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5 great military surplus rifles for hunting by John McAdams

5 great military surplus rifles for hunting The semiautomatic M1 Garand has performed capably in the hands of thousands of hunters in the United States.
Military surplus rifles have been popular among hunters for many years, especially in the United States. Generally speaking, they are rugged, reasonably priced and relatively easy to obtain. They are also usually chambered in high-powered cartridges suitable for hunting most species of big game.
While they may not be capable of matching the performance of some of the more modern hunting rifles, a good military surplus rifle is still a great choice for a hunter on a budget.

M1 Garand

The semiautomatic M1 Garand was a revolutionary rifle that served American soldiers well in World War II and Korea. It has also performed capably in the hands of thousands of hunters in the United States since then. Since it is chambered to shoot the mighty .30-06 cartridge, a hunter carrying a Garand is well equipped to pursue many species of North American big game.
The M1 Garand has a few disadvantages, though. It is heavy and difficult to mount a scope on (though it is possible). Another thing to keep in mind when hunting with a Garand is that many modern .30-06 high-pressure hunting loads are not safe to shoot in it. Either get an adjustable gas plug or only shoot ammunition that is within the pressure range that the Garand can safely handle.
As long as you keep the limitations of the rifle in mind, the M1 Garand is an excellent choice for hunters.


The Lee-Enfield rifle is particularly popular among those living in areas with lots of British influence, such as Canada or Australia. There are thousands of sporterized Enfields floating around in all of the former British possessions all over the world, and they are great rifles for hunters.
They also have a well deserved reputation for accuracy and reliability. Indeed, the Enfield is such a rugged and reliable rifle that they were used by the Canadian Rangers in the Arctic for decades until the government recently decided to replace them.
Most Enfields are chambered in .303 British, which is a capable cartridge that has been used by hunters to take nearly every species of big game on Earth.


If you are really on a strict budget but want a decent hunting rifle, then the Mosin-Nagant is the perfect choice. The Mosin-Nagant is not an elegant rifle and is instead the very definition of rugged and simple. They aren’t as cheap as they used to be, but it is still possible to find one for less than $300.
However, it is chambered to fire the potent 7.62x54mmR round, which is powerful enough for hunting most species of big game. Most specimens are more than accurate enough to ethically hunt big game at reasonable ranges. It is also possible to sporterize them by installing a new stock, mounting a scope or even doing some work on the trigger.
Even if you don’t want to make any modifications, a Mosin-Nagant will still make a good hunting rifle for most applications.

Mauser K98

It’s tough to go wrong with any Mauser rifle. The Mauser revolutionized the way we look at rifles when it was first introduced and is still the standard by which bolt-action rifles are measured.
Millions of Mauser K98 rifles were produced by Germany, and many of them are now in the hands of collectors and hunters all over the world. They aren’t as cheap or as easy to find as they used to be, but surplus Mauser rifles are still nice choices for hunters.

1903 Springfield

Another contender for the title of the best military surplus rifle for hunting is the 1903 Springfield. It was designed to incorporate many of the features that made the Model 1898 Mauser such a great rifle. The designers were perhaps a little too successful in this regard because Springfield ended up paying royalties to Mauser for patent infringement.
As a result, the 1903 Springfield has many of the same strengths as the Mauser. It is also chambered in .30-06 Springfield, which is a definite plus. If you’re going to be hunting big game in North America, the .30-06 Springfield is almost never the wrong answer. The Springfield is also extremely accurate.
Unfortunately, they aren’t as cheap as they used to be. However, they are still a great rifle and are a worthy choice if you’re looking for a good hunting rifle

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Why The .30-06 Springfield is Still the Best for Big Game Hunting



Olin Winchester has issued a recall of several lots of its 9 mm ammunition. Owners of any of the company’s 9 mm cartridges with 115-gr. full metal jacket bullets or 115-gr. jacketed hollow points need to immediately discontinue their use until they consult the symbol and lot numbers printed on the box to determine if the loads are affected by the recall. Ammunition purchased before March 25, 2021, is not subject to the recall.

The symbols impacted are: Q4172, RED9, USA9JHP, USA9MMVP, USA9W and WW9B.

Lot Numbers include: SC03LD44, SC03LD45, SC03LD46, SC03LD47, SC13LD1, SC13LD6, SC13LD18, SC13LD44, SC13LD45, SC13LD46, SC13LD47, SC52LD44, SC52LD45, SC52LD46, SC52LD47, SC62LD44, SC62LD45, SC62LD46, SC62LD47, SC72LD44, SC72LD45, SC72LD46, SC72LD47, SC92LD44, SC92LD45, SC92LD46, SC92LD47, SD10LD1, SD10LD3, SD10LD6, SC10LD12, SD10LD18, SD10LD46, SD10LD47, SD50LD1, SD50LD3, SD50LD6, SD50LD11, SD50LD12, SD50LD18, SD50LD46, SD50LD47, SD60LD1, SD60LD3, SD60LD6, SD60LD11, SD60LD12, SD60LD18, SD70LD1, SD70LD3, SD70LD6, SD70LD11, SD70LD12, SD70LD18, SD80LD1, SD80LD3, SD80LD6, SD80LD11, SD80LD12 and SD80LD18.

The symbol designation and location of the lot numbers are depicted for one product in the photograph above. The recall webpage includes locations for all other cartridge boxes that fall under this notification.

Winchester has determined the above lots of 9 mm 115-gr. FMJ and JHP ammunition may contain propellant that does not properly ignite and burn when the cartridge is fired. Ammunition containing propellant that does not properly ignite and burn may result in a bullet remaining in the barrel—a bullet-in-bore obstruction. Firing a subsequent bullet into the bore obstruction could cause firearm damage, rendering the firearm inoperable and subjecting the shooter and bystanders to a risk of serious personal injury.

Do not use Winchester 9 mm 115-gr. FMJ or JHP cartridges of the above symbols with any of the above lot numbers. Owners of ammunition affected by this recall should immediately discontinue its use and contact Winchester toll-free at (844) 653-8358 to arrange for free UPS pick-up of the recalled ammunition. Upon receipt of the ammunition, the company will ship replacement cartridges directly or issue a reimbursement check.

This notice applies only to the above 9 mm Luger 115-gr. FMJ and JHP symbols and lot numbers. Other symbols or lot numbers are not subject to this recall. Enthusiasts with questions about the recall can also call toll-free (844) 653-8358, write to Winchester at 600 Powder Mill Road, East Alton, IL 62024 (Attn: 9mm Luger Recall), or visit the company

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HEYM "Express" 404 Jeffery

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The .25-06 Remington

This round is very popular in Texas. Where I have found that those Old Boys are very savvy about their guns. So take that  for what it is worth!
I found it to be a very flat shooting, low recoil round myself.

.25-06 Remington
25-06 Remington.JPG

.25-06 Remington cartridge
Type Rifle, Hunting
Production history
Designer Remington Arms Company
Designed 1969
Manufacturer Remington
Produced 1969-Present
Parent case .30-06 [1]
Bullet diameter .257 in (6.5 mm)
Neck diameter .290 in (7.4 mm)
Shoulder diameter .441 in (11.2 mm)
Base diameter .470 in (11.9 mm)
Rim diameter .473 in (12.0 mm)
Rim thickness .05 in (1.3 mm)
Case length 2.494 in (63.3 mm)
Overall length 3.250 in (82.6 mm)
Case capacity 65.8 gr H2O (4.26 cm3)
Rifling twist 1 in 10 in (250 mm)
Primer type Large rifle
Maximum pressure 63,000 psi (430 MPa)
Ballistic performance
Bullet mass/type Velocity Energy
100 gr (6 g) PSP-CL 3,230 ft/s (980 m/s) 2,316 ft⋅lbf (3,140 J)
115 gr (7 g) PSP-CL Ultra 3,000 ft/s (910 m/s) 2,298 ft⋅lbf (3,116 J)
120 gr (8 g) PSP-CL 2,990 ft/s (910 m/s) 2,382 ft⋅lbf (3,230 J)
Test barrel length: 24″
Source(s): Remington Arms [2]

The .25-06 Remington had been a wildcat cartridge for half a century before being standardized by Remington in 1969. It is based on the .30-06 Springfield cartridge necked-down (case opening made narrower) to .257 caliber with no other changes. Nominal bullet diameter is 0.257 inches (6.53 mm) and bullet weights range from 75 to 120 grains (4.9 to 7.8 g).


Charles Newton necked down the .30-06 Springfield cartridge in 1912 to accept the 117-grain .25-35 Winchester bullet.[3] Newton’s early modification encouraged commercial release of a shortened case (from 63 to 49mm) as the .250-3000 Savagein 1915.[4] Frankford Arsenal developed an experimental .25-06 during World War I; and distribution of surplus United States military equipment through the Civilian Marksmanship Program following the war encouraged independent gunsmiths to experiment with the cartridge.[3] A. O. Niedner of Dowagiac, Michigan introduced rifles for the .25 Niedner in 1920.[5] Niedner Arms Corporation retained the 17° 30′ .30-06 shoulder chambering .25 caliber barrels rifled with one twist in 12 inches (300 mm).[6]Similar cartridges were identified as the .25 Hi-Power, .25 Whelen (analogous to .35 Whelen), or .25-100-3000 (to indicate the ability to achieve 3000 feet per second with a 100 grain bullet rather than the 87 grain bullet used in the .250-3000 Savage). Greater case capacity offered minimal velocity improvement over the .250-3000 Savage case with contemporary smokeless powders.[7] Availability of DuPont‘s Improved Military Rifle (IMR) powders encouraged commercial release of the .257 Roberts using the 57mm-long Mauser case in 1934.[8] Release of IMR 4350 in 1940 and availability of surplus 4831 powder salvaged from Oerlikon 20mm cannoncartridges after World War II greatly improved performance of the full-length .25-06 case.[9]


The cartridge is capable of propelling a 117 grain (7.6 g) bullet at up to 3,200 feet per second (980 m/s) and energy levels up to 2,500 ft⋅lbf (3,400 J). Bullets lighter than 75 grains are available in .257 caliber, but were designed for the smaller .25-20 Winchester and .25-35 Winchester cartridges and are too lightly constructed for the high velocities of the .25-06.
The cartridge has less felt recoil than a 30-06 in a similar weight rifle, due to the lighter weight bullets used. Shooters who are recoil sensitive will find the recoil from the 25-06 bearable, but not pleasant enough to shoot all day long. This cartridge is not quite as powerful as the .257 Weatherby Magnum, usually running 200–300 ft/s (61–91 m/s). slower with a given bullet weight.
SAAMI pressure limit for the .25-06 is 63,000 PSI.


Left: .17 HMR, center and right: .25-06 Remington

.25-caliber bullets typically have high ballistic coefficients without being heavy. This characteristic, when combined with the large case capacity of its parent .30-06 case, allows relatively high muzzle velocities without heavy recoil. The combination of high ballistic coefficients with high muzzle velocities give the .25-06 a very flat trajectory as well as retaining kinetic energy down-range.
The .25-06 is generally considered to be a good round for medium-sized game such as deer and antelope because of its combination of substantial kinetic energy and moderate recoil. The addition of a flat trajectory makes it particularly popular in plains states where the open fields can require longer-range shots on game, as this flatness tends to minimize range-estimation errors by the hunter. However bullet types and weights are loaded that allow the .25-06 to be used for taking game ranging from small animals like prairie dogs and coyotes to heavier elk. These bullets range from lightly constructed 75-grain bullets with muzzle velocities in the 3,700 ft/s (1,130 m/s) range to more robust 120-grain bullets with muzzle velocities in the 3,000 ft/s (915 m/s) range.
Most manufacturers of bolt action or single-shot rifles offer the .25-06 as a standard chambering and factory loaded ammunition is available from RemingtonWinchesterFederal Cartridge and most other major manufacturers.

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Big-Bore AR Cartridges by Bryce M. Towsley

Big-Bore AR Cartridges

When it comes to dispatching game with authority—and a single shot—nothing gets the job done quite like the big, heavy bullets available in chamberings such as these three, which all fit in a standard AR-15-size platform.

I have a simple test when considering cartridges for hunting big game with an AR-15-style rifle. It simply requires honestly answering the question: If you were shopping for a non-AR rifle to hunt deer, bear or hogs would you pick one chambered for the cartridge you are willing to use in an AR-15? In other words, would you choose a bolt-action deer rifle chambered for .300 Blackout over say a .308 Win. or a .30-’06 Sprg.? The answer, of course, is no. Otherwise gunmakers would be flocking to build .300 Blackout bolt-action rifles. Why aren’t they? Because there just isn’t much of a market. As an example, Remington did introduce a bolt-action in 6.8 mm SPC, but has since dropped it due to poor sales.

The .223 Rem. is a good seller in a bolt-action hunting rifle, but not for big game. The vast majority of .223 Rem. bolt-action rifles are purchased for hunting varmints. The few .300 Blackout bolt-action rifles I have seen are designed for tactical use and to be used suppressed—not for deer hunting.

Big-game hunters use the .300 Blackout, 6.8 mm SPC or .223 Rem. in AR-15s because of the platform, not the ballistics. Sure, they can all kill game, but I’d argue that they make shot placement even more critical than more powerful cartridges traditionally used to hunt deer, bear or hogs.

The trouble with the AR-15 platform is the limitations it puts on cartridge length. It’s hard to make the gun work with a cartridge much longer than 2.26″. Of course, you can move up to the larger AR-L (AR-10) platform that is based on the .308 Win.-size cartridges, but the guns are bigger, heavier and more expensive.

Oddly enough, back in the early days of self-contained metallic cartridges, new cartridge designers faced a similar dilemma, but for very different reasons. The combination of blackpowder and early bullet construction limited velocity to around 1,500 f.p.s., give or take. So, to increase power, the cartridge designers made the bullets heavier and bigger in diameter. That’s why the military’s rifle cartridges were .45-caliber in the 1870s rather than the .22 caliber used today.

Big-bore AR chamberings such as the .50 Beowulf (l.) offer terminal ballistics far in excess of the platform’s typical small-bore .223 Rem. loads (r.). Both cartridges are about the same length, but there is a tremendous difference in their projectiles’ frontal area and weight.

Today’s hard-hitting hunting cartridges for the AR-15 use the same concept. If you can’t make the cartridge longer, then make it larger in diameter and add some bullet weight.

Just as the hunters using the old blackpowder cartridges understood, a big-diameter, heavy bullet at moderate velocity is deadly on big game.

The lineup of big-bores is not huge for the AR-15 platform. In fact, from mainstream gunmakers there are only three cartridges. But that’s enough, as each member of this trio brings something impressive to the table.

.450 Bushmaster
This is the smallest of the thumpers, with a bullet diameter of .452″. It uses a rebated rim cartridge case based on the .284 Win. case.

The concept behind what would become the .450 Bushmaster was initially put forth by Col. Jeff Cooper. Cooper is best known for creating the “Modern Technique” of handgun shooting and for his admiration of the M1911 pistol. But Cooper was also an avid hunter and loved to roam wild places in a “come what may” sort of way. He was a man of great experience, having hunted all over the world, and he recognized that a big bullet is a good thing when shooting big game. He thought that the perfect rifle for most “general” big-game hunting would be a semi-automatic of larger than .44 caliber that was capable of taking big game out to 250 yds. He called this the “Thumper” concept.

From the 16” barrel of the author’s Bushmaster AR, factory .450 Bushmaster loads produced between 2,455 and 2,686 ft.-lbs. of energy—more than enough for most big game applications.

Tim LeGendre of LeMag Firearms developed his version of the cartridge, and called it the .45 Professional. He licensed the concept to Bushmaster Firearms Int’l for production and distribution, while Hornady developed the ammunition. Hornady modified the case a little so it would work better with its SST Flextip bullet. The name was then changed to .450 Bushmaster, with the blessing of LeGendre, and the cartridge was introduced in 2007.

Hornady’s current load for the .450 Bushmaster drives the company’s 250-gr. FTX bullet to a factory-advertised muzzle velocity of 2200 f.p.s. from a 20″ barrel, which would result in 2,686 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy.

The current Hornady .450 Bushmaster load uses a 250-gr. FTX bullet with a factory advertised muzzle velocity of 2,200 f.p.s. from a 20″ barrel for 2,686 ft.-lbs. of energy. On my chronograph this load has a velocity of 2,090 f.p.s. fifteen feet from the muzzle when fired from my Bushmaster rifle with a 16″ barrel. This produces 2,425 ft.-lbs. of energy at the muzzle.

The Remington Outdoor Group owns Bushmaster, so it makes sense that Remington would start making ammunition in that chambering. Big Green currently offers a 260-gr. Premier Accutip load with an advertised muzzle velocity of 2,180 f.p.s. Muzzle energy is 2,744 ft.-lbs. This ammunition produces 2,062 f.p.s. and 2,455 ft.-lbs. of energy from my rifle’s shorter barrel.

I shot a bunch of hogs using some pre-production ammunition from Remington that was loaded with 275-gr. Barnes XPB Bullets. From my rifle, the velocity is 2,009 f.p.s. and the energy is 2,465 ft.-lbs. They have decided not to introduce the load, but it is easy to handload using the Barnes bullet, listed in that company’s catalog as being for the .460 S&W.

I also shot an Asian water buffalo that weighed more than three-quarters of a ton with that load. I was very impressed with all of the results. I will admit, this cartridge is probably a bit on the light side for hunting animals of that size, but it’s the gun I had with me when opportunity knocked, which is exactly the concept that Cooper envisioned.

As with other “thumper” loads for the AR platform, the .458 SOCOM feeds from the conventional AR magazine as if it were a single-stack.

.458 SOCOM
The .458 SOCOM was developed for military applications after the fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993. That battle left a lot of participants disappointed in the performance of the 5.56×45 mm NATO cartridge, and they wanted some serious, .45-70 Gov’t-class thumping power for the M16 and M4 rifles. It’s worth considering that if the guys in the fight don’t think the .223 is enough gun, perhaps we should re-evaluate its use for hunting such animals as hogs, bear, moose and elk—game that often runs bigger and tougher than the average man.

The .458 SOCOM cartridge came out in 2002, and while it didn’t gain widespread acceptance as a military round, it has proven to be a great hunting cartridge. It uses a lengthened .50 AE case with a rebated rim and is necked down for a .458″ bullet. One big advantage with that .458 diameter is there is a wide selection of rifle bullets on the market. This is reflected in the multiple factory load options, and it opens a lot of doors for handloaders. One of the best bullets is the 300-gr. TTSX that Barnes developed specifically for this cartridge.

Factory-loaded ammunition is currently offered from three companies that I can find: Wilson Combat, Southern Ballistics Research (SBR) and Cor-Bon. Rifles are available from Rock River Armory, Wilson Combat and, in custom form, from SBR. My test rifle is a Rock River with a 16″ barrel.

SBR loads the .458 SOCOM with a Barnes Tipped Triple-Shock X bullet weighing 300 grs. When driven at 1894 f.p.s. from the author’s 16″-barreled Rock River AR, it produced a muzzle energy of 2,389 ft.-lbs.

Cor-Bon has a load using the Barnes TTSX 300-gr. bullet at an advertised muzzle velocity of 1,825 f.p.s. It also offers a 300-gr. HP at 1,900 f.p.s. From my 16″ barreled test gun, muzzle velocity for the 300-gr. Barnes load was 1,894 f.p.s., which is slightly higher than advertised. The Wilson Combat 300-gr. Barnes TTSX load produced 1,834 f.p.s. and 2,241 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy from the Rock River.

SBR offers 16 different loads for the .458 SOCOM with bullets ranging from 140 to 500 grs. I tested the 300-gr. JHP load and got 1,831 f.p.s. and 2,234 ft.-lbs. of energy.

After testing two different Rock River .458 SOCOM carbines, the CAR A-4 and the new X-1, I have been very impressed with the accuracy. Both shot right around the 1 minute-of-angle mark with just about any ammunition I tried.

It might have a military background, but the .458 SOCOM is a big-game cartridge capable of taking anything that walks in North America.

Compared to the .223 Rem., the Alexander Arms .50 Beowulf cartridge provides a tremendous increase in bullet weight, bullet diameter and short-range kinetic energy.

.50 Beowulf
As you have probably figured out by now, I am not a fan of small cartridges for hunting. I have hunted with most of the popular cartridges of all sizes over the years and continue to today, as I think experience is the best way to gain knowledge. But I have come to believe that each category of game has a list of specific cartridges that are appropriate for use. I tend to gravitate toward the upper 50 percent of that list in size and power. I like cartridges that hit hard and remove the doubt. The .50 Beowulf epitomizes that concept. With a 334-gr., 1/2″ diameter bullet at nearly 2,000 f.p.s., there is never any doubt when you hit something.

Bill Alexander of Alexander Arms was one of the pioneers of big-game hunting cartridges in AR-15 style rifles. He developed this cartridge and named it after Beowulf, a legendary warrior of Old English literature who slayed the undefeatable Grendel by ripping his arm off. The day after that battle, Beowulf battled the horrible monster that was Grendel’s mother. He killed her by cutting off her head with a mighty sword from her own armory. A sword of which it was said, “no other man could have hefted in battle.” Years later, in his doddering old age when he was worn out and feeble, Beowulf fought and killed a dragon.

In short, Beowulf was big and bad and backed down from no fight; the perfect namesake for this cartridge. When it was introduced in 2001 the .50 Beowulf was the first of the AR-15-specific, ultra-big-bore cartridges to be offered by an AR manufacturer. It is based on a lengthened .50 AE case with a severely rebated rim so that it fits a bolt head designed for the 7.62×39 mm cartridge. This bolt face size works well with an AR-15 style rifle.

Bill Alexander’s .50 Beowulf cartridge features a rebated rim and straight walls. From the author’s 16.5″-barreled rifle, the Alexander Arms loads, featuring 325-gr. and 400-gr. bullets, left the muzzle at 1950 and 1800 f.p.s., respectively.

From a 24″ barrel, the .50 Beowulf pushes a 334-gr. bullet to 1,980 f.p.s. and 2,908 ft.-lbs. of energy at the muzzle. The 400-gr. load has a muzzle velocity of 1,875 f.p.s. and 3,123 ft.-lbs. The bullet is 1/2″ in diameter and can expand to more than 1″. Compare that to a 55-gr. .223 Rem. at less than half the diameter. The 334-gr. Beowulf has 507 percent more bullet weight and an unexpanded diameter that is larger than a .223’s fully expanded bullet. Once they both have expanded, the Beowulf bullet has a 123 percent larger frontal area than the .223 (based on two times expansion). Not to mention that the Beowulf has almost three times more energy than the .223 Rem. This is a serious step up in power for the AR-15 platform.

Even from the stubby 16.5″ barrel on my rifle, the .50 Beowulf loads are moving at 1,938 f.p.s. for the 334-gr. bullet, and 1,800 f.p.s. for the 400-gr. That is 2,786 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy for the 334-gr. and 2,878 ft.-lbs. for the 400-gr. load. Considering the 7.5″ difference in barrel length, the velocity loss is minimal. Clearly this is a cartridge that is well-suited to the shorter barrels often used on the AR-15.

I have used the .50 Beowulf on multiple hogs and a few deer, always with very good results. With the right bullets it hits hard, penetrates well and leaves a very large hole in its wake. Just as Sir Samuel Baker said about his 2-bore rifle, “Baby,” I can honestly say that I have never lost a single animal hit with this cartridge! I don’t even need to rely on exploding bullets for that result as he did.

Obviously these cartridges are not designed for long range. But, all the recent “sniper” hype aside, the truth is that most big game is shot at well under 200 yds. anyway. If you don’t like to track game after the shot, these cartridges will get the job done on any big game in North America.

So to answer my own question, “Would I buy a non-AR-15 rifle for hunting if it were chambered in one of these cartridges?” I would welcome any of these cartridges in any rifle. A short-action bolt gun would be very interesting, and I think they would be great in a lever-action. In fact, I have hunted for years with cartridges with similar ballistic performance, such as the .444 Marlin, .45-70 Gov’t and .450 Marlin. So the answer is pretty much, “been there, done that,” only now I get to use an AR.