Military surplus guns for when SHTF


Yeah, they’re ugly. Yeah, they’re generally old. Yeah, they’re sometimes pretty beat up. But the fact is that the military surplus and law-enforcement trade-in market is a great place to source badass SHTF guns. (Relatively) cheap, reliable, and useful, military and LE guns are available in huge quantity, and they’re not super-sexy to most people, but they’re perfect for stow-away guns for you and me. How does that work? Well, let’s look into it.

Russian AKM rifles in a crate

Russian AKM rifles in a crate

When military gear gets a little long in the tooth, or obsolete, or just basically replaced with new gear, most militaries store their hundreds of thousands of surplus guns, just to hedge their bets a little in case the new gear doesn’t work, or they need to supply other secondary armies, or maybe send them to Mexico to try to track drug cartels. They get covered in a preserving grease (usually a form of Cosmoline) and stowed away for a rainy day. Well, when that rainy day never comes, and the supply officer realizes they have crates and crates of 50-year-old Korean-war era rifles kicking around, they will often sell them off in huge auctions or to the highest bidder for huge volume prices, usually to firearms importers such as Century International Arms or Classic Firearms. These importers mark them with an import stamp (required by law) and then sell them first come, first serve to the public.

Police departments will also likewise trade in their old, holster-worn guns for a discount against new, updated guns. When they do, those ex-PD guns get dumped on the market for cheap.

For instance, this Gen-3 Glock 22 is a PD trade-in, available through Kiesler Police Supply. It can be had for $359, and like PD trade-in cars, they are generally very well maintained, as police departments want their gear running when they need it. Also, they LE Trade-in Glock 22want their guns to be supported by the factory warranty, so they are subjected to by-the-letter maintenance schedules. If the manufacturer says to replace the recoil spring every 5,000 rounds, by God, it’s getting replaced. The finish might be worn, but the internal parts are up to spec and in good working order. As a bonus, to get a tactical edge, most PD guns will have night sights, and light-mounting rails. Sometimes they’ll come with holsters and mag pouches too, making a complete deal hard to refuse. Ex-law enforcement AR-15s and Remington 870s or Mossberg 500s are easy to find, too. They might be a tad worn, but they’ll work great and give you fantastic service, making dredging the surplus market a great way to get top-end gear for low-ball prices.


What are great guns to look for? The SKS pictured at the top of this post is a mainstay battle carbine of Russian, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and many other forces, from the Korean war era well through the Vietnam war era. They are ridiculously simple to use, very easy to maintain, and the aftermarket provides you with all the latest and greatest to make your blah ’50s-era SKS into an accurate, ergonomic, effective black rifle. The 7.62x39mm ammo is dirt cheap and available in huge quantity over the surplus market, and it is roughly as powerful as a .30-30. Average price? Expect to walk out the door with one in the $300 range, depending on condition. Classic Firearms lists Chinese milled-reciever SKSs from $279-$319, with a suggested retail of $399. A 1000-round case of ammo goes for $249 from the same retailer. For less than the price of a new low-end AR-15, you can have a 100% reliable battle rifle with 1000 rounds of ammo, ready to stow away. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.


Mosin-Nagant 91/30

Mosin-Nagant 91/30 

Classic Firearms also lists Russian 91/30 Mosin Nagants for dirt prices: A nice one with a tough-as-hell laminated stock only fetches $159. Buy a few with your buddies and the price drops for bulk buys, too. These rifles are the essence of tough-as-hell Russian battle gear, and will always work. As a bonus, you can probably use them as a jack handle or a tent pole and the rifles will be fine with it. The 7.62×54 ammo is roughly as powerful as a .30-06 round, and an 880-round case will go about $175. The still-in-cosmoline feature is nice for long-term storage.


For handguns, the police market is the way to go. revolvers, semi-autos, they’re all there. And PDs generally get the best gear they can afford for their boys in blue, so you can be sure you’re getting top-notch stuff. The aforementioned Glock is a great deal, but what if you’re not a Glock guy? How about a Sig-Sauer P229? (Man I LOVE Sigs!) PD trade-in Sig P229

Kiesler lists this P229 in .357 Sig (not the easiest caliber to obtain, but can be converted to .40 for a song) with night sights and the DAK trigger system (a light, smooth double-action-only pull) for $469. Folks, that’s a hell of a lot of gun for under $500. This pistol new would retail for well over $800.


The milsurp/LE trade-in market is a great place to get good gear cheap. A lot of gun show tables will feature this stuff, but your local FFL dealer will be able to order this stuff for you with little hassle. Downsides? A PD may only have 10 officers, so if that slick trade-in P229 lights your fire, you’d better jump on it if you see it on an ad, because those 10 pistols will go fast. But, if you’re hot to trot for a Glock, say, they will be much more common than a Sig in the trade-in market, so you’ll just have to wait a bit and another will come along. As for Military Surplus, well, other preppers like you and me are jumping on this bandwagon, and hoarding them. Also, military collectors are starting to collect these guns, especially the rare variants, and that’s starting to drive the price up, little by little. So now is the best time to grab a few of those bucks you’ve been saving and obtain a good, old, military gun that will serve you well…even after 20 years in a PVC tube in the ground. Just sayin’.


Any of you guys seen good deals? Do you have any milsurp/LE guns? How have they worked for you?


Stay safe!

-Road Warrior


23 comments… add one
  • Ray March 10, 2014, 6:42 am

    NEVER put after market parts on or in an SKS . It is the “kiss of death” for the system. I have owned at least 10 of them, and with Hi-cap mags, folding stocks or scope mount action covers -THEY STOP WORKING and NEVER work right , becoming a “jam’o matic”.With the original factory parts, they are the best SHTF gun ever made, BUT If Buba try’s to sell you one with all the Crapco “add ons” RUN AWAY. As for old “Cop guns” HELL YES!! What RW said!!! I have a 1964 870 Wingmaster that spent all its life on or in a rack (EX Metro-Dade). It looks all funky and worn on the outside and is box new on the inside, and I paid 200$ for it at the local G&A I got a 229 at the same shop in .40 Cal with the night sights for 450$ ( didn’t like it -and traded it off for another 1911) I can’t begin to count the number of old cop guns that have passed before me CHEAP– and worth every penny

    • NoSox March 12, 2014, 1:18 pm

      I always wanted to get one and turn it into a Bullpup configuration. You saying that’s a bad idea?

    • Jeepboy1991 March 16, 2014, 2:57 pm

      I really have to dispute that changing the stock on an SKS will turn it into a “jam’o matic”. Now the extended or detachable mags have always been less than reliable (translation “crap”) The other “bells and whistles” for the sks are pretty much crap too.
      Over the decades that SKS’s have been available, I have put folding stocks on a few and the “sporter” composite stocks on one or two. ( not just me but a few friends over the years). The scope mount receiver covers that were available back in the late 1990’s that had to be filed to fit ( so they fit really tight) worked quite well. I’m not so sure about what is available today, I haven’t really looked at them recently.
      I will say that changing the stock WILL change the point of impact some. Removing the bayonet assembly will REALLY change the point of impact.( I’m talking 5 or more inches at 100 yards) Just buy a sight adjustment tool.
      I have discovered that a limiting factor on the accuracy of an sks is the ammo. I had a Chinese one with a scope that would do 3-4 inch groups off the sandbags at the range with steel case Russian ammo. The few times I shot it with us brass cased federal ammo, it went to 1 to 1.5 inch groups.
      Another FYI on sks rifles. They all have chrome lined bores and chambers EXCEPT the Yugoslav variants. They DO NOT have chrome bores.

    • Skyler November 18, 2016, 1:02 pm

      I run 30-round polymer mags in my Yugo SKS. When you get new mags, they may not fit precisely where they need to, potentially causing feeding failures. I put far beyond 500 rounds through it after I got the magazine feed lips fitted properly, and it has never had a single failure of any kind since then. If you aren’t seeing the results you want after a modification, bring it to your gunsmith.

  • Leon Pantenburg March 10, 2014, 9:38 am

    Love the SKS!

  • smokechecktim March 10, 2014, 3:51 pm

    old and ugly! Are you talking about me or my navy surplus M-14 with iron sights?

    • Road Warrior March 11, 2014, 4:06 am

      Call it as you see it! :)

      Maybe I was talking about an STG44.

  • highdesertlivin March 10, 2014, 8:37 pm

    I believe our SKS’s are going to increase in value, w/ import restrictions. I wont be trading mine off.

  • Marc March 10, 2014, 10:51 pm

    I have to agree with the old cop guns. Lots of wear on the outside due to holster wear everyday. When I was in we would shoot, at the most , 100 rounds to qualify twice a year. The shotguns were 10 to 20 rounds once or twice a year.
    All serviced and cleaned by professionals on a regular basis.
    We were allowed to shoot off duty if we bought the ammo so a lot of guys wouldn’t practice. I know if you got my used one it would have a lot of off duty rounds through it.

    • Road Warrior March 11, 2014, 4:04 am

      Absolutely…I know several officers and troopers that carry a lot, and shoot a little…but I know a couple who shoot their guns as a matter of their weekly routine. They keep round counts for maintenance and records. They believe it’s a tool to save lives, so to not practice with it could be impeding that tool’s use.

  • Anonymous March 11, 2014, 5:50 pm

    I’ve got two mosins I picked up for $80 each a couple years ago. They shoot great and just like new. SKS works perfect for $200 bucks. Ak47 for just a bit more with no fte or ftf issues. Two Tokarev pistols for $180 each are great semi auto soviet pistols that fire cheap (when I bought it) ammo that is effective against most body armor unlike .45acp or 9mm. And I picked up a colt 1911 gov issued from 1918 that is still in like new (refinished) condition for under $400.

  • Bloody Bill March 11, 2014, 5:52 pm

    I’ve got two mosins I picked up for $80 each a couple years ago. They shoot great and just like new. SKS works perfect for $200 bucks. Ak47 for just a bit more with no fte or ftf issues. Two Tokarev pistols for $180 each are great semi auto soviet pistols that fire cheap (when I bought it) ammo that is effective against most body armor unlike .45acp or 9mm. And I picked up a colt 1911 gov issued from 1918 that is still in like new (refinished) condition for under $400.

  • Steve suffering in NJ March 11, 2014, 10:24 pm

    No concerns with my 91/30. Ugly, little long, kinda heavy. As accurate as I am. Loads reasonably quick with stripper clips. Once I got all the cosmoline (sp) out of it bolt runs well.

    To get the cosmoline out I kept the rifle near my wood stove to get it warm. It would literally melt out of the battle and bolt. Obviously use some common sense here, but a little heat did it well.

    440 rounds will run you about $90. From a price point it’s tough to beat.

  • Chuck Findlay March 12, 2014, 4:34 am

    Military guns are great things, inexpensive and tough as John Wayne. They will outlast you and probably your grand kids.


  • Still Getting Ready! March 15, 2014, 5:39 pm

    Don’t forget the beautiful $625 military surplus M1 Garands from the Civilian Marksmanship Program at

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. March 19, 2014, 8:45 am

    Mil-surp are pretty good bargains, just check nowadays for what they need to keep them fed, ammo can dry up quickly. Sure, reloading is an option but in a really weird bore size, gets expensive.

    My favorite mil-surp ‘ranch’ rifle is a Spanish FR8 carbine in 7.62NATO. A military reconfigured Mauser 98 rifle, not a whole lot goes wrong with them and the iron sight option is fine with me.

    For fun, the Swede 38 short rifle and Swiss K31 were very reasonably priced (both for less than a C-Note) but use that funny Euro metric cartridges so take that into account. Very well manufactured and smooooth in operation.

    SKS is a tank. Mine is the Norinco 90’s version, fixed 10 round magazined rifle. RWs description fits it – just something that works and is easy to work on.

  • Old Ranger September 17, 2015, 3:17 pm

    Why would anyone on a budget(time and money) buy a surplus rifle when you could buy a rifle like the Ruger American in 308 with a scope for around $500?

    • Mark Gerrard August 21, 2016, 12:00 am

      That sounds pretty cheap for a new Ruger combo rifle….Real cheap. My Gunsite Scout in .308 was like &900+ w/no scope. But if you can get a Ruger combo rifle for $500 that would be the path I would take to.

  • Armysurpguy July 3, 2016, 11:49 am

    Making a come back, the .303 British. Ammo is now being made by PPU in brass for under 13.00 a box of 20. Wolf now makes Steel case ammo for the .303 British at around 11.00 a box of 20. With ballistics close to the .30-06 its a good solid round. I have taken big to medium game with this rifle with no problems. I had no trouble ordering cases of the PPU brand ammo while other people had trouble finding anything.
    Worth a look. Also there are now companies that are making Match grade barrels for the .303 British. No more buying “gently” use barrels and hoping they are good.

  • Mark Gerrard August 20, 2016, 11:28 pm

    SKS’s are great SHTF/drag through the mud/water/hardly clean reliable battle guns ever if you LEAVE THEM THE F*** ALONE ! No cheesy short scopes or extended mags detachable or non detachable or stupid stocks. Only thing I would like to add to my NORINCO that I passed-up one day was a Chineese made (NORINCO) 20 rd. internal magazine just like the 10 rd. one it came with. Exactly the same as stock mag but is 20 rds., that is the only thing I would ever put on my SKS. Just one mans ‘very educated’ opinion on them.

  • Mark Gerrard August 20, 2016, 11:53 pm

    Wanna talk very VERY nice Millsurp Handguns my fave is my Polish P-64 9×18, man talk about a very well made gun! Its like a blend of a PPK & Makarov. They were carried by the Polish police and also military “I think (almost certain on the military) They are very heavy -duty and were to expensive to keep producing them so they went to a cheaper model (forgot what it is, couldnt find it in magazine pile that is 5′ tall!) but anyhow they are a very nice handgun and the most awesome thing about them is the price, my first one cost me a whopping $175 w/x-tra mag and cleaning rod then my son talked me into trading it for a Makarov .380 that was made for the U.S. mkt. and it was a good gun but it was nowhere near as nice as my P-64 so I sold it and found another one for $200. They are made at the Radom factory and both of mine were/are stamped “1973& 72” on them, the one I have now is a 1973. I dont think you can find a better made handgun for twice the price. I was worried because I couldnt find another one when I went looking again then about three yrs ago I saw in shotgun news where they were turning loose another batch of them on the mkt and was very happy when a local small shop had a cple of them, along w/ammo that is in the $16 to $18 a box range. If you want a very nice well made and accurate (more accurate than my G-26 was) handgun I would grab one of these if I could, you wont regret it I can assure you.

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