A couple of gun shows ago there was a guy wandering the floor towing around what looked from a distance like a Gew.88 "Commission Rifle" that was missing its barrel jacket. Getting closer, I could tell from the godawful wood that it had spent some time in China. I asked to look at it, and discovered that it was in fact a Chinese Type 88 "Hanyang" rifle; a crude Chinese copy of the Steyr copy of the German original. The wood was pretty beat up and it was missing a bottom metal screw, the buttplate, and a stock fitting out by the nosecap. The exterior was surprisingly un-rusted with no real pits and a smooth brown patina, while the action was caked with a sludgelike mix of old WD-40 varnish and dust.
I asked him what he wanted for it, more out of curiosity than anything else, and he said something about how he'd wanted $100, but these guys were telling him it wasn't worth that, so he'd take $75. I thanked him for his time and walked on.
I stopped at a table run by some crufflers I knew and asked them if they'd seen the abomination. They had. They asked if I'd looked down the bore. "No, why?" I replied
"Because the last person to stick a bore brush down it pulled what was left of the rifling out in a cloud of orange dust," they laughed.
It turned out they'd offered him $35 or $40 for it, which it was probably worth in spare parts, and he'd left in something of a huff. I smiled at the story and continued my stroll.
A couple of hours later, I ran into him again, still dragging the gun-shaped tomato stake with him. "No luck?" I inquired, sympathetically.
"Nah," he said, dejectedly, "They all say it's worthless 'cept maybe for spare parts."
I need this thing like I need a hole in my head... but I am such a sucker for a poor, neglected military rifle.
I rummaged through my pocket... A twenty, a five, and four ones.
"Will you take $29 for it?" He would and did.
The rifle, amazingly enough, headspaces fine, although I doubt I'll ever work up the nerve to shoot it. The bore is so awful it'll probably keyhole at seven yards anyway. But I didn't have a Hanyang 88, and now I do. It can keep my Chiang Kai Shek rifle (for which I had paid the princely sum of $55 back in '02) company in the safe.
I hear the tales of guys who bought rifles for $15 and $20 back in the day, but back then an Andrew Jackson was real money; nowadays twenty-nine bucks will barely buy a fancy lunch.
Who else has a cheap milsurp story?