Letter Re: Advice on Selecting a Battle Rifle

I have been stocking up on surplus 308 as it seems it is drying up. After all with nearly every nation switching to 5.56mm, it makes sense that it would dry up sooner or later. AIM Surplus has South African 308 in battle packs, but the price continues to climb every time I check their web site. I too, have looked and continue to debate over choice of MBR. Boston’s Gun Bible has been insightful but as FALs evolve it makes this choice harder. We had initially settled on M1As, but I too have been looking at the FAL and HK91s. KaiserWorks is now making a alum FAL lower that uses AR rear sight set-up with really looks good, and there are coming out with a AR trigger compatible lower. I have mixed thoughts on this, as the FAL trigger spring is nice and heavy, esp for hard primers, but the AR set up has much nicer ergonomics.
The HK91 is rugged, and has the benefit of being very easy to convert to full auto by merely altering the trigger box, once you obtain ATF approval of course. Now full auto is most cases is a waste of ammo, but there are certain times that it may useful. Covering fire, mass targets in the open, and the illusion of superior firepower in breaking contact (SEALs use this to great effect,) Its always nice to have it (if properly trained) and not use it that need it and not have it.
Beta Company is working on [.308 variants of their] 100 round C-MAG for the M14, FAL, and HK. This would be ideal for a fixed position, without having a belt fed, for mass attack or armored vehicles.
Our main objective is trying to get the weight down on these MBRs. Going to 18″ barrels and light-weight options seems to be the trick here in Missouri as we rarely have open 1000 meter areas. My M1A is a “Bush” style with 18″ barrel, Vortex flash hider, and a new Vltor Modstock. I personally like the shorter stock length, and this package is barely longer than a Mini-14.
I also saw a nice AWC bullpup M14, nice but on the heavy side.
Having several short stature persons and younger ones, we also have AR-15s. Have you given any thought to upgrading to the piston driven uppers that are now out there for these?
I have been debating here on these type of upgrades, versus going to bullpups, with Steyr hinting at building US-made AUGs. The Steyr qualities seems to beat out the FN P2000 bullpup. The bullpups ability to use a 20″ barrel but still have a small profile that is easily shouldered without messing with a folding stock etc is very appealing. I even experimented with the KVAR bullpup conversion on a 223 AK. It makes a handy truck, tractor, and four wheeler gun slung across your back, when out on the back 40. Your words of wisdom would be appreciated. I know that guns are just a small part of the over all survival picture, but compared to rotating foods, its a lot more fun to “rotate” ammo in training. Thank you, – MD in MO

JWR Replies: My advice to all Survival Blog readers is to always have an effective means of self- defense close at hand. For someone on a tight budget, at least buy yourself a reliable military surplus bolt action and plenty of ammunition. Mausers, Enfields, and Mosin Nagants are all good “budget” rifle choices. Then, with time, as your budget increases, upgrade your battery to include a reliable semi-auto 7.62 mm NATO rifle for each adult in your family. The low end choice in this category would be a CETME clone. The medium price choices would be FN/FAL or L1A1 “parts kit” clones built on Imbel receivers, HK91 clones (such as a PTR-91), or low-end M1As from makers like Norinco. Eventually, with disciplined savings you should be able to afford more expensive MBRs from “name” makers such as original Belgian FALs, original H&K-made HK91s, or M1As from Springfield Armory or Fulton Armory. If at all possible, retain your earlier rifle purchases. These are great guns to keep on hand as guns for barter and charity. Also, depending on your state and local concealed carry restrictions, an inexpensive bolt action rifle is perfect for use as a “trunk gun”–a gun that you keep handy in the trunk of your car at all times. If your car gets broken into, or the car itself gets stolen, you will surely regret losing your old beater $150 Mauser, but it would be a severe financial blow and the cause of more substantial mental anguish to lose a $2,500 top-of-the-line ACOG-scoped MBR.

Most importantly: upgrading to creme-de-la-creme rifles is something that should only be done after you have your key logistics squared away. (By this I mean after your family has a water filtration system, an honest one year food supply, communications gear, non-hybrid seeds and gardening supplies, traps and snares, and plenty of first aid gear.) Far too many survivalists slip into the “Armchair Commando” mindset. (Not that I’m implying anything like that about MD in MO, but please see my recent article on this topic.)