First Centrefire Rifle


May 7, 2006, 12:37 PM
Good day, eh?

This my first post after a few weeks of lurking and reading.

I'm getting into the world of firearms ownership a little later in life than most of you (just turned 36), so I've got a few questions for you experienced chaps. In fact, I'll probably be following you around on the board here for a long while, tugging on your shirtsleeves, treading on your heels and asking for advice. ;)

I've never owned a firearm, but I did some plinking recently with a Marlin Model 60, so I'm thinking of picking one of them up.

I'm also thinking of buying a WWII era bolt action like a SMLE or Mosin-Nagent. This is where I need some advice.

I'm looking to spend around $200. I don't know a blessed thing about upgrading/repair/maintainance, so in addition to needing something that will function well right away w/out my doing anything to it, this rifle will probably also serve as a guinea-pig as I learn. So I'm thinking it would have to be in pretty good condition so I can fire it safely, but not something collector's grade in case I ruin it through sheer incompetance. :uhoh:

As a total newbie I'm afraid of getting ripped off or buying the wrong type of rifle or whatever.
Is there a type of mil-surp rifle you guys can recommend as a good 'first'? Is there a reliable web-store I can order one from? Or even an actual store that would carry one that has a good reputation? (I live in Bloomington, Indiana).

Any advice is appreciated.

Cheers! :)

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May 7, 2006, 12:42 PM
Welcome to THR. The Marlin is a great choice for a first rifle and plinking. Sorry I don't know much about milsurp guns but you might want to look at some used lever actions. They can be had in your price range, are fun to shoot, versitle and hard to break. To top it all off they are cool.

Smokey Joe
May 7, 2006, 02:05 PM
LeafsFan--Glad to have you aboard!

I take it that you're in the Toronto area--in Canada the Lee-Enfield .303Br rifles are quite popular, not too expensive, built like a tank, reasonably accurate, and ammo is available. Some Americans have 'em, too--I had one myself for years.

Reloading for a Lee-Enfield isn't done too much because they stretch the cases rather much, but it's not unheard of.

Fine rifle to learn on; you couldn't hurt it outside of attacking it with an axe. They are available from several mail-order places here, but I don't know about shipping internationally.

The Mosin is much the same as to durability and simplicity, and they are cheap to buy. Although personally I am not crazy about the Mosin's safety, and do not intend to buy one. (The Enfield by comparison, has a dandy safety.)

Cheapest is if you can find one that has been home-sporterized--we Yanks call it bubba-izing a rifle. The results are usually hideous but often don't affect the rifle's ability to shoot.

Anyhow, welcome to the club, and pls keep us posted on yr progress!

May 7, 2006, 04:58 PM
Don't feel bad LeafsFan. I started 2 years ago at age 38. I lurked for a year or so on a couple of forums before making that first purchase, now have 3 long guns and 2 pistols. Got back from a range trip this morning! My first centerfire rifle was an Rommanian SAR-1, (AK-47 knockoff) and while not a bolt action, and slightly more expensive, it turned out to be an excellent choice. It has been 100% reliable, extremely rugged, and easy to clean and fun to shoot. The 7.62 x 39 ammo is really cheap (well, it was, not so much anymore).

Look in to the WASR if you're interested (or a used SAR if you can find it).
Welcome to the club.

May 7, 2006, 06:50 PM
Reloading for a Lee-Enfield isn't done too much because they stretch the cases rather much, but it's not unheard of.

Huh? To shoot 303 a lot, you either have to be rich, or reload. I don't shoot a lot, so I don't need to reload. With quality brass that's segregated by rifle and neck-sized, one should get at least five reloads without splits or cracks, and ten is not unknown with really good stuff (like HXP).

The L-E is a good centerfire rifle to start with, easy to maintain and clean, and reliable as a rock. You can get decent No. 4s (receiver mounted sight) for less than $200. The important thing to remember is to check the condition of the bore, since they've probably had several thousand cordite rounds through them and may not have been cleaned right after using corrosive-primed ammo; and to make sure the serial numbers match. Bolt, barrel, wood. Barrel is less important, but the wood and bolt matching means it's more likely to be bedded properly and shoot accurately.

Try Gunbroker, they usually have some. There are other importers who have supplies, AIM might still have some left.

May 7, 2006, 07:02 PM
Welcome to the world of guns, LeafsFan!

I'd say a good .22 LR bolt action is a great first gun, no matter the age. Something magazine fed would be best, so you're not single-loading all day. You could probably find a pretty good used .22 LR bolty for under $200, but to be honest, I've not priced them lately.

For a centerfire rifle, which is really what you're asking about, I'd agree with kevin387 about the lever gun. They can be had in popular revolver calibers, too, which means if you get a revolver next, you can look for ammo interchangeability, and save some cash (rifle ammo is almost always more expensive to purchase from a store).

I didn't see that you were interested in reloading yet, and I have no hands-on experience there, but if you're into it, you could get into a Winchester or Marlin lever in .357 Mag, start saving your brass (buy new ammo to start with), and one day you'll be able to load your own.

Besides that, for Mil Surp, I own a Garand, a couple of Mosins (M44 and 91/30), and I've shot lots of Yugo and German Mausers. All of them can be great "off the rack" - but please make sure you have a decent smith check the headspacing and firing pin protrusion for you. I've looked at some that the store says are good to go, but probably weren't 100% safe. A smith can usually do the check and put a test round through the gun for under $20 - well worth the pocket change.

If you choose any of the three I mentioned, the Mosin has the best usability and cheapest ammo. It's by no means state of the art, but I'd have no problem staking my life on its dependability.

Good luck in getting started.

OH - And please get some professional instruction at your earliest convenience. It will pay off in no time.

May 8, 2006, 03:30 AM
mmm.... the mod 60 should by Constitutional amendment, be in every american home. Best 50 to 75 dollar gun ever, new or used, Pawn shop or out of the box.
As far as centerfire goes, the Mosin and the Lee are both very good. the Lee is much more beautiful, more artsy, and is more comfortable in shouldering and your hand positions than the mosin. the Mosin on the other hand , in mod 38 is short light, fun and at night looks like a flame thrower when you shoot it. I t is very funky to fire though, with it's very short stock, and huge wrist. Def have to put a recoil pad on it. not just for the monster recoil, but to give you some extra lenght of pull. both have rounds that can be had cheap at gunshows, however, the mosin's bullet has never gone out of production in 115 years. Also you can find several mfgrs, out side of milsurp stuff, that currently make it.
even with the new mfgrs, it is still cheap. the 303 rounds aren't as easy to find from new mfgrs.
I do however like that the Lee is a 10 round removeable mag, and has a much slicker, user friendly action. The Mosin can be a tough bolt to open and close, but i soaked my action and bolt in moly fusion, and now it slides back and forward like a slinky in your hands.

May 8, 2006, 07:28 AM
Model 60 is definitely a great .22 to start---mine's super accurate and reliable.

As far as a bolt action military surplus, personally I'd start with a Mauser myself. There's several types that are commonly available for under $200 in good condition. Most of the really nice Lee-Enfields I've seen around here, are (a bit) more expensive. Mosins are OK, for cheap, but just aren't as nice as a Mauser, for example.

May 9, 2006, 09:42 PM
Thanks for the replies and advice!

My goal is to ultimately have a nice shootable example of every major WWII combat rifle in my collection. I've always been fascinated with history, and something of a collector to boot, but haven't had the spare cash to get started until now.

I've dreamed of owning a Lee-Enfield (or several) since I was a kid. My grandfathers and great uncles carried them in WWII and my great-grandfather had the older version during the battle of the Somme in WWI.

So that's probably the one I buy first, I'm thinking.

I take it that you're in the Toronto area...

Well, I am Canadian, but I was born in Edmonton, Alberta. (My love of the Leafs is just an indication that I'm masochistic. :p)

However, I've lived south of the border in the U.S. of A for almost 10 years now - got a green-card and everything.

I recently moved to Indiana, so I don't know anyone like gunsmiths, reliable gun-stores, or even just someone I can go to gunshows with who can show me the ropes (... or even the guns, for that matter...:D )

Hopefully that changes once I find a rifle range to join. ;)

Smokey Joe
May 9, 2006, 11:12 PM
Leafsfan--Hope you find a nice gun club, and a nice rifle to shoot there!
Well, I am Canadian, but I was born in Edmonton, Alberta. (My love of the Leafs is just an indication that I'm masochistic. )
I understand. There are people who haven't lived in the Chicago area for decades, who still claim to be Cubs fans, probably for the same reason. :D

Anyhow, I wish you the best in your quest for shooting. As always, the journey is part of the destination.

May 9, 2006, 11:57 PM
As a Canuck, you're probably duty-bound to get a Long Branch No. 4. Everyone I know who has one is passionate about their quality and accuracy. (Sink in an extra two or three grand and get a sniper. ;))

May 10, 2006, 04:03 AM
one more thing, if you decide you want something new and cheap and good, The stevens line is as good as it gets. They are savages made with a 2 part syth stock, and no accutrigger. bbl and action are pure savage , and pure good.

May 10, 2006, 06:45 AM
I'd say go with a Swiss K31. They never used corrosive primers in them, they are not packed in cosmoline generally, and while the ammo is expensive it is also very good. Also, if you want to hunt with it there is plenty of ammo and reloading supplies available. Mine at least came out of the box shooting extremely well for accuracy. Expect to pay roughly $150 for a good one. But be aware the end of the stocks are always rough where the Swiss soldiers hit them with hob nailed boots.

May 10, 2006, 11:42 AM
mmm.... the mod 60 should by Constitutional amendment, be in every american home. Best 50 to 75 dollar gun ever, new or used, Pawn shop or out of the box.
Side note, completely unrelated to this thread--did you know that the older Marlin model 60's are banned "assault weapons" in New Jersey? The sentence for owning one is 5 years in prison, unless you registered the gun as an "assault weapon" back in the early '90's...

As far as a first centerfire rifle...I wonder if you could find a used bolt-action .243 with optics in a pawn shop for $200. Just a thought.

May 11, 2006, 09:51 PM
i would recomend a k98 mauser. a good surplus bolt action rifle and I got mine for under 200 dollars. Surplus ammo is readily available and very cheap. the cost is about 10 cents a round for surplus. The surplus ammo is corrosive so you want to make sure you clean your rifle after using it everytime. that is a good practice to do with any rifle you decide to buy. most centerfire rifles you find made by some of the major manufacturers are over 300 and don't fit the 200 dollar price range. the k98 is definetly a fun to shoot rifle that doesn't cost a fortune to fire and has some definite power with the 8x57 rounds. i like the marlin model 60 for plinking/small game but for something bigger with a reasonable price tag a surplus rifle is the way to go.

Red Tornado
May 12, 2006, 12:31 PM
First, welcome to THR.

Now, as a "guinea pig" rifle, I think the Mosin is the best way to start. They're very simple, lots of fun, cheap, and have been known to be accurate. YMMV.

They're not the rifle the Lee-Enfield is, and nobody will tell you that they are. But if you attack it with the axe Smokey Joe mentioned, you might hurt the axe. :)

Whatever you choose, be sure to check out There are disassembly instructions for just about all the milsurp rifles. It's a wealth of information. Also search for SMLE or Mosin here, and you'll find hours worth of reading material.

Also, IF you can get a C&R (probably not, as a Canadian) it will be very worth it.

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