THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY

Gun World - - Chewing The Fat -

Most any firearms en­thu­si­ast (sounds much bet­ter than “gun nut”) can tell a story about a gun they re­gret los­ing, whether to ca­su­alty, sale or a trade.

Any time we get rid of a gun, what­ever we re­ceived in mon­e­tary gain, whether from a cash sale or an in­sur­ance claim, is long gone be­fore the mem­ory fades. Some­times, bad things hap­pen, and we have no con­trol over losses from fire or theft. Yet, it is the sales of spe­cial firearms that we live to re­gret.

SHOOT IT AND EN­JOY IT

Over the years, I have ac­cu­mu­lated a few firearms. I’m not a col­lec­tor. My guns get shot. All of them.

I of­ten get e-mails from fel­lows ask­ing whether or not they should shoot a par­tic­u­lar gun. My an­swer is al­ways, “Shoot it and en­joy it!” Why would one want to save it? Not fir­ing a spe­cial gun is like hav­ing a pretty girl­friend and not kiss­ing her, sav­ing her for the next guy. Makes no sense. Shoot the gun—but care for it, and it will out­last your grand­kids. How­ever, trade it off or sell it, and in a month, you will have nei­ther the gun nor the money. Makes no sense.

PER­SONAL RE­GRETS

There are a few guns that are now long gone about which I have re­grets.

I bought my first hand­gun when I was 16. I was still in school, work­ing af­ter school hours. I saved up enough money to buy a Ruger Se­cu­rity-Six .357 Mag­num. This was in 1976. Like all Ruger firearms man­u­fac­tured that year, it bore the in­scrip­tion, “Made In The 200 th Year of Amer­i­can Lib­erty.” I loved that blued, 4-inch .357. Dandy six­gun!

A few years later, a friend was join­ing the sher­iff’s of­fice in the next county over, and he needed to bor­row a re­volver un­til he could buy his own. I lent him the Ruger. A cou­ple of months later, he lost it in a card game. I still have the friend, but the six­gun is long gone. I felt like chok­ing him un­til his head turned blue, but friends are more im­por­tant than guns.

I threw away a gun once. That one I do not re­gret. It was a Clerke .22 re­volver. It was a cheap gun when new, but I bought it used at a po­lice auc­tion for $4. That lit­tle, chrome-plated re­volver spit so badly out of the bar­rel/cylin­der gap that I wouldn’t even sell or trade it. It is likely still in the bot­tom of the Cum­ber­land River. (Zinc doesn’t rust.)

RE­LI­GIOUS EX­PE­RI­ENCE AT UN­CLE LEE’S

An­other firearm I do very much re­gret los­ing was due to a hasty sale. Back in the late 1970s, Sav­age man­u­fac­tured a spe­cial ver­sion of the Model 99 ri­fle, des­ig­nated Model 99-358. Only man­u­fac­tured for three years, it wore a straight butt­stock and used the fa­mous Sav­age ro­tary mag­a­zine sys­tem.

I lusted for one badly but never came across one in the flesh—un­til one day, I walked up to the gun counter in Un­cle Lee’s Sport­ing Goods store in Paris, Ten­nes­see. Back then, a sport­ing goods store was not about run­ning shoes and tennis rack­ets. A sport­ing goods store was about hunt­ing and fish­ing, and Un­cle Lee’s al­ways had a large stock of guns for sale.

On the “used” rack was a pris­tine Model 99-358; the first I had ever seen. It was al­most a re­li­gious ex­pe­ri­ence: the ri­fle of my dreams, for sale, at a good price. A lo­cal fel­low who owned a ranch near Paris was coun­try mu­sic singer Hank Wil­liams Jr., who of­ten bought and sold guns through Un­cle Lee’s. He would buy some­thing, change his mind, and it ended up for sale on con­sign­ment. As it turned out, this one was his.

I quickly bought the ri­fle and en­joyed it for a few years. It was deadly ac­cu­rate, es­pe­cially with Hor­nady 200-grain Spire Point bul­lets. It would put them all touch­ing at 100 yards, which is great ac­cu­racy for a hunt­ing lever-ac­tion ri­fle. I was pleased.

Be­cause I was a young fa­ther with a mort­gage and all the other stuff of young adult­hood, I had to sell that ri­fle to pay for adult stuff, but that is the one firearm I most re­gret los­ing. The money prob­a­bly went im­me­di­ately for a house pay­ment, elec­tric­ity, food or some other such non­sense, but I would re­ally love to have that one back.

JUST TOOLS, NOTH­ING MORE

Other than those two, I don’t have many re­grets. I have traded off or sold other guns, such as poly­mer semi­auto pis­tols or AR-15 ri­fles and the like, but none of those was spe­cial to me. Just tools.

I now have more guns than I need, but they are not in the way. Ev­ery time I load up and head to a large gun show, I walk into the vault and look around, search­ing for some good trad­ing ma­te­rial; some gun that I can swap for an­other.

I end up load­ing only empty gun cases for the trip, be­cause it pains me to get rid of good firearms. GW

I A Sav­age Model 99358—not the one the au­thor sold that was pre­vi­ously owned by Hank Wil­liams Jr. but one just like it. It’s one ri­fle the au­thor wishes he could have back.

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