Letter: An Argument Against Milsurp Rifles

Dear Jim,

Good article on Mauser rifles, but I have a few comments to consider.

The cost of a milsurp, plus the cost of a free float barrel stock, plus the cost of gun smithing scope mounts on the receiver, plus the cost of the mount and rings cut to fit the receiver profile, plus the cost of a bent bolt that then needs to be fitted to your receiver is more than a bolt action 270 or 308 or 30-06 sporting rifle, which are already setup for off-the-shelf mount, rings, and a standard hunting scope with modern optics.

Old milsurp ammo is often (not always but often) with corrosive primers, so any time you shoot milsurp ammo you often need to clean the barrel with strong ammonia to denature the salts, or you get pitting in your bore and possibly your receiver. Most people like milsurps because of the cheap ammo but don’t know about the corrosive primers, at least not until it’s too late.

Most new manufacture milsurp caliber ammo is loaded to lower pressures so it won’t blow up an antique rifle. Yes, you can get 8×57 JS or IS ammo, but most is F or K and inferior pressure and thus velocity compared to modern 7.62×51 NATO. For many, it is more practical to load your own ammunition to the strength of your rifle’s receiver rather than deal with the lowest common denominator antiques.

In the end, you can spend more getting a milsurp to shoot like a modern rifle than it costs to just buy a .308 bolt rifle that’s ready to go. It’s not as interesting, but a .308 is a common round for hunters and a modern, accurate, scoped bolt action hunting rifle won’t gain much attention on your rack or tucked into your trunk, depending on legal requirements in your state.

The only good reason for a milsurp is if you can’t have a newer rifle for some important legal reason or because you enjoy attending Milsurp Rifle Competitions, which is something many outdoor range clubs offer. In those cases, the rifle must be used in standard military setup with no modifications, no scope, and no bent handle. A milsurp rifle is fun in those, and it does give one some idea of the hardships and difficulties of hitting a target with a vee and post open sight at 200-250 yards.

Also, keep in mind the K-38 Swiss rifle has a floating firing pin that can bounce into the primer of a chambered round when the safety is on. The ammunition it is chambered for is only really found in Switzerland, so it requires you to load your own.

This goes double for Mosin Nagant rifles, since scope mounts on either of these block the stripper clip. Scout mounts do work and can be attached without a gunsmith; however they can wander their point of aim, being cantilevered, so they aren’t terribly reliable in hunting situations. Most P-sniper Mosins are fake, btw. You CAN co-ax mount a rifle scope off-center from the bore on a Mosin, but this costs more than a factory rifle, and you have to deal with correcting your aim a couple inches right of your crosshairs.

Also, some scout mounts will break if the rifle has enough recoil, or the scope may break instead. A less expensive rifle or pistol scope on a powerful full-bore rifle can strip the scope’s aluminum threads and tear out the optics. Warning signs are blurry image or rotating crosshairs. The other issue with scout mounted pistol scopes on rifles is that you can see down them without being in the right position, thanks to parallax, and might actually be pointing the rifle inches or feet to the left or right without realizing it. Getting a good sight picture of where you’re actually aiming is harder, slower, and not reliable.

You are better off with a standard rifle and a standard fixed 4x or 3-9x variable scope closer to the eye. The best sight I ever fired through was mounted on a Browning Lever Rifle with a fixed 4x chambered in 7mm08. A local contractor had bought three of these– one for him and the others for his teenage sons. It was a very easy rifle to point and shoot in clean conditions, with bright optics since a fixed scope doesn’t require as much complexity so can be better quality glass for the dollar. This is just something to think about. Best, M.M.