The C&R FFL, Milsurp Firearms, and Your Survival Battery, by The Alchemist
The survival battery is a key issue for any prepper, as one of the biggest short-term concerns in a SHTF scenario is security. Stored supplies and learned skills are all for naught if you can’t protect the supplies from theft or survive to put those skills to use. While I would love for everyone to have a chance for a top of the line Main Battle Rifle (MBR), they do not run cheap, nor is the ammunition cheap these days. While modern rifles have undoubted advantages, there are also a large number of older weapons that remain capable, and which most citizens can buy online with a little paperwork.
To trade firearms in interstate commerce, one must have a Federal Firearms License – an FFL. Once upon a time one could acquire a Type 01 FFL (also known as a dealer FFL) as a “home FFL” at a reasonable price and without too much trouble, but since about the Clinton administration they’ve become much tighter – looking to allow only those selling firearms for a profit. One option still remaining to us mere citizens is the Curios and Relics (C&R) FFL or 03 FFL) is a “collectors” license which allows you to purchase firearms on the C&R list in interstate commerce. This means that you can buy C&R handguns out of state, or can buy online and have them shipped directly to you through a “common carrier”. A purchase at a gun show or dealer on a C&R FFL can legally dispense with all the paperwork and checks normally required – a signed copy of your C&R and payment is all that is needed. The C&R list is comprised of all firearms over 50 years old as well as firearms determined by BATF to be of special collector value. Some short-barreled firearms and large caliber “destructive devices” have been released from NFA status on the C&R list. Others (including all machineguns to my knowledge) remain NFA items despite their C&R status.
Why would a survival prepper want C&R firearms? Despite their age, there are some very capable firearms on the C&R list. If you’re looking for a nice bolt-action rifle there are plenty of WWII era rifles that are both affordable and extremely accurate, such as the Mosin-Nagant (Russian WWI and Soviet/Finnish WWII), the Mauser (German WWII and Czech post-WWII), and the [Schmidt-Rubin] K31 (Swiss). If you’re looking for an MBR on a budget you can look for an SKS (7.62×39), an FN-49 (multiple calibers including 8mm Mauser, .308, 7mm Mauser, and 30-06), or an M1 Garand (30-06), all of which are reasonably capable weapons even today. In many cases these are almost new (or totally new) rifles placed in storage before being replaced with newer models. For a reasonable price (and a little cosmoline cleanup) you can have a durable, high-quality rifle.
For pistols, I like the the TTC/TT33 in 7.62×25 Tokarev as a rugged “beater” pistol for cheap target practice (how can one beat 11 cents per round these days?), and at 1,400-to-1,600 fps, full metal jacket 7.62×25 can often penetrate NIJ Level II body armor. For a nice little plinking pistol I like the CZ-82 in 9×18 Makarov – a nice $200 pistol in a reasonably capable cartridge. While I wouldn’t recommend it as a primary sidearm, its capable enough to stash one with 1,000 rounds or so in a burial tube or a pre-positioned store, or simply to get some target practice with more recoil than a .22 in a low-cost package. You can find .45 pistols (including WWII era M1911s) and 9x19s as well, though demand has often pushed the price up near the new cost (or above for true collectors’ items).
With a military surplus (“milsurp“) C&R gun of the right caliber you should be able to take advantage of available surplus ammunition to reduce training costs. For the price of 400 rounds of .30-06 I can buy a Mosin-Nagant bolt action rifle with 1,200 rounds of 7.62x54R ammunition (or 400 rounds and four Mosin-Nagant rifles). Once I have the cash I can add a “Dragunov” type (usually a Romanian PSL) as a longer-range MBR in the same caliber to round out the armory. And since this isn’t a “pistol” caliber, you can purchase all the Armor Piercing (AP) or Armor Piercing -Incendiary (API) ammo you want. Sure, it isn’t quite as sexy as a more modern solution (FAL/HK/M1A + .308 bolt action), but it’ll save you $400 or more on the rifles alone. And don’t discount the lower ammo costs – ammo turns money into skill. There’s little point worrying about 2.5 MOA vs 1 MOA accuracy if your training limits you to 4 MOA.
The availability of modestly priced weapons also gives added flexibility when considering how to arm “guests” or how to have firearms available for trade in a SHTF scenario. A few bolt action rifles, battle carbines, or surplus pistols held in reserve can allow you to make guests useful in security or hunting without degrading the armories of the principal preppers. The more paranoid may also make sure that any new arrivals are using only “obscure” or “oddball” calibers (that you’ve stocked in some quantity) to encourage their loyalty – if you’re the only source of ammunition for a particular rifle it remains most valuable when you’re working in line with the goals of the primary preppers. It would certainly be preferable to only work with trusted individuals, but we do not control every situation we find ourselves in – only our reactions. One can have an option and not use it, but you can’t use an option that you haven’t given yourself.
Don’t want a Federal FFL on your record? You can do almost as well by making friends with a C&R holder. A C&R is not a dealer license – you are not permitted to run a business on it, although incidental profits on sales are acceptable. A C&R holder may however purchase multiple firearms of the same type looking for a particularly high quality specimen – and as a friend you could offer to buy an uglier gun that’s merely a “good shooter” from them. You both win in such a case – you get a nice firearm with little paper trail at a good price, and the C&R holder gets a better quality rifle for their collection. It should also be noted that as a C&R holder you do not need to go through an NICS check nor file form 4473, since the transfer is between FFL holders. Additionally, unlike a dealer FFL your bound book is your own, and does not need to be surrendered if the FFL expires. The ATF can request an inspection once per year while you hold the FFL, but cannot drop in randomly and must allow for off-site inspection of the firearms in the bound book and the bound book itself.
I would highly recommend that preppers consider a C&R license and firearms, particularly the military surplus weaponry, as a valuable resource. Cheap and rugged weapons together with lower-cost surplus ammunition make an attractive package – even if they’re not your primary tactical weapon, they’re perfectly functional as a secondary arm for hunting, scouting, or other such tasks. They’re also very attractive for an emergency cache or a pre-positioned store, as the lower cost enables you to purchase more weaponry for your investment. This is one of the few crumbs the Feds have seen fit to leave us mere mortals – we may as well take advantage of it while we can!