Shopping for SHTF Guns at Gun Shows
Dr. John Woods 03.08.16
Prepping is expensive and some budgets can easily get stretched to the max. This demands planning and many, many choices of priorities, gear acquisitions, and laying back supplies without going overboard or beyond a rational level of spending.
Generally speaking, we accept the concept that preppers and survivalists as a rule are also widely known to be interested in weapons, self-defense, and protection of self, family, prep team, and property. The attainment of firearms, support gear, and ammunition can be a major on-going line item in any prepper budget. Are there cheaper ways to go than buying the latest ARs, shotguns, and handguns? There are options.
The supply of useable and highly viable surplus weapons is still pretty strong, but some inventories are starting to dwindle down. New imports of stored weapons from Europe and other places around the world are now showing evidence of drying up. This may be because the host armories are simply deciding to hold onto these weapons longer. Other reasons include increasing difficulties in importing large stocks of these weapons. For now at least, buying surplus weapons is still possible.
Among the list of rifles I continue to see fairly regularly at gun shows in my area include an array of German or other manufactured bolt action Mausers from WWII. These are mostly chambered in either 7mm or 8mm Mauser or some other millimeter designated cartridges.
There are still British Enfield’s or SMLE’s for sale most often in .303 British. There are American 1903 Springfield’s of various models, M-1 Garand’s, and M-1 Carbine’s on the market. The first two come in 30-06 and the M-1 Carbine is chambered for the .30 Carbine. There are other war surplus rifles out there, just be sure of what you are buying.
There are older shotguns on the market still, but don’t bother with any type of a collector hunting type shotgun such as a Winchester Model 12. Their prices are generally inflated for the collector market. Look for a good Remington 870 pump, a Mossberg 500, Ithaca 37, or a Winchester 1200 series. These can still provide good service if well maintained.
Handgun wise look for older model Colt or Smith and Wesson revolvers that have not gained high collector interest. Forget the Colt Python, but consider the Trooper series. A good serviceable Smith Model 10 in .38 Special can work fine, as can some lower end .357 Magnums like the Model 19 or 66 in stainless.
Today if you shop hard you can find decent used semi-auto pistols at fairly decent prices. These include some Glocks, Smith MPs or older models like a 39 or 59, older Beretta 92s or 96s, some SIGs, Ruger’s, and other models as well. Just be careful in your shopping. Buy from a reputable dealer in case something does not work with any used firearm you buy.
The operative term for buying any war surplus firearm or any used gun of more modern manufacture is to ensure it is in a serviceable condition. If in good condition, these guns can still be good shooters. Inspect the overall condition. I mean, if the gun looks like a piece of trash on the outside, you can be pretty darn sure it is trash on the inside. Move on.
Cycle the bolts, pump slides, actions, cylinder releases, and everything mechanical. Inspect the bores for bright, clean rifling. If the bore is extremely dark or shows overt signs of extreme wear, avoid it. Test the safety mechanism on all used guns. If they fail, so does the gun.
On the inspection, be sure everything that is supposed to be on the gun is there. Open sights should be installed if original to the gun model. Make sure they work and are not all rusted up. If a revolver, check the cylinder bores for wear and make sure the cylinder locks up tight to the frame, especially in double action Colts or Smiths. Cock all revolvers to make sure the cylinders lock up with no play.
Inspect all wood stocks for signs of major wear, cracks, or damage that might make the gun less worthy. Look at the muzzle crowns for dents, rifling damage, or chips in the metal. For shotguns look for dents in the barrel. On any gun a bad sign is turned out screw heads usually meaning somebody tried some home gunsmithing. I avoid these guns, too.
Now, even if you find a good war surplus rifle or other gun, make sure you can purchase ammo for it. Some Mauser ammo can be hard to find and it is usually expensive. If you pick an M-1 Garand, then 30-06 ammo is readily available. Be sure old surplus type pistols are not chambered for some odd caliber for which you cannot find good supplies of ammo. When it comes to shotguns, just stick to the 12 gauge, ideally with a modified choked barrel or choke tube.
Shooting these older guns can be quite fun, but they may require additional practice and training to be highly productive for prepping work. Cycling a bolt action rifle in haste can be a trial. The Garand is semi-auto, but installing the magazine sheet metal clips can be challenging. Other rifles may use striper clips that require practice to use quickly.
Likewise some of the old pistols have odd safeties in odd places, and magazine releases on the butt of the grip instead of on the frame. These are all things to know before you go this route. You will have to dedicate more time to put these surplus guns into action.
So, if your prepper gun budget is limited, surplus weapons may be an alternative for you. Just do your homework, inspect the guns thoroughly, and assess the availability of ammo supplies. In the final analysis you may decide a low end AR-15 or other rifle is the better way to go. You just have to consider all the options out there and then choose wisely to match your needs best.