When looking to buy surplus military rifles, there are a few steps to keep in mind. Begin with identifying what you are going to use the rifle for, then progress through finding the right fit for your needs. In the end, buying the appropriate weapon while adhering to the proper laws and ordinances can give you your very own piece of history.
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Decide on the function you need from the rifle. A "wall hanger" is a rifle that is basically for display only and may or may not be functional and safe to shoot. Wall hangers are used to accent rooms as mantle pieces, part of a shadow box honouring military service or some other theme. A "shooter" would be a rifle that is still capable of firing safe modern rounds for target practice, competition matches self-defence or hunting.
Identify potential manufacturers and variants that best suit your needs. If you are looking for a wall hanger, older weapons that take obsolete cartridges no longer in production would fit the bill nicely. This category would include, for instance, the Remington Rolling Block and Mauser rifles made for in the late 19th century for Latin American countries, as their uncommon size (and often black powder) rounds are generally not available. Look at shooter rifles such as the British Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE) in .303 and the US Springfield 1903 in 30.06 would be ideal as these rounds are still commercially available at almost any big box sporting goods chain.
Investigate the legal acquisition of the rifle type and make of your choice. Older weapons made before January 1, 1899 can be bought in the United States by anyone over 18 so long as they have no prohibition against them owning a weapon. These pre-1899 weapons are listed as antiques and are not even considered a firearm under federal law. You don't need a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to buy or sell these weapons and you can even send them through the mail. Buy more modern surplus rifles through a FFL holder. Many local gun shops carry a selection of these weapons mouldering away on the racks. You have mail order as an option through various distributors such as J&G, Centerfire Systems and others, however they still have to be shipped to your local FFL who would in turn pass them on to you often for a nominal fee. You can purchase individual weapons online through sites like Gunbroker and Gunsamerica. Receive modern weapons from online purchases like traditional mail order through your local FFL.
You can purchase multiple rifles at one time as there is no federal law precluding the purchase, but it is more customary to acquire them individually. You might be limited by some localities, however, and local ordinances on the storage of large stocks of munitions exist. Check out your local and state laws before amassing a large collection.
Tips and warnings
- Be sure to check all local and state laws pertaining to the purchase and possession of firearms. Some localities such as New York City have very strict regulations even on antique weapons.
- If buying a rifle for shooting purposes, be sure to have the weapon carefully checked by a competent gunsmith familiar with the type before using it.
- Remember to store any weapon properly and safely unloaded.
- Retain the value of pieces in your collection by not modifying the weapon with aftermarket accessories. On some collector's pieces anything other than standard weapons cleaning will destroy the value of the weapon overnight.
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