I am interested in diversifying out of the dollar and was thinking of buying a belt-fed semi auto [as a “tangible” investment.] (I already have the rest of my gear, guns, and food storage well squared away.) Since 7.62 [mm NATO military surplus ammunition] is less expensive than [commercially loaded] .308 [Winchester], can you recommend a belt fed 7.62 semiautomatic? Any that you would avoid? Thanks! – S.
JWR Replies: I would recommend buying a semiauto-only Browning Model 1919A4, since they have legendary “bomb proof” robustness, great versatility in mounting, and broad chambering convertability. I recommend that you buy one that is already set up primarily for 7.62mm NATO, with a spare .30-06 barrel and perhaps also a spare barrel for 8×57 Mauser. (Although the supply of cheap surplus 8mm ammo has dried up, at least for the time being.) Cartridge conversion requires different feed mechanism parts, a different booster (nosepiece), and of course a different barrel. If you are planning to ser up your gun for multiple calibers, then buy all Israeli surplus links, since they are the most versatile. (The less expensive .30-06 links work only with that particular cartridge.)
The TNW, Cole Distributing, and Ohio RapidFire (“ORF”) brand guns all work fine. There are several other M1919 makers, but I cannot vouch for any them. The M1919A4s presently on the market typically use ex-Israeli parts kits. The Cadillac of the breed (pardon the mixed metaphor) is the Valkyrie Arms 1919A4. That is the brand that I once owned, as the”accessory” for the turret on my Ferret scout car. (Well, actually it was more the other way around: The Ferret was the armored platform for transporting the M1919.) However, I’ve heard that they are no longer being produced by Valkyrie.
I consider semi-auto M1919A4s a very good investment, since the supply of available parts kits is definitely drying up. Once those are gone, the prices will doubtless escalate rapidly. (The same thing happened with the semi-auto Browning M2 HB .50 caliber belt-feds. They now fetch $10,000 to $14,000 each, and just a complete M2HB BMG parts kit (sans side plate) can cost $7,000. I also recently saw just a Stellite M2 .50 barrel offered for sale for $1,200!) Since the law of supply and demand is inescapable, I’ve concluded that a semi-auto .50 Browning would be a “sure bet” as an even better investment than a M1919.
For versatility, you might also get an “A6” (buttstock and bipod) conversion kit. Original US military tripods are getting scarce and very expensive, so if you aren’t a purist, then get an German MG-42 tripod and M1919 pintle adapter.
To read umpteen details and user comments on Model 1919 Browning-family belt-fed guns, spare parts, headspacing adjustment, manuals, tripods, T&E mechanisms, canvas, and other accessories, see: www.1919A4.com
In answer to your question about what models to avoid: I would not recommend buying any of the semi-auto M60 variants, since they are too prone to breakage.
OBTW, if there is a SurvivalBlog reader that would like to invest a bigger semiauto-only belt fed, I have a friend that is selling a TNW-built M2 HB .50 Browning with several barrels, tripod, links, and ammo as a package for around $12,000. It would be a “private party” sale only if the buyer lives in Idaho. (If outside of Idaho, the transfer would have to be shipped to an FFL holder.) Contact me via e-mail if you are a serious cash buyer and I will forward your e-mail to the seller. Since this a sale intended to generate needed cash, no trades will be considered.