Tuesday, May 22, 2018

guest article, 2 of 2 articles today

Article title : test case for the frugal survivalist rifle
Since I made a list of priorities for a frugal survival rifle, I shall now present a test case. I have searched several sites but for simplification most rifles and prices come from www.cabelas.com. Some prices have been rounded up because I did this research some time ago and didn't bother to hunt down the missing cents...) (I know, not frugal)
Option 0 : The BTN rifle is obviously the 99 dollar .22LR single-shot rifle at Wal-Mart with three boxes of cartridges for 7.80 dollars.       Total : 106.80 USD
Option 1 :  CVA Hunter Compact Single Shot Centerfire
Now if I want to go beyond rimless, the next platforms are single-shot break-open rifles or bolt-action rifles.
I consider the break-open platform to be an excellent choice for the untrained, since it is so evident to use. It also has a massive advantage above the bolt-action, and that it is naturally ambidextrous. Right-side bolt-actions are not easy to use at all for lefties.
Even though, we know since 9/11 that repeaters are superior to single-shots (it was September, 11 of 1877, at the Siege of Plevna https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Plevna ). But that's for trained soliders. Your family and in-laws are just going to burn through the integral magazine of a bolt-action and will be left unable to reload it quickly, especially without stripper clips.
There is a reason why the English insisted on having magazine cut-offs on their Enfields. They had to acknowledge what we French knew for centuries, namely that the English army is full of in-laws.
So single-shot break-open rifles are good for your group, and for your logistics. Remember that you only have 100 shots per rifle (at first).
The first possibility is the “CVA Hunter Compact Single Shot Centerfire” rifle for 229.99 USD chambered for .243. It lacks a sight and so I'll have to purchase a scope. It has 1 inch rings, so the first compatible scope is the “BSA .22 Special Riflescope” priced at 32.99 USD. The cheapest non-rimfire scope is the “Herter's 1" Riflescope” priced at 49.99 USD.
Here I'll assume that the buyer will take no chances and select a “proper” scope, but there shouldn't be any issues with rimfire scopes. Price of the weapon would be 279.98 USD
The ammunition would be the PRVI Partizan 100gr. SP cartridges costing 15.99 USD per 20, so 120 cartridges would cost 95.94 USD
Total for this solution : 375.92 USD
Option 2 : added features - Henry Single-Shot Centerfire Rifle
The previous option has all you need to arm your group. Still, being a nitpick, I want to change two things : the aiming and the caliber.
First, I have seen too much scopes giving up on their users at the range, wandering reticle and all. Besides be sure the young and the in-laws will fondle with the turrets and the clicks. So I looked for the next possible option with fixed sights.
It is the “Henry Single-Shot Centerfire Rifle” priced at 369.99 USD when chambered for the .44 Magnum cartridge (more on that below). The rifle alone costs about the same than the entire package of the previous option. Such is the price to pay for having some peace of mind just on this aiming issue. We are now leaving “frugal” territory and entering a territory yet to be named, when options are not frugal but are more rugged or durable.
The second consideration was to see if another cartridge than the .243 would be more economical to stockpile. Energy-wise the difference is not that great : the .243 has a muzzle energy of 1945 ft-lbs (2637 Joules) and the .44 Magnum in a 20” barrel has a muzzle energy of 1870 ft-lbs (2535 Joules) (approximate values I found on the web, for a 225 gr bullet...)
The cheapest option was Magtech, with both FMJ RN and SJSP cartridges priced at 34.99 USD for 50 rounds. This gives us 150 cartridges for 140.97 USD and a package total of 474.96 USD, 26% more expensive than the previous package (price difference 99.04 USD )
The question is : are those 99 dollars worth it to you or not ?
(The price of ammunition can be significantly lower if you reload, see below)
Option 4 : long-term
I will factor in the cost of reloading 1000 cartridges with stockpiled components. We will consider that brass is free (which is easier to do with .44 Magnum), that you'll have to purchase the equipment and that a friend made you a powder scoop with the correct volume, out of a sent cartridge case of some sort.
Components for the .44 Magnum :
500 shots worth of Winchester 296 powder (=one pound) : 27 USD
1000x Remington primers large-pistol : 32 USD
1000x Rainier electroplated bullets HP 240gr. : 70 USD
Total for 1000 rounds = 2x27+32+70 = 156 USD
.44 Magnum reloading equipment :
Lee Hand Press Kit (with Ram Prime included) : 59.99 USD
Lee Carbide Pistol Three-Die Set : 35.99 USD
Total for reloading equipment : 95.98 USD
.44 Magnum total (components + equipment) : 252 USD
Components for the .243
250 shots worth of IMR 4064 powder (=one pound) : 30 USD
1000x Remington primers large rifle : 32 USD
1000x Speer bullets SPBT 100gr. (from cheaperthandirt) : 164 USD
Total for 1000 rounds = 4x30+32+164 = 316 USD
.243 reloading equipment
Lee Precision Reloader Press  : 42.99 USD
Lee Ram Prime (on Amazon.com) : 11.69 USD
Lee case trimmer set for .243 : 6.99 USD
Lee Cutter and Lock Stud : 6.99 USD
Lee Chamfer tool : 4.99 USD
Lee Pacesetter Rifle Die Set (incl. Shell holder) : 33.99 USD
Hornady® Unique Case Lube : 4.99 USD
Total for reloading equipment : 112.63 USD
.243 total (components + equipment): 428.63 USD
(for information : Lee Conical BP Revolver Bullet Mold : 23 USD
I won't consider a bullet mold for .243 due to the high velocity)
So if we factor in the long term,
Option 1 costs 375.92 + 428.63 = 804.55 USD
Option 2 costs 474.96 + 252 = 726.96 USD
Without buying any manufactured ammunition at all (and considering free once-fired .243 brass magically appears, just like .44 Magnum cases can be found for free at shooting ranges)
Option 1 is 279.98 + 428.63 = 708.61 USD
Option 2 is 369.99 + 252 = 621.99 USD
Here we can see that, under certain circumstances, the choice of a more economical cartridge can offset a much higher price for the rifle.
(Addendum : the cheapest bolt-action with installed iron sights is Mossberg® MVP Patrol Tactical Bolt-Action and costs 600 USD, the cheapest bolt-action with picatinny bases (for possible add-on open sights) is the Remington® Model 783 priced 340 USD, also comes with a scope)
When you have purchased the reloading gear, cost for subsequent purchases are :
Option 1 : 280 + 316 = 596 USD
Option 2 : 370 + 156 = 526 USD
That's for rifle and 1000 cartridges !
If you want 4 rifles and 200 shots per rifle, it will cost you :
Option 1 : 280*4 +429 = 1549 USD, an unit price of 387.25 USD
Option 2 : 370*4 + 252 = 1732 USD, an unit price of 433 USD
Conclusion : how else can you equip four people with a potent rifle and 200 cartridges for about 400 dollars each ?


  1. To interlink the two series of articles some considerations must be made in selections of 'frugal' firearms. Remember that outside of good knives and often used hand tools, firearms are going to be forced into a high priority importance status, and the importance of quality, durability,commonality will be paramount. Minions as survivalist will be focused on staying alive with shelter,food,medical,accoutrements. Firearms will be elevated to god like tools, if they are deployed with skill and tactics will keep a minion from being killed and eaten. Research and invest in common current military calibers with similar actions and parts interchangability. If a Minion survives initial die off,conflicts,etc and is hunkered down in some dirt a new found appreciation will be enjoyed by at least having kit to last and be actually beneficial to successful engagements. Plan and invest wisely now in gravy days. subject matter will be on everybody's final exam. Carry on.

    1. If these are gravy days I'd hate to see where we end up :) Point taken, I'm just funnin'.

    2. Anon 8:44 this is an interesting point. I think that a major reason why survivalists are so obsessed with firearms in the first place is because it is an unavoidable object to acquire.

      We all have very different lives and thus very different ways in which we intend to weather the collapse. I am unable to tell how a self-made shoe cobbler can make his own tools, for instance. Other people are into permaculture, and they have specialized forums for that sort of things too.

      But a gun is present in every survivalist's plan. And so there is a lot of imagery that comes with it.

      My point of view is that a firearm has to be seen with the status of a tool, not a "god-like" tool ("To this end, Zardoz your god gave you the gift of the gun. The gun is good.")

      And therefore since nobody out there is a soldier, the emphasis must be put on the rifle's affrodability (most people are definitely not living the "gravy years"), so that at least there is *some* type of firearm present, and then simplicity of use for everybody (everybody : that's a lot of different people), and finally ruggedness and long-term usage.

      I don't see any need for current military calibers, as I just demonstrated in my post. Can you explain why you consider common military calibers to be so important ?

    3. Ha! Sean Connory movie reference. Don't forget, for many a gun is also a talisman against Other Colors.

    4. Because the 303, 8mm mauser, 6.5, other retired military calibers and useful but not as prolific hunting-sport calibers will not be in enough abundance in beginning or available trade wise later. Plan for a seige, only brigands as new neighbors and necessity of living off the land and what is still around and available. History is that teacher.

    5. Turn on the television. What is most of the killing that is going on locally, nationaly, and internationaly being conducted with. Pay attention and all questions can be self answered from there. Until things sort out back to mayberry days, there gonna be some killing going on.

    6. I'm sorry, I thought the answer would be clear and evident, since you seemed to be so firm about it.

      But your reasons suck, Anon. My, my, is that an epidemic on this blog all of a sudden ? I'm so fortunate that Ghostsniper is begging me to apologize and wouldn't talk with me until I do (like I care), or he would come in with this kind of superior knoweldge too.

      So your advice about military calibers is not based on its effectivness, or durability, but on... trade ? Huh ? I guess I would be so much better off trading twelve really crappily reloaded "military" cartridges in the post-collapse world from super shady guys, off-spec stuff that will explode my gun and kill me, than stockpiling thousands of clean components right now ?

      Oh, no I'm silly, is it because "stuff will lie around everywhere" by then ? Oh I am thrilled by the perspective to collect used brass on a battlefield one day of walking away. Because if it's less than a day of walking away it means that the battle took place in my area, and then I will not have to survive Murphy's Law but the entire Murphy's Law Codex.

      Yes, I can already see myself entering an area full of unexploded ordnance and decomposing bits of flesh and rummaging through razor-sharp shrapnels to collect brass for Superior Military Weapons. Since the conflict would evidently be a Civil War, the brass I would find is 9x19, 5,56x45 and 7,62x51, plus LEO ammo such as .40 S&W (and 12ga). Whoa, four standards to choose from, each with its different bullet diameter ! I'm so glad I purchased four bullet moulds in advance before the Apocalypse (and the two to three different powders, and the two types of primers).

      It was so much wiser to buy these four moulds, now that I can reload the 300 empty cases I managed to find (the rest was steel ammunition anyway, like in all modern conflicts), instead of having two moulds (One Is None) for one standard caliber or all my people, and thousands of clean, empty cases colleced from firing ranges instead.

      Yes, in WW2 in Europe some people collected abandonned firearms and were very lucky indeed (except those who used sabotage rounds, filled with TNT and designed to kill the guys who would re-use captured ammo). Most other did not ; the war refugees I see on TV in every hellish shithole don't (but then how could they possibly have survived ? Doesn't history teach us ? The answer on the next episode of "The Short Bus" !)

  2. I am left handed and been shooting bolt actions for nearly 40 years. If you get a good deal, don't pass it up just because of that. I do like a break action shotgun though

    1. Is it true that lefties suck? :)

    2. Jim, some suck very well, it's like a natural gift, I swear.

    3. Ha! You're killing me, smalls.

  3. “and that a friend made you a powder scoop with the correct volume, out of a sent cartridge case of some sort.”

    That would work, but since you can get a Lee Precision Powder Measure Kit for $11, it would be worth having for a little extra versatility (15 graduated powder dippers from .3cc to 4.3cc, with included powder dispensing chart).

    Tough call on the .44 magnum vs the .243. On the one hand, the .44 will be easy to cast lead bullets for, and will work great in rifle/pistol companion guns. On the other hand, you can reach out and touch someone at long distance with the .243!


    1. Sorry, going by memory here, I could be wrong. Did you need the Lee manual to use the scoop kit?

    2. It comes with a chart Jim, but without the chart, you would not have the handy table that shows you what scoop provides what charge in grains for the different powders. Remember, the powders vary considerably in granulation, so the same scoop will throw much different weight in grains depending on the powder. And the basic Lee Loader system only provides you with the one scoop typically, so your load options are generally limited.

      But I think what you might be asking is if it comes with load data? I’m pretty that it doesn’t, so you would need to know what your prospective cartridge requires. This just provides you with a low tech alternative to a scale. A sniper needing pin point accuracy wouldn’t use such a system, but for the rest of us, it would probably be good enough.

    3. Anon 8:30, it is true that I could reach out further with a .243 but it would require a scope.

      As I said, the added features really are up to the person making the final decision. Some people would prefer scopes (for instance in open country), others hunting-style iron sights (for closer ranges).

    4. The Lee scoops are helpful, but they cost MONEY (nooo !) The custom-made scoops can be specifi to the powder and the load you want. You can make several of them : just take brass cartridges from the floor of the shooting range and trim them until they hold the exact volume.

      It takes a bit of time and patience but then you have a custom-made scoop, that can be used without having to resort to tables. (Note : if you have several such scoops, label them well, or better, use cheap fingernail varnish to colour-code them)

    5. 6:26-I know my 303 kit only offers 3 powder types for its scoop. I guess what I'm wondering is if the book offers other powder options, then lists different scoops you could use, as a means of expanding your options on powder.

    6. Sorry, I wasn’t very clear in my last post. I don’t actually have the Lee universal powder measure, but for $10, I think I’m going to get it.

      However, I did find the chart that it comes with and have provided it below. I didn’t see anything less than a couple of dozen different powders listed, including black powder, but I’ve only glanced at it so far. It does not list loads for any cartridge; only the capacities of the different scoops. So you would likely need to seek out further load data beyond what your Lee kit for your .303 offers. Hope that makes sense?


      @Ave. Yes, a scope, along with a few spares would be a good idea. Though for those that have good eyesight, a Creedmore short tang sight would be an alternative to a low tech sighting system that would provide a little extra range. You wouldn’t need the long tang sight for smokeless, but you would want one if you were using black powder in any of your guns.

    7. The table is what I'm thinking of. I used to have a Lee book on reloading, lost in one of many moves. But I trash picked a regular manual. If I order the scoop set that would work. But, as you say, you can make your own. It just seems a pretty fair investment if you went with Lee scoops.

  4. Its a pity that the T/C Contender is no longer in production. A break open single shot pistol or carbine that had TONS of various barrels to install, you could pick and choose what cartridges were regional favorites and purchase them. From mice to moose, they had you covered.

    1. It is my fuzzy recollection that they were mostly just a trick, or a convenience, as the price for each attachment was the same as another whole gun. Or close enough.

  5. Lee’s reloading book shows the scoop volume for each load/powder. So if you have their book and set of scoops you are in good shape. RSL/WI

  6. The receiver was the expensive part (about $200 - $250). The barrels varied, especially in pistol lengths. They ranged from $100 - $200 (at the time). Now higher. Two pistol barrels (.22lr - .357 Magnum) and a 30-30 Winchester rifle barrel will get you a pretty handy outfit.

    But I will agree - a convenience gun.

    1. Not a bad concept, just over priced. Now everyone just adds a new upper to the AR for different calibers. Just as expensive, but now they are super Billy Bad Ass shooting.