Many of us have respectable firearms collections. Some of us collect everything we can get our hands on. Others collect specific guns from different eras, countries, or conflicts. A fellow gun collector had mentioned to me that he wanted to start collecting firearms from World War II. He already stocked his gun safe with an impressive array of useable tools. AR-15s, AKs, shotguns, Remington 700s, half a dozen .22s and a dozen or so handguns from most popular calibers and actions. He said he wanted some historical wall hangers to make his man cave have that certain look that only decommissioned military hardware could command. I enthusiastically agreed and told him I would keep an eye out for some good deals. He was curious about which guns he should pick up first. I laid out a simple road map to get him started. Since he was new to collecting historical models, I kept it simple and told him he should search for the hard-to-find stuff later. It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to get started in collecting World War II battle rifles, and many shooters already own the rifle in the first section.
Buying that First Mosin
This one seems like a no-brainer to some of you. They’re rugged, they’re Soviet, and they’re fun to shoot. However, the best feature that belongs to the family of Mosin Nagant rifles is that they are seriously cheap. A few years back you could get one for 70 bucks, unfortunately, they now start around $100. Even with that slight rise in price, most non-real estate tycoons can swing that amount with a little saving and careful planning. Ammunition is plentiful and that 7.62x54R cartridge has an incredible amount of devastating energy, which makes shooting it a real treat. This is a great place to start your collection, just remember, there are around a dozen variations, so watch for some of the more valuable characteristics, your seller may not know what they have! For a closer look at a Mosin Nagant buyer’s guide, read this article.
They have varying degrees of build quality, but the Arisaka family of rifles has a rich history of use in warfare. The Japanese began producing the Type 30 Arisaka around 1897. There are 11 different Japanese variations of the Arisaka. The most common World War II models were the Type 38 and 99. Virtually all of the rifles in the United States had the Emperor’s chrysanthemum filed off or defaced after the Japanese surrendered. The value of the common versions of these guns varies. A beat-up old last ditch Type 99 will fetch about $150-200 in an online auction. I feel like I should also mention that shooting a beat-up Arisaka could be risky business, so have yours checked out by a qualified gunsmith before blasting away at the range.
Karabiner 98 Kurz
Few things say quality like German engineering, and the 98k is no exception. Many modern manufacturers model their bolt guns after the 98k to this day. Even the legendary American Springfield 1908 took more than a fair amount of inspiration from the Mauser action. It is accurate, reliable, deadly, but a bit more expensive than the previous two rifles. The difference is, when you look at a Mauser, you can see all the history that comes with it right in front of you. It was the bad guy gun long before the AK-47 rolled up on the battlefield, and it marched across Europe in the hands of the menacing Axis powers. If you are a collector, look for authentic Nazi markings, but watch out for copies and restamped replicas. There are loads of fraud 98ks out there, so be vigilant. Also, if you don’t care too much about the details, there are many Soviet captured 98ks on the market. Most of them are miss matched, have Xs on the receiver and are covered in thick black paint. They’re a good bargain in many cases and most of them shoot decent enough groups to have a good time.
General George S. Patton proclaimed it as the greatest single battle implement ever devised by man. For the time, he was right. The tactical advantage that the Garand gave our troops during the Second World War was huge. Each individual soldier could load an eight-round en block clip into their rifle and influence the battle with semi-automatic efficiency. Recoil was relatively light, and the massive 30.06 cartridge cut through enemy troops, as well as the troops standing behind them. It was the first semi-automatic any country issued to infantry on a large scale, and many still perform like the day the Army first issued them. Your best bet in acquiring one would be to go through the Civilian Marksmanship Program. The CMP is a government-chartered program that promotes firearms safety training and rifle practice for all qualified citizens with special emphasis on youth. Any citizen, who can legally purchase a firearm, may purchase a military surplus rifle from the CMP, provided they are a member of a CMP affiliated club. A field grade Garand from CMP will run you $525 plus shipping.
There were a massive number of different firearms issued by all the powers during the Second World War. Owning every single gun issued during that time would be a monumental task for any gun collector, regardless of income. The few above should at least get your foot in the door. Who knows, you may become a World War II battle rifle addict and spend your days writing about collecting them!