Thought you guys might enjoy this. I posed it over at surplusrifleforum.com, but thought I'd also post it here "at home": The Poor Man's Sniper Rifle - 14 Years Later Below is a chapter-by-chapter summary of a book I picked up in 1995 titled "The Poor Man's Sniper Rifle". Upon seeing it, I was immediately attracted to the idea: take an old military surplus rifle and accurize it. To quote the book: "Highly accurate rifles are commercially available in the United States at the present time, but they typically come at a very high price (frequently over a thousand dollars). It is my belief that most people in the US do not have a couple of thousand dollars to lay out for a highly accurate rifle system, but many would like to have one. This m****cript describes how such a highly accurate weapon might be produced at a nominal cost." After 14 years of kicking the idea around, I find I still like it and think I'll undertake the project. Below is a chapter-by-chapter summary of the author's concept. Is it still a viable idea in 2009? Yes and no. A lot of the cheap surplus has dried up, so you're not going to buy any more $60 SMLEs. But if your budget is a few hundred dollars, then this is still a viable idea. However, the main reason to do a project like this is the fun of building up an accurate rifle, not to save money. Even if the rifle was free, the gunsmithing supplies, scope, mount, etc. put you at $500 or more. Thre are a few problems with the book to discuss up front... (1) The author does not define "sniper rifle", which is a key failing ;-) Is a sniper rifle sub-MOA? Simply something better than the typical battle rifle? By some definitions, Lee Harvey Oswald's Carcano was a "sniper rifle" (the shot was 88Y, btw), but I think most people think of something more accurate when they hear the term. The author doesn't discuss his shooting results - another key failing. We're talking about bolt-action rifles and they certainly have potential, but unfortunately there's no data in the book. How accurate CAN you get a Mosin-Nagant? (2) I think if you are looking for a true "sniper rifle" in the definition of "sub MOA," then you'd be better off buying a new commercial rifle. For example, you can get a nice sniper rifle package for less than $1000: http://www.snipercentral.com/entrypackage.htm (No affiliation, just something I googled). (3) The economics were more compelling in 1995. Most of the rifles the author discusses are no longer available to "poor men" (e.g., the 1903). On the other hand, he was writing at a time when 7.62x54R was not domestically produced and was under an import ban. Today it is plentiful. (4) The ballistics inherently limit you. The rifles he discusses fire 7.62x54R, 6.5x55, .303 Brit, 7x57mm, and 8mm (I'm leaving .30-06 out, because the rifles involved are no longer for poor men). Those are reasonable cartridges out to 200Y, but we're not talking .338 Lapua here. 8mm loses power very quickly and drops like a rock at distance ;-) In fact, looking at Winchester's ballistic tables, I see they zero .303 Brit and 8mm at 150Y instead of 200Y. And now on to a summary of the book... The Poor Man's Sniper Rifle by Daniel Boone Copyright 1995 135 pages Desert Publications ISBN 0-87947-098-4 Intro Surplus military sniper rifles are available but very expensive due to their rarity. Commercial, accurized rifles are expensive because they're brand new and someone has already done the work. This book is designed to demonstrate the conversion of a military surplus rifle - the hand-building of a sniper rifle. Criteria: - Barrel quality. Milsup rifles typically do not have match-grade barrels, however some rifles have extremely high-grade barrels that approach match-grade. - Barrel length. 25-26" is ideal. Below that is not desirable, beyond that doesn't add much. - Caliber. The author opines that .223 isn't big enough, and very large calibers aren't desirable due to their rainbow-shaped trajectories. Rifles to avoid: - Blackpowder, such as the 1873 trapdoor Sprinfields, British Martinis, rolling block Remingtons, old Sharps, etc. - Italian Carcano, both 1891 and 38. Inappropriate caliber, barrels too short, crude action, etc. Those converted to 8mm are dangerous. - Austrian Steyr-Mannlicher model 95. Obsolete ammo, typically short-barreled when found as surplus. - Type 54 Chinese or type 44 Russian. Carbines and barrels too short for use. Author state that 7.62x54R is hard to find. It probably was in 1995; obviously, not the case today. - French 1936 MAS. 8mm Lebel is not common and its bolt action has poor ergonomics and poor accuracy. - French 1886 Lebel. Barrels are innately not accurate, "inappropriate ammunition" - Model 93 and 95 Mausers. Manufactured without gas vents machined into the bolts, so gas from ruptured primers will come back into the shooter's face. Author says these are not safe to shoot. - Mannlicher-Berthier: Obsolete ammunition. Maybes: These rifles would normally be qualified out because of their small caliber, but because of extraordinary accuracy, might be considered: - Japanese Arisaka type 38 in 6.5mm Japanese. Author tells some interesting stories and goes into detail about how to select an Arisaka. - Model 1896 Swedish Mauer in 6.5x55mm - Mosin-Nagants: Russia 91, Finish 91, 27, 28, 28/30. Author mentions the difficulty of getting 7.62x54R. I suspect he'd write differently today. He highly recommends the Sako-barreled Finns (in reality any of the Finns are good). Avoid .30-06 rebarrels. Rifles recommended: - Springfield 1903-A1 and 1903-A3, and 1903 (without the A) if Springield s/n > 800000 or Rock Island s/n > 285507. - Enfield Pattern 17 in .30-06 - Mauser in 7mm or 8mm, generally the 1898s. Israeli K98k, Venezuelan FN 7mm target, Brazilian 1908 7mm. - Pattern 14 British Enfields in .303 Brit. Author notes the commercial Remington model 30, 30S, and 720A are essentially the same gun. - SMLEs in .303 Brit. Bolt-action is what you want, so he won't be discussing guns like the Dragunov (not that they're cheap anyway ;-) 2009 Thoughts Most of these rifles are no longer available at anything like what you could buy them in 1995. The author mentions he bought a SMLE #4 for $61 in 1995 and passed on a $35 Mosin-Nagant ;-) I looked through a recent Shotgun News and the only SMLE #4 I saw went for $350. Pattern 17 Enfields are $800+. Ditto for 1903s. Also, consider the ammo. In 1995, .303 British could still be found in surplus. Today? Not so much. 6.5x55, 8mm, 7x57, etc. is all a lot more expensive now. Of course, the flip side is that the Mosin-Nagant is still pretty cheap and 7.62x54R is now plentiful and cheap (by 2009 standards). I think if the author was putting a project together today, his short list would probably be: Mosin-Nagant (7.62x54R) - $80-130, though the Finnish M-Ns that the author likes are $300+. I'm not sure this is really the best rifle for this project. They don't take a scope naturally, and the ammo generally can't be reloaded from milsurp. There's a limited range of ammo choices, though that's true for a lot of these calibers. Czech vz24 (8mm) - $210 Brazilian Mausers (7x57mm) - $160 Yugo 24/47s (8mm) - $150 Turk Mausers (8mm) - $150 Those are prices from a bit of googling. GunBroker, etc. The Arisaka 38s have climbed in price, but the 99s are still reasonably priced, though you're dealing with late war last ditch production. The Russian Type 44 is another possibility. The Swiss K-31 (25" barrel, 7.5mm Swiss) are unfortunately in the $300 range already. If you accept $300 as "poor man's" territory, then you can probably add the SMLE to the short list. Springfields, Pattern 14, Pattern 17 - sorry, the window has closed.