Thursday, March 06, 2008

Tales of the Gun Show.

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?


Anonymous said...

Wow! I have the exact same story...except mine was a 1945 M1 Garand that was rebuilt by a competent armorer, Brand new Criterion barrel, new black walnut stock, reparked receiver and cost $917. But, apart from that, it's just like what you got.


Carteach said...

Gun shop in Upstate PA. I'm browsing the Mil-Surp stock.... (quite good actually...) when I notice a guy at the counter trying to sell some long guns. He wasn't having any luck....
I heard the words... 'Wall Hanger' and 'Smooth bore'.... being used on a cut down Krag.

Once their non deal was done, I asked the counter man if he minded me talking to the guy here in the store... he had no problem.

I bought that old smoothbore cut down Krag for $25. It was ROUGH. I thought maybe a good wall hanger at worst... but it turned out be a Bannerman repo of a phillipines constabulary rifle, with a carbine peep rear sight and an 03 front sight. Broke up for parts, I made over $400 and still have the barreled receiver.

Anonymous said...

Just out of intrest Tam have you got yourself a Crufflers cert wish we had something like that over here very useful.

Rabbit said...

I bought a Carcano cavalry carbine that looked like it had been stored in a leaky treehouse for 20 years for $5. at a garage sale back in the 80's. The story I got was that they thought it was a 'frontier cadet rifle', like the cork-ball capguns they sell at tourist traps and battlefield souvenir stands. I cleaned it up and traded it to a gunsmith friend of mine in a parts swap.

I saw a guy buy a 'gun in a bag' once. Paid $20., sight unseen, for a collection of parts for 'some kind of shotgun' in a burlap bag. Sight unseen was a condition of the price. Turned out to be a Winchester Model 12 in rough but rebuildable condition.


GeorgeH said...

In the '60s there was a gun store in Houston that advertised Enfield spike bayonets for $1.00 each as tent pegs, and if you bought a set of 4 they would give you an Enfield to pound them into the ground with.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, not quite in the same category of cheapness, but I managed to get a bunch of near Museum grade Enfields for $80 a piece, Including a coupla No1 Mk2's.

Anonymous said...

"a couple of gunshows ago..."

frickin' reruns? damn, tam...

i know a cat's got your tongue today, but indy's full of potential...i was web-checking the gun stores there, and this old boy at don's guns and galleries is a hoot! He's also a target of our "friends" at

cruise by there and check out the highest volume ffl in the state, seems he could use some help...even if there's not a gig there at least there's a post or two...and if he's the promoter he seems to be he's not going to miss the chance to have the famous and formidable tamara holding court in his store a day or two a week!


Anonymous said...

So... buying that old rifle was like pitying a shivering, whimpering mutt of a dog?

Anonymous said...

You mean like back in 1992 when you could get SKS rifles for $59 and a three pack of them for $150?


Anonymous said...

Got-DANG you have a soft heart for old rifles. Wanna buy most of a Jap T44 that bulges case heads has a bubba-ed stock and a lot of missing parts?

On the other hand, if Indianapolis ever has a gun-buy-back and gives 250, no questions are SET!

Anonymous said...

50$ Swedish Mauser carbine from a buddy of mine's dad who was taking them and sporterizing them, took me a week to get all the cosmo off of it, near as I can tell it was new, made at the Husky plant in 1942.Not exactly mil-surp but close enough for me.

Matt G said...

In 1991, I wanted an old centerfire. Wasn't sure what kind, but I knew that I wanted one. A friend of my dad's mentioned having an old 1903 Springfield that had been bubba-ized, which he would sell me for $90. I bought it sight unseen. Hey! A .30-06 for ninety bucks! Who couldn't go for that?

It had a DARK bore, with pits like Daedalus. It had a bolt with a handle that had been cut off and welded back on, probably to provide relief for a scope. It was wearing a horrible sporter walnut stock with a high comb. It had no rear sights.

I later put on Williams sights, and got a new bolt. I took down the wood on the stock, and after cracking the stock, epoxy'd it, bedded it, and painted it camouflage. I put sling swivels on it. I found that the rifle wouldn't give me much better than 4" groups at 100 yards, so I rebarreled it to .35 Whelen.

I now have a rifle in my gun safe that I spent $350 on. But it's my $90 rifle. :)

_ _

Two years later, I bought a Norinco SKS NIB, in the cosmoline with sling, ammo carrier, and 80 rounds of 7.62X39 for $74. That became my live-in-the truck rifle, behind the seat under a leaky slider rear window. It sports some rust and scrapes from the jack it shared space with, but it's still a good rifle, that could be relied on to stop a fight. God, I miss those days of cheap import guns.

Joat said...

I just picked up a nice russian SKS for $200, looks like it hasn't more than a dozen round since it was rearsenaled. Last gun before this one was a M91/30. I'll have to get an AK-47 when the GOPA of '86 and the NFA of '34 get overturned, and I can buy an un-nutered one for $200.

Rabbit said...

Oh, I almost forgot...I bought a 95% Swedish Mauser (Oberndorf, 1899) for 75 back about 1987 or so. Out of all the Swedes I own, the most I have in any, including the M94, is $125.


Anonymous said...

i know a cat's got your tongue today, but indy's full of potential...i was web-checking the gun stores there, and this old boy at don's guns and galleries is a hoot!
seems he could use some help...even if there's not a gig there at least there's a post or two

What ... seriously? Do I need to recalibrate my sarcasm-o-tector?

Don M said...

I found a 1932 Mosin Nagant on the milsurp rack at the local gun store, LA county California. Bought it for 99 dollars. Bore came put green the first 6 times i cleaned it.

I bought a book on M-Ns, and found it was actually a Finnish version. spliced stock. Wood is still banged up, but it shoots like a tack driver. Took a while to get the rust off the fittings.

staghounds said...

When I lived in NY, I'd stop at every little junky antique store I passed, one never knows.

Pulled into one place, they had an old rifle on the wall with a $35 tag on it. This was when decent SMLEs were about $75-100.

It was missing the rear sight, but otherwise a moderate condition Murata.

And a couple of years later I paid $75 for a "Lebel". A Berthier, actually- brand new, by Remington.

Wish I hadn't passed on the 4 digit sporterized '03.

Anonymous said...

A friend had a Swedish Mauser he'd picked up for a song years before at a small town hardware store. It even had the bayonet to go with. I tried several times to buy it from him, offing as much as $250, IIRC, but he wasn't interested. Finally he said he'd take a .40 Hi Point carbine in trade for it. I happily bought one locally for $170 and swapped him for the M96. It's a beautiful old rifle and shoots great.

Anonymous said...

Got a Yugo SKS at an auction for $11.00 last summer. Numbers all matched, but had no trigger assembly. It took some looking, but I got the parts for around $70.00. I thought it was an O.K. deal.

Anonymous said...

Mauser '98 rechambered in the 1950's by Steyr to .308 for $100 same price as my other '98 still in 8mm. Good days, bought both through a kitchen table gun dealer. Closest my generation could come to oredering guns through the mail.

Anonymous said...

My brother picked up a 7.7 Jap. at a garage sale for $5, totally encased in rust. Buy the time I got done cleaning it there wasn't any finish left, but the bore had no pitting, the rifling was good, everything worked.

Anonymous said...

So y'all coming to Crown Point? if so I'll show.