As anyone can tell from today's headlines and ever-more-repressive gun laws, it's getting harder to obtain the favored weapon of the prepared survivalist: the high-capacity, high firepower "assault weapon". However one feels about the misnomer, or the vilifying that particular class of weapon has received from the press, it's a moot point, because you can't get them any more. Of the limited number of applicable weapons not covered by the ban, such as the Mini-14 or M1 carbine (and others, though not many), they are effectively crippled without the high-capacity magazines covered in the same "Crime Bill". Even though you can still buy and posses magazines manufactured before the bill's passage, the prices are astronomical. Have you checked around recently? Prices have doubled, tripled, and sometimes worse.
So, what are we to do? Assuming that you weren't able to obtain your dream gun prior to the ban, or can't afford to buy magazines for whatever is still legal, there's still another minor problem: police harassment. It doesn't matter at all that you are conforming to the law in every regard, any time you take out one of the evil "black guns" from now on, you will have to worry about police scrutiny. Unless you have access to private property to shoot on, and don't have to cross any county roads to get there, you are a potential victim of harassment. It may even be that the cop is of like mind to yourself, and hates having to cause you problems, but it's his job to enforce the law. And you can bet that it won't be long until some bright boy or girl in Clinton's camp comes up with a law requiring mandatory stops and searches for "illegal arms" in the name of the "public safety and welfare". It hasn't happened yet, and it might not for a while, but it will happen.
All that being said and done, there is still hope. There do exist weapons that you can still buy, still shoot with relative impunity, and will perform nearly as well as the guns we've recently lost a right to own and use.
I'm talking about the military-surplus Enfields, Mausers, Springfields, and the venerable Garand. With the exception of the Garand, all the weapons I'm talking about here are bolt-action, and most are .30 caliber and better. Even the 6.5mm Swedish Mausers would make excellent candidates for this class of weapons. Each of these weapons was designed for combat, and did quite well in its day, and can still serve in that function.
We must understand a few things about these weapons, though, in order to best utilize them. These are not "spray-and-pray" weapons, but capable of high degrees of accuracy in the proper hands. Mounted with the proper telescopic sight and mount, you could easily hit targets well out of range of your standard AR-15. Even with the ladder- or tangent-style open sights issued with these weapons, you will be capable of incredibly accurate long-range shooting.
Keep in mind that if you do decide to go with a scope, you'd better have a large supply of the ammo that you zeroed-in with. If you must buy ammo in incremental fashion, buy lots of three to four hundred rounds at a time; this will limit how many times you will have to re-sight your rifle. Also, be aware that re-supply in the field will be the norm, with whatever you can scrounge. In a scenario where you will be operating far from a base-camp, or no base at all, you will be forced to shoot whatever ammo comes your way, which probably won't be your rifle's pet load. For this reason, it would be best to pick a surplus rifle that shoots a common caliber, and stick with the iron sights, unless you've succumbed to the allure of movies like Tom Berrenger's Sniper.
If you can find one, an Fr-7 or -8, a Spanish Mauser variant chambered in 7.62 NATO, would be ideal. They're short, relatively light, rugged and shoot well. All of these features mean that they were snapped up in a hurry. At the other end of the spectrum is the 1909 Argentine Mauser, in 7.65x54mm. More on a par, size-wise, with other battle rifles of the time period, it would be a fine choice, except for caliber. Try to choose something that's in a caliber that people still hunt with, and that you can generally find on the shelves of at least three dealers in your immediate area. The 7.65 Argentine, while ballistically a fine choice, fails in this critical area. And it doesn't matter that there may only be a few boxes of your chosen caliber in each of those three stores, because there probably won't be nearly as much demand for, say, .303 British as there will be for 5.56 NATO or 7.62x39. There may only be a couple of hundred rounds there, but it will probably have been overlooked by most looters, and waiting for you to put it to use.
Speaking of .303 Brit, I didn't just pull that caliber out of the air; it's my choice in battle rifles, fired through a pristine Australian-issue #1MKIII* SMLE of 1917 vintage.
When I got my Enfield, it was absolutely filthy, covered in the residue of at least half-a-century's worth of old cosmoline. I tore it down, stripped the wood, cleaned the metal and touched up the blueing, made sure everything was mechanically sound, and put it back together. The only modification I made was to enlarge the U-notch on the rear sight and paint the front sight, to gain a better sight picture; a small, round file and some red nail polish was all that was necessary. Total price, including shipping, transfer costs, and the extra $10.00 for "hand-picked" (they do the picking, not you, but it's still worth it), was around $105.00. It was listed as being "fair to good", but cleaned up to "very good". Good prices can still be had on Enfields, both #1's and #4's, and you may be able to get as good a deal as I did. But with the plethora of spare parts available for these fine weapons, it would be hard to get stuck with a total lemon.
That's another thing to keep in mind when buying a surplus battle rifle. Make sure that there are plenty of spares for your choice of weapon, and buy those that are most subject to wear or breakage. Also, buy any special tools or doo-dads that are necessary to maintain your rifle, such as bore cleaner for corrosive ammo, and broken-shell extractors. Remember, the best ammo deals for surplus guns is going to be ammunition manufactured in the good old days of corrosive priming, with the attendant ills therefrom; and having one of those old rounds separate in your rifle's chamber is the quickest way to turn it into a fairly poor club. Oh, yeah, that reminds me, get the bayonet, too. And study up on bayonet drills, like they used to do when these weapons were new. And if anyone asks, you're a collector of militaria, not a survivalist.
As to price, let's say that you were saving up to buy you're AR-15 or the like, but the bill's passage caught you unawares. Now you're "stuck" with $2000.00, what you figured it would have cost you to buy the rifle, fifteen magazines, cleaning kit and a few spare parts, plus maybe 4000 rounds. For that same amount, you could buy an Enfield or Mauser, more spare parts, the cleaning kit and related tools, plus anywhere from six-thousand to ten-thousand rounds, depending on caliber; enough to last a lifetime in a bolt action rifle. That's just ballpark; you'll do better or worse, dependent upon your choice. Look around, and you'll find something that you and your budget can both agree on.
And lastly, if you have read my little dissertation here and found it lacking, or perhaps can't see any justification for an old-fashioned bolt-action rifle on today's high-tech battlefield, remember this: most rounds fired from a fully-automatic weapon impact nothing other than air. Learn to shoot well, and no weapon will be a true handicap. Also, the Allies, during World War Two, dropped behind the lines of occupied countries a single-shot .45 consisting of stamped and cast parts called a "Liberator". It was intended to be fired no more than once or twice, to kill a German soldier and "liberate" his Mauser. Mightn't the same idea work on today's urban warscape, trading a perhaps obsolescent bolt-action for a modern, select-fire rifle taken from the body of one of America's newest enemies, whomever they might be? It's worth thinking about, anyway.
If you have questions, criticisms, or things to add - email me please.