Thursday, October 27, 2005

Boomsticks: Are they really just 'things'?

The Gun Guy recently wrote of his trip to the Tulsa Gun Show, penning a poignant rant on how the thrill had gone for him. It seems that, after having to sell off many of his guns to stave off the lupine pest lolling at his door, he no longer views firearms as special entities, but rather as simple material commodities.

Allow me to commiserate.

Three times now in my brief life, I've been forced to sell off my guns in order to keep a roof over my head and that owie, empty, hurty feeling from my tummy. That, plus the fact that I buy, sell, and trade guns for a living probably causes me to view them with a level of mercenary detachment that is anathema to the casual collector (more correctly, "accumulator", as true collectors tend to be too neurotic to be casual.) The net result? This history, combined with the fact that I'm now collecting, rather than accumulating, makes trips through gun shows a lot faster for me. Other than an obligatory stop at the Georgia Arms table and picking up a bag of Blazin' Cajun ends 'n' pieces from the Crockett Creek jerky lady, my gun show experience consists solely of chatting up various collectors and business acquaintances to catch up on news, and a quick surf through the aisles to see if any S&W Model 58's or Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles are lying about and available cheap.

My guns themselves? Well, except for the one on my hip, they are just commodities. I have them ranked in my head more or less constantly in order of "sellability". The Excel spreadsheet I keep on my collection has a column titled "Fast Sale Value"; ie. the price I could put on a gun of a gun show Saturday morning, and not still be holding it come Sunday afternoon. Does this mean I'm some callous, unfeeling ice queen who doesn't care about her hobby? No, it's just pragmatism.

There's a definite heirarchy of sellability. At the very top are pieces with sentimental value due to being gifts, as well as one or two earmarked for personal defense needs. These are only for sale if needed to, say, keep me out of prison or off the streets or the like. Behind that come the milsurp rifles and my S&W revolver collection; I'm saving these for a really, really rainy day. For the forseeable future, they are my own personal museum, but some black day in the far future, they'll be part of my retirement fund, too, and I harbor no illusions about that; I'd no more sell one on a whim than you would dip into your 401k for a night at the movies. At the bottom of the totem pole are practical pieces; various hunting or target rifles, some custom 1911's, and Project Housegun. These remain ranked in my head in order of replaceability; for instance, if I need to shake loose a quick grand in cash, my decked-out M4gery goes on the block. After all, another stripped lower is chump change, and, within a month or three, it'll be all built back up into another swell Housegun. With 1911's, outside of exceptions like the Springer Pro or the Delta Elite, the build is half the fun. My stainless 1991A1 could go away tomorrow and be replaced in a month, and my heart would remain untroubled.

This is a viewpoint obviously shaped by my own experiences. I'll be told constantly by folks on the various gun boards how horrible it is to sell a gun, and how they've never sold one of theirs; I try to politely refrain from explaining the differences in viewpoint of someone who owns ten guns, and someone who may have owned half a thousand, but really has no idea what her total is.

They're just guns, folks; easy come, easy go. Unless you're talking about an heirloom, historical artifact, or rare out-of-production piece, they're easy to replace. And even those are easier to replace than a kidney, or the roof over your kid's heads. Don't lose perspective.


Xavier said...

Strange..........I was going to start a post on collecting/accumulating guns! I've bought more than I've sold (and it shows!), but I have never regretted buying OR selling a gun. The key is to have enough sell/trade fodder in place to protect your ranking guns.

JohnW said...

Ah, yes, been there, done that. back in the '60's & '70's I used to specialize in 18th & 19th century long arms. Had quite a few variations on the Mauser 98, Lee-Enfield, etc., plus some rather nifty things - 1862 Springfield, Steyr carbine, dozen or more Japanese Arisakas...

Would find good condition surplus, & spend hundreds of hours redoing the stocks, getting all the metallic parts back to as close as original condition that I could.

Made a fine hobby. Ended up with about 80 long arms, dozen handguns and one Nambu LMG (war trophy Dad brought home. He used to use it himself in the Pacific, but people complained about a GI firing an unmistakably Japanese weapon causing a "misunderstanding" some night...)

Best comlpiment ever had was when Dad's old Master Sgt. visited one day, looked over some rifles, and told me they were "in excellent shape". That compliment really meant a lot to me.

After a while, though, routine maintenance began to take so long, that it would take more than a year to go through them all as well as 'd liked. And the economy was bad, so I sold off all but about 15 - the ones that I felt most strongly about. They remained with my Dad & his collection.

Unfortunately, for about a decade, I moved away, & couldn't accomodate a wall full of rifles in my small apartment: when I finally moved into a house where it would be safe, I discovered to my chagrin that Dad had sort of lost track of things (Alzheimers, I suppose, but we didn't call it that then) & had sold or traded them all off.

I guess I should have kept better track of things! Still miss them & the hobby-gunsmithing, but current wife and I are now content with 7 various handguns (we're both NRA Life members & CCP holders).

Anonymous said...

You mentioned an exception of the 'one on your hip'... You carry a Glock, right? Surely there is not a more thoroughly replaceable handgun, right?

I spent last week doing network installations at fast food joints in Little Rock, AR. Three or four of them were in really scary parts of town in the middle of the night. I didn't think about it much while there, but on the drive home in the safety of my vehicle, I thought back and realized that I had developped what could only be called an affection for my stock Glock 23. Like some sort of weird emotional bond. I had a strange urge to clean it and put it in a nicer holster. Does that make any sense?

So I guess I'm asking if I'm alone here. Do you attach special emotional significance to a carry piece that you've trusted for a while? My Glock is my first and only (owned, not borrowed) defense-quality handgun, and I certainly hope to have others which I'll carry some, but should that dark day come when I have to liquidate my weapons, it would seem that the G23 would be the last to go.


-Paul Simer


Tam said...

My most frequent carry piece is the hotrodded '66 Colt Government Model featured in a previous post, but I'd probably 86 it before letting go of the Delta Elite or the Springfield Pro.

The Professional would probably be the last 1911 to go. My last S&W would either be the PC13 or the 3.5" 27-2. The last milsurp rifle? Tough one, there... Probably my immaculate DWM Argie '91.

Grampapinhead said...

I celebrated "Gun Guys" elevation to a new level in maturity. Sometimes he bothered me about being stuck in a Rut, and needed to reset his priorities. Stuff is just stuff, and admiring someone elses collection sure beats being owned by stuff. I don't see any point in acquiring more than the 4 or 5 firearms that I would consider a necessity. It is different for you, because it is as much a career as a hobby or investment.

Barrel First said...

Fine should have started blogging long ago. It's always a pleasure to see your well-reasoned remarks written in such clear, concise language. Keep it up, please.

James J. Na said...

Since you don't have trackback...

rayman said...

interesting, your calling an M4 a "house gun", I want a house gun one day. I'm in the market for a S&W model 58 too. I'm with you on the guns are replaceable thing. As you get older you start to prioritize...