Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Lowly Milsurp Rifle

Military Surplus Rifles. For some, they are collectors items; relics of wars past that remind us of the struggles and conflicts of wars gone by. For others, they make the purchase of a rifle affordable, especially for the first-time buyer. Many are examples of the innovations in technology fueled by the need for a better weapon. Others are examples of utilitarian simplicity and ruggedness. They have been tools in the movements of oppression and liberty for centuries past. These rifles are a reminder of the spirit and struggles so many men have made in the pursuit of life and liberty.

The first rifle I fired was a Schmidt-Rubin K31, offered to me by the good friend who first got me into firearms. It was a beautiful specimen of Swiss engineering, six decades old. I was quite impressed.

I was still very new to firearms in general, and decided I wanted to purchase my own. I researched and found a surplus dealer online, and decided to buy my first gun. Actually, I bought two: The Mosin-Nagant 91/30 and Mosin-Nagant M44. Both were WWII production guns, and the sense of history was appealing. The fact that surplus ammunition could be found for around 11 cents/round at the time made them affordable shooters. I ordered them, picked them up at a local FFL, and became a gun owner for the first time in my life.

The 91/30 became my first love, and remains my favorite firearm to this day. It has stayed as it came to me, with the exception of a change in sights from the old blade-and-notch to a set of drop-in dual-aperture "SnapSights" from Mojo Sighting Systems. These sights give a more defined sight picture with quicker target acquisition, resulting in more accurate shots. The gun has excellent balance, and I practice with it almost every visit to the gun range. It has been with me on my continuing journey as a gun-owning American. I expect it to stay with me for the duration of my life.

Most recently, it accompanied me on my first large game hunt: a walking deer hunt with two of my new hunting buddies on the last day of White-Tail Deer season here in Central Texas. Most hunters will balk at walking around hunting deer with an 8 1/2 pound gun and iron sights, but my familiarity with the gun gives me the confidence to make my shots with accuracy. Most of the hunt had been fruitless, with nothing more than a rabbit or two spotted up until that point. The light was close to fading, so we decided to try flushing the deer out into the open, where I waited crouched in some brush. Sure enough, after a bit of a wait - a string of deer came crashing through the trees, jumped a fence, and ran around in front of me into the clearing where we had expected them to go. I took my shot on a doe close to the end of the group, as they ran perpendicular to me at a range of about 40 yards. She had made it just to the tree line when I heard her stumbling and crashing though brush. My bullet had hit its mark. It was getting dark, so I waited for the others to catch up. We followed the blood trail, and found that she had made it just 20 feet past the tree line before she dropped for good. We discovered I had hit the back of the lungs, although I barely managed to make a dreaded "gut shot" at the very front of the stomach. It turned out to not be much of an issue when it came to cleaning the deer, as the hit to the stomach was minor. Not bad for a first-timer in low light with iron sights on a running deer, I was told. I can certainly say that I would not have been able to make that shot with a scoped "deer rifle" under those conditions. The 91/30 had served me well.

The milsurp rifle is often under-appreciated in the general shooting community. It serves a great purpose by introducing new shooters to the love of firearms, and remains a utilitarian tool for many.

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