The world of surplus firearms is an ever-changing one. Remember when you could buy a Tula Mosin-Nagant M91/30 from a sporting goods store for $80 or a spam can of .30-06 M2 for…heck, when you could find a spam can period? The problem with surplus is that when the supply dries up, that's it. On the flip side, it also means that new supplies will (eventually) hit the market. In the gun market of 2020, suppliers are having a hard time keeping anything in stock. It seems like everyone walked into their nearest shop and asked to buy something that goes pew. Naturally, the first things to go were the AR-15s and 9mm semi-autos. Soon, the odd stuff like Mini-14s and 9mm Makarovs started going too. Where people tend not to look is military surplus and police trade-in. While these firearms have usually seen a fair amount of use and can be found in varying conditions, their price reflects this and most are extremely affordable. Here are some of the best ones that you can still buy…for now.
1. Beretta Model 85BB Cheetah
Try to find an M9 in as good a condition as this.
Starting this list off strong, how does a compact Italian-made police pistol sound? Oh, and they've barely been shot. Currently on the market is a large supply Beretta Model 85BB Cheetah police surplus pistols from Italy. Chambered in .380 ACP, the Cheetahs feature alloy frames, steel slides, and 3.81" barrels. In typical Beretta fashion, they use a DA/SA trigger and a manual thumb safety. Despite its compact size, the heavy weight of its metal construction and limited 8-round magazine mean that the Cheetah isn't exactly the best option for a carry gun. However, the weight does help to mitigate recoil, of which there isn't too much thanks to its .380 ACP cartridge. Costing between $300-400 depending on the condition, these pistols are a great choice for collectors and shooters alike. Did we mention that they are also California-legal?
2. Beretta 92S
Yup, the mag release is on the bottom of the grip on the other side.
Yes, another Beretta, another Italian police surplus. If you've spent any time at all in the U.S. military, you'll be familiar with the Beretta 92 as the M9 pistol. Recently, the armed forces have begun the transition to the more modern M17 weapon system, so it's entirely possible that we'll eventually see an influx of mil-surp M9s on the market. In the meantime, the 92Ss are nearly identical. The supply that's currently on the market is older, so you could see almost as much wear and tear on them as the M9 that you qualified with depending on the one you get…almost. The big difference is the magazine release which is the antiquated European style located on the bottom of the left side of the grip. Who thought that was a good idea? Can you imagine John Wick fiddling with that button? But, at under $400 for a full-size duty gun, these Berettas are a good choice for someone who wants a 9mm Parabellum over the .380 ACP of the aforementioned Cheetah.
3. Mosin-Nagant M91/30
In Soviet Russia, one out of two gets a rifle. (Paramount Pictures)
I didn't say you couldn't find them anymore. Trending around $250-300, the Mosins on the market today are in decent shape and tend to be the less sought after Izhevsk models. That said, they seem to shoot just as well as the Tula models, not that you can find a Tula these days. Weighing 8lbs and measuring nearly 50" long, a Mosin is a good choice for a wall gun or a piece of Soviet-era memorabilia. With its 5-round stripper-clip fed magazine, bolt-action mechanism, and the rising cost of 7.62x54mmR, the idea of a bug-out Mosin is a thing of the past. That said, if you're willing to shell out the extra cash, you can pick up arsenal refinished Mosins with original wood stocks that are in excellent condition. These rifles can range anywhere from $400-600 and generally include the proper kit of a sling, oiler, tools, and bayonet. The bayonet is actually an important accessory since Mosins were zeroed at the factory with the bayonet attached. Just don't expect to pick one up and shoot like Lyudmila Pavlichenko or Vasily Zaitsev.
A Russian-made SKS from 1945.
Yes, it's another Communist-produced rifle, but this time you have a choice of Russian or Chinese surplus. Designed in 1944, the semi-automatic SKS was a step up from the bolt-action Mosin. Chambered in the intermediate 7.62x39mm cartridge, more ammo can be carried for the SKS compared to the Mosin. However, the SKS was quickly overshadowed by the venerable AK-47. With its full-automatic fire capability and 30-round detachable magazine, the AK made the SKS obsolete by the 1950s. Of course, this didn't stop Communist countries from churning out over 15 million SKS rifles. Like the Mosin, the supply of SKSs is starting to dry up, so prices are starting to rise as availability drops. 5-round magazine versions can be had for under $400, and even the 10-round versions are legal in California thanks to the non-detachable magazine.
5. M1 Garand
You might buy one just for the iconic ping, and that's ok.
It wouldn't be a surplus list without the good old M1 Garand. Called the greatest battle implement ever devised by none other than General George S. Patton himself, the Garand was carried into battle across the war-torn cities of Europe, through the swampy jungles of the Pacific, and into the frozen hills of Korea. With its semi-automatic action and 8-round capacity, the Garand gave our troops an edge over the 5-round bolt-action rifles that their enemies carried in WWII. Today, M1 Garands can be purchased through the Civilian Marksmanship Program at their physical locations in Alabama and Ohio or online. While supply has started to dry up on these once plentiful rifles, they can still be had in Field Grade, Service Grade, or CMP Special conditions at prices between $650-1080. While surplus .30-06 Springfield has just about dried up and new ammo designed for the M1 seems to be out of stock everywhere, it is possible to shoot commercial loads safely with a gas plug accessory.
Whether you're looking for a collector piece or just want to exercise your 2nd Amendment rights, surplus firearms are an excellent option to consider. Because of the ever-evolving landscape of the surplus market, it pays to keep your eye on it so that you can hop on deals as soon as they spring up.
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