I am 74 years old and have always been a little bit of a prepper. I was not into firearms and especially not hand guns, which I had never owned. I had rifles and shotguns from my youth, but never used them much after I got married. I had barely purchased a box of ammo for each. I even give them all away to my son a number of years ago. Then in the middle of 2009, I felt that everything was starting to fall apart and I needed to balance out my preparations by getting some firearms for protection in the home and on the street. I took the NRA handgun safety class, got my license to carry (LTC) and picked up a couple of handguns for carry. I was done, except for picking up a long gun.
The first problem was that I didn't want to pay a lot of money for stuff.
Searching the Internet, I found the rifle I felt I could afford– the Hi-Point 9mm 995 carbine. I found a used one at a gun show for $200.00 and decided to buy it. I hoped the wife wouldn't give me a lot of grief.
The Hi-Point 995 is a semiautomatic (hand gun caliber) carbine that comes with a 10-round magazine that fits in the hand grip. It basically is a handgun with a long barrel and a butt stock. The 995 was designed as a result of Bill Clinton's Assault Weapon ban.
It seems all used guns have never been cleaned. So, after detail stripping and cleaning the rifle, I took it to the range. I was pleased with the results. I decided to place a reflex sight on it. Now I can hit anything that I can put the red dot on. As the 995 is chambered in 9mm, it is best when shooting less than 50 yards. Another thing that is ideal with this firearm is I already had a 9mm handgun, and therefore did not need to get a new supply of ammo.
I got my rifle. Life was sweet, but, as many of you know, once bitten you are infected.
As a young man in my early teenage years, I hunted with a 22lr pump gun. I thought if I could find something like my childhood rifle, I could cure this infection. Plus, 22lr ammo was cheap and available at the time.
I found a nice old pump 22lr at my local gun shop for around $120. I was a little concerned with the bore, but the dealer said if it didn't work correctly I could bring it back. Well the bore was not the problem. The receiver was eroded. So, when I shot the rifle I had to use my pocket knife to remove the spent casing. I was disappointed and returned the rifle.
It's funny when you return a rifle and have $120 returned to you in a gun shop. You figure that just by adding a couple more bucks you might be able to buy another gun. Well I found a used Ruger 10/22 with the original wood stock for $150. I had not researched the 10/22, but it seemed like a good deal.
As many of you know (I didn't) the 10/22 has more accessories available for it than most any other rifle on the market. A great thing about this 10/22 was it was manufactured in the 1980's and therefore was pre-ban in my state. I put a sling, a folding stock, and a scope on it. Now it is a perfect SHTF rifle. Rifles chambered in 22lr seem to be able to hit everything you shoot at.
Life was sweet again, but the 10/22 really didn't feel like the rifle of my childhood.
Every Saturday morning I take the trash to the dump, stop to get my mail at the post office, and then visit the local gun shop. On one of my Saturday visits to the gun shop, I ran across a couple of old J. C. Higgins Mod 29 22lr rifles. Sears Roebuck used to sell these rifles many years ago. The Mod 29 is a 14 round tube-fed semiautomatic and has (for me) a wonderful wooden stock. I lusted after one of these rifles. After a little haggling with the owner, I picked one up for $95.
I got the J. C. Higgins home for cleaning and found the rifle's action must have been stored in mud. Thus, began my journey in becoming an amateur gunsmith. After detail stripping the action and cleaning the gunk out, I discovered that a feed spring was brokem. I needed to find a replacement. I am thankful for the Internet, as I soon found that the Numrich Gun Parts Company had bought out most of the spare parts from the manufacturer of J. C. Higgins firearms. I ordered the spring and a new butt plate. Now the J. C. Higgins Mod 29 is one of my favorite firearms.
I must say the J. C. Higgins Mod 29, even though a semiautomatic, feels like the old rifle of my childhood.
Well, I wasn't done now. I started reading blogs and looking at YOUTUBE videos. Then, I came across the Russian Mosin Nagant 91/30– a bolt action surplus rifle. I was intrigued as it was only $125, had lots of history, the ammo was cheap, and I thought I could sneak this by the wife. I bought a 1938 Mosin Nagant 91/30 manufactured at the Tula Armory from my local gun shop. That was the start of my love with Russian designed firearms.
When you purchase a Mosin Nagant, it comes coated in a bunch of cosmoline and needs lots of cleaning before you should try firing it or for that matter even touching it. These rifles need to be completely detail stripped. This gave me a little more confidence that I could work on guns. The final results were great with this rifle, having refinished the stock and also adding a scout scope to it. The rifle, without the scope, shoots a little high and to the right at a 100 yards. With the scout scope, I have it zeroed in at 100 and 200 yards. It's a great gun.
When researching the Mosin Nagant, I discovered that there were two types of receivers on this rifle. There was the Hex receiver, which I didn't have, and the Round receiver, which I did have. Of course the Hex receiver is more desirable. I picked up a 1928 91/30 Hex Receiver Mosin Nagant made at the Izhevsk armory for $135 at another local gun shop. The stock on this rifle is pre-World War II and in wonderful shape. The rifle was dead on with the iron sights at 100 yards. I just keep this rifle in the gun safe.
I would like to make one point about the Mosin Nagant 91/30. It shoots 7.62x54r ammo. The round is the same size as a 308, actually .312. The ammo is available in surplus tins and is quite cheap. The rifle itself kicks like a horse. I had to buy a good shoulder pad to shoot this rifle without causing myself shoulder pain and injury.
Another Mosin that is out there, which I did pick up, is the Chinese M53 carbine. It is a copy of the Russian Mosin M44. The Chinese M53 can be picked up for between $99 and $120, but usually comes in real rough shape. After I cleaned mine up, I took it to the range and was less than satisfied with it. I couldn't tell where the thing was shooting. I need to take it back to the range, but right now it is sitting in the gun safe.
I only use surplus ammo with Mosin Nagants and that ammo is corrosive. The reason I use surplus is the cost of non-corrosive ammo is too high for me. After shooting at the range, I just swab down the bore and bolt with Windex, run a patch through the bore, and I'm done.
This brings me up to the 2012 elections. I didn't have a semiautomatic rifle in a larger caliber. I used the re-election of Obama as an excuse to buy a Romanian AK-47 WASR 10/63 in 7.62x39 caliber. I picked it up the day after the election for $575 just before the price went to $775. (As you can see I have become less inhibited about price.) If you don't know, the 7.62x39 ammo is cheap and has been available all through the ammo shortage the last couple of years.
Now the AK47 is another Russian-designed rifle that just shoots in any condition. It is a simple design with large tolerances, and even I seem to understand how it works. I replaced the butt stock with a Dragunov style MAK-90 Maddi Fiberforce Stock and a new hand guard. I then attached a good muzzle break to reduce the muzzle rise when shooting. This helped, but it still has a little more recoil rise than I like.
Again, as I was studying the AK-47 on the Internet, I noticed that many people had built their own No-FFL rifle from part kits. Thinking that I might be able to build one on my own, I started shopping the Internet. As it turned out AK-74 part kits were more available than AK-47 part kits. Notice I said AK-74, it is the same rifle, except it is chambered with the 5.45x39 round. This round is just a little smaller than the AR-15 ammo, which is 5.65x39. So I proceeded by picking up a Bulgarian AK-74 parts kit, a U.S.-made chromed barrel, 80% receiver blank and rails, screw kit, Tapco trigger, and quite a few tools.
I would not recommend this to anyone unless you like to build stuff, want a No-FFL rifle, and are not concerned with the final cost.
This project was a lot more work than I thought, but I got an AK-74 out of it and learned the following:
How to MIG weld,
Precise hand drilling and reaming,
How to use a hydraulic press,
The fine points of needle file use,
How to press a barrel into an AK front trunnion,
How to head space a rifle,
What an angle grinder is used for,
How to heat treat a receiver, and
How to assemble and disassemble an AK, what seemed like hundreds of times.
I also became a constant customer of Harbor Freight. I like to refer to the rifle as my Bubba Build, because of my lack of skills going into this project.
I have a few points to share about building an AK anything. The first rifle is not cheap, and you need to come up with lots of tools. Also, the only way this is legal is that only you take the 80% receiver to a 100% receiver. There is a little Federal law 922R, which you need to comply with (look it up).
As it turns out the AK-74, when shooting 5.45x39 caliber ammo, is a dream to shoot. The rifle with a 30 round magazine is much lighter than the AK-47. The AK-74 comes with a big fat muzzle break, so recoil is less and I am able to hold it on target much easier. So, if you would like a sweet AK try the AK-74.
Another thing I would like to point out, most of the ammo for these rifles is relatively inexpensive and available. The only exception to availability is the 5.45x39 ammo, which is not available locally. I have been able to pick it up on the Internet in 1000 round boxes for around 28 cents a round, including shipping.
What Do I Use These Guns For?
The Hi-Point 995 chambered in 9mm is serving as a home defense weapon. The 9mm bullet is less likely to pass through the outside wall and hit a neighbor. I have it setup with a reflex sight, so centering on a target is not difficult. My wife has shot this rifle a few times, and our intent is for her to use this weapon.
The Ruger 10/22 has been reconfigured with a folding stock, sling, extended magazine release lever, Alangator TriMag magazine coupler, and a scope. The rifle is a good small game rifle that can be carried easily on your back and in the truck. The way the rifle is configured it becomes a good SHTF small game rifle.
The J.C. Higgins Mod 29 has only been cleaned up and used for fun plinking at the range. It is an easy rifle to shoot and is quite accurate with the iron sights. Working anywhere from 10 to 100 yards, it is fun. I use it as a rifle to get my son-in-law and grandson comfortable with firearms.
The 1938 Mosin Nagant 91/30 has been refinished with a Brass Stacker mount placed over the original rear iron sight. I placed a long eye relief scout scope on the mount. The rifle is “dead on” at 100 and 200 yards. This is a rifle when you want to reach out and touch something with a big slug. We live in a hilly and forested area, and a 300 yard view is about as good as it gets.. This rifle fits in well.
The AK-47 had the wooden stock replaced with a MAK-90 Maddi Fiberforce Stock. I also replaced the original hand guard with a quad rail hand guard. I put a light that has a pressure switch on the rail and have sighted it in for close range shooting. The rifle came with the standard side plate. I placed a side rail mount on it. The great thing about these side rail mounts is that they can be removed when traveling. When reattached, the scope still holds sight. I attached a reflex sight on the rifle sighted in at 100 yards.
I use the AK-47 as a home defense weapon. I realize that the 7.62x39 round will go through walls, but that is one of reasons I want it for home defense. Our bedroom is on the 2nd floor and I would need to shoot through walls if, God forbid, we have an intruder.
The Bubba Build AK-74 also has a side rail mount with a 1 power scope attached. With the old eyes I find it easier looking at cross hairs in a scope than working with the iron sights for long range.
I replaced the original hand grip with a Hogue Rubber Grip with finger grooves. This is one of the better replacement parts on the rifle. The grip makes it very easy to handle and shoot the rifle.
I've used the AK-74 in three gun shoots at the local gun club. I've found it is a great battle rifle because of it's size and weight. This right now is my favorite long gun.
The long gun infection seems to have abated for the time being, and as you can tell the infection did not prove to be cheap.
One can argue that I have too many different types of ammo. I can agree with them. I had that in mind when I first started out on this journey. However, when I got hooked on Russian firearms, that thought left my mind completely.
My ammo types are:
22 long rifle, which has tight availability. (Fortunately, I had a good supply before the shortages.)
9mm (Again, I have a 9mm handgun and a very adequate supply.)
7.62x54r (It is easily available as surplus and is corrosive. It also costs less than 25 cents a round.)
7.62x39 (This is available and costs about 26 cents a round, any day of the week at Walmart.)
5.45x39 (This one, for me, is only available at gun shows and the Internet. It runs less than 30 cents a round.)
I also have reloading supplies for 9mm, 7.62x54r, and 7.62x39 rounds. I only have this for when the SHTF, and I can't get any more retail ammo.
My rifles and the costs, not including attachments and the ammo to feed them:
Hi-Point 995- $200
Ruger 10/22- $150
J. C. Higgins Mod 29- $95
Mosin Nagant 91/30 Tula armory- $125
Mosin Nagant 91/30 Izhevsk armory- $135
Chinese Mosin M53 carbine- $119
Romanian AK-47- $575
Bulgarian AK-74- $600 for kit and parts.
I have run out of money for the time being and probably couldn't get anything more by the wife anyways.
I joke a lot about my wife, but she picked up her LTC a couple of years ago and goes with me to the range once a month to shoot her hand gun. She has become very good with it and leaves me alone to fire my rifles.
A few afterthoughts:
J&G Sales is selling AK74's built from part kits and unchromed-lined barrels for $569.95, which is just a little more than you can build one.
After I wrote most of this article I happened to read the Survivalblog article titled “Building Your Own No-FFL AR from a 80% Complete Receiver”, by Nomad.
I ordered the EP80 receiver for $50 and quickly turned it into a 100% receiver with a $25 rotary tool from Harbor Freight and a couple rotary bits. I bought a lower parts kit for around $70 and assembled the lower with only a few problems. Right now I'm not in a position to finish the rifle, but the project would certainly be interesting and much easier than building an AK. A complete 7.62x39 AR upper can be had for around $500, which would help me by not having to get a different caliber of ammo.
So, the addiction may be dormant, but I can easily fall off the wagon.