When it comes to defending your home or harvesting big game, it’s time to go to the rifle. Handguns may be more convenient to carry for personal defense, but except for the most powerful Magnum cartridges, their performance is marginal. Rifles beat them in the accuracy department, too.
If you have rifles that you treasure but find that it can be expensive to feed them, then check out these seven rifles that can help keep you proficient without breaking the bank.
1. Ruger 10/22
As you likely suspected, this list has to start with a 22. It is the cheapest rifle on the market, and many fundamentals of rifle shooting can be duplicated with a rim-fire. We like the 10/22 because even someone lacking in gunsmith skills can customize these rifles with ease.
If your main rifle is a lever action, you can substitute the 10/22 for a Henry or if ARs are you thing, the S&W MP15/22 might be more to your liking. Maybe you roll with a bolt gun; we are partial to the Savage Mk II. Companies like Walther and German Sport Guns offer rim-fire versions of HK MP5s, AK-47s and a few others. If none of these appeal to you, you can usually find a 22 conversion kit for your AR-15 and possibly some other rifles. The key is that you have options.
Although supply has been short in many parts of the country, if you luck out and buy in the right quantity, you can expect to pay as low as 5 cents a round. It may run higher by a few cents depending on your area. Supply is improving. Stock up when you can, but don’t be a neckbearding hoarder about it.
2. Colt M4 Expanse
Sure, there are other rifles out there like the Tavor, Galil, Steyr AUG, Ruger Mini-14, the SIG MCX and hundreds of AR-15 variants, but a Colt M4 Expanse is a sub-$700 rifle made by the company that put the AR on the map. You can get quality rifles from your manufacturer of choice, but the key is to get one chambered in 5.56. If you hate black rifles, you can find a number of bolt-action rifles chambered in this caliber, as well.
For many people this is their primary long gun round, and we have seen it as cheap as $2 a box of 20. Average price is probably twice that or a little bit more.
If “black rifles” are not your thing, there is the Ruger Mini-14. Current versions are more accurate than their predecessors. If you have no use for a semiautomatic rifle, a number of companies make bolt-action and single-shot rifles in 223 Remington/5.56 NATO. This diversity is what lends the round its popularity.
3. Century Arms RAS-47
Some people might say SKS, but we have always preferred the AK platform. Either way, we like the 7.62 X 39 because it is cheap to shoot and can usually be found in great quantities. Average street price hovers around 20 to 25 cents a round.
We like Century’s AKs, whether it is the RAS-47 or one of the Yugoslavian imports (although those rifles lack chrome lined bores). Lovers of traditional stocks over pistol grips may prefer an SKS, and those who do not like former Com-Bloc designs can find an AR-15 or Ruger Mini-30 chambered in this caliber that performs much like the 30-30 Winchester.
Similar to the last rifle is the smaller bored AK-74 chambered in 5.45 X 39. They are a bit harder to find than the AK-47, especially in our area.
I actually bought one of these rifles a few years back for the very reason I wrote this article. Having gone through numerous “rifle scares” and “panic buying sprees” over the past 30 years, I visited a gun shop that had several cases of 5.45 marked down to $88. The reason? They had problems getting rifles in stock. I picked up four cases and happened upon a rifle within a few months after that for a good price.
The price of ammunition has definitely increased since then, and it is on par with the 7.62X39 in the 20 to 25 cents range.
There are upper receivers and AR-15 variants chambered in this round as well as some old East German bolt-action rifles floating around out there. There have been rumors of conversion kits for the Israeli Tavor rifle and others for some time, but we have yet to see them.
5. Beretta Storm
Currently the most affordable center-fire pistol round is the 9mm Luger. Whether it is military surplus ammunition, Winchester White Box, or remanufactured ammo, 9mm is here to stay, and prices are reflecting this. We have seen it as cheap as $13 for a box of 100 recently. Beretta makes a carbine chambered in 9mm that should be part of everyone’s preps for the gun department, particularly if you have a number of 9mm handguns.
Some question the wisdom of a pistol caliber carbine. We like them in 9mm for their low recoil, ability to suppress and inexpensive ammunition. If you cannot abide a Beretta, you can find HK pattern rifles, Uzi carbines, ARs chambered in 9mm and Kel-Tec’s folding Sub-2000 rifle.
6. Rossi Model 92
We are looking at the 357 Magnum version, as it allows you to shoot the cheaper 38 Special round. If you have a 38 Special or 357 Magnum revolver, then this carbine makes a lot of sense.
Like any straight wall revolver cartridge, the 38 Special represents extreme low cost for re-loaders. We only caution that you avoid the bullets seated flush or close to flush with the case mouth for use in a lever-action rifle. They will not feed and the rifle will think it’s been stocked with empty cases.
There are other lever-action rifles available and a few pump-action versions were made, but we find Rossi’s guns to have the most value.
7. Yugo M98
With the prices of K-98 and VZ-24 rifles going through the roof, we thought we would clue you in on one that is not as expensive, especially if you can live with a straight bolt handle.
Ammunition performance of 8mm Mauser is on par with that of 30-06 or another low-cost round, the 7.62 X 54R. Military surplus ammunition is still relatively cheap, at just south of 30 cents a round.
If you know of another low-cost round that’s not in this story, post in the comments below and let us know about it.