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Old But Gold – A Case for Obsolete Firearms

If you listened only to the internet, you’d think that anyone not investing in the latest firearms tech will immediately die in the streets. Anything seen as obsolete is simply discounted and thought of as a quaint vestige of firearms history. I’d like to make the case otherwise, though. Old and “obsolete” weapons are still effective weapons, many of them proven through incredibly harsh conditions, and have several benefits to current day firearms enthusiasts that you might not have considered.

I suppose I should start with defining terms. For my purposes, when I talk about obsolete firearms, I’m specifically talking about weapons that had a heyday of use for defensive or warfare purposes in the past, usually in the last 100 years, but fell out of favor relative to modern designs. I’m not talking about muzzle loaders and black powder here, but things like revolvers, lever actions, bolt actions, and even shotguns.

As an aside, the cover photo of this post is someone I filmed running an M1 through a Highland drill while wearing modern kit. It seemed fitting.

Old Weapons Are Still Weapons

On the theme of not worrying so much about optimization, we have to realize that even an old rifle is still a rifle. For defensive purposes, a bad guy getting hit with a .30 cal bullet doesn’t really care if it came from an M1 Garand or an AR-10. He’s still be hit, and now must deal with the ramifications of it.

The classic 30-30 Winchester has arguably killed more deer in modern history than any other rifle cartridge. It’s not any less effective on bad guys. Similarly, there’s a lot to be said for the wallop of a 12 gauge slug or a load of 00 buck fired at reasonable distances.

While you’ll not find me advocating for these older weapons over something more modern, it’s not because they’re ineffective. Rather, it’s the other capabilities modern designs bring to the table with better sighting systems, attachments, capacity, and a spare parts ecosystem.

With that said, I think there are a few reasons to keep the old war birds around that you might be interested in.

50-State Legal

The first time I heard this point was early in the podcast interviews when I talked to Justin of Revolver Guy. He pointed out that a classic revolver chambered in 357 Magnum doesn’t violate the laws of any state in the country regarding capacity. You could take with you on a road trip, train anywhere, and not have to worry about legal entanglements.

That’s also saying nothing of the considerable difference in power between the stalwart 9mm and the 357.

While you and I know that politically-loaded terms like “Assault Weapon” get tossed around willy nilly without any real cohesive definition, for people living in the states affected by such laws it’s still a concern. The kinds of uninformed people who write these laws ultimately want everything banned, but they at least pay lip service to the classic “hunter” rifles of a bygone era.

The fact that the lever action rifle carried by “classic” hunters appeared as a front line combat weapon in the American Civil war goes over their heads. Not to mention the deep wartime origins of modern bolt actions.

And then there’s the shotgun. Nearly nobody has legal issues with shotguns, and they’re also capable of taking down just about any game in North America. Just don’t tell them that the German government tried to protest America’s use of pump action 12 gauge shotguns during WWI for causing unecessary suffering.

All of that to say that “obsolete” guns often get a pass in the eyes of political opportunists.

The German Government protests against the use of shotguns by the American Army and calls attention to the fact that according to the law of war (Kriegsrecht) every prisoner found to have in his possession such guns or ammunition belonging thereto forfeits his life. This protest is based upon article 23(e) of the Hague convention respecting laws and customs of war on land. Reply by cable is required before October 1, 1918.

Ammunition Supply

One of the downsides to shooting modern rifles chambered in current military cartridges is that ammunition supply tends to be boom and bust. By that, I mean we see periods where there’s plenty of ammo to go around cheaply, so it’s easy to stockpile with a service like Ammo Squared (this episodes sponsor)- or we see periods of panic where it feels just about impossible to find popular cartridges like 223, 308, or even 22LR.

So this isn’t going to be true for every “old gun,” but it’s worth pointing out. Old warhorse rifles shoot a variety of cartridges proven as both capable defensive and hunting rounds. Take your pick from 30-06, 6.5×55 Swede, 30-30, 12 gauge, and others.

My observation was that when the ammo panic buying starts, the first things to go are the cartridges that everyone already shoots. The stuff that lasted the longest was for the “obsolete” guns that panic buyers don’t own. I’m not saying that you can get these rounds cheaply, but they were still available when others were not.

Of course, your better option is still to stockpile ammo slowly over time so that you’re not caught up in a panic run anyway. Speaking of that…

Support This Episode's Sponsor
Today's episode is sponsored by Ammo Squared, a service that helps you stockpile ammunition like a squirrel stashes nuts- just a little bit at a time. Simply contribute an amount to your ammo account, tell them how to distribute it, and let them go find it and store it for you.

In recent updates, they even let you sell back unwanted ammunition or send it to someone else. I've been using it myself for over a year to build up practice ammo, and you should definitely check it out.

Support This Episode's Sponsor

Today's episode is sponsored by Ammo Squared, a service that helps you stockpile ammunition like a squirrel stashes nuts- just a little bit at a time. Simply contribute an amount to your ammo account, tell them how to distribute it, and let them go find it and store it for you.

In recent updates, they even let you sell back unwanted ammunition or send it to someone else. I've been using it myself for over a year to build up practice ammo, and you should definitely check it out.

Manual of Arms Familiarization

One of the downsides to going all-in on a single modern platform like the AR-15 or modern semi-auto handguns is that you never learn other tactics and techniques derived from other platforms.

I think one of the biggest reasons that shotguns fell out of favor for home defense was that they had a more complicated manual of arms, particularly around reloading. It was not that they were less effective. In fact, I would argue that shotguns are actually more effective at close range fighting. The trouble is that they took more time and practice to run well.

This is true of other weapons as well, like revolvers and bolt action rifles. You can run both very effectively provided you’re willing to put in the time and practice to do so. Sadly, most people are not.

I bring this up for two reasons. First, there are still a lot of practical benefits to learning the manual of arms for these weapons. Many old war horses pack a lot of power, and that makes them useful tools for both hunting and backwoods defense against large predators. Learning to run a lever gun or revolver might seem awkward, but it’s hard to deny the oomph that comes with a 45-70 or 44 magnum.

Secondly, you never know what will actually be available to you in hard times. Getting familiar with a wide variety of weapon types so you can run them effectively puts you ahead of the learning curve.

Don’t Forget: Fun is Allowed

Now that we’ve gone the serious route, let me add one more point. Fun is still allowed. A lot of “obsolete” weapons are still just plain fun to shoot and tinker with. I see no problem with picking up an old gun, caring for it, feeding it, and shooting it just because you like it.

I’ll admit that I was even tempted to go down the “tactical lever action” rabbit hole that seems to have been a trend last year (seeming replaced by the resurgence of shotguns this year).

There is something to be said for owning a gun just because you like it. As long as you’re putting a good amount of time practice into your primary weapon(s), then the occasional detour with a retro gun seems like a great idea from time to time.

Picture of Matt


Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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Oldest First
Newest First

I agree with your comments but with two caveats. One is that lever action rifles as a design reportedly are not terribly robust (say 500 to 1000 in a 3 day class) and often need a gunsmith to repair as opposed to the fix it yourself AR. Two, and related, is that other rifles not specifically designed for military use, like many commercial bolt action rifles marketed for hunting, also suffer a similar problem, particularly when it comes to heat from repeated firing. That old 700 or 110 wasn’t designed for 40 or 50 rounds of 30.06 shot in 3… Read more »


Yeah Buddy! Your cover pic says it all Matt – I was eager to dive in to the post. I have an assortment of these older surplus service rifles bought when they were readily available and cheap – it wasn’t that long ago (it seems). I bought several of them like the Garand for historical interest as much as function. I’ve paid more for every AR15 I own than any of the older surplus rifles. Now with values skyrocketing and interest waning as a cheap defense weapon (which dissolves the spare parts market) I consider them ‘under glass’: ‘In an… Read more »

Dr. Ryan Morris D.O.
Dr. Ryan Morris D.O.

One might argue that a particular platform is obsolete, or more accurately, obsolescent. The reality will always be that the first person to achieve an adequately powerful, adequately placed shot will typically carry the day. Good tactics and skill can leverage the strengths of any weapon, for the benefit of the well rounded man-at-arms. For those that aspire to that standard, learning never stops, and generations of men have done the same before us. The lessons they learned can be best understood in weapons they created. Some of those lessons are worth revisiting to better understand modern compromises.

Derek Jones
Derek Jones

The sks is a solid choice that fits in this category right next to the lever action. Ammo is relatively cheap and available when everything else is sold out. Also like the lever guns, there are scout mount rails for the sks to bring it into the modern era of optics.

Replying to  Derek Jones

Regarding the SKS, how many users have more than a few stripper clips and how often do you see them for sale in local shops or on tables at gun shows. How many of those SKS guys can run it under pressure and remember to keep the stripper. I like the SKS; but unless its supplied with readily available ammo ON STRIPPERS and at least 20 of them, then it might as well be a flintlock. Conversely, I knew a guy who held a burglar at bayonet point with a &89 Chinese SKS, until the police arrived. He didnt grab… Read more »


Im not sure we’ve given enough or (any) consideration for keeping these older designs running, especially in a “situation” where gunsmiths and spare parts arent available. I for one love the FAL; but its a 80+ year old design that was never really popular here. To top that off there are two completely different platforms that both call themselves FALs but none of the parts are interchangeable, including the magazines. Finally there’s only one company that pays any attention to the design and thats with surplus parts. Its a great gun; but nothing Id choose to take to war anymore.… Read more »

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