Bargains from the Past – What Is Today’s Equivalent?

M40 Tokarev

You’ve heard about – or perhaps you’re even old enough to recall – the great deals that could be had on surplus firearms some 50+ years ago. As the stories go, barrels of M1 Carbines and other rifles could be found in the local hardware store with very attractive pricing, especially if you bought in bulk.

Springfield Rifles

Nothing beats looking at some source material to sort the fishing stories from fact. The following prices were taken from ads in the November 1963 issue of Guns magazine.

  • German Model 98K Mauser – $29.95
  • Argentine Mauser – $19.95
  • US Army Model 1917 – $29.95
  • Enfield No. 1 Mk III – $14.95
  • Webley & Scott Mk VI Revolver – $14.95
  • Italian 6.5 Carcano – $12.78

Of course, 1963 was a long time ago and the state of the US financial system was a bit different. Silver was still used in coins and the country still backed silver certificates. During the intervening 50+ years, the country has experienced a good deal of inflation (roughly 685% cumulatively) and gun prices are not immune.

mauser

A 1963 US dollar adjusted for inflation would be $7.85 in 2016 dollars. So to think that Andrew Jackson in your pocket had the same purchasing power in the 60’s is not realistic. For an apples to apples comparison (mostly), here are a couple of deals from that era with prices then and converted to today’s cash:

Price in USD, 1963

Price in USD, 2016

German 98k Mauser

$29.95

$235.13

M40 Tokarev Rifle

$34.95

$274.39

Adjusted for inflation, I’d say that both guns would still be a good bargain.

Are there similar deals to be had in modern times? Just a few years ago, the easy answer may have been the Mosin-Nagant surplus rifles. But, the M-N rifles I bought for $70 each are now selling for more than $250 – when they can be found. And some of the models, like the M44, have seemingly dried up.

Alex and Patrick talked about the surplus guns they saw as good values here.

surplus revolvers

It could be argued that the best deals are not in the surplus market, but in the new guns. Even with political rumblings about gun control legislation, it is fairly easy to find a quality AR-15 for less than $800. In recent years, everyone from Remington to Savage have introduced good quality, but affordable, bolt action guns with prices in the $300-400 range. In the pistol market, there are quality defensive arms priced well under $400.

So, what do you see as being today’s best bargains on the market?



Richard Johnson

An advocate of gun proliferation zones, Richard is a long time shooter, former cop and internet entrepreneur. Among the many places he calls home is http://www.gunsholstersandgear.com/.


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  • Cmex

    The modern equivalent is the Mosin 91/30.

    Wow, first post…

    • PK

      Perhaps it was, a few years back when they were being brought into the country in gigantic numbers and mint examples could be had for under $100 with all accessories. Now, they’re still a good deal but aren’t as inexpensive. The ammo used to be a lot cheaper, too, only a few years back I was buying 440rd tins for $100. A few years before that, I was buying 880rd crates for $100. Prices go up fast, it seems.

      • LG

        The DCM could not even see them for $2.50 to NRA members after The Great War!

  • gunsandrockets

    Just did the paperwork for a Bersa Firestorm, priced $279.

  • BattleshipGrey

    Thanks for doing the inflation conversion. Man, at those prices I’d probably have a lot more guns than I do now.

    The surplus market seems much more constricted now. All the deals to be had are mostly stuff that would’ve been available 50 years ago if it weren’t for the Cold War. It’s not as if we can just pop on down to the local hardware store and buy an M16, M9 or even a M24 or M40. With the exception of FA rifles, people 50 years ago could buy current or only recently discarded military firearms at great prices. Today people are having to push really hard to get the government to do CMP surplus.

  • DaveP.

    Well, about fifteen years ago it was “parts kit” FAL’s made on IMBEL receivers- a good solid rifle for less than $600 if you knew what you were doing. The ATF got tetchy about that, and the parts kits mostly dried up too. These days I’d have to say the best bargain is police surplus Glocks and Sig-Sauers: in the wake of the most recent FBI cartridge study, a lot of services are switching over from .40 or .357 SIG back to 9mm and that means if you watch the wholesalers you can pick up something nice for a reasonable price.

    • PK

      In the vein of parts kit builds, the current AR kits for a basic M4gery can be had for $400 or less on sale for a bare bones, super basic, but functional kit and stripped lower. To me, that’s a screaming hot deal for a modern rifle, and I’ve helped a whole lot of people get into ARs in the last year or so.

      The sales have to end some day, but so far, so good!

      • DaveP

        Good point, and I agree. Today you can get into a basic AR platform for cheaper than an AK, cheaper than a lot of full size handguns. That’s pretty incredible.

    • Bob

      Yeah, a local place I know has a lot of police trade-ins pretty cheaply, Para 14.45 LDAs, Sigs and S&WS of numerous varieties, all from $250-$400. I’m still not understanding why I haven’t bought any…

  • Bugbugbug

    Just a suggestion, using an inflation calculator to adjust the price of real goods isn’t very accurate. Here’s a better way: In 1963 1oz. of gold was $35.25, Today $1329.60. Just sayin’

    • Major Tom

      The price of gold and the value of the US dollar has completely detached in the last 20 years.

      • PK

        It’s good to have more than one way to look at inflation, though. Using the official government numbers on inflation can give very skewed results, so I tend to look at things like durable goods, precious metals, consumables, and then blend that result together with the cash inflation results. It’s somewhere in the middle.

    • Brocus

      unless you’ve been paid in gold since 1971 that is a completely useless metric

    • Jwedel1231

      That’s stupid. Gold is a commodity, and it fluctuates WILDLY. It was over $1800/oz a few years ago. By your logic, a dollar buys 50% more today than it did in 2012. Inflation calculators may not be the end-all, but they are the best we have.

      • Bugbugbug

        It’s funny that you mention that gold value fluctuates wildly, but choose to ignore the little fact that gun values also fluctuate wildly. Just sayin’

        • Jwedel1231

          I didn’t ignore that fact, I was just talking about gold prices. Gold prices fluctuate wildly compared to the rest of the market, which includes guns. Guns also fluctuate, but not at the rate that gold does.

    • Cmex

      The problem is gold is a commodity like everything else that gets traded. It goes up and down in price, and it’s also subject to inflation. Don’t let anyone tell you that gold has true inherrent value that will always keep and will always go up. It doesn’t have any more inherrent value than coffee or oil or indigo or rice or iron or wood or cotton or silver or beef or water or butane of tin.

      • Bugbugbug

        … or guns.

      • Kjk

        I don’t even get how gold is worth anywhere near what it is going for. What can the average person actually do with it? Seems that people that hoard gold for the end times are dumb. What would you even do with it during societal breakdown, look at it?

  • CoyoteVigilant

    2 years ago I bought my SVT40 for 199$ Cdn. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the price go up by alot.

    • The_Champ

      Yep, I paid about $300 for mine, and that’s near what they go for now. I’d say this is a great deal, partly because of the scarcity of SVT’s in the US. It is at least one thing we get to hold over the USA in the gun world 😊

    • nanoc

      Canadians are lucky with the SVT-40’s, here in California its $800 for a crappy one and $1300+ for a very nice example.

  • DanGoodShot

    “So, what do you see as being today’s best bargains on the market?” Thats easy… NOTHING

    • PK

      Salad days of ARs and parts and magazines, you don’t agree?

      • DanGoodShot

        The reason I say nothing is because in reality nothing in firearms industry is really worth the prices they are at. Once it falls into the realm of “firearm” the price is automatically increased 10 fold. Here’s one example, crushed walnut for tumblers. I buy 7lbs of it for 5 bucks form a petstore because it is labeled for reptile bedding. Now take 1 lbs and label it for reloading(firearms) and viola, huge inflation! So, I stand by my 1st statement, nothing.

        • DanGoodShot

          But, relatively speaking yes I guess those would be considered “good” deals.

        • PK

          AR-15 “kits” with a finished receiver can yield a functional (maybe not screamingly nice) M4 clone for $400 or thereabouts, less on sale, and the USGI mags can be had for $6-8 on sale. I truly believe that’s a screaming deal that people in the future will look back on as we now look on these older ads.

          Accessories… you have a point, absolutely. Anything not SPECIFICALLY gun related, such as ammo/components, guns/parts/mags, I buy “off-label”.

          Range bags are a good example, most are just a nylon rucksack… so why not buy for $10 instead of $80? Something has to have features and quality for me to pay more than it costs for a basic model.

          But for these days, I really and truly believe it’s an unusually good deal in AR parts/mags/complete guns. Some civilian package deals are beating the military procurement cost for the base rifle they’re a semi-auto copy of, which is astounding and can’t possibly last forever.

          • DanGoodShot

            I do agree that ar15 prices are relatively low when compared side by side. Hell, some are at prices I actually do consider a good price. I think alot of that is due to the 2013 bubble. They still have a lot of stock left over from that buying frenzy. As soon as these companies get there inventory back down you’ll see prices start to climb again.

          • Cmex

            You can argue that appropriating something from another industry is cheaper. There’s ATF fluid, which is the best and cheapest gun lube as compared to everything else that got tested.

        • Paul White

          The heck of it is crushed walnuts actually *awful* bedding for most reptiles…..but I buy the hell of it for tumbling, and use newspaper or cypress mulch (from Home Depot) for snake cages.

          Seems like a lot of stuff is cheaper if you don’t buy it for the industry its meant for?!

  • Jolly

    This one!

    • Porty1119

      Adjusted for inflation, that’s not terribly far for what RIA and TISAS sell new GI 1911s for.

    • h311r47

      When will the NRA learn? They’re called magazines, not clips! 😃

  • Jolly

    The good ol days

    • CS

      I’d have to put some pimpin gold spinner rims on that 25mm Hotchkiss Cannon.

    • Ben Russin

      Please stop I’m going to faint

    • RealitiCzech

      Man-eating jackrabbit?I too would trust a 20mm to defend me against those.

  • wetcorps

    It’s always cool to see these old adds ith ridiculously cheap guns, but it doesn’t tell much without context.
    Inflation is one thing, but how much did most people really make in a month? What kind of monney did they have to spend on rent, food and basic things? I feel these prices would be much more revelant compared to the disposable income people had back then.

    • ostiariusalpha

      Everyday commodity prices were a bigger chunk of everyone’s budget back in the day, people in the present tend to forget that.

    • RocketScientist

      You can check out the Consumer Price Index. Compares prices of a set “market basket” made up of consumer goods and services commonly purchased by households, and compares them over time. Depending on applicaiton, can give you a better idea than just looking at inflation of the actual value of an amount of money. Think of it like “if 50 bucks in 1945 bought this much stuff, how much of todays money would i need to buy the same amount of stuff?” (SUPER SUPER simplified). If you google, there are online ‘calculators’, simply plug in a eyar and amount and it’ll do the rest.

      • wetcorps

        Thanks for the info.

  • Swilson

    It’s not exactly the best deal out there, but the Star Super B’s are definitely a great deal. You get an all steel, essentially 1911 style 9mm pistol, potentially with historical value (Franco’s nationalist forces, even Nazi Germany). Often times you can get them with the original manual (in Spanish) with a holster and cleaning rod. They are also in pretty good shape for mil-surp. Never had any reliability issues with mine. All for about $250. I managed to pick up one in 9mm Largo for $100. Go with the Super B though, it fires modern 9.

  • gusto

    Over here in Sweden you can still find surplus m96 floating around. the licensing fee is about 25bucks and for a used one you won’t be paying much more.

    nobody wants them really, we have few collectors because it is a big hassle, and the collectors already have them in the various forms they came.

  • Captain Obvious

    Those prices from long ago are really a product of supply and demand. In those days the mountains of war surplus arms dwarfed the demand so prices were cheap. In the 80’s when Reagan allowed foreign surplus guns to be imported the mountain of SKSs, Mosins and other surplus guns was the second coming. I regularly bought SKSs, Mosins, even Mausers, Enfields and others at $30-50 a piece and sold them for $20-30/ea profit at gun shows. Of course everyone else was doing the same thing so the prices stayed low. When the supply dried up and imports were shut off the prices rose accordingly. I would bet that if someone found a warehouse full of Glocks and imported 10 million of them, the price would be about $100 each. Until that happens we are unlikely to see mountains of surplus guns and dirt cheap prices ever again.

    • gunsandrockets

      Back in those days I got a Finnish M39 in really good condition for $39!

  • Sasquatch

    I can remember mosins going for around 80. Why I will not buy one now.

  • RealitiCzech

    Tokarev pistols are fairly cheap yet powerful – in the 200-300 range. I love how the .455 Webley ad claims it “was almost banned by the Geneva convention.” Marketing never changes.

  • I have the latter month’s edition of American Rifleman Magazine that Lee Harvey Oswald bought the Italian military surplus Carcano rifle from Kline’s Sporting Goods that he used to assassinate JFK. I think he paid about $15 with the scope for it. I love reading those old magazines from the early 50’s and 60’s. The writing (Cooper, Elmer Keith), articles, and following the technology of sporting and military arms. Crazy how you could buy a SVT 40 for $40 shipped. Now that same rifle is $1000+ But, crazy as that is, you used to be able to buy a Thompson from Sears Roebuck in 1920.

  • nova3930

    My grandfather has told me stories about barrels full of mausers and other such rifles at the hardware store for $20/each…..

  • Bob

    yes, and prior to 1934 you could go into any hardware store and buy a select fire Thompson sub machine gun too for CHEAP (by today’s standards)

  • Ghost930

    Funny thing, the crime rate was lower back in those days too. Leading one to believe that it actually is a “people” problem versus implements. Go figure. Maybe we should send copies of these old adds to the Dems, and ask why there wasn’t wholesale mayhem back in the day when you could buy an actual semi-auto anti-tank rifle. I’m sure the answer would be enlightening.