|Gratuitous and unrelated Oleg Volk photo of Type I rifle.|
I don't have a lot of experience with high-end collecting on a 1%-er budget, but I happen to have some experience with hoarding cheap old shooters on a retail clerk budget, so I'll steal the idea to make my own list:
- Lee-Enfield: This one stays. Some form of Lee-Enfield is practically a must have in a gun nerd's life. Unfortunately, the days of cheap Long Branches and cordite-filled surplus .303 are a decade and more in the rear view mirror. However, Ishapore-made rifles in 7.62x51 NATO are still to be found for reasonable prices, and cheap 7.62 NATO is easier to source than .303 Brit.
M1 GarandYugo M59/66 SKS: While the Garand is an historically significant rifle and everybody should eventually own one, they are hideously expensive to the young shooter on a budget. The SKS is the surplus self-loader for shooting on the cheap. Of the commonly-seen variants, the Russian ones have gotten stupid expensive and the Chinese ones usually aren't actually military surplus, which leaves the more plentiful variant of the Yugo. (I like the plain M59 better, but the M59/66, with all the useless grenade-launching tumors on the muzzle end, is what you're likely to find at the ~$250 price point these days.)
- Mosin-Nagant 91/30 or M44: Hello and/or duh. The only way you're going to get an actually military-issued surplus rifle cheaper than this is if one falls out of your Cheerios box tomorrow morning. These are among the only milsurps still cheap enough to put in the impulse buy rack by the cash register at the gun store, along with ear plugs and those tiny little CLP bottles.
- Finnish Mosin-Nagant m/39 (or any other Finn Mosin): Again, a lot of rifle for (usually) very little money. It's a Mosin-Nagant rebuilt by people who actually cared about hitting the target. Plus, Simo Hayha used one to shoot a mess of Bolsheviks.
M1903 SpringfieldYugo M48 Mauser: The Springfield is, again, priced out of reach of the novice on a budget. Tatty M1903A3s are demanding new Glock prices, and an actual numbers-matching Mark I would be a down payment on a new car. Every milsurp collection needs a Mauser, and with Russian-capture 98k's dried up and non-Russian-capture 98k's priced like imported sin, the M48 Yugo is your best bet for getting your Enemy at the Gates on for XBox money.
- K31: No argument from me. This elaborately-machined rifle must have cost the Swiss taxpayers a mint seventy years ago. You can get it cheaper than a crappy disposable Chinese laptop you'll throw out in two years.
Nagant M1895 revolverCZ52 pistol: It's easy to be lured by the Nagant's low price tag, but a practically unusable double-action trigger, sluggish and arcane reloading procedure, and a dodgy ammo supply make it of questionable utility for the new-ish shooter on a budget. I have one and mostly use it to be able to say "I have a Nagant". I had a .32ACP cylinder for it, but gave that to my roommate for hers. The roller-locking CZ52, while not as cheap as it was in the good ol' days of a dozen years ago, is still to be found for the price of a couple of Hi Points and ammo is plentiful, if not exactly super cheap anymore.