the rich. Many preppers, especially younger families, simply don’t have the finances to lay out for a tricked out M-4 or even a first class Kalashnikov. But many people do have a surplus military lying around. Maybe it is that German Mauser that Grandpa brought back from ‘The Big One”. Or that 1903 Springfield that Uncle Bob bought from the DCM in the 60s. Or better yet, that M-1 Garand that Uncle Bob also bought from DCM back in the 60’s. Or that British Lee-Enfield your neighbor got long ago and the wife wants him to get rid of now.

First, lets define what we are talking about. Unless you are a member of a well armed and trained Para military group who will be engaging in military style firefights with other highly armed groups, your primary requirements for a SHTF rifle are as follows;

  1. It needs to be rugged and reliable with little maintenance. You won’t have the corner gunsmith to run to.
  2. It needs to be simple
  3. It needs to be accurate enough to hit any reasonable target at any reasonable range that survival would call for and in my opinion that’s about 200 yards.
  4. The cartridge should be powerful enough to be an effective man stopper as well as having enough power to take any available game. The cartridge should be available in hunting loads and reasonably cheap enough to stock up on.
  5. Critical spare parts should be available that you can purchase ahead of time and the weapon should be simple to maintain using common tools.

A large number of military surplus rifle will meet those conditions.

In addition, many of these firearms qualify to be purchased by a holder of a Federal Curios and Relics license that any adult w/o a criminal record can get. You can then purchase them directly for a dealer or private person on-line interstate.

If you are a cash strapped prepper (90% of us), and you don’t have the funds to buy the most modern razzle-dazzle bullet launcher, but do have one of these oldies around, take heart. In original military condition, many of these oldies have become collectors items, with prices to match, but if in good condition, they are viable survival weaponry for both defense and hunting. Even if you do not have one, in a serious SHTF situation or even TEOTWAWKI, there are going to be a lot of these still around. Be familiar with them. in case a ‘opportunity” arises to use one. Lets take a look at some I am fond of.

M1_Garand_rifle_-_USA_-_30-06_-_ArmémuseumThe M-1 Garand

These have been almost priced beyond what many people can afford. But if you have one already, this is an excellent rifle. Hopefully when we get rid of the Bozo in Chief, a new President will allow the importation of the tremendous number of these still in storage in countries that used to use them like South Korea, and prices will drop. The M-1 is a rugged rifle. It is chambered for the cal.30 cartridge known to civilians as the .30-06. This is an extremely powerful cartridge compared to 5.56mm or 7.62×39. It is capable of long-range engagement of hostile targets out to 600 yards easily with iron sights if you do your stuff, and even longer if you are a seriously accomplished marksman. It has an excellent adjustable peep sight that can be adjusted for both elevation and windage. There are commercial scope mounts available if you want to mount glass on it and make it your long-range rifle. In hunting loads, it will take down all big game inM-1 owners guide bookpng North America. Many have been rechambered for 7.62mm NATO and you can have a specialty gunsmith do that if you want, but it will add on to the overall cost of the rifle. It is a bit on the heavy side and will average about 11+ lbs. fully loaded with sling and cleaning kit in the butt stock, depending on the density of the stock. But then gain, I have clients with tricked out M-4s that weigh that much. Spare parts are readily available from a number of sources and there are gunsmiths that specialize in accurizing and repairing them. The M-1 Garand has one potential weakness for the M-1 clipsurvivalist/prepper though. It uses an 8rd en bloc clip that the cartridges are fed into the magazine with and which gets ejected when the last cartridge is fired. This means you have only an 8 rd. capacity. That isn’t  really all that bad. But the problem is that without these clips, the rifle is effectively a single loader. Luckily, spare clips are readily available and you should consider stocking up on these for future use.

Short_Magazine_Lee-Enfield_Mk_1_(1903)_-_UK_-_cal_303_British_-_ArmémuseumThe Short Magazine Lee Enfield

The SMLE (“Smelly” to a couple of generations of Brit troops) was the mainstay battle rifle of the British Empire through both World Wars and for some time after. It is still used by many reserve and police forces in former British colonies, and there are a tremendous number of them in the US today. This is one of the fastest operating bolt actions ever developed! In the First War German troops swore they were under machine gun fire from Tommie’s who were simply good bolt gunners. In addition, the SMLE is fed from a detachable 10 round magazine that can be topped off using 5rd stripper clips from the top of the enfield rifle bookreceiver. Having spare 10 round mags makes it even faster to reload. There are two basic models available, the No1 MKIII which is pictured, and the No4 MI in various versions. The main differences are that one has open sights and a stock that goes all the way to the muzzle and the other uses a peep sight on the rear receiver bridge and a different stock arrangement. They are both excellent rifles. The SMLE is chambered for the .303 British cartridge which is a rimmed cartridge . Mil-Surp ammo is still available in small quantities but they are drying up. You can still get current manufactured ball ammo and there are a number of hunting loads currently manufactured.  If you are lucky, you might run across one made by the Indian Ishapore Arsenal that is chambered in 7.62mm NATO. If you already have one of these, buy a few extra mags and stock up on ammo and load them in stripper clips. There is also a No5 Jungle Carbine model that have become a  bit of an expensive collector items. Short and handy, it kicks like a mule! Safety Note: The SMLE has a detachable bolt head that comes in various sizes. This was to allow an armorer to adjust the head space if replacing the bolt. When many of these rifles were shipped to the States, they were shipped with bolts removed. There is no guarantee that your SMLE has the original bolt, therefore before firing, have the head space checked by a qualified gunsmith. This is actually good advice before shooting any Mil-Surp rifle.

The Russian Mosin Nagant and The SKS

Picture1I did a separate article on the Mosin Nagant some time back as well as one on the SKS. Both rifles make excellent prepper rifles, especially the SKS. The MosinMosin Nagantpng Nagant is still available pretty cheap but the prices for the SKS are going up fast. If you have one, hold on to it.

Russian SKS in 7.62x39mm  with bayonet unfolded

Russian SKS in 7.62x39mm with bayonet unfolded

Additional Rifles.

There are a number of other rifles that would be suitable to be pressed into service as your prepper rifle. These would include the 1903 Springfield, the 1917 Enfield, and the German Mod 98 in various forms. If you were able to latch on to an Israeli conversion of the German 98K in 7.62 mm NATO, it would be excellent. In my opinion, the M-1 Carbine is NOT an adequate prepper rifle as the cartridge is way underpowered for both defense and hunting, although there are those who disagree with me.

Spare Parts Sources

If you have an oldie military that you would like to spruce up to press into service and need spare parts, there is a good chance you will find the parts here at Numrich


An older Mil-Surp rifle would be suitable as a prepper rifle under the following conditions.

  1. You already have one on hand and cannot afford a more modern rifle.
  2. You can acquire one cheaper than you can a more modern rifle that you cannot afford yet.
  3. You want to use one you have on hand as a back up or spare rifle.
  4. The rifle is in good mechanical shape and ammunition is available, especially in hunting loads.

So, if you have one of these oldie militaries, dust it off, clean it up, test it out, and stock some ammo for it. It may prove to be a valuable asset down the road.


13 thoughts on “Oldie Military Firearms For Prepper Survival

  1. The Mk 5 Enfield has a real nice recoil enhancer disguised as a recoil pad. Most people over look old military rifles as most are bolt action or have a small magazine or clip capacity. Their loss. Bolt action rifles are more accurate than hew modern sporting rifles and their high capacity magazine. M1 Garand enbloc clips are still available. The Modern M1 carbine ammunition fixed the problem with the ammo but it is still anemic but fun to shoot and it will stop thin skinned game. As for shooting quality trumps quantity, 8 on target beats 30 at the target. Practice.


  2. There were some FN 49s in 30-06 available years ago, but they have become rare collectors items. I remember some French MAS rifles re chambered in .308 but they are also rare now.


  3. Good choices.
    Ruger Mini 14’s can be had for cheap at a lot of gun shows as well.
    Only downside to those is they’re kind of picky about aftermarket magazines,or it was just the 3 that I’ve had over the years.


    • Mini-14 is an excellent choice, and you are right about aftermarket magazines. They are not the only weapon that is lime that though. I din’t include it because it is not Mil-Surp per se.


      • I mentioned it because they can be found inexpensively,plus it’s a semi-auto.
        Most people can’t work a bolt action all that fast- from what I’ve seen most take the rifle off of their shoulder to cycle the bolt.
        I’ve hunted big game for a bit over 40 years,and learned when I was about 14 or 15 to keep the rifle aimed at whatever critter you are shooting at,because once you take your eyes off the scope,and the rifle off your shoulder-you have lost the target,and it will be hard to find it again as it’s most likely running full speed away from where it got shot.


        • Small, light and cheap are not undesirable traits, but the problem with the mini-14 is the relatively ineffectual ammunition it shoots. Having a mini-14 to shoot commonly available ammunition is certainly worth considering, but it is not as good a primary weapon as the “antiques” mentioned in the blog.


          • The problem with the antiques will be lack of ammo-unless it’s chambered in 7.62x51NATO/.308 Win.
            Having reloading equipment is a great plan-until you have to leave it all behind.
            Since the Mini-14shoots .223 Remington the ammo choices are much more varied than 5.56 NATO offerings.
            Hollow points make a hell of a difference,among the many other choices. Some of the Mini-14’s are chambered in 5.56-which means it will shoot both .223 and 5.56 safely.
            Lots of good things about Mini-14’s.


            • If ammo for antiques is scarce or overpriced, that would certainly be a concern. Last time I bought such ammo it was cheap and plentiful, but then that was 15 or 20 years ago.

              Yes, hollow points are a big help to the .223, but I presume they are quite expensive, so getting enough for long term defense could be a challenge. With ball, the .223 is better than nothing for those who are injured or otherwise unable to use a “real” defensive weapon. The thing is, the only thing the .223 is really good at is medium sized game (think Javelina) and varmints which won’t be eaten. It is too much for small game, and it is not reliable for big game (deer and bigger), although again, it is better than nothing. The main reason to have one (and the mini-14 is a good choice), is because it is the current military caliber and there is tons (of ball) ammo out there. By the way, the decision to replaced the .308
              with .223 was made by the people who buy, store and ship ammo, not the people whose lives depend on it.

              If you have a .223, a .22LR conversion kit is highly recommended for practice and small game.

              Liked by 1 person

              • .223 hollow points are inexpensive-and work well on deer and feral hogs.
                My wife has a single shot Rossi in .223 that’s real accurate.
                A friend hunts deer with a .223,and he’s got every one he shot at,with only a couple follow up shots needed.
                There a ton of different loads in .223,lots of good hunting ammo.
                I prefer .308 over .30-06,as the slight increase in power from the ’06 just isn’t worth the extra recoil.
                I have been shooting deer in the W.Va mountains with a Win. 94 30-30 since I was about 12-that’s another good caliber,and good prepper rifle.


  4. Mark 5 Enfield. (aka Jungle Carbine)
    The answer to why I have arthritis in my shoulder.
    Browning HP.
    The answer to why I have arthritis in my wrist and scars from slide and hammer bite.
    Both giving me that “ringing” in the ears some 40 years on.
    BUT you know what?
    I’d do them again tomorrow. (and again, and again, and again).

    Yet there is the AK47 and it’s “big brother” the Dragonov.
    Yep, a long time love affair going on there too.
    Reliability and as robust as hell, with accuracy and finesse from the SVD

    Sod modern, plastic, and garden gun ammunition.
    Classics work.


    • I have a No1 MK 3 and a No4 Mk 1. I like the No1 better. I do well with open sights anyway and like the full stock. I had access to a No5 Jungle carbine years ago. Friend wanted me to baby sit it so the ex couldn’t snatch it. I took it to the range and ran a bunch of FN made MK7z ball through it. Accurate but I understand the bit about your shoulder. LOL! I honestly do not think Brit soldiers were under armed compared to Yanks with M-1s in WW2. As fast as you can work an Enfield bolt it compares well with semi-autos.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The 8 round M1 clips are not a problem if you have plenty. I don’t know if you still can, but back in my gun days, you could get ammo already loaded into the clips.

    The SKS can be converted to magazine fed. I don’t know if they are still available, but there used to be a pistol grip conversion available.

    I had a M1 carbine for a while. It was “cute”, but the ammo was ineffective, but it made up for it by kicking like a mule and not being very accurate.

    At one time I saw a batch of French or Belgium semi-autos which had been converted to .308. It was a really nice kit, with several mags, bayonet, tritium night sights, sling, cleaning and tool kit, grenade launcher accessory, I think, and perhaps some other stuff. Very reasonable price at the time, but this was 15 – 20 years ago.

    Even cheaper in those days was a 8mm Mauser semi-auto.

    When I was into rifles, old military ones were more attractive than the “modern” ones.


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