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Lesson in Gun Collecting 101

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POSTED January 5, 2014 9:41 p.m.

During World War II numerous companies manufactured 45 caliber pistols for use by our military in the war. Among them were the usual gun companies like Colt and Ithaca, but they were also manufactured by the Union Switch Company and the Remington Rand typewriter company. The Holy Grail for gun collectors is probably a 45 ACP Model 1911-A1 manufactured by the Singer Sewing Machine Company. As I understand it. Singer only made 50 of the model 1911s in 45acp. They were apparently issued only to aviators and very few survived the war. If you somehow found a Singer 45 today, it would bring a kings ransom at auction.

Unusual guns have always fascinated me. I recall visiting my old boss Carl Upton of Tracy, California and being totally fascinated by the historic guns in his collection. They were truly works of art. Old Carl even had a flintlock pistol from the Revolutionary War that had been manufactured by the Tower Of London Armory. By holding it, I could almost feel the history flowing into my hands.

Collecting unusual guns doesn’t have to be a pastime that breaks you, although it certainly could if you let it. A used AR-7 survival rifle is readily available at less than $100 dollars if you really look. It is an 8 shot .22 caliber that dismantles into 4 parts which all fit neatly into a plastic stock. It was waterproof, and floated if dropped overboard. Made originally for the Air Force in the 1950s it was also picked up by the Navy and was installed in jet ejection seats and life rafts. It could put food on the table until you were rescued or made your way back to civilization. Soon, civilians wanted them too. The handy little gun is still available today as The Henry Survival Rifle. Whichever model you manage to get, either new or used, it’s a great little one-of-a kind gun.

Another unique firearm is the Savage over and under combination. A popular model is a .22 rifle over a .410 shotgun barrel. It is an ideal gun for the poor working stiff who wants to hunt birds with a shotgun and small game with a rifle, but who can’t afford two guns. Made in a variety of calibers and gauges, my favorite is a .223 Remington rifle barrel over a 12 gauge shotgun. A rancher could keep one in his pickup and use it one day on a marauding coyote eating his calves and then the next day on a rattler coiled next to the back porch. There are plenty of those over/under combos on ranches & farms all over America.

Before his death, my brother had worked in the rail yards in a major urban area. He was working the night shift in one of the highest crime areas in the nation, and felt it necessary to carry a gun for defense. One evening, I turned on the news and there was my baby Bro, being interviewed on TV because he had witnessed murder and captured the perpetrator. The little gun he carried was a tiny 5 shot revolver made by North American Arms in .22 magnum. He carried the gun on his belt buckle in plain sight and everyone assumed it was just a decoration. It was always with him & saved his life more than once.  You can still get one of those tiny revolvers today for a very affordable price. Not everyone needs to carry a gun, but if you’ve got a high risk job, in a high crime neighborhood, it could be a lifesaver.

There are almost unlimited examples of rare or unusual firearms out there that you can collect for reasonable prices. You’ve got to keep your eyes open and do some research, but collecting off-beat guns can be a touchstone to American history. You can hold a piece of the Revolution, or the Civil War, or the Hatfield & McCoy feud in your own hands. You can heft an M-1 like your Grandfather carried in World War 2 or a Colt 45 automatic like his father might have carried in the in the War to End All Wars. Collecting unusual guns doesn’t have to be the domain of only the rich; we ordinary stiffs can do it too.

Until Next Week,

Tight Lines

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