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The Low-Cost (But Effective) Alternative To Semi-Automatics

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Due to their availability, fair price and good conditioning, older surplus bolt action rifles have become very popular weapons with survivalists who are seeking cheaper alternatives to higher-end automatic weapons such as AK-47s, AR-15s and M1As.

The Russian-made Mosin-Nagant bolt action rifle is a prime example of a weapon that is praised for its ruggedness, accuracy, track record, cheap pricing and cheap ammunition. The Mosin-Nagant has been used in many conflicts since the late 1890s up until today, and has proved itself again and again. Other bolt-action rifles like the Mosin-Nagant that have found favor with survivalists and gun enthusiasts include the British Lee-Enfield, the German Mauser rifle, and the American Springfield M1903.

The question is: How would one of these older but rugged bolt-action rifles compare to a modern day AR?

When it comes down to it, an AR or similar automatic weapon is a more versatile rifle, and someone with a Mosin-Nagant going up against someone with an AR or AK may not exactly have good odds. But at the same time, semi-automatic rifles are expensive. A good, military style semi-automatic rifle will cost around $1,000 for the gun alone, and a lot more for enough ammunition to be proficient with it. Owning a rifle is one thing, but being proficient with it is another. Proficiency requires a lot of rounds, as in over a thousand rounds, to be used at the range.

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The ultimate reason why many people go with the older bolt-action rifles is because they provide a cost-efficient way to put bullets downrange at long distances. There are four categories of guns you should own: pistol, shotgun, .22 rifle, and center-fire rifle. Many see the Mosin-Nagant as filling the last category nicely.

As an example here, let’s compare a surplus bolt action rifle, the Mosin-Nagant in 7.62x54r, with a modern day semi-automatic rifle in a similar chambering, an AR-10 or M1A in .308 Winchester.

A good quality Mosin-Nagant will cost no more than $200 without a scope, and that is no doubt an excellent deal. In comparison, a new AR-10 or M1A will cost in the $1,500 range, again without a scope.

Now let’s look at ammo: You need 1,000 rounds of ammo spent at the range in order to be proficient with the weapon, and at least 1,000 more rounds in storage. This is 2,000 rounds total, minimum.

Let’s say we buy the 7.62x54r ammo and the .308 Winchester ammo in bulks of 500 rounds each. A bulk of 500 rounds of 7.62x54r ammo is going to cost you around $190 to maybe $220, depending on the manufacturer and type of the ammo. That’s approximately $760 for 2,000 rounds of ammunition.

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A bulk of 500 rounds of .308 Winchester, on the other hand, is going to cost around $350 to $400 each. At the minimum, that’s approximately $1,400 for 2,000 rounds of .308 Winchester.

All in all, to buy the Mosin-Nagant, to become proficient with it, and to have adequate stores of ammo for it is going to cost you around $960.  That number would be a little higher with a Lee-Enfield or a Mauser rifle, but you get the idea.

To do the same with an AR-10 or M1A variant is going to cost you around $2,900. That number would be a little cheaper with an AR-15 or Mini-14 chambered in 5.56 NATO, but a .308 is more comparable to the 7.62x54r, so we’ll settle with that.

When the math is calculated, the Mosin-Nagant is clearly the better deal. The new question is if it is worth saving the money to sacrifice becoming proficient with a modern day weapon in favor of an older rifle.

Owning both weapons would be nice, but when it comes down to buying one or the other, you should go with the modern day semi-automatic rifle if you can afford it. And by affording it, you still have plenty of money left over to continue to live comfortably the way you are. If you can’t afford it, you should go with the Mosin-Nagant or similar bolt-action rifle until you can afford the semi-automatic.

Bar-none, an AR-10 or an M1A is going to outperform a Mosin-Nagant with larger capacity, a faster rate of fire and availability of accessories.

But the Mosin-Nagant is not a bad option. If money is a serious issue for you, and you need a good rifle for putting rounds downrange at long distances, give the Mosin or similar bolt-action rifle a look as an interim weapon before your big purchase of a semi-automatic, modern rifle.

What are your thoughts on the Mosin-Nagant or other bolt action rifles? Share your thoughts in the section below: 

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  1. The problem I have with the assumption of a 1K tally is I only used that much in Nam getting used to the M-16 because I was ordered to. My present .308, I’ve used approx 100 rds and am fairly proficient with it. Could be that I have experience but it was over 35 yrs between last use in Nam and buying my present rifle. My reasoning is to borrow from a movie “aim small miss small”. You use less and achieve good results. I agree with the writer though, The M.N. is a great option.

  2. In the late ’60s I came into possesion of 6 unused pre-war mauser 98 actions, they are so simple, reliable, dependable and versitile. I’ve barreled them with everything from 30-06, 25-06, .270, .280, .308 and 22-250. I’ve push the pressures to the extremes and the bolts have handled it (I’m a reloader and long range shooter). If you can get a good, tight pre-war (1939 or before) bolt rifle whether it’s mauser, enfield, springfield or mosin, take it. With normal shooting there is only 3 parts that may break, the sear, firing spring or firing pin. My actions were made in 1938 and everything is still original. I’m also a fan of revolvers, but that’s for another blog. KISS = Keep it simple Stupid

  3. Where do you find a rifle like the Mosin-Nagant?

    I’d like to use a rifle like that primarily for hunting deer. I’ve been looking for a .308 for sometime, but for me, cost effective rifle is what I”m looking for. I’ve been out of work for three years and I’ve got limited income. Meat prices are really getting up there, and where I live in Western New York, Whitetail are plentiful and next year I’d like to go hunting again to help stock my freezer with beef alternatives.

    The other issue I have is with guns from modern stores, I’m concerned that they are inferior in quality, over-priced, chinese manufactured with cheap alloys. I’m not worried about the zombie apocolypse, but maybe practical SHTF survival off the land.

    • @Bob, you can find them easily on .

    • I’ve seen them at Several outfitters in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Bill’s Gun shop in Minnesota and Wisconsin. They’re out there, just have to search. The only problem I see is the cartridge is rimmed.

  4. I bought a 1943 long branch Enfield a few years back in original condition… I had it drilled and taped for a scope…. been hunting with it ever since… excellent weapon want trade it for anything

  5. I absolutely love my mosin!!! In fact it is my favorite rifle! I like it better than AR15 and my SKS!! It definitely out shoots them both!!! The only issue I have with my mosin it that it only holds five rounds!! But if your a good shot you only need one!

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