Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Do you remember the supposed glory days of surplus? I say the supposed days because it’s a lot like Saturday Night Live. I can probably guess your age based on what gun you use as your example of the golden age of surplus. If it’s an M1917 Enfield, you’re likely from the Silent or Greatest Generations. M1 Garands are for Boomers, SK rifles are for GenX, and the millennials got the Mosin Nagant. The golden age of affordable surplus is always moving.
Admittedly it is moving towards a brick wall because, eventually, we run into military and police weapons that can’t be imported or sold due to gun control laws. However, we haven’t hit that brick wall just yet. Sure, a lot of surplus rifles have gotten expensive. You can’t get a nice M1917 Enfield for a few bucks or a crate of SKS rifles for less than 400 dollars anymore. Even Mosins have skyrocketed in price.
Table of contents – Affordable Surplus
What’s still out there on the surplus market that won’t instantly drain your wallet? The definition of affordable is certainly broad, depending on who is speaking. I aimed to find guns all well under the 500-dollar market in most cases. Obviously, the surplus market changes depending on the condition, the rarity, and other factors. The day of the 89-dollar Mosin is long gone, but that doesn’t mean the market is picked clean of affordable options. Let’s dive into the world of affordable surplus.
Digging Into Affordable Surplus
Chinese Type 53
The Chinese and Soviets were buddy-buddy for decades. Under the curtain of communism, they shared weaponry and technology and traded with each other. The Chinese developed the Type 53 after the Mosin Nagant, specifically the M44 carbine variant. These shorty Mosins have fixed bayonets and fire the same old 7.62x54R rounds.
The Type 53 has remained more affordable than the M44s and is typically still easy to pick up. More often than not, they are beaten to hell, but as long as the bore is still good, there is hope. The Type 53 series of bolt action rifles kick like mules and give you one helluva muzzle blast, but they work.
I’ve always had a fond place in my heart for the SKS rifle series. These guns were made by dozens of countries, including Russia, China, and various other Eastern European countries. Originals from China and Russia have skyrocketed in price, but those Eastern European firearms are still plenty affordable. As far as semi-auto rifles go, they are likely the best budget bang for your buck.
These affordable surplus rifles will last forever and take a serious beating. The 7.62x39mm is common and plenty affordable as well. SKS rifles might lack optics rails and tactical black doo-dads and gizmos, but they are a practical carbine choice for a number of roles. While they are nowhere near as cheap as they used to be, they have maintained an affordable price point for the last few years.
M91 Carcano – A Classic Affordable Surplus Option
Often known as the worst of the World War rifles, the Carcano 1891 series of rifles were mass-produced to the tune of several million. They remain less popular than most other World War rifles, and today they tend to be the most affordable of these platforms. They fire oddball Cacano cartridges, but these rounds are still in production and easy enough to find.
The M91 Carcano series is basically the Zoomers option for a cheap surplus rifle. While these guns might not have been rugged and reliable enough for the trenches, and they fired fairly out-of-date cartridges, the rifle is fine at the range and enjoyable to shoot.
If you like an art deco style, the CZ-52 series delivers. This thing is what happens when a space-age laser crosses with a pistol made in the 1950s. The CZ-52 was a Czech service pistol used by half a dozen countries. It fires the ultra-fast, almost armor-piercing 7.62x25mm round. It’s loud and vicious but a lot of fun to shoot. These guns used to be dirt cheap, and while the price has risen, they still tend to be fairly affordable.
SEE MORE: SKS: Good Enough or Get You Killed?
The CZ-52 series uses a roller-locked operation, which is quite unique. The 52 series are plenty reliable, but they are most certainly not drop-safe. Also, sometimes the de-cocker can be finicky and cause the weapon to fire. One thing to really look out for is corrosion. The affordable surplus ammo that used to be sold for these guns would rust them to pieces, so have a sharp eye.
Mossberg Model 44 US
The Model 44 US never served in the military as a fighting weapon, but this is what we call a Cadet rifle. A cadet rifle is a nonstandard platform used to train soldiers in basic marksmanship on a budget. The Model 44 US-trained troops on the very basics of marksmanship. This was a bolt action .22LR platform.
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Not only was it cheaper to shoot, but easier for beginners due to the lightweight and low recoil of the rifle. The Model 44 US was never very famous and was never super collectible. That’s helped keep the price point low. They are fun, affordable surplus rifles to shoot and could still be practical small game-getters. It’s an unusual option, and it has a great story.
The FEG PA-63 is a Hungarian Walther PPK clone. This selection could have been any of the non-Russian automatic chambered in 9mm Makarov. The various Eastern European Makarov chambered pistols tend to be cheap. This includes guns like Makarov clones, but Russian originals have shot up in price. The PA-63 provides a fairly affordable pistol that does have the Walther layout and ergonomics but an admittedly much rougher trigger.
The cheapest variant of this gun comes in 9mm Makarov, but there are .380 ACP versions too. They seem to be a little rarer. These are handy little guns and are quite robust. The finish might be rough, and there are plenty of tool marks, but they are one of the more affordable surplus pistols out there that’s still somewhat modern.
Astra 600 – Not Necessarily Surplus
The Astra 600 pistols aren’t necessarily military surplus. They were produced by Spain for Germany in World War 2, but the war ended before too many of them made it to German hands. These are 9mm parabellum pistols, and that’s where the affordability comes in. A lot of these affordable surplus guns have some very expensive ammo, but the Astra 600 shoots standard 9mm.
The Astra 600 is an odd-looking gun, and that’s certainly part of its charm. The pistol does use a direct blowback design, which does create some significant recoil. Still, it’s fun to shoot at the range and completely reliable. They have some silly features but are very affordable 9mm pistols.
S&W M1917 Brazillian Contract Model
The S&W M1917 revolvers were originally produced for World War 1. The M1917 was designed to supplement the M1911. Original, US-marked M1917 revolvers are not affordable surplus weapons. However, S&W did produce a contract run of the revolver for the Brazillian government with its unique crest stamped on the side plate.
These Brazillian contract models are quite affordable. They tend to be a bit well used and abused but still deliver the M1917 experience. These are .45 ACP revolvers that do require moon clips and are massive, but they are fun to shoot, and the Brazillian models are excellent shooters. Plus, it’s by far the most affordable M1917 you can get.
The surplus market hasn’t skyrocketed out of the average person’s pricing just yet. It might make it there one day, but there are still plenty of options on the market for the everyday shooter. If you want to experience the joy of old guns, do so before time runs out!