I strongly believe that every prepared family ought to have one or two Federally exempt pre-1899 guns. Why? There may come a time in the near future when legislation will dictate nationwide gun registration. But pre-1899s will presumably be exempt. To explain: Guns made in or before 1898 aren’t classified as “firearms” under the Federal law. They haven’t been, ever since 1968. They are outside of Federal jurisdiction. Because of their very small numbers, in the eyes of legislators they are a trivial “non-issue.” In the envisioned era that you are forced to either bury or register the rest of the guns in your collection, your un-papered pre-1899s could still be used for hunting and taken to the range, with impunity. The long term implications are staggering. For the same reason, so is their long term investment value. I expect the value of all pre-shootable pre-1899 cartridge guns to double or triple in value in the next decade–not because of their collector’s value, but solely because of their unique legal category. Guru say: Buy them while they are still affordable! If you don’t, then in just a few years you will probably kick yourself for missing the boat.
I’ve had two different readers recently contact me, soliciting my advice about pre-1899 production bolt actions to re-build into modern hunting or counter-sniper rifles. They asked: Which one is the best action to buy for a re-build project? IMHO, the very best available is the Model 1893 Turkish contract Oberndorf (German) Mauser action. Because these rifles were re-heat treated when they were re-arsenalized into 8 x57 in the 1930s, these rifles can handle the highest pressure of any small ring Mauser action. Despite the fact that these rifles have their 1930s re-arsenalizing date stamped on the receiver ring, their pre-1899 (Federally exempt) status is firmly established. I have a letter from the ATF that specifically addresses M1893 Turkish Mausers, confirming that they are all considered pre-1899 exempt, even if they have been re-barreled, re-chambered or sporterized. A link to the PDF of that letter is included in my fairly comprehensive Pre-1899 FAQ. (See: www.rawles.to/Pre-1899_FAQ.html) To anticipate you next question: Yes, a large ring Mauser action would be be superior to a small ring, but unfortunately 99.9% of those were made after 1898, so the chances of finding one that is legally antique (made in or before 1898) is downright infinitesimal. BTW, in 25 years in the gun show business, I only found one such action (from a Model 1896 German Trials rifle), and it sold very quickly, for $550–for just a stripped action!
Once relatively plentiful in the U.S. market, the supply of Model 1893 Turkish Mausers has dried up. One good affordable source of these rifles is The Pre-1899 Specialist. (See; http://www.antiquefirearms.org/blog.) I’ve heard that he still has just a few left–a couple of which have sound stocks and decent bores (if you want to leave them “as is” in 8x57mm Mauser), and a couple of others that have stocks with small cracks–but those of course would be fine if what you are after is an action to re-build.
Any gunsmith that is competent with Mausers can build up a rifle in a modern caliber for you, using a Model 1893 Mauser action. (Bending the bolt, drilling and tapping for scope, mounting it in a sporter stock, and so forth.) The Turkish contract M1893 action is suitable for modern calibers such as .243 Winchester and .308 Winchester, or classics such as 7×57 Mauser or 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser. Despite the fact that these rifles are all at least 108 years old, with new barrels they can be built up as real tack drivers.
Take the time to visit The Pre-1899 Specialist‘s site, and think about the possibilities. Again, I recommend that you buy your pre-1899s now, while they are still affordable!