The Best Pre-1899 Bolt Action?

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: 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; 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! 

From #1 Son: Stocking up on Home Schooling Curricula

An important item to remember to purchase in advance if you have children is extra home schooling supplies. You may remember trigonometry, but could you teach it to your children without any materials? If you self-quarantine your family because of a flu pandemic it will be nearly impossible to acquire books or other supplies. Post-TEOTWAWKI, after your generation is gone, advanced math and science will be rare and valuable skills.

Letter Re: Buying a Retreat Property and a Peak Oil Reference

I am fairly new to your blog, having been introduced by I have enjoyed reading it every now and then, and have been preparing for quite some time now. So you can imagine, I have most if not all the things you are talking about EXCEPT the place outside the cities, but that is being worked on as I write this, and HOPEFULLY we will buy some land soon. Just looking for the right place.

Switching gears, I found some interesting information on Peak Oil, and why cheap oil is over forever. See the transcript available at: – Mel in Austin

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

This is the law: There is no possible victory in defense. The sword is more important than the shield, and skill is more important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is supplemental." – John Steinbeck

Note From JWR:

Please send me your favorite quotes and I’ll post them as “Quotes of the Day.”

Today we present another entry for Round 2 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best article will win a four day course certificate at Front Sight. (An up to $2,000 value!)  The deadline for entries is the last day of January, 2006.

The Flea Market Survivalist, by C.G. in N.C.

Skill and etiquette in the process of bartering can be a plus today or in a future time when the world could be completely different. In that future time your local mass marketing chain may not be in business. You may have to resort to barter. I loved the scene in Mr. Rawles’s book, “Patriots”, when the group goes to the local barter faire with a handful of .22 cartridges and some pre-1965 dimes. I can’t recall everything they got, but for their initial, pre-TEOTWAWKI investment, they came out way ahead.
I have to confess to being a flea market survivalist. This is the result of my life circumstances and my psychological make-up. I am a touch, uh, frugal, and my resources are limited. I’m not embarrassed to buy something used with the possible exception of underwear and toothbrushes. In very hard times, even these reservations might be overcome.
First, let’s look at some reasons to search your local flea market or trade lot (I use the terms interchangeably, but prefer trade lot) and then go to the how-to of this option. The first reason is the most obvious. Buying second hand, or from someone who has little overhead will stretch your resources. Sometimes dramatically. Good examples from my personal experience are a box of 91 new disposable lighters for $5. Last year I also bought 50+ bars of soap for $5. These examples come to mind readily, but there are regular bargains to be had just like this. A second reason is that it’s fun. I’ve been doing this for years and I rarely tire of this shopping challenge. Some people don’t like it, some have never tried it. The fun element may surprise you. Another thing that draws people to trade lots is the variety of objects that turn up. You just never know what you may find. Guns are an example. In my state, North Carolina, vendors can’t sell handguns at their tables. They may have a pistol at home they might want to sell, but that’s a private transaction that I’m really not talking about here. However, long guns of every description can be found. Good prices generally, but the real upside is that you leave no paper trail. Sometimes a good ol’ boy who needs some money may be walking around with a rifle or shotgun on his shoulder wanting someone to ask him how much he wants for it. Don’t hesitate if you are interested. A Mauser 8mm or single shot shotgun can generally be had for a hundred dollar bill or possibly a touch less. Sometimes a lot less. Another reason to look for used tools is that sometimes older tools or goods were of better quality. You also may be able to find something that is no longer made that is still useful. You may find something at a bargain that you can re-sell. A friend of mine recently bought a $3,000 Nikon-made underwater camera for $3. I bought a book for a quarter that sold for over $100 on I could go on and on, but hopefully this will induce you to at least check out your local flea market. The main reason is to save money.
Alright, let’s say you have never been to a flea market and don’t want to get swindled. The very first rule is to know about what it is that you want to purchase. If you are looking for an 8mm Mauser specifically, know the difference between the various models of Mausers and then consider other guns that might be a viable substitute. Maybe a Mosin Nagant 7.62×54 or even a Steyr Mannlicher in 8x56R. Know how to pull the bolt out to check the bore, or have a bore light. Dry firing is not kosher, but you may ask the owner if he has fired the weapon. {just like at a gun show], always ask permission before you pick up any firearm. Permission will generally be given if you ask. Bottom line, know what you are looking at, whether it is firearms or cast iron skillets. Read up. Ask questions. Compare prices.
Now if the article is something you are interested in, you eventually have to ask “How much?” It may or may not have a price tag. If you know what you want and how much they go for, you may conclude you don’t want this piece for that price. But if you are confident the price is realistic, then you may say, “Gee, that’s a little more than I wanted to spend. Could you do any better?” or “I think that’s a nice piece. I could go $__.” Unless the price is very good, and even if it is, ask for a better price. Politely. It’s part of the game. All they can say is no. I bought an old Singer Sewing machine last year. The man had a patch under the needle that he had sewed to show that it worked. It was probably a 1940s model, all steel. He was asking $10. I offered him $8 and he took it. A friend who works on sewing machines cleaned it, lubed it, and replaced the power cord for free. I have $8 in a nice little antique Singer Sewing Machine that works like a charm. Always ask for a better price, but be courteous.
On the other side of the coin, never hesitate to walk away. You may walk down the aisle and come back the vendor may drop the price a touch because he knows you are interested. Don’t try to talk someone down by degrading their goods. Pointing out some superficial scratches is okay, but a serious badmouthing of someone’s goods usually doesn’t work. Interest with an “I don’t know…” attitude will generally induce a price reduction if it’s going to happen at all. They may be firm in the price, and you will usually figure that out quickly. Then decide if you want to pay the asking price.
So what sort of things would be useful in survival preparations that you might see at trade lots? Almost anything. Camping gear. Firearms, ammunition and accessories. Tools of all descriptions. First aid supplies. Produce for canning or drying. Building supplies. Candles and kerosene lamps. Clothing. Retreat furnishings. Cooking/canning supplies and equipment. Military surplus. The list is unlimited. Is there anything that you cannot find or that you want to avoid purchasing at your local trade lot? Well, knock off designer clothing and out of date food comes to mind. Obviously you will have to sort through a lot of Chinese made junk, but this goes back to knowing what you want. One item I am considering for post collapse barter is the inexpensive knives that are out there now. I’m pretty surprised at the $5 knives available. Yeah, they are made in Pakistan, but save them for future barter to people who never thought they would need a pocket knife or sheath knife. You may end up being a blessing to them.
What are some of the tricks of the trade for a buyer? Well, here are a few things that I do.
-Many times bargains can be found in a box on the ground beside the vendors table. It’s a low priority and he is just hoping to sell an item or two for a few bucks. I look through it and if I find an item I want, say a home made knife, I’ll offer two or three dollars for the whole box. That way you get what you want for your price and may find another treasure in the box when you get home.
-If there is a container that has some items that I could use in bulk, but I know I can’t afford for the posted price, I’ll ask, “Look, how much for the whole box of (whatever)?” Sometimes the price is dropped significantly. That way you can afford to stash them away for later. That’s the way I got the soap and lighters I mentioned above.
-There are two ways of looking at when to shop. Some people go as the goods are being put on display to find a treasure that will surely be snapped up in the first minutes of business. This could be very early. At early trade lots, that is, a site that opens and usually closes early, I’ve seen people looking before sunup with flashlights. Another approach is to wait until just before closing time when vendors may drop their price to keep from having to load it up and put it in storage again. Try both methods and see what works best for you.
-Try to get to know some of the people who are dealers if they are regulars. They may automatically give you a good price if they know you are a repeat customer.
-Sometimes the real bargains can be found by people who just want to clean out their house and really don’t want to make a living selling their junk. Cookware, nuts and bolts, wool blankets, or a half box of .32 cartridges, may go for next to nothing. Sometimes, not always, you can get an idea of the quality of the merchandise by what [vehicle] the seller is driving and wearing. A nicely dressed lady in a mini van may have some nice stuff. But the useful bargains generally come from the farmer who cleans out his barn or shed just to make room. You will develop an eye [for that] after time.
So will this skill help in a post apocalypse society? The general principles will apply. Know what you want and what it is worth. Try to know who you are dealing with for the best prices. But most of all, knowing what is available right now at bargain prices will help you to build up your survival supplies. Look for quality. Watch for expiration dates. Dicker. And have fun.

Letter From a UK Survivalist

Dear Jim:

I am a UK-based wilderness survival instructor and have been enthusiastically reading the content of your website as well as your postings on FALFiles for some time.

Although bushcraft and wilderness survival has become quite a popular subject in this country over recent years, the UK does not have a strong Preparedness/ Survivalist movement at the present time. Something that I believe is partly to do with the Media perception of survivalists as paranoid nutcases.

However, through my work as a bushcraft and wilderness skills instructor I have recently noticed a marked increase in the number of “normal” people expressing concern about the future. I am often asked to run courses for people who want to learn how to survive a disaster, or simply to learn how they can live off the land when the normal order of things comes to an end. Events such as the Asian Tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina have caused many people to review their own vulnerability to natural disasters, as well as other possible catastrophic events.

Most of the courses I run have been designed as back to nature adventure experiences, and not as preparedness courses. Although many of the skills we teach could be employed under these circumstances. Skills such as emergency shelter building and firelighting, as well as trapping and identifying edible plants are an example of these practices.

We are currently developing some survival workshops and courses that will specifically cover subjects such as stockpiling, Bug out Bags and 72 hour kits as well as some more traditional wilderness survival skills.

I would like to maintain contact with like minded people in the USA where the survivalist mindset is more established. At some point in the future it may also be worthwhile for me to bring groups to the U.S. for courses on specific subjects. I would therefore be very interested in establishing contact with organisations involved with the teaching of Preparedness skills, defense etc.

I also feel that there may be a market for preparedness related products that are not available here in the UK. I would be in a very good position to promote these products through my website. If you could suggest any suppliers that would be able to supply and ship to the UK I would really like to hear from them.

Best Regards, – Andrew Price   website:

JWR Replies: Readers should note that a trading relationship with someone in the UK could be very valuable. It need not be one-sided. There is some fantastic “kit” made in the UK that is hard to find in the U.S. that would be great to trade for. This includes Bergen rucksacks, camouflage scarves, DPM camouflage clothing, and those well-crafted British rabbit snares and gill nets.  There are also some great bargains available–sadly, as the result of the recently-enacted firearms restrictions in England–in particular antique wooden pistol boxes, WWII-vintage european pistol holsters, L1A1 parts, et cetera. For any of our readers in the U.S. that rent gun show tables or that run a part-time eBay business, I highly recommend pursuing this! 

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” – Arthur Ashe , “Points to Ponder”, Reader’s Digest,1994)

Note From JWR:

Please keep spreading the word about SurvivalBlog. Just one line added to your e-mail “.sig” could enlighten lots of potential SurvivalBlog readers. (Pretty please?)

Today, I’m leading off with two pieces of shameless web aggregation. (I pride myself on presenting mostly original content for this blog, but at times there are items that I find on the web that are worth mentioning…)

U.S. Government Issues Guide to Pandemic Preparedness

As reported at, the Bush Administration had just issued a Guide to Pandemic Preparedness. See:
It is interesting that they mentioned both self-quarantine and home schooling. What radicals!  They musta been reading SurvivalBlog or sumthen’…

OBTW, why do I get the feeling that if John Kerry had been elected that the message on this topic wouldn’t be quite the same?

Moves by China and Iran May Trigger a Dollar Crisis

Two recent developments overseas may not bode well for the dollar. This first is that Iran has announced that in March (of ’06) it will open a new international oil bourse that will have all transactions denominated in Euros. (See:  )  The second is that China has announced that it intends to shift its currency reserves away from the U.S. dollar for “a more balanced portfolio.” (Read: Anything but dollars!)  See:

Letter Re: Islamic Demographics and Long Term Trends

Hello Sir,
I found the following article discussing the changing demographics of the western world fascinating. I’m sure you will too. Not to give anything away, but the author points to the declining birth rates of western civilizations and contrasts them with the burgeoning growth of Islam, both in Islamic and western countries. See:
– Bings in Iraq

JWR Replies:  Bings found a genuine “must read” article. Some real food fro thought and grounds for further research (FFTAGFFR) there!

Letter Re: Truck, Auto, ATV, Motorcycle, and Bicycle Tire Repair

Hi Jim,
At the ranch last Saturday, our cousin who is a mechanic got under the hood and fixed the old ranch truck. He took it for a spin and came back and said that he would have to park it because it got a flat tire. He would have to take the tire to town and get it fixed but wouldn’t be able to do it until Tuesday because of the holiday on Monday. I asked my husband “Why can’t he fix it himself? People didn’t have to take tires to a shop to get them fixed in the ‘olden days’.” My husband answered that with the modern day tires, you have to have a tire machine and they are quite dangerous to work on even then.

This will definitely be a problem in a TEOTWAWKI situation! Here we are with our EMP proof vehicle, stabilized and stored fuel, and we get a flat and our vehicle is out of commission!!! I don’t know anything about tires–I get a flat and take it to the tire place. What about if the tire place isn’t open after TSHTF? Any ideas on working around this?
Thanks. – Mary

JWR Replies:  Repairing modern tires is quite labor-intensive to do at home or out in the hinterboonies, but not impossibleDIY tire dismounting and repair is getting to be a lost art–still practiced primarily by those of us that spend a lot of time in 4WD mode out in “the-middle-of-BLM-nothing” or the Australian Outback. (An aside; my family likes to go rock hounding in northern Nevada and southern Idaho. Our tires seem to magically attract very pointy chunks of slate and basalt. We are talking about true off-roading here, where getting stranded is more than just an inconvenience. It could mean a 25 mile walk to the nearest paved road! At the very minimum we always carry at least one spare tire already on a rim (sometimes two), a small compressor, and and inverter. (OBTW, I’ll cover pioneer tools, Hi-Lift (“Sheepherder”) jacks, tow chains, and come-alongs in a forthcoming SurvivalBlog post on off-roading.)

Every 4WD and ranch utility truck should have a set of tire tools–including an Aussie “Tireplyers” bead breaker (see:  and, as well as patching materials and goop, a small compressor that can run off of an inverter, a 200 watt inverter with cigarette lighter plug adapter, and a good quality hand pump with an accurate gauge. See:  and For traditional tires with an inner tube (mostly bicycles and garden carts, these days), see:  (FWIW, I prefer the hot patch method.) And for those of you with motorcycles, see: OBTW, special precautions are required when working on tires that are mounted on “split” style rims. Beware!

Letter from Rourke Re: Dome Homes as Survival Retreats

The follow-up letter from Mosby and the addition from JWR both list some of the reasons I specifically excluded geodesic domes (twice) in my Dome Homes as Survival Retreats article. They are usually of conventional materials (wood, plywood) in non-conventional (non-square) angles and shapes; thus things like using regular shingles on the roof (more of the structure) which is full of angles is going to be difficult and likely cause problems (leaks). Also, a geodesic dome, which is made up of many flat geometric shapes coming together to approximate a dome, does not really offer the strength of a pure dome, and creates a tremendous number of seams to seal and leak (water and air). JWR’s citation of Bernoulli’s principle was a good addition. Many laymen when considering the effects of high winds upon a conventional structure believe the windward side (side facing into the oncoming wind) is going to collapse inward (like in the 1950s nuclear blast film clips). With hurricanes though, it is in fact usually the leeward side (the far side) which instead gets sucked out by the low pressure created by a vortex of winds coming over the structure where the structure ends. Everyone realizes that round shapes are aerodynamic, thus resistance to wind and creation of low pressure are both minimized with a dome. People also like to mention how concrete homes can withstand high winds. Last year in Stoughton, Wisconsin, around the time of Katrina, a tornado went through and wrecked over 60 homes. There was a concrete poured wall home there, and as I recall, several people enjoyed mentioning to me how it was still standing. The problem was that it’s conventional roof was torn off. The inside of the house was water damaged, so what is the point of having impregnable walls when you roof is going to fail? I don’t think they saved much on the insurance there considering internal water damage requires a lot of replacement with all the mold worries now, but more importantly, in a TEOTWAWKI situation, there isn’t going to be insurance money nor contractors nor supplies to fix it. IMHO you have four above-ground choices as I see it with a concrete house. 1. Get an industrial heavy gauge galvanized steel roof (and listen to the rain). 2. Put span-crete on your roof (and make your walls thick enough to handle the weight). 3. Spend a tremendous amount of money for extra conventional materials and labor to wrap, brace, and tie twice as many trusses as normal deeply into the reinforcing rods of the concrete walls with steel cables (lots of hand work), such as the codes in Dade County (Miami), Florida require 4. Consider a Dome Home.- Rourke

Letter Re: Dome Homes as Survival Retreats

Mr. Rawles
For the do it yourselfers, I have built several safe shelters (used until needed as storage) based on the sandbag construction to make small domes. A great link to the concept is The construction is quite simple (easy would be the wrong word because the dirt work is just that WORK, but we all need to drop a few fat pounds. I used as a cover outside the method called papercrete and a little heaver crete mixture (for fire proofing) on the inside with concrete support wire (the larger net like wire used to replace “re-bar” in cement slabs) and mixed it all in a small cement mixer using shredded paper I recycled from office shreddings (many many bags of shreddings and newspapers) and hand trough it all on. Paper crete web locations are: and Rourke is correct the spouse/significant other is often an issue with building any shelter not just a dome, in my case the spouse noted that the domes look like “large breasts sticking out of the ground” any hope of a dome house ended there! With “standard” house secured and “off grid” solar (dual system with up/down safe control) up, the “storage buildings / tornado shelters” were constructed, waterproofed and then covered with earth (with a rented earth mover) and grass seed, now they are small “hills” and do not resemble breasts and are even home to a few spouse controlled rose bushes. And just to revisit a theme, the construction is inexpensive. Have a great new year. – Wotan