I ran into an acquaintance yesterday who had a rifle he wanted to show me. "Ever seen one of these?" he asked.
"Sure. That's a Gewehr 98," I responded "I have a Spandau '16 mysel..."
"No, here," he said, holding it out to me, "look at it."
"Let's see. Sliding bolt cover? Omigod! This is a Siamese Mauser!"
"Yeah," he replied with a smile, oblivious to the fact that I had started dancing from foot to foot like a child who needed to use the restroom in a bad way, "It's missing the follower and mag spring, but it's in great shape. I got it in a big package deal wit..."
"How much do you want for it?"
"Huh? Well, I hadn't really thought abou..."
"How much do you want for it?"
"I reckon I'd take $200 for it."
A quick call to 1-800-AMI-BROKE? revealed that I could just barely swing it, as long as I didn't mind being stone cold sober and eating Ramen Pride noodles 'til payday, but what's more important: Food and beer? Or a Siamese Mauser? Any good gun junkie knows the answer to that one.
This is one of the hazards of getting way off into the weeds of the milsurp hobby. As long as one confines their collecting to Mosins and Yugo M48's, everything's cool. Those guns are being imported by the container load every day, and if you don't get one this week, you can always call AIM Surplus or SOG next week and pick one up then. It's when one gets interested in the older, the more obscure, that the monkey really climbs on your back. If you don't pick up that Chilean M1895 carbine now, when are you going to see another one? Is the price being asked for that Japanese Type "I" fair? Who knows? You've never seen another one for sale, and the gun isn't even mentioned in any of the standard price guides. You're constantly ruining your bargaining power by blurting out "Omigod! That's a Short-Lever Martini!" or "Omigod! That's a Kar. 71!" But, hey, Ramen Pride noodles don't taste all that bad, anyway.
Milsurp collecting offers a lot of fun on the side. You get to become an amateur sleuth, tracing the age and origins of the rifle; hoarding books and scouring the internet to decode obsure markings and discover fascinating tidbits of information. For instance, most Siamese 1903's were Japanese-made, and had the distinctive 2-piece stock and upper & lower receiver tangs seen on Arisaka rifles. Mine lacks these tangs, and has a one-piece stock, despite lacking the "1901" marking that Oberndorf-built guns have, and bearing the emblem of the Koishikawa Arsenal in Tokyo on the left-hand receiver rail. Figuring out what all this indicates will involve much searching the 'net and reading old books, learning how to read Siamese numerals, talking to old guys, and probably wind up by getting pointed to some eccentric who is considered to be the national expert on Siamese Mausers; a guy who only eats Thai food, has a basement full of the guns, and wrote an unpublished book on the meaning of the Charkra stamped on the receiver ring.
And, really, that's the allure of it all: Where else can a measly two bills buy you an artifact, a story, an adventure, and an education?
Anyone know where I can find 8x50mmR ammunition?