Saturday, March 21, 2009

Gun show find...

In the world of shooters, I constantly run into people who complain about gun shows. The guns aren’t free. Ammo prices are no better than they find on the internet. New Glocks are no cheaper than they are at Gunmart.

If this is what you are looking for at a gun show, then you are probably going to be disappointed.

For a collector, on the other hand, there is probably no place more exciting. Comparing a gun show to, say, your local gun store or an internet auction site is like comparing an African safari to a canned hunt over a baited field. At the gun show, you never know what you’re going to find.

This time around, I had a specific mission. A local dealer was going to be set up, and he was holding a gun back for me. It was a 1955-vintage K-22 Combat Masterpiece. I needed a shootable medium-frame .22 Smith with a 4” barrel to use as a trainer for my fighting K-frames, and I had a military-marked Remington 12 gauge that was gathering dust; the trade should be fairly straightforward.

After a little confusion, I found his table and, after a brief flurry of paperwork, for me the show was over. Now I was just going to be following BobbiX and Shootin’ Buddy around, putting noseprints on showcases and drooling over guns I couldn’t afford.

I ran into Frank W. James and we chatted a bit (this was especially cool because Shootin’ Buddy had just picked up Farmer Frank’s book Effective Handgun Defense and let me borrow it; I was planning on reading it when I got home…) Then we bumped into Caleb and wandered through the rest of the show as a group.

When we finally got to the far end of the huge 1500-table show, we made our final plans. Bobbi was out front, examining the Sistema she’d just picked up. Caleb and I would loiter at the end of one aisle while Shootin’ Buddy completed a personal errand, then he would pick up a half-case of .22LR and we’d rendezvous with BobbiX and split.

While Caleb and I were waiting for Shootin’ Buddy to return, my Smith Sense (closely related to Spider Sense) caused me to glance down at a handgun a guy was carrying past.

Huh. A nickel taper-barrel 4” Smith.

With fixed sights.

And a shrouded ejector rod.

Cue heartbeat: (Thump… thump… thump…)

What kind of Smith has a tapered barrel and a shrouded ejector rod?

It’s not an M&P… or a Model 13… Damn those wretched plastic faux stag grips. Is that an N-frame? It’s hard to tell; the guy’s paw is huge. It looks like a medium frame, but…

“Excuse me sir, what do you have there?”


“Oh, this? It’s a S&W Model 21 in .44 Special…”


“ was my dad’s. He was a probation officer. He bought it off a retired cop.”

I tried not to gulp visibly. “Uhhh… Shame it’s been re-nickeled. How much were you needing to get out of it?”

“Oh, I know it’s a little ugly, but it sure shoots good. reckon I need $350.”


Oh jeez. Oh jeezojeezojeez. I don’t have a dime to my name, but they will never let me into the SWCA if I let this go by… Please gawd let Shootin’ Buddy still have some cash on him…

“My friend should be back in a minute and… uh… he might be interested.”

“Okay. You know, this is a neat old police gun. It’s got the guy’s badge number engraved on the back…”

Shootin’ Buddy got back. I passed the gun to him, and as the guy was telling him how much he wanted for it, I turned my back to the dude and tried to flash subtle hand signs at my friend, hoping he’d realize I was indicating the gun was worth at least five bills and not signaling for a curveball low and away.

The deal was closed.

I knew I had in my hand, at the very least, an ultra-rare and elusive Smith Model 21. Perhaps a Model of 1950 .44 Special Military Model.

When I got home, I broke out the Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson and got to deciphering…

Wait a minute… It has a mushroom-head ejector rod… And no “S”-prefix on the serial number… This is a pre-war gun. With a shrouded ejector rod, but not a Triple Lock…

It’s a .44 Hand Ejector 3rd Model; aka the “Wolf & Klar” model, so named for the distributor that ordered them. With what appears to be “something.P.D.” and a badge number factory-stamped on the backstrap. 300 four-inch .44 HE’s were shipped to the Providence, Rhode Island PD in the 1930’s, and this gun’s serial number falls into that date range…

I need to get a Roy Jinks letter on this gun.

Maybe you didn’t get a good price on a Kel-Tec 9mm at the gun show this weekend, but you can’t tell me that good deals can’t be found there.

Because you’d be wrong.


Jason said...


Congrats on a GREAT find!!!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the tale. Good hunting.

Earl said...

Nice story, love that lived happily ever after bit.

Montie said...


Cool!! I'm jealous. Oddly enough just before I read this post, a friend and I were discussing the merits of gunshows of late. He was trying to talk me into going to the Wannemacher show coming up here in Tulsa, April 4th & 5th. I was wavering on going, but you have inspired me.

Never count out the odd little pawn shop either. About a year ago I stumbled across a 4" bbl. First Model Hand Ejector .44 Special (as in "triple-lock") for the same price you paid. to them it was just an old N-frame Smith that had nickel flaking off the finish. I reacted in much the same way you did as I was buying it.

Laura said...

oh WOW. VERY nice!

Anonymous said...

Cool story, Tam!! And a tribute to a great eye and fast thinking (and a great Shootin' Buddy).

Your desire to have a beer and bask in the glory of your accomplishment is understandable!!

Anonymous said...


Just called my old college roommate and left a message. (Whodathunk he's got a female Doppelganger?)

Hunter S. Thompson wrote, "There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge." I can't speak to the "depraved" part, but I'm fairly sure he didn't know any Smith collectors in the throes of a "find."


Unknown said...

Congratulations! Very nice.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow!! Good thing you were in the right place at the right time. Any idea how much it's worth??

Mikael said...

Now I'm just extrapolating from a very limited amount of gun collecting knowledge... but probably at least twice what she payed, and would've been a lot more in original finish.

Anonymous said...


And I agree, especially if those people are complaining about a 1,500-table show, instead of say, a dozen tables. How could there not be something interesting on over a thousand tables?

Mikael said...

Well, did a short google search and found some original finish ones in the $4,500-5000 range... and renickeled for $1200.

My original estimation seems to have been quite low. ;)

Anonymous said...

Corvette my ass. That's a Hupmobile Skylark, at the very least.

Joanna said...

I am so, so frustrated that I didn't have any money for the show this weekend. I can't even afford ammo for the gun I have!

Anonymous said...

I've always said you go to a gun show for that item you didn't know you needed. I came home with 500 Speer .429 240gr JHP for $75 today.

Anonymous said...

" fighting K-frames..."

Wait--what's this now? I searched on fightin' K-frames here and at the Arms Room, and I see Ks, but nothing about fightin'.

Is some detail forthcoming?

Tam said...


"I can't even afford ammo for the gun I have!"

I got 9mm dies today (something I thought I'd never buy!) and Bobbi picked up some .38 Super dies. I also have .38 Spl and .44 Spl/Mag dies.

I am ready to crank up the reloading gig for real, and Bobbi, Caleb, and Shootin' Buddy are all on board.

Hook up wif us at the blogmeet and we'll see about getting you in on the cheap ammo People's Collective. :)

the pawnbroker said...

and in answer to those who would say "but that fellow was cheated!", i would reply as i always did...nope, he got what he asked for and went away happy; that's a win-win.

but...s.b.'s funds so s.b.'s gun, right?


doubletrouble said...

Uh, a pic please?

Turk Turon said...


Nice deal!

Frank W. James said...

Tam: Great Story and Hell, I didn't know you didn't have a copy of my last book. You should have said something. Good chattin' with ya.

As for the trade; re: my comment about sleeping at night.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

PS: If I don't get the call for what I talked about I'll be at the blog meet, otherwise I'll be on my way back and a couple of states away.

Anonymous said...

Wow, nice day for you all around. I've only ever managed to get a nice gun for a Stupidly Low Price once, and it wasn't anything near as interesting.

Congrats on your new toys.

Anonymous said...

Sweeeeet! I'm immeasurably jealous.

As for funshows, I'm always keeping an eye out for the odd or the unusual, not so much good deals on glocks and ammo. Pitiably, all we have close is the "fudge and jerky" brand of gunshow, and the last one didn't even have good jerky.

Anonymous said...

Oh-bla-dee, Oh-bla-dah,
Life goes awwwwww-N!!!!

Ver'Cool, and example of why I still troll the aisles of the humblest tubesock and hound-dawg gun show, with hope bright and shining, even to the closing bell.

It's GONNA happen.
The FORCE was with you.

'plashi' -- a word of celebration

J t R

Joanna said...

Mmmm, cheap ammo ... thanks for the tip! See you at the meet!

Anonymous said...

What double trouble said. Dang.

Anonymous said...

Great find! Ya definately owe Shootin' Buddy a cold beer.

"I got 9mm dies today (something I thought I'd never buy!)"

9mm is next on my list to load for. Never thought I'd have to reload those either. (.380 acp too, if I ever want to shoot my one pistol in that caliber.)

perlhaqr said...

I'm sorry, Tam, but would you be so kind as to explain to the heathens in the room (i.e.: me) why this particular firearm is especially nifty?

Is it just rare, or does it actually do something better than other similar items. (For instance, your average plain jane Model 29.)

I'm not trying to rain on your parade at all, I just want to share in why it's cool. :D Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I've got very little sympathy for anyone that would sell a "Family Gun".

Good find, Tam. I'm sooo jealous.

Hunsdon said...

I think next week we'll have another Sunday Smith. Yippee!

Taffin has written extensively on the W&K models.

Turk Turon said...

Sunday Smith! Sunday Smith!

The Freeholder said...

That's a deal indeed. It never ceases to surprise me how many people show up at a show with "just some old gun" and sell it for a pittance.

Of course, weirdo that I am, I'm far more interested in the K-22. Sunday Smith, maybe?

Xavier said...

Dammmmmmmmmmmmn What a story!

Jay G said...

Worthless. Without. Pics.

Nice find, Tamara. And here I was thinkin' I scored finding 9mm for $9.50/box. Hmphf...

Matt G said...

And before someone goes off saying that this is a case of a greasy old car salesman taking a naive young buck for a ride by not paying him or informing him of "what it's really worth," I want to remind folks that she paid what the guy asked. Everyone walked away from that trade happy.

Some, admittedly, a little happier than others. . . ;)

Matt G said...

(Not to imply that my friend Tamara is greasy. Or a car salesperson.)

(Or old.)

the pawnbroker said...

matt g: the only guys that take a worse rap for taking advantage of poor innocents than "the greasy old car salesperson" is the pawnbroker...and lawyers of course, but i can't quibble with that.

like i said in an earlier comment, a seller walking away with the price he asked for, and a buyer employing experience and knowledge to get a good deal...that's a win-win. somebody was going to buy that gun that day for 350 (or less); better that it finds a home in the arms room, from where we will all be treated to an essay with passages like this:

"I turned my back to the dude and tried to flash subtle hand signs at my friend, hoping he’d realize I was indicating the gun was worth at least five bills and not signaling for a curveball low and away."

people pay good money to read awesome stuff like that...i try to toss a 20 in the snark jar now and then; ya'll that haven't, do it!


wv: mortidi...hell, yeah!

Gewehr98 said...

So my earlier efforts at nickel-plating old S&W Hand Ejectors and renumbering them finally paid off!

Let me know how The Collective's nascent reloading efforts are going, Tam. I've got more spare brass and it's spring cleaning time in the garage...

Tam said...

"So my earlier efforts at nickel-plating old S&W Hand Ejectors and renumbering them finally paid off!"

Renumbering .44 Hand Ejectors would be like renumbering Bugatti Royales: No matter what the VIN, it's still a Bugatti Royale. ;)

leBolide said...

Can I have it?

Anonymous said...

Did I miss something, or did Tam just confess to a strawman purchase? Surely it didn't HAPPEN like that, but that's how it reads...

Tam said...

"Did I miss something, or did Tam just confess to a strawman purchase? Surely it didn't HAPPEN like that, but that's how it reads..."

1) "Strawman purchases" can only happen at FFL's.

2) "Are you the actual buyer of the firearm listed on this form?" is question 12a on form 4473. If you are using your money to purchase a gun for another, the answer to this question is "Yes". If I had given Shootin' Buddy the money and asked him to purchase the gun (although I don't know why I would have done such a thing, being legal to purchase a handgun in IN myself) then we might be dealing with a straw purchase. Possibly.

I believe I am qualified to handle the legalities of firearms purchases having dealt with the BATFE on a professional basis for the last fifteen years. If you are privy to information that I am lacking, I would appreciate an email on the subject. Thank you in advance for your kind cooperation. :)

atlharp said...

"Did I miss something, or did Tam just confess to a strawman purchase? Surely it didn't HAPPEN like that, but that's how it reads..."

Hey Paul Helmke,

Isn't there a dead kid you need to be parading around at this point?
Why is it that people that have no friggin' clue of what they are talking about always have a hard on to start accusing people?

Great find Tam! I hope it merits hours of pleasure, and maybe an extensive ammo budget.

P.S. I loaded 2000 rounds of 124 Gr. 9mm this weekend. So I am in the same boat as you!

the pawnbroker said...

anon: "Did I miss something..."

well, the obvious retort (and accurate at this juncture) is "yeah, dip, you apparently missed just about everything that's happened re atf in the last four and a half f'n decades..."

but then you wake up to read a headline like this:

and you think "damn, if our dear leaders have decided that this free-market capitalism experiment thing just isn't working out and they need to take over business and show 'em how it's done, maybe ol' anon knows something we don't (yet)."

because from there it's a pretty short leap to taking bloomberg's persecution and prosecution of decent businessmen who are several states outside his jurisdiction right to the doorstep of a regular guy walkin' through a fun show...and to ours, too.


wv: oloweep...don't know you, olo, but i'm weepin' with you.

Anonymous said...

I was just looking up this very revolver in the Standard Catalog last night. I was thinking it would be perfect for a story I'm working on.

Care to ship it down to me for use as an exemplar? I promise to give you credit. :)

Anonymous said...

Next Sunday Smith, pretty please?