Good general purpose rifle


January 29, 2012, 12:03 AM
So my brother wants to get a semi-auto, and I'm having trouble giving him suggestions. Basically he has a tight budget and wants to stay under 500$. He's supremely adamant about getting an AK-47 pattern rifle, I suspect mostly because of the way they look. He wants it to primarily be a home defense rifle that he could also turn into a rough hunting rifle in a pinch (he wants to mount a low magnification optic on it).

I've suggested a WASR-10 as the most widely available AK within his price range. However, I don't know what the realistic accuracy one can expect out of a typical WASR rifle. I've heard that the average is 6 MOA, which doesn't sound great by any means.

I'd like to recommend something else, within five hundred dollars, semi automatic, capable of at worst 3 MOA, and with actual ergonomics that facilitate practical mounting of a scope, but I really can't think of anything. A higher intermediate calibre would be preferred too. Is there such a thing? I find it hard to put my finger on any semi-auto considering that I can pick up a surplus bolt action for a hundred bucks that has all of the other characteristics that I'm asking for.

Perhaps I can find a different AK? How do the VZ-58's fare? How hard is it to convert a Saiga?

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January 29, 2012, 12:14 AM

January 29, 2012, 12:16 AM
Most, if not all, decent, Western-made semi-auto rifles are $800 to twice or three times that.

Many people want to avoid the look of an AK, or even an AR. Unless he thinks the mere appearance of an AK has enough "scare value" that he would never actually have to fire it in self defense? Not a bad idea, actually.

Several "Hillbilly Assault Rifles" (AKA lever rifles) meet your brother's requirements, with only slightly reduced rate of aimed fire compared with semi-autos.

With that, I will stand aside as the experts on ComBloc-produced .30 cal semi autos advise you.

January 29, 2012, 12:20 AM
I second the SKS

January 29, 2012, 12:20 AM
Mini-30 fits the bill.

January 29, 2012, 12:22 AM
AKs are good guns, I own a wasr10 that is great as a home defense gun but it would be highly impractical for hunting unless you found a good bullet that interacts with your barrel well and you kept it within 150 yards. a SKS and a VZ58 are going to have the same limitations but the SKS would be a more stable platform for hunting since it's longer and weight is distributed more evenly.

th VZ58 is a great rifle but it's a bit confusing if you are already familiar with AKs simply because the controls are all in different spots but it's pretty easy to adapt to. the only problem is CZUSA discontinued them but if you can find one somewhere in good shape then I would say jump on it.

January 29, 2012, 12:23 AM
vz's from czechpoint(dont buy century imho) are great but will cost nearly $800

You can get an interarms ak for around 500 at Atlantic and its a good step up from the WASR based on the reviews ive read.

January 29, 2012, 12:42 AM
I dispute Mini-30 fits the bill.for new Ruger Mini-30s. New ones are $712 at Buds Gun Shop, and then you have to pay FFL fee. However, a used Mini-30 may fall into the sub-$500 range. But not likely - these are highly prized for what they are.

That said, the older Mini-30s are barely 3 MOA rifles, with some random variability from one production unit to another. Some 1.5 MOA, some worse than 5 MOA. There is a whole forum full of expertise in solving this problem at Perfect Union (, so if you want a fun hobby rifle, get an older Mini. It seems like the newer Mini-30s (Serial numbers 581-XXXXX) are mostly 1.5-2 MOA, but you're not likely to find a used one for $500.

January 29, 2012, 12:53 AM
SKS is another good option. You can buy a replacement stock and aftermarket mags to get a higher capacity and pistol grip configuration, although find one with a chewed up wooden stock if your going to do it. No sense in spending the extra money on a nice stock when you can get a functional one for much less

January 29, 2012, 12:58 AM
What's the reasonable expectation out of a WASR-10, though? If it's at least within 3 MOA barring user capabilities, then I'd rather just give him what he wants and help him pick out a cheap Romanian rifle. Otherwise, would you notice any improvements in Arsenal AK-47's, or is the lack of accuracy merely a design flaw due to its construction methods and loose tolerances?

I've advised him that a cut-down PSL might be more of what he's looking for, or to at least attach a Dragunov-style stock to the AK to create an adequate cheek rest for use with a scope, but he seems very unwilling to explore either options. I've even considered suggesting an M1 Carbine, or a Hakim rifle, but I imagine he wants something a little more compact - though, he seemed receptive to the idea of using .308 cartridges in lieu of intermediate cartridges.

That Mini-30 seems like a good bet. What do they run these days?

January 29, 2012, 01:23 AM
Both my AKs are pretty solid 4MOA rifles. If you get a AK with a side optics plate there are plenty of inexpensive optics that you can use, both red dots and magnified.

6x42 For $210:

The problem with a SKS is there isn't a good way to mount a scope on it that doesn't have a big impact somewhere else. The receiver cover mounts are pretty much garbage, you can't strip the rifle, and the straight up ejection will pound the snot out of a scope. I like my SKS, but it isn't a AK.


Shawn Dodson
January 29, 2012, 01:59 AM
The problem with a SKS is there isn't a good way to mount a scope on it that doesn't have a big impact somewhere else. The receiver cover mounts are pretty much garbage...

You also can't acquire a solid cheek weld to the stock. All the mounts I'm aware of put the scope way too high.

I love my SKS but I'd never put a scope on it.

January 29, 2012, 02:09 AM
If your brother has shot an AK and a few other rifles than it seems he would have a solid idea of what he wanted. If not maybe setting up a chance for him to try out a few would be the best thing.

If going with the AK than I would suggest a Saiga. They are said to be more accurate than WASR's although my experience puts them the same.You can get them online for three hundred and when shipped and transferred it's about $350. The parts for a basic conversion will put you around $450. Their are many videos to walk you through the conversion and my first time it took me about an hour.

I prefer the basic conversion because the longer handguard allows me more places to put my hand. Their are many mounts for the side plate and MI has just put out two new ones that seem very good. They also have the TWS dog leg. This has fantastic reviews and this would be how I went for a new build. This will put the mount on the dust cover. It has a peep sight at the rear because it takes out the old AK sight.

Then he can start saving up for optics. He may want a 1-4 scope if hunting is a possibility, if not a red dot is great.

January 29, 2012, 02:11 AM
Tactical lever action in .30-30 Winchester with peep/GR sights. Change the sling arrangement to patrol style and you've got a light and handy package capable of some knockdown power. 150 gr let alone 170 gr soft points going to do a lot of hurt on the chest cavity of a 2-legged critter. And they offer decent penetration. Ammo is cheap and available, easily reloadable too. Rifle is politically correct. Lots of spare parts available for the 336 and 94 designs. You can also feed a round into the chamber for combat reloads. Optional, red dot mounted forward on a scout mount.

Probably can be put together for about $400-500.

January 29, 2012, 02:12 AM
would probably look at the saiga rifles they will have a rail for mounting optics.

January 29, 2012, 05:36 AM
Saiga rifles are hard to not mention, they would serve this role even in stock configurations very well.

A SKS would be very nice as well, I'd suggest sticking with the original magazine, the extended ones have a spotty reputation. I'd recommend trying a hi cap mag, but not getting your hopes up.

You might be able to find a Remington Model 7615, it's a slick 5.56 pump rifle that uses cheap hi-cap AR mags.

Also might want to consider a Kel-Tec SU series rifle, super lightweight, gas piston, uses cheap plentiful AR mags and folds to a very convenient size. For a general purpose plinker, truck gun, and bedside rifle, you'd be hard pressed to find a better, more capable rifle at this price point. The downside is, with it's thin barrel it drops in accuracy a bit quicker than most. Within this restraint it's a great rifle for this application, won't be a issue at HD ranges, but they still maintain enough accuracy to drill pop cans at 50 yards with the iron sights all day.

All that being said, AK's are still great rifles I'd lean towards buying a Saiga and converting it myself, or the Kel-Tec.

January 29, 2012, 07:14 AM
I would recommend a 7.62x39 Saiga. Perfectly useable in it's stock form. He can convert it later if he's so inclined.

January 29, 2012, 10:28 AM
I'd agree with suggestions for the Saiga and the Keltec Su-16 line. Nothing wrong with SKS's, but If the OP's brother is looking to spend up to $500 he might as well step up to an AK or Keltec.

It looks like classic arms is selling converted Saigas, for $459, That will probably be the highest quality and likely most accurate AK you're going to find for <$500.

January 29, 2012, 10:55 AM
+1 on the SKS , simple, reliable and built like a tank

January 29, 2012, 12:37 PM
AKs are fairly accurate. They suffer from crappy iron sights (for accuracy, good for close range. ) and crappy ammunition. Most any AK is plenty accurate enough for self defense and hunting under 150 yards.

January 29, 2012, 05:27 PM
The side mounts are far better for mounting a scope. With good ammo and a side mount scope my Saiga will usually make 4 MOA or better. A reciever mounted scope doesn't do nearly as well.

January 29, 2012, 05:37 PM
My SKS rifle shoots 2MOA with 154 grain Wolf. It seems to like the heavy bullets and that stuff is good soft point hunting ammo. The standard 123 ball is 3-3.5 MOA. I got my SKS rifle for 75 bucks 22 years ago and my paratrooper carbine for 115. They're Norincos. They run 3 or 4 times that now, methinks, but are under your 500 dollar limit.

January 29, 2012, 05:39 PM
Saiga is my vote, you can snag one for 300$ give or take for your area. And a conversion is really simple, just need a drill or press and some files (or a grinder if you are impatient). Carolina Shooting Supply sells prepackaged conversion kits that fit the saiga and even with a fancy one you'd stay in the price range. My 5.45 Saiga will shoot 2 moa with tec sights and new wolf ammo. Using some hot yugo surplus its about 3 moa and the true russian surplus tightens the groups to 1-1.5 moa. however YMMV.

If he wants to hunt then get the 7.62x39. within 100 yards it will put a deer down just fine and it works well on hogs that aren't monsters. Hollowpoints are available for hunting and self defense. People may riot because it's a rifle round and could penetrate walls and fly around the neighborhood. The simple truth is this; if you want to stop a bad guy you need a bullet that will penetrate the bad guy and if a bullet will penetrate a bad guy then it will penetrate a wall. So don't miss.:cool:

January 29, 2012, 05:42 PM
I have a stock Saiga and it is simply great! I have drug it all over the deserts and mountains here in CA and it never misses a beat. I like it better than my SKS because it is more compact and lighter. I also like having detachable mags. My Saiga is just at accurate at my SKS to boot.

January 30, 2012, 01:14 AM
+1 on the SKS , simple, reliable and built like a tank

Ok, I'll give you reliable, and robust, but on simple I just have to disagree.

If we're comparing the SKS to a AK let's looks at the trigger: SKS trigger has 20 parts, including the trigger guard and pins. The semi-auto AK has 7. The SKS's gas system has 2 rods and it's own spring vs the AK's gas piston being riveted to the bolt carrier and using the recoil spring.

I don't think anyone whose ever stripped a SKS trigger group has called that Rube Goldberg contraption 'simple'.


January 30, 2012, 02:30 AM
Tactical lever action in .30-30 Winchester

and there I thought you were trying to be funny...

I think I threw up a little... this is the sign that "tactical" crap has gone too far...

January 30, 2012, 02:38 AM
I think I threw up a little...

You're right!

That totally needs a red dot...


January 30, 2012, 04:01 AM
Tactical doesn't necessarily mean black plastic and rails. I think you need to re-evaluate the definition of the term. Most on this forum would say tactical is a mindset (software), the weapon is hardware. A red dot on a wood/blued Marlin 336 will just be as effective if not more than Mossberg's tactical 464.

I wouldn't look down on a .30-30 rifle or pistol calibre lever action rifle in the hands of a trained operator if I were you...

January 31, 2012, 03:02 PM
I think most AK's can do 3 MOA. That is right where my WASR is at. And even if some AK's are a little less accurate than that, it isn't that big of a deal for the application you are talking about.

Honestly, there are a lot more 3 MOA rifles than there are 3 MOA shooters... especially from field positions and under pressure. I'd say if you have a 3 MOA rifle and can CONSISTENTLY shoot it to the mechanical limits of it's accuracy from field positions, you are better off than 99% of the shooters in this country.

You know, a man-sized target is 20" wide, give or take. That means a 3 MOA rifle should be able to hit that size target to out past 600 yards, if the shooter's skills are up to the job. Well, an AK might not be terribly effective at that range just because the bullet is going so slow by then and has probably lost stability, but the point being, do you really need that standard of accuracy for the role you're talking about?

I think an AK would be great for your stated needs. Most are at least 4 MOA rifles (I've never seen these supposed 6 MOA ones).

You say he wants a low-magnification optic... for that rifle and that role, I would go with a NO-magnification optic. IMO, an Aimpoint red dot sight in a low ring on an Ultimak rail is the perfect optics setup for an AK. It is super fast to get on target, and sits low enough to co-witness with the iron sights and means you don't need a cheek riser.

January 31, 2012, 04:42 PM
An SKS is just a bi-atch to scope, and why put a $300 scope on a $350 rifle? That doesn't make sense. Where does this guy live? Ask him the longest sight line on his property. If it's under 200 yards, a 5MOA rifle will kill deer for him, if he does his part.
A VZ-58 or AK-variant will serve quite well. No need for anything else as a rough, low-maintenance rifle.

January 31, 2012, 05:12 PM

February 1, 2012, 04:48 AM
if your brother has his sights set on a wasr then I would recommend getting one with the wood stocks, they kick like a mule(and I shoot bolt battle rifles) but thy allow for a better cheek weld than wire stocks or side folders. the cheek weld on mine is good with iron sights but my front sight is canted(one of the things to look for when you get a wasr) and I couldn't ever get it zeroed so I went with a reddot mounted on the handguard but it sits a lot higher and I end up with a goofy canted chinweld. I am in the process of using paracord wrapping on my folder stock to try and create a better cheek weld but need to get more paracord first so I dont know how it'll turn out yet. mine holds minute of milk jug shooting prone so it's got hunting level accuracy if you keep it to 100 yards.

chris in va
February 1, 2012, 04:52 AM
I had an SKS, sold it to get a Saiga.

A: It's new.

B: It can be 'converted' later.

C: It's dead reliable. (My SKS didn't feed hollowpoint or JSP ammo)

D: You can put a mount and scope on it.

E: It's lighter.

F: Far more parts available for it.

G: It's $300.

February 1, 2012, 02:47 PM
I think your brother needs to reconsider his budget.

I mean, if he can only afford $500 for a rifle, how does he expect to afford to shoot said rifle once he acquires it? Has he considered the cost of ammunition? What about the cost of optics, mags, and other accessories necessary?

Not to mention an AK is an awful choice for a HD gun, but that topic is for another thread...

Bottom line is, I've seen FAR too many new shooters set themselves low budgets, buy cheap guns and then end up unhappy with them. They always end up spending more in the long run money for the right gun, after they've lost time & money getting rid of the cheap gun.

I'd recommend your brother wait until he can afford the right gun for him.

February 1, 2012, 04:26 PM
very well written on the Mini-30. very accurate information there.

February 1, 2012, 05:08 PM
Call me crazy but I would never think of a semi-accurate semi-auto as a genral purpose rifle, having owend several centerfire rifles that would shoot sub MOA day in day out I would never dream of takeing a 3 MOA rifle into the woods. Who needs 30 rds when the fist one always does the job? If I were to get a semi auto as a genral use firearm it would have to be highly accurate as well.

February 1, 2012, 06:16 PM
You know, ALOT can be said for a Mosin. You can pick on up, scope it, and grab a case of ammo for less than the starting price of an AK. With a cheap recoil pad they're not too punishing to shoot either.

Going with a Mosin may also leave room in the budget for a .22 semi automatic which is all kinds of cheap fun and good practice.

Ignition Override
February 1, 2012, 06:25 PM
Are good iron sights important? You might know about Tech Sights. The leaf sight was removed and can be reinstalled.
The front sight hood aligns nicely as a second circle inside this new rear aperture circle. The rear sight is adjusted to the bottom, to prevent any high shots.

You might not believe the major improvement to my Norinco SKS' accuracy with this.
I'm not a trained shooter, but just got a group with five shots mostly touching from 50 yards (1 & 1/2" diameter cluster) at the center of the Shoot-N-See target. There were nine total shots, and the only firm gun support was under the front (no sand bags or mounts etc).

I've seldom done this with the aperture sights of my Enfield #4s and Service Grade Garand from 50 yards. The typical Norinco SKS is now an entirely different rifle, and this is with Monarch or Molf ammo. Luckily most shots are into a river bottom, and when leaning the rifle on a tree branch, very easy to repeatedly hit a small Coke bottle from 30-40 yards. Imagine an AK clone with Tech sights-check "Nutnfancy" on Youtube.

February 1, 2012, 06:31 PM
I know you said rifle, and I don't want to dismiss that, but I would suggest a pump shotgun to be the best all purpose.

Shoots slugs to 150 yards with a rifled barrel. Can be scoped also. With a smooth bore you can shoot slugs with good accuracy past 100 yards. Buckshot for defense, bird shot for small critters.
You can get a Maverick 88 12 gauge for $150.00 new. It is a Mossberg 500 with plastic furniture, and the parts are made in Mexico by Mossberg, but assembled in USA. A rifled barrel costs $100, and a 18.5" Home Defense barrel is $80. You're still way under $500.00.

I have out shot many people with my $150 12 gauge Mav 88 at the trap shoots. I have also hit clay pigeons on the 100 yard berm with smooth bore barrels shooting plain old slugs using just the beads for sights.

I will not go into the which is better, and people want what they want, but if you break down your post you will see that all signs point to 12 gauge shotgun.

We went shooting this last weekend, and I took the new AR-15 Dissaptor, the 44 Mag, the 44 Special, the Marlin Model 60, and the Mav 88. The most fun I had was shooting the Mav 88 and the .44 Mag.
e shot clays at 100 yards with the 12 gauge. We shot clays that were thrown with a hand thrower. I shot everything from 3" slugs to bird shot. That includes 3" steel shot, 3" #4 buck shot, 2 3/4" 00 buck. There was a door at the range. A metal door. We shot it from 5 feet with 3" #4 buckshot. I blew a hole the size of my head in the door.
Anyway. What I am trying to say is the $800 AR ended up sitting on the sidelines while t+he $150 shotgun blew $41T up.

Enough already.. I know. Sorry. All signs point to shotgun.

February 1, 2012, 06:41 PM
A marlin 336 or SKS ( if you can find a cheap one ) would be an excellent intermediate general purpose/utility rifle that would be very at home propped up behind a door in the house or behind the seat of your truck or trunk of your car. Heck my favorite truck gun/utility rifle was a Ruger 10/22 with a butler creek folding stock I've slayed a ton of varmints around the homestead with that set up even though it was a lowly .22 it still was a very versatile setup.

February 1, 2012, 07:16 PM
Remington 7400

February 2, 2012, 07:43 AM
They are only inexpensive because the com-bloc nations built too many of them.

inexpensive was back when they first showed up here for 60bucks or so... not what they are charging for them now-a-days...

February 2, 2012, 06:17 PM
Okay, here's another thought: Del Ton AR-15 M4 Rifle Kit for $450, or upper receiver for $380. I see stripped lowers for $100, or lower assemblies for $200 all the time.

So your brother can have an AR for < $600. Add another $150 for a CMMG .22LR conversion kit, and he might actually be able to afford to shoot it.

February 2, 2012, 06:24 PM
I'm going to throw out the M1 Carbine.
For the most part they go over the 500 limit but I got mine after a good deal of searching for 550.

Short, handy, light and fires a caliber which will do everything up to big game hunting.

Just thought I'd throw in my bit.

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