I started hunting later in life than many. I grew up around a hunting family and have fond memories of my grandfather skinning deer from his hunting trips in South Texas with his old Willys army-style drab green jeep with a fold down windshield and old-school 4×4 shifters. One of my first memories is with my dad and grandfather skinning a huge 400-
pound hog that had recently, and I mean very recently, gone feral on his deer lease. My dad and I would spend hours in the pasture of my grandparent’s property practicing target shooting and gun safety with pellet rifles but he was more enamored with Bass tournament circuits since, in his words, you can hunt deer 2 1/2 months of the year (gun season) but fish year round.
Many people have told me that I am the king of hunting on a budget. Don’t get me wrong though as I love hunting with the highest quality products in the industry. I just don’t like paying full retail prices for them. Everyone, for the most part at least, likes to save money and get a deal on what they buy. You can always find a productive outlet for the money you save after all, right? If you are just starting out in the world of hunting as I was at one time, or interested in saving some money on what you usually do each year, I thought an article like this would be helpful to a hunter at any stage of the game. I only believe in hunting with high quality and durable products that stand the test of time as most of us hunters are hard on our gear. The truth is that quality, utility, and durability does not always have to come with a high price tag.
I graduated from Texas Lutheran University with a music degree and other things on my mind when I first started hunting. Needless to say, starting out in the real world with a mountain of student loan debt and credit card bills wasn’t easy. I inherited a nice Remington Woodsmaster Model 742 in .308 Win from my Grandfather after he passed away that was handed down to my father. That was nice, especially because it didn’t cost anything out of pocket and was a fantastic all-around rifle chambered in a versatile caliber. I went to a local pawn shop and traded a bass guitar amplifier I owned straight across the
counter for a Savage .22LR rifle and learned the valuable skill of trading what I didn’t want or need any more for what I wanted or needed for hunting. Later on I even traded a battle pack of South African .308 NATO rounds for military surplus rifle and another time even traded a beat-up war time surplus rifle I owned for a couple of years for a really nice deer rifle. I judged the value of what I had owned and the appreciation in value over time and “traded up”. The South African NATO Ammo I purchased for $35 traded for a gun retailing for many times more than that. The same story was true with a surplus rifle in trade for the deer rifle.
Being smart and saving money by “trading up” takes a little skill and knowledge but I have saved hundreds of dollars over the years on deals like these and have been able to put the money I saved into even more. Purchasing or trading for a used rifle can be a great value on a budget . Most guns hold their value well but you can almost always purchase one used at a more favorable price than new. I have done a video on purchasing a used rifle with things to look for and things to avoid so I won’t go into all the details in this article. The general rule for any used gun is that if a firearm looks rougher than a night in jail on the outside, chances are that the parts you can’t see will not be as pure as the driven snow on the inside either. I always equate this to buying a used car. Good deals are out there but there are plenty you should walk away from at the same time.
An educated buyer is the best defense against a bad purchase, as is the case with most purchases in life.
Milsurps – Military Surplus Rifles
Many years ago the gold standard for a military surplus rifle was an WWII Springfield bolt-Action Rifle in .30-06 or K98 Mauser chambered in 8mm Mauser. Back in the 1950’s and 60”s and even later, it was cheaper to “sporterize” an old military warhorse than to purchase a new gun. In most cases, the handguard part of the rifle stock was removed and bottom part of the stock was cut down and rounded off to make a new forend and resemble a commercial hunting rifle. Sometimes the gun was even re-barreled to a more popular hunting cartridge for better ammunition availablity or one that that was better suited
for the hunter’s needs. Then the gun was usually always drilled and tapped for a scope, effectively turning it into a “deer gun” but ruining the collector value of the rifle as a result. Again, it was cheaper to do this than purchase a new gun in years past and there were plenty of guns available for a low cost. Part of the consequence for this though was that the market on these guns dried up and the collectible value rose high among the guns that were not sporterized. Now this being said, many gunsmiths today still do sporterizing an make some beautiful creations. There are several very well done milsurp sporters on the market today from years past and I happen to one of these. I have an FN Belgium Mauser chambered in .270 Win and it is one of my favorite guns for hunting and target shooting.
It is usually cheaper now days though to purchase a new or used rifle for the cost of sporterizing and old one unless you can find one already in “hunting” configuration, which is a great value by itself. Many sporterized K98 Mausers can be found for $175-$250 and represent an excellent value along with several other military surplus guns like the Enfield, Swedish Mauser, Japanese Arasaka and more! Because of the recent importation over the past few decades of guns from around the world, many domestic and foreign ammo manufactures now produce ammunition for once hard-to-find calibers. Once again, there has never been a better time to be alive and active in the hunting and firearms industry than today.
Enter the Mosin Nagant, one of my personal favorites for its cost, utility, and durability. This gun has been called “the $100 .30-06” because the 7.62x54r cartridge is close to a .30-06 in ballistics and the 91/30 version of the rifle can still be found for
around $150-$200 at local gun shows and pawn shops. Shorter carbine versions, the M38 and M44 can be found for a little more but are easier to maneuver in the woods because of their shorter barrels and overall length. If you are just starting out in hunting or need an inexpensive but durable rifle, they do indeed represent a great value and anyone can easily add a scope rail on the existing rear sight assembly and a pistol scope or long eye relief scope without a visit to a gunsmith or drilling and tapping the receiver, effectively making a “Scout Rifle.” This set-up takes a little getting used to if you have never shot a gun with a Long-Eye Relief or Pistol Scope but this configuration works well in the 100-200 yard range for just about anything four-legged animal in North America. Many ranch owners also use a Mosin Nagant for a “truck gun” or ranch rifle as they are inexpensive and tough as nails. With the advent of the Rock Solid, JMeck, and other no-drill scope mounts for the Mosin, you can now mount a standard eye relief scope mount on this fine rifle. I own 5 Mosins in different hunting configurations and love them all!